An Interview With Kate Guy

What do you get if you mix your love of food with your love of graphic design & printing? You get a range of exquisite printed tea towels & tote bags illustrated with the most scrumptious regional recipes, courtesy of print maker Kate Guy. Kate’s work is mostly inspired by her love of food and cooking. Without further ado, let’s meet Kate – Hi Kate!

Hello! My name is Kate Guy, I’m a printmaker who loves to cook. I live and work in London, but I am also very lucky to have one foot in the South of France, spending part of every year there. Both countries, cuisines, arts and cultures have influenced me in my work.

My background is graphic design but over the years I have also worked in animation, film, illustration and for 12 years I was head of Art and Design in a large secondary school in North London. These days I seem to have become a product designer, but my real love is printmaking.

What inspired you to create your range of illustrated tea towels and other homewares based on regional recipes?

My very first design came from a piece I made back in 1994 of fish etched into blue glass. This was my first foray into product design when I had it printed on a tea towel in 2012 (There is a story behind this which is on my 3 Fish Tea Towel). 

My second design and still one of my most popular was a print I made of a friend’s kitchen in the South of France ‘Rebecca’s Cupboard’. What I wanted to do then was somehow combine the two – fish and kitchens… this led me to thinking about illustrating recipes and I had my ‘eureka moment’. I came up with the idea that I could create a whole store cupboard of individual ingredients prints which could be combined into different recipes. I was in France at the time and so this led to my French themed ‘Simple Soups’ range: Soupe de Poisson (Fish Soup), Roasted Tomato Soup and French Onion Soup.

On return to the UK this naturally led into thinking about illustrating some of the classic British dishes such as Lancashire Hot Pot and Yorkshire Steak and Ale Pie.

How do you pick what recipes to feature? Are the recipes personal favourites, customer suggestions, easy to make & draw or a combination of all 3?

Really a combination of all three but a big issue is the ingredients. There must enough of a range to make an interesting design. I have been asked many times why I don’t do, for example, Yorkshire Pudding, but it is only eggs, flour and milk which would not make a very interesting design. I did run a bit short on ingredients for the Bakewell Tart design, but I love it too much not to include so I added a nice cup of tea at the bottom – as you can’t really enjoy one without the other I think!

I am tempted to try the Yorkshire steak & ale pie recipe that you feature …. and the Fish Soup 😊 What do you like to cook? Have you tried a recipe to feature that did not turn out as successful as you hoped? 

I love cooking (and eating!) and have had my fair share of failures and successes. The pie is a favourite and the fish soup was my first illustrated recipe and is the best seller by quite a margin. I think this is maybe to do with the colour rather than the recipe though – it’s a little more complicated than the other soups and really relies on a quality fish stock. The absolute easiest to cook is the roasted tomato soup – as easy as 1,2,3 – chop, roast and blend – yummy and so healthy.

Which tea towel has attracted the most attention so far?

Without a doubt it’s the fish soup, probably for its beautiful deep blue colour, which on the unbleached organic cotton really creates a very vibrant and bold design. I know that quite often people say my tea towels are too good to use and have even had them framed – there is a chateau somewhere in France with my full range of British Recipes framed in the kitchen!

Although you are based in London, are your tea towels available overseas?

Yes, I can ship anywhere in the world 😊 My tea towels have gone as far as Australia, New Zealand, Japan – I used to run a gallery on my old website called ‘Tea Towels on Tour’ where people would send me pictures of my tea towels in exotic locations around the world. I had one of my ‘3 fish’ meeting a panda in Peru, Tomato Soup on the Bolivian Salt Flats, Fish Soup in Greece and a Lancashire Hot Pot in Thailand! (I can send photos if you like)

Having a father who was a graphic designer and a mother, an artist; it is not surprising that you would grow up with such an artistic talent.  Lino cutting at the young age of 6; a degree in graphic design and you have worked as a designer, illustrator, in an animation studio, as an architectural glass designer and as an Art Teacher. Taking all that into account, which “art form” is your favourite? Which type of art do you find the hardest?  Is there any genre of art that you haven’t attempted before but would love to have a go at? 

I think printmaking is my favourite, there is a mystical moment when you’re not sure how the print will turn out and while you try to control it there is always an element of serendipity (happy accident) to the process. 

My father left me a whole load of old wooden type (lettering) blocks which I have added to over the years. I have played around with printing these from time to time but I would love to do more of this – Letterpress printing.

Hardest – ummm, I think it has to be drawing people. I did a lot of life drawing at Art School and even for my A Level art we did 3 hours a week which was unusual and fantastic for improving drawing skills but I still find trying to capture the personality of a person difficult – much easier with carrots and onions!

As well as your illustrated homewares, you also create some stunning house portraits. What inspired you to explore this art avenue?

Two years ago I was lucky enough to have a pop up shop in the gorgeous Primrose Hill area of London. While there I started to make monotype prints of the surrounding streets. One day a lady came in and she looked at a print I had made of a local view and said she loved it but I had missed her house – she lived a couple of doors further down. So I offered to do a print especially for her of her house… I have now done more than 20 of these, mostly for people around the Primrose Hill, Camden area but I work from photos and so could do one of anywhere in the world!

You also run printmaking workshops at your studio. What would I expect if I enrolled on one of your workshops? Do you cater for all abilities?

I mostly teach traditional printmaking techniques – lino cut, monotype, drypoint etching, to small groups of all ages, although I usually say from 8 years up as we use some sharp tools. And all abilities – no experience or drawing skills needed. Often people come with an idea, maybe a photo or design they want to do and I help them translate it into a print. In a 3-hour workshop you will design, draw, cut and print your artwork and come away with 3 or 4 copies of your print, framed if you want! People sometimes will do wedding invitations or Christmas cards as once you have created your printing block you can print as many as you like.

Alternatively, I run weekly sessions during term times – over a 10-week term you can produce a range of prints, explore different techniques or develop one project in depth.

I also run larger group workshops for parties or events, I have a small portable Victorian book press which I can bring to print with. The largest I have done was 24 at the Country Living Fair, Alexandra Palace – everyone made a print in less than an hour, great fun but exhausting!

I also do 1 – 2 -1 sessions for anyone to explore their artistic side.

And GCSE and A Level tutoring in Art and Design, Textiles and Graphic Design.

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

I am not really a fastidious dresser – I like to be comfortable and as I spend most of my time in the studio my outfit is usually pretty casual. I love dresses and long cardigans with pockets. Footwear is always comfort first for me – I love boots, I had a fantastic pair of Camper Boots which I wore into the ground and have been unable to find again. In the studio it is often espadrilles (sent by my French cousins this year as I could not go and get them myself) or slippers.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love DeSigual clothing for the colours and patterns. I also have a favourite SeaSalt long dress – so comfy

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

If I could find a replacement for my beloved but worn out Camper boots, and a new Desigual dress to go with them I would be happy.

Two years ago we went to Vietnam and I had some shirts made in Hoi An, I’d love to go back and get some more – I’ve practically worn them out

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots – For comfort, I like the way they make legs look and they go with everything!

For Pinning Later

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

Website  https://www.kateguy.co.uk/
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/kate_guy_/

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

Beautiful tea towels, Kate – I love the blue/yellow colourway of the Yorkshire & Ale Steak pie tea towel and the recipe sounds just as good too! Thank you for visiting Boots Shoes & Fashion!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kate Guy.

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An Interview With Author Pamela Taylor

When somebody asks what book genre I enjoy, I usually say “ Thrillers” but after a while I crave a different genre – sometimes I indulge in a bit of armchair travelling; sometimes I like a classic such as novels by Daphne du Maurier, Charles Dickens or Tolstoy; sometimes a novel by Paolo Coelho; and sometimes I want to curl up and read some historical fiction …. such as Pestilence by Pamela Taylor. I have a love of British history – I did an O Level exam in “Tudors And Stuarts” – and that era along with the medieval centuries, hold my attention and let my imagination run riot. Pamela’s book, Pestilence, held my attention and although it was the 3rd book in a series it was still great to read as a stand alone book. I am honoured to be part of Pamela Taylor’s “Pestilence “ book tour and I am so glad to be able to ask Pamela those questions

Book Summary

At the dawn of the Renaissance, Alfred – the eponymous second son – must discover the special destiny foreseen for him by his grandfather. Now, the unthinkable has happened: Alfred’s brother is king. And it isn’t long before everyone’s worst fears are realized. Traditional allegiances are shattered under a style of rule unknown since the grand bargain that formed the kingdom was struck over two hundred years ago. These will be the most dangerous years of Alfred’s life, forcing him to re-examine his duty to personal honor and to the kingdom, while the threats posed by his brother constantly remind him of his father’s final words of advice. What choices will he have to make to try to protect the things he holds most dear?

