Under The Spotlight: Maybelline Superstay Lipstick

My friend, Kat, and I talk about many things when we get together or when we message each other over the years.  We both like the same sort of music, we like the same style of clothing, we share the same tastes in footwear, but one thing we adore (and talk about a lot!) is make up by Maybelline. Mainly their mascaras and lipsticks. Especially Maybelline’s Superstay Lipstick.

Maybelline Superstay Lipsticks have been a feature in our make up bags for a while – I think it was Kat who first told me about its virtues.  For those who don’t know, the lipstick has fantastic staying power and the range of colours suit everybody’s tastes.   I prefer the pinks and nudes of the colour spectrum; whereas Kat is a big fan of the reds and burgundies.

Me, at Gatwick Airport at 4am, wearing my Superstay lipstick ….

In September/October, Maybelline had a range change and had repackaged and reformulated some of its make up items – including our favourite lippy! Being a  Superstay Lipstick guru, Kat had concerns about whether the lipstick is still as good as it used to be – so she decided to give the new look Superstay Lipstick a try and here’s her review …..

I’ve been a big fan of Maybelline Superstay lipstick for some time now, as its the only one I’ve found that actually does what it says on the tin. I have three shades that I use regularly and since moving to a Scottish island earlier in the year, have been stockpiling these so that I don’t run out. Especially as, much to my horror, I was advised a year or two ago that there were plans to discontinue the range and replace it with something else.

Earlier in the year, I found a range that was labelled Superstay and tried them, but without success, and had therefore stepped-up my stockpiling efforts. In the meantime, I have also found what I believe to be new shades in what I have come to think of as the ‘traditional’ Superstay 24 range (see photo), and have now added a fourth shade to my favourites. So maybe there is hope that this traditional range is not for imminent demise.

Whatever the truth of that assumption may be, you may also have seen the recent TV advertising campaign showing us a new Maybelline Superstay Matte Ink lipstick range: as you may imagine, I’ve been quite excited to try it out. Earlier in the week, I found a range of these lipsticks in the Orpington Boots Maybelline concession. How could I possibly resist!

I bought their shade No.45 Escapist (a very dark purple – again, see photo) and yesterday, I wore it all day.

 

I first applied it at around 8am. Out of the tube, the applicator seemed quite clogged, but it was easy to wipe off the excess on the top of the tube, and very easy to apply. At first, without the lip balm that came with the traditional Superstay lipstick, it felt quite cloying and dry on my lips, much like the traditional one does when it’s almost ready to apply the balm – not quite as bad, but bad enough to persuade me to open my traditional lipstick and apply the balm section. After that, fine and comfy.

I took the first photo immediately after eating breakfast. There was no residue on the spoon or my tea mug. My lips still felt perfectly comfortable. So far, so promising.

Without taking either the lipstick or the stick of balm (or indeed, any balm), out with me, I then left the house for the day.

The second photo was taken shortly after lunch – at around 1.30pm (or 5-6 hours after application). Again, there was no staining on my cutlery or my wine glass. However, I was beginning to be conscious of the lipstick on my lips, and I believe you can see a very small amount of colour fade, at the inner edge of my bottom lip.

The third photograph was taken around 7pm (11 hours after application). At this stage, I had drunk a further cup of tea (still no staining) and had not applied any further balm since first application that morning. As you can see, the colour fade has intensified slightly – and I was slightly more conscious of wearing the lipstick.

The fourth photograph was take around 9pm, after having eaten dinner, and drunk a further glass of wine (purely in the interests of research you understand). Again, no staining on my cutlery, but a very slight smudge and a speck of lipstick on my glass. I feel this is reflected in a further fade visible in the photograph.

By this time, my lips were feeling dry enough that I bit off the merest flake from the surface, so I applied more lip balm, this time Nivea Pearly Shine (which is supposed to give a slight sheen to naked lips. It does, but I find the ‘slight’ is further towards the ‘vague’ end of the spectrum). Normally, the traditional lipstick does not fare well when used with a different balm – and as I so rarely find I need to use one, I try not to.

The last photograph of the day was then taken, after also having drunk a cup of hot chocolate (oh how I have suffered in the interests of being thorough). No staining on the cup and only a little further colour fade, which did surprise me slightly, given my comments above.

Before I took to my bed for the night, I again applied the balm from the traditional Superstay lipstick, instead of wiping the lipstick off, so that I could take a final photograph when I woke up. I won’t tell you what time I took the photo this morning, but it had definitely been on for over 24 hours at this point! As I think is clear, it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely still there.

I used to find that the traditional lipstick did not always last as applied for the whole 24 hours, but easily lasted all day out and about, and more than easily coped with a night out, without fading at all. It did occasionally require an extra application of balm, but this did not always help with the staying power of the colour however (especially, as noted, if I used a different one than supplied with the lipstick). My husband also has a full beard and moustache, which can be a bit of a wire brush on lipstick, so am quite happy that it does last overnight, if only in the style of old-fashioned lip liner by the time I wake up! People have stopped me in the street, or over lunch and/or drinks and complimented me on my lipstick and its staying power, and I’ve been happy to recommend the traditional Superstay range.

This new range seems on this evidence to be very close. There was slight colour fade during the day, but this was not obvious until after 11 hours after first application, and though I was conscious of it after 6 hours, it was not noticed by my companions sitting across the table from me. I would also note that the shade I was wearing was very dark, so any fade would be much more noticeable. On any normal day this would be perfectly acceptable, and more than acceptable for a night out. I would prefer however that the lip balm had not been dispensed with.

I will not be ditching my stockpile yet, and very much hope that this is not a replacement for the traditional Superstay range, but merely an addition to the Maybelline offering (they do, after all, offer an almost bewildering range of mascara too, all of which are also great). On the other hand, if this were their only Superstay offering, I would definitely stick with it. But perhaps I would also be keeping the unused balm sections from the traditional range, to use in conjunction”.

Thanks for the review Kat!  It’s a pity about the balm not being incorporated anymore …but I am looking forward to checking out the new range for myself very soon.

Do you use Maybelline’s Superstay range?  Do you have a particular favourite? Do share your thoughts, I’d love to know!

Linda x

Photo Credits:

Review photos – Kat Sparshott;  Pin & other photo – Linda Hobden

 

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An Interview With Canine Chic

In the past I have interviewed and been wowed by many jewellery designers – from pearls to silicone; silver to diamonds – we’ve read them all!  This week though we are talking about our lovable pooches and their jewellery needs  – yes, that’s right – jewellery for dogs!  My guest, Sarah Eyton is a designer and creative director of “Canine Chic of London”  specialising in pug pendants – luxurious and stylish identity pendants for dogs (and their owners).  I caught up with Sarah to find out more…. hi Sarah!

Hi! My name is Sarah Eyton (pronounced Eye Ton). I am a jewellery and fashion accessories designer from London.

What was the inspiration behind your choice to make pug pendants?

The idea came to me about a year ago, due to clients requests and realising a gap in the market. Within my profession as a jewellery designer, I had often been asked if I could work to varying types of commission. Several customers were asking if I could design and make personalised identity discs for their dogs’ collars. They were asking because they had searched everywhere for beautiful and stylish ID discs to adorn their loved ones’ necks but the search for them had not been fruitful. They’d looked and they couldn’t find anything that came close to what they were searching for – unique designer pendants that complimented or expressed their sartorial aspirations for their four legged friends. Equally important, they often wanted matching ones to wear themselves. They are called PugPendants because my first client was a Pug owner – the name just seemed sweet and appropriate.

Your pug pendants have been promoted by UK based celebrity dogs, including Marcel LeCorgi, Miss Marple, Monty the Frenchie & Coco the Frenchie. I’m fascinated by the Zodiac discs! To date, what has been your most popular pug pendant style?

