An Interview With Mandala Dream Co

I’m talking HEMP this week with Jul from Mandala Dream Co.  Jul lives, breathes and talks hemp.  From bed linen and fashions to beauty and skincare…. in fact, over 30,000 products can be made from industrial crop.  Hemp is eco friendly, ethical, sustainable and kinder to both people and the planet.  I caught up with Jul to find out more about this versatile crop and why she is so passionate about hemp…

Hi! I’m Jul from Mandala Dream Co, living & working in Kobble Creek, Queensland, Australia. A beautiful little pocket of the planet, living & loving life, my family & my role as the one man band for Mandala Dream Co. (In truth I do now have the luxury of having a seamstress & pattern maker who work with me & make my life soooooo much more manageable). Nonetheless I’m the blessed being who sows & cultivates our plants for our eco dyeing, harvests & ferments the hand eco dyes, dyes, designs our range, formulates our skincare, along with chief of photography, marketing, blogging, newsletters, website upkeep & all the fun things that make my life full, joyous & satisfying.

What was behind your choice to concentrate on hemp?

Bring on the Green Revolution including all things Hemp I say 😊
My first love was textile art, specifically hand eco dyeing utilising natures botanicals (plants, barks, roots, leaves, kino etc) specifically using organic & sustainable fabrics. After using all manner of fabrics including peace silk, organic cotton, bamboo & hemp I simply could not bring myself to advocate for anything other than humble hemp. It’s impossible once learning about the growing, the water wastage & the manufacturing of other fibres to use anything else in all good conscience. 

The natural beauty we can create with this textile is inspiring, as a little cottage organic hemp creator of bedlinen, eco fashion & skincare I’m proud of our pioneering movement even on this small scale, the fabrics are so very beautiful, becoming softer with each use, heirloom fabrics that last a lifetime and are also resistant to stains, odours, mildew & mould, highest UV factor of all natural fibres, naturally antibacterial.

No pesticides or synthetic fertilisers are needed to successfully grow hemp (unlike the chemically laden crops we currently grow in Australia & on our beloved planet) you could grow it yourself easily. The plants dense roots stave off weeds, and the growing process improves the soil’s nitrogen, making the soil even better for other crops in the future, a perfect rotational crop for farmers and the health of our soils, which are incredibly sour here in Australia. The growth cycle of hemp is generally only four months, so the option to harvest two times in one year would create a huge relief for struggling farmers. Research states that just one acre of hemp produces more oxygen from CO2 and methane than 25 acres of forest, not to mention the water savings (we save 9000 litres of water (compared to traditional cotton bedlinen) with just one sheet 😊

More about my favoured Hemp:

Hemp Biodiesel can replace our need for fossil fuels.
Hemp seeds & cold pressed oils are superfoods containing essential amino acids & easily digested protein. High in the omegas with a naturally perfect ratio. It’s so nutritionally superior you can survive on hemp seeds alone for a long period, can you imagine what this could do to those in famine around the world?

Its oils are used in our Skincare –  it plumps up dry skin & even helps your skin to retain more moisture over time with its use.

Nil petrochemicals from plastics are produced with hemp plastics, from plastic wraps for food, bottles and everyday items all the way through to auto parts, with no harmful BPA. Hemp plastics are not only heat resistant and durable they are 100% biodegradable.
Housing construction materials (such as hempcrete) made from hemp fibres have been found to be far superior to most materials used in housing construction in our era. Inexpensive hemp can be made into a huge variety of building materials, hempcrete, insulation, blocks, plastics, board, even carpets, whilst being so much stronger and will last soooo much longer than what’s being utilised now. Did I mention they are also fire resistant? mould & mildew resistant? rot free? totally non toxic? & good for us and our planet-and totally natural! Have you any idea how many toxic chemicals and compounds are in our newly built housing? So much of the materials used are processed with toxic chemicals that are released into our living areas (with our loved ones) for years and years. In essence anything wood pulp can do, hemp fibres do far better. 70% of our worlds forests have already been eliminated…and yet we pretend we don’t know why our existence is threatened. Hemp paper can be recycled 8 times, whilst from our beautiful century old trees it’s only 3 to 4 times.

 I love the gold coloured hemp cushion covers/bed linen. To date, what has been your most popular hemp item?

The gold colours are infused on the fabrics utilising onion skins, chamomile, turmeric, calendula petals & marigolds (or whatever I have available in our storage & ferments at the time) – I generally harvest our plant dyes all year round. Our most popular items currently are our Natural indigo dyed hemp wrap pants & our Meraki skincare & beauty range.


What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

For me it’s the bedlinen, we are so in love with ours (one set for life) we take them to hotels when we travel. They start off their life a little stiff (like a good old fashioned linen in your grandmother’s  cupboard), but over time they soften up  & ‘wear in’ becoming at one with your bed & its occupants. They stay fresher for longer (meaning we only wash them every 2nd week) and as they are stain & odour resistant they just make everyday life that little bit more comfortable. They have a far superior wicking factor meaning they are highly absorbent & climate reactive keeping us warm in the cooler months here in Kobble Creek; dry, cool & fresh in our hot summer months. We guarantee our bedlinen for a lifetime, it will last that long, & market them as one set for life.

I’m impressed with the gorgeous colours – and the fact that each colour is organic, free from pesticides, treatments or chemicals. Where do you source the ingredients and what ingredients make up the rich colour tones?

Generally if it grows & is non toxic. I have at least attempted to eco dye with it 😊 Most of our ingredients are grown right here on our 5 acres, though I do have a regular supply of onion skins from our 2 local organic fruit & vegetable producers…which is just as well as we use a lot of those. We collect bloodwood kino (sap) on our family walks from our local trees when they naturally produce; grow our own indigofera, turmeric, berries, cherries, moringa & neem.

I use hemp hand cream daily as it is the only product that keeps my hands soft and crack free. What other hemp based beauty products do you sell? What are the advantages of using hemp beauty products?

Our Meraki range (which is a Greek word meaning created with love & devotion…a little piece of our souls in every formulation) currently includes Hempseed Oil based- Face Serum, Body/Hair Butter, Bath Salts/Soak, Pit Potion Deodorant, Toothypaste, Fragrance, Hair Serum & Dream Mist. We are currently working & trialling a new range which includes Hemp CBD oil, which will be a specific anti ageing range. Hemp seed oil is a little miracle (both topically & nutritionally) with the perfect ratio of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids it’s vital for skin health. The high presence of Vitamin A, D & E ensures repair & rejuvenation of cells, whilst the gamma linolenic acid is a powerful anti inflammatory reducing redness & soreness. Hemp seed oil increases elasticity, is ideal for eczema, psoriasis, rosacea & acne breakouts by naturally balancing the skins oil production, the natural wonder of hemp seed oil teaches our skin how to stay hydrated for longer with every use. Top all that off with how good Hemp is for our planet & you start to feel why I’m such an advocate 😊

Are you introducing any new hemp items to add to your collection into for 2018?

