An Interview With Luxe 39

Luxury with a capital “L” this week as we delve into the world of gorgeous, touchy- feely, colourful velvet bespoke cushions! My guest this evening is Helen, founder of Luxe 39, who makes to order these delightful cushions and she has an amazing array of over 100 colour options! Hi Helen …

Hello. My name is Helen Gilbert.  I’m a 40 something mum of 2 boys living in Clapham, London.

What inspired you to set up your brand “Luxe 39”?

In 2017 I was working in marketing recruitment in the city and was struggling to balance home life and work, especially in school holidays. At the same time we were at the tail end of a house renovation, finally at the interior decorating phase, and I couldn’t find velvet cushions of the quality I wanted.  I decided to dig out my sewing machine and make cushions for myself and started to mix various velvet colours together to make double colour cushions.  When friends saw these dual cushions they asked if I could make some for them and the idea just came together that I could work for myself and set up a luxury velvet cushion company.

I’m interested in the origins of brand names – so what does “Luxe 39” stand for?

The name ‘Luxe 39’ took a bit of thinking.  I wanted a name with a matching domain which was tricky as by 2018 so many domain names were already taken so I came up with the idea of adding a number into the brand name and as we live at number 39 that was set.  I played with brand names which included the word ‘cushion’ but worried that would limit the company in the future.  I arrived at ‘Luxe’ for it’s double meaning. Obviously it refers to the luxury nature of the velvet fabric we use in all our cushions, but it also is a play on ‘Lux’ which is the measurement of illumination and references the way cotton velvet bounces light, making the colours appear really vibrant.  And so luxe39.com was born.


With 9 cushion size options, square and rectangle, over 100 colour options, plus cushion covers and draught excluders – there is such a variety to satisfy almost every house decor! Which colourways seem to be the most popular this year?

I keep a tally of the most popular colours and it is interesting to see the gradual shifts of popularity over the years. This year Mustard Yellow is rising in popularity.  It is a gorgeous bright yellow and very like Pantone’s colour of the year, ‘Illuminating’. The single colour which defies fashion and remains most popular is Burnt Orange and the double colour cushion which sells the best is the really colourful combination of Burnt Orange with Bright Pink. 

Velvet cushions are so luxurious and sumptuous! what do you like most about working with velvet?

I love the depth and richness of colours you get with velvet.  Even neutral shades are truly beautiful in this fabric and that makes it great to work with.  It took a bit of trial and error to successfully sew velvet as it ‘creeps’ when you sew two pieces together, but I’ve had quite a bit of practice now and have it mastered.


Caring for velvet cushions – what are your recommendations on keeping them pristine?

The velvet used in all our cushions is 100% cotton pile and it is actually easy to care for.  Cushions need plumping every few days and this effectively keeps the dust off them. Try to avoid dropping food or drink on them as they can’t be machine washed, but if spills do occur then we recommend blotting with a lint free cloth.  We don’t recommend rubbing velvet as you risk flattening the pile which is the unique thing about the fabric.  Velvet can be dry cleaned if all else fails.

As you are based in the UK, are your products available to purchase overseas?

Our products can be sent anywhere in the world and we’ve shipped as far as Australia.  We used to sell a reasonable number of cushions to European customers but that has noticeably dropped away since Brexit as the cost of shipping has at least doubled and I think customers are wary of the risks of buying from the UK at the moment.

How long on average does it take to make a cushion from scratch?

There a a few stages to making a cushion and all are relatively time consuming. First you need to cut the fabric precisely. Next you need to finish the raw edges before carefully sewing in the zip (which can be made a feature of with our option of a contrasting zip colour).  The sides then need sewing and pressing to ensure the seams are crisp. We overstuff all of our cushions with larger cushion pads to ensure they stay plump so they have to be carefully inserted, and then we take a lot of care to package the cushions to make sure they arrive looking like a gift – so start to finish on each cushion takes longer than you would think.

Have you had any unusual or extravagant or different colourway cushion requests?

I started the website with the colourways which I thought would go together but a lot of the options now online came about through customer requests, and some of these have become my favourites.  Mustard and Bright Pink was requested by a customer and I really wasn’t sure of the combo, but when I made it I realised it was utterly stunning and it is now a popular choice online.  Also, simple colour combos came about from customer requests such as the two tone options of Silver with Dark Grey, or Navy with Royal Blue. When the orders were made I thought they may be a little boring but they are really stunning in their simplicity.

A percentage of profits from the business are donated to mental health charities – why is it important to you to support these charities?

I worry that mental health provision in this country has been neglected and underfunded for a really prolonged period and was already at breaking point even before Covid. Having grown up with a parent with mental health problems I know how essential it that support is there at the time it’s needed so that’s why it’s important to me to support mental health charities.

Growing up, did you always want to have a career in textiles or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?

My previous career wasn’t in either textiles or interiors, but actually the skills I gained in marketing recruitment have been surprisingly transferrable.  Business development skills are useful in most jobs, and the understanding I gained of digital marketing has been incredibly useful in setting up an online


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

I work from home (before it was the thing everyone did) so I live most of my life in jeans.  I have a favourite pair of Paige jeans which I bought 10 years ago as a treat after losing my baby weight.  They no longer make the exact style so I buy replacements second hand on ebay with varying luck. You just have to hope that the jeans haven’t been shrunk in the tumble drier at any point, or altered over the years.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love clothes from COS as they take classic styles and add a slight twist.  I don’t find that patterns suit me but COS do some beautiful colours which mix and match really well.  Now I think about it, I dress a lot like my cushions, either wearing a single colour or colour blocking two contrasting colours.

What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?

I fancy treating myself to a ‘Me & Em’ dress once we can go out again as they’re expensive but are cut and sewn really well.  Again they are quite classic but often with a twist like a grosgrain stripe sewn into the side seem. As a seamstress I appreciate the construction, but I really haven’t got time to make clothes for myself.

Boots or Shoes?

It’s trainers and sandals for me as I like the laid back vibe and comfort of both.  I like wearing quite tailored clothes and relaxing the look with my footwear as I hate feeling too ‘dressed’.

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Links you would like to share:

We have accounts on both instagram & facebook @luxe39london.  
Website: https://luxe39.com

Hmmm … dear reader, spoilt for choice when it comes to colours …. what would you choose? !

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Luxe 39/ Helen Gilbert

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An Interview With Cup Of Daisies

Like a breath of fresh air, Cup Of Daisies, is a small Welsh fashion label that design scarves inspired by the work of the charities they support and by selling the scarves they look to raise funds to support those charities. I caught up with Oana to find out more ….Hi Oana!


Hi , I am Oana Balan, the designer of Cup of Daisies. I am working in developing the project part-time. 

What inspired the setting up of  “Cup Of Daisies”? 

There were various sources of inspiration but none fashionable. I was mostly looking at cups of tea ,  camomile tea  and different meanings in different societies. I have a Christian background , so I love the biblical story where Jesus is offering water to a Samaritan woman at a well, speaking about the idea of living forever. So the concept Cup of Daisies had to embrace  the idea of wellness, life and help. It had to bring together the essence and the values of what the brand would support.

I’m interested in the origins of brand names – so why “Cup Of Daisies”?  Were there other names you considered?

I considered my name for a while as in Oana Balan and  Cup of Daisies scarves. 

I particularly like the “Bird Song” scarf. What scarves are most popular amongst your customers?

The best seller is the “Blue Pineapples “ scarf , supporting Save the Children.

Out of all your collection, do you have any favourites?

