Crazy About Shirts

Do you like shirts?  My husband is a fan. I have 4 sons – my eldest lives in football (soccer) shirts; my 2nd son likes his Jack & Jones t shirts; my 3rd son worships his baggy trousers, t shirts and hoodies ….. and my youngest son, well, he is just plain crazy about shirts! So he has agreed to talk about his love of shirts and give us some insight into what is “cool” in the world of shirts today!

Hi! I’m Ethan.  I’m 10 years old and I really love shirts!

What is it about shirts that you really love?

They are airy and cool you down in summer.

Do you prefer long sleeves or short sleeves?

It depends on the time of year – I like long sleeves in winter and short sleeves in summer. I don’t like my sleeves rolled up.

Do you have a favourite shirt?

Yes, my flamingo one. It is summery and cool.  ( I bought this shirt for Ethan from Next )

From Next

Do you have a favourite colour? 

Blue is my favourite colour.  I like wearing all colours apart from black. I do like bright colours.  

From Next

Who is your style icon?

Ricky Wilson (lead singer of the Kaiser Chiefs). He wears cool shirts and waistcoats. I would like to wear a shirt and waistcoat for Sian’s wedding next year.  (Sian is my daughter, Ethan’s sister).

Out of your dad’s shirts, do you have a favourite that he wears?

My dad has a really cool butterfly shirt.

Dad’s butterfly shirt

What outfit do you like to wear when going out somewhere special?

Short sleeve white shirt, skinny blue jeans, and my leather jacket.

Do you like wearing your school uniform?

Yes, because I can wear a white shirt and it makes me look smart.

I notice that you and your friends wear your shirts buttoned right up to the top. Why?

(Shrugs)… I like to look smart and it’s how everybody wears a shirt at school. 

For pinning later

What’s next on your clothes wishlist?

A shirt, of course …. or jeans, skinny not baggy.  

What would you like to do when you are older?

I would like to be an airline pilot.

So, dear readers…. out of the mouth of babes, my youngest child has carved out a fashion style of his own – in stark contrast to his older brothers!  Do you have children who follow different styles?  Do share your observations!

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

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Let’s Talk Strawberries!

In the UK it is currently strawberry season (from end May to July) and although the season is relatively short, strawberries feature heavily in the British eating and drinking calendar – from strawberries and cream at Wimbledon to strawberry jam making; from strawberry teas to strawberry cider! 

Famous UK jam and marmalade manufacturers, Wilkin & Sons of Tiptree, are well known globally for their famous Tiptree jams – I have travelled to far flung places and seen pots of Tiptree Little Scarlet Strawberry jam served at breakfast.  They have been jam & marmalade manufacturers, fruit and arable farmers since 1885. I live not far from Tiptree and Wilkins have purchased farms in my village since 1920 to grow strawberries and other fruits for their range of jams, curds and ketchups.  The farms have produced a mixture of fruit crops over the years: large strawberries (as shown in my photo), little scarlets, gooseberries, red & blackcurrants, plums, greengage, damsons & morello cherries – all picked by local village people and seasonal helpers and transported the 3 miles or so to the jam factory at Tiptree.  The factory is a great place to visit – it has an interesting museum, a gift shop/food shop  and a restaurant/tea room. 

Why is the Tollesbury/Tiptree area ideal for strawberry farming? Tollesbury claims, along with Great Wakering, to have the lowest rainfall in Britain, has more than 1600 hours of annual sunshine and regularly claims England’s top temperature (along with Southend) at least once a week during the summer months.  Thunderstorms occur on average 15 – 18 days a year, which can often cause damage to the fruit crops – although sometimes they are just lightning storms and the rain doesn’t materialise – I have experienced severe thunderstorms in Tiptree which have bypassed Tollesbury 10 minute drive away!

Technically, strawberries are not actually fruits because their seeds are on the outside and the fruits are not produced by seeds. Strawberry plants are actually members of the rose (rosaceae) family.  Each strawberry has on average 200 seeds. 

The modern garden strawberry popular in Europe was actually introduced into Europe by a French engineer in 1714, who, on a trip to Chile and Peru, was so impressed by the size of the strawberries in that region, that he brought back plants to cultivate in France.  Historically, strawberries were always considered an aphrodisiac and were often often served at a wedding breakfast with soured cream!

Nutritionally, strawberries are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, as well as providing a good amount of fibre, folic acid and potassium. Strawberry leaves can be eaten raw, cooked or used to make tea.  Once picked though, unlike bananas, they do not ripen any further – so any strawberries that are dull, or have green or yellow patches are probably best avoided.

Medically, they have been used to help with digestive ailments, teeth whitening and skin irritations.  Unfortunately, they are a common allergen – especially if you are already allergic to birch pollen, as you are more than likely to develop an allergy to strawberries.  I do suffer from hay fever caused by birch pollen but thankfully, strawberries haven’t given me a reaction ( although raw tomatoes do!) 

My favourite strawberry recipe is : Strawberries dipped in dark chocolate.  My favourite strawberry sandwich idea:  slice of wholemeal bread generously spread with soft cheese (Philadelphia style) topped with chunky strawberry jam.  Strawberries & Cream lunchbox style. My favourite strawberry based drink:  Iced Strawberry Cider…. cheers!

Do you love strawberries?  Do share your favourite strawberry dishes!