Yes as above (re the new Meraki range). We are also hard at work designing an ethical wardrobe capsule starter kit which will be created using a lightweight Hemp knit blend which will be a lovely easy option for travellers also: 7  initial pieces which can all be worn in different ways (a jacket that doubles as a wrap shirt, a pencil skirt that can be worn comfortably at different lengths etc). We’ve always been a ‘low waste’ business very aware of our environmental footprint (which is why we hold little stock & create to order), using our fabric remnants for a long time in our labelling, hand stamped business cards etc, & are now starting to produce eco wraps (similar to the beeswax eco wraps used in place of single use plastics, sandwich bags etc) but with a twist. The average eco wrap is non organic cotton, dyed with synthetic dyes & uses bees wax & jojoba oil in the coating. Ours will be 100% vegan using our remnants, organic hemp, botanical eco dyes (leftovers, which are also thickened with soy powder to use as block print inks) & candelilla wax (a plant wax) & hemp seed oil creating a far superior wrap which is vegan for the conscious mums packing their beloveds lunches & snacks. (p.s. our youngest attends a Steiner school so I certainly have a ready made market right there) 😊… This photo is of a hemp canvas backpack we recently made for our youngest Kingston, along with hemp drawstring pants for our little people.

As Mandala Dream Co is based in Australia, are your products available to purchase worldwide?

Yes absolutely my biggest market at the moment is Canada (which are hemp early adopters…and just ‘get it’) I’ve also created for clients in the UK, Italy, Greece, New Zealand, Mexico, Cuba, Alaska & even a marines barracks in Fort Benning USA. Delighted to offer to anyone it really speaks to.

Choosing brand names can be a hard task at times, especially when you are trying to pick a name to encapsulate the essence of the brand. What made you decide to pick the name “Mandala Dream Co”?

It was a very personal choice for me & though it doesn’t shout out ‘hemp’, it represents what this little cottage industry meant for me. Mandala Dream Co was born out of me finally finding the calm amidst the chaos., though it took more than a few knocks on my skull before I woke to it. A separation of old wants & new needs really. The Mandala represents the oneness of the psyche with the cosmos, & for me that’s exactly where I found myself in ‘oneness’.
The Mandala is a sacred symbol laying down a map for finding our own way to our self, it represents our connection with our earth. My dream was to renew eco sustainable practices & ancient eco dye practices, whilst delivering humble hemp into every household…..& of course The Co. is you, the company we keep…our clients who we wish to heal body, mind & spirit. With eco, sustainable, organic hemp bed linens & bed sheets, slow fashion, skincare & beauty creations, made by hand with love & devotion to enhance your health, wellbeing, sleep & beauty.  So…for me it’s the essence of the brand, the ethos, the ethics we follow in our business & our every day life, leaving things better than we found them & attracting what’s needed & letting go of things that no longer serve.

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

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now I’m a bit of a ‘hippie’, a tree hugger, a greenie? Generally you’ll find me wearing something casual & comfortable & usually one of our creations, certainly a lot of hemp clothing, samples we’ve made for photography, marketing etc, failed attempts at eco dyeing that had to be reworked etc. Many days it’s just torn jeans & a blouse or a hemp tshirt.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Oh yes indeed, during the week I wear lots of hemp tshirts from : wonderful quality & cool (perfect for when I’m working with the dye vat at 60 degrees). My favourite is in one of the photo below worn by our eldest (Sahara) which has the caption ‘Cut From a Different Cloth’ #cfadc, which of course is the different cloth …Hemp. I adore this brand it’s very ‘urban’ with lots of street cred & will one day be collaborating with Tommie T Lark founder of this wonderful brand. Of course I occasionally get dressed up for a ‘date night’ with my gorgeous Jamaican husband Kaleel & then I’ll go all out & wear something I treasure from either an upcycled vintage op shop buy, usually inspired by the wonder Fashion Hound that is Faye Delanty, or a piece that I simply couldn’t live without buying.

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

Honestly I have no wish list, I’m one of those people who don’t usually purchase for ‘occasions’ as have collected & curated so much over the years I generally have all that I’ll ever need. In fact I’m whittling my wardrobe down to a ethical capsule wardrobe with just a few extra special pieces that I must keep for my sanity.

Boots or Shoes?

Oh if I could every single day it would be boots as I think they just give an entire outfit a better line & are so comfortable, but alas it’s often so hot here flat sandals are usually my go to.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Mandala Dream Co.


Oh Jul, it’s great to hear you are a boots girl – even if it is in spirit only! :). Kobble Creek sounds idyllic, your farm sounds lovely, your children are adorable and your passion for hemp is uplifting – thank you so much for sharing your knowledge 🙂

Linda x

All photos were taken by Julie Grant and published with kind permission.

Models: Sahara & Kingston

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An Interview With Donnie Rust

There’s more to my guest this week than meets the eye – and it’s not just the fact that he is 6ft 6 inches tall!  Donnie Rust is co founder, Editorial & Creative Director, & talented Travel Writer with the business and travel site, The Lost Executive.  He came to England in 2003 from Durban, South Africa and since his arrival he has caused a whirlwind … wowed audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with his guitar and stage presence; dabbled in the world of timeshares in Tenerife; fulfilled his writing dreams as an author with some fantasy books under his belt; co-founded a successful business & travel site…    so I just couldn’t wait to invite him onto my blog! Hi Donnie…..

Hi! I’m Donnie Rust, co-founder, editorial and creative director of The Lost Executive business and travel site. I am the show off of the team and responsible for much of the creative planning and getting us both into trouble.

Growing up in Durban, South Africa, you arrived in the UK in 2003 & have had some interesting jobs since then including being a timeshare salesman in Tenerife, a naked busker starring in your own show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2011, an author of occult-noir genre books and travel writer & co-founder of the website magazine Lost Executive. What made you decide to launch Lost Executive?

My co-founder and I wanted to highlight the importance of bridging the gap between business and leisure while providing a real value to businesses seeking content creation and promotion. Also, it put me in touch with some places offering really good suits. (I love my suits.) I am also a writer by trade and enjoy using words to create something special and useful. Most importantly though, is I love to travel. I love being exposed and plunged into new cultures and social surroundings. Seeing new places. It helps remind me how big the world is and how small my role in it.

I was a geography geek as a child (still am) with my head in an atlas or in a guidebook – I’m quite happy being an armchair traveller (reading & watching TV programmes) as well as exploring the world for myself. Did you have a fascination with countries as a small child?

I was very much a geek myself as a child. Having grown up in South Africa I was quite outdoorsy, but preferred to be sitting down either drawing, reading or writing. I wrote my first novel when I was 9 and a half wanting to be published before I was 10, however this was the days of DOS and one glitch on the computer lost everything. I did a great deal of martial arts growing up so I did pay a lot of attention to the orient, I was also very interested in mythology, theology and fiction. Always been bookie I guess. So that covers Greece, Egypt, Rome, Africa and Asia.  Also, South Africa is a young country, it’s a very old place but a young country, it doesn’t have the same sort of heavy history that you find in Europe or the UK. I was fascinated by the idea of castles and ruins that had been up for centuries because all the buildings in SA were new. Culture wise, you won’t find a more diverse country. Being a saffa you’re exposed to the cultural differences from a young age: I had friends who were Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Indian and white, all with their own backgrounds and beliefs.

You grew up in Durban,South Africa – so apart from your own country, what was the first country you visited?

I suppose that would be Lesotho, but I don’t think that has to count. Officially it would be Britain, England.

Have you got any favourite destinations and why are they specifically at the top of your list?

Cape Town is still one of my favourite places in the world. I know I’m supposed to say Durban, and Durban is beautiful but there is something majestic and trendy about Cape Town. I love it because of it’s energy and its buzz and the breathtaking scenery is free to everyone.