I like the scarf “Lady Red” supporting Tenovus . 


As you are based in the UK, are your products available to purchase overseas?

Yes, the products are available to customers abroad as we have received orders from North America and Spain.

When designing the scarves to add to your collections, do you take into account your own tastes, the charities, your customer base, requests, traditional styles, current trends, or bits of all those?

I want to create a pattern which tells the story of the charities we support , transmitting the message farther. Also needs to be in fashion with current trends.

How long on average does it take to make a scarf from scratch?

It mostly depends on the quantity and the type of production. For this collection 300 scarves took 6 weeks , including screen printing and hand rolled hem.

Which charities do “Cup Of Daisies” support? Why were those particular charities chosen? 

I wanted to gather most of the basic needs of a human being such as shelter, hunger and treatments. Those are the charities I support.

If you could go anywhere in the world for inspiration to create a new collection, where would you go and why?

I would possibly go to an exotic beach in Thailand to do snorkelling, to have the chance to observe the nature underwater.

Growing up, did you always want to be a fashion designer or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?

I always wanted to be a fashion designer, but the fashion industry is quite competitive, and I struggled in gaining experience in established fashion houses. So I wanted to have my say about the fashion industry and to create my own products.

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

I would wear a pair of ankle boots from Clarks and possibly a very minimal look, just a top and a pair of trousers  from Uniqlo . 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I buy from Uniqlo and Zara, I identify myself with their styles and trends.

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

Dr Martens Gladiator sandals are a want on the wish list! 

Boots or Shoes?

Boots are more practical specially with the weather in Wales.

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

http://cupofdaisiesstyles.blogspot.com
http://cupofdaisies.co.uk
@cupofdaisiesstyle – IG

Great to chat to you Oana! Love the scarves and your charitable aims!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Oana Balan/ Cup Of Daisies.

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Sins Of Our Mothers Book Tour

I’m pleased to be part of the “Sins Of Our Mothers “ book tour to celebrate the latest Dystopian fiction by author Nicole Souza. Dystopian fiction isn’t a genre I’m familiar with but as I read “Sins Of Our Mothers” with an open mind, I found myself getting totally engrossed with the storyline and the characters. This is a great book to read on the sunbed as summer approaches….

Book Summary

It has been fifteen hundred years since the solar flare devastation of the Global Catastrophe. Due to the radioactivity in the harvesting fields, society dismisses its defective children as nothing more than flawed products of the malfunctioned seeds in the field.

But Lyratelle, a hyper-observant musical prodigy, believes these “defects” are intelligent, particularly her own sibling, the youngest child of her impervious mother. Abandoning her dream career, Lyratelle climbs the bureaucratic ladder to run the Defect Research Center, where she can safeguard the child.

With an underground team of women who share her uncertainties, Lyratelle unearths the Old History truth that womankind’s survival actually hinges on the existence of these defects.

When General Sarah Love, the city’s most powerful advocate against the defects, detects Lyratelle’s sympathy toward the creatures, she threatens the life of Lyratelle’s sibling.

Now Lyratelle’s desperate attempt to save this child endangers everyone she loves—her team, her family, even the existence of the defects themselves.

Print Length: 358 PagesGenre: Dystopian FictionASIN: B08FNMQ3XVPublisher: E.L. Marker  
Sins of Our Mothers is available to purchase now on Amazon.com.

MY INTERVIEW

It is with great pleasure to welcome Nicole Souza onto the blog. Hi Nicole!

Hi! I’m super envious of ancient philosophers. I imagine they gathered in groups, passing around their favorite snacks while stretching their aching joints, immersed in discussions surrounding the questions that link human hearts: Where did we come from? Why are we here? What is truth? How can we maximize joy and minimize suffering? What is the meaning of family relations? Where does death take us?

I’m envious, that is, until I realize this is the very scene at my family girls’ nights. Though overall our society dedicates less time to questioning mortality and our existence in general due to the insane velocity of modern demands, we’re all philosophers in our souls.

Conversation is my fuel. I love people. I love others’ unique stories. I love finding connections with members of the human family who live oceans apart from me, who speak other languages, and whose experiences are vastly different from mine. While I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, my husband was born and raised in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. Our upbringings, and the way we experience life, are so distinct. I’m profoundly grateful.

Among my immediately family—parents and eight siblings—are spoken seven languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Tongan, Mandarin, and Dutch. Among my siblings-in-law, including one who passed away thirteen years ago, are five ethnicities and four nationalities. My nieces’ and nephews’ heritages span the globe. Most are being raised in bilingual households, three of whom live in beautiful Taiwan where English is their second language.

If all I had in life was a pretty piece of land and my family to enjoy it with, I’d want for nothing. I love my people.

As if I don’t get enough language in my personal life, I also got my B.A. in Languages with a minor in Women Studies. Growing up I thought I’d study music. I’ve played piano since age five and violin since age eight. Teaching violin was my first job and I thought it would be my last. But I’ll be honest, as much as I love people, especially kids, I’m not equipped with the divine patience needed to teach them how to play musical instruments. Oh, my heart; how terribly, terribly hard that was for me. I’m grateful to have found my thing—writing stories alone in my room surrounded by dogs and donuts.

Who or what inspired you to write “Sins Of Our Mothers”?

In college, I made an astounding observation: nearly all my straight, married girlfriends, and those with a live-in boyfriend, were the sole providers in their relationships. Each one of their husbands or boyfriends was profoundly unhappy and had developed at least one addiction that was affecting their relationship. Though all relatively close to my age, these weren’t just friends here in the states. These were women of multiple ethnicities and cultures.

Some spoke English, some didn’t. Some had children, some were students, some had mortgages, some were renting, some lived with parents or in-laws. The one thing they had in common was an unemployed adult man depending on their salary. The most bizarre detail was that none of the women with children depended on their male partners for childcare, even though they were home all day. They either relied on relatives or paid for professional childcare.

The men’s addictions ranged from simple things like alternate realities to more intense things like pornography and even detrimental things like alcohol and destructive drugs. Some of the men were students. Some were college graduates, some high school graduates. All had essentially disappeared from their families, their communities, and society—a trend I began to notice extended far outside my circle of contacts.

While several of these couples split or divorced, many pulled through and have progressed together. The fact that so many close friends—wonderful, intelligent people—intersected in this weird place all at once felt significant. I remember thinking, “These women literally do everything. They could just remove the men and their lives would remain the same, but without the stress of supporting a grown man and his addictions. All women really need from men is their sperm, right? Aside from that, are men even necessary?”

Settlement 1163 in the novel represents the struggles of those men. Lilac City, where the women live, represents women who bear and raise their children, as well as provide for their families, alone. While the burden of supporting men in their homes is gone, they still, unknowingly, support the men in the settlements through taxes. But the emotional burden of feeling like they do everything alone doesn’t exist in the book because the only world the characters know is a completely female one.

The first draft of Sins of Our Mothers sent me on an arduous journey where I learned that, not only are men necessary, but masculinity is infinitely more valuable than those currently in power would have us believe. There’s a lot of talk nowadays about toxic masculinity. What’s not being talked about is how essential masculinity is to a free, successful, harmonious society. If we’re to achieve our potential as the twenty-first century generation of the human family, and ensure future generations can liberally pursue happiness, we need good men.

The final draft of the book is, I hope, a depiction of what I learned along that journey.

 I really enjoyed reading your book, “Sins Of Our Mothers ” and I particularly enjoyed the character of Lyratelle Faith. What character did you particularly enjoy writing about? What character was the hardest to portray?