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With Artist Niyaz Najafov

There is an art exhibition currently showing  until this coming Saturday at the Gazelli Art House  in London by a self-taught artist, Niyaz Najafov.  This is his 2nd exhibition with the Gazelli Art House, and his paintings are in a similar vein to the artist Francis Bacon, who was also self taught.  Drawn towards nature and human/e situations, Niyaz has certainly produced thought provoking work  – in Paris, where he now lives and works,  he started actively painting flowers on found paper and cardboard in 2016/2017 and stuck them on various street corners. He did it so that people walking past could absorb the work, remove from the walls and continue with their journey. To date over 1000 flowers have been painted and distributed.  I was lucky enough to interview Niyaz and ask him some questions about his life and work… Hello Niyaz …

Hello. I’m Niyaz Najafov, born 1968 in Baku, Azerbaijan. I went to school then I joined the Soviet army and worked in police departments. I experienced a darker path with drugs and imprisonment. I  was drawing all this time but mainly as a hobby – I came out of prison in 1998 and in spring 2003 I first started experimenting with canvas, which I still do today.

What inspired you to do the “Absorb, Adhere, Advance” exhibition in London?

I didn’t know this would happen so no particular inspiration but the title, I presume, was picked due to the style and the subject matter in the paintings and the selection that was made. Although this inspiration was on an unconscious level to me, I guess I still influenced the title.

Dog 2016 Oil on Canvas

Your flowers have adorned walls all over Paris. How many flowers were made? What was the reaction of the general public?

The “flowers” exist there alongside the surfaces of the streets/walls.This hasn’t been done all over Paris (yet) – I assume if I will be continuing to do this for another 3 years, it will end up ‘decorating’ the whole of Paris! Probably around 1700 flowers have been put out there so far. Social reaction varies – from tearing it down to having a positive engagement with them. A girl once walked passed flowers that were no longer there (they were torn down) and said that it was a shame they were no longer there (she said this to a shop assistant of a shop that was next door to one of the walls the works were on)…there are various responses – another one was when accidentally I was sticking another work on a wall of a police building and the police asked what I was doing, when I explained to them and immediately asked “…shall I take this down, it is probably illegal…”, they urged me to carry on!

You describe the selection of your colours as “social art”  rather than  “Street art”.  What are the differences?

There is no difference between the two. I deeply dislike intentional work – if I know I am doing something for a specific reason, it automatically loses any purpose or value to me. I work whether for the purpose of a selling exhibition , or to stick it on the walls of the streets, because I have to , because I want to.

Sex at Night 2016 Oil on Canvas

You were raised in Baku, Azerbaijan and trained as a soldier, as well as being a professional sportsman coaching hand-to-hand combat. Did you enjoy that career?

Azerbaijan is a very peaceful international place – even during the Soviet times, we were never paying attention to where people that lived there were from. I was born during the soviet times and yes, the army training set me up to protect rather than attack. I never had a profession out of the martial arts – karate, kyokoshin kai- I never made money out of it or intentionally. Life so happened that I trained.

What made you change your profession and become an artist?

I lost faith in me as someone who can combat – I couldn’t make a living out of it, despite having won 7 medals in competitions. I came back to Baku from Ukraine (where these competitions were held). The drugs interfered with the whole process , with that part of my life. You do not become an artist, you’re probably born one and then become that during your time here on Earth.

Present 2016 Oil on Canvas

If you could visit anywhere in the world to get inspired for the colours , where would you go?

Nowhere – anywhere in the world and any place in that location – be it a toilet cabin, or an airplane – Louvre or Hermitage – a woman, a fight, policemen, museums … anything around can be inspiring.

What subject matter is the most difficult for you to create?

The subject of money! This would be most difficult for me to create or recreate… this might be my next body of work – money from countries that do not exist. It is something I thought of on my way back to Paris from London this time round. I am already going towards that direction with a body of work produced as the ‘attack of the frame’ …

For pinning later

Niyaz’s artworks have been exhibited throughout Europe – London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow and Geneva.  He is currently exhibiting his work in London until Saturday 3rd June 2017 at  the Gazelli Art House, 39 Dover Street, London. W1S 4NN.

www.gazelliarthouse.com

Thank you for time chatting to me Niyaz and I am looking forward to seeing your next body of work.

Linda x

All photographs are copyright of the artist (Niyaz Najafor); courtesy of Gazelli Art House.

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Travel Tag

This week I have been tagged by the gorgeous Jess of Shopgirl Anonymous to take part in a blogging travel tag.  I was delighted to take part, as apart from being a fashion/footwear geek, bookworm, foodie and music fan, I am also a bit of a travel/geography geek  – so this seemed a good a time as any to give this tag a whirl!

What is your favourite place that you have visited?

Start with the hardest questions, why don’t you?!  That is so, so difficult because I do enjoy every place that I have been lucky enough to visit!  OK.. here goes…

  • My favourite UK city outside of London is Bath.  On the day I visited, it rained but it still didn’t dampen the atmosphere of the place. I did try the famous Roman Baths water … ugh! (I needed a glass of Pinot Grigio to take the taste away). I also visited a glass blowing studio – it was fascinating to watch how glass was made.
  • My favourite part of London:  Covent Garden.  Love the market area, the food places, the pubs, the shops… check out Penhaligon’s Perfume Shop 🙂

  • My favourite European city:  Toss up between Amsterdam and Rome.  Both walkable cities, filled with gorgeous buildings – Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and Rome’s Tivoli Fountain area.  Food wise I recommend an Indonesian restaurant for a tapas style meal  in Amsterdam (and chips with mayo) and in Rome, well, food is good wherever you go! I love Italian wine too – red Barolo and white, Pinot Grigio… and for an aperitif, Limoncello.
  • My favourite city outside Europe: Miami.  I liked the vibe. And the tattoo shops (Miami Ink).
  • Favourite Non Europe destination:  Florida Keys.  I tasted the most fabulous Key Lime pie in Key Largo and I enjoyed the tour of Hemingway’s home in Key West. I went in August – it was extremely hot.