Print Length: 234 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ASIN: B08563V87C

ISBN-10: 1684334810

ISBN-13: 9781684334810

THE INTERVIEW

Hello, everyone.  I’m Pamela and I’m thrilled to have the chance to share a little bit about myself and my book.  Well, books, actually, because “Pestilence” is part of a series – the Second Son Chronicles. Three volumes are out in the world now with three more to come. I love to travel – it’s a big part of how I immerse myself into the place and time of my stories – but like you, I’m sticking close to home right now. Thankfully, I have two wonderful companions – Pembroke Welsh Corgis named Maggi and Marlo – who keep me company but who also never hesitate to remind me that a dog walk might be just the thing to get me inspired for that next scene or next chapter. 

Who or what inspired you to become a professional writer?

Quite frankly, I sort of fell into it. When I was in the corporate world, I wrote all kinds of things from really dry technical stuff to web pages; and one day I just said to myself, “I wonder if I can write fiction.” My first attempt wasn’t great – OK, full disclosure, it was pretty bad. But when Alfred, the protagonist in the Chronicles, started speaking to me, telling me his story, I began to get the hang of it. The first draft of “Second Son” (volume 1) wasn’t quite right – I wound up taking it apart and putting it back together again – but when that book was published and I held it in my hand, I gave myself permission to think of myself as a novelist. I’ve read so much historical fiction and non-fiction through the  years that I feel like I’ve had lots of mentors for my work (even if they don’t know it 🙂 )

Although “Pestilence” is the 3rd book in the series, it can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone book.  I love historical fiction and it was great to immerse myself into the story.  I liked the main character, Alfred, very much indeed – although I found myself disapproving of his very brief “liaison” with Amelia!  His brother, the pompous King John, made me giggle.  Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

I’m so glad you like Alfred! I have to admit to being a bit in love with him myself. As for his dalliance, it’s useful to remember that the morés of the fourteenth century were a bit different from ours today and extra-marital liaisons were quite usual for a man of Alfred’s station. But since Alfred’s marriage is as much a love match as a political alliance, he has some inner conflict over the situation – and I hope that makes him more human, more real.

Writing Alfred is a pleasure. And I thoroughly enjoy Gwen and Samuel – the two people who are closest to Alfred. One character who surprised me has been Alfred’s mother. She was important but definitely secondary in the first two volumes; however, when her feisty side came out in “Pestilence,” I had a great time with her. You’ll see more of her in volume 4. The character who’s been the most troublesome doesn’t show up until a later volume, but watch for Hugo.

I am curious – what is your preference – to write a complete stand alone book or to write a complete series of books?

Truth be told, I don’t know 🙂  When I started writing “Second Son,” it was going to be a stand-alone book. But as Alfred kept revealing his story, it soon became clear I was going to end up with well over a thousand pages – hardly something you can offer up as a debut novel – so the series was born. That said, even within the arc of a series, each book has to have its own, fully complete narrative arc – I’m actually enjoying both dimensions.

 I enjoy reading historical novels – many years ago at school, I studied “Tudors and Stuarts” history O level, because I enjoyed reading about and delving into that era of British history.  It runs in the family – my mum is a “Mary, Queen of Scots” fan and my daughter is a “Queen Victoria” fan. I assume you must have a love of history too, what era particularly fascinates you and why?

What a joy to meet other history aficianados! I’m mostly into western European history – particularly France, Great Britain, and Ireland – and I think I must have been British in a former life, because that world just resonates with me in a visceral way that’s hard to describe. (In point of fact, ancestors on both sides of my family are British with a little Danish mixed in on one side – but then, after all, there were quite a few Danes in Britain at one time 🙂 ) I’m actually quite hard-pressed to say I have a favorite era – I’m as fascinated by Alfred the Great as I am by World War II and as interested in Eleanor of Aquitaine as Victoria. What I love best is to go to a historical location, even if it’s in ruins, and immerse myself in the feel of the place to go with the facts. 

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

I’ve always loved to read. Some favourite genres besides historical are espionage, mystery, suspense, some thrillers. But I can’t do horror at all. And I’m not a big fan of paranormal. I do like dragons, though – give me a good story with a dragon in it any day. Some favourite authors: Ken Follett, Bernard Cornwell, Jack Whyte, P.D. James, Daniel Silva, John LeCarré, Tom Clancy when he was alive and writing alone, Dick Francis, Dame Agatha Christie, Daphne DuMaurier, and, yes, Jane Austen. Actual book, please – there’s just something about holding the book and turning the pages. But I’m not a complete luddite – I do use Kindle for some things.

Is “Pestilence ” available to purchase worldwide?

Absolutely! As are all three volumes of the series.  Online and in book stores – ebook and paperback. Volumes 1 and 2 are also available as audiobooks. Volume 1 (“Second Son”) will soon be available in hardback as well.

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

 I had a trip to France planned for early March. It was to include a visit to Avignon to immerse myself in the old city and the papal palace. I was really bummed when Covid-19 forced me to cancel those plans. So that’s next up as soon as we can safely travel again. I have a project currently in the research stages that involves the possibility of a royal visitor to Pope John XXII.

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

Tailored slacks and a top of some sort. A light jacket for anything ‘formal.’ Shoes to fit the season and my mood. I like to vary the height of the heel and the style – just makes me feel good – but stopping short of the four-inch heels these days unless it’s a super-formal occasion.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I tend to be a bit opportunistic in clothes shopping. It’s not a good idea, though, for me to sign on to online shoe shops – I can always find something cute.

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

No idea. Sort of waiting until it’s truly safe to be in the shops again.

Boots or Shoes?

Yes! And Sandals!  Why not?  One of my biggest challenges when packing for a trip is deciding what shoes to take – don’t want to get caught away from home without some variety and the right thing for whatever comes up during the trip.

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

The website for my series:   https://www.SecondSonChronicles.com     Find excerpts from the books, links to historical info, a gallery of images related to the stories, all kinds of good stuff about Alfred’s world.

My author website:  https://pamela-taylor.com   Lots more about me.  And you can link to the Chronicles site from there aRs well.

Facebook:   Second Son Chronicles

Twitter:  @PJTAuthor, #SecondSonChronicles

Instagram:  PJTAuthor

THE TOUR

My thanks to Pamela for the advanced copy of Pestilence. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Pamela Taylor , apart from the Pinterest photo which was taken by myself – it is the backdrop in another medieval house, Lynford House in Norfolk.

Linda x

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Review: Colgate Total Whitening Toothpaste Pump

DISCLAIMER ALERT: This product was gifted by Colgate, but all views are my own.

This week I’m looking at toothpaste. I was approached by Colgate to review their Total Whitening Toothpaste Pump. I was quite pleased to oblige because, like many families, finding a toothpaste that pleases all out of the vast array of toothpastes available can be a minefield. I do my main grocery shopping online, so I purchased Colgate’s Total Whitening Toothpaste, the 100ml pump version, when I did my weekly shop at Morrisons.

WHO ARE COLGATE? A POTTED HISTORY

Colgate-Palmolive started life as a small soap and candle business, founded by William Colgate in 1806, in New York City. Toothpaste production began in 1873 – it was sold in jars! In 1896, Colgate introduced toothpaste in a collapsible tube. By 1911, Colgate had distributed 2 million tubes of toothpaste and toothbrushes to schools in the USA and provided hygienists to demonstrate tooth brushing. In 1914, Colgate established its first international subsidiary in Canada; quickly followed by Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa in 1920. In 1968, MFP Fluoride was added to Colgate toothpaste, which is clinically proven to reduce cavities. In 1983, the Colgate Plus toothbrush was introduced. In 1992 Colgate Total Toothpaste was introduced and by 1997, it had become a market leader in the USA. In 2019 Colgate launched its first recyclable toothpaste tube along with the relaunch of Colgate Total Toothpaste.

WHAT CAUSES TEETH TO DISCOLOUR?

Like the picture of the stained mug above, the enamel on our teeth are susceptible to staining from our favourite dark coloured drinks such as tea, red wine, coffee and also through smoking. Foods such as curry, soy sauce and those with lots of food colouring can contribute too. Obviously, we can avoid discolouration by quitting smoking, limiting our consumption of dark drinks, eating plenty of raw fruit and vegetables such as carrots and apples to help clean the mouth, and after drinking a dark drink, my hygienist suggested a glass of plain water to swish around the mouth before the discolouration takes hold.

THE PUMP ITSELF

Although Colgate Total Whitening Toothpaste can be found in a tube, I’m reviewing the 100ml pump version. I must say that I find having the pump on my bathroom shelf is more aesthetically pleasing than a tube that is contorted out of shape with remnants of dried toothpaste around the lid. Is it just my household or do you also find that the tube is often squeezed from the middle rather than the end? The pump looks neater, there’s no squeezing involved – just a small pump at the top that dispenses just the right pea sized amount onto your toothbrush – no mess, no wastage.