Lyratelle is my favorite character, too. She embodies female power and the strengths of womanhood as I’ve come to understand them thus far in my life. I hope one day to see someof her relentless drive in myself. But that’s a far, far distant goal. I most enjoyed writing her, inside and out. It’s so fun for me when readers ask about her because it feels like we’re chattingabout a mutual friend. She’s the kind of woman with whom anyone would benefit from a friendship. She’s compassionate, aware of and concerned for the disenfranchised, and constantly striving to better the world for her loved ones and, consequently, the human family.

The character that was the hardest to portray was Grace, hands down. She’s so brilliant and passionate about technology and electronics, which is quite the opposite of me. While I do love many virtual reality games, especially Beat Saber, I have no idea or desire to understand how it all works. I’m grateful there are people like Grace in the world so people like me can undeservedly enjoy their hard work. If everyone were like me, we’d literally sit around all day, passing around our favorite snacks while stretching our aching joints, immersed in philosophical discussion. Grace is so rad because she would dominate those discussions while simultaneously programming virtual worlds and haptic suits.

Researching for your novel must have been quite interesting… did you discover anything that shocked you or uncover some nugget of information that was unexpected?

I learned a lot about IVF. It astounds me that doctors have developed medicine to the point where they can initiate humanlife in a petri dish and reimplant the fertilized egg into the woman’s uterus. Again, I’m grateful these kinds of advanced humans exist in the world. It makes me appreciate even more profoundly the variety that exists among our human family.

Studying pregnancy in general made me appreciate men far more than I did previously. Of course, growing up with an awesome dad, grandpas, three brothers, and more male uncles and cousins than I care to count, I always loved and appreciated men. But really internalizing, not just casually knowing, that women can’t bear children without men was strangely humbling.

I’m so accustomed to women being these independent powerhouses that push through mortal suffering and just get stuff done. Even within pregnancy, the participation between the female and male is so mind-blowingly lopsided, and yet, a woman cannot have a child without the sperm of a man. I spent a ton of time just pondering the significance of this fact. I’d known it since I was a child but somehow maintained this superior image of women that was so distinct from the simplicity of men. I didn’t realize I’d been subconsciously questioning men’s significance.

Well, I don’t doubt it anymore thanks to the research and careful consideration that went into writing Sins of Our Mothers.The world needs good men more than anything else right now. I hope that came across clear in the book.

This novel comes under the genre of Dystopian Fiction  – have you ever explored or hoped to write under other genres?

Yes! After the Sins of Our Mothers trilogy is complete, I’ll be working on a fantasy series. I also have a manga-style adventureproject I work on when I need a break from the heavier writing.It’s slow coming because my art skills are about a two out of ten. But I’m inching along. I actually asked my thirteen-year-old nephew recently to take over the drawing part for me as he’s far more talented. I promised to get him some sample pages by the end of the week, so we’ll see.

I’m also working on my mother-in-law’s biography. She has the most fascinating life story and I really want to make sure it’s told.

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations?

The one commonality I share with Lyratelle is in our youths we both dreamed of being concert mistresses of renowned symphonies, but ultimately chose other career paths. While she went the way of geniuses and hardworking folk, I chose to lock myself in my room with my snacks and write stories.

My private violin instructor was a member of the Utah Symphony. I went to her rehearsals during those career shadowing days in elementary school. I just knew that would be my future. Yet, here I am. It’s been weeks since I even touched my beloved violin.

I did always want to tell stories, too. Being a writer was high on my list of career options. There’s just something about storytelling that awakens my soul. I learn so much better reading and writing stories than I ever have doing busywork. I believe the greatest minds throughout history have taught in parables because stories can be understood by all minds, no matter where they fall on the genius scale. Stories are powerful and unifying.

Is “Sins Of Our Mothers ” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! Barnes and Noble has international shopping available online. Amazon Kindle International is available in over 170 countries. Amazon also ships hard copies internationally to over 100 countries.

If you could visit any place in the world to inspire your next novel, where would you go and why?

Taiwan, definitely. My sister and her family live there. It’s one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. Vast cities pressed right up against gorgeous beaches create the perfect setting for a multi-genre/crossover story. There’s so much romantic simplicity in the island’s nature and so much modern hustle and bustle in the thick of the cities. And the Taiwanese people are the friendliest, most generous, polite people I’ve ever had the pleasure of interacting with. I’ve always loved Mandarin Chinese so spending quality time in Taiwan would boost my speaking and listening skills, though I don’t suppose I’ll ever get the characters down.

Having lived in several cities in Brazil, I would say the state Rio Grande do Sul is next on the list. It’s my second home and I miss it every day. Especially the amazing people.

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres (or authors) do you usually like to read?

My two lifelong favorite books are The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, and The Giver by Lois Lowry. The Hiding Place is a kind of anomaly as I don’t usually enjoy nonfiction as much as fiction. But The Giver fits right into my type of story. In fact, it shaped my reading preferences quite a lot. I first read it when I was really young so every book since has been measured against it.

I don’t discriminate against any genre as there are good books in all. As long as a story keeps me interested, I’ll devour it.

Lately, I’ve been more immersed in manga than novels. Hajime Isayama satisfied my longing for a well-written story with his amazing series Attack on Titan. I don’t suppose I’ll ever love anyone—real or fictional—as much as I love Levi Ackerman. Though Otcho/Shogun from Naoki Urasawa’smanga series Twentieth Century Boys comes close. I guess I’m a sucker for strong, independent men with traumatizing pasts.

I know it’s cliché, but I can’t fail to mention J.K. Rowling’s mind-blowing talent for storytelling. I know I’m not the only one because I’ve heard others mention how reading the Harry Potter series felt much more like watching. That world truly lives on those pages.

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

If you ever find me at home, it’ll undoubtedly be in a MooMoo and department store ankle socks with my hair down. On a regular day out and about, I prefer tall, form-fitting print T-shirts (likely featuring Levi Ackerman), loose leggings (deep pockets, of course), and Vans slip-ons with my hair in a messy bun. Not because I’m stylish and rock a messy bun, but because everything I try to do with my hair is messy, and buns are convenient when running errands. I’ll most likely be in glasses when dressed casually.

Because I’m aware that none of these outfits are conducive to an adult lifestyle, I do have an alternative outfit for meetings and social gatherings. There, you’ll find me in boots, a long comfortable skirt, a dressy loose blouse, and oversized earrings. I don’t wear jewelry often but when I do, huge earrings and gaudy rings are my thing. When it really matters, I have my sister do my hair.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I don’t say this as an author: if ever I go somewhere in person to browse, it’s a bookstore. I love the smell of books. Plus, I’m always on the lookout for the children’s book You Are Special by Max Lucado. I keep buying myself a copy only to give it away. It’s such an amazing book. Strangely, it’s often unavailable in stores so I check occasionally to see if it’s stocked.

Online, I spend a lot of time browsing redbubble.com. It’s a great site for personalized gifts and keepsakes, especially if you’re looking for something related to an inside joke. Plus, I adore such shops that feature independent artists.

This might be too bizarre a detail but, being from Utah, I like to hop on ksl.com and visit the classifieds to see what farm animals and RVs are available. I have this dream of buying a little farm and filling it with all the cute animals city living doesn’t accommodate. I also dream of an RV but haven’t found the right one. It’s as important to get right as was choosing my spouse.

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

It’s been a long time since I had a proper gorgeous pair of boots. That will definitely be my next big clothing purchase.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots! I love boots! Especially being from Utah. A stylish pair of heavy-duty boots that allow me to hike and also hit the town with friends is the best piece of clothing. Winter, summer, rain, or shine, boots work for everything.