  • Favourite Europe  destination:  Madeira.  Loved everything about this island from the rum punch to the mountainous scenery.  Unfortunately we were unable to do the street sledding down the Monte in Funchal as forest fires were raging – but it is a perfect excuse to revisit!
  • Favourite winter destination:  Finland. Yes, it is extremely cold in winter.  However, I went in December to the extreme north west of Finland, over 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It was beautiful. You travelled about by skidoo or sleighs pulled by reindeers or husky dogs; the Northern Lights was a fantastic spectacle,  hot chocolate laced with spirit (like brandy) was both warming & welcoming, and if you have children, Father Christmas lives not far away …

If you could visit anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?

Sicily.  I’d trek up Mount Etna, admire the view and then head back down the slopes to Taormina for a well deserved limoncello.

Madeira

Would you rather a city or beach holiday?

I am happiest where there are mountains or volcanoes or sand dunes or hills –  so that is my first criteria usually when booking a destination.  I live in a flat coastal estuary area so being in an upland area makes a pleasant change.  My favourite beach  currently is the Kenyan coast north of Mombasa at Nyali.

My Top 3 Travel Essentials

  • iPhone  – for use as a camera & music station (especially on the flight)
  • Kindle – I make sure I have downloaded plenty of books as I try and read a lot on holiday!
  • Mints/Sweets – I can’t do any journey without them – including my commute into work!

What Is The Most Adventurous Dish You Have Ever Tried From Another Country?

I’ve eaten snails and frog’s legs in France; and Dik Dik Antelope  and Crocodile Steaks in Kenya.  My friend and her family went to Vietnam & Cambodia over Christmas and they ate deep fried tarantula spiders! Even her girls who are 8 & 10!  Having said that, my 10 year old son has happily devoured crunchy crickets and mealworms!

My 4 Essential Travel Footwear.

They are all flat so easy to pack and I DO need 4 pairs:

  • Jewelled thongs
  • denim ballerinas
  • sparkly espadrilles
  • slip on shoes

Thank you Jess for the fun idea! I hope, dear readers, that you enjoyed the tag too. Why not have a go at answering the questions – I’d love to hear about your travel stories and adventures!

Linda x

Photo credits: Linda Hobden

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An Interview With The-Bias-Cut.com

Are you a lady who is 40,50,60,70, 80… and beyond? Are you frustrated trying to find an outfit that wasn’t dowdy/frumpy/boring/unflattering?  Jacynth Bassett’s mother was frustrated and Jacynth became saddened at her mum’s frustration.  So Jacynth launched her own online boutique and blog, the-Bias-Cut.com, for women who know that age shouldn’t limit style.  I caught up with Jacynth recently to find out more. Hi Jacynth and welcome…..

Hi! I’m Jacynth. I’m 24 and the founder of the-Bias-Cut.com – Shopping With Attitude. It’s the first multi-label online premium fashion boutique that truly celebrates style at every age. I founded it straight out of graduating from studying law at Cambridge – where I was also president of the law society – using my minimal savings and some insurance money after my suitcase got stolen off a train with all my belongings in it (including some amazing Emporio Armani sandals that had been recent birthday presents from my mum!!). I developed, built and created the business entirely on my own, and now I’m one year in I can’t believe how much it’s already taken off!

What inspired you to set up “Bias-Cut.com”?

Since I was 14, my intention was to become a lawyer but, by my second year at uni, I realised it wasn’t for me. Instead my mind started to drift to business, and I knew if I were to start up my own one, it would need to be in an area I really loved. So fashion was the obvious answer. I then started thinking about how frustrated and saddened I’d become at seeing women, like my mum, being treated as invisible and irrelevant in the eyes of the fashion industry – largely because of their age and changing shape. My mum and I are very close and for years we would go shopping together, but she’d often end up fed up by a demoralising shopping experience. I began speaking to lots of other similar women, and realised there was a real problem. So that’s when I became determined to create a boutique that actually empowered and celebrated women like my mum as much as everyone else.

Your brand name certainly stands out from the crowd. – but I was wondering, is there a meaning to why you chose “the-Bias-Cut.com”as your brand name?

I wanted the name to have a direct link to fashion, and to ‘cut on the bias’ is the fashion technique where someone cuts diagonal across the grain of fabric rather than along its lines. But equally we’re about cutting through bias and ending prejudice, largely based around age, in the fashion industry. So the name is a double entendre.

I am totally in love with the “Gigi Nude Brogues” – totally gorgeous! What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

They’re a lot of people’s favourites, and one of our best sellers! This season our new label POM Amsterdam is doing really well – from their fabulous fun scarves, to their jackets lined with the scarf prints. They are cut really well, and they just bring a smile to your face. But also our cashmere and our 100% cotton poplin printed shirts are always a big hit throughout the year.