Yes, I’m very fortunate to have attracted the support from some of the most famous dogs in the U.K! So far the most popular PugPendants are the individual star sign discs – most people know their Dog’s birthday and many owners are getting their own specific zodiac pendant to match. They make a lovely gift, as they come with a little printed scroll depicting the Personality traits of that particular Star sign.

Each piece is so lovely and unique – available in 24K yellow or rose gold plate with a crystal colour choice – where do you find inspiration from for the range of dog tag designs?

I am inspired by sacred geometry. The ‘Oracle’ and ‘Starburst’ PugPendant designs are both derived from this. Then I have fun with the colours of the crystals. Swarovski have such an amazing colour range.

As you are based in London, are your pieces available to purchase worldwide?

All PugPendants are shipped worldwide which is included in the purchase price.

Do you own a dog (or any other pet)?

I have a lovely cat called Eden! It may seem strange to design for dogs when I don’t have one but the truth is if I had my own – he would have been my model and my Muse, so I would never have met all these wonderful dogs and their Humans. They guide me a lot in the creative process by identifying what (in an ideal world) they would want for their furry friends and I can remain (slightly) objective.

You are also a “human” jewellery designer. Have you always been interested in jewellery or did you hope to follow a different career path whilst growing up?

I was a Professional Actress from the age of 14 till 26.
I thought that I would always do that, however in my mid twenties, my circumstances changed. I decided to do a Art foundation, which led to a BA Hons in 3 dimensional design and silversmithing at Brighton University. I consider myself fortunate to have been very involved in many aspects of design, from interiors to furniture and homewares. However, the last 8 years have been focussed on designing jewellery and fashion accessories, including handbags – and now dog apparel!

Your jewellery collection features a lot of Perspex bangles as well as other materials such as aluminium, precious metals, silver & gold. Why do you enjoy using Perspex, over other materials?

I love Perspex! The colours and its versatility. When I first started there wasn’t many fashion people designing with it and laser engraving was in its infancy. I felt like a pioneer and wanted to explore this arena. I wanted to change the impression people had of plastics being seen as landfill – obviously some is and that is a real problem! However, branded Perspex is about 3 x the price of glass, so I consider it a luxury material and treat it as such. As they are handmade, none of my pieces are mass produced.

Are there other canine chic pieces in the pipeline for the future?

So many ideas, so little time! I have a whole new range of products for dogs (and occasionally their humans) in production, mainly to be released in time for Christmas and next year.

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

I love heels but they have to be comfortable. I’m better with quite tailored clothes and have to look fairly smart for meetings etc but am more casual at home.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I pick up most pieces in the High Street stores like TopShop and Zara etc but occasionally get a versatile designer piece to dress things up.

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

I really need some smart winter day boots to walk around town in.

Boots or Shoes?

I’m afraid it has to be both. It’s a London weather thing…boots in winter and shoes during our short and unpredictable summer…
I like ankle boots to wear with jeans etc and higher boots with skirts.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Canine Chic and your own jewellery collection.

Canine Chic of London is on www.caninechicoflondon.co.uk also please follow on Instagram, as that’s where the day to day stuff happens @caninechicoflondon 

My Perspex jewellery and handbags is at www.saraheytondesigns.co.uk and on Instagram I am @saraheyton

Thank you Sarah! I’m fascinated by the zodiac pendants for dogs! I wonder if pets exhibit the same characteristics as humans born under the same star sign?! I don’t have dogs but I do have 2 cats who were both born at the end of July, making them Leos. You certainly know they are there, they enjoy being made a fuss of and they love being brushed …. hmm.. just like my Leo born husband and son! What star sign are your pets? Do they show any characteristics usually linked with that star sign? Do share your opinions, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photographs published with kind permission from Sarah Eyton/ Canine Chic of London.

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Introducing Hippomottie

Let me introduce to you Hippomottie – the Out of This World Learn To Dress Toy. Hippomottie is a pioneering space hero and along with her brother, Hippomotto, they love to help aspiring young astronauts learn how to get dressed! Also picture books are being published with exciting stories featuring Hippomottie.  Hippomottie is the creation of Amy Weaver and Pavel Komarov.  Whereas a lot of businesses/brands start in spare bedrooms or garden sheds – Amy & Pavel started their business from a cabin on board  a cruise ship!  Amy & Pavel are cruise ship crew members, working 10 months of the year sailing from Alaska to Aruba, Barcelona to Bermuda.  I was dying to find out how Hippomottie was created and also wondered how it fitted in with life on the ocean waves. So I was chuffed when Amy agreed to be interviewed… hi Amy!

Hi! My name is Amy Weaver and I live and work on a cruise ship for over 10 months of the year. Along with my ship-mate and colleague Pavel Komarov, we’ve created Hippomottie – Out Of This World Learn To Dress Toy, in our “spare time”, in between working 7 days a week!

What was the inspiration behind Hippomottie?

Our story is quite unusual and came about mostly by chance. I was helping Pavel to make a homemade Basic Skills Toy for a special little girl with cerebral palsy, who needed help with her fine motor skills. The rudimentary piece that we cobbled together included a variety of zips, velcro, laces and buttons. It was so well received by our little friend and everybody that saw it, that we were encouraged to start looking into producing them for sale on the open market. Fast forward the best part of a year, and suddenly we were elbow deep in a massive project that included a fact-finding trip to China to visit the factory that we had selected to manufacture our Space Hippo Learn To Dress toys, and culminated in a huge Internet marketing project on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter, where we successfully secured the funding that we needed to get the project off the ground, thanks to the generosity and faith of a lot of intrepid friends and strangers.

What are the benefits, characteristics & features of the Hippomottie toy?

Our Hippomottie and Hippomotto Toys have 12 unique learn to dress characteristics and 15 engrossing features in total, including Shoe Laces, Velcro, Clips, Belt, Zip, Dungaree Buttons, Regular Buttons, Pockets, and a Ribbon Bow, to keep curious young minds at play. Hippomottie aims to engage and educate all youngsters through play, and the sensory nature of our Hippomottie Toys will not just improve the co-ordination and fine motor skills of children, but amuse and entertain young ones for hours, as they discover each unique and educational element. They were created using similar concepts to world renown Montessori Toys, the idea being to help transform little ones into independent dressers, as they pick up and master all basic skills like zipping, buttoning and tying shoe laces. And there’s just as much fun in undoing it all, as there is in doing it all back up again.

 

Congratulations on getting this Kickstarter project successfully financed – how difficult was it to go from the drawing board to organising the manufacturing process? Was it difficult to find a manufacturer? Was it difficult organising the project from the confines of the ship where you both live and work?

The Kickstarter Crowdfunding Project was definitely one of the hardest things that I have ever done in my life! With the prototypes signed off in China, we set a very punishing timescale to get everything ready and go live on the Internet, which was made even harder by the fact that the entire time we were “At Sea” and struggled with basic elements like a good WiFi connection, or even a proper place to work. In between our demanding work schedule that includes twice weekly lifeboat drills, cabin inspections and long arduous shifts, we spent hours cramped on the bottom bunk bed, pouring over our computers, screaming at the internet connection and each other, over which fonts we should use or what the colour scheme be. In hindsight we could’ve saved a lot of time and heartache by outsourcing some of the tasks to professionals and freelancers, but being both stubborn, determined and poor, we did pretty much everything ourselves, the ultimate two-man band! And on the plus side the sense of satisfaction that we’ve designed, created and produced the toys all by ourselves is immense! After the funding was completed on Kickstarter we switched over to Indiegogo (another Crowdfunding website) and added a continuation funding page, to allow anyone who missed the original chance to buy their own Hippomottie Toy, to still secure one before they hit the shops.

In addition to the toy, you have just published a book, “Hippomottie Goes To Space” .. I understand there’s more adventures in the pipeline; so where did you draw your inspiration for storylines from?