I have the feeling I’ll be browsing for boots online in my MooMoo tonight.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook 

https://nicolesouzabooks.com

https://www.facebook.com/nicolesouzabooks/

https://www.instagram.com/nicolesouzabooks/ 

THE BOOK TOUR DATES

Great to chat with you Nicole! I look forward to reading your mother in law’s biography too. I hope your farm dream becomes a reality and thank you so much for the advance copy of your book and inviting me onto your book tour. I’ve had a blast!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Nicole Souza

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An Interview With gtGDollwear

As a young girl I loved playing with my Barbies and Sindy Dolls – my father made suitcases for a living and had made me a vanity case which I filled with dolls clothes. I was never interested in the bigger baby dolls. Maybe it was the fashions that attracted me, I don’t know. My love of dolls hasn’t faded – and it was with great excitement that I was able to interview the delightful Dasha who, in my eyes has a dream job, as a fashion designer designing luxury doll clothing. Hi Dasha!

Hi, I am Dasha. And I think I have a dream job – I am a fashion designer and a founder of luxury doll clothing brand gtGdollwear – so effectively I spend all my time living my childhood dream – playing with the dolls 😊

What inspired the setting up of your luxury brand “gtGdollwear”?

I have been working in the City for a number of years, but I always felt I was missing something. At some point I started to feel that I needed to find my true calling. It was a long journey….

Through hours of Bible reading, repentance and spending time with God, I knew I would be able to discover my true calling, my talents – my “wells” in the desert of life, which would give me freedom, wealth and independence. 

I was particularly touched by the story of Abraham in Genesis: the wells he dug in the desert were a real blessing for him, but they were filled with earth by Philistines and his son Isaac had to work hard to clear them. This is a perfect analogy with our human life: we are born with talents, but sin made us bury our talents. We are afraid to acknowledge that there is a perfect plan for our life in Jesus. Instead we are giving the devil the ground that belongs to us.

One day I took my seven-year-old son to a birthday party for one of my friend’s daughters. There were Barbie dolls everywhere! The minute I saw a big box of barbies, I realised my prayers were answered as I remembered how much I enjoyed making dresses for dolls.

I’m interested in the origins of brand names – so what does GTG stand for?

Can you guess now? It means Glory to God. I am ever so grateful to Him for saving me!

As a young girl I had many Barbie/Sindy dolls and cases full of dolls clothes and accessories – my love of dolls hasn’t wained , I realised that fact whilst looking at the range of doll clothing on your website.  I love every set in your collection and the miniature bags are just adorable. What sets are most popular amongst your customers?

Thank you! You might be surprised to know that my customers are adult doll collectors. And they love everything! They love to see new things coming in my online store. I recently launched a sleepwear – tiny cute satin and lace pyjamas and nighties, with eye masks and gowns and those were sold out so quickly. I have none left in pink! I guess in lockdown loads of doll collectors are living their life through dolls and pyjamas are a big hit!

Out of all your collection, do you have any favourites?

My favourite is Chanel inspired suit made of boucle fabric which is very challenging to work with as it frays into ribbons when cut. But the finished outfit was fabulous. As a general rule of thumb – the harder it is – the more satisfaction I get from the final result. The details that go into creating my outfits are insane, everything is so miniature!


As you are based in London, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

Yes, I am based in South London, but gtGdollwear is an online destination that serves clients worldwide. I love to look at the map to track the geography of my clients – Hawaii, Australia, Japan, Europe. It’s mind blowing to realise that there are so many places I have never visited but my designs made their way to those destinations.

When designing dolls wear  to add to your collections, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, requests, traditional styles, current trends, runway items or bits of all those?

It’s a bit of all those but most of all is what I would wear myself. So, I am not surprise when 90% of my clients keep saying to me: “I’d wear that!”. And of course I am very tuned into my customers feedback, I just want to solve their doll wardrobe dilemmas!

How long on average does it take to make a set from scratch?

It depends on a number of items in the set, but on average about a week as I do like to take my time. In my previous job in the City I used to work to very tight deadlines, so I just feel so blessed being able to set my pace now. My moto is “luxury in every stitch” and I take time to deliver that to my customers.

Do you take on bespoke requests?  If so, what was the most unusual or extravagant request? 

No, you see I am not a seamstress, so I would be unable to work on a request basis. When I design I rarely know what would be the final result, I make decisions along the way – my friends call me “a raw talent” 😀 So my customers are only those who love my creations!

If you could go anywhere in the world for inspiration to create a new collection, where would you go and why?

I’d go back to Paris to see my family but this time I would just sit in the café in the street and watch Parisians walking by (preferably without their face masks).

Growing up, did you always want to be a fashion designer or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?

When I was a little girl, my friends played with their dolls – but I much preferred making clothes for my dolls. However, for some reason I thought that you need to be an artist to be able to draw your designs on paper – a huge misconception! My parents encouraged me to find a career that was more practical. I have two degrees, one Master of Arts but I somehow managed to work in finance for the majority of my career, which was a great experience that helps me with my business now.

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

Ha ha – now when we are restricted by lockdown it is mostly UGG slippers 😊I am a jeans and trainers girl – a comfy pair of skinny GAP jeans and my favourite Armani trainers is all I need to get me out of the house!

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

Yeah, I wish someone could make a human size of gtGdollwear

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

Oh, I have accumulated so much that my next thing on the to do list is actually to get rid of some stuff!

Boots or Shoes? 

 Trainers!

For Pinning Later



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

Instagram and facebook @gtGdollwear

Website: http://www.gtGdollwear.com

Are not the mini fashions simply gorgeous? Thank you Dasha for letting me see a glimpse of your dream job !

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of gtGdollwear.

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Spotlight On GoBo

Lamonts & Co is a brand that specialises in bringing new products to the UK market first – from zero noodles (calorie free noodles) to the recently developed GoBo – the UK’s first AHA based natural deodorant which uses glycolic acid to neutralise odour whilst allowing the body to perspire naturally. Voted #1 Natural Deodorant by Good Housekeeping Magazine 2021 , this deodorant is ideal for vegans and is cruelty free too. I caught up with Laura Lamont to find out more about her latest creation. Hi Laura and welcome….

Hi, my name is Laura, founder and director of Lamonts and Co.


What inspired the development of your recently launched AHA based natural deodorant, GoBo?

I’m a qualified Nutritional Therapist and so have always beenbig on health and healing through nutrition and plants but it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child (now 6) that I really started to look at chemicals in cosmetic products and lotions and was horrified at what I learnt.  The first thing I tried to change was my deodorant but was constantly disappointed by the results and never managed to find one that actually worked for me until the end of the day.  I actually created GoBo by accident as it was never something that I set out to do. One day I decided to try my AHA toner on my underarm to see if it could help with the hyperpigmentation I had and then just happened to notice that after 2 days without showering (I probably shouldn’t admit that) there was no smell what so ever!  I was so excited that I spent the start of the first lockdown developing my deodorant recipe so I could share it with the world.

What are the benefits of using GoBo?

Well, the number one benefit is that it’s natural but actually keeps you smelling fresh until the next day.  On top of that,the AHAs help to exfoliate the dead skin cells which leave your skin unusually smooth and soft, and it slowly fades pigmentation caused from shaving.  It also prevents in-growing hairs.  I like to think of it as the first multifunctional deodorant.