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

Personally I’m a little bit obsessed with the sashenka moon midi skirt by Baum Und Pferdgarten. It is such and elegant shape, and it has pockets! And I love a cool print that also incorporates texture. Baum always cuts everything so well, from their trousers to their tops.

Your boutique is for those who like to shop with attitude – where ageism is never in style. On your website your designs are all modelled by normal women – different heights, shapes and sizes. I’m also impressed that you can search on your website for items by your body shape as well as size. Hypothetically speaking though, which famous lady would you love to see as the “face” of “Bias-Cut.Com”?

Thank you! They’re certainly feature that have gone down very well. If I’m honest I don’t see any particular famous lady being ‘the face’ of the-Bias-Cut.com, just because we’re about encouraging our customers to aspire to be the best versions of themselves, rather than someone else. But, with regards to celebrities, it would be an honour to have women such as Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Kristin Scott Thomas, Viola Davis and Christine Baranski as brand ambassadors. They all have great individual style and fabulous attitude, which is exactly what we’re all about celebrating.

You feature in your online boutique an impressive number of designers, the latest being Cove Cashmere. Are there any other new designers you are hoping to feature this year?

Yes! We have a fabulous Dutch label called Fabienne Capot coming in September with a range of lovely embroidered cotton tees, blouses and an emerald velvet blazer I keep dreaming about. We also have a few other surprises but I don’t want to spoil them all for you!

Looking ahead, what colours/patterns/styles do you predict will be popular next season (Summer or Autumn)?

Constellation map prints are going to be big in Autumn – stars are always popular, and it’s a cool progression from the classic pattern. In fact, space all round is going to be big; there’s going to be quite an intergalactic feel! Plus the other big pattern is going to be lightening bolts. Velvet is still going to be very popular, as are bell sleeves and ruffles. And forest and emerald green is going to be seen a lot, as is red. If you look at the trend reports, there are lots of other looks that are forecast to be popular, as well as lots of contradictions. But, in my opinion and from the research I’ve done, these will be the big ones.

As you are based in London, do you offer worldwide shipping?

Yes we ship to 33 countries, and have lots of happy customers overseas! And at the moment it’s free worldwide shipping on all orders over £50 to celebrate the opening of our first public pop-up shop in Greenwich, London later this month (25th-31st)!

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

I have a set of rules I go by:

  • Everything I select has to be of a flattering cut. In other words, you shouldn’t have to be 6ft or size UK 6 to look good in it. In fact I often use my mum as the fit model as she has a very common apple shape.
  • Everything I select has to be of excellent quality for the price. I’ve spent a lot of time researching fabrics, so I know when it’s good or bad, or when the wrong fabric has been used. Sometimes I come across an awesome piece, but a very impractical fabric has been used, so then I won’t select it. Equally, I make sure to study the technological developments of fabrics, such as polyester, so that I don’t discard it straight away, and can spot the good quality from the poor.
  • Everything has a modern twist combined with a timeless appeal. Our clothes are premium, so they are more of an investment than highstreet. So the last thing I want is for a customer to feel it’s outdated within 6 months. With that in mind, I do consider the trends, but only pick pieces that subtly reference them.
  • I don’t want to wear the clothes, why should my customer? We’re all about celebrating style at every age, so we refuse to sell brands that patronise the older customer, or offer frumpy clothing. So I have to like everything that we sell. But equally, I make sure to keep my customers, their comments and their feedback at the forefront of my mind, so that I never end up choosing something that’s just for me.

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

That’s a very good question… I’m quite a style chameleon really and I have a rather excessively extensive wardrobe that reflects that. Every outfit is a reflection of who I am and what I’m feeling that day, but that might mean wearing a girly dress and brogues one day, and on another black jeans, ankle boots and a leather biker jacket. But if I had to define my style generally it’s feminine with a funky edge.

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

I adore Maje. Their aesthetic is very me – feminine yet cool – and their cuts work well on my figure. And I wear a lot of Whistles too. Designer wise, I love Brand for their quality jeans, and for shoes I wear a lot of Rupert Sanderson and Miu Miu. I also love traditional Moschino; I’m less of a fan of it now since Jeremy Scott has taken over as I find it a bit OTT, but I have a lot of the brand from before him, and still enjoy finding vintage pieces.

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

Idealistically, I would love a badass cape and a pair of Malone Souliers heeled sandals. Realistically, it’s a new crop top/sports bra and some Nike trainers for dance class!

Boots or Shoes?

That’s a tough one. It would have to be shoes because there are more varieties, so then I have more excuses to need a new pair. Plus, because I’m short, knee-high and thigh-high boots don’t work on me. But ankle boots trump all shoes for me, because they are so cute and sexy whatever the heel height!

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about the-Bias-Cut.Com.

www.the-bias-cut.com

facebook: www.facebook.com/thebiascutcom

facebook forum: www.facebook.com/ageismisneverinstyle

Instagram: @the_bias_cutcom

Twitter: @the_bias_cutcom

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/the_bias_cutcom

Thanks Jacynth … and your galactic prediction sounds mighty fine to me.  Just remember dear readers to look out for those stars and lightning strikes! I am so pleased that all sizes are considered at the-Bias-Cut.com – I am a UK size 10/12 and I find that a lot of companies geared towards the older woman have a starting size of UK12/14. Same goes for shoes – my feet are narrow – and a lot of shoes offered are wide fit, or extra wide. What fashion frustrations do you have, dear readers?