With a bit more time on our hands after the major hurdle of Kickstarter was out of the way, we set about creating a way to thank all of our lovely supporters and so wrote the very first Hippomottie book! It was recently published in Ebook form on Kindle and is also available in paperback through Amazon. Writing a book has been another amazing adventure and I think now the only thing left for us to do is actually build a rocket and head into Space like Hippomottie herself does in the book!! We’re currently finishing the publishing of the next Title in the Hippomottie Adventure Series and the third book is under construction at the moment. We hope that it will help to bring the character of our toy to life and enhance children’s enjoyment of our toys. I’ve previously written a blog about my own day to day life living on a cruise ship (www.downtokokomo.wordpress.com) and as I have a very vivid imagination, writing children’s stories is right up my street. It’s the editing and uploading everything in the correct fonts and formats to Kindle that’s the gruelling part, something that Pavel thankfully excels at! We’re also lucky to have had lots of interesting adventures from our own lives to call upon for inspiration, especially with us living in a floating “hotel” travelling the seven seas.

Pavel and yourself are both cruise ship crew members – and have travelled around the world – do you have a favourite port of call? Is there any place left in the world that you have yet to visit that is on your bucket list?

We’ve been to a lot far flung places, from Alaska to Central America and the Caribbean to The Mediterranean. We’ve even crossed the Atlantic Ocean by boat a fair few times between us. I have to say that my favourite place that I’ve visited so far is Alaska. It’s so beautiful and peaceful, with stunning scenery and wildlife to boot. I will say that I’ve only been there in the summer though and I’m not sure those long, cold, dark days in the wintertime would be for me. The best “hot” destination that I’ve visited would be Bermuda, a stunning island with the softest pink sand and clearest water imaginable. I’m lucky to have ticked off most of the places on my “bucket list” but Japan still remains the waiting to be checked off one day…

Amy is the rider on the right, in blue sleeves.

Growing up, did you always hope to have a career connected with writing or designing or were your dreams directed elsewhere?

It’s funny how my life has turned out when I look back at it. As a child I was obsessed with becoming a Racehorse Trainer, something that I thankfully achieved at the age of 26. I spent 7 years successfully guiding many horses in to the winner’s enclosure, training winners in the UK, the USA, France and Denmark, before deciding that a slightly less demanding career might be in order for the second part of my life. I’m not sure that I quite succeeded on that front though, as I’ve packed so much into my “Plan B” that most days combining working on a ship whilst simultaneously creating a miniature Toy Empire, makes training a bunch of wild thoroughbreds look easy!

Where do you prefer to read – in bed, in a comfy chair, in a library surrounded by books or elsewhere? Do you prefer hardback, paperback or kindle?

When I do get some downtime (???) I do enjoy curling up with a good book and I’ve really enjoyed doing a lot of what I’ve labeled “research” lately, checking out a variety of other authors books. It’s taken me a while to convert to e-reading but even though I’m a late adopter of the phenomenon, I’m a fully signed up disciple now and love the fact that I can now take with me a mini bookcase of novels wherever I go and it won’t take up an ounce of my limited luggage allowance. Being that my favourite place to read is in bed. I also love that I don’t lose my place when I fall asleep, or get woken up when the book crashes to the floor after my tired hands finally relinquish the book to gravity.

Where can people purchase your Hippomottie toy and/or book? Are they available worldwide?

For anybody that would like to immerse themselves in our Hippomottie craze, the toys are still available worldwide to pre-order via Indiegogo for a limited time https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/hippomottie-out-of-this-world-learn-to-dress-toy-kids#/ and are scheduled to be delivered in November (just in time for Christmas!). The Ebook is avaliable on Kindle https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0752WDJPX/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_IT-Vzb8MPKPES
and the paperback version is on Amazon
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1549572709/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_FU-VzbF09577A
you can also just Google Hippomottie and you should find our website www.hippomottie.com with all our latest news and views.

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

I have to confess that fashion definitely takes a back seat as far as I’m concerned. I have many outfits in my wardrobe that could well be classed as antique in a few more years, I’ve had them that long. It’s a standing joke between my friends that I’ve the worst fashion sense in history and they always joke “What will Weaver be wearing?” before I turn up at any function. Owing to the fact that most of the time the ship is based somewhere hot, shorts and t-shirt would be the most likely outfit you’d see me in outside of work, but given a choice I’m a jeans and sweater kind of girl.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Thankfully I have to wear a uniform at work, but with a lot of help from my very trendy friends, I have been getting a bit better over the years and quite like Hobbs if I’m looking for something a bit more classy. For basics you can’t beat Primark for value and comfort. I like to shop online quite a bit these days, but I’m also lucky enough to visit some quite varied places during the ports of call, so can pick up some unique and wacky pieces to keep my friends entertained, if nothing else.

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

I’m currently saving up for a nice winter jacket as my next vacation from the ship will be in November, when I’m sure it will be very cold in Europe. Oh, and a hat and some gloves to go with it would be nice too…

Boots or Shoes?

I also love boots of any description, long, short, cowboy, I’ve got them all. And I’m sucker for a nice pair of heels, even though I can’t walk in them to save my life due to too many riding accidents in my younger days. One of my friends likes to say that I walk like a transvestite in heels, but that’s definitely doing a great injustice to cross dressers! Still they look pretty in my wardrobe and on my feet when I’m sitting down!!

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

Well that’s pretty much my entire life story. If there’s anything that you now don’t know about me, you can always follow me virtually anywhere on social media via the following links:

https://www.facebook.com/amy.weaver.1485
https://www.facebook.com/Hippomottie/
https://twitter.com/Hippomottie
https://www.instagram.com/hippomottie/
www.downtokokomo.wordpress.com

Wow Amy! Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed and I, as well as I’m sure my readers, are wishing your Hippomottie venture all the very best! The books look very colourful and appealing too! There could be so many Hippomottie adventures… Hippomottie goes camel riding, Hippomottie goes sandboarding, Cruising with Hippomottie …dear readers, what Hippomottie adventures could you imagine?! Do share, I’d love to know…

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Amy Weaver. 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Interview With Oscar Francis

My guest this week is qualified architect, Sarah Evans, who established her London based studio “Oscar Francis” in 2013. Sarah has a passion for architecture – using that passion and her creative flair, she has diversified into producing architecturally inspired prints and textiles.  I caught up with Sarah recently to find out more about her business, her passion and her forthcoming book too…. welcome Sarah!

My name is Sarah Evans. I live and work in London with my partner sand two children. I am an architect turned artist/illustrator. I started my own business in 2013 creating hand drawn artwork and digital prints almost entirely inspired by modernist architecture.

What inspired you to establish your studio, Oscar Francis?

The idea for the company grew over a period of time and was born out of a series of events, which prompted me to strike out on my own. The London office that I had worked in for 6 years closed due to the loss of a very large project and we all found ourselves out of a job. I was pregnant with twins and about to go on maternity leave so I knew then that I would need to find a new job in a new office and cover the childcare costs for two. I had always wanted to be my own boss so I began to work on what I called my “alternative” plan. If I didn’t go back to a new job could I set up my own company? So I began putting together a plan of what I wanted to do, of what I would like to do. I had a clear idea early on that I wanted to create an art label inspired by my love of architecture, but I had to figure out the ‘how’. I worked on it for 18 months before I launched the website.

Why did you settle on calling your studio, Oscar Francis?

When I decided to set up my company I initially came up with the name “Pattern Architecture”. I then realised that this could be limiting if I wanted to reach beyond the urban environment and explore other subjects. So I had a dilemma, I wanted to use a name that meant something to me but that also gave me enough room to move in another direction if I so wished. I felt that my name was too ‘ordinary’. My twin boys are called Oscar and Francis…and it just felt right!

The majority of your current collection focuses on post war modernist architecture from the 50s to the 70s. The range of products available varies from prints to wash bags, mugs to tote bags, cushion covers to tea towels. What products/prints are most popular with your clients?

When I started out I assumed that the printed textiles would be the lead product and the direction the company would go but the giclee art prints are the most popular by far – which I am really pleased about!

