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:

www.vitamincoffee.co.uk
www.instagram.com/vitcoffee
www.facebook.com/vitcoffee
www.twitter.com/vitcoffee

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.

www.benrileyart.com
www.facebook.com/benrileyart
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 AHealingSpirit.org 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 AHealingSpirit.org 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: carol@ahealingspirit.org

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:

1. NEEDS TO BE REUSABLE & ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY.

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

2. NEEDS TO BE STYLISH.

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

3. NO LEAKS.

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: www.ion8.co.uk

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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5 Fashion & Beauty Camping Case Essentials For The Newbie

Happy New Year!  Have you made any New Year Resolutions?  More importantly, are you sticking to them?! According to the Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show 2018, everybody should put “Spend 24 Hours Outdoors” on their New Year Resolutions list.  Various researches from organisations such as The Camping and Caravanning Club and the World Health Organisation have revealed that camping is generally good for your your mental health; it makes people feel happier; it’s a great social leveller; it’s a great way to make new friends (especially for children); and children are more than likely to encounter new experiences eg kite flying, tree climbing, den making and cooking on a campfire.

Location, location, location …. there are many different types of campsites in the UK from the glamping spots; the really deserted one tent in a field spots; adapted farms that have become campsites in idyllic locations, with modern shower blocks & facilities such as a pool, shop, restaurant, launderette, bar;  and some which are part of a holiday village with full entertainment & other amenities. 

 

So, your children have persuaded you to buy a tent and book a camping holiday … put the tent up beforehand to practise and to check that it is in fact waterproof … (we’ve had to buy a new tent day 2 into our 14 day camping holiday when a torrential downpour overnight left our old tent uninhabitable!  Thank goodness our site had a launderette and I was able to use the dryers to dry our damp clothes & bedding!)

And here’s some tips to help you pack those all important fashion & beauty essentials:

1. FOOTWEAR.  Hiking/Walking Boots. To wear all the time when you are not in the tent.  I use my motorbike boots.  Camping fields can get extremely muddy, especially if it rains.  Make sure the boots are comfortable, sturdy & waterproof. For tent wear: slip on trainers, ballet shoes or flip flops. 

2.  ONESIE.  I’m cringing as I type this.  I rarely feel the cold but I must say, that even in  August, it was cold and damp at night in the tent.  I did wrap up under a  duvet but I couldn’t help but think that wearing a onesie would have been preferable at that moment in time.  I did visit a local store looking for a onesie but being August, and it was warm during the day, the shelves were full of swimming costumes not fleeces.

3. MAKE UP/BEAUTY PRODUCTS.  Being outdoors gives you a healthy glow.  Being on a campsite means that the shower facilities/lighting/mirrors are not really ideal to perform your normal make up and skincare morning and evening routines.  I would suggest packing shower gel, 2 in 1 shampoo, moisturiser, BB cream (to replace primer, toner & foundation), waterproof mascara, lip gloss and eye make up remover pads.

4. COMPACT MIRROR.  At night you should really take off make up but when camping, it is rather off putting to go to a dimly lit shower block armed with your torch to help you navigate your way.  Having a compact mirror means that you can take your make up off in your tent ( and apply your morning make up after your shower in privacy, if you wish).  I used my mirror to make sure I didn’t have too bad bed head hair in the morning as I travelled across the field to the shower block!

5. HAIR PRODUCTS.  Your brush. Ditch the straighteners, hairdryer, tongs, hairspray … go for the tousled look instead. 

With those essentials packed, you are ready to fully embrace the outdoor life with your family – we walked for miles, went shell collecting on the beach, visited the local swannery, did some kite flying, rope swinging… 

Are you going to add “24 Hours Outdoors” to your list this year? Are you a camping guru… or newbie?  Any camping stories you can share? Do tell …

Linda x

The Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2018 takes place at Birmingham’s NEC from 20 to 25 February.  Prices are from £7 for adults; children under 15 go free. Tickets are on sale now – for more details check their website: www.ccmshow.co.uk

All photos are by Linda Hobden.