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of the-Bias-Cut.com

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An Interview With Coruu Silicone Jewellery

Finland bound this week – Coruu Silicone Jewellery is a Finnish women powered company whose exquisite jewellery pieces are designed by three talented Finland based designers: Satsuki Hata, Tessa Ojala and Sara Tuuli.  Coruu Design Finland is owned by Mrs. Sari Jokinen and Mrs. Maarit Fellman. Not having come across silicone jewellery before, I was intrigued to find out more …. so I put some questions to the owners & entrepreneurs Maarit and Sari.  Welcome ladies….

What was behind your choice to concentrate on silicone jewellery?

The story of Coruu goes back to 2014, we were long-time colleagues and decided that it was time to give entrepreneurship a go.Our focus was on training in marketing and ecommerce, but at the same time we decided to start an online store of our own.
Silicone jewellery came to mind. For a shop on the Internet, Coruu products are ideal, as they are easy and cheap to ship, including internationally. No massive amount of storage space is needed, either. We found three Finland-based designers, who were excited to jump at the new kind of opportunity. The selection has recently expanded with a range of Moomin characters. With the license to sell Moomin jewellery, now we are hoping to enter Asian markets and UK. Now Coruu has one full-time employee looking after the online store and a few part-time staff members.

Hypothetically speaking, what famous lady (dead or alive) would you love to see as the “Face” of Coruu Silicone Jewellery?

We would like to see Marilyn Monroe as the face of Coruu.

I love the “Flowery Necklace”in both black & white; and the “Studded Necklace” in white. To date, what has been your most popular jewellery item?

Our popular necklace is black Flowery and black Feather earrings.

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

Our favourite earrings are Feathers in all colours and Studded necklace.

Each piece is so lovely and unique – where do the designers (Satsuki Hata, Tessa Ocala and Sara Tuuli) get their inspiration from for their collections?

Our designers seek inspiration from the natural world and graphic patterns. Only the best and most showy design will be included in the Coruu selection – the genuine statement pieces!

Are you introducing any new items to add to your collection into for 2017?

All the time we are designing new items. At the next summer, we launch couple of new bracelets necklaces and earrings. For example, Aster bracelet and necklace.

As Coruu Silicone Jewellery is based in Finland, are your pieces available to purchase worldwide?

Our webshop is worldwide and we have free shipping to all countries.

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

Maarit like jeans and high heels. Sari like jeans also and colourful clothes but wear comfortable shoes.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Maarit like sailing so her favourite shop is www.pellepetterson.fi. Sari loves dogs her favourite shop is www.zooplus.fi.

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

Maarit is planning to buy new sailing coat from Pelle Petterson shop. Sari will buy a new shirt from Design by Pias.

Boots or Shoes? 

High Heels 

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

http://www.siliconejewelryshop.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CoruuSiliconeJewelry/
Instagram: @coruu_jewelry

Thank you for enlightening me about silicone jewellery – the pieces are certainly exquisite.  Dear readers,  I have used my native tongue spelling of “jewellery” throughout this post (I am a Brit after all!) but please note that the company links spell it the American English way.   So, dear readers, do you wear silicone jewellery? What type of jewellery do you like wearing? Do share your views, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photographs have been printed with kind permission of Coruu Design Finland.

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Happiness Is PomPoms

A few weeks ago on the blog I interviewed the UK charity Living Streets (read the interview HERE) and the charity were preparing for the UK’s National Walk Month  this May.  One of the events they mentioned was #HappyShoesday on Tuesday 16th May.  That date is not quite here yet, I know, but it got me thinking about happy shoes! One of the current summer shoe wear fads this year is footwear with pom-poms.  Adding a sense of humour to your outfit, this fad is not “new” by any means, the 2017 twist is plimsolls with a pom-pom on top… 

So, what is a pom-pom? Pom-pom comes from the French word “pompon” which refers to a small ball made of fabric or feathers; an ornamental round tuft that originally adorned hats.  Even Napoleon sported a pom-pom or two on his hats.  

Pom-poms on shoes are not entirely a new idea either.  Pom-pom mules called “tauranwari jutti” have been around since the early 16th century in the Pakistani province of Sindhu.  They are perfectly suited to the hilly, sandy environment of the region – the pom-poms cushion the foot at the front whereas the open back of the mule makes it easy to flip out trapped sand.

Over in West Africa, in Burkina Faso, brightly coloured leather flip flops were worn with pride in 1965 … and still fashionable today!

In 2015/2016 fur pom-poms were a winter fad – in 1950, Ferragamo made laced up shoes dominated by a white mink pompom.  In 2015/2016, real fur and its implications were shunned and there were plenty of vegan fur pom-poms around so that you can express your style without supporting an industry that kills animals.  

Coming back to this summer, I have spotted many sandals sporting colourful little pom-poms – such as my high heeled sandals that I bought from La Redoute:

If you are really into your crafts, why not have a go at creating your own pompom created sandals?  Shops like Accessorize or ASOS have pompom shoe clips … or grab a bag of tiny pom-poms from a craft shop or even in your local supermarket (I spotted lots of sparkly ones in Asda yesterday :))  There are plenty of YouTube videos explaining how to do your pompom creations.