Do you have a particular favourite product or print from your range?

It’s hard to pick a favourite. Oddly the most popular, best selling prints become the ones you like the least because you see so much of them! I suppose it’s like a band with a hit song that they have to keep singing over and over again. My favourite work is usually the most recent I have produced so at the moment its my latest collection ‘Landmark’. These are all inspired by modern cultural buildings from all over the world. It’s the first mixed international collection I have produced. I am very proud of it.

On October 15th 2017 (November 15th for the US), your book “Modernist London” – 22 posters of inspirational architecture – will be released. As you have a passion for architecture & city/housing types, have you got a favourite place/poster?

My favourite piece from the new poster book has to be Croydon No.1. It made the front cover, and rightly so. It’s really striking and I enjoyed creating it immensely. The hand drawing I produced prior to the digital work took a ridiculously long time, but it was worth it.

People have travel bucket lists, but I would like to know, if you could travel anywhere in the world to view a building/housing/cityscape, what place would be top of your bucket list?

There are so many! If I had to name a couple they would be the Church of Light by Tadao Ando in Osaka, Japan and the National Assembly Building by Louis Kahn in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I will get there, I will.

Oscar Francis designs and products have been featured in a number of magazines such as Grand Designs, Elle Deco & Good Homes. Your products are also sold in a number of UK based boutiques and gallery shops. As you are based in London, are your products available overseas?

The shop is online only but we ship all over the world. We are building up the stockist list outside of the UK so its best to check in the ‘Where to buy’ section on the website. Here you will be able to see the latest information on stores near you that sell my products.

Growing up, what were your career aspirations? Have you always wanted to be an architect?

I wanted to be an artist. I had huge respect for the discipline of architecture, but I loved drawing and painting and thought I would study fine art. However, when I was considering further education and university I decided to try architecture. The argument being that this route was just as creative but might also open up a wider range of job opportunities. My late father was an architect and he was, of course, an influence in this decision. I had been helping out in his practice since I was 15 years old.

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

It depends what I am doing. This time of year, day to day, I am in fitted trousers or dark jeans and a jumper or blouse with heeled boots. I prefer classic and unfussy. I save my creative energy for my work.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I have a go to list of sites and blogs for everything from going out in London to cool homewares and interiors. Here’s a selection of my favourites: London on the Inside; The Nudge; Such and Such – interiors and homewares; An Artful Life; Laura Lea Design; We Built This City; RIBA – Royal Institute of British Architects; Design Milk Blog; London Design Festival; Indie Wire; Little White Lies.

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

A stylish raincoat. It rains a lot here this time of year.

Boots or Shoes?

Usually boots. London is only warm about three months of the year so boots of all shapes and sizes are preferred.

For pinning later

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

Web:
https://oscarfrancis.co.uk
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/oscarfrancisprints
Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/oscar_francis/
Twitter:
https://twitter.com/OFrancisLondon

Thank you Sarah and I love the fact that you named your studio after your twin boys!  My mum named her house years ago “Carlin” after my sister Carol & myself! Dear readers, have you ever named a business, house or boat after your offspring?  Have you got on your bucket list a building or other structure that you’d love to visit? I think the Taj Mahal is one building I’d love to see.  Share your views in the comments below, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission of Sarah Evans.

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An Interview With Bagsy Me First

A few years ago I interviewed Tink from Bedhead Boutique who made bags out of old vinyl records. This year I have discovered another lady who makes bags but this time out of books! My love of books and bags first attracted me to Kate Lowe’s website, Bagsy Me First.  In  June 2016, Kate was awarded #WOW Winner (Women In Business) and the award is well deserved too.These handbags are exquisite, and being inquisitive, I had to interview Kate to find out more. Welcome Kate…

Hello! I’m Kate, and I make purses, wallets and all kinds of bags out of books. (I do love books and I am very gentle with them, I promise. But if you shudder at the very thought of a folded page corner, look away now.)

What inspired you to launch Bagsy Me First!?

As a bookworm and inveterate ‘maker of things’ I was inspired by celebrity book clutches to evolve my own recipe for turning real books into bags. When people realise your bag is made out of an actual, for-real book… *Big smile!*

Where do you find the books to use to turn into handbags? Where do you source the fabric used for the lining?

I find books online and in second-hand bookshops/charity shops. Very occasionally a customer will supply a book. The fabric is from a local shop; sometimes online. It’s best to see/feel fabric up-close and personal.

You have an online shop and cater for custom orders. Have you had any unusual requests?

I’ve had custom orders for bags constructed out of gig posters and a ‘Goosebumps’ book handbag that lit up, for a stage show.

What are the most popular titles/authors requested/sold?

All the classics. And Harry Potter, of course.

What book are you turning into a bag at the moment?

Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ is on my sewing table right now and it’ll be a handbag tomorrow.

To start a company like this, you must have a love of books! What genre of books do you like reading? Any favourite book or author? Have you got a favourite book bag?

I have a weakness for vintage green Penguin paperbacks. My own wallet is made out of a 50 year old green Penguin paperback by John Dickson Carr (I collect his books) and using it daily gives me joy.

Do you read the books before they are turned into bags?

No, but I made it a mission to read some of them afterwards. If a customer wants a bag made out of a particular book then it must be special! I have a long list of handbags that I’ve now read, that I wouldn’t have read otherwise.

Growing up, did you always hope to have a career connected with books or were your dreams directed elsewhere?

Driving a mobile library around villages is something I’d love to have a go at. My ‘proper’ job is a graphic designer.

Where do you prefer to read – in bed, in a comfy chair, in a library surrounded by books or elsewhere?

Over breakfast with a cup of tea.

You are based in the UK, do you ship overseas too?

Yes; I have customers using my items in 30 countries (so far!) which feels pretty cool.

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

Mostly thrift-store dresses of varying vintage, and DM’s or pumps.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Vintage/thrift shops and second-hand book shops make me go ‘Oooh’ quite a lot.

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

A pair of trail shoes for X-country. Going to give it a go this season.

Boots or Shoes?

Can’t beat boots for comfort (and stomping!)

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

Oh, do come say ‘hi!’ Help yourself to a good ol’ rummage in my shop and if you fancy something made out of a particular book, just ask. The kettle’s on, and we have Hobnobs; welcome to Bag End!
http://www.bagsymefirst.com
https://www.facebook.com/bagsymefirst/
https://www.instagram.com/kate_bagsymefirst
https://twitter.com/Bagsymefirst

Did someone say “hobnobs”? Thank you very much Kate for joining us on the blog! I am having a hard time trying to think which book I would love to have as a bag… The Alchemist is a contender … and Lady Chatterley’s Lover … or perhaps, The Great Gatsby… dear readers, which books would you pick? Do share your thoughts, I’d love to know…

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Kate Lowe, except for the black & white pin later photo which is by Linda Hobden

 

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Destination Boa Vista

I have had Cape Verde hovering around the top of my bucket list for a quite a few years.  I was wooed not by photographs, as at the time I hadn’t seen any.  I only knew two people who had been there – both said it was very windy and not much there apart from sand. Neither showed much enthusiasm.  No, I was fascinated by these islands because of their location and they were “new” to the travel scene, fascinated as only a geography/travel/map geek could be.  Over the last couple of years, Cape Verde has crept into those holiday brochures – pictures of exotic pools with swim up bars, palm trees …. and I was sold. Sort of. What I didn’t realise was that Cape Verde was made up of 10 islands and the main “tourist” island was an island called Sal.  However, just south of Sal is the island of Boa Vista – just opening up to tourism – and that was the island I was lucky enough to be visit  in August this year.