PRODUCT CLAIMS

  • 12 Hour protection on teeth, tongue, cheeks and gums (after 4 weeks of continued use).
  • Effective stain removal for a whiter and healthy smile.
  • Reduces bacteria on teeth, tongue, cheeks, gums
  • Antibacterial and Fluoride toothpaste

MY CONCLUSION

My teenage son has to wear a brace and obviously he has to be doubly attentive when it comes to tooth brushing. He wanted to try out the toothpaste and thought the pump was a bit of a novelty. His teeth definitely looked cleaner, and whiter ( see his photo above).

I found that the toothpaste was gentle on my gums and teeth; but the most overriding factor for me is that my teeth feel oh so clean – straight after brushing, yes – but hours afterwards too, even after eating. I liked the mild minty taste – enough to freshen your breath but not overpowering. My teeth get stained easily as I’m a bit of a tea addict – so a toothpaste that can help eradicate those stains gets a big plus for me – my teeth are not brilliant white but they are looking brighter. To be fair, I haven’t used the toothpaste for 4 weeks so I might be more blown away in another 2/3 weeks time – but I am happy with the current progress.

My score: 9/10

For pinning later.



Thanks to Colgate for giving me the opportunity to try the toothpaste. The potted history of Colgate was my condensed version of the full history of Colgate, which makes fascinating reading, and can be found on https://colgate.com
All photographs are by Linda Hobden.

Linda x

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An Interview With Enchanted England

Inspired by the glorious English countryside – and who can blame her – my guest this week is illustrator/writer/painter Sarah Keen. All her designs are firmly rooted in the natural world and her prints/artwork are delightful. Being a lover of the English countryside myself, it was a pleasure to welcome Sarah onto the blog…. Hi Sarah!

Hello great to be here. My name is Sarah Keen. I am in my fifties and following a career change, I design prints, fabrics and gifts based on the natural history and folklore of the English countryside.

The Enchanted England range of products is aimed for people like myself who don’t really enjoy shopping in endless malls that all sell essentially the same product. All my designs are rooted firmly in the natural world and beliefs that are associated with them. 

I am inspired by the English countryside. As a child, I grew up in Buckinghamshire and spent much of my childhood roaming the chalk based hills and fields that surrounded my family’s home.

After living in Southampton for many years, in 2004 I moved to a nearby village set in Hampshire’s beautiful countryside and nearby shimmering seascapes. I never really saw things the same way again. 

Hampshire’s chalky, flinty fields and gentle countryside unlocked memories of my childhood growing up in the Chilterns where I had been surrounded by books and artists. The change of scene persuaded me into signing up for an M.A in Creative & Critical Writing with the University of Winchester and this gave me the confidence to write and illustrate.

On completing my M.A I was asked to illustrate a most magical book about the Hampshire Countryside. It was written by a herbalist who walked each day to collect herbs for her treatments. Her charming accounts of her walks became a seasonal diary that contained seasonal recipes and remedies.  Originally published as a blog, it had such encouraging feedback, I developed a range of cards and gifts based on the paintings for her book. The Enchanted England range has grown organically from this project.


What inspired you to set up Enchanted England website?

I needed a website to showcase the range of goods and services available from Enchanted England. In my past life I was an I.T contractor and web contents editor so I was fortunate to be able to draw on that skill set to design the site.

Sarah wearing the Enchanted England Bluebell Dress and holding an Enchanted England porcelain mug.

You have a lovely variety of gifts and your prints are very beautiful indeed. I like the “Garden of Love” satin tie – the print on it is exquisite. What gifts/prints are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Thank you, Linda, that’s really lovely to hear. Immediately following the lockdown the shop had surge of interest in bird illustrations and cards.  I am not sure if that was connected with the glorious sounds of birdsong that surrounded us at the time, but it was a noticeable spike in demand.  So, my bird cards flew away.

Now, the new range ‘The Garden of Love’ is sparking a lot of interest – particularly for bridal and marriage services. I plan to offer a comprehensive wedding stationary and fabric package for 2021 The Garden of Love design was for my engagement and wedding this summer so it’s very close to my heart. Our wedding was postponed but we hope the new date in September will go ahead!

You use a variety of methods to illustrate and create your prints – silk, paper, pen, ink, natural textures & watercolours.  Have you got a favourite medium though to use? Favourite print? 

I am a huge fan of watercolour and waterproof pens on textured paper. I love the way watercolour allows you layer translucent washes. It is also a dangerous medium. If you make a mistake there is very little chance of rescuing your design. You can’t overpaint with watercolour as you can with oil or acrylic.

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

Yes, they are. The website offers shipping to most of the world and I would be happy to quote to send any item overseas.

Sarah, wearing an Enchanted England face mask

Living in rural Hampshire, you must have come across some interesting finds whilst beachcombing and countryside walking that have inspired your illustrations. Do you go out with an idea to look for something specific to draw? Do you draw in situ or do you take photos and illustrate from there? 

It’s been inspiring to live in this part of Hampshire, as there are so many walks and beaches to explore. Recently I visited a holy well on a local estate in a near village. This would have been passed by St Wilfred as he walked through the Meon Valley hoping to convert the pagans. This was one of the last areas to convert to Christianity. I find landscapes linked to religion and practice inspiring and spark my imagination.  I take photos and notes while walking. Then I use them for a starting point in my studio. 

Being an illustrator, some things must be easier to draw and create than others. What was the hardest or most unusual piece of illustration you’ve created so far?  

I could always draw animals and I love to use them in my illustrations. Recently I completed a set of illustrations based on the writing of Alice Gillington. She wrote about the lives of the Gypsies who lived and worked in the New Forest in the early 20 century.  I created some sunsets and technically these were very difficult but made spectacular backdrops for the gypsy caravans.

Have you always wanted to be an illustrator or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I have always painted and drawn animals but I never thought to become an illustrator. In the 1980s when I graduated I would have chosen to go into publishing. It was a time of high graduate unemployment however, so in the end I found work as an IT contractor, setting up networks, getting involved in the fledgling internet and website content and design. It gave me the technical skills to publish books and understand how to format photos and illustrations with software such as Adobe and Gimp, so I don’t regret my years with the INTEL chip but wouldn’t want to return to it.

Apart from illustrating, you have had some books published. Can you tell us about them? 

I have worked on three books and always looking to work with authors. The first book that was the inspiration to Enchanted England was ‘Blessed Be – an illustrated walk through a year in the English Countryside’ This is a beautiful and gentle book. It is packed full of recipes and remedies for each month of the year. I also designed the front cover for the ‘Hare and the Sword,’ an amazing autobiography of a white witch who lives in the New Forest. Finally, I illustrated the biography of Alice Gillington who wrote about the wildlife and people of the New Forest.  I am currently working on two new book projects.

When you are not illustrating or writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 

I enjoy walking, cycling and gardening and spending time with my friends and family.

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

I love vintage clothing and am always on the lookout for dresses in various second hand shops near me. I enjoy wearing dresses and not often found in leggings or jeans unless decorating or working in the garden.  I love quirky, colourful shoes that make me smile.

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

Yes! I have two vintage high street shops – one is Labels in Bishops Waltham and the other is The Clothes Line in Winchester. They are not currently open alas – so I also keep an eye on the Vestiaireapp that sells ‘preloved fashion items’ and the online shop, Wolf and Badger who support independent and ethical brands across the world. For amazing shoes as art, I enjoy looking at Freya Rose designs in Southsea,

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

Well as my summer wedding was postponed I need a warmer wrap or bolero jacket for September and change from shoes to boots. So looking for a pair of slightly 18th Century style pair of boots, festooned with ribbons!

Boots or Shoes?

I love boots and often can be found in London Fly footwear as they make me feel confident, stylish and that I can walk miles in them.

For pinning later. © Linda Hobden

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

Please visit facebook.com/enchantedengland or email Enchanted England and sign up for a newsletter. It would be great to see you in Enchanted England.

Thank you Sarah – I wish you all the best with your forthcoming wedding ❤️ I think Victorian style gothic boots would look gorgeous!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Sarah Keen of Enchanted England; apart from the Pinterest photo and the header photo of trees which was taken by myself. Header pic was taken in Thetford Forest, Norfolk & Pinterest photo was taken in Holland-on-Sea, Essex.