You can’t deny that pom-poms do bring a smile to your face – brings back memories of making wool pom-poms in Girls Brigade! Did anybody else enjoy making wool pom-poms in their youth?  Do share your pompom stories… I’d love to hear them 🙂

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden

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How To Interpret Bad Hotel Reviews

Picture the scene. You’ve spotted the hotel of your dreams – it looks good, it’s in a location you want to visit, it’s a place to cross off on your bucket list, plus it’s in your price range (just about). So, you are about to wave off your deposit when you stumble upon the review section. Regardless how many excellent reviews a hotel gets, it is the bad review that has grabbed your attention. Let’s face it, every hotel whether it is 1 star or 7 star deluxe gets a bad review at some point.  Why is that? It is because the majority of reviewers are of two types: the ones that moan and complain for the sake of it – usually the complaints are fairly trivial but they are normally the ones that leave a review of essay standards; the ones that take their holiday experience as a whole so that the bad parts are not necessarily actually to do with the hotel itself (tour guides, holiday reps, weather etc). I am not saying that bad hotels don’t exist, they do, but interpreting the bad reviews helps in deciding whether the hotel is right for you or whether you should avoid it like the plague. Here’s my guide on interpreting just some of those reviews (all reviews mentioned are true and have appeared on Trip Advisor & Hotel sites)

1.MADEIRA

REVIEW:  “People were like zombies in the lounge area”

INTERPRETATION:  Hotel had limited wifi in the lounge area.

ADVICE: This is a typical “moaner” review as obviously people can spend time on the internet if they wish. However, if you require a better internet connection then perhaps this isn’t the place for you. I visited this hotel – all I saw were a couple of teenagers on their iPhones!

2. MADEIRA

REVIEW: “Pushy attitude of the Saga holidaymakers who pushed at the bar & at the buffet, and who insisted on bingo every night”

INTERPRETATION:  Elderly clientele who like to play bingo.

ADVICE:  Check when the reviewer visited the hotel & whether it was the same time of year as you’re planning to visit. Bear in mind that hotels change their entertainment programmes during the season. Saga holidays do not operate in July/August – I visited in August and the entertainment was geared towards a much younger clientele – not a bingo card in sight but plenty of action in the pool area with international water polo contests.

3. UK

REVIEW: ” Disappointed that the breakfast was only served from 8am to 10am at weekends; the continental spread was good, but the cooked breakfast was left on the hot plate and past its best.”

INTERPRETATION: Somebody obviously overslept and the kitchen had stopped cooking.

ADVICE: That’s life.  Food times vary.  In the UK restaurants often open for dinner at 5pm – in France it is nearer 7.30pm.  

4. MOROCCO

REVIEW: “On the way back from a walk we bought some rolls and crisps from a nearby shop. The hotel security guards stopped us, searched our bags, and confiscated our food.  We did see the sign stating no food or drink should be brought into the hotel, but surely rolls and crisps were OK…”

INTERPRETATION:  This was a 5 star all inclusive hotel that had this strict policy. Food available all day/night at no extra cost as you’ve already paid in advance.

ADVICE:  I liked the way that the hotel responded to that review – they stated that they were very pleased to hear that the security guards were doing such a good job. 

5. CAPE VERDE

REVIEW: ” When I got home I realised that between Cape Verde and home my suitcase had been tampered with. I had jewellery and watches worth £1000 stolen”

INTERPRETATION:  Not anything to do with the hotel but …

ADVICE: That can happen anywhere, any place unfortunately. Wherever you go, keep your wits about you and use the same security precautions as you would at home, eg avoiding unlit areas, etc.  Never pack valuable jewellery in your suitcase – put them in your hand luggage, wear them or leave them at home in your safe.

6. KENYA

REVIEW: “Red ants everywhere.”

INTERPRETATION: I’m on a safari but I’m not keen on little critters…

ADVICE: Research the country you are going to, especially if it is of a vastly different culture than where you live. Wildlife is wildlife. This chap also complained that the beer wasn’t cold…. 

There are many more examples, so my general advice is to read and interpret those reviews from people who share your:

  • gender
  • age group
  • country/nationality
  • time of year of travel
  • type of travelling companions
  • length of stay

If you decide to write a hotel review after a less than happy experience, please remember to keep the review relevant to the hotel; remember that not everybody shares your tastes; offer advice to help prevent a repeat of your bad experience rather than be totally negative.

After all that, I hope you have a good holiday! If you come across any funny reviews, do let me know (good or bad).  I came across a review for Diani Beach in Kenya (which is in East Africa)… “I’m giving this beach 5 stars as it’s the best beach in West Africa….” 🙂

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden

 

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Seaside In The Spring

“Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside….” over the recent Easter week I visited the quiet UK Essex resort of Holland on Sea, just north of the bustling resort of Clacton – a promenade links the two resorts and is easily walkable (although in summer there is a road train running ). I have visited Clacton for my holidays as a small child and in 2004, my parents moved to Holland on Sea from London – it was always a dream of theirs to move to a bungalow by the sea. Compared to Clacton, Holland doesn’t have the amusement arcades, funfairs and the pier but I do prefer the laidback feel of Holland on Sea.

Lining the promenade between Clacton and Holland Haven Country Park are colourful beach huts – glorified sheds that have captured the hearts of many people.  Prior to 2014 the promenade fronted the railings and rocks of the sea defences – still a nice walk but most families headed to the beaches of Clacton and Frinton (the resort north of Holland on Sea). 