I lived in Tenerife for a while, so I like the Canaries. Not a fan of them as a holiday destination because it’s very “all inclusive”, but living and working there was fun, for what I can remember of it.

I like to travel to the Highlands of Scotland whenever I am able, Foyers on the shores of Loch Ness is one of my favourite places. There’s a bnb there calld Foyers House which has a view of the forests and the mists that are absolutely singular. Good place to go for a respite. Especially as last time I went the owner confiscated my phone.

What place is your least favourite and why?

Very difficult question to answer as I try to focus on the good bits. Also any bad experiences usually make the best stories afterwards. To be honest this question has stumped me a little bit. I’m not a fan of Luton if that helps?

Donnie with The Lost Executive crew

We all have preconceived ideas of what a country will be like – what country totally took you by surprise and was totally opposite of what you thought it would be?

Norway. Bergen. I went there earlier this year. I’ve never seen a city so clean, so technology intelligent (everywhere took card payments even on top of a mountain), everyone was friendly. The city of Bergen is also very, very energy aware, so at night time the city is dark. So dark that when I arrived by tram (trams are everywhere there), I thought I was in the middle of nowhere. I could see the odd light in a room here and there but otherwise nothing. The next morning I discovered I was in the middle of a gigantic city and that its just that if a light doesn’t need to be on it doesn’t go on. They’ve got a completely different mentality over there, a beautifully intelligent, forward thinking and logical approach based on facts and not speculation.

Also Venice. I went to Venice last year. The touristy parts were what I expected, but my girlfriend and I went off the beaten track a lot and wandered into an artist’s studio and a gigantic modern art display. I was surprised by how many islands there are there that are not inhabited because they can’t be reached without special boats- so you don’t have vandals or graffiti because it would be too much effort and the results are these small islands with these ruins on them that are untouched and unspoiled right in the middle of one of the busiest tourist destinations in the world.

I love travelling & flying but I hate airports! What’s your favourite and least favourite airports?

Norway, Oslo Airport, mostly because they give staff scooters to get around faster. Again, there’s that thinking that everyone needs to be responsible for themselves.

The worst airport was Ljubljana in Slovenia. It was tiny, small, the shops didn’t open at certain times of the day and we had a 4 hour wait for our flight.

Do you have a favourite mode of travel?

I won’t lie, I am a bit of a reluctant flier. I would prefer to drive or even better, a luxury cabin in a train.

You are an author of 3 books in the fantasy/occult-noir genre – I have read your working title series books – with the raunchy titles of “That Time I Did A Favour For God And Was Almost Buggered To Death By A Demon Dog: (A Working Title) Volume 1” and “The Case Of The Woman Who Killed Monsters With Her Bitey Vagina: A Working Title, Volume 2”. As a reviewer of your books stated recently, that you are “bringing all the characters from your childhood nightmares to life”! What do you enjoy most about writing your novels? Where do you get your ideas from?

Some of the ideas are from actual folklore. Others are just pareidolic. I dislike any character to be conveniently talented, one of my first books was “Godhunter” and it explored the price of great power. Real costs in terms of physical, emotional value. My characters suffer their powers and their abilities- like telepathy- 1. You wouldn’t read minds like spoken sentences, they’d be mishmashes of shapes, smells, random thoughts, emotions and images and 2. Why would you automatically be able to control it? So before I look at what makes my character different I look at the costs of that uniqueness and reverse engineer it from there.

Oh and all my characters are heavily flawed.

Donnie as The Naked Busker

Let’s talk Naked. The Naked Busker idea was certainly different. How come you embarked on the act in the first place?

I was a stand up comedian and looking for a gimmick and my girlfriend at the time suggested I get naked because it always made her laugh. It became an onstage act, I’d get up, strip down, do an animated comedic show with just a pair of boots and a guitar, sing songs that were particularly rude and purile. I was semi professional for a little while actually but now the only thing about that is an alarming number of pictures of me on google images.

Starring in your show at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, was it all plain sailing or do you have any memorable disasters? Do you still indulge in the music scene?

Ah, the Ed Fringe 2011. I was doing a nightly set at the City Café and someone stole my clothes and I spent the last evening wandering around the city trying to find them. It ended up being a pretty good night because it was the Edinburgh Fringe, nobody even batted an eyelid when a naked guy in a pair of boots and a guitar came traipsing along. I love playing my guitar and singing, but aside from a couple of local open mic nights at some of my friend’s joints I don’t really get involved on stage. I do my bit supporting some of my friends who are far better musicians than I. The likes of Will How and Pirate Joe… I do love being on stage though.

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

I love wearing suits. I get my suits from a local store named Slaters. I’m a fan of waist coats and coats with double buttons that have to be tailored to fit my size. I also often wear jeans a lot and a denim jacket. I like to mix it up.

Do you go shopping for clothes/accessories whilst travelling? If so, which country was shopping a pleasant or otherwise experience?

Cape Town was superb. Generally whenever I go back to South Africa I’ll fly over with an empty bag and just the clothes I’m wearing and will come back with it filled with clothes. They have a summerly fashion sense there because it’s never really winter, so you can pick up some really cool clothes for less than half the price of UK. They also make clothes to fit big guys. I’m 6ft 6 with shoulders which makes me about average size for a South African and so I find clothes no problem. Also, it’s an awesome place to buy sunglasses and hats.

What items of clothing/footwear/accessories are your “essentials” when travelling?

A hoody. A pair of loose fitting jeans. A breathable pair of socks and a Handycosy neck pillow. Boxers never briefs.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots if I’m going out for a night. Shoes if I’m wearing a suit.
Boots last longer, they don’t let water in and if you have to do any sudden running with them or freestyle parkour you know your ankles will at least be protected. Shoes with a suit because it makes you feel cooler and also because the boots I wear don’t work well with suits.

For pinning later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can follow you & Lost Executive.

I agree with you, Donnie, about the luxury train travel option … certainly a fantastic way to travel – 5 course meal, wine and sitting a luxurious armchair whilst admiring the landscape out of the picture windows – absolutely heavenly.  I was lucky to have had that experience a couple of times – once on my honeymoon and several shorter trips on the British Pullman and Northern Belle trains. Many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed! 🙂

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Donnie Rust.


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An Interview With Dress Code Nine

Whether you are going on a special night out, going to the Races or it’s your Prom night, nothing beats wearing a glamorous dress.  What could be better than going to an Aladdin’s Cave full of dresses, a specialist boutique, whose mission is to dress you up to the nines for your special event, regardless of your budget?  Dress Code Nine based in Kelvedon, Essex is the Aladdin’s Cave owned by Carla – she has over 200 stunning dresses, stylish heels, fascinators & jewellery  – plus a dedicated Prom dress department too! I caught up with Carla recently to chat about dresses….

Hi! My Name is Carla Lynch and I am the proprietor of Dress Code Nine which opened on October 7th 2017, offering evening and occasional wear for ladies all ages and sizes.

What inspired you to set up “Dress Code Nine”?

I love a dress and always have, I think most ladies do, but you can not always find the dress you need for the budget you have at the time. I wanted to address this with my boutique.

Although you do have dresses available to purchase, you have over 200 dresses available for hire from sizes 4 -24. What are the advantages of hiring a dress for that special event?

Not everyone has the funds or feels comfortable to spend so much money to buy a ball dress which you only wear once. This gives my clients both options: a hire collection and a purchase collection to choose from.