Out of the 4 types of GoBo available (Rose, Orange Blossom, Jasmin, Orginal ), which one is proving to be the most popular at the moment?

 Surprisingly the Unscented seems to be the winner, I think a lot of people have irritation from deodorant which they tend to put down to the heavy perfumes or essential oils used.  But even with our scented varieties we only use pure flower waters which won’t cause any irritation and they are so delicate that they won’t interfere with your perfume.

What are the ingredients in GoBo? 

Glycolic acid, Water, vegetable Glycerin, Sodium Bicarbonate, Guar Gum and Arrowroot flour, Floral water.

GoBo was voted #1 Natural Deodorant by Good Housekeeping in 2021.  Congratulations!  Lamonts & Co have also introduced Zero Noodles (calorie free noodles) to UK. Have you any other new products to add to your range in the pipeline for 2021?

I sure do!  I am always working on new products and business ideas but with two young children I can’t always find the time to launch them.   Eventually I shall expand the GoBo line and create more natural and functional skin care products as well as extending the Zero Noodles line with more varieties and flavours.

Have you always been interested in developing products or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere? 

Yes, I have always been more creative than academic as well as a bit of a dreamer and always wanted to be my own boss.  I remember as a teenager having a note pad where I started writing down my business ideas but it wasn’t until I met my husband, who already had his own business, that I had the confidence and support to actually go for it.  My first business was as a weight loss clinic, offering diet coaching for weight loss… this led onto Zero Noodles which quickly took over.

As you are based in UK, are your products available to purchase overseas?

No – not yet, we hope to expand across Europe eventually but currently can only just keep up with the UK sales. 

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

Well, I now live in the New Forest which is very casual, which I find refreshing after living in London for so long and feeling like you have to make an effort just to nip to the shops. So I’m very much a jeans and tee kinda girl now, but I love chunky boots and fun colourful belts.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I’m loving Hush and Mint Velvet right now but for the summer I love Free People for a Bohemian look.

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

Probably some more bright coloured fun tee shirts for the Spring that I can throw on with my jeans and wellies to play in the forest with the kids.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots always.

For Pinning Later

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

https://www.lamontsandco.com

Fabulous chatting to you Laura and congratulations on what you have developed so far…. and I am looking forward to seeing your skincare range in the future too!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Laura Lamont.

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An Interview With Author Martin Venning

Described as a “Geopolitical Thriller”, author Martin Venning’s debut book “The Primary Objective” certainly ticked all my boxes when it comes to a good read – a thriller, based in a far flung place, strong believable characters, adventure and a touch of escapism. The thriller is based largely in the borderlands of Azerbaijan and Iran, an area not usually covered in adventure books and features quite a few feisty strong female characters too. The blurb says the book is a story about fate and how a disparate group of characters interact, often unwittingly, to make the best of the situation they find themselves in. I don’t know about fate, perhaps that does play a part, but reading the book I enjoyed the interactions between the characters and how their personal lives entwined with the task they were set and a few unexpected twists along the way. It was certainly a page turner!

THE STORY

Peace International is a New York based global reconciliation and mediation charity that seeks to prevent wars, regional disputes and rebuild civil societies. When a tip comes in that Iran is building a chemical and biological weapons research and production centre, it soon becomes clear that where they’re considering building – close to the border with Azerbaijan – could destabilise the Gulf region and beyond. 

Selecting a small team of volunteers, they form a task force to collect evidence, entering through a dangerous semi-lawless area in southern Azerbaijan. What they discover is a far more complicated web of challenges than a weapons facility. For PI Operations Director, Edwin Wilson, the mission is his most perilous yet, threatening the lives of his team and the international reputation of his organisation. But for two Iranian men, Fawaz and Jamshid, the stakes are even higher

Driven by contrasting personal circumstances and life chances, they face difficult choices as they seek different paths to prosperity in a controlling, repressive society that takes no prisoners…alive. 

I was lucky enough to get a chance to chat to Martin about his excellent debut…. Hi Martin!

Hi I’m Martin. Keen hiker in the Pennines. And Creative Writer.

“The Primary Objective” is your debut novel – and what a fantastic debut!  Who or what inspired you to put pen to paper? 

It’s weird I have always known I would end up as a writer. My business experience taught me to write phorensically – with clarity and conciseness. The discipline to develop an extended piece of work, I thought may be beyond me. For years I toyed with  but ultimately ducked the challenge. It took an unscheduled extended period in hospital following an accident to help me on my way. 

I know I have been fortunate and owe a debt of gratitude to so many NHS workers in Leeds & Huddersfield. For a period I was bedridden and ended up spending time with people with no prospect of recovery, some who were getting used their new prospects as amputees. Somehow they had come to terms with making the best of their situation. Nurtured by the attentive care of strangers, many seemed naturally to find chinks of light in their personal darkness. They were a great inspiration. It made me start to imagine what it must be like to become institutionalised- to live your life within the boundaries set arbitrarily by some anonymous organisation which seemed to dictate every aspect of daily life and behaviour.  Dangerous too – as though your mind has gone on to automatic pilot. When to eat, what to eat when to rest and when to take medication. Planning a trip to the loo took some forethought almost like a military operation.  

It was amazing how this regime challenged the ability to think rationally and independently. Whether you`re in hospital, prison or working in a corporate environment the pressure to conform is universal. 

I had trained as a journalist, so always thought I could write a book if I had to. If you are a journalist summing up a story in a few paragraphs is straightforward. Writing a sustained narrative is hard. When I focused on writing I was as involved as the reader. I had no idea how the story would work out; but it happened as a result of a period with no distractions!

I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. It was a great adventure story that kept me riveted. All the characters were very believable, but I really loved the strong female characters of Mahta and Amy Fong.   So, which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest? 

Glad you picked up the emphasis on female characters. The book features five women, different ages, each in different pressurised situations taking responsibility for shaping their futures in a male dominated society which doesn`t easily recognise women’s rights. Two stand out for me. One is Anya, a former Azeri soldier with a score to settle, making a life as a tourist guide having suffered the rigours of combat. I like her because of her detachment and mental discipline. She finds a way of containing and resolving her negative experiences, so she can move on to live a more positive life. The other is Shimina, a young girl in the provinces, who wants to break free from the social norms of her community to have a social life, an education and marry a man of her choosing. A normal aspiration in the West, but not so in that part of the world! Mahta is someone who has used her intellect to escape the pressures of day-to-day life but realises she has paid a heavy price for the privilege which cost her marriage and personal privacy. Amy Fong is an innocent, someone obliged to do her national service, but comes to realise how dangerous it can be. Another, Hanah is born into privilege and so has no need to conform to societal norms. The hardest character to write about was Hafiz al Fouadi. He was not a criminal but was corrupted by a society he was part of. He went through hard times and had to be entrepreneurial to get by and build his wealth, whilst trying to avoid the obvious trappings of success, that would raise suspicion. His approach to being an entrepreneur was amoral on occasions ie. if he could make money, he`d do it. His inability to differentiate between right and wrong ultimately costs him his life.The reason why Al-Fouadi was the hardest to write about was the fact was he was an ‘accidental’ bad guy. Because he had some good qualities it was difficult to find the balance in the description of his character…

Were there any aspects of writing the thriller that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

Yes, most characters caught up in thrillers are not exceptional people, just ordinary folk having to contend with extraordinary circumstances. Who’s to say any of us aren’t caught up in a real-life thriller at some stage of a story’s development? That’s why I love them. Good thrillers normally tell stories of how people react when they are put under some sort of pressure. Their reactions often define their characters and plots.