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An Interview With Author Kiran Bhat

“Author Kiran Bhat is a man that is unafraid to take literary risks – would you be interested in reading his book, “We Of The Forsaken World?“ was my introduction by Ben Cameron, who kindly sent me a copy of the book, published by Iguana Books. I am unafraid to jump in and read books which are not “run of the mill” and certainly this is a book that made me think. “We Of The Forsaken World” is about a mix of global issues (pre COVID-19) condensed into one book – 4 main stories set around the world, locations unspecified, as seen from 16 individual points of view:

  • a man who journeys to the birthplace of his mother which is in a tourist town that has been spoiled by an industrial spill.
  • a nameless remote tribe – striving for succession when a 2nd son is born, and the fight to stop the jungle being destroyed by loggers.
  • in a city, a homeless one-armed woman sets out to seek revenge upon the men who trafficked her.
  • in a small village of shanty shacks, a milkmaid naively watches her reputation being systematically destroyed by girls she called friends.

My favourite story was the milkmaid one, but all 4 made you think and each character of each story presented their viewpoint on the same scenario. Very clever way of presenting a story. If you are looking for a quick read, then this book is not for you. I found the book enjoyable once I had understood that different viewpoints were being represented and I found myself adding my point of view to the situations too!

The book may have been interesting, but the author Kiran also peaked my interest antennae! According to his author blurb, he has devoted his life to writing fiction about global experiences. Having travelled to over 130 countries, he has lived in 18 different places and speaks 12 languages. Definitely a person I had to interview…. so, hi Kiran!

Hello. I’m Kiran. I am an Indian-American traveler, polyglot, and writer. I was formed in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, my family is from Southern Karnataka in India, and I’ve lived all over the world. I try to use these different pieces of me to create globalising art. I’m interested in challenging the bounds of the Me vs You, the My Country vs Your Country in art. I think I do this in various different projects, but “ we of the forsaken world…”  is the one getting the most attention thus far. 

Your book, “We of the forsaken world” is truly intriguing and thought provoking  – a collection of 16 mini stories of 4 situations, each situation from 4 points of view – covering a range of current global and human issues including grief, jealousy, abuse, violence, sexuality, industrial spills, logging in jungle areas, trafficking, mobile phones, parent-child relationships, greed. I was fascinated by the milkmaid character – her need to fit in and be liked, her naivety, her sudden realisation that the girls she called friends were destroying her reputation. But what really made you decide to write a novel like this? 

“we, of the forsaken world…” came to me in 2011, when I was on a bus between Dubrovnik and Zagreb. A tall, brunette woman with a lingering stare sat down next to me on one of the stops. We began to talk about a host of things I can’t remember now, but the one thing that she told me which did remain in my head was the following: Croatia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Something about that sentence inspired my imagination. After we reached the bus station, I had to sit on one of the metal benches for a few hours, and write. I was starting to imagine different countries, completely imagined in my head. One was a half-rich half poor megalopolis, the sort found in most third-world countries. Then, there was a town that wasn’t so different looking from my grandmother’s place, the southern Indian city of Mysore. There was a tribe in the middle of nowhere, not to mention a town of great touristic importance, destroyed by an industrial spill. I also imagined hundreds of voices. Though, over the course of time, those two hundred-so voices became around sixteen; the most distinct and boisterous of the lot.

I enjoyed reading the book  – I grew to like how you wrote the book as the stories unfolded –  the mix of perspectives, the mix of characters. What was, for you, the hardest part(s) to write about?

Trying to make all of the sixteen characters and four regional voices feel realistic. Also trying to make it so that the structure would work. I kept trying different things, but finally settled on the poetic interludes. It’s now a lot of readers’ favourite thing about the book.

As you have travelled to over 130 countries, lived in at least 18 different places and can speak 12 languages – did you base your mini stories on any places or experiences in particular?

I think my regions are a mix of different places which really inspired me. I would say the city of Mysore, the global cities of Sao Paulo, Guayaquil, and Nairobi, the landscapes of Manu Jungle and the Masai Mara, the stories of Bhopal and Chernobyl, parts of Lake Van, Lake Victoria, and coastal Java. But, I would say that most of the things about this book were imagined, and created from my desire to spark new worlds. So, I don’t think you would see a lot of these places directly in my writing. They manifest in my sub-conscious, and help me to imagine clearer, or better. 

So, as we are talking travelling, where has been your favourite place you’ve visited or lived in so far? 

Well, I consider myself a Mumbaikher. I think Mumbai is the city of India which faces the world, which is why it makes most sense for an Indian origin person of globalising intents to write from. That being said, Istanbul, being the crossroads of the world, is also one of my favourite cities, and I think New York, which has all of the world inside of it, is also up there. 

Which place have you visited that you have felt didn’t actually live up to your expectations?

I don’t think I travel that way. I think I like certain things of certain places, but if a place doesn’t ‘live up to my expectations,’ it isn’t the place’s fault. It just wasn’t meant to be. I don’t think there any countries or cities that I dislike or hate. It’s more that they just weren’t my taste.

When it comes to your personal reading delights – what genre/authors do you read? Kindle or book?

I tend to be a classics person. If it comes from the Vedic period of Indian literature, the Golden Age of Russian writing, European realism, or American modernism, I’m most likely going to adore it. To give names, I love Vyasa, Valmiki, Bana, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Melville, Faulkner, etc. I tend to read on both book and Kindle, but since I travel, I tend to use my Kindle more. It’s just more convenient when you change countries every few months, and I don’t feel like it changes much for me.

Are there any other book ideas in the pipeline for 2020 and beyond?

I have a giant book that I am going to write over the course of a decade, which will take place in 365 different locations on the planet, in the minds of two archetypes that take different regional form over the course of various story structures. It’s a complex book of its own. I’d love to talk about it more in detail, once I start putting it out formally next year. 🙂 

Is “We Of The Forsaken World” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, largely on the typical digital platforms, like Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, etc. I have gotten the book into some indie bookstores in India and the USA. Will let you know if I get it stocked in the UK. 

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

I wear a lot of graphic-Ts, with jeans. I’m trying to look more alternative, like the global-nomad-meets-guru type, but I need a lot of help styling myself. Maybe I can hire you as a fashion consultant sometime. 🙂

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Amazon? It’s where you can buy pretty much anything you want.

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

Oh, god. I’m the last person to think about clothing, and anyone who has seen how I dress can attest to that. I suppose I need to buy some new shoes though, mostly because the ones I bought some months back are getting worn. I even tripped a few days back on my run, which I attest to partly Melbourne not being as well-paved as people would like to believe, and my shoes having lost some grip

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes, as per what I have said above. I also don’t live in muggy places, so I rarely wear boots. In fact, I think I have only worn boots twice in my life.

For pinning later

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

Yes! 

my website: https://kiranbhatweldgeist.com/

my author fan page:https://www.facebook.com/Kiran-Bhat-105125697596856

my instagram handle: originalsin_0421

my twitter: Weldgeist Kiran

Ah, great to chat to you Kiran and I don’t think there is anything wrong with graphic tees and denim jeans! Boots though… really you should give them a try!! 😊 Having been to Nairobi, I could envisage a lot of what you were saying in your book … and Mysore, the city that I read about as a young child whilst reading such stories as Mowgli, and I have had the city on my “bucket list” for decades!!

My thanks to Ben Cameron & Kiran Bhat for sending me a copy of “ we of the forsaken world…” to review; all photographs have been published with kind permission of Kiran Bhat.

Linda x

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An Interview With Poet Kamand Kojouri

Poetry this evening, my friends. I love poetry. I love reading poetry out loud – doesn’t matter if nobody else is around, poetry just needs to be read out loud. Poetry just sums up emotions and situations. My guest this week is the gorgeous Iranian poet Kamand Kojouri. Her poetry is a breath of fresh air. Her poems have been read on the radio, in sermons in churches and synagogues, used as lyrics for a rock song, and even her poem about Aleppo, “Heaven And Hell” was placed next to James P Graham’s stunning artwork at his Desacration exhibition at Biblioteca Vallicelliana in Rome. Praise indeed. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Kamand’s 2nd collection, “God, Does Humanity Exist?” Having devoured the book word for word, I had some questions for the poet herself …. so hi Kamand!

Hi! I’m Kamand, an Iranian poet and writer living in the UK. I’ve written two poetry books and I’m currently writing a historical novel for my creative writing PhD programme.

I write to raise awareness about the injustices in the world, to remind us that we are all responsible for one another, and to instil hope and love into our lives.

What inspired you to write poetry?

It’s quite simple, really: I fell in love…

My brothers, Hafez and Khayyam, are also named after the great Persian poets. When we were little, my brother,Khayyam, would receive at least one collection of Omar Khayyam’s poems as a birthday gift. My mother often recites lines from poems mid-conversation as well, so poetry had always been an intrinsic, albeit dormant, part of my life. Funnily enough, the literal translation of my name (Kamand) is a lasso. But Kamand is actually an ornamental word used in Persian poetry to describe long beautiful hair.