Cape Verde lies midway between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, approximately 300 miles off the coast of Senegal in West Africa. The island of Boa Vista, nearest island to the African mainland, is the 3rd largest island, but it is still tiny, taking just under one hour driving from end to end  – roughly 240 square miles … the size of the city of Chicago, in fact.  The population of the entire island, according to the official Cape Verde website, in 2010 was just 8,564. In fact it is the least populated of all the islands – the capital of Cape Verde, Praia, is on the island of Santiago.  Most people on Boa Vista live in the capital, Sal Rei … in fact my hotel located in the extreme south of the island, the biggest Rui hotel in the world, was bigger than the villages and towns! 

Diego Gomes, a Portuguese explorer, discovered the Cape Verde Islands, way back in 1456 – they were all totally uninhabited. By 1587, Cape Verde became a Portuguese colony.  The Portuguese used the archipelago as a stopover for slave traffic between Africa and America. From 1620, slaves were employed in the salt mines – processing the salt in the mountainous areas, hidden from pirate attacks.  The salt pans are still here, although more common on the island of Sal, but the industry has dried up due to the technical advances in the industry in other parts of the world. Cape Verde declared independence in 1975. Today, the population is mostly a mixture of Creole, African & Portuguese … with small pockets of Italians, Spanish & Chinese. The signs are all in Portuguese but the people speak a Creole language – the atmosphere is pretty laidback and has a Caribbean vibe in Boa Vista;the other islands have a more European feel.  

“Inside” the airport’s departure lounge

Most people on Boa Vista work in tourism in some way – either in the hotels, as tour guides or souvenir sellers.  Date-farming too. The airport, the grandly named Aristides Pereira International Airport, was opened in 2007.  The International Airport on Sal has navigational runway aids (runway lights) and looks like an airport – whereas the airport on Boa Vista is on the edge of the desert, is open air and has no runway lights.  The flight time from the UK is just over 6 hours – the plane is not large as the airport is too small to accept the modern Dreamliner jets.  There are only 3 or 4 planes landing a day so long queues rarely exist! Expansion plans are already being made.  As Boa Vista is hot and dry all year round, having an open air airport isn’t really a problem apart from the fact that it is hot and shade is limited plus at the end of August/September is Boa Vista’s “rainy” season (short sharp showers about 4 days a year!) so if it does rain, you’ll get wet! The airport is located in Rabil, the 2nd largest town and former capital. Rabil is known for its pottery and the longest river in Cape Verde, the Ribeira do Rabil, flows through it. Well, it should on the map look as though it should flow, but in reality it was a puddle with some trees around it (planted in the 1990s).

My sons sand boarding in the Viana Desert

Boa Vista is known for the sand dunes and moonlike volcanic landscapes of the Viana Desert.  The desert was formed by the accumulation of wandering sand grains from the Sahara.  The sand dunes in this desert are vast. One morning we travelled to the Viana Club Restaurant for an early breakfast of “catchupa” – the national dish, a sort of corn stew, served with fried egg and spicy sausage – and a refreshing glass of iced hibiscus tea. We then hit the dunes for a sand boarding session. It was hot, it was sunny and it was lots of fun!

Me, on Santa Monica beach

Boa Vista has a stunning coastline – it’s most coveted beach is the Santa Monica beach (named after the Californian beach) which extends 18km from the island’s westernmost point to the southernmost point. It is said to be one of the top 20 best beaches in the world.  Currently, the beach is devoid of hotels but not for long as a large hotel resort/spa  is being built – due to finish in the next 5/10 years.  In a decade, Boa Vista will be unrecognisable – I’m not sure whether that is a good thing or not – on the one hand more tourism will help to raise living standards but on the other hand, Boa Vista will lose its uniqueness.

Launderette in Sal Rei

Cape Verde has only just been upgraded from Third World category to Second World category – it is still pretty poor.  When visiting the capital, Sal Rei, the “launderette” was a row of concrete slabs where women scrubbed their clothes as they have done for centuries.  My guide said that the Chinese have recently introduced washing machines  but they are not widespread as yet. Next to the washing area was the water station. Water is scarce on the island so people come to the water stations with their wheelbarrows to collect their daily water tanks. The richer people can afford to have their water delivered. Our hotel had its own water desalination plant for its needs.

Santa Maria

Another nice beach was in the far north of the island, renamed Santa Maria, after the MS Cabo Santa Maria, a ship that ran aground there in 1968. The ship was carrying gifts from the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco on its way to Brazil and Argentina – the gifts apparently included sports cars! Thankfully, the crew escaped unhurt and the goods were salvaged. The wreck is still there, just a rusty shell now, slowly crumbling away after years being battered by the wind and constant waves.

I was mesmerised by the waves – the Atlantic breakers were very powerful and during my stay the red flag was constantly flying. Managing to paddle, the water was as warm as bath water – around 28 degrees centigrade.  I expected the sea to be colder. That is not the only thing that surprised me about the temperature.  The climate is warm all year round – August to October are the hottest (and wettest months) and the temperature hovers around 32/33 degrees during the day falling to around 27/28 degrees at night – what surprised me was that it was such a humid heat – I had thought it was more a “dry” heat like I’ve experienced in the Mediterranean. The humidity was often around 80% which meant that the constant breeze was a cooling blessing indeed although it was a false blessing as the island’s location meant that the sun’s strength was equatorial, and Factor 50 liberally applied was needed.  Tropical island – but I didn’t see any mosquitos but I did see plenty of wandering goats and the odd cow! Sea turtles are known to nest on the shores, while the coastal waters are a route for migrating humpback whales.  

Boa Vista has a few mountains, the highest being Mount Estancia at 1,270 feet.  Cape Verde does have an active volcano – on Fogo – which last erupted in 2014.  On the slopes of the volcano Fogo coffee is grown …absolutely delicious! 

Route 66

The roads.  The road from the airport to the capital and the roads in the towns/villages are mostly cobbled. There is a small patch of tarmac, south of the island, which was built by the Rui hotel chain to try and establish a good route from the south to the airport and Sal Rei. However, it is not finished and quickly goes from tarmac to unmade road. Some routes are not signposted but are tiny tracks meandering through the desert, naked to my eye.  Drivers drive on the right but, to be honest, it really depends on which side has the least potholes. I didn’t see one private car – I did see a police car, a couple of motorbikes, quad bikes, tour guide jeeps, tour buses, buses and the odd truck and taxi.  Boa Vista has another American equivalent – they have a Route 66 too – the cobbled road doesn’t lend itself to smooth riding on a Harley Davidson though! 

Estoril Beach

Food & Drink.  The RUI hotel I was staying in imports all its food and drink from the Canary Islands.  This is quite a sensible idea because the island doesn’t produce enough to cater for the number of tourists staying at the hotels. However, it does mean that those people staying put only in the hotel miss out on discovering the island’s cuisine.  The national dishes are quite hearty – stew features a variety of meat and fish – I tried the octopus stew which was very tasty.  

Lobster at Morabeza Beach Restaurant

At the Morabeza Beach Bar Restaurant  we ate freshly caught lobster served with exquisitely cooked vegetables …and drank Coconut ponche and Cape Verdian white wine.  It is the first restaurant I’ve been to where you can eat with your shoes off, the floor is the beach, and reggae music is playing in the background. It was here we watched fire eaters do their thing and my sons had impromptu African drumming lessons!

Guest House Migrante
Library Guest House Migrante

Apart from the big Rui hotels, the island has a couple of smaller hotels, apartments and guesthouses – mainly on the beaches around Sal Rei. I stopped off at the Guest House Migrante – a delightful guesthouse with a distinctly European flavour with a bar/cafe attached. It is the grandest looking building in Sal Rei and they serve the most delightful coffee (from Fogo) and grog (Cape Verdean rum).   The guesthouse had a gorgeous library area and an inner courtyard.  In Boa Vista I found that when it came to food and drink, you should never judge a bar/restaurant by its outside look – inside these places are clean and the food is out of this world – ask the locals for restaurant recommendations too.