The promenade in 2014 walking from Holland On Sea towards Clacton

Since 2015 a major renovation project has been going on to reclaim the beach at Holland on Sea – the promenade and beach huts are still there but now they front miles of endless sandy beach.  The promenade is fabulous for walking – however dog walking is restricted to the promenade only in the summer months (May – October).  

Holland-on-Sea beach

Some beach huts are looking a bit tired at the moment but the winter season has come to a close and the dry, sunny weather has enticed the owners to paint their huts – the array of colours are dazzling – and some huts have scenes painted on them.

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One hut as we walked past, was having an intricate scene painted not only on the outside but I also glimpsed the colourful painted scenes inside the hut too.  

The council has also erected some new beach huts on a reclaimed part of the beach which are available to hire on a daily basis.  

In the distance, you can see the outlying wind farm that lies out in the North Sea….

If you don’t want to boil up your kettle in your beach hut for a well deserved cuppa, then the assortment of cafes dotted along the prom will certainly provide you with your caffeine quota.  Alas, being out of season, I only found one cafe open aptly called The Beaches Cafe.  This cafe is a favourite with my mum as a tea stop on her daily walk. On this occasion though we indulged in lunch – yummy cod & chips, large jacket potatoes stuffed to the rafters with coleslaw, burger & chips, and my youngest son enjoyed his bacon & fried egg sandwich immensely!  The menu catered for those who want sandwiches, salads and toasted sandwiches too – as well as a coffee machine serving “real” coffee  and more delicate cups of tea if you don’t like a large mug of builder’s tea! My favourite part was the delicious ice cream – flavours included traditional vanilla, strawberry, chocolate as well as some more interesting flavours including lemon sorbet, rum & raisin, and my absolute favourite … maple & walnut! 

The Beaches Cafe also had a variety of beach equipment for sale from beach balls and fishing nets to blow up jet skis and giant whales.   Their shoes section had an array of boating shoes, flip flops and slider sandals for adults and children.

You could quite easily spend ages at the view from the window … although in summer, tables and chairs spill out over the terrace and  along the promenade itself…

As it is National Walking Month in May, I can’t think of a nicer place to have stroll…

Linda x

Photo Credit: Linda Hobden

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Going Teal

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the USA with its trademark teal ribbon worn by supporters.  My guest today, nurse and blogger Mandi, has gone that step further by dyeing her hair teal. Mandi shares with me today her reasons for making her teal blue hair change and why she wholeheartedly supports Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Welcome to the blog Mandi….

My name is Mandi and I am a mother of three wonderful kids, a pediatric nurse, writer and professional hugger. I also happen to be a survivor of rape that happened when I was seventeen.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the USA and the colour teal is the colour of sexual violence prevention. What made you decide to go a step further with the teal and dye your hair? (It looks great, btw)

I started the tradition of dyeing my hair teal for Sexual Assault Awareness Month last year. It is symbolic to me of the fact that sexual assault survivors, like myself, carry the impact of the assault with them everywhere that they go, much like we carry our hair with us always. Many times those who are not survivors seem to have the idea that after the initial hard times immediately following the assault have passed, that a survivor’s life goes back to normal. The truth is that sexual assault changes a person in very profound and personal ways and we are never, ever the same after. We carry the impact of the assault with us twenty-four hours per day for the rest of our lives, it changes us right down to our DNA.

Mandi at 17

The theme of the month this year is that “Prevention is possible” – promoting safe behaviour, thoughtful policies, healthy relationships. What steps do you feel somebody can take to prevent a person from being a victim of sexual assault?

This is a sticky question for me in many ways. After my assault, the questions that were asked to me by both professionals (nurses, police officers, etc) and by laypeople were directed at what I, the survivor, had done. What had I been wearing? Had I been drinking? I want to be very clear in the fact that there is nothing that a victim could have done to have made the rape or assault their fault. We live in a culture that places the burden of sexual assault on the victim and that needs to change. I think that we must continue talking about consent and rape culture in hopes of someday not having a society that seems very accepting of sexual assault in many ways. It isn’t the actions of potential victims that needs to change, it is the actions of the perpetrators that must change. This is why I made the very hard decision of coming out publicly as a survivor of rape last year when I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post entitled ‘A Thank You Letter to My Rapist’. It was honestly one of the hardest and most vulnerable action that I’ve ever taken. After that piece went live, I was shocked by the deluge of messages and e-mails from fellow survivors who wanted to thank me for writing it and wanted to tell me their own stories(many of them telling someone about their rape for the first time). There are so very many survivors in the world, many more than people realize. If we can have public conversations about rape and about how profoundly it impacts those who survive it,I believe that it creates tiny ripples of change and possibly prevents future assaults.

Being a nurse as well as a blogger, what reaction has your hair received being dyed teal? Has it led to some meaningful discussions?

I was actually quite nervous about dying my hair teal because I was worried that it would look unprofessional. I do work in a non-traditional nursing environment as I am a public health nurse who goes into the homes of low-income families to provide support and education so the reaction may be different for me now than it would have been when I worked in a hospital. The population that I work with is very accepting of those who may not subscribe to societal norms, so they have been very accepting and, in fact, one client who was unsure of accepting my services said that she allowed me into her home because of the teal hair which signaled to her that I might be someone that wouldn’t judge her for the ways that she didn’t fit in to society. I have not talked to my clients about why I dyed my hair teal as that would take the focus off of them and onto me and that would be inappropriate. However, in my personal life I have had many conversations with complete strangers so far this month and that has made it very worth the trouble. I also had a co-worker share that she also is a sexual assault survivor and I don’t think that we would have been able to have such an intimate conversation had my hair not triggered the discussion.