“God, Does Humanity Exist?” was published on 2 March 2020 — your 2nd collection of poems focusing on suffering, resistance, and hope. I personally enjoyed reading the poems out loud. Actually, I don’t know if I can read poetry any other way. I truly believe poetry is also better understood by reading out loud. Interesting title to your book though, Kamand. So, was it hard to think up a title for your poetry collection that seemed to encapsulate the verses contained within? Why did you pick the title?

My collection is divided into four sections: Cries of Common Pain, Call to Action, Songs of Hope, and Echoes of Hope. It includes urgent poems about the devastation of war, the refugee crisis, the dangers of silence, mass shootings, the atrocities being committed across the pond and even the ones on our doorstep… And although the poems are rooted in dark realities, ultimately the message is one of love and togetherness.

I remember brainstorming ideas for the title and discussing it with my twin sister and my father. I decided to go with God, Does Humanity Exist?  and my father said that it was very interesting but perhaps sounded a bit pessimistic, and that was far from my intention. In order to eliminate any ambiguities about the title, I added an author’s note at the beginning of the book that explained my reasoning. The idea is that for thousands of years people have been asking “Does God Exist?” I wanted to turn this age-old question on its head and ask God, whether humanity exists. Of course, I don’t doubt humanity’s existence, but I want us to think, speak, and act more humanely—with more compassion, empathy, and understanding. So the title is meant to make us think, and it’s also meant to make us act.

It was hard for me to pick a favourite poem from this collection — it was a tie between “We Don’t Find God” & “ Writers Aren’t Alchemists”. Do you have a particular favourite? 

My favourite poem is “We Are, Each of Us, Refugees”. Whenever I’m reading it out loud by the time I get to this last stanza I get quite emotional:  

When home turns into hell,

you, too, will run

with tears in your eyes screaming rescue me!

and then you’ll know for certain:

you’ve always been a refugee.

Have you always hoped for a career in poetry/ creative writing or did your career aspirations as a child lie elsewhere? 

I always wanted to become a doctor to help people. As I became older, I chose neurosurgery as a speciality. I studied sciences in my undergraduate years and volunteered at a big hospital in downtown Toronto. One day one of my patients asked me to read to her. From that day on, I started renting out books from the library to read during my lunch breaks, and that’s when I fell in love with reading. It was a bit daunting because I had envisioned my entire life as a neurosurgeon but then all of a sudden I had found this ardent passion for reading and writing. I remember trying to intellectualise my decision—making a list of pros and cons for each career. I showed my friends and family the list and discussed it with them. It was a big risk but I decided I could still help people with my writing and I thought that I’d be doing something that truly complemented my soul. The greatest thing about pursuing a career in writing is that you become a life-long philomath. You develop this hunger to learn, and the more you read and the more you write, you realise how very little it is you know.  

Born in Tehran, raised in Dubai & Toronto, currently residing in Wales; you have been to places that must have influenced your writing somewhere along the line. Hypothetically speaking, if you were able to visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new collection of poems, where would you go and why?

That’s such an interesting question! My mother’s greatest passion is travelling. Every summer, she’d try to take my siblings and me to a new country. I have visited around forty countries and I think I don’t necessarily need to visit a place to get inspiration from there. For instance, the novel I’m currently writing takes place in three different cities that I have yet to visit.

I think it ultimately depends on what you have in your heart and your mind at the time of travelling. A few years ago, there was a revival of a very popular musical (based on Victor Hugo’s novel) in Paris called Notre-Dame de Paris. At the time I was doing my Master’s programme in London, so I hopped on the Eurostar to see it on opening night. I’d been to Paris a few times prior, so I planned to revisit my favourite places (the cathedral, Place du Tertre in Montmartre etc.) and a couple of new museums. I had taken a collection of Hafez’s poems with me and I remember being so inspired by the beauty (the music, architecture, paintings and sculptures) that I filled a small journal with Sufi poems. It’s uncanny to think that I wrote my most spiritual poems whilst on a trip to Paris to see a musical… Anywhere in the world that has beautiful artwork, a little bit of nature, a place of worship (like a temple or a church—perhaps it has something to do with the higher vibrational frequencies), inspires me. And if I go to a classical concert when I’m there, then I’m in heaven.

Are you a Bookworm?

I’m definitely a bookworm, but because of my OCD I’m quite a neurotic reader. That’s why I used to dislike reading as a child. What it means now is that I’m not a fast reader, because I like to highlight beautiful lines and often rewrite them into a journal. My favourite genre is poetry and I also love philosophical novels. I have too many favourite authors!My favourite poets include Nizar Qabbani, Rumi, Pablo Neruda, and E.E. Cummings. Favourite writers: Javier Marias, Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, Sarah Waters, and Anton Chekhov.

It’s funny because I bought my dad a Kindle (he reads many books concurrently like I do) but he regifted it back to me. I haven’t used it in years as I prefer actual books.

Is “God, Does Humanity Exist?” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, it’s available on all the Amazon websites in paperback and eBook. It’s also available on Barnes & Noble and third-party booksellers online. For every copy sold, a tree is planted in Sub-Saharan Africa to help provide families with food, income, and a sustainable way of life. All of the royalties will also go to children’s charities in Iran.

Which other forms of writing, other than poetry, would you love to try your hand at? Songwriting, thriller, children’s books? 

I would love to write a children’s book one day! 

A brilliant American composer used my poem “War on Silence” to compose a piece for a choir recently, and a band used my poem “They Want Us to Be Afraid” as lyrics for one of their songs. Music is one of my greatest passions as well so I’d love to try my hand at songwriting—best of both worlds.

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

I’m always in business casual and a pair of black suede ankle boots, unless I’m going to a nice dinner or jazz night then I’m in stilettos.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I lived in Canada for about eight years so my favourite shop is Aritzia, a Canadian boutique.

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

I don’t have a wish list right now, but I’d be very happy to purchase a bright-coloured top in-store because that’d mean that the pandemic is over and we can celebrate summer.

Boots or Shoes?

Heeled ankle boots all the way! I’m average height but my twin sister is much taller than me and my brothers tower over me so I like the extra bit of heel.

For Pinning later

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

Instagram: www.instagram.com/KamandKojouri

Twitter: www.twitter.com/KamandKojouri

Facebook: www.facebook.com/KamandKojouri

Linked-In: www.linkedin.com/in/KamandKojouri

Website: www.KamandKojouri.com

Thank you very much Kamand for chatting to us today. Thanks also for the copy of your fabulous poetry book and thanks also to Ben Cameron. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kamand Kojouri.

Linda x

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10 Essential Oils To Help You Sleep

Have you noticed that cats have the ability to sleep anywhere at any time? Sleep is critical to our physical health and the effective function of our immune system. COVID-19 has made a severe impact – a lot of people are finding it hard to sleep let alone getting the quality sleep that they need. According to a recent national sleep survey by The Sleep Council, 75% of people surveyed said that the current situation is affecting their sleep patterns; 77% said that the lack of sleep is interfering with their daytime functionality – they are experiencing daytime fatigue, poor concentration and low mood. The survey also found that women find it harder to fall asleep than men.

I must admit, I don’t have any trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep – even if I wake up in the night to use the toilet, I can fall back to sleep again relatively quickly. My husband is the complete opposite, though. So, what can you do to try and help get to sleep – a cool bedroom, a hot milky bedtime drink, reading a book, listening to an audiobook, listening to an app of calming sounds, listening to the radio, soft chilled music, darkened room, blackout curtains, hot bath before bed, sleeping tablets ….. there are various ideas you can try.

Essential oils, like any other medicine, can have a powerful effect and can chemically alter the body. There are many oils to help aid relaxation, help induce sleep naturally and safely without the side-effects of medication. Aromatherapy specialists, Base Formula, have compiled a list of their top 10 recommended essential oils that are known to help aid sleep and to ease stress:

  • VALERIAN ROOT ☑️ Top choice for a restful night’s sleep because it has calming, tranquilising properties. ✖️It has a distinct, pungent aroma which might put you off!
  • CLARY SAGE ☑️ Powerful relaxant. ☑️ Particularly good for stress related problems ✖️ Do not use if you have consumed alcohol ✖️ Do not use if you are pregnant.
Clary Sage & Lavender Essential Oil. © Studio Forty Seven
  • ROMAN CHAMOMILE. ☑️ Soothing and calming both physically and mentally. ☑️ Anti-depressant. ☑️ Particularly good if you are nervous or stressed.
  • SANDALWOOD ☑️ Meditative qualities that help to quieten and sedate the mind.
  • VETIVERT ☑️ Deeply relaxing. ☑️ Known as the oil of tranquility ☑️ Is an immuno-stimulant so it helps in combatting stress without becoming ill.
Lavender Lovelliness © Border In A Box. www.borderinabox.com
  • LAVENDER ☑️ Calming, anti- depressant – commonly used to aid sleep.
  • PATCHOULI ☑️ Soothing ☑️ Slightly hypnotic effect ☑️ Calms an over active mind.
  • FRANKINCENSE ☑️ Deeply calming & uplifting ☑️ Traditionally used as an incense
Gumleaf Essentials Frankincense Essential Oil © Buckley And Phillips
  • GERANIUM ☑️ Has anti-depressant, uplifting qualities ✖️Avoid use during pregnancy
  • YLANG YLANG ☑️ Soothing & uplifting ☑️ Particularly good for anger, shock, fear and anxiety. ☑️ Can help to slow over-rapid breathing and easing heart palpitations.