Growing up have you always wanted to be a writer or did your career plans lie elsewhere? 

I have always enjoyed writing, and have come to appreciate its value to me, acting as a distraction from the day-to-day humdrum of earning a living! Not sure yet whether I am good enough to earn a crust, but may revise this answer when my second book is published later this year.

‘The Primary Objective’ is based in Iran/Azerbaijan – what is it about Iran that attracts you and why did you decide to base your novel in that area?  

Firstly, it’s a corner of the world not many people know about or have visited so the reader gets a chance to go exploring with me! Given its remoteness it is also a place where tribal bonds are stronger than national boundaries and laws. Secondly, “The Primary Objective”demonstrates how laws are interpreted to suit local conditions and the interests of the ruling, usually corrupt minority. What is really engaging about Iran from a writer’s perspective is that it is a society that obliges people to live clandestine lives. For example, men who drink alcohol in secret. Women who dress in colourful clothing and wear make-up to stay in. Government agents checking up on people suspected of having illicit sex, people who earn money desperate to give it to charity to avoid being pilloried as “an exploiter of the oppressed”.  The country also has a fascinating and rich history which is not widely known in the west and all of this makes a topical backdrop for a novel.

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I’m old school. I like a physical book you can get hold of, mark the pages or worse. For me a book is like a room you need to make it yours and live in it. I’m thinking about making The Primary Objective an audio book if there is the demand for it. I go through mad periods of voracious reading especially if I get into something which holds my attention. Writing is such a competitive business. There are so many excellent writers out there. My favourites are Gerald Seymour, Charles Cumming and Bernard Cornwell. Love their styles and the construction of their plots.

 Is “The Primary Objective” available to purchase worldwide? 

Yes, if all else fails Amazon will get it to you wherever you are or want a quick read via Apple Books…

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why? 

I have produced manuscripts for two other books so far, so I won’t comment on their settings. I tend to write about places I have travelled to at some time in the past, so the next one might be set a little closer to home!

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

Like to be smart but low-key;  jacket and polo neck maybe dark chinos.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

Nervous about buying clothes online but quite like NewChic

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

Probably a new leather tan jacket if I sell a few books.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes definitely. Love good quality brown brogues. Since my accident boots aren’t comfy on my ankles these days. 

For Pinning Later


Links you would like to share e.g. website/Facebook etc

www.mvenning.net

Thank you Martin for chatting to me about your book “The Primary Objective” and for the copy of your book too.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Martin Venning.

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An Interview With Bambini And Bo

This week I’m showcasing nursery furniture for the little ones in our lives. “ Bambini And Bo” are a nursery retailer based in the UK who specialise in picking brands and products that have an unique and inspiring contemporary feel. I caught up with Theo, co founder and director of this lovely family store to find out more… Hi Theo and welcome!

Hi, my name’s Theo Clarke, I am the co-founder and director of Bambini and Bo. We are a UK based family-run baby store selling nursery furniture, decor and transport (pushchairs, prams and travel systems).

What inspired the founding of your nursery retail shop, Bambini and Bo?

My mum started a home décor business in 2018 called “Over The Moon Creations”, specialising in personalised home-made décor. This was a field she had no experience in, just passion, passion to express herself artistically and just the thought alone of people wanting to purchase her creations made her feel Over The Moon.

At this time, I was working full-time as a Building Services Engineer whilst also studying part-time at University to achieve my degree in Building Services Engineering. As you can imagine, my free-time was sparse.

In June 2020 we were amidst a global pandemic. I was out of work and for the first time in my life I had time to reflect, time to think and time to decide on where my true passion lied. It was at this time I decided to put all my time and efforts into creating a family-run business alongside my Mum.

It was a steep learning curve (and still is), which began with months of market research prior to designing and building our website: bambiniandbo.co.uk


I love the name “Bambini and Bo” – what is the story behind the name?

Thank you! Well, all credit goes to Mum on this one. By this time Over The Moon Creations had been up and running for a couple of years, Mum had created hundreds of personalised products, many of which had consisted of baby names. 

Our ‘future competitors’ names were all very similar. We wanted a name that stood out; something that we hoped people would remember. 

We brainstormed for a few days before finally deciding on Bambini and Bo. 

Bambini meaning ‘baby’ in Italian and Bo (or sometimes spelt Beau) being a popular baby name that my Mum had produced a number of personalised products for.

Your shop specialises in nursery furniture, decor and transport with an inspiring contemporary feel.  I am particularly fond of the Maya Range Bedroom Furniture – such a pity my children are not youngsters any more! To date, what has been the most popular product from your range?

Funny that you mention the Maya range. This is a brand-new range by Obaby that launched in January 2021. Almost instantly this turned into one of our best sellers. Selling out just a week or two after launching. We then took a number of pre-orders for stock due in February, which was all pre-sold before the stock even arrived!

So well done to the Obaby on that one, they created a beautiful set, loved by us and parents alike!

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

Tough question, as there’s so many, but the product that comes to mind above all else is the Tidy Books Children’s Bookcase, created by Geraldine Grenadier. We’ve been working with her since the launch of our website back in August 2020 and have developed a great working relationship.

I like these bookcases so much that recently I wrote a blog post on them myself, titled: 10 Reasons Why Parents Are Buying This Children’s Bookcase [Award-Winning]: https://bambiniandbo.co.uk/blogs/news/childrens-bookcase

When picking items to add to your collections, do you select by what has proved popular in the past, current trends, customer requests, personal preferences or all of those things?

I would say the selection process actually starts with the Brand.

We only work with brands that we believe in. We trust these brands and their products; they work hard to keep up and adapt to current trends and regularly bring out new products. A perfect example of this is the Maya range by Obaby as mentioned previously.

As Bambini and Bo is based in the UK, are your products available to purchase and order worldwide?

Currently, we only ship to the UK. But we are still within our first year of trading. 

We plan to continue scaling our business at a maintainable rate and wish to better establish ourselves within the UK before we begin to compete with retailers on a global scale. 

Also, the new Brexit regulations came into effect as of January 2020, from what I can gather from speaking to others, this has resulted in many import/export difficulties at the moment. So, it is probably not a great time to be importing to/exporting from the UK anyway.

What trends do you foresee for 2021/2022 when it comes to nursery decorating? 

I would be looking to my Mum for answers with this one – she tends to have an eye for these things. Although, I have noticed that when it comes to nursery design certain colours seem to be very popular at the moment, blush pink and pearl grey are being used a lot.

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

Well, that depends entirely on the occasion. But being in lockdown for the majority of 2020 due to the pandemic, there’s not been many opportunities to get dressed up. But you can’t beat a smart fitted shirt, jeans/trousers and a pair of all black Prada America’s cup shoes.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Depends on what I’m buying. Asos is pretty good as a general all-round store – I can normally always find something I like on there. If it’s designer I’m after, then I prefer to shop in-store at an outlet where I can try it on.

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

It’s been sometime since I’ve bought any clothes. I’m not even on the Bambini and Bo payroll yet!  It’s still early days so all the money earnt is being put right back into the business. 

I will most definitely be treating myself to a new wardrobe when I receive that first pay-cheque.

Boots or Shoes?

Depends on the season, chelsea boots work well with jeans in winter but summer when the legs are out it’s got to be shoes.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Bambini and Bo.