Your range of dresses include high-end designers such as Gino Cerruti, Jora Collections, Kiss Me Kate Designs, Eliza and Ethan – all are totally gorgeous! What dresses are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

It is the Jora Collection. They are gorgeous dresses at a very reasonable price. I love them, the quality and designs are stunning.

Out of all the dresses, do you have any favourites?

Oh yes the one which springs to mind at the moment is one of the Jora collections. It is a gorgeous wine/burgundy colour with a diamante back with a train coming down the middle. If you have a look on our website under the Jora collection you will see this, it has proved to be a Prom favourite this season.

When going out for a special event, I tend to choose a red dress – occasionally I pick blue or green. My daughter, for her prom, picked a stunning black lace dress. Do you think age plays a part in picking a colour of a dress? Which age group do you find most adventurous when it comes to picking colours for dresses?

I do not think age plays a part, It is more what matches your skin tone, hair, eye colour. Ladies of all ages can be adventurous when you least expect it.

Not only do you have a stunning range of delectable dresses but you also have accessories too. What accessories do you offer to match the dresses?

We offer bags, Fascinators, Hats, Jewellery, Shoes, Wraps.

You have a dedicated department just for prom dresses – what do you feel makes a good “prom” dress?

A style which suits your body shape is a must, as well as colour. A good quality dress also is a big thing for the ladies that come and see us.

If a lady is going to a special event, for example, a Valentines Ball and is interested in hiring/buying a dress – how do they go about visiting “Dress Code Nine”? Can they purchase online, is it appointment only or can they drop by and visit your boutique?

We are appointment only so we can give that one to one service for each lady that comes to our boutique to find their perfect dress so they are dressed to the nines.

When choosing dresses to add to your hire collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, traditional charm or bits of all those?

Everything you have said is important but the most critical purchasing decision for me when buying from designers is catering for my client base.

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

A dress with 3 inch heels

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

The high street has its place and for me, it is great for mass produced but good value outfits. I do love a Karen Millen dress and heels.

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

More dresses, sparkle diamante flip flops and shoes and another bag or two.

Boots or Shoes?

Has to be shoes. You can wear shoes throughout the whole year for different occasions where boots are more just for winter.

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





Thank you Carla for giving us a glimpse into the world of dresses and I am so pleased to have your shop close to where I live! 🙂 

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Dress Code Nine.


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An Interview With Frankly Coaching

Generation XY – The Millennials.  I am going to confess right away, that apart from “The Millennials” – the title speaks for itself – I didn’t have a clue what Generation XY represented! I have found out since it is roughly those born from 1977 – 1995.  So now I know – and I also know that I’m not one of them! Nevertheless, my daughter is of that generation. My guest is the delightful Puja of Frankly Coaching, a NLP Performance & well-being coach. Puja specialises in working with women from Generation XY – The Millennials and I was keen to know more about her, her work and her Frankly Women 12 week programme.  Hi Puja!

Hi! I’m Puja K McClymont – a Certified NLP Life Coach for Millennial Women (born 1977-1995) that helps them get the best out of their complex lives. I also work with Businesses to help facilitate change within organisations. My practice, Frankly Coaching, is based in London where I live with my hubby and 2 yr old. I’m a straight-talking coach who gets results. I’m not perfect but I am excellent 😉 (an NLP joke).

What inspired you to open your business, Frankly Coaching?

I’ve technically been qualified since 2012 and I’ve done more courses over the years leading up to 2017 as well as been coaching here and there but after having my baby and being made redundant during maternity leave, I decided now was the time to do the work that I’ve wanted to do for so long. I believe in things happening the way they’re supposed to.

Why did you decide to specialise in working with women from Generation X,Y – Millennials (those born 1977 – 1995)?

When I was deciding my specialisation, I found that as a millennial myself and having faced a multitude of struggles in my life, I wanted to work with women like me. I’ve personally gone through a lot over the years but I’ve always come out fighting. I’ve always had a “never give up” attitude and a self confidence of being able to do anything I want to do. It might be my stubbornness but I don’t like to hear the word “no.” As a result, I’ve always succeeded in reaching my goals. I want to share that experience and confidence with other like-minded women. As millennials are of varying ages, I’ve found we have a complex experience of life because of technological advancements. Technology gives us freedom and immediate access to anything but it also takes away some reality and human interaction that we might actually need. I think that the values that were instilled in us get distorted with the consuming of technology – social media being the top culprit. What I mean is, for example, you are raised to know that working hard will deliver the results you desire but then people become overnight successes on Instagram, and all they did was post a few selfies. This then distorts our values and we unconsciously try to mirror this thinking but it goes against our values so we instead ‘fail’ to achieve what we think we should be doing. As much as women have evolved in society over the years, we still face common challenges that are difficult to balance with our baby boomer parents who more often than not, stayed at home with us. We on the other hand, want to ‘Run the world’ and now more than ever, we actually can. However, when you add that thinking with traditional marriages, children, careers, money, spending, independence, we’re often met with resistance or internal difficulty in achieving the right levels of ‘balance’ for ourselves. When we don’t achieve this balance, we get stuck.

Can you describe your specific Frankly Women 12 week programme? What could a customer expect?

I don’t want to say it’s a secret but it’s one of those things you need to experience. Usually the discovery session unmasks what you get with all my coaching and then this is the technical spec. Sometimes it’s hard to describe a feeling but if we’re meant to be, then that feeling will be there. However, the below maps out the 12 weeks but as I say, it’s much more than the technical bit. It’s also the empowerment, the motivation, the overwhelming feeling of achievement, the reevaluating of your values and beliefs and people and things in your life. Knowing that all is possible. And someone being in your corner. So much.
Week 1 – Get to know you and your wants and challenges. Discover where you are now and where you want to be.
Week 2 – Map out your life and use successes to mirror for the new goals
Week 3 – Visual board – see what your goals look, feel and smell like
Week 4 – Define values and beliefs (good and bad): find out why you do what you do
Week 5 – Define what you tolerate in your life and how you could better manage them to suit you better.
Week 6 – Action plan: define your goals, the reasons for them and belief in them
Week 7 – Address/Manage challenges and create strategies
Week 8 – Review work so far and address new challenges with effective NLP techniques
Week 9 – Implement suitable NLP techniques for any blockages
Week 10 – Review what has been achieved and celebrate successes
Week 11 – Plan the next 3 months
Week 12 – Review of entire programme and be given NLP tools for moving further forward
At the end of the 12 weeks, you should have achieved at least one of your short term goals and be able to use the techniques experienced with moving forward with the others.

What are the reasons/benefits of hiring a life coach?

I’m going to offer my own experience of hiring a coach for this answer rather than sounding like a salesperson. I’m a pretty organised person (love lists), set goals for myself intrinsically and achieve them but when I started seeing my now husband my life became confusing. I went from being completely independent, living on my own in my own flat that I bought at 26, to sharing my time with this man, and trying to balance my social butterfly status with the needs of the boyfriend. I didn’t look after myself during this time and as a result, had a breakdown and fell into depression. Not the boyfriend’s fault. I just boarded the roller coaster and kept on riding it without thinking. I became co-dependent, I gained weight after losing so much only a few years before, I struggled with money, I didn’t enjoy my work and so on. After using different therapies and deciding that I would continue to fight, I found a Coach who would help me move forward. And that’s the key right there. MOVING FORWARD. It stopped me being stuck, allowed me to be accountable for what I could control and accept what I couldn’t, it unravelled the self sacrificing I thought I should be doing to make space for a partner and essentially, brought me back to my best self which then led to me being able to continue achieving and living a life that I wanted for myself. I was able to set clear goals for career, money and the relationship – and now we’re happily married with a kid.