HOW TO USE THE ESSENTIAL OILS

  • In the bath
  • Massage
  • Aromatherapy Diffuser
  • Candles
  • Pillow spritz
  • Steam Inhalation
  • Cotton pad or tissue with a couple of drops of lavender & frankincense, placed inside your pillowcase.
For Pinning Later

FOR ESSENTIAL OILS & FURTHER INFORMATION

http://www.baseformula.com

http://www.buckleyandphillips.com

http://www.studiofortyseven.co.uk

Linda x

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An Interview With Author Sarah Stonich

This week I’m honoured to be part of the “Fishing” book tour. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Sarah Stonich’s book “Fishing” to review and Sarah agreed to answer my nosy questions too! Thanks Sarah!

THE BOOK – OFFICIAL BLURB

Having fled the testosterone-soaked world of professional sport fishing, thirty-something RayAnne Dahl is navigating a new job as a consultant for the first all-women talk show about fishing on public television (or, as one viewer’s husband puts it, “Oprah in a boat”). After the host bails, RayAnne lands in front of the camera and out of her depth at the helm of the show. Is she up for the challenge? Meanwhile, her family proves as high-maintenance as her fixer-upper house and her clingy rescue dog. Her dad, star of the one-season Big Rick’s Bass Bonanza, is on his sixth wife and falling off the wagon and into RayAnne’s career path; her mother, a new-age aging coach for the menopausal rich, provides endless unwanted advice; and her beloved grandmother Dot—whose advice RayAnne needs—is far away and far from well.

But as RayAnne says, “I’m a woman, I fish. Deal with it.” And just when things seem to be coming together—the show is an unlikely hit; she receives the admiration of a handsome sponsor (out of bounds as he is, but definitely in the wings); ungainly house and dog are finally in hand—RayAnne’s world suddenly threatens to capsize, and she’s faced with a gut-wrenching situation and a heartbreaking decision.

First published in 2015 under a pseudonym, this first installment in a trilogy filled with hilarity and heartbreak unspools with the gentle wit and irresistible charm that readers of Sarah Stonich have come to expect. Fishing! eases us into unsuspected depths as it approaches the essential question . . . when should life be steered by the heart, not the rules?

THE BOOK – MY THOUGHTS

I found “Fishing” an enjoyable, easy reading “chick” novel based around a male dominated sport, “fishing”. I wasn’t sure at first what to expect as I am a fan of thrillers and I rarely venture out of that genre, but I found myself sucked in by the antics of RayAnne and genuinely enjoying the story. I liked the fact that the theme was fishing – it was an unusual theme for a chick novel and made a change from the “boy meets girl” scenario. Bernadette, RayAnne’s mother was perhaps my favourite character. She just made me giggle. I adored RayAnne though – I felt like screaming at her to get some self confidence. Unexpected twist at the end of the story too. Great holiday read.

OFFICIAL BOOK PUBLISHING DETAILS

Print Length: 280 Pages

Genre: Women’s Fiction

ISBN-10: 1517908981

ISBN-13: 9781517908980

ASIN: B085LZ4324

THE AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Hi, I’m Sarah, with an H. As a kid, my large family called me Sally, which never felt quite as serious or dramatic as I felt, thinking I deserved some name like ‘Isadora’ or ‘Augustine’. Fifty years later, having gotten over myself, I am really liking ‘Sally’ so am training my husband of fourteen years to call me that. He mostly calls me ‘Hey’, now. We just adopted a cat, Dr. Fauci (it was a name we’d been hearing fifty times a day, right?) Also, they have similar noses. He’s kept us entertained during quarantine and in turn I’ve gone a little overboard on some of the cat gear. Like RayAnne, I’m a bit of a late bloomer. I didn’t begin writing until I was nearly forty. Before that I’d been busy raising a son, renovating Victorian houses, pretending I was Martha Stewart. I worked in advertising, then publishing. 

Who or what inspired you to become a professional writer?

 I had loads of favorite writers, but didn’t aspire to become one myself. I just started writing and then a story I wrote piled up into a novel, and I showed a writer friend, who showed his agent, and boom – unintentional veer in life plan. Since it landed with me, I decided to give writing a go. So easy! Turns out anyone can be a writer. Kidding! 

Fishing ” Is the 1st installment in the “Fishing With RayAnne” trilogy – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish, and I look forward to reading the follow up books too.  I liked RayAnne’s character a lot although the older ladies, Bernadette (RayAnne’s mum) and Dot (RayAnne’s gran), made me smile and, on occasions, giggle. I think they were perhaps my favourite characters. Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest? 

Ask your mom who her favorite child is. Like any mother I’ll lie and say I cherish them all equally. RayAnne, Cassi, Gran and Bernadette are all fun to write because they are so different and each bring their perspective that is so very THEM to the story. Of course I spend the most time with RayAnne, who’s grown to be like a little sister to me. And like sisters, we have our days, believe me.

“Fishing” was first published in 2015, under your pseudonym, Ava Finch. Why did you decide to republish under your own name? Was “Fishing” originally intended to be one off or had you always planned to create a RayAnne trilogy? 

About halfway through I realized I wasn’t going to be finished with this RayAnne character, and I had to see her through her entire transformation. She’s flawed, and has miles to go. Spoiler: she winds up flawed in the end, but is okay with it. With the first publication I used a pen name because I thought it would be fun and different. It wasn’t – I had a publisher that wasn’t a good match, so I’m doubly grateful to the University Of Minnesota to take on Fishing With RayAnne as a trilogy. 

What made you decide to write a chick -lit read based around a predominantly male sport such as fishing? 

I have a writer friend that advises, ‘write what you DON’T know.’ I do that a lot, I find a topic that interests me, but not that I’m too familiar with – researching and digging around in these unknown realms is really the fun part of writing for me.   


I hear that, in the pipeline,  you are currently adapting the RayAnne trilogy for TV.  I personally think the novel is brilliant for this kind of adaptation. What surprises have you encountered (good or bad) whilst trying to adapt your novel? Is it harder to adapt than you thought?

 I first wrote ‘Fishing WIth RayAnne as a feature script before writing it as a book – an exercise to teach myself to lighten up on the details and description I’m so prone to. Getting a feature film actually made has about the same the odds of being born with all your teeth, but, with so many new opportunities for television, adapting it to small screen feels more hopeful, and it really is easier – I love writing dialogue.   

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

Actual book. I like paper and pages and covers, and book design and just the book as an object – that said I would never shelve books by color and anyone who does should have their books taken away from them and re-homed. Our loft is lined with bookshelves. At the moment I’m reading dead women – the ‘undervalued British women novelists of the mid-century’. It’s a thing – there’s a website – look it up. These women are true treasures, but we barely know them because male writers got (and still get) most of the publishing attention and dollars. Women are tenacious, like the cicada, a bug that lives underground for seventeen years before emerging and unfurling their wings – these women writers have been largely unread for seventy. Hello, Jane Elizabeth Howard; Naomi Mitcheson; Josephine Tey…   

Is “Fishing” available to purchase worldwide? 

YES!

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

I had plans to visit Finland sometime soon to research a book for my Northern trilogy, which has a number of characters that are 3rd generation Finns living in rural Minnesota. I was all stoked to dig into these ancestor’s pasts, then Covid! So, that’s on hold for now. I did visit relatives in New Zealand while writing ‘Fishing!’ and was inspired to set much of ‘Reeling’, the second volume in the trilogy there, when RayAnne and Cassi take the show on the road.  

For pinning later

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

Like RayAnne, I’m fashion challenged, but my happy outfits are comfy cotton or linen or nubby silk things with lots of pockets – no bright colors and God forbid no patterns that might attract undue attention. I could rob a bank and no one would be able to describe what I was wearing – though I like to think a witness might remember me as mildly stylish. Good tailoring gets me. As for shoes, I’m just going to say it: HEELS? Why???