Like any place in the world, people’s viewpoints on the same place differ vastly, and not everybody is going to fall in love with a place.  Boa Vista attracted me and is now engraved in my heart because of its ruggedness, its beautiful desert scenery and the people are so smiley.  Where else would you high five the airport officers as you board your plane home? Where else would you see brightly coloured birds tweeting in the passport control area as you land?  Where else would you see miles of untouched white sand beaches not lined with hotels? The hotel was gorgeous and clean but to be perfectly honest, being by the pool, you could be anywhere hot and sunny in the world. What made the holiday was the chance to explore outside of the hotel.  Boa Vista is not like the Canary Islands, despite the glossy holiday brochure pictures – but perhaps in 10 years it will be. 

If you enjoy self catering, then Boa Vista isn’t the place for you yet.  In Sal Rei, there is a small working fish market and a small fruit/vegetable market & a couple of shops where essentials can be found.  

Street Life

If you enjoy walking from your hotel to restaurants/bars, pick a hotel close to Rabil or Sal Rei where you can walk along the beaches to beach bars.  The RUI Tuareg at the south of the island is in a fab spot but it is only surrounded by desert scrubland.  The hotel has plenty of bars though! Alternatively, look at the neighbouring island of Sal, which is more geared towards tourism.

If you can afford it, splash out on the trips either operated by your tour operator or by Giggling Geckos ( a tour company on the island)    and see the island away from the hotels.  Quad bike tours have been highly recommended too. 

And try the local grog … apparently after four shots you end up talking fluent Creole …..

Linda x

All photos by Linda Hobden

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Shopping Fairtrade Style

It’s September already and here in the UK, harvesting is in full flow.  It’s time to think about farmers around the world who toil endlessly – growing cocoa beans, coffee, cotton, tea, bananas, flowers.  I found out the other day that September is the time to celebrate all things organic.  When I think of “organic”, I automatically think of Fairtrade – The Fairtrade Foundation is the UK based organisation behind the Fairtrade trademark – although, to be fair, not all Fairtrade items are organic.

So, what is Fairtrade? Fairtrade is a global movement with a strong and active presence in the UK. There are over 4,500 Fairtrade products from coffee and tea to flowers and gold. According to Fairtrade’s website, their mission is “to connect disadvantaged producers and consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower producers to combat poverty, strengthen their position and take more control over their lives”.  Fairtrade’s vision: ” a world in which all producers and consumers can enjoy secure and sustainable livelihoods, fulfil their potential and decide on their future”.  Fairtrade has strict standards for companies, farmers & workers  as well as ensuring that worker’s rights are maintained, that payment is made of at least the Fairtrade minimum price and that extra money is given to reinvest in business/community projects of the community’s choice. By choosing to buy Fairtrade goods, you can positively help farmers, workers & their communities.

Buying Fairtrade products is easier than you think – products are on sale in supermarkets, independent shops, cafes, restaurants, catering suppliers & wholesalers, as well as online.  I’m lucky, my local village coffee shop/book shop is also the local mecca for Fairtrade goods from companies such as Divine and Traidcraft.  It’s great to see the crafts, products, jewellery and clothes – they make fantastic gifts and it is great to have a browse.

Divine chocolate – I love the plain dark chocolate but I am tempted to try the Dark Chocolate with Himalayan Salt! Divine is the only mainstream chocolate company 44% owned by the farmers who supply the cocoa!  Other Fairtrade chocolates include Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Green & Black’s Organic, M & S, Rawr Foods, Sainsbury’s “Taste The Difference” White, Dark & Milk chocolate bars, The Co-Op; Meaningful Chocolate Company, Raw Chocolate Company, Traidcraft, Waitrose “Seriously” & Belgian range, and Zotter Chocolate.

Traidcraft do some fantastic stem ginger cookies – I devoured packets whilst I was pregnant with my children ( ginger cookies and lemons/limes were my pregnancy cravings!)  Traidcraft itself has been at the fore front of Fairtrade since 1979. The company offers the widest range of fair trade products in the UK.  They even do Fairtrade wine – but I haven’t tasted it yet so I can’t comment.  I can recommend their range of spices, dried fruits and rices; their craft boxes, jewellery, socks, scarves are all pretty and make good gifts. Their clothing range is pricy but having said that the Fairtrade ethos is fair price to the workers and to be honest I rather pay a bit more knowing that the workers are not young children toiling under horrendous conditions to produce a t shirt. I know that they are getting a decent wage for their labours.

I have included some pictures of the Fairtrade items sold in my local shop … if you wish to find out more about Fairtrade or wish to shop/browse Traidcraft’s goods online, here are some websites you might find useful:

http://fairtrade.org.uk

http://www.traidcraftshop.co.uk

Happy Shopping!

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden

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Spotlight on Golden Lady

The Golden Lady Company is a hosiery company that was founded in 1967 in Castiglione Della Stiviere, Italy. The company boasts 12 production sites  located in Italy, USA and Serbia with an overall production of 400 million tights per year, distributed in 70 countries worldwide. The Golden Lady Company is, not surprisingly, the market leader in Italian hosiery with a share of 35% (according to their website) and a key player in all the major European markets including France, Germany, Spain, and England, through its subsidiaries and sales agencies.  That’s an awful lot of tights!

It’s not just tights that they specialise in – although their classic styles are well made and pretty ladder resistant – they also do a range of knee highs, socks and footlets.  Their range of opaque tights is amazing – you can choose from various deniers ranging from 60 to 200 – and last winter, there was “warmy” tights which were a thicker denier and polar fleeced tights which had a thin fleece lining inside.  I bought some of the latter for my husband’s gran for the winter months – she was delighted because they certainly kept her snug and warm, without looking bulky!  Fashion tights have ranged in the past from polka dots, sparkly silver & gold, ribbed, to lacy – ideal to wear under ripped jeans. I’m looking forward to seeing what the new season range will bring.

In the UK, you can buy the range from Asda supermarkets and  online from Golden Lady UK website. Golden Lady’s American brands are No-Nonsense and Hue – available from Wal-Mart stores. I have also discovered Golden Lady products online on Tights UK website and on Amazon.

Golden Lady UK was established in 1989 with its Head Office and Distribution Centre based in Nottingham.  Golden Lady UK are currently celebrating the launch of their new online service and are offering a free pair of socks with your first order. 

I have worn Golden Lady tights – opaques in winter – for a number of years and have found them long lasting, good range of shades, well fitting and the cost is reasonable too.  I’ve got my free socks… are you going to give them a try?

Websites:

UK:  http://goldenlady.org.uk

Rest of the World:  http://www.goldenlady.com

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden.  

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An Interview With Skipah

This week, gracing my “blog” is the man from Indiana – Gary Mathews (aka Skipah!) I have followed Gary’s blog since day one – from his life as a newly divorced father of one gorgeous little girl, trying to fathom out the legal system and trying to co parent successively; his life in Indiana; and now as a happily remarried newly wed! His style of writing is addictive reading – I’ve learnt a lot about Indiana, the Ohio River and Kentucky – and he always makes me smile! Gary is one “hell of a nice guy” … so, without further ado, come and meet the Skipah…

To say I was flattered when the World Famous Linda Hobden asked me to participate in her August blogging series, would be an understatement! Greetings everyone, I’m Gary Mathews or the Skipah from Skipah’s Realm. I’m the father of one beautiful young girl, stepdad to two others, and recently married the woman of my dreams, Miss Madison! The journey I’ve taken to get here is one for the record books!

What inspired you to start blogging?

The inspiration behind the beginning of my blogging career is one full of sadness and despair. I had recently been blindsided that my first marriage of 13 years was abruptly ending. As anyone that has been in that position knows your mind is going 100 mph and focusing on anything is an effort in futility. One day I just started screwing around on the internet and said “the hell with it” why not start a blog. I went self hosted from the start and it was the one thing I got to call 100% mine after the divorce proceedings had started. Three years later I’m still at it, albeit the doom and gloom is a distant memory.

So why is your blog called “Skipah’s Realm”?