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6 Seasonal Drinks To Try

Party Season is in full swing and as we near the end of the year I decided to end my blog this year with a fun & frivolous post to toast the old year along with welcoming the New Year!  So here is my round up of 6 seasonal drinks to try this year – with a couple of non alcoholic alternatives too!

1. PROSECCO 

Prosecco is perhaps the most popular sparkling wine in the UK at the moment.  It is an Italian wine, having the subtle flavouring of white peaches,  is made in the Venetian region, from Glera grapes (aka Prosecco grapes) – occasionally other grapes are added.  The controlled designation of origin can be spumante, frizzante or tranquilla.

If you are an animal lover that would like to celebrate the season with your pet, then why not get your cat or dog a bottle of Pawsecco!  Yes, it is virtually prosecco for your pet! I say it is “virtually” prosecco – that is because it is not made with grapes, thus making it safe for dogs to drink.  And it is still rather than sparkling.  And it is non alcoholic.  However, for novelty value Pawsecco is definitely up near the top slot – not having tasted it, I cannot vouch whether it tastes of Prosecco  – nor, can I guarantee your cat or dog will join you in toasting in the New Year!

2.  GIN

Gin  – a  popular drink in the summertime – and in 2017, gin is one of, if not the top, spirit drink bought in the UK.  In bars up and down the UK,  gin tastings and gin based cocktails are very popular.  It is lower in calories than a glass of wine or a pint of beer – so for those who are looking for an alcohol drink that is a bit more accommodating when dieting, you can’t go wrong with gin.  In the 19th century, gin was drank as a straight drink.  Today, gin & tonic is the normal pairing.  I remember in years gone by, elderly relatives drinking gin with bitter lemon or with ginger ale.  Why not try mixing gin with your favourite fruit juice combinations, such as grapefruit & orange; or, cranberry & grape.

Alternatively, why not try Seedlip?  Seedlip is distilled in the same way as gin, is clear like gin and is best served with tonic water. However, Seedlip is alcohol free, sugar free, calorie free and sweetener free.  It is a great alternative for drivers, pregnant ladies, teetotallers & dieters.  It is made with spices, herbs and the predominant flavour is clove.  As a base for non alcoholic cocktails requiring a gin substitute – Seedlip is your friend.  It is expensive but it does make a refreshing change from cola/lemonade/lime & soda ….

3. SPARKLING PERRY

Babycham was the original party drink, launched in the UK in 1953. Invented by Francis Showering, a brewer in Shelton Mallet, in Somerset, England.  The sweet and not overly  alcoholic drink was particularly popular during the 1960s and 1970s.  I remember Babycham being served in a Martini/cocktail glass with a glacé cherry on a cocktail stick.  It felt very glamorous at the time!  With the 1970s/1980s vibe being very popular at the moment, Babycham is trying to make inroads into the party market again.

Currently dominating the British commercial perry market is Lambrini, a light & fruity perry made from the finest quality pears.  Lambrini is manufactured in Liverpool by Halewood International and was first created in 1994.  Like Babycham, it is low in alcohol and      low in cost.  It is the butt of many jokes – mainly because of its low cost – but it is a refreshing alternative to wine, and less likely to produce a hangover after a couple of glasses!

4. MULLED WINE

There are many recipes for mulled wine and many supermarkets stock bottles of ready made mulled wine. “Mulled” simply means heated & spiced.  We usually associate “mulled” with wine, but in fact many liquids can be mulled, including cider.  Traditional English Mulled Wine is made with brandy; in Ireland it is made with Irish whiskey; in the USA, with a touch of bourbon.

How about trying the Scandinavian version – known as glogg.  It is a cherry- scented mulled style wine, traditionally containing other fruit and almonds too.  In Sweden, glogg is an essential part of the lead up to Christmas with glogg parties held throughout Advent.  I found many recipes on Pinterest on how to make glogg – but I have found a ready made bottle by Marks & Spencer which does the trick admirably too.

For a family and driver friendly version of mulled wine,  replace the alcohol in the recipes with red grape juice instead.  It is just as delicious – although just as calorie laden, I’m afraid.