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Some of the small European Etsy shops that will make linen garments with custom options. Love that they come with a label, ‘Made for Sarah’ (maybe time to change up to Sally?) 

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

Better-quality clothes, fewer items in my closet, and fewer imports. In the follow-up to ‘Fishing!’, ‘Reeling’, RayAnne interviews a young ‘anti-fashion’ designer and in the process learns about the true toll of fast-fashion industry and imports on the environment, as well as grim labor practices. My grandfather was a tailor and my grandmother a seamstress – so maybe I’m genetically bound to some romantic, utopian ideal of knowing one person made a garment I’m wearing, from start to finish, in a room with windows. 

Boots or Shoes?

Converse sneakers (with inserts, I’m not crazy), and chunky low-heeled boots (see above) classic Italian sandals that take forever to break in, then last ten years. Comfort, and not wanting to break my neck or cripple my insteps is why. Last time I wore heels was for a gallery event, during which I fell backwards, like a plank, as if in some skit. Friends still talk about it.  

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

 Website: sarahstonich.com

FB: Sarah Stonich Bookshelf.

Twitter: @sarahstonich

https://bookshop.org/books/fishing-9781517908980/9781517908980

BOOK TOUR DATES

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Sarah Stonich (apart from the fish head photo that was taken by me! )

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AN Interview With Marlene Watson-Tara

Continuing on my healthy living theme this month, this week I’m chatting to Marlene Watson-Tara – author of “Go Vegan”, co-founder of the “Human Ecology Project”, Health councillor, teacher and expert in the field of plant-based nutrition. It was Marlene’s book “Go Vegan” that was the inspiration for my potato dish blogpost recently (view HERE). So, it is with great excitement that I welcome Marlene onto my blog….hi Marlene!

Hi! I’m Marlene, a long-time vegan, activist, lover of animals, nature and life and passionate about human ecology. As an eternal optimist, increasing the number of people worldwide to switch to a wholefood plant-based diet and vegan life is my mission. Together with my husband Bill Tara, we have created The Human Ecology Project. 

As a high profiled and dedicated health counsellor and teacher with over 40 years’ experience in the health industry, my dietary advice draws from the fields of Macrobiotic Nutrition, my studies in Traditional Chinese Medicine and my certification in Plant- Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.

My clients range from the movies and arts to members of royal families. In the last 10 years I have been teaching chefs the art and skill of wholefood plant-based cooking and nutrition. As a regular columnist for many health magazines and websites I share my knowledge on living healthily. My vast experience informs a body of knowledge that I eagerly share with the world.

As the international author of Macrobiotics for all Seasons and my latest book Go Vegan  I share information that is simple, direct and effective, along with delicious recipes and medicinal teas. I teach alongside my husband Bill Tara. We have graduates from our “Macrobiotic Vegan Health Coach Programme” in 27 countries. I’m a driving force for health and fitness to all who cross her path. Our “Ultimate Health Experience” workshops have been offered in Europe, America, and Australia

My favourite saying – “If you don’t look after your body, then where are you going to live?”

Being a long time vegan, what inspired you to embrace the vegan lifestyle?

On school holidays my family would go to the countryside and it always seemed such a sad time when all the lambs were taken from the fields and loaded onto trucks.  As I grew into my teens, I had health issues with skin, digestion and menstrual pain. As I wouldn’t eat meat, I ate mostly dairy.  When I changed my diet to completely plant-based all these health issues disappeared.  When you connect the dots with diet and the development of disease, there is no turning back. When you look behind the curtain to the scale of what happens globally to our animal kingdom you cannot pretend to not know what is there. 


As you are an author of “Macrobiotic For All Seasons” and “Go Vegan”, surely you must have a favourite tried and tested recipe?  Do you prefer cooking “main meals”, desserts or are you a baker?

I find it exciting to create new recipes and train chefs and home cooks utilizing my seasonal menus and cooking skills, using the five tastes. My favourite creations are soups, I live and love them daily. From my delicious creamy decadence soups to the bean comforting cozy stews, soup is a daily staple in our home.

Food historians tell us the history of soup is probably as old as the history of cooking. The act of combining various ingredients in a pot to create a nutritious, filling, simple to make meal was inevitable. Healthy and healing soups are part of the cooking traditions in every country.

I always try and prepare my soup from fresh, organic, in season, and ideally local ingredients. Whether your ingredients are coming freshly grown from your own garden or you’ve bought them directly from the farmers’ market, making the connection between the food you eat, and your local environment is important. The food we eat is part of our cultural identity. Eating local foods helps produce a more resilient and sustainable future, both for yourself and for future generations.

Recently in my local supermarket there has been a promotional “push” towards plant-based meals. As you are an expert in the field of plant-based nutrition, what do you feel are the main benefits to follow a vegan/plant-based diet?

Thankfully, the popularity of plant-based diets has grown, which makes this an easier era than ever to start. Can I Get Enough Nutrients on a Plant-Based Diet? This is always the number one question that I am asked. Yes, and it’s easier than you’d think to consume these essential nutrients. You just need to know where to get them. For example, Omega-3 fatty acids often come from animal-based sources like fish. However, you can also get an ample supply from hemp seeds, flax, chia, and walnuts. It’s merely about understanding the alternative ways to get the nutrition you need.

Plant-based/vegan diets have been linked to a number of health benefits, including reducing your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, diabetes and cognitive decline. Plus, transitioning to a more plant-based diet is an excellent choice for the planet and will end the death and suffering of our animal kingdom. Two billion animals are slaughtered daily for food. There is no need, we receive all the nutrients we require from plants. At the end of the day, the largest and strongest animals in the world are vegan, giraffes, elephants etc., they get their nutrients from the same source we as vegans do… from the plants.

Having received a copy of “Go Vegan”, I was impressed by the range of recipes – the ingredients were not too daunting or difficult to obtain; the cooking instructions were easy to follow; and the glossary was a godsend especially when I came across an ingredient I had never heard of. Was it difficult to put together suitable recipes that lived up to your ethos?  

Eating from my ethos is simple and doable for everyone. 95% of what constitutes my approach is obtainable from most supermarkets. Grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Foods like miso, tofu, and even some dried sea vegetables are now available in supermarkets. This makes my heart sing to see this growth year on year. One or two of the condiments I use are available from natural food stores or online. My teaching of plant-based/vegan nutrition is based on my teachings of Macrobiotics, a wonderful philosophy that teaches us that everything is connected, animal, plant, human, environment.  When I create and cook all of these considerations are always there. 


As you are currently based in the UK, is “Go Vegan” available to purchase worldwide? 

Yes, Go Vegan is available world-wide on amazon. U.K. and US 

You currently teach alongside your husband, Bill Tara, your MACROVegan Health Coach Programme.  Sounds intriguing. In a nutshell, what does that involve? 

We now have students who have travelled from 27 countries to study and graduate as a MACROVegan Health Coach. We see this as switching on lighthouses around the world. We now have students studying with us online which is fantastic. Our students leave as proficient and amazing cooks as well as wonderful health coaches. It makes our heart sing as more and more graduate and teach this work.

MACROVegan Health Coach Course

The dramatic rise in degenerative disease attributed to diet and lifestyle has created a demand for solutions to disease prevention and personal health maintenance. What is called for is a new generation of men and women who are capable of offering practical advice on how to live a healthy life in modern society. 

During the two weeks of study you will have the opportunity to learn the techniques of effective Health Coaching and experience the power of healthy living. You will leave prepared to be a more effective promoter of natural health care and set up practice as a Professional Macrobiotic Health Coach.    

The Macrobiotic Vegan Health Coach curriculum has been designed by Bill Tara, co-founder of the Kushi Institute, creator of the International Macrobiotic Institute (Kiental, Switzerland) curriculum and designer of the American and European Kushi Institute Teacher Certification Programmes along with his wife Marlene Watson-Tara who is certified in Plant Based Nutrition. 

This is a rare opportunity to study with teachers who are expert consultants and draw on decades of practical experience. Macrobiotic philosophy serves as the foundation of these studies and provides the link between the disciplines and life skills we will explore together.  This course also offers additional tools to enhance professional or Para-professional skills in both the orthodox or complimentary health and healing arts.

The Modules

Health, Healing and Human Ecology

Health and Emotion / East and West

Traditions of Nutrition

Wholefoods Plant Based Cooking & Home Remedies

Health Assessment

Principles and Practice of Health Coaching

When you are not working, what activities do you enjoy, to relax and unwind? 

I adore growing my own vegetables, and love being in nature. I am an avid and longtime yogi, (my daily practice keeps me in check) and miss teaching yoga, one day, I will have my own studio again. I adore cycling with Bill and of course, reading and writing, and I am currently working on my next book.