When I was starting my blog I kept bouncing names off of my best friend. He finally came up with Skipah’s Realm. Skipah is my childhood nickname that I have never been able to shake. I actually wrote a post about the mysterious origins of Skipah. I’m 40 years old and probably still get called Skipah by half the people I interact with.

Being a blogger you need to have regular Interaction on social media. What social media outlet is your favourite and what is your least favourite? What social media tends to attract more readers to your blog?

Social media is a blogger’s best friend, worst enemy, and biggest distraction. My personal favorite is Facebook and I get a great amount of “real” views from it, my largest source of traffic though usually comes from Stumbleupon (which is iffy to call social media), and I do OK with Twitter. Facebook has become a way of life for me, I’ve met so many great people all over the world that I feel like if we ever meet in person I could just show up and ask for a drink and pick up on our latest online conversation. Also, there are some great Facebook Groups out there, and believe it or not this red blooded male has a whale of a time with this great group of ladies (and a few men) in a group known as Blog, Share, Love. They keep me grounded, laugh at my dumb jokes, and picked me up when I needed it the most when I lost my custody battle after my divorce. My least favorite is Pinterest, I don’t even know why I have an account there. Oh wait, I read somewhere in the Bloggers Bible that it was essential.

I know from following your blog that you do like your food and that you are a dab hand in the kitchen.  So let’s talk food … what is your favourite food? What food genre is your favourite when eating out?

My favorite meal has nothing to do with the kitchen. I’ll take a porterhouse on the grill seven days a week if my heart could stand it! When they put me on death row (if they ever catch me) for killing people with kindness, my final meal will be a crisp salad with ranch dressing, 22 ounces of Angus, and a loaded baked potato! I have been known though to make a killer manicotti if I must get the kitchen dirty. My favorite genre when eating out is by far any joint my south of the border friends have opened. I love Mexican food in all shapes and forms, plus the all you can eat chips and salsa always a great “free” appetizer!

I love reading about your road trips and local places that you visit – I’m getting knowledgeable about Indiana now! So, if you visit any place in the world, money no object, where would you go & why?

I have always had a fascination with Australia or New Zealand. I know those two countries bicker amongst themselves, but I would love to go to either place if life ever allowed me to. That little dot in the Atlantic Ocean known as Bermuda ranks pretty high up also. Why? I live in freaking Indiana, aka the Hoosier state! Hoosiers and all the other Midwest states have perfected the art of daydreaming over beach pictures and exotic places. Exotic locales for us consist of maple trees and maybe a lake. Plus the aforementioned places have local “fresh” seafood. I can’t eat this crap they call seafood in the Midwest!

A lot of bloggers I know are also bookworms …are you one?

I used to be a bookworm, not anymore – I just use books to level a dresser that is uneven. When I was a voracious reader though anything Tom Clancy was definitely a page turner for me. Michael Crichton and John Grisham were also some of my favorites along with true crime novels. True story, when I was 18 years old I read Helter Skelter in one night and couldn’t sleep the next day. Currently I’m reading “How to stayed married for longer than 13 years.”

Have you got a favourite style icon?

Fashion icon for me? Justin Timberlake….dude is a stud! I don’t know where he ranks in the fashion world, but in my next life I want to dress like him!

I like dresses from the 1950s; tunic dresses from the 1960s; the hippy styles of the 1970s; the colours of the 1980s … what decade of fashion are you drawn towards?

Without sounding sexist at all, I absolutely love seeing images of women from the 50s in their poodle skirts. Can you bring the poodle skirt back like Justin Timberlake brought sexy back? Fashion from 70s can go into some time capsule and never come back, granted I was only born in 1976 but I’ve seen the pictures. Bell Bottom jeans? Who thought this was a good idea?

What is your favourite colour?

Favorite color..err I mean colour is red. Although I’ve been told I look good in yellow, and my eyes are green. No I’m not some communist supporter with my love of red, my favorite sports team is the Cincinnati Reds, and I just like the color!

I have a passion for music- I listen to most styles – what genre floats your boat?

My music tastes are all over the place. I mean I grew up in the 80s so anytime I hear a good 80s jam I’m dancing like a white boy at a wedding reception. Classic Rock, top 40 hits, old school country I’m really up for anything with music. There is that slight obsession to Katy Perry that I should probably mention. It’s OK my wife knows about it and even scored us some concert tickets later this year.

Describe your perfect day.

My perfect day? Hmm, depends on the day I guess. A perfect day for me is waking up and my beautiful wife is next to me. My daughter is in her bedroom asleep, and my stepkids are bickering over what to watch on TV. Granted this would be in our beach side mansion in the Outer Banks, North Carolina or anywhere in the world that offers me fresh crab cakes.

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

Outfits and shoes? I’m 40, a dad, and from the Midwest. Since it’s August and the heat index can’t get over it’s addiction to topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius, I did my homework) you will find this chiseled hunk in a pair of cargo shorts, probably a T-shirt, and tennis shoes. If I’m feeling kinky I’ll wear my sandals. I’m so boring fashion wise, insomniac groups follow me on Instagram just to fall asleep.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Like most of the world I’ve been sucked into the Amazon world a time or two, but that is turning into an online Walmart now! If you turn me loose at kitchen store, like say, Williams Sonoma, make sure you hide your credit cards from me or it’s going to get ugly fast!

What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?

Next up for me in the clothing department will more than likely be some kick butt clearance deals on men’s clothing. It is usually how I buy my “nicer” clothes, and local retailers tend to run amazing deals in August to get the summer inventory out the door.

Boots or shoes?

Since I look ridiculous in boots I’m going to say shoes. Give me my trusty pair of Nike’s any day of the week! Although if I need to look presentable my dress shoe of choice is a Rockport.

What no more questions? I was just getting warmed up! 

You can follow Gary’s exploits on:

Skipah’s Realm
Twitter
Instagram
Facebook

Thanks Gary for being such a charming guest! I like the idea of bringing back into fashion poodle skirts too… dear readers, what fashion item from yesteryear would you like to revived and brought back into fashion? Do share your thoughts!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Gary Mathews.

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An Interview With Jennifer Koshak

This week I get to talk to the lovely blogger, Jennifer Koshak.  What do I like about Jennifer and her blog, Unfoldandbegin.com?  Jennifer makes me feel happy – her love of life and having fun is contagious – and we share the same motto, that “Laughter is the spice of Life”.  Jennifer has two cats, like me – however, she is allergic to cats! And, what’s more, her husband is a chef and chocolatier!  Hello Jennifer!

Hello! My name is Jennifer Koshak. I’m a blogger from Connecticut in the U.S. I used to work as an Operations Manager for Verizon Wireless until our office location was closed in March of this year. So, I’m currently blogging full-time (dream job) while also looking to see if there is a job that I absolutely WANT to have. For instance, I recently applied, but didn’t get interviewed, to a company that wants to bring coding education to kids in inner city schools. I don’t code which is probably why they didn’t even interview me. But coding will be important to future jobs and I would have loved to have been a liaison between the company and the schools.

My husband is a chef and chocolatier. At one point, we owned a chocolate shop where he made truffles and caramels and other delicious goodies using Belgian chocolate. My self-appointed job title was CET or Chief Executive Taster. We had fun naming chocolates like the Nutty Friar which was made with Frangelico and crushed hazelnuts. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, which was an 80% dark chocolate truffle and my absolute favorite, Sinfully Delicious which was a salted, chocolate caramel either in dark or milk chocolate. I would have rolled around in that stuff if I could have. To this day, I have never found a better tasting caramel.

I was also an active yoga teacher up until a few years ago. Then I started working full-time (having had the luxury of being a job/share employee and only working 25 hours a week at my company.) Because of the full-time work, I had to give up my yoga classes which were during the day.

You started your lovely blog, Unfoldandbegin.com, 4 years ago. What was the inspiration behind starting your blog?