5. VODKA

Last Christmas I spotted in Asda supermarket, peppermint vodka.  This year, I spotted in the delectable chocolate shop, Hotel Chocolat,     an English vodka infused with salted caramel & cocoa.  The Salted Caramel Vodka is not too sweet and in each bottle floats a whole cocoa bean.  Only available in small bottles, and more expensive than the normal supermarket vodkas, however this vodka is a real treat for the vodka connoisseur and worth every penny.

I’ve not really got a low calorie alternative, but if you happen to visit a Hotel Chocolat store with a cafe attached, then try their speciality hot chocolates whilst savouring the aroma of chocolate in the air.  Get  punch drunk on chocolate fumes rather than alcohol.  Chocoholics heaven on earth indeed.

6. Irish Cream

Every Christmas bar needs a bottle of Baileys or an equivalent Irish Cream.  I prefer the original version with no ice… some prefer their Irish Cream with ice or dashed into their coffee. My daughter likes to experiment with the seasonal flavours on offer … last year salted caramel, this year spiced pumpkin flavour.

What will be your seasonal tipple this year?  Will you try something new or will you stick to your favourites?  Whatever you decide to do, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Healthy & Prosperous New Year.

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

 

 

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Destination Rocamadour

Set in a gorge above the River Alzou, a tributary of the River Dordogne, in the Lot Department of South West France, lies the small cliff top village of Rocamadour.  Rocamadour attracts pilgrims from all over the world and has done for centuries – famous pilgrims from history include Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II of England; Kings Louis IX, Louis XI & Charles IV of France. In summer, this little village in the middle of nowhere, is jammed packed with visitors.  Apart from its stunning location, Rocamadour is known for its Cite Religieuse complex of religious buildings, accessed via the Grand Escalier Staircase. The complex includes the Chapelle Notre Dame, with its Black Madonna statue and the Romanesque – Gothic Basilica of St Sauveur.

In August, Rocamadour’s campsites (of which there are many), are invaded also by music lovers – the Festival de Rocamadour include chamber music, orchestral music and soloists.

Interesting though the village is, for families with children, the prospect of climbing the steep stone stairways viewing ancient buildings in the August heat isn’t really appealing.  BUT, Rocamadour to me and my family isn’t really the village – we head to the north east corner of the village to a magical place we first discovered in 2006. This place is La Foret de Singes (Monkey Forest), a park where around 150 Barbary Macaques (aka Magots) live and roam free in a forest environment. 

The Barbary Macaques are an endangered species, originating from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The idea of the park is to provide the apes with natural living conditions as close to their native conditions as possible in order to preserve the species and once numbers increase and they are no longer endangered, they will be ultimately reintroduced into the Atlas Mountains. 

Raising public awareness about threats to the species is another aim.  Entering the park there are strict regulations for visitors – both for the safety of the visitor and the apes.  The park is well secured… there are gates to enter in and out of the forest itself .. but other than that, no other zoo like feature exists.  Regulations include not going too close the apes, especially the babies as the parents could consider the visitors as a threat; the young apes are prone to taking food out of people’s pockets/bags and hats off heads  – the young ones are braver and will approach you to take food off your outstretched hands.  You can get bags of popcorn at the entrance so you can feed the apes you come across as you follow the paths through the forest – and there are also set feeding time  areas where the rangers feed the apes whilst explaining (mostly in French) their work, the apes and the conservation aims.

Wandering through the forest, some places reminded me of scenes from Disney’s Lion King – I was expecting Simba the lion to appear on a rock and roar! 

The highlight of the day for us all was being able to feed the apes, although on our first trip my eldest son was very wary and was too scared to participate – but the others were a lot braver and enjoyed the experience.  Outside the gated area is a shop with the inevitable shelves lined with soft cuddly Barbary Apes; and a cafe where you can get a well deserved ice cream – or have a picnic indulging in freshly made baguettes with the local goats milk cheese, “Rocamadour”, which was awarded AOC status in 1996! 

As a family, we’ve always visited in the height of the season in August – the roads to get into Rocamadour are often congested but away from the centre, as you head to the forest the traffic is fairly light and the park itself, although busy, does not feel crowded even at lunchtime.  If you get a chance, just along the road is the Dinosaur Park – a cleverly laid out park winding down a hillside featuring some fabulous dinosaur statues – very pushchair/wheelchair friendly and wasn’t crowded whenever we’ve visited, either. 