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

I live in yoga gear… always cycling, doing yoga, or working at my desk here so casual and comfort works for me. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?  

Yes, I love https://bambooclothing.co.uk

I always purchase clothing using cotton, hemp, linen, etc., More and more companies offer these wonderful alternatives for vegan and ethical clothing. I love Matt & Nat for more dress shoes and bags and Wills London for my backpack and casual shoes and have boots from both of them. 

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

A new Ciao Bella – I adore feminine frilly dresses on the search. My next pair of yoga toe sandals from Supplefeet are on the list. They are fantastic, I have worn them for years and they keep your fee in great shape. 

Boots or Shoes? 

I love my chunky rubber sole sneakers, they look great with jeans, yoga gear, shorts and casual dresses. They are my first choice daily for comfort.

My Chelsea boots are my second choice…they are so versatile and can be worn in all seasons.

For pinning later

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

Website, Instagram, facebook, you tube, linked In, twitter, 

www.macrovegan.org

https://www.instagram.com/macroveganinternational/

https://facebook.com/marlenewatsontaragovegan/

https://www.youtube.com/user/Molly19571/videos?view=0&sort=p&flow=grid&disable_polymer=true

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/

Thanks Marlene for an interesting chat and you have given me and my readers “food for thought”.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Marlene Watson-Tara

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An Interview With Dean Hodgkin

Keeping your body fit and healthy during lockdown … and for life beyond, is paramount. It’s difficult though and many of us need help to practice social distancing from the fridge, from the wine bottles and from the biscuit barrel. For tips and advice on keeping our bodies fit and healthy and to help us develop an understanding on how to maintain that fitness, I was lucky enough to chat to Dean Hodgkin – Head of Programming on TV Fit, fitness expert, karate champion, writer and speaker. Hi Dean!

Hi! I’m Dean Hodgkin, a veteran of the fitness industry with over 30 years on the clock and with varied experience that includes working in spas, premium health clubs, budget gyms, leisure centres and more recently boutique studios. I’ve co-authoured 2 fitness books written a large number of magazine and newspaper articles and I’ve also appeared in a number of broadcast formats as a health and fitness expert.

You’ve appeared at fitness events in 36 countries and collected the Best International Fitness Presenter at The One Body One World in New York, the ECA International Career Achievement Recognition Award, also in the US, in addition to the Lifetime Achievement award at Europe’s largest group fitness event, the International Fitness Showcase. On top of this you were also 3 times World and 2 times European karate champion so what triggered your love of sport and keeping fit? 

That’s a great question as I’m not sure I’ve ever really analysed my odyssey before! My Father was a semi-pro footballer so when I was very young I would spend every Saturday standing on the touchline, come rain or shine. My elder brother was also a particularly good player so naturally, I followed suit, becoming captain of my school team. There was a brief heartbreak when my Mother forced me to attend the best grammar school in our area – where they didn’t play soccer! However, I threw myself into rugby, again becoming team captain and realised the specific discipline was irrelevant…….I just loved participating in any sport. Like many kids in the 70s, when the Bruce Lee movies hit the cinemas, I was desperate to try martial arts. At first I was too young to join the local karate club so started my journey with judo but transferred as soon as I was allowed. I became absolutely immersed, training in every spare moment and perhaps as a result of such, I became quite proficient. When it became clear that I could actually achieve something through fighting, I began to get involved in fitness training, realising it would help me to perform better, although in those days it was simply running, basic calisthenics and stretching.


Have you always wanted a career in fitness or did your aspirations lie elsewhere?

When I graduated from university in the mid-80’s, the fitness industry in the UK was in a nascent state, concepts and experiences were only just drifting over from the US, so I didn’t view it as a career choice, particularly as fitness training was just something I did for fun. Additionally, having studied mathematics and management studies, my intention was to go into investment banking in the City of London. However, at the time I had already been selected for the British under-21 karate team but realised that to progress to senior level, I’d need to put in some serious graft so I negotiated a ‘gap year’ with my parents, allowing me to put finding a job on hold and instead to train full-time. This 1 year actually turned into 3, during which I spent so much of my time in sports centres and gyms that it occurred to me it would be great if I could combine my choice of vocation with my love of physical activity and so I enrolled on a fitness trainer course and progressed from there.



In your capacity as  Head of Programming on TV Fit ….What would you say are the most popular genre/programmes/classes?

This is a great question as the answer is actually 2 dimensional. In terms of the market, resistance training and high intensity interval training are leading the pack, hence our results-guaranteed STRONGER and LIMITLESS programmes an incredible numb of views. As an individual, however, the most popular workouts are the one’s you’ll actually do so pick what you enjoy, rather than those everyone else seems to be doing, as then you’re much more likely to adhere to it and see the results you desire. Working out shouldn’t feel like a chore, so try many different classes to find your flavour. Remember, exercise isn’t something you do TO your body – it’s something you do FOR your body, so enjoy it.

Which genre/programme/classes is your personal favourite?

Whilst, for obvious reasons, I love STRIKE, I honestly have no favourite so you’re just as likely to find me dancing or lifting weights as shadow-boxing or trying to fold myself into a downward dog. I truly love the freedom of movement exercise brings and enjoy exploring my body through the different physical challenges involved.

Must admit, when exercising, I hate doing “burpees” … even more than push ups!! Which exercise do you dislike the most?

I’m totally with you on that one – I’m pretty sure that a straw poll would result in near unanimous agreement!

Being in lockdown, keeping your body and mind fit and healthy is a must. Any top tips?

Due to the reduced amount of walking within our daily routines, the inability to play sport or go to the gym, the potential stress related to being cooped up with others or perhaps anxiety about future job prospects, I’d argue that exercise has never been more valuable. In addition to burning calories (helping to balance out the extra trips we might be making to the fridge!) the positive impact on mental health has been proven in an abundance of scientific research studies.What’s more, there are huge mood-uplifting benefits of exercising outdoors, something the Government recognised in the lockdown guidance by allowing us to venture outside once each day, so it’s vital to optimise this modicum of temporary freedom. If you’re a runner, fine but if you’re just beginning your fitness journey our SWEATCOIN WALK was created specifically for you, providing a personal trainer in your ear for motivation and visual tips to perfect your technique.Just in case you need further convincing, the father of medicine, Hippocrates, is quoted as declaring, ‘Walking is man’s best medicine’……..and he knew a thing or two about how to stay healthy in both mind and body!

What has been the most unusual Fitness class/ genre you’ve come across?

To be honest, there are way too many to mention! Dog Yoga and Naked Yoga have to be right up there and I still need to be convinced of the value of Napercise. Others include Voga (yep, that’s yoga with a few Madonna shapes thrown in) Kangoofit (bouncing around on boots with springs) Mermaid Fitness (wearing 1 huge flipper) Crowd Surf Ready (for lifters and liftees) High Intensity Interval Painting (sweat then paint then sweat then paint….) etc, etc, etc!


Being a world champion at karate, I can take it that that must be one of, if not your favourite sport. Are there any other sports you take part in or enjoy watching?

I’m a complete sportaholic and regularly achieve nothing of any significance at weekends due to camping out in front of the TV, so the lockdown live sport ban has left me totally disorientated on Saturdays and Sundays. Favourites are rugby, soccer, basketball, MMA, american football, tennis and athletics.

I love shows like Strictly Come Dancing – I especially love watching the Argentine Tango! Hypothetically speaking, if you were to take part, which dance style would you love to try?

I’m also a Strictly addict, primarily as I appreciate the amount of training they put in and the incredible improvement in their performance level through the course of the series. I also watch in wonder at the pros who are so athletic and appear to be excellent at every discipline. I’d love to learn the more technical dances but fear I’d only have a chance of mastering the jive due to it clearly being a fast and very physical challenge for which I hope my years of fitness training have prepared me.

Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear?

Over the years I have been very fortunate to have been, at different times, sponsored by Nike, Reebok and Puma but now I’m a total brand whore – I’ll purchase and wear whatever takes my fancy.

Boots Or Shoes?

For fitness – high tops for lifting and basketball, lows for dancing and HIIT, barefoot for combat and yoga. Out of the gym, boots in winter and flip-flops for as long as the weather allows.

For pinning later



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

www.deanhodgkin.com
https://www.facebook.com/dean.hodgkin.7
https://www.instagram.com/deanhodgkin/

Hmm.. Voga sounds fun but Naked Yoga sounds pretty embarrassing , unless you’re doing it on your own! Ha ha! Thanks for chatting with me Dean – I particularly liked your advice regarding picking a workout that you enjoy rather than one that is trendy and you are doing it “just because”.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Dean Hodgkin

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