Sexual Assault is a public health issue as it ultimately affects women, men children, families and communities. What short term or long term consequences do victims of sexual assault tend to experience and the knock on effect to the people around them?

Before I answer this question I want to take a moment to address that many survivors loathe the term victim and don’t like to use it. I honor that stance and most often use the term survivor. However, I also embrace the term victim for the very reasoning that it was a violent act that changed my life forever. Each survivor will have their own unique experience in the aftermath of their assault. I often think of rape as the a ripple in a pond. That ripple in the water will continue to spread outward farther then we will ever know and impact the survivor and those around them for many years to come. In the immediate aftermath of my own rape the week of my seventeenth birthday, I experienced deep depression, PTSD (I still have mild PTSD symptoms today, 21 years later) and suicidality. I attempted to take my own life multiple times and the last attempt was nearly successful. I was in so much pain that I truly wanted to die. There is no way to describe in words how dramatically the assault impacted my life. The girl that I was before the rape and the girl that I was after were two completely different people.

Donald Trump himself during his election campaign was alleged to have sexually assaulted over 15 women – although he has denied the allegations. Do you think his appointment to presidency and the allegations against him has helped or hindered the work of the Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaigners and supporters?

This is such a tough question. I think that it has both helped and hindered the work of changing rape culture. On one hand, I’ve seen public conversations about sexual assault on a level that I’ve never before seen in my life. On the other hand, I do think that there are some that will have heard the audio tapes of our now president bragging about sexually assaulting women and still being voted in as president and will believe that it must be okay if so many believe that a man, who in his own words bragged about grabbing women’s genitals without consent, can be our nation’s leader. It is a very confusing time to be a survivor. I had very close family members that defended Donald Trump’s words about sexual assault in social media posts that showed up in my feed. It was sickening to realize that they posted those knowing that survivors would see these posts and it would hurt them. Rape culture in many ways is so ingrained that I fear it will be hard to turn the tide and change the way that people think about sexual assault. This election and it’s aftermath has distanced me from family members and friends who I never before would have realized had such ugly beliefs about sexual assault and humanity in general. I have to believe that the ugliness that is being brought forward now is being brought to the surface so that it can be healed. We can not heal, as a nation and as a world, what we do not recognize exists. We are now seeing,in a very public way, just how deep sexual assault stigma and rape culture is. It is now our job to counter that darkness with light and awareness.

Although your hair has been dyed teal for this April campaign, will you keep the colour beyond April? Have you any other hair colour preferences?

The reason for placing the teal in my hair was not for beauty but I’ve found that I absolutely love it. It brings out the blue in my eyes! I am an introvert that doesn’t generally like to call attention to myself, so I doubt that I will keep it but haven’t yet decided. I’m the type of gal that trusts her stylist(Lisa Klein of Hair House in Pleasant Hill, Iowa) so much that I always just plop myself into her chair and tell her to do what she likes, so we shall see what the next color is!

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

Do scrubs count? Ha! Sometimes on non-work days I think about wearing my nurse scrubs simply so that I don’t have to think about what to wear! I love shirts with inspirational messages and funky, retro headbands and sunglasses but otherwise don’t have too many fashion preferences. I’m an easygoing kind of girl!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love sites that give to charities when you buy from them. Some of my favorites include Headbands of Hope, Sevenly, Toms and Krochet Kids International.

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

A bathing suit for summer that I won’t be embarrassed to wear in public. I think buying a swimsuit each year is my most challenging fashion purchase each year!

Boots or Shoes?

I pretty much live in either my nursing clogs or flip-flops. This may be the worst answer to this question that you’ve ever had! I call shoes “foot prisons” and would actually live in my bare feet if it were socially acceptable.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about your blog & Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

I hope that anyone reading this who may be a survivor that is struggling will head over to RAINN to learn more and seek out help, if needed. I want to tell you that you may be suffering now, but there is hope on the other side of this pain. Never stop seeking out the help that you need. You are needed in the world. So much love to all of those in the world who are struggling through this right now.

Here is a link to the article in the Huffington Post that I referenced earlier. Don’t let the title scare you- it isn’t really a thank you letter to my rapist, it’s a thank you letter to myself for the finding the strength to survive. In the immediate days after assault it can feel as though the pain will never end. If you are in the midst of the excruciation aftermath of assault, please know that it does get so much better.

Here is my humble blog(http://thezenrn.blogspot.com/). I love to connect with others that may be survivors or are doing work for prevention and awareness of sexual assault. My readers remind me that the world can be a beautiful place, even though terrible things happen to many of us daily. I’m also very active on my facebook page and, as an introvert, love to connect with others while sitting on my own couch(https://www.facebook.com/thezenrnblog/)!

Thank you Mandi for giving us an account of your experiences and for showing how people can get behind the sexual assault awareness campaign to make a big difference.  Dear readers, have you ever done anything to highlight a campaign you believe in so deeply? Have you dyed your hair like Mandi or sky jumped for charity?  Do share your stories, I’ll love to know…..

Linda x

Photos of Mandi have been published with permission of Mandi Redhead.

The Pinterest photo was taken by Linda Hobden and is an exhibit from the Musee de l’insolite, in Sauliac-sur-Cele in France.

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