For Pinning Later


Our website: https://bambiniandbo.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bambiniandbo

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bambiniandbo/

Great to chat with you Theo and I wish you and your mum continued success with your ventures!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Theo Clarke – apart from the header/ Pinterest picture which is by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With Author Ashley Brown

London based author and writing coach Ashley Brown told me that her writing was inspired by the rollercoaster of life, fuelled by coffee and an insatiable sweet tooth – especially where jammy dodger biscuits are concerned! Her latest book “ The Sugar Game” is a modern novel which looks at the phenomenon of Sugar Daddy websites and the young women who willingly sign up to be sugar babies. Lured by glamour, romance, opulence, money, fun and independence, these young women often find what they crave (or do they?) and the risks involved are just as real. “The Sugar Game” follows the lives of 2 best friends who join up to become sugar babies – 2 young ladies who crave glamour, fun, clothes and a plan to cover each other’s back to make meetings as safe as possible. But did they really realise what they would be risking? I found the book fascinating and a really good, believable read so I couldn’t wait to discuss the book with Ashley over jammie dodgers…

Hi, I’m Ashley, where to start? Well, I have been driven by curiosity my whole life. I was born in Kent and raised in small village, you know the ones I mean…the kind where they still have milk floats and the baker knows your name. I tried the ‘normal’ route that my friends and family were taking, even managed seven years at law school to become a lawyer for the grand total of two weeks. (Ally McBeal can take the rap for that one. Thankfully that Alice in Wonderland approach to life got the better of me. My inner Alice led me to job-hop around the world for a few exhausting and hilarious years. They inspired my first novel ‘Jobslut’. Writing was such a relief. I have finally found what feels like my place in the world, and settled my restless soul. So here I am still, typing away and supporting aspiring writers to find their voice.

Who or what inspired you to write “The Sugar Game”? 

In a word, choices. They intrigue me. Particularly those of young women pulled to the ‘big city’, determined to make something of themselves. I know that feeling intimately, the call of the wild. That first rush of freedom you inhale landing in a fresh playground to chase your dreams. One thing you will get to know about me from reading my books is that I am inspired by real life, I have always been observing the world around me. When living in LA during my years of job hopping having decided to dip my toes into acting, this was a choice I saw many young women were making to fund their ambitions. Women that became my friends, who were open, vulnerable and honest with me about their secret lives. Once my eyes were opened, I realised this was a a trade that seems to be happening everywhere yet nowhere, wrapped in discretion and secrecy. I was hooked and a story was developing, so I followed it exploring a world that blends light and dark and attracts some very interesting characters. 


I really enjoyed reading your book, “The Sugar Game”.  London is an exciting place for young people, and this novel follows the lives of two young ladies in London who decide to join up a Sugar Daddy website to become sugar babies, in a bid to experience some glamour, romance and an opulent lifestyle – which are real but so are the risks.  I thought you balanced out the heady romance with the associated risks very well. Why do you think Sugar Daddy websites are very popular? Do you think the emotional/ physical risks are swept under the carpet? 

Good question. One as a writer, I was keen to take a deep dive into, peeling back the layers of the onion. The great thing about fiction is it allows you to explore the truth in a way non-fiction never touches. What I found was interesting. When you look at the reason’s women become sugar babies, their motivations and struggles are ones all we can all relate too. From wanting a better life, childhood demons, insecurities driving a need for ultra-independence. Our fears and aspirations lead us all to take different paths, upon which we embark yes initially the emotional and physical risks are ignored. And when you look at the backdrop of relationships that is more the norm these days, from broken homes to the media glamourising divorce (I mean even Brad and Jen didn’t make it) love almost becomes the enemy. For some women becoming a sugar baby is a way of seeking revenge. Using their femininity to make them feel powerful What I do know is that at some point or another, the risks and damage catch up with you. There is certainly a sugar tax that comes with the lifestyle. Though the beautiful thing is that no matter what choice you make, when you are ready, it’s never too late to write a different story. 

The characters in this novel are quite believable – Jess & her bestie Holly, Tom the taxi driver, the shady Harry….etc which character did you relate to the most?  Which character was the hardest part to write? 

I would say Harry. He was the darkest of all the characters. And most behind in his journey of the ultimate destination I hope all my characters to be heading. Living an authentic, fulfilling life and accepting love to be a part of it. Yeah, I think Harry still has a way to go. And naturally Jess and Holly still have a few bumps ahead of them. I fell so in love with the characters that this has turned into a three books series, so watch this space. 

 Researching Sugar Daddy websites and the lives of sugar babies for your novel must have been quite interesting… did you discover anything that shocked you or uncover some nugget of information that was unexpected?  

There were many stories and juicy discoveries which I am sure trickled into the books some way or another. Though speaking to the men made me realize you can never guess someone’s reasons for doing something. One gentleman told me the reason he turned to sugar babies was that he found women his own age jaded and too keen for the things he had already done. He was twice divorced, had kids and just wanted some fun. Though guess what? After two years of dating sugar babies, he became bored of the lack of connection with girls half his age, gave it up and went back to finding one of those jaded women who understood him. On the other extreme, I did discover that for a lucky few this is a place they find true love. One girl I know is still happily married to a sugar daddy she met years ago. That’s the thing about love, it writes a million different stories. 

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations?

Have a read of Job Slut and you will see I had every career aspiration going. I dipped my toes in everything from law, property to acting before I hunkered down to reflect on it all. That will always make my first book very special to me, it was where I found my true calling, something I had nearly given up on. 

Is “The Sugar Game ” available to purchase worldwide?

It is indeed, via all the online bookstores and in terms of physical stores it is currently stocked in Hong Kong and LA. Perhaps after lockdown it will be in more, I do miss a browse around a bookshop.

If you could visit any place in the world to inspire your next novel, where would you go and why? 

Anywhere hot with a beach, exotic fruits and fresh air. Its more the process of travelling that inspires me over the destination, once I am in that travelling head space idea’s tend to flood in every which way. 

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres (or authors) do you usually like to read? 

I wouldn’t say I am a complete book worm, though I am always reading something. I love movies, shows and plays too. I read women’s fiction, I love the classics like Bridget Jones and Sex in the City. I read authors from Jane Fallon to Lisa Jewell, though always open to new blurbs that catch my curiosity. 

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

Ok, so since I moved to LA I went from high heels and office wear to trainers and yoga pants. And it kinda stuck. The great thing about being a writer is I can wear whatever I feel comfy in, I am currently wearing a black topshop jumper and navy leggings. When I dress up, I tend to stick to jeans, heels and a nice shirt. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love Topshop and Armani exchange if I am feeling fancy. 

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

More colourful, comfy jumpers to snuggle up in. Also I am always ordering hats, pink, black, grey and white, fluffy ones. 

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots, I find them so much more comfy, and can put them over jeans and leggings. Though in the summer, flip-flops or wedges. 

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

Come follow me on insta @ashleyloubrown for writing inspiration, a dose of my life and exciting new projects. 

For books, a nose through my blog or find your own voice with some coaching head over to my website www.ashleyloubrown.com

My thanks to Ashley and Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for the copy of The Sugar Game for reviewing purposes. All opinions that I have made are my own.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Ashley Brown

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Say It With Songs

A song can conjure up many memories – good, bad and ugly. Many of us have that “special” song and what can be nicer on your anniversary, birthday, special moment than sending a card to that person who has that song connection with you. Song words convey such a lot but to have that song playable in card form is so nice! I came across Ellie’s website, Say It With Words, and immediately hunted for my wedding song – Aerosmith’s “I Don’t WantTo Miss A Thing” to send to my husband on our anniversary! Alas they didn’t feature that song, but a quick email request and Ellie was able to help and thus the card was born! Another email to Ellie requesting an interview…. Hi Ellie!