The La Foret de Singes was opened in 1974  – it has other parklands in the “group” in Europe where you can experience the work of the Barbary Macaques conservation associations.  These are: La Montagne des Singes (France); Affenberg Salem  (Germany); Trentham Monkey Forest (England).

If you wish to visit the forest, it is open March – November. 

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden. 

 

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Back To The 80s

During the summer I received an invite from my friend Tracy inviting my husband and I to her 50th birthday party.  It was to be a “Back to the 80s” fancy dress party, to boot.  Normally, I’m not a big fan of dressing up but it sounded really fun to relive memories of being a teenager in the 1980s.  In 1981, I was 16 and pretty shy but by 1984 I had embraced the 1980s with fervour – I loved the big hair, the bright colours and the sexiness of the decade – and then by 1988, I swapped my blonde spiky big hair for a brunette perm and shiny tracksuits … (that part was a blip!) Make up was just as bright – and plenty of black eyeliner!  I needed to get some ideas on what to wear for the party. First of all I looked at Amazon – the fancy dress outfits were mainly leg warmers, leotards and from the Flashdance film era; with a splattering of early Madonna outfits. They were very nice but wasn’t what I had once worn, so I decided to look back at some old photos to see if I could recreate my old looks.

1981 – My old bus pass aged 16!  I was wearing a long black leather coat (my first purchase with my first wage packet!) and a black & gold glitter jumper.

1982 –  I used to wear a lot of red and matched my outfits with red lipstick, red earrings, red handbag & red shoes! My hair was in the style of Lady Diana.

1984 –  This was me aged 19 on a night out.  The shirt was one of my favourites.  I was wearing a faux black leather pencil knee length  skirt.

1989 – perm!  I kept this style until 1997 when I then had my hair cut short.

I remembered I used to love the strapless peplum dresses on a night out; my denim jacket used to take pride of place alongside my leather jacket; and if I was going to the local disco – my shiny black satin tight trousers with a yellow lace body and a yellow & black kimono style shirt; a winter’s date in the pub – fuchsia pink knitted dress with fishnets and high leg boots; or a rib knit purple maxi skirt with matching cardigan teamed with a fuchsia pink satin blouse…. 

In my wardrobe, I found my original denim jacket and a black string vest …. 

 

Looking in my Bon Prix catalogue, I realised that a lot of the 1980s style were making a comeback – I found white slouchy boots, sling back shoes…

I found stirrup pants (used to be known then as ski pants); jeans with piping down the sides (I used to have a khaki pair with red piping); fishnets (haven’t really faded from the fashion scene); tight satin disco trousers and black faux leather skirts. 

It was harder to recreate the make up but, not impossible.  Having a pale matt foundation was no problem but I had to forego the subtle contouring or hint of blush that I favour today – in the 1980s blush was loud and proud!  In 2017 I like a pale or nude lip gloss; me in 1984 favoured red or burgundy – it was really strange to wear such a bright colour.  Even more embarrassing was that I found at the bottom of my make up drawer my original Charlie red lipstick….

When it came to my husband – he said he used to wear a rock band t shirt and jeans… not much different to today’s attire.  He decided to join in the fun and become an iconic favourite of his in the 1980s – Axl Rose of Guns n Roses.  He managed to get hold of a kilt, wig and bandana from Amazon.

In the end I got my outfit: blonde rockers wig (from Amazon); denim jacket; 80s red/black/white strapless satin dress from Envy Boutique; black fishnet faux stockings; black slingback shoes from Bon Prix.

The party was a big success… there were Baywatch star lookalikes, early Madonnas, Flashdancers, and even Slash from Guns n Roses too. We drank pimped up prosecco but I somehow thought babycham would have been great if it was still around…. then guess what I found on my supermarket shelf the other day….

What would you wear to an 80s party?  Can you remember any favourite outfits from that era? Do share your stories … 

Linda x

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All photographs are by Linda Hobden 

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