You are an NLP Performance & Wellbeing coach. Can you explain what NLP is & why is it different from any other type of life coach?

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is the study of excellence. It is an attitude of learning, curiosity and respect for unique ways of being in the world. Over the years NLP has uncovered an increasing number of tools and techniques for discovering what constitutes excellence. In particular, it is a means of finding the essence of that excellence – the difference that makes the difference – and doing so in such a way that it can be coded and reproduced.
We can have excellence at our fingertips, available whenever we choose. As a result, we can be Coached to consistently achieve the results that we want for ourselves, our business and our life.
In very simple terms, NLP is where we change the way we think and speak in order to change the way we act so that we can achieve the results we want. It basically changes the way we have been doing things so that our outcomes change for the better.
A NLP Coach is different because we work on ‘re-wiring’ thoughts, studying your own excellence to tap into that, mirror inspirations and believe that everyone can achieve what they want. We strategically work with you and your life to create the space and knowledge you need to move it forward.

Out of all the services you offer, what is the most popular service amongst your customers?

Across my services, I’d say that they are of equal popularity. My speaking engagements often lead to individuals clients and my individual clients book the retreats. My business coaching is very popular because I have a a simple 2 step process for organisations with deliverable results within a short timespan – which they like.

Your career background has been in the field of marketing & PR, but growing up though, did you inspire to follow your eventual career path (as a life coach) or did you have other ambitions?

I always wanted to be famous. I didn’t know what for but I knew that was something I wanted. If I became famous now and it was because of my coaching, I would be very happy with that. The more people I can help, the more successful I will feel. I was a little ‘famous’ within my industry in hospitality as I worked for a very well-known bar in London and everyone wanted to know me and I was invited to anything and everything! I have danced around my handbag with Paris Hilton! I’ve had lunch with Pharrell Williams at a music festival, I’ve hosted many a celebrity at the places I’ve worked for. My 20’s were fab! At 19, I had my first experience with a recruitment agent and I remember she asked me what I wanted to do with my life (having come to her for some direction of which job would suit me) and I said “I want to help people” she said that I had great skills for relationship building, listening, a great personality and that I should go into marketing. So I did. And almost 20 years later, discovered that coaching was my calling.

Although you are based in the UK, are your sessions available overseas?

Absolutely! I have clients from the US, Dubai and Australia as well as the UK. Coaching is about rapport and you might need to look far and wide to find the coach that fits you best.

I know that you have travelled extensively & that you have been to many exotic locations around the world. Where has been your favourite location so far? Least favourite/ most disappointing? What place is number one on your current bucket list?

Oh! I love these questions. My favourite place is a tie between Hawaii and Chile. Hawaii because of its deep and rich history and the fact that the Earth is still forming there – mind-blowing, saw it from a helicopter and Chile because it feels like you’re on the edge of the earth and when you get to Cape Horn, you pretty much are at the southernmost point of the Earth before Antartica, plus its immense history and fabulous food – I ate ceviche straight from the fish that was caught at the marina! Least favourite was Tunisia. I’m not a resort type of person and I didn’t enjoy the locals or the food. Bucket list: ALL the Polynesian islands, Asia and a lot of the African countries.

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

When I’m a size 10, I like to wear waist enhancing anything! My waist is a great feature and I was able to show that off a lot when I was slim. My legs were great too! so short dresses were my thing. As a size 16, apart from the odd tent, I like to wear colour but pair with dark light jackets and heels. Although at the moment, I’m really enjoying wearing jeggings with a loose top, amazing makeup and hair and jewellery and paring with a cool pair of trainers or wedge boots.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Ted Baker, Reiss, DKNY, Asos

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

Brown leather boots

Boots or Shoes?

Boots because it’s cold but I think they add more to an outfit than shoes do.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you & Frankly Coaching.
fb, t, i @franklycoaching

Thank you Puja!  I must say, I like your travel bucket list and also, Chile is one of those places on top of my bucket list, it sounds as though you had a great trip there! 🙂 It must have been a giggle to dance around your handbags with Paris Hilton …. I can picture the scene now! Life is for fun and I’m so glad you are able to help others who are perhaps struggling with stress at the moment, to help put things into perspective and make the most of their potential.  Life coaching does seem like the ideal path for you.

Linda x

Photos of Puja are published with kind permission of Puja K McClymont.  Other photos are by Linda Hobden.


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An Interview With Vitamin Coffee

Coffee. For a lot of us, we can’t seem to function without a cup of coffee first thing in the morning.  Trying to go on a health kick, and struggling to forego that daily wake up routine?  What if I told you that there’s a coffee available that is tasty AND contains our daily vitamin intake?  Sounds good, doesn’t it? I thought so, so I caught up with Vitamin Coffee founder, Bryn Ray, to find out what is so special about his coffee….hi Bryn…

Hi! I’m Bryn Ray – fitness and coffee enthusiast, turned entrepreneur to blend those enthusiasms.

What was the inspiration behind the setting up of Vitamin Coffee?

A software designer by trade, when I worked in the city I found myself coming in rather groggy after some of the nights before. The old solution used to be a mug of coffee and a glass of some horrible effervescent fizz, so I thought there must be a way to blend the effect of both things. That’s where the Complete and Defence version of Vitamin Coffee were born, the Energy blend then followed when I started reading ingredients list of pre-workout drinks.

You currently offer 2 coffees – medium & dark with a choice of 3 vitamin blends (Medium, Energy, Defence). The coffees all contain the full daily requirement of 14 essential  vitamins and minerals – so what is the difference between the blends on offer?

All three blends are based on the same set of vitamins. The Complete offers 100% of what you need of each per day. The defence is then hyper-dosed with extra vitamin C and D which has positive effect on the immune system. The energy is higher in B-vitamins which are particularly useful for people who are very active, it also has added caffeine (on top of the standard amount in the coffee).

Early days yet I know, but what coffee blends are proving most popular amongst your customers so far? Have you got a favourite blend?

Medium Defence seems to be the superstar, but it is winter. My personal favourite is the Dark Energy, I drink it before every workout.

Where do you source your coffee beans from?

The Medium blend sources from Asia and Africa – it’s a little unconventional, but it’s based on Monsoon Malabar beans that give it an incredibly smooth and creamy taste. The Dark blend is a brighter and fruiter pairing Central and South American single-origins with Ethiopian Mocha Djimmah beans for boldness.

Can the coffee be purchased as a one off or is the coffee available on a subscription basis only?

Coffee can be a one off or as a subscription at your chosen interval. The bags each contain 14 daily servings so with most customers being daily drinker a two week subscription is the standard.

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

Currently we don’t ship abroad, but we’re actively looking into distributing around Europe.

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

Generally, i’m a monochromatic man. Black Levi 511, black leather Janoski and a long sleeve sweatshirt.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Most of my tops come from Reiss, Cos or Arket. Recently started to use Farfetch online though which I like.

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

A new coat is next on the shopping list – all suggestions welcome.

Boots Or Shoes?