Hello! My name is Ellie Fitzgerald. I live in Surrey with my husband Paul of 20 years, our 17 year old daughter & our giant Malamute Cherry

What inspired you to set up “Say It With Songs”?

Last February, I searched for a Valentine’s Day card for my Husband, nothing was hitting the mark. At the same time a song came on the radio in the shop – it was ‘our song’ with the words that meant so much and said everything I wanted to say – I wanted to send him that song ….. it was then the idea was born. Having worked in the music industry for 20 years, music is a great passion of mine, so when I was made redundant when lockdown hit, I decided to jump in and give it a go. Say it with Songs – combines the sentiment of a greeting card with the power of a song.

So, how do you access the music part of the card? L

It’s really simple – on front of every card is an instantly recognisable song lyric eg “ I will always love you” On the reverse of the card is a code – you simply open your smartphone camera and scan the code and then you can choose to stream the full song instantly from either YouTube, Spotify or Amazon Music. You can play it as many times as you like & keep it forever.We all have a song that takes us back to a time, person or moment in seconds….whether it’s a ballad, a dance floor classic, a heavy rock anthem or a pop cheese guilty pleasure …in just a few notes we are literally right back there. Everyone has also heard a song with lyrics that speak to the heart, resonate, help us through, give us strength or – simply – make us smile

You have a lovely variety of cards with a great song range too. What song title cards are proving popular amongst your customers so far?

We have over 100 titles, our top five titles are ‘Have I told you Lately’ Van Morrison, ‘You are the Sunshine of My Life’ Stevie Wonder, ‘Cant help falling in love with you’ Elvis Presley, ‘Never Gonna Give you Up’ Rick Astley and ‘Girls Just wanna have fun’ Cyndi Lauper.

Have you got a favourite card? What is the story behind your favourite song?

So, the song that started it all for me was ‘By Your Side’ By Sade, it literally says everything I want to say to my husband. His song to me is ‘knocks me off my feet’ by Stevie Wonder, a song we have loved since we met. Both songs are now cards.



As you are based in the UK, are your products available to purchase overseas?

 The cards are shipped internationally and we are just starting to distribute in other countries so its growing fast.

Although you have a great song range, do you cater for bespoke cards eg if the special song you wanted doesn’t feature in your range? 

We try too, I get maybe 10/20 suggestions a week from people and those that I feel will be loved by many are added to the new titles schedule – we add maybe 5 new cards every 2 weeks.

10% of your profit goes to the music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins.  What does the charity do?

Nordoff Robbins provides vital music therapy to enrich the lives of people with life-limiting illnesses, disabilities and feelings of isolation.

Are your cards made from ethically sourced materials?

Of course – building a brand with a sustainable imprint was fundamental. We use FSC approved 350gsm card, its acid free, with a Heavy Metal Absence & made using vegetable based inks. We use recycled envelopes & wrap in 100% biodegradable cellowrap. Proudly designed and made in the UK.

Have you always wanted to have a musical career or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I always wanted to work in music so followed that path from day 1 . I have worked on both the record label side & managed the careers of  artists, but building music brands has always been my passion and where my creativity sits best.

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

Shoes – At the moment in lockdown life- its trainers and wellies, but fab ones – I have some amazing glitter Nike Air Force 1 & also some cool Veja ones that I virtually live in and so new Hunter wellies (for walking my giant dog) that are knee high and have a slight platform.Prior to lockdown, I have some Isabel Marant boots that have a hidden wedge so although they are flat, they make your legs look great, and for going out, my favourite EVER pair of heels are a Stuart Weitzman for Russell and Bromley pair – I wore them with silk PJs this NYE lockdown.Clothing, pre-lockdown, it’s usually a silk midi skirt from Anthropologie and a funky graphic tee as my go-to.Now its Hush trackies and comfy cool sweats as my work wardrobe.

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

Yes, My go to is hushuk.com and Anthropologie – Literally love everything from these brands.

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

Everything from Anthropologie – in the sale ! Their sales are insane!

Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?) 

Right now, it’s actually boots, with working from home and lockdown and walking my huge dog twice a day – The cool new black Hunter boots give me my glam fix (even in a tracksuit) but normally it’s shoes every time.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Say It With Songs

Website www.sayitwithsongs.com

Instagram: @sayitwithsongscards

Facebook: @sayitwithsongs

 Please check us out – and get 15% off with code BOOTSANDSHOES

My thanks to Ellie at Say It With Songs for creating my “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing “ card. The Aerosmith photographs are by Linda Hobden; the other photographs are published with kind permission of Say It With Words.

Linda x

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Little Book Of Big Knowing Book Tour

It has been a “different “ couple of years since COVID-19 entered our lives and turned what we took for granted upside down – despite the hardships, pain, loss and freedom curtailment there has been some uplifting and positive moments too. So, with life and its problems in the forefront of most people’s minds, on my blog this week I’ve joined author Michele Sammon’s “Little Book Of Big Knowing Book Tour”. Michele wrote this book for those folks who love thinking about life’s big questions, like “What’s My Purpose?”, “Why Am I Here?” …. I’m sure you’ve got the drift….

Book Summary

The Little Book of Big Knowing is filled with tiny bursts of insight to nourish your heart, warm your Soul, and help you to remember your true self. 

If you find yourself asking big, deep life questions like, “What’s my purpose?” and “Why am I here?” then you’ll want to curl up with The Little Book of Big Knowing.

Three reasons why you’ll love this book:

  1. ·     It includes gentle reminders of why you are here, who you are at your core, and why your dreams matter to more than just you.
  2. ·     This book will help you to look at life in a light-hearted, joyful way. Consider it spirituality with a playful twist!
  3. ·     And the best part is, the book is written in short bursts you can read in any order. So you can pick it up, read a little bit, put it down, and come back to it when you’re ready for more!

This book is perfect for someone who wants a little dose of playful spirituality every day to remind them of the bigger picture.

Print Length: 138 Pages 

Genre: Spiritual Self-Help 

ISBN-10: 1736168606 

ISBN-13: 978-1736168608 

Publisher: Michele Sammons 

The Little Book of Big Knowing is available to purchase at Amazon.comBarnes and Noble, and Walmart.com. You can also add this to your reading list on GoodReads.com. 

About the Author, Michele Sammons 

Michele makes her home in Memphis, Tennessee, with husband Scott and chocolate Labrador, Dewey. The Little Book of Big Knowing is Michele’s first book, but probably not her last. You can discover more about Michele’s work on her website: 

https://www.michelesammons.com

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MY REVIEW

This little book is definitely big in sayings and quotes – it is the sort of book you dive in at various points and the sayings you come across seem to strike a chord with whatever question you’re pondering. You can read the book from cover to cover – and I did for the review back in January – but it was only afterwards, weeks later, that I realised the book’s true potential and strength lies with the fact it needs to be delved into at intervals! I do have my favourite excerpts and they need no explanation…

“Face life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile in your heart”

And …

“Change occurs from the inside out. Change is about shifting your perspective, choosing what you give your attention to, where you put your focus.”

Excerpts FromBigKnowing_eBook.

BOOK TOUR DETAILS



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

My thanks goes to Michele Sammons & the Book Tour team (Nicole & Kelly) for inviting me to join the book tour and for the copy of the delightful Little Book Of Big Knowing.

Photographs are published with kind permission of Michele Sammons (the author photo & the book). The header photo & Pinterest photo are by Linda Hobden.

Linda x

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