I love to write. You can’t stop me. I write in three or four different notebooks each day. I buy notebooks and pens like other people buy books. I wanted to blog for years and actually did a couple of years earlier when I started a blog and then deleted it a few months later. Mind you, no one had even read any of my posts but I was afraid they would!

I found thinking up a blog title really difficult – I settled for something simple – but tell me, what made you go for Unfold and Begin?

At the time that I started my first blog, I called it Unfold and Evolve because I was writing about my yoga journey and what I was learning about myself. One of the reasons why I deleted it was because I felt the title was too pretentious—evolve? What right did I have to say that I was evolved? That’s how much I was getting into my own head about letting people know the real me.

So I deleted it and then a year later, I decided that Unfold And Begin was a better title. The “Unfold” part was of course, about opening up to others. The “begin” was that I was taking baby steps to put myself out there. That meaning has since evolved (ha…there’s that evolve word again) into trying new things—beginning something new, being open to learning, to trying and to your creativity.

Being a blogger you need to have regular interaction on social media. What social media outlet is your personal favourite? What social media tends to attract more readers to your blog? What is your least favourite & why?

Oh wow. This is a tough question. I love Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter but of the three of them, I guess Facebook must be my favorite, because I’m on it the most. I’m also starting to use Instagram more. I didn’t know what to do with it at first since it’s so visual and I’m a writer. But I’ve started learning. Stumble Upon, Pinterest and Facebook drive the most traffic to my blog in that order. I feel guilty about Stumble Upon because I don’t personally use it that much (and really just have a basic understanding of it.) So while it drives the most traffic it’s also my least favorite since I don’t really get it or use it that much.

What do you like most about blogging?

Besides the writing? I love “meeting” all the people I’ve met through blogging. I found a fellow blogger in the town that I live in (which is a very small suburban community) and we’ve met a couple of times at a local coffee shop to share blogging tips. I also like a lot of the blogging Facebook groups that I participate in. My favorite group is small and we’re like a family that is spread around the world. We’re all very friendly, support each other when help is needed and make fun of each other like only family can.

Apart from being a blogger, you are a yoga teacher and your husband is a chef and chocolatier… so let’s talk food… what is your favourite meal? What food genre is your favourite when eating out?

OMG! Food! I love food as long as someone else is making it for me. Not only is my husband, Chris, a chef, but he went to the same school (the Culinary Institute of America) that my father went to. As far as I’m concerned, men belong in the kitchen. Even my ex-husband was a cook in his father’s restaurant. Chris jokes (only it’s not a joke) that when he met me my refrigerator only contained milk, beer and condiments. When he opened the freezer it was all frozen dinners just lined up in a row.

Every Valentine’s Day, my husband rotates between my two favorite meals that he’s ever made me: Filet Mignon in a Puff Pastry or Lobster Newburg in a Puff Pastry. I don’t know why they are better in the Puff Pastry, but they are. Just to make this even more special….my husband is allergic to shell fish. He cannot taste the Lobster Newburg, but he makes the BEST that I’ve ever tasted (and that includes what my father used to make.)

As for food genre? I really have no favorite. While I grew up in a household that required you eat everything on your plate whether you like it or not, I have a different rule. You don’t have to eat anything you don’t like, but you do have to try it first before you can declare you don’t like it.

I know that you like trying new things, having fun and laughing – so, if you could visit any place in the world, money no object, where would you go & why?

Money is no object? That’s such a hard decision. I’d love to go to a lot of different places, including Base Camp on Mount Everest. But if I had to pick just one thing, I’d love to go on a safari in Africa. I love zebras. Their color and pattern just fascinate me and I would love to see them in their natural environment. Oh, but then I would also love to go to every beautiful, warm beach in the world.

Jennifer & her mum

Alot of bloggers I know are also bookworms… are you one? What genre of book do you like reading? What book(s) are you currently reading?

YES! I love books. I used to buy actual books, but I’ve recently downsized and found that I even gave up my beloved Harry Potter collection, because I’m a Kindle and Audible girl now. Have you heard the Audible versions of Harry Potter? They are fantastic. I used to eat mysteries and suspense for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My sister and I would share these books. Recently, I’ve gotten into biographies and seem to be interested in old film and comedy stars. I finished a biography of Dean Martin written by his daughter and an autobiography of Dick Van Dyke. I’m currently reading Jerry Lewis’ autobiography and since I like trying new things, I Dare Me by Lu Ann Cahn about her year of trying one new thing a day.
And yes, I usually have two books going at the same time. I have a different set of books on my Kindle than I do on my Kindle App on my phone. When I get stuck waiting, I can pull out my phone and when I’m curled up on my couch, I use the Kindle.

Have you got a favourite style icon, past or present?

Not really, when I was growing up though, I was fascinated by Twiggy’s look. And when I was in High School, the whole Annie Hall look. I wore a man’s suit jacket into school a couple of times.

I like dresses from the 1950s; tunic dresses of the 1960s; the hippy styles of the 1970s; the colours of the 1980s… what decade of fashion are you drawn towards? Which popular styles of any decade didn’t/don’t float your boat?

I guess I’m more drawn to the late 60’s/early 70’s flower child look. Jeans, flowing shirts and sandals. I hated the satin anything of the 70’s and the fakeness of the neon 80’s. I was more comfortable with the grunge of the 90’s.

Jennifer, circa 1980, in cords, jacket & platform boots! 

My favourite colour is green although glancing at my wardrobe most of my clothes are shades of blue! What is your favourite colour?

My favorite color is yellow. But it looks terrible on me. I stop in my tracks when I see someone with a yellow shirt or jacket. I did paint my living room a sunset yellow to make up for not being able to wear it.

I have a passion for music – I listen to most styles – what genre floats your boat?

All music except country. I love rock, soul, blues and New Orleans style jazz that’s a little heavy on the clarinet. I also love the old electronic music of the 70’s. Rick Wakeman’s Six Wives of Henry the VIII and Bo Hansson’s Lord of the Rings. Isao Tomita’s Snowflakes are Dancing album blew my mind. It’s this electronic music that I listen to when I’m writing.

Describe your perfect day.

Is this real or fantasy?
Real, up by 5:30am and writing for a couple of hours then going to the gym on some of the days, then writing or social media, throw in taking care of my mother throughout the day and some self-care like a mani/pedi or massage or reading or even an afternoon movie. Fantasy, that gym would be replaced by a warm beach.

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

Yoga pants, jean shorts or anything similar and Birkenstock sandals or Skechers in the summer. Jeans, fleece and LL Bean wool clogs in the winter…unless there is snow on the ground, then it’ll be Merrill ankle high hikers. (When I eventually move south to a beach town, the winter options won’t be needed.) I was in a car accident a couple of years ago that left me with severe back pain when I stand too long. I’ve found that the Birks and the Skechers are my best options for providing additional support.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

You mean besides Amazon for moleskins notebooks? I’m a fan of Zappos, get most of my shoes through them. Although it might not seem like it, shoes are important to me because I need to wear the ones that will support my back the best.

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

I need to buy a new pair of Birkenstock sandals.

Boots or Shoes?

Neither. I’m all for sandals as you may have noted. Although, before the accident I liked to hike and once this back is healed, I will hike again. Then Merrill hiking boots are added to the list.

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

Blog: http://UnfoldAndBegin.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/unfoldandbegin
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/UnfoldAndBegin/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unfoldandbegin/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/unfoldandbegin/?hl=en

Thanks Jennifer for chatting to us!  I must say I adore chocolates and I would have loved to have tried the Sinfully Delicious – dark chocolate with salted caramel just sounds like heaven to me. I would love to be a chocolate taster sampling different flavours. My favourite place to eat chocolates is in bed, with a good book ( and  with my husband by my side sharing them too! :)) So, dear readers, do you like chocolates? What flavours would tickle your fancy? Do you eat chocolates in bed too?  Do share your secrets…

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission of Jennifer Koshak

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