Boots – I think they give a cleaner line to a silhouette.

Links you would like to share:

New coat, eh Bryn?… I think a black leather coat would look good especially as the styles of the 70s & 80s are trending at the moment. For a more classic look, a black wool pea coat always looks stylish and you can wear a suit under it although it equally looks good with those black Levi’s you favour 🙂  Thank you for introducing us to your coffee and it’s great to know that we can still have our coffee with the health kick included.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Bryn Ray/ Vitamin Coffee

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An Interview With Artist Ben Riley

Over the years I have interviewed people who have made bags out of old books, old vinyl records …. and I have interviewed musicians, music producers…. and I have interviewed sculptors, painters, doodlers…. AND this week it gives me great pleasure to interview somebody that is a combination of all 3.  A bit cryptic I know, but my guest is the accomplished British artist Ben Riley, whose art features icons of music throughout the ages using the medium of broken and ground down pieces of vinyl records on canvas.  Intrigued?  Hi Ben & welcome…

Hi, I’m international artist, Ben Riley.

What inspired you to specialise in artwork out of broken & ground down pieces of vinyl on canvas? Why vinyl?

It is easy to fade into the background and do what everyone else is doing. I believe as an artist, you should strive to create your own methods, styles and diversity. I have a huge love of music and art so I bridge the two. The idea behind my work is creating portraits of music icons of the past and present using the music itself, eliminating the use of conventional mediums such as paint, pencils and charcoals, thus creating my own method.

Your pictures feature icons of music throughout the ages – do you have a favourite?

My favourite icon that I have created is Jimi Hendrix as his music and fashion style was very unique and unconventional like my work. I feel that it’s the perfect match.

Do you have any other favourite artwork mediums?

I love pencil and pen studies, particularly shading between light and dark. That’s what I also like most about my work, creating complete darkness, extreme highlights and all the gradients in between, it’s very dramatic.

Growing up, have you always wanted to be an artist or did you have other aspirations?

At one point I wanted to be a photographer, I have had a few different career paths, I can’t quite remember many of them :/ I think I was put here to create art, it’s not by any means an easy or stable career, but it’s the path that I’ve been put on by fate.

As your artwork features music icons, I gather you are a big music fan yourself. What genre do you enjoy? Any favourites?

Yes, I’m also a singer/songwriter. I have a big love for bands from the 60’s including The Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience to The Rolling Stones, and more recent artists including Amy Winehouse, I believe that she was ‘the’ icon of this generation.

Your artwork is full of detail & expression? Do you work from photos, sketches or from sitting studio sessions?

I start by doing a sketch, roughly get it drawn on the canvas then start building it up with large pieces of broken records, then I work on the details from dark to light. As I work with them flat on a table, it’s not until it’s finished that I get the chance to step back and look at the piece.

I’m sure every artist has some form of art theme that they just cannot master as well as other themes – some avoid drawing people, others animals etc. What theme of artwork do you find hardest to recreate?

I’d say landscapes, they just aren’t my thing.

Your work has been exhibited throughout the world – have you got a favourite venue or exhibition?

I love exhibiting in London, it’s one of my favourite cities. Some of my favourite shows have been in the US, I particularly like LA.

Although you are based in Staffordshire, do accept commissions worldwide?

Yes, I think it’s important not to be restricted to the UK.

What music icon pictures will you be working on in 2018?

I mainly work on a commission basis, so it’s whoever comes in I guess..

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

I love vintage clothes, they are generally better made, more individual and your less likely to pass someone on the street with the same thing. Shoes, I like brogues, and Chelsea Boots. Also love vintage hats!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

eBay is pretty good, if you have an idea what your after, you can find some hidden gems on there.

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

No idea.. Erm a nice pair of jeans maybe..

Boots or Shoes?

Ankle boots, I don’t know why, I just prefer them, maybe just less formal.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your work.
Insta @benrileyart

I love all your artwork Ben, but I think my favourite out of the photos I’ve published is the one of Mick Jagger – I love the facial expression and how you’ve captured it to a T.  Dear readers, What do you think of this art medium? Which of Ben’s artwork do you like best & why?  Do share your views!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Ben Riley. Photographer: Ben Riley.

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An Interview With A Healing Spirit

Originally from Rochester, New York – now residing in San Jose, California – my guest this week is Carol Cassara whose business, A Healing Spirit, opened its doors in April 2017.  A Healing Spirit provides loving support for healing of all kinds.  Loving support including everything from products such as journals, tapes , through to  hypnotherapy sessions, past life regressions and between life regressions.  Her kind words have been appreciated  and given comfort to many, including myself.  She’s a healing spirit indeed … and I am honoured to welcome Carol onto the blog. Hi Carol!

Hi! I’m Carol. I’m a writer, a former corporate exec and consultant and a free spirit who goes through any door that opens. Or at least peeks in!

What inspired you to open your business, A Healing Spirit?

My closest friend battled cancer for 6 years. During one of her hospitalizations I put together a crude little box of affirmations. She loved them and told me outright I needed to make and market them. After she died, in her honor I developed two decks of beautiful affirmations and two supportive guided journals to help people who are battling disease and trying to heal and those who are grieving. She is with me every step of the way from the other side.

What are the main objectives & benefits of A Healing Spirit?

I provide products and services that lovingly support those who are healing. Many scientific studies show that we do better when we feed our mind positives and also when we express our feelings about our situation. For example, one study showed that breast cancer patients who wrote about their feelings about heir disease had about 35 % fewer symptoms and cancer-related doctor visits. Other studies on expressive writing had similar results. I based my products on that scientific research. But some people don’t like to write or don’t know how. That’s why each page of the journals has a prompt or an activity. Something to respond to or to do. And instead of writing, you can draw, collage, paint—whatever. One day I believe this kind of activity will be prescribed by doctors—maybe not in my lifetime, but in time, as more and more studies begin to show and understand the way the mind can help the body heal.


You are also a hypnotherapist – available via Skype or in person if you happen to live in the San Jose area. Could you describe a typical Skype hypnotherapist session? What could a customer expect?

Hypnotherapy can be an effective way to address anxiety, flight phobias, chronic pain, prep for surgery and even to support chemotherapy. There’s no magic about it—it’s simply a form of guided imagery and it helps us turn off our conscious mind so that we can communicate with our subconscious. The idea is to repattern thinking to support healing. Skype is very effective because hypnosis is all about following the hypnotherapist’s voice. With earbuds in, there is absolutely no way to not follow the voice. It can be even more effective than in person, actually. The client doesn’t even need to see me but I need to see them waist up to monitor their breathing and eye movement. Actually, I plan to be in London this summer and could see Londoners one on one! 😉

I love the pre recorded downloadable audio tapes available to give support to cancer patients as they endure chemotherapy; to help those in chronic pain to manage their pain; to give guided imagery to those suffering from grief; and even support for those suffering from anxiety or insomnia. What are the benefits of the audio treatment?

It’s similar to hypnotherapy, only not customized. Still quite helpful and effective. You can download on your device and listen any time. The chemo support audio is particularly good to use during any kind of treatment to help your mind support your body’s healing. It’s an extra step that those in treatment can do in addition to their chemo or radiation. A few months ago I worked with a hynptherapy client who was to have a painful surgery. He not only went into surgery anxiety-free but emerged pain-free! The doctor kept pushing opiods on him and he kept telling the doctor “But I have no pain.” The topper was that he healed so quickly that the doc released him from care early, saying he was healed already. The mind is powerful and hypnosis is an effective way to put it to work to support health and well being.

Tell me about your guided journals, “A Guided Journal For Healing” and “A Guided Journal through Grief”

Both of the guided journals like workbooks with writing prompts and activities—the Guided Journal for Healing is for those battling a big disease or condition. It helps them express their feelings about their disease in a private way and it also contains helpful activities, ideas and meditations. The Guided Journal through Grief is for those who have lost a loved one. It allows you to say the things you might not have said and to remember the beautiful things. Customers find them helpful and that reaffirms my commitment to supporting those who are healing from anything.

Out of all the services you offer on A Healing Spirit, what services are most popular?

The beautiful, thoughtful gift packages. I offer two sizes of supportive condolence gifts and two sizes of gifts for those who are healing. They’re beautiful, helpfull, different and affordable. I offer free US shipping and discount shipping to most other countries, including most in Europe. I’ve had positive feedback from customers who have given them as gifts—the recipients have had great things to say. I have some testimonials at the bottom of A close second is hypnotherapy, especially fear of flying, fibromyalgia pain/chronic pain and anxiety. I’d love to work with more chronic pain and chemo patients anywhere in the world— hypnotherapy can be a big help in supporting treatment.

You have worked in corporate businesses in the heart of Silicon Valley, as well as being trained in hypnotherapy and being a successful blogger/writer; but growing up though, did you inspire to follow your eventual career path or did you have other ambitions?

I really wanted to be a journalist! And that was my original college major. Then I wanted to teach college. I ended up on the corporate side but did freelance journalism and I have taught at the university and college level on and off since grad school. The best of all worlds.My career has been varied and interesting. Joan Rivers once said “I was smart enough to go through any door that opened” and I think I’ve done the same.


Although you are based in the USA, are your products & sessions available overseas?

Yes absolutely. Skype is perfect for hypnotherapy and I discount product shipping to many countries.

I know that you are a lover of travel & that you have been to many exotic locations around the world. Where has been your favourite location so far? Least favourite/ most disappointing? What place is number one on your current bucket list?

I loved Morocco and had a love/hate experience in India. I am definitely a Europhile and could live in London. I did spend a month living in Rome once. It was amazing. And my trip to Paris last year—maybe my sixth or seventh, I’ve lost count– was the best! I am always up for going somewhere new but the temptation is to go back to old favorites that I love. Australia and New Zealand are on my list for ’19.

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

That’s hilarious because I work at home 75% of the time. So leggings or jeans and a tunic top are my go to outfits. Sometimes, like now, I’m actually in my PJs. 😉 I love a calf length skirt and boots or leggings if I’m going out to speak.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

None in particular but I do haunt your site all the time and admire the shoes and boots!

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

I would like a really cool duster, calf length. I don’t really have many wishes I haven’t been able to fulfill. My California life is so casual!

Boots or Shoes?

I adore boots. I just like how they look! But my feet have become more like bricks at this age so fit is always an issue.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you & A Healing Spirit.

My products and services can be found at and there I have a blog (see the BLOG tab up top), too, with interesting guest bloggers and supportive posts. Subscribers to my every-so-often newsletter get exclusive discounts and gifts –see the home page subscription button. I don’t believe in bombarding subscribers with emails—just every so often.

Also: I am happy to offer your readers a discount on any Skype hypnotherapy. Or past life regressions, which we haven’t talked about and can also be a healing modality. Anyone interested in learning more about any of it can mention your blog when they contact me if they want the discount:

Oh Carol, thank you so much for offering blog readers a discount! You’re so kind and I hope to catch up with you when you are in London.  I really like the idea of keeping a journal or doing some artwork to aid healing or to help overcome grief. I know people who embark on “projects” to help in the grieving process …. dear readers, what would you pursue to help aid healing? Do share your thoughts!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Carol Cassara, apart from the last photo (for Pinterest) which was taken by Linda Hobden.

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5 Hosiery Styles To Brighten Up Winter

Winter. Time to dig out your jeans/leggings, socks & boots. Apart from when you want to wear that knitted dress or skirt, that is.  Then you can have a field day with the opaque tights on offer – every colour under the rainbow, from 60 denier to 600 denier; even polar fleeced opaques.  Sometimes, I get bored of plain opaques.  So here are 5 of my favourite hosiery styles that I enjoy wearing to brighten my winter days. Are your favourites here?

1. Wool Tights.

Wool tights are warm.  I currently have a love of wool tights in colours of grey and navy – from check pattern to cable and rib.  Wool tights look really good with knitted dresses and denim skirts.  I have picked up some really nice wool tights from NEXT – my tip is to pick up a few pairs during their seasonal sales – they are often half price.

2. Glittery Tights.

I picked up a pair of navy glitter tights from NEXT .. but other brands such as Golden Lady have glitter tights too.  Great for wearing at parties – especially with velvet/velveteen dresses/skirts.  Also great for wearing under ripped jeans.

3.  Lace and Fishnet.

Yay. The styles of the 70s and 80s are big news at the moment and that has filtered down into the hosiery department too.  Fishnets and lace tights are great for “after eight” social dates and parties.  Lacy tights can be worn during the day too – go on, be brave! 🙂


4.  Patterned Tights.

Patterned tights can be subtle or loud.  For loudness, Golden Lady has some black and white polka dot tights which really are not for the faint hearted. Me?  I have already mentioned that I’m going through a phase of loving tights in navy blue, so it would come as no surprise to you that I love my navy patterned tights.  Fashion rules used to dictate not to wear navy with black, but I like to rebel against that rule and often wear my navy patterned tights with my black work skirt.

5.  Tartan/Plaid Tights.

Always on trend whether you are in Scotland or not – tartan tights can look great.  Not the most subtle of hosiery – in the photo below I’ve paired my red tartan tights with a black dress and my punky black boots for a party look.  For non-brave days, they can be worn under ripped jeans.  I have a teal tartan pair too.  I got my tights from Essex’ee Legs – available in bright red & teal.


I hope the tights have given you some inspiration to brighten up winter.  Do you stick to the same black/nude, sheer/opaque mode?  Do you have any “loud and proud” hosiery? Do tell!

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden, apart from the first photo & the last tartan photo which is of me by Adam Hobden.

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Keeping Hydrated With ION8

If you feel inspired to participate in any sporting activity, it’s important to keep well hydrated, especially if you are:  sweating away in a poorly ventilated gym; lobbing a shuttlecock over the net in a sports hall; cycling up and down the hills and country lanes; hiking in the wilderness;  scoring goals on the football (soccer) pitch or netball/basketball hoops.  In fact, keeping well hydrated daily is a must, even if you are not particularly active.  Drinking water regularly as been shown to: increase energy, relieve tiredness, boost the body’s immune system, improves the skin, promotes weight loss (water has zero calories!), aids digestion, relieves cramps and headaches.  Schools in the UK encourage children to take in a water bottle to use and sip throughout the day to help them keep alert and use those brain cells.  Having 5 children and an active cycling mad husband, I have a drawer full of water bottles – not all are the same and when I was given by ION8 their water bottle to review, I was looking forward to seeing if the ION8 stands up to my family’s scrutiny!

My 12 year old son Jack was the perfect reviewer/critic. He has had  3 water bottles since the start of the school term. One was lost; one leaked badly due to the spout snapping off that he had to have a new rucksack; and one split.  He takes a water bottle to school and refills it throughout the day; the water bottle has to endure a bus journey there and back; and Jack doesn’t treat his bag with kid gloves either. So, the ION8 has a lot to live up to! This is what Jack expected:


Jack drinks a lot of water during the day – it is important for him to be well hydrated as he does suffer from migraines and water helps to alleviate the headaches.  It is also cost effective according to Jack as it gives him more money  by refilling his water bottle to buy another chocolate muffin! Refilling bottled water bottles isn’t a good idea as tiny cracks often appear in the bottle after its initial use and these cracks can harbour germs such as the dreaded norovirus.  Reusable bottles have been designed for multiple usage.  The ION8 is reusable, is bpa free and is made of non toxic Tritan – a material that is highly resistant to odours, can be easily cleaned & is dishwasher safe.                                                                                               10/10


The ION8 is definitely stylish.  The product was winner of the Reddot Design Award 2017. I wasn’t sure until the water bottle arrived, what colour I would receive.  There are 14 different colours to choose from – I was hoping it wasn’t going to be pink as I have 4 boys and a daughter who doesn’t go a-bundle on pink – but as luck would have it, I received the black glossy onyx colour. This was the preferred choice.  Jack approved. I think the colour was the main deciding factor for him.  From my point of view the range of colours was a fabulous idea especially in families where each person can have their own water bottle identified by a different colour.  Like packs of toothbrushes in assorted colours….. I’m sure you’ve got the drift 🙂  Only downside to the design that Jack mentioned was that opening and shutting the lid, the click was loud especially when he was taking a quick swig of water during his lesson and the classroom was relatively quiet.                                                                                           9.5/10


Having been through various water bottles that have leaked despite being upright for the majority of the time, this was a major consideration. Soggy schoolbooks are a no no. Soggy gym kit – not amusing. ION8 claim to be 100% leakproof 100% of the time. They also offer a lifetime guarantee.  The lid lock offers that peace of mind  as well as the inner seal (which can be replaced).  Most water bottles have just the spout at the top which opens and closes – where most leakage occurs – so the lid is a pretty good idea.    The ION8 has lasted 10 days with no leaking so far….                                                10/10

ION8 comes with a tough carry strap, but I did not test the strap. Another difference is that the spout is at the side and not in the centre like most water bottles.  Drinking out of the water bottle is like drinking out of a cup – you need only to tilt the bottle slightly.

The aperture on the ION8 spout is wide to allow a uninterrupted flow of water. Water bottles, including the ION8, do not have thermal properties, such as keeping a hot drink hot or a cold drink cold – but the ION8 is capable of holding cold beverages as low as  -10C as well as hot beverages up to 96C.

The company mission is to produce the simplest and safest BPA free, spill free, leak proof water bottles, hydration products and drinking vessels.  My son and I are very impressed with what we’ve seen so far.  As far as water bottles go, the ION8 is the bees knees and we’ve been converted! 🙂

ION8 is available to buy via Amazon UK, Amazon USA, Amazon DE (Germany); Amazon ES (Spain); Amazon IT (Italy); Amazon FR (France).

For further information:

Disclaimer:  ION8 sent me the ION8 water bottle to review.  All views are entirely my own (and Jack’s).

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden. 




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6 Tasty Treat Discoveries

Food glorious food! I couldn’t not start the New Year off without sharing with you some tasty food treats that I discovered over the holiday period.  Trying new foods is always a pleasure – visiting my local Indian restaurant I usually order Lamb Rogan Josh but this winter they had revamped the menu and I actually tried a delicious squid curry… it made a lovely change and one that I hope is still on the menu when I next visit.  Here are 6 other tasty treats that I discovered recently … some healthy, some not so healthy .. but all are thoroughly delicious and worth tasting …

1. Wilkin & Son Tiptree – The Chocolate Collection.

People who know me know that I love chocolate spread – so I was really thrilled to receive this chocolate spread selection. Wilkin & Son Tiptree is well known internationally for their fruit jams, and over the years have expanded into fruit curds and spreads too.  The company uses 60% Belgian chocolate, real double cream and natural flavourings – the box selection contains plain chocolate spread, chocolate orange (yum), chocolate mint, chocolate cherry (reminiscent of Black Forest Gateau), chocolate coffee, and salted chocolate using Maldon sea salt (my favourite!).  The Chocolate Collection is completely nut free – as Tiptree’s factory is a completely nut free zone.  I love spreading the chocolate spread onto hot toast, or inside a warm croissant – but the chocolate can be melted to be used as an ice cream dessert topping or stirred into milk to make hot chocolate.

2. Galaxy Ultimate Frothy Hot Chocolate

My 12 year old son is a big fan of hot chocolate and this instant hot chocolate – I made it with hot water and 4 heaped teaspoons but milk can be used instead – was a big hit with him.  It is so frothy and chocolatey that it resembles the hot chocolate you can buy at the big coffee establishments but you can make it yourself at the touch of the kettle button!

3. Yeo Valley 0% Creme Fraiche

Creme Fraiche is cream with friendly bacteria added to it – the French version of soured cream.  Strict European regulations ensure that Creme Fraiche only contains cream and friendly bacteria.  I like the 0% fat version – it is still thick & creamy – but you can get half fat and full fat versions. A lovely alternative to milk when topping granola & fresh berries for breakfast.  Can be used instead of normal cream with desserts.  I add Creme Fraiche to my mushroom sauce when making my turkey & mushroom stroganoff. Or for a party dip idea, mix Creme Fraiche with a tub of hummus & a chopped bunch of coriander. Garnish with carrot and celery sticks.

4. Muller Light Rhubarb Crumble And Custard Yogurt

This season’s limited edition flavour, inspired by the traditional British dessert, rhubarb crumble and custard.  I was unsure of trying this yogurt.  Since I was a child my dad had always loved rhubarb yogurt and, that was the only flavour we had in our fridge – it was a thin yogurt and it was not my favourite flavour.  To be honest, rhubarb crumble nor custard were not on my list of favourites either. However, I think tastes change as you get older – I quite like rhubarb crumble and custard now ! My  impressions: it was a lovely creamy yogurt despite being fat free; it had bits of rhubarb in it – always a plus with me; and the flavour was surprisingly pleasant!

5. Castello Pineapple Cheese

Made in the land of the hygge, Denmark, this soft cheese made with pineapple, papaya and almonds, is unbelievably delicious.  It is for spreading onto crackers as part of a general cheeseboard ….. BUT, I love this cheese most of all spread on a slice of wholemeal, seeded or GI toast topped with mashed banana! It is my ultimate quick lunchtime snack!

6. Butterkist Salted Caramel Popcorn

If I eat popcorn, I tend to go for the sweet version rather than the salted version.  As I am a fan of all things salted caramel, I bought a packet of this popcorn for nibbles on Boxing Day.  I opened the packet in the kitchen, had a taste… had another handful … well, there wasn’t much left to put out for nibbles in the end! Basically this popcorn is coated with salted caramel flavour toffee  – so it would appeal to those who would prefer the sweet version.  It isn’t really that salty.  Although it is a sweet snack, the popcorn is made from natural wholegrains, is a source of fibre, is gluten free, vegetarian friendly and 125kcal per 30g serving.

What tasty treats did you enjoy over the holidays? Do share your tastebud discoveries…

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

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