All posts by Linda

An Interview With The English Cream Tea Company

There’s nothing quite like an English Cream Tea – it’s an indulgence that is worth every penny and an experience that I recommend everybody to try at least once.   My guest today, Jane, epitomises the spirit of the traditional English Cream Tea – and through her company, she has extended the experience into people’s own homes, picnics and even overseas.  Grab a cup of tea and settle down whilst I introduce Jane to the blog… hi Jane!

Hello – I’m Jane Malyon. My husband Roger and I are the parents of 2 amazingly spirited lads, one of whom is an ‘advertising creative’ in Toronto, Canada and the other has the exciting job title of Cirquador. That means he travels the world as a team member of Cirque du Soleil. It also means we travel in his wake, trying to catch up for hugs, in between visits to Toronto. I’ll go a long way for my hugs you understand!

The English Cream Tea Company is a brilliant idea – what inspired you to concentrate on promoting the quintessential English afternoon cream tea and picnic hampers?

Roger and I have run an outside catering company for 35 years, with ancient (Tudor) Pledgdon Barn as our venue near the Essex/Herts border. I have also been an NLP coach helping people to get on better and communicate well…and a balloon artist, pianist, author of 2 books and public speaker (including a TEDx talk). However, in 2011, I had a chance meeting with an elderly lady who loved afternoon tea (like I do!) but could no longer travel to great hotels for her favourite treat. Suddenly the mental lightbulb went off and The English Cream Tea Company was born. My thinking was that if this lady could no longer travel to The Ritz or The Savoy, could the afternoon tea experience travel to her instead? I contacted the companies who move human organs around the UK for transplants and asked about their technology for keeping it all safe, in perfect condition and chilled – and then copied it! We now send indulgent and authentic fresh afternoon tea and English picnic hamper boxess UK wide – and have an ambient (shelf-stable) range of products, gifts, corporate gifts, teas and jams for retail, post and export. It’s been an absolute adventure bringing all this to life and every day the roller coaster continues (with downs as well as ups, of course).

do love an English Cream Tea.  I love clotted cream & strawberry jam on my scone. I did read about a man on Twitter who loved his scones with cream & lemon curd (I must try that out one day!) Do you have any personal favourites when it comes to a cream tea?

I must have had 100 interviews since starting the company, including the BBC a few times – and the two questions I am most asked are: is it pronounced ‘ scone ‘ or ‘scon’ …and is it cream or jam first. Only the TV crew from Russia surprised me by asking: “Jane, what is builder’s tea?” !!

Our best sellers are our Fresh Afternoon Tea for Two hamper delivered to your door (Best. Gift. Ever!) and our award winning Double Chocolate Brownie. However, out of our range of absolutely delicious preserves (truly lovely – I kid you not), our Lemon Curd with Passionfruit is actually the best seller – and lots of people enjoy it with clotted cream and scones – though Strawberry is the nation’s favourite with English Cream Tea. My own favourite is our Raspberry and Blackberry Jam (with clotted cream too) – and as I’m an Essex girl, I can apply the cream/jam in any order I like. It’s only in Devon/Cornwall where you might be escorted from the county for doing it the ‘wrong’ way round (hint, jam first for Cornwall, jam second for Devon!). We actually gained the Guinness World Record for the largest English Cream Tea party (featured in the 2013 album) – but Devon were not happy at all that the record went to Essex!

Sandwiches feature in an English afternoon tea & hampers – I do so love an interesting filling – but what fillings tend to be most popular amongst your customers?

When selecting our main range of sandwich fillings, we felt it was important to have Smoked Salmon with lemon (classic and delicious) and of course Cucumber (with cream cheese). The cucumber sandwich has represented wealth since Victorian times because only the rich could have the hothouses and teams of gardeners to produce them! They are quintessentially associated with an elegant teatime array and we couldn’t leave them out. After that, we chose a cheese and relish sandwich and an egg mayonnaise with cress – because they’re both vegetarian. Our range fits with many Indian and Jewish customers as well, whereas adding Ham sandwiches or other meat based options, changes that. However – we do get special requests which we try to meet and we also occasionally offer ‘special edition’ hampers with other cake and sandwich options (including Coronation Chicken). We’ll be offering a new Royal Wedding hamper soon with different treats inside! Keep an eye out on our site. We also run competitions on our Facebook page, one of which was to invent a new sandwich – and the winner’s was made and delivered to them. (In case you’re wondering it was Turkey, Goats Cheese, Watercress and Cranberry Sauce – yum!)

Your scones are delicious and I do love the idea of the xscone mixes so those who are not quite so clever at baking scones from scratch can have a go (especially the chocolate version)! What inspired you to produce the mixes? You also have a range of jams & chutneys – have you plans to introduce new flavours in the future? 

Creating new ideas and products is my favourite part of running the business BUT I have to keep myself in check. Developing any new line is actually very costly by the time the packaging, labelling, bar codes etc are added. Having said that, there will be new hampers for the corporate and gift market this year plus two new Tea Blender’s Kits…oh, and the Royal Wedding hamper….but I really must restrain from adding too many new lines. Sigh 😀

As you are based in the UK, are you able to ship products overseas? 


After launching in 2011 via that Facebook page initially, on the very first day we received enquiries from 5 other countries all asking if they could have Fresh Afternoon Tea hampers delivered too. We were shocked and er, no – we can’t quite get our freshly made scones, clotted cream, cakes, sandwiches, shortbread, brownies etc all the way down to Australia within 24 hours. So we developed gift tins embodying the treats of cream tea without the cream (but including our own Scone Mix) to be able to send out this beloved traditional treat in some form at least, world wide. English Heritage stocked our Festive Scone Bake Kit last Christmas (that came with marzipan holly and berries to go on top of your completed scones!).


We also include etiquette tips with most of our products, keeping the British traditional teatime manners going! I have videos on YouTube and Instagram etc about that aspect (and answering the Scone/Scon question) – and these seem to attract a worldwide audience (not to mention Trolls!). Indeed, every time there’s a Royal event here or Downton Abbey is aired, there’s more interest still. Apparently Nelson Mandela said that Afternoon Tea is Britain’s greatest export. Well said Sir!

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

In terms of clothes, I wear trousers almost 100% of the time. Actually take out the ‘almost’. I like winter clothes best eg jackets with structure – and still mourn the waning of the padded shoulder (but perhaps it’s making a come-back!). Love a bit of colour too and am known for wearing red, which is our main corporate colour.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

Location-wise, I do most of my shopping in Toronto. That sounds so much more jet-set/international than the reality. When I’m in the UK I almost never get the chance to do personal shopping – so it’s only when we’re visiting our son in Canada that I’ll get that chance. I head to the Hudson’s Bay Co (a little like John Lewis) and lose myself in the trying-on process. Bliss.

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

My next purchase (though really, I probably already have outfits that would quite suffice) could be an evening jacket as hubby and I celebrate our Ruby Wedding Anniversary this year and plan on enjoying a very special dinner out. Yay. That 40 year anniversary bit obviously also demonstrates that I had my lightbulb idea about starting The English Cream Tea Company, somewhat late in the day. But never say never, ladies! I didn’t know anything at all about retail/export/packaging/distribution or trying to build an iconic brand. However, I was certain I’d be very, very cross with myself for not giving it my best shot, so it simply had to be! With the loveliest team of Scone Gnomes, designer, web guru and more, the adventure continues….except now you’ll know that inside my oversized boots, there are little wide feet trying to keep me grounded!

Boots or Shoes? 

I absolutely love boots but possibly not for the usual reasons. I have spectacularly wide and short feet and most shoes won’t stay on – but boots are the solution. This is because I often buy 2.5 whole sizes too big to accommodate what nature gave me foot-wise. My feet would come out of shoes that were way too big but boots are more forgiving. One of our darling sons has offered to have a ‘last’ made for me so I can have made-to-measure shoes…which sounds amazing! Bless.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about The English Cream Tea Company.


Jane’s top ten tips on English Cream Tea etiquette!


(AND someone made a spoof of that last video – hilarious: Spoof videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVXVdPBxipk)

Mmmm..simply delicious! Thank you Jane for making our mouths water!  Your business is simply delightful …and as far as Scone or Scon goes….I say “Scone” ….

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Jane Malyon & The English Cream Tea Company

 

 

 

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Sewport

This week I’m delving behind the scenes in the fashion industry to find out all about garment production from an idea through to a production run.  As a person who loves the end product, I was intrigued to find out what processes were involved and just how easy (or how hard) was it to get a sketched idea  manufactured. Luckily enough, my guest this week, Boris, founder of Sewport, was able to provide the answers for me …. Hi Boris!

Thank you for letting me share this with your audience, Linda. I’m  Boris Hodakel, 31, founder of Sewport. I’ve been doing different things in my life but my heart settled years ago when I started working in the fashion industry. I mean, in garment production. Especially living in London, which is a mecca for certain styles and fashion of its own, you get to see so much more than lies on the surface. Sewport started off as a full cycle production service 3 years ago with our own factory working with emerging brands and start-up. It felt like we needed to move on to something bigger. Built a platform to become something else. We used to turn down a lot of people because what they needed was not quite our profile. By thinking that we would still like to help them find what they are looking for, we became an online place where hundreds of clothing brands and garment manufacturers connect with each other. Why should we stand in the way of progress? Our idea is to allow people find more than one option at a time and in one single place. Finding services and companies to launch a product is extremely hard, now there is a one-stop show for everything but with many more possibilities.

What inspired you to launch your business, Sewport?

I was inspired by the Internet of Things and the digitisation of everything. Technology is all around us. We need to allow it to assist or even drive our everyday activities. And then, if we can, bring technology and innovation to industries and areas where it has never been before, we should. Luckily, living in a tipping point era of everything digital, it is so easy to imagine how an online service can improve a certain area of our life or business.

Hypothetically speaking, if I was a fashion designer with just an idea & looking to develop the idea further, what stages would I need to go through to make the finished garment a reality? What services would you be able to offer me?

A fail-safe experience is to have the idea finalised first. You will need to push yourself to as much extent as you feel you are capable of to describe and maybe even draw it technically. It is ok if you can’t  draw that well though, as anything goes and the “Idea”  stage. Sometimes when people build their idea they forget the more important details like pockets, buttons, zips, lining etc. If you feel you can’t do it or the idea is vague or the design is not complete you can always choose to work with a Designer / Technical Specialist freelancer who can help you get that idea production ready. We have plenty of such specialists on our platform preparing documentation, drawings and size specs for brands. A clothing manufacturer will ask certain questions about the design to understand all details anyway. And its good that you will have some of these answers already put down on paper. So, we are done the “Idea” stage … now it gets simpler. You will need to have a sample made. You can do this either with a small sampling studio or get it done with a manufacturer before bulk production. There are factories who can take care of all the details: fabric, trims, printing, embroidery, labels for you. Once a sample is approved and you are happy with the fit, you are ready to go. Sewport has an array of companies, freelancers and service providers for just about anything that might be required on route from Idea to completed product.

Out of all the services you offer, what ones seem to be most popular amongst your clients?

Tech Pack (for those reading who do not know what this is, it’s a Blueprint for your design) making by Freelance designers. Only because it’s the first step, the first tier. As with emerging designers or generally start-ups they might find that they want to change the idea completely, or they trial different designs and pick the best ones. Also, some people never go ahead with bulk production as they find out it’s not as cheap as they thought it would be. But for any garment manufacturer to give a more or less accurate quote, a tech pack is needed.

One of your core goals is to help provide affordable manufacturing services. Why is there is a high minimum order quantity imposed by most manufacturers, and how are you able to offer a more reasonable minimum quantity run?

Good question. The reason that most companies have high MOQ lays in the process of manufacturing. A lot of preparations and procedures which can make production in low quantities either too expensive per piece or unprofitable for the manufacturer. That is why when a manufacturer offers production minimums they just try to make it mutually beneficial and in a quantity, that will make sense to both parties involved. What is different about companies on our platform is that some of them are also small businesses who understand the ways or emerging brands and are ready for their small orders, as they do not need to maintain a workforce of hundreds of workers and tens of different departments. Also, servicing companies on Sewport know that most of the brands want lower quantities. Above all, brands write what sort of quantity they are looking for, and manufacturers write the same in their profile so we are matchmaking them for a better success rate.

Searching for the right fabrics to highlight the designs is a task in itself. Does Sewport offer help and expertise in sourcing fabrics?

We have fabric agents, fabric mills, and factories who will be able to help with this step too. We do encourage people to participate in this, as it’s important to feel the fabric, get to know the fabric so one can not neglect fabric shows and fabric shops – unfortunately having the ability to touch fabric through a computer screen is not something we will see in the nearest future.

You have had many years of experience in the fashion industry. What do you enjoy most about your career?

It is just so rewarding to work alongside creative people who have imminence drive and passion for what they do. It’s never routine or mundane as fashion changes very quickly and there are always new things to learn and explore. And it’s not just me, some colleagues we work with are  experienced veterans and even they would from time to time say “we have not tried this yet, but let us see how it goes”.

Growing up, what career aspirations did you have?

Something serious, corporate, suits. I’m so grateful for the opportunity in life and my wife who supported me to escape the formal office life of the 9 to 5. If you don’t wake up excited and go to sleep anxious that tomorrow is another day in the rat race, you definitely need to shout stop and think where your life is taking you as obviously, you are not taking your life to where you should, if you know what I mean.

As you are based in London, are you able to help designers that are not based in the UK?

Definitely. We have people from all around the globe. It does not matter where you are located. We have customers from Australia working with specialists from the USA. Our goal is to provide really thought through tools to help them facilitate this relationship, and by the location of these deals, people close on our platform – seems like we are doing a really good job.

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

Working in garment production has really changed the way I dress. Buying clothes has become sort of complicated. If you know production you start to look at all the threads hanging out, if seams are dense and straight, the type of fabric, the composition of the fabric is very important. I’m not a big fan of fast fashion, as I believe slow fashion is the way to go. Someone told me once “I’m not rich enough to wear fast-fashion garments”. You end up buying and buying and in the end, you spend more than you would on a good piece of clothing that will last for years. Some people support a really bad trend of buying cheap low quality but trendy clothes and as these garments become quite shabby after a couple of wears and washes they just throw them out. These shopping habits are the reason behind low work standards at factories, use of child labor, sweatshops and that some clothing manufacturing companies in the UK and Europe close down under required price production pressure. Most of the larger brands do not care about these things as they only chase higher margins and they are not concerned with where it takes them. And then, there is the fact that you better know what sort of margins these are. How would you feel buying a shirt for 50 when you know it costs 10 to make. But then there are marketing costs, shop space rental costs… I choose simple designs, natural fabrics and preferably EU/UK made.

Do you have any favorite shops or online sites?

I shop the same brands, mainly online.  Some items I get as perks from working in the industry from suppliers and other manufacturing companies I keep good relationships with. I don’t want to advertise. Certain brands tend to capture the fit of one’s body shape better than the others.

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

Just some loafers for the summer.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots. Never know where my life takes me, so better stay comfortable.

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

https://sewport.com

https://facebook.com/sewport

Twitter: @sewport

Thanks Boris for such a detailed and interesting response.  I never realised before how being involved in the garment industry, like you are, could affect the way you dress and pick outfits – but it does stand to reason.  Your enthusiasm for Sewport shines through, Boris,  and I hope it continues to do so – you have a gem of a company there 🙂

Linda x

All photos/pictures ( apart from the photo for pinning) have been published with kind permission from Boris Hodakel of Sewport.

The photo for pinning is by Linda Hobden.

Share This!
Pin It

Spotlight On Pharmacy Movement And Krumping

So what has dance and pharmacy got in common?  Well, my interview guest this week, Professor Arun Nadarasa, has an aim to close the gap between the health and well being component of patient care enhancing the use of social prescriptions. The Professor has written a book “Pharmacy Movement”, with the message that medication is not always the answer to every disease. Where does the “Krumping” come into it?  Well, this professor also happens to be a Krump Performance coach too…. Hi Arun!

Hi! My name is Arun and I am a pharmacist by trade where I started working since February 2013. I did my degree at the University of Bath from 2006 till 2011. My passion is Krump dance which I started in April 2008. I was born in France and I moved to UK in 2002 with my parents and my two younger sisters. My ethnicity is Srilankan Tamil.

What inspired you to write your book “Pharmacy Movement”?

The inspiration started when I came across the NHS Five Year Forward View at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Annual Conference in September 2016. The speaker talked about bridging the gap between health and wellbeing. This then made me reflect on Pharmacy being Health and Dance being Wellbeing. I was then trying to come up with a cool name for the combination of both like Dance Pharmacist, Creative Pharmacist but Movement Pharmacist stuck with me since movement is the basis of dance.

What is Social and Digital Prescribing?

Social Prescribing involve recommending non-medicinal activities (like dance, music & singing) to patients to improve their social connectedness since social isolation is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Even a Minister of Loneliness was appointed in UK to tackle this national problem. In contrast, digital prescribing involve recommending mobile apps to patients leveraging their daily usage for empowerment of their habits and mindset. For instance, Headspace is great to learn meditation and others include the number of calories consumed daily as well as quality of sleep.

Although you studied Pharmacy at the University of Bath & you are a community pharmacist; dance features quite heavily in your life, especially Krump dance. Now, I must admit I had to google “Krumping” … can you explain what Krump dance is?

Krump is a street dance which combing both ballet and boxing. It was created in 2001 by Tight Eyez and Big Mijo in Los Angeles as an outlet to express their frustrations and escape gang culture. It stands for Kingdom Radically Uplifted Mighty Praise as it was commonly used as a praise dance in churches. It is now present in 95 countries and European Buck Session (EBS) is the World Championship of Krump Dance held in Germany annually since 2008.

What attracted you to “krumping”?

The energy it gave off. I started Judo at the age of 7 and I gained my black belt at the age of 18 under the mentoring of Basil Dawkins from Moberly Judo Club in London. Since I have loose ligaments, I kept getting knee injuries whilst at University as I was training with the judo team there. It was the same of Breaking (also referred as Breakdancing) which I started in 2006, since it focus heavily on legs, I was getting injured frequently whereas Krump is predominantly upper body based so I made the complete switch in December 2009.

What are the benefits of “krumping”? Could the same results be applied to other forms of dance?

It is very therapeutic since it requires lots of stamina and grit, your body become toned very quickly and improve your stamina considerably. It is also useful in releasing not useful emotions through dance which lead me to set up a charity called “Krump Save Lives”. Yes, dance is recognised to have rejuvenating properties and increase longevity for practitioners along with music and smiling.

You spent 16 months, invested over £10,000 and interviewed 24 world experts on getting your unique book out there – are you pleased with how the book, Pharmacy Movement” turned out? Was being an author harder than you expected? Would you consider writing more books?

Yes definitely, the UK Prime Minister has a signed copy of my book and the Queen of England acknowledged my book. It also lead me to give a speech in Paris about the benefits of Social Prescribing within the medical sector. It was definitely a learning curve, the beginning was the hardest for sure but thanks to my family and friends’ encouragement, I kept going. Yes, I have 6 more books planned within the Krump industry.

Is Krump Dance therapy suitable for everybody?

Yes, Krump dance is universal, as long the dancer don’t have a medical contra-indication like osteoporosis or a heart condition, then it’s fine. I did my first Krump dance class with Parkinson patients back in June 2017 which was an amazing experience. Children as young as 2 years old can start Krumping. The oldest Krumper in the world is Old Skool in USA who is over 70 years old.

Although you are based in the UK, is your book available to purchase overseas?

Yes, it is available on Amazon as a hard copy as well as a Kindle edition.

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

When it comes to Krump, I like wearing Jordans which is common within the Krump culture. Krumpers tends to wear black t-shirts which can have Krump designs and normally I wear black jeans. For professional networking events, I normally wear either my blue, red or black suits to maintain my brand.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I normally buy directly from the Krump Clothes designers when I travel to support the Krump economy. I am a massive fan of Starbucks as it boosts my creativity on what I can do for the Krump and pharmacy sector. Amazon is another website I normally use to buy personal development books.

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

I would love to wear smart clothes, those which can measure your heart rate and related health metrics. For shoe, I envision that there will be a dedicated Krump brand for shoes which will elevate the Krump economy by fellow entrepreneurs.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes since it is easier to dance with them especially when it comes to Krump footwork which can be very fast so weight plays an important part. The sole needs to be thick enough to absorb the impact of the stomp. It needs a fine balance between the two.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Pharmacy Movement & Krumping 🙂

www.pharmacymovement.com

www.udemy.com/moolkrump

www.arunnadarasa.com

@ArunNadarasa for Instagram

@MovementPharma for Twitter

“Professor Arun Nadarasa” for YouTube

You certainly kept me entertained Arun, although I’m not sure I can Krump, I can certainly appreciate how dance/movement in general can help maintain our health, especially as we get older.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Arun Nadarasa.

Video link from YouTube, as recommended by Arun Nadarasa

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Leslie Brooks

From Australia last week to the USA this week, and I’m pleased to welcome onto my blog the vivacious Leslie Brooks, US model, TV & Radio personality, social media influencer, Shatterproof Ambassador and mother of 3!  This lady has tons of energy, very smiley and very stylish …. and I had tons of questions to ask her! Hi Leslie!

 

Photo by David Sigal

Hi! My name is Leslie Brooks. I currently live in Columbus, OH. I grew up in Dayton, OH and went to college at Ohio University where I received my Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. After graduating I was discovered by a modeling agent in Louisville, KY and began my modeling career. I consider myself a semi-retired model now taking jobs in print work, commercial work and tv hosting. I am also a mom of 3 (my favorite job ever 😉). I am a social media influencer on Twitter with over 145k followers. I also work as an Ambassador with the nonprofit Shatterproof organization.

What does the charity Shatterproof do and what does being an ambassador entail?

Shatterproof is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the devastation addiction causes families. As an Ambassador I am part of a national network of volunteer peer leaders, educating and empowering others to learn about and support Shatterproof’s mission. Ambassadors are committed to promoting the Shatterproof vision and representing the organization. This is a very personal mission to me. Sadly I lost my only brother to addiction when he was only 32, and in 2013 my father committed suicide after years of struggling with the disease.

You have been modelling for over 20 years. What inspired you to become a model? Has their been any noticeable changes in the field of modelling since you first started?

Growing up I was always a tall, skinny girl. But with big hair and braces, I never quite felt attractive. However in 1997, an agent named MJ Kaufman approached me about modeling. I guess being tall and skinny was actually a blessing 😉. So much has changed over the years of modeling but most notible is the introduction of Social Media. Now men and women who may never have had an opportunity to model are being discovered via Instagram and Snapchat.

Being a social media influencer, you need to have regular interaction on social media. What social media outlet is your personal favourite? What is your least favourite & why?

My favorite social media outlet is Twitter. A few years ago an agent from LA recommended I use Twitter to build a brand and following. I started out with about 200 followers. I quickly learned how much fun Twitter is and began to gain a large following. I love being creative and telling jokes so this has been a great forum for me to be connected to thousands of people all across the world. My least favorite outlet is Snapchat. I just can’t quite get into it. Although my preteen daughters are pros. Ha!  

Photo by Jackie Goudy

You are a mom to 2 girls and a boy – would they like to follow in your footsteps and become models/TV personalities or have they got other plans? What do you like best about being “mom”?

My daughters are 12 and 11. My oldest would love to follow in my footsteps and either model or act. I also have a son who is 7. Currently his career goals are to be a male model and then a zoo keeper. Ha ha! Being a mother has been my most challenging yet most rewarding job ever. I always wanted to be of service to others, it just so happens I get to be of service to my own children. Helping them navigate their way in the world. If I can raise kind, happy and brave children then I will feel my work has been done.

Let’s talk food… what is your favourite meal? What food genre is your favourite when eating out?

My absolute favorite food is crab legs. I also love French fries. My husband and I are quite adventurous with food so we love going out to try different cuisines.

You have travelled to some seriously cool places.If you could visit any place in the world, money no object, where would you go & why?

I’ve been blessed to travel a lot especially in the last few years. In the past 18 months, I’ve been to Hawaii, Grand Caymans, Southern California, Jamaica, Mexico, Iceland and the Dominican Republic. In June I’ll be traveling to Costa Rica. If money and time were no object, my dream trip would be to Australia.

Personal Photo of Leslie and her husband, Troy

Out of the places you’ve travelled too – where was your favourite place? Which place left you disappointed? Favourite family location?

My very favorite place I’ve traveled to so far has been Grand Caymans. The water is the most spectacular blue I have ever seen. The people of Jamaica have been the most kind. And Iceland is so spectacular. A landscape I’ve never seen before. Many times I travel with my husband for his work. But we also try to take a few family trips as well. We are taking the kids on a Disney Cruise next month. I’ve heard great things about it and I can’t wait to experience it with the kids.

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

I like to think of my style as classic glamour. Jackie Kennedy Onassis was the epitome of this style.

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 always love how in fashion what goes around comes around. I’ve enjoyed when the fashion from the 70s came back. Flowy dresses, bell bottoms. But I tend to stay with classic styles that don’t follow a trend. Fitted dresses, classic colors, and pumps.

My favourite colour is green although glancing at my wardrobe most of my clothes are shades of blue! And I love red for nights out! What is your favourite colour?

Of course all black can be stunning. However I love a splash of color. I also love the current look of prints and floral patterns. My favorite color is red.

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

My personal playlist is quite eclectic. Everything from Kids Bop lol, to 90s R&B. My all time favorite artist is Prince. I really do believe he was a musical genius.

Describe your perfect day.

While I do enjoy a night out at a fabulous restaurant, I’ve really become a homebody. A perfect night would be with my family at home. Watching a movie or playing a board game.

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

During the week I tend to dress more comfortably. Fitted jeans and a tee or blazer. Nights out I love to wear dresses. Summertime is my favorite time for fashion. Lots of sundresses and white denim is a constant staple.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I love Saks Fifth Avenue. But also do a lot of shopping online. I love Intermix and Forward.

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

I’ve recently become obsessed with Balmain blazers. I recently purchased my first. It is a beautiful fitted red double blazer with gold buttons. Because they are such a classic staple, I’d love to add a black and navy to my collection. My favorite brand of shoes is Christian Louboutin. In fact I just picked up a fabulous red t-strap stiletto yesterday. There is something very sexy about that red bottomed sole.

Boots or Shoes? 

I like boots in the winter months. Especially ankle booties. The summertime I live in flip flops and heeled sandals at night.

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

You can find me in Twitter at www.twitter.com/leslie_annie

Instagram at www.instagram.com/leslieannebrooks

Fabulous chatting to you Leslie! Shatterproof is such a worthy cause although I am sorry to hear of your personal bereavements, I’m sure your personal experience has and will help those who find themselves in a similar situation.  On a brighter note, red T- strap Louboutin stilettos sound exquisite … and yes, very sexy! Love it! 🙂

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Leslie Brooks.  The photographers are David Sigal, Jackie Goudy & Leslie Brooks.

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Mandala Dream Co

I’m talking HEMP this week with Jul from Mandala Dream Co.  Jul lives, breathes and talks hemp.  From bed linen and fashions to beauty and skincare…. in fact, over 30,000 products can be made from industrial crop.  Hemp is eco friendly, ethical, sustainable and kinder to both people and the planet.  I caught up with Jul to find out more about this versatile crop and why she is so passionate about hemp…

Hi! I’m Jul from Mandala Dream Co, living & working in Kobble Creek, Queensland, Australia. A beautiful little pocket of the planet, living & loving life, my family & my role as the one man band for Mandala Dream Co. (In truth I do now have the luxury of having a seamstress & pattern maker who work with me & make my life soooooo much more manageable). Nonetheless I’m the blessed being who sows & cultivates our plants for our eco dyeing, harvests & ferments the hand eco dyes, dyes, designs our range, formulates our skincare, along with chief of photography, marketing, blogging, newsletters, website upkeep & all the fun things that make my life full, joyous & satisfying.

What was behind your choice to concentrate on hemp?

Bring on the Green Revolution including all things Hemp I say 😊
My first love was textile art, specifically hand eco dyeing utilising natures botanicals (plants, barks, roots, leaves, kino etc) specifically using organic & sustainable fabrics. After using all manner of fabrics including peace silk, organic cotton, bamboo & hemp I simply could not bring myself to advocate for anything other than humble hemp. It’s impossible once learning about the growing, the water wastage & the manufacturing of other fibres to use anything else in all good conscience. 

The natural beauty we can create with this textile is inspiring, as a little cottage organic hemp creator of bedlinen, eco fashion & skincare I’m proud of our pioneering movement even on this small scale, the fabrics are so very beautiful, becoming softer with each use, heirloom fabrics that last a lifetime and are also resistant to stains, odours, mildew & mould, highest UV factor of all natural fibres, naturally antibacterial.

No pesticides or synthetic fertilisers are needed to successfully grow hemp (unlike the chemically laden crops we currently grow in Australia & on our beloved planet) you could grow it yourself easily. The plants dense roots stave off weeds, and the growing process improves the soil’s nitrogen, making the soil even better for other crops in the future, a perfect rotational crop for farmers and the health of our soils, which are incredibly sour here in Australia. The growth cycle of hemp is generally only four months, so the option to harvest two times in one year would create a huge relief for struggling farmers. Research states that just one acre of hemp produces more oxygen from CO2 and methane than 25 acres of forest, not to mention the water savings (we save 9000 litres of water (compared to traditional cotton bedlinen) with just one sheet 😊

More about my favoured Hemp:

Hemp Biodiesel can replace our need for fossil fuels.
Hemp seeds & cold pressed oils are superfoods containing essential amino acids & easily digested protein. High in the omegas with a naturally perfect ratio. It’s so nutritionally superior you can survive on hemp seeds alone for a long period, can you imagine what this could do to those in famine around the world?

Its oils are used in our Skincare –  it plumps up dry skin & even helps your skin to retain more moisture over time with its use.

Nil petrochemicals from plastics are produced with hemp plastics, from plastic wraps for food, bottles and everyday items all the way through to auto parts, with no harmful BPA. Hemp plastics are not only heat resistant and durable they are 100% biodegradable.
Housing construction materials (such as hempcrete) made from hemp fibres have been found to be far superior to most materials used in housing construction in our era. Inexpensive hemp can be made into a huge variety of building materials, hempcrete, insulation, blocks, plastics, board, even carpets, whilst being so much stronger and will last soooo much longer than what’s being utilised now. Did I mention they are also fire resistant? mould & mildew resistant? rot free? totally non toxic? & good for us and our planet-and totally natural! Have you any idea how many toxic chemicals and compounds are in our newly built housing? So much of the materials used are processed with toxic chemicals that are released into our living areas (with our loved ones) for years and years. In essence anything wood pulp can do, hemp fibres do far better. 70% of our worlds forests have already been eliminated…and yet we pretend we don’t know why our existence is threatened. Hemp paper can be recycled 8 times, whilst from our beautiful century old trees it’s only 3 to 4 times.

 I love the gold coloured hemp cushion covers/bed linen. To date, what has been your most popular hemp item?

The gold colours are infused on the fabrics utilising onion skins, chamomile, turmeric, calendula petals & marigolds (or whatever I have available in our storage & ferments at the time) – I generally harvest our plant dyes all year round. Our most popular items currently are our Natural indigo dyed hemp wrap pants & our Meraki skincare & beauty range.

 

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

For me it’s the bedlinen, we are so in love with ours (one set for life) we take them to hotels when we travel. They start off their life a little stiff (like a good old fashioned linen in your grandmother’s  cupboard), but over time they soften up  & ‘wear in’ becoming at one with your bed & its occupants. They stay fresher for longer (meaning we only wash them every 2nd week) and as they are stain & odour resistant they just make everyday life that little bit more comfortable. They have a far superior wicking factor meaning they are highly absorbent & climate reactive keeping us warm in the cooler months here in Kobble Creek; dry, cool & fresh in our hot summer months. We guarantee our bedlinen for a lifetime, it will last that long, & market them as one set for life.

I’m impressed with the gorgeous colours – and the fact that each colour is organic, free from pesticides, treatments or chemicals. Where do you source the ingredients and what ingredients make up the rich colour tones?

Generally if it grows & is non toxic. I have at least attempted to eco dye with it 😊 Most of our ingredients are grown right here on our 5 acres, though I do have a regular supply of onion skins from our 2 local organic fruit & vegetable producers…which is just as well as we use a lot of those. We collect bloodwood kino (sap) on our family walks from our local trees when they naturally produce; grow our own indigofera, turmeric, berries, cherries, moringa & neem.

I use hemp hand cream daily as it is the only product that keeps my hands soft and crack free. What other hemp based beauty products do you sell? What are the advantages of using hemp beauty products?

Our Meraki range (which is a Greek word meaning created with love & devotion…a little piece of our souls in every formulation) currently includes Hempseed Oil based- Face Serum, Body/Hair Butter, Bath Salts/Soak, Pit Potion Deodorant, Toothypaste, Fragrance, Hair Serum & Dream Mist. We are currently working & trialling a new range which includes Hemp CBD oil, which will be a specific anti ageing range. Hemp seed oil is a little miracle (both topically & nutritionally) with the perfect ratio of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids it’s vital for skin health. The high presence of Vitamin A, D & E ensures repair & rejuvenation of cells, whilst the gamma linolenic acid is a powerful anti inflammatory reducing redness & soreness. Hemp seed oil increases elasticity, is ideal for eczema, psoriasis, rosacea & acne breakouts by naturally balancing the skins oil production, the natural wonder of hemp seed oil teaches our skin how to stay hydrated for longer with every use. Top all that off with how good Hemp is for our planet & you start to feel why I’m such an advocate 😊

Are you introducing any new hemp items to add to your collection into for 2018?

Yes as above (re the new Meraki range). We are also hard at work designing an ethical wardrobe capsule starter kit which will be created using a lightweight Hemp knit blend which will be a lovely easy option for travellers also: 7  initial pieces which can all be worn in different ways (a jacket that doubles as a wrap shirt, a pencil skirt that can be worn comfortably at different lengths etc). We’ve always been a ‘low waste’ business very aware of our environmental footprint (which is why we hold little stock & create to order), using our fabric remnants for a long time in our labelling, hand stamped business cards etc, & are now starting to produce eco wraps (similar to the beeswax eco wraps used in place of single use plastics, sandwich bags etc) but with a twist. The average eco wrap is non organic cotton, dyed with synthetic dyes & uses bees wax & jojoba oil in the coating. Ours will be 100% vegan using our remnants, organic hemp, botanical eco dyes (leftovers, which are also thickened with soy powder to use as block print inks) & candelilla wax (a plant wax) & hemp seed oil creating a far superior wrap which is vegan for the conscious mums packing their beloveds lunches & snacks. (p.s. our youngest attends a Steiner school so I certainly have a ready made market right there) 😊… This photo is of a hemp canvas backpack we recently made for our youngest Kingston, along with hemp drawstring pants for our little people.

As Mandala Dream Co is based in Australia, are your products available to purchase worldwide?

Yes absolutely my biggest market at the moment is Canada (which are hemp early adopters…and just ‘get it’) I’ve also created for clients in the UK, Italy, Greece, New Zealand, Mexico, Cuba, Alaska & even a marines barracks in Fort Benning USA. Delighted to offer to anyone it really speaks to.

Choosing brand names can be a hard task at times, especially when you are trying to pick a name to encapsulate the essence of the brand. What made you decide to pick the name “Mandala Dream Co”?

It was a very personal choice for me & though it doesn’t shout out ‘hemp’, it represents what this little cottage industry meant for me. Mandala Dream Co was born out of me finally finding the calm amidst the chaos., though it took more than a few knocks on my skull before I woke to it. A separation of old wants & new needs really. The Mandala represents the oneness of the psyche with the cosmos, & for me that’s exactly where I found myself in ‘oneness’.
The Mandala is a sacred symbol laying down a map for finding our own way to our self, it represents our connection with our earth. My dream was to renew eco sustainable practices & ancient eco dye practices, whilst delivering humble hemp into every household…..& of course The Co. is you, the company we keep…our clients who we wish to heal body, mind & spirit. With eco, sustainable, organic hemp bed linens & bed sheets, slow fashion, skincare & beauty creations, made by hand with love & devotion to enhance your health, wellbeing, sleep & beauty.  So…for me it’s the essence of the brand, the ethos, the ethics we follow in our business & our every day life, leaving things better than we found them & attracting what’s needed & letting go of things that no longer serve.

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

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now I’m a bit of a ‘hippie’, a tree hugger, a greenie? Generally you’ll find me wearing something casual & comfortable & usually one of our creations, certainly a lot of hemp clothing, samples we’ve made for photography, marketing etc, failed attempts at eco dyeing that had to be reworked etc. Many days it’s just torn jeans & a blouse or a hemp tshirt.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Oh yes indeed, during the week I wear lots of hemp tshirts from www.superegoclothiers.com : wonderful quality & cool (perfect for when I’m working with the dye vat at 60 degrees). My favourite is in one of the photo below worn by our eldest (Sahara) which has the caption ‘Cut From a Different Cloth’ #cfadc, which of course is the different cloth …Hemp. I adore this brand it’s very ‘urban’ with lots of street cred & will one day be collaborating with Tommie T Lark founder of this wonderful brand. Of course I occasionally get dressed up for a ‘date night’ with my gorgeous Jamaican husband Kaleel & then I’ll go all out & wear something I treasure from either an upcycled vintage op shop buy, usually inspired by the wonder Fashion Hound that is Faye Delanty, or a piece that I simply couldn’t live without buying.

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

Honestly I have no wish list, I’m one of those people who don’t usually purchase for ‘occasions’ as have collected & curated so much over the years I generally have all that I’ll ever need. In fact I’m whittling my wardrobe down to a ethical capsule wardrobe with just a few extra special pieces that I must keep for my sanity.

Boots or Shoes?

Oh if I could every single day it would be boots as I think they just give an entire outfit a better line & are so comfortable, but alas it’s often so hot here flat sandals are usually my go to.

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

Website: www.mandaladreamco.com.au
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mandaladreamco/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/mandaladreamco/

Oh Jul, it’s great to hear you are a boots girl – even if it is in spirit only! :). Kobble Creek sounds idyllic, your farm sounds lovely, your children are adorable and your passion for hemp is uplifting – thank you so much for sharing your knowledge 🙂

Linda x

All photos were taken by Julie Grant and published with kind permission.

Models: Sahara & Kingston

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Donnie Rust

There’s more to my guest this week than meets the eye – and it’s not just the fact that he is 6ft 6 inches tall!  Donnie Rust is co founder, Editorial & Creative Director, & talented Travel Writer with the business and travel site, The Lost Executive.  He came to England in 2003 from Durban, South Africa and since his arrival he has caused a whirlwind … wowed audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with his guitar and stage presence; dabbled in the world of timeshares in Tenerife; fulfilled his writing dreams as an author with some fantasy books under his belt; co-founded a successful business & travel site…    so I just couldn’t wait to invite him onto my blog! Hi Donnie…..

Hi! I’m Donnie Rust, co-founder, editorial and creative director of The Lost Executive business and travel site. I am the show off of the team and responsible for much of the creative planning and getting us both into trouble.

Growing up in Durban, South Africa, you arrived in the UK in 2003 & have had some interesting jobs since then including being a timeshare salesman in Tenerife, a naked busker starring in your own show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2011, an author of occult-noir genre books and travel writer & co-founder of the website magazine Lost Executive. What made you decide to launch Lost Executive?

My co-founder and I wanted to highlight the importance of bridging the gap between business and leisure while providing a real value to businesses seeking content creation and promotion. Also, it put me in touch with some places offering really good suits. (I love my suits.) I am also a writer by trade and enjoy using words to create something special and useful. Most importantly though, is I love to travel. I love being exposed and plunged into new cultures and social surroundings. Seeing new places. It helps remind me how big the world is and how small my role in it.

I was a geography geek as a child (still am) with my head in an atlas or in a guidebook – I’m quite happy being an armchair traveller (reading & watching TV programmes) as well as exploring the world for myself. Did you have a fascination with countries as a small child?

I was very much a geek myself as a child. Having grown up in South Africa I was quite outdoorsy, but preferred to be sitting down either drawing, reading or writing. I wrote my first novel when I was 9 and a half wanting to be published before I was 10, however this was the days of DOS and one glitch on the computer lost everything. I did a great deal of martial arts growing up so I did pay a lot of attention to the orient, I was also very interested in mythology, theology and fiction. Always been bookie I guess. So that covers Greece, Egypt, Rome, Africa and Asia.  Also, South Africa is a young country, it’s a very old place but a young country, it doesn’t have the same sort of heavy history that you find in Europe or the UK. I was fascinated by the idea of castles and ruins that had been up for centuries because all the buildings in SA were new. Culture wise, you won’t find a more diverse country. Being a saffa you’re exposed to the cultural differences from a young age: I had friends who were Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Indian and white, all with their own backgrounds and beliefs.

You grew up in Durban,South Africa – so apart from your own country, what was the first country you visited?

I suppose that would be Lesotho, but I don’t think that has to count. Officially it would be Britain, England.

Have you got any favourite destinations and why are they specifically at the top of your list?

Cape Town is still one of my favourite places in the world. I know I’m supposed to say Durban, and Durban is beautiful but there is something majestic and trendy about Cape Town. I love it because of it’s energy and its buzz and the breathtaking scenery is free to everyone.

I lived in Tenerife for a while, so I like the Canaries. Not a fan of them as a holiday destination because it’s very “all inclusive”, but living and working there was fun, for what I can remember of it.

I like to travel to the Highlands of Scotland whenever I am able, Foyers on the shores of Loch Ness is one of my favourite places. There’s a bnb there calld Foyers House which has a view of the forests and the mists that are absolutely singular. Good place to go for a respite. Especially as last time I went the owner confiscated my phone.

What place is your least favourite and why?

Very difficult question to answer as I try to focus on the good bits. Also any bad experiences usually make the best stories afterwards. To be honest this question has stumped me a little bit. I’m not a fan of Luton if that helps?

Donnie with The Lost Executive crew

We all have preconceived ideas of what a country will be like – what country totally took you by surprise and was totally opposite of what you thought it would be?

Norway. Bergen. I went there earlier this year. I’ve never seen a city so clean, so technology intelligent (everywhere took card payments even on top of a mountain), everyone was friendly. The city of Bergen is also very, very energy aware, so at night time the city is dark. So dark that when I arrived by tram (trams are everywhere there), I thought I was in the middle of nowhere. I could see the odd light in a room here and there but otherwise nothing. The next morning I discovered I was in the middle of a gigantic city and that its just that if a light doesn’t need to be on it doesn’t go on. They’ve got a completely different mentality over there, a beautifully intelligent, forward thinking and logical approach based on facts and not speculation.

Also Venice. I went to Venice last year. The touristy parts were what I expected, but my girlfriend and I went off the beaten track a lot and wandered into an artist’s studio and a gigantic modern art display. I was surprised by how many islands there are there that are not inhabited because they can’t be reached without special boats- so you don’t have vandals or graffiti because it would be too much effort and the results are these small islands with these ruins on them that are untouched and unspoiled right in the middle of one of the busiest tourist destinations in the world.

I love travelling & flying but I hate airports! What’s your favourite and least favourite airports?

Norway, Oslo Airport, mostly because they give staff scooters to get around faster. Again, there’s that thinking that everyone needs to be responsible for themselves.

The worst airport was Ljubljana in Slovenia. It was tiny, small, the shops didn’t open at certain times of the day and we had a 4 hour wait for our flight.

Do you have a favourite mode of travel?

I won’t lie, I am a bit of a reluctant flier. I would prefer to drive or even better, a luxury cabin in a train.

You are an author of 3 books in the fantasy/occult-noir genre – I have read your working title series books – with the raunchy titles of “That Time I Did A Favour For God And Was Almost Buggered To Death By A Demon Dog: (A Working Title) Volume 1” and “The Case Of The Woman Who Killed Monsters With Her Bitey Vagina: A Working Title, Volume 2”. As a reviewer of your books stated recently, that you are “bringing all the characters from your childhood nightmares to life”! What do you enjoy most about writing your novels? Where do you get your ideas from?

Some of the ideas are from actual folklore. Others are just pareidolic. I dislike any character to be conveniently talented, one of my first books was “Godhunter” and it explored the price of great power. Real costs in terms of physical, emotional value. My characters suffer their powers and their abilities- like telepathy- 1. You wouldn’t read minds like spoken sentences, they’d be mishmashes of shapes, smells, random thoughts, emotions and images and 2. Why would you automatically be able to control it? So before I look at what makes my character different I look at the costs of that uniqueness and reverse engineer it from there.

Oh and all my characters are heavily flawed.

Donnie as The Naked Busker

Let’s talk Naked. The Naked Busker idea was certainly different. How come you embarked on the act in the first place?

I was a stand up comedian and looking for a gimmick and my girlfriend at the time suggested I get naked because it always made her laugh. It became an onstage act, I’d get up, strip down, do an animated comedic show with just a pair of boots and a guitar, sing songs that were particularly rude and purile. I was semi professional for a little while actually but now the only thing about that is an alarming number of pictures of me on google images.

Starring in your show at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, was it all plain sailing or do you have any memorable disasters? Do you still indulge in the music scene?

Ah, the Ed Fringe 2011. I was doing a nightly set at the City Café and someone stole my clothes and I spent the last evening wandering around the city trying to find them. It ended up being a pretty good night because it was the Edinburgh Fringe, nobody even batted an eyelid when a naked guy in a pair of boots and a guitar came traipsing along. I love playing my guitar and singing, but aside from a couple of local open mic nights at some of my friend’s joints I don’t really get involved on stage. I do my bit supporting some of my friends who are far better musicians than I. The likes of Will How and Pirate Joe… I do love being on stage though.

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

I love wearing suits. I get my suits from a local store named Slaters. I’m a fan of waist coats and coats with double buttons that have to be tailored to fit my size. I also often wear jeans a lot and a denim jacket. I like to mix it up.

Do you go shopping for clothes/accessories whilst travelling? If so, which country was shopping a pleasant or otherwise experience?

Cape Town was superb. Generally whenever I go back to South Africa I’ll fly over with an empty bag and just the clothes I’m wearing and will come back with it filled with clothes. They have a summerly fashion sense there because it’s never really winter, so you can pick up some really cool clothes for less than half the price of UK. They also make clothes to fit big guys. I’m 6ft 6 with shoulders which makes me about average size for a South African and so I find clothes no problem. Also, it’s an awesome place to buy sunglasses and hats.

What items of clothing/footwear/accessories are your “essentials” when travelling?

A hoody. A pair of loose fitting jeans. A breathable pair of socks and a Handycosy neck pillow. Boxers never briefs.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots if I’m going out for a night. Shoes if I’m wearing a suit.
Boots last longer, they don’t let water in and if you have to do any sudden running with them or freestyle parkour you know your ankles will at least be protected. Shoes with a suit because it makes you feel cooler and also because the boots I wear don’t work well with suits.

For pinning later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can follow you & Lost Executive.

twitter.com/lostexecutive
twitter.com/donnierust
https://www.facebook.com/ourdonnierust/
facebook.com/thelostexecutive
instagram.com/Donnie_rust
instagram.com/thelostexecutive

I agree with you, Donnie, about the luxury train travel option … certainly a fantastic way to travel – 5 course meal, wine and sitting a luxurious armchair whilst admiring the landscape out of the picture windows – absolutely heavenly.  I was lucky to have had that experience a couple of times – once on my honeymoon and several shorter trips on the British Pullman and Northern Belle trains. Many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed! 🙂

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Donnie Rust.

 

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Dress Code Nine

Whether you are going on a special night out, going to the Races or it’s your Prom night, nothing beats wearing a glamorous dress.  What could be better than going to an Aladdin’s Cave full of dresses, a specialist boutique, whose mission is to dress you up to the nines for your special event, regardless of your budget?  Dress Code Nine based in Kelvedon, Essex is the Aladdin’s Cave owned by Carla – she has over 200 stunning dresses, stylish heels, fascinators & jewellery  – plus a dedicated Prom dress department too! I caught up with Carla recently to chat about dresses….

Hi! My Name is Carla Lynch and I am the proprietor of Dress Code Nine which opened on October 7th 2017, offering evening and occasional wear for ladies all ages and sizes.

What inspired you to set up “Dress Code Nine”?

I love a dress and always have, I think most ladies do, but you can not always find the dress you need for the budget you have at the time. I wanted to address this with my boutique.

Although you do have dresses available to purchase, you have over 200 dresses available for hire from sizes 4 -24. What are the advantages of hiring a dress for that special event?

Not everyone has the funds or feels comfortable to spend so much money to buy a ball dress which you only wear once. This gives my clients both options: a hire collection and a purchase collection to choose from.

Your range of dresses include high-end designers such as Gino Cerruti, Jora Collections, Kiss Me Kate Designs, Eliza and Ethan – all are totally gorgeous! What dresses are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

It is the Jora Collection. They are gorgeous dresses at a very reasonable price. I love them, the quality and designs are stunning.

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

Oh yes the one which springs to mind at the moment is one of the Jora collections. It is a gorgeous wine/burgundy colour with a diamante back with a train coming down the middle. If you have a look on our website www.dresscodenine.co.uk under the Jora collection you will see this, it has proved to be a Prom favourite this season.

When going out for a special event, I tend to choose a red dress – occasionally I pick blue or green. My daughter, for her prom, picked a stunning black lace dress. Do you think age plays a part in picking a colour of a dress? Which age group do you find most adventurous when it comes to picking colours for dresses?

I do not think age plays a part, It is more what matches your skin tone, hair, eye colour. Ladies of all ages can be adventurous when you least expect it.

Not only do you have a stunning range of delectable dresses but you also have accessories too. What accessories do you offer to match the dresses?

We offer bags, Fascinators, Hats, Jewellery, Shoes, Wraps.

You have a dedicated department just for prom dresses – what do you feel makes a good “prom” dress?

A style which suits your body shape is a must, as well as colour. A good quality dress also is a big thing for the ladies that come and see us.

If a lady is going to a special event, for example, a Valentines Ball and is interested in hiring/buying a dress – how do they go about visiting “Dress Code Nine”? Can they purchase online, is it appointment only or can they drop by and visit your boutique?

We are appointment only so we can give that one to one service for each lady that comes to our boutique to find their perfect dress so they are dressed to the nines.

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

Everything you have said is important but the most critical purchasing decision for me when buying from designers is catering for my client base.

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

A dress with 3 inch heels

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

The high street has its place and for me, it is great for mass produced but good value outfits. I do love a Karen Millen dress and heels.

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

More dresses, sparkle diamante flip flops and shoes and another bag or two.

Boots or Shoes?

Has to be shoes. You can wear shoes throughout the whole year for different occasions where boots are more just for winter.

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

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

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

Google+: https://goo.gl/maps/Athj5F5Uoqy

website: http://dresscodenine.co.uk

Thank you Carla for giving us a glimpse into the world of dresses and I am so pleased to have your shop close to where I live! 🙂 

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Dress Code Nine.

 

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Frankly Coaching

Generation XY – The Millennials.  I am going to confess right away, that apart from “The Millennials” – the title speaks for itself – I didn’t have a clue what Generation XY represented! I have found out since it is roughly those born from 1977 – 1995.  So now I know – and I also know that I’m not one of them! Nevertheless, my daughter is of that generation. My guest is the delightful Puja of Frankly Coaching, a NLP Performance & well-being coach. Puja specialises in working with women from Generation XY – The Millennials and I was keen to know more about her, her work and her Frankly Women 12 week programme.  Hi Puja!

Hi! I’m Puja K McClymont – a Certified NLP Life Coach for Millennial Women (born 1977-1995) that helps them get the best out of their complex lives. I also work with Businesses to help facilitate change within organisations. My practice, Frankly Coaching, is based in London where I live with my hubby and 2 yr old. I’m a straight-talking coach who gets results. I’m not perfect but I am excellent 😉 (an NLP joke).

What inspired you to open your business, Frankly Coaching?

I’ve technically been qualified since 2012 and I’ve done more courses over the years leading up to 2017 as well as been coaching here and there but after having my baby and being made redundant during maternity leave, I decided now was the time to do the work that I’ve wanted to do for so long. I believe in things happening the way they’re supposed to.

Why did you decide to specialise in working with women from Generation X,Y – Millennials (those born 1977 – 1995)?

When I was deciding my specialisation, I found that as a millennial myself and having faced a multitude of struggles in my life, I wanted to work with women like me. I’ve personally gone through a lot over the years but I’ve always come out fighting. I’ve always had a “never give up” attitude and a self confidence of being able to do anything I want to do. It might be my stubbornness but I don’t like to hear the word “no.” As a result, I’ve always succeeded in reaching my goals. I want to share that experience and confidence with other like-minded women. As millennials are of varying ages, I’ve found we have a complex experience of life because of technological advancements. Technology gives us freedom and immediate access to anything but it also takes away some reality and human interaction that we might actually need. I think that the values that were instilled in us get distorted with the consuming of technology – social media being the top culprit. What I mean is, for example, you are raised to know that working hard will deliver the results you desire but then people become overnight successes on Instagram, and all they did was post a few selfies. This then distorts our values and we unconsciously try to mirror this thinking but it goes against our values so we instead ‘fail’ to achieve what we think we should be doing. As much as women have evolved in society over the years, we still face common challenges that are difficult to balance with our baby boomer parents who more often than not, stayed at home with us. We on the other hand, want to ‘Run the world’ and now more than ever, we actually can. However, when you add that thinking with traditional marriages, children, careers, money, spending, independence, we’re often met with resistance or internal difficulty in achieving the right levels of ‘balance’ for ourselves. When we don’t achieve this balance, we get stuck.

Can you describe your specific Frankly Women 12 week programme? What could a customer expect?

I don’t want to say it’s a secret but it’s one of those things you need to experience. Usually the discovery session unmasks what you get with all my coaching and then this is the technical spec. Sometimes it’s hard to describe a feeling but if we’re meant to be, then that feeling will be there. However, the below maps out the 12 weeks but as I say, it’s much more than the technical bit. It’s also the empowerment, the motivation, the overwhelming feeling of achievement, the reevaluating of your values and beliefs and people and things in your life. Knowing that all is possible. And someone being in your corner. So much.
Week 1 – Get to know you and your wants and challenges. Discover where you are now and where you want to be.
Week 2 – Map out your life and use successes to mirror for the new goals
Week 3 – Visual board – see what your goals look, feel and smell like
Week 4 – Define values and beliefs (good and bad): find out why you do what you do
Week 5 – Define what you tolerate in your life and how you could better manage them to suit you better.
Week 6 – Action plan: define your goals, the reasons for them and belief in them
Week 7 – Address/Manage challenges and create strategies
Week 8 – Review work so far and address new challenges with effective NLP techniques
Week 9 – Implement suitable NLP techniques for any blockages
Week 10 – Review what has been achieved and celebrate successes
Week 11 – Plan the next 3 months
Week 12 – Review of entire programme and be given NLP tools for moving further forward
At the end of the 12 weeks, you should have achieved at least one of your short term goals and be able to use the techniques experienced with moving forward with the others.

What are the reasons/benefits of hiring a life coach?

I’m going to offer my own experience of hiring a coach for this answer rather than sounding like a salesperson. I’m a pretty organised person (love lists), set goals for myself intrinsically and achieve them but when I started seeing my now husband my life became confusing. I went from being completely independent, living on my own in my own flat that I bought at 26, to sharing my time with this man, and trying to balance my social butterfly status with the needs of the boyfriend. I didn’t look after myself during this time and as a result, had a breakdown and fell into depression. Not the boyfriend’s fault. I just boarded the roller coaster and kept on riding it without thinking. I became co-dependent, I gained weight after losing so much only a few years before, I struggled with money, I didn’t enjoy my work and so on. After using different therapies and deciding that I would continue to fight, I found a Coach who would help me move forward. And that’s the key right there. MOVING FORWARD. It stopped me being stuck, allowed me to be accountable for what I could control and accept what I couldn’t, it unravelled the self sacrificing I thought I should be doing to make space for a partner and essentially, brought me back to my best self which then led to me being able to continue achieving and living a life that I wanted for myself. I was able to set clear goals for career, money and the relationship – and now we’re happily married with a kid.

You are an NLP Performance & Wellbeing coach. Can you explain what NLP is & why is it different from any other type of life coach?

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is the study of excellence. It is an attitude of learning, curiosity and respect for unique ways of being in the world. Over the years NLP has uncovered an increasing number of tools and techniques for discovering what constitutes excellence. In particular, it is a means of finding the essence of that excellence – the difference that makes the difference – and doing so in such a way that it can be coded and reproduced.
We can have excellence at our fingertips, available whenever we choose. As a result, we can be Coached to consistently achieve the results that we want for ourselves, our business and our life.
In very simple terms, NLP is where we change the way we think and speak in order to change the way we act so that we can achieve the results we want. It basically changes the way we have been doing things so that our outcomes change for the better.
A NLP Coach is different because we work on ‘re-wiring’ thoughts, studying your own excellence to tap into that, mirror inspirations and believe that everyone can achieve what they want. We strategically work with you and your life to create the space and knowledge you need to move it forward.

Out of all the services you offer, what is the most popular service amongst your customers?

Across my services, I’d say that they are of equal popularity. My speaking engagements often lead to individuals clients and my individual clients book the retreats. My business coaching is very popular because I have a a simple 2 step process for organisations with deliverable results within a short timespan – which they like.

Your career background has been in the field of marketing & PR, but growing up though, did you inspire to follow your eventual career path (as a life coach) or did you have other ambitions?

I always wanted to be famous. I didn’t know what for but I knew that was something I wanted. If I became famous now and it was because of my coaching, I would be very happy with that. The more people I can help, the more successful I will feel. I was a little ‘famous’ within my industry in hospitality as I worked for a very well-known bar in London and everyone wanted to know me and I was invited to anything and everything! I have danced around my handbag with Paris Hilton! I’ve had lunch with Pharrell Williams at a music festival, I’ve hosted many a celebrity at the places I’ve worked for. My 20’s were fab! At 19, I had my first experience with a recruitment agent and I remember she asked me what I wanted to do with my life (having come to her for some direction of which job would suit me) and I said “I want to help people” she said that I had great skills for relationship building, listening, a great personality and that I should go into marketing. So I did. And almost 20 years later, discovered that coaching was my calling.

Although you are based in the UK, are your sessions available overseas?

Absolutely! I have clients from the US, Dubai and Australia as well as the UK. Coaching is about rapport and you might need to look far and wide to find the coach that fits you best.

I know that you have travelled extensively & that you have been to many exotic locations around the world. Where has been your favourite location so far? Least favourite/ most disappointing? What place is number one on your current bucket list?

Oh! I love these questions. My favourite place is a tie between Hawaii and Chile. Hawaii because of its deep and rich history and the fact that the Earth is still forming there – mind-blowing, saw it from a helicopter and Chile because it feels like you’re on the edge of the earth and when you get to Cape Horn, you pretty much are at the southernmost point of the Earth before Antartica, plus its immense history and fabulous food – I ate ceviche straight from the fish that was caught at the marina! Least favourite was Tunisia. I’m not a resort type of person and I didn’t enjoy the locals or the food. Bucket list: ALL the Polynesian islands, Asia and a lot of the African countries.

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

When I’m a size 10, I like to wear waist enhancing anything! My waist is a great feature and I was able to show that off a lot when I was slim. My legs were great too! so short dresses were my thing. As a size 16, apart from the odd tent, I like to wear colour but pair with dark light jackets and heels. Although at the moment, I’m really enjoying wearing jeggings with a loose top, amazing makeup and hair and jewellery and paring with a cool pair of trainers or wedge boots.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Ted Baker, Reiss, DKNY, Asos

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

Brown leather boots

Boots or Shoes?

Boots because it’s cold but I think they add more to an outfit than shoes do.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you & Frankly Coaching.

www.franklycoaching.com
fb, t, i @franklycoaching

Thank you Puja!  I must say, I like your travel bucket list and also, Chile is one of those places on top of my bucket list, it sounds as though you had a great trip there! 🙂 It must have been a giggle to dance around your handbags with Paris Hilton …. I can picture the scene now! Life is for fun and I’m so glad you are able to help others who are perhaps struggling with stress at the moment, to help put things into perspective and make the most of their potential.  Life coaching does seem like the ideal path for you.

Linda x

Photos of Puja are published with kind permission of Puja K McClymont.  Other photos are by Linda Hobden.

 

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Vitamin Coffee

Coffee. For a lot of us, we can’t seem to function without a cup of coffee first thing in the morning.  Trying to go on a health kick, and struggling to forego that daily wake up routine?  What if I told you that there’s a coffee available that is tasty AND contains our daily vitamin intake?  Sounds good, doesn’t it? I thought so, so I caught up with Vitamin Coffee founder, Bryn Ray, to find out what is so special about his coffee….hi Bryn…

Hi! I’m Bryn Ray – fitness and coffee enthusiast, turned entrepreneur to blend those enthusiasms.

What was the inspiration behind the setting up of Vitamin Coffee?

A software designer by trade, when I worked in the city I found myself coming in rather groggy after some of the nights before. The old solution used to be a mug of coffee and a glass of some horrible effervescent fizz, so I thought there must be a way to blend the effect of both things. That’s where the Complete and Defence version of Vitamin Coffee were born, the Energy blend then followed when I started reading ingredients list of pre-workout drinks.

You currently offer 2 coffees – medium & dark with a choice of 3 vitamin blends (Medium, Energy, Defence). The coffees all contain the full daily requirement of 14 essential  vitamins and minerals – so what is the difference between the blends on offer?

All three blends are based on the same set of vitamins. The Complete offers 100% of what you need of each per day. The defence is then hyper-dosed with extra vitamin C and D which has positive effect on the immune system. The energy is higher in B-vitamins which are particularly useful for people who are very active, it also has added caffeine (on top of the standard amount in the coffee).

Early days yet I know, but what coffee blends are proving most popular amongst your customers so far? Have you got a favourite blend?

Medium Defence seems to be the superstar, but it is winter. My personal favourite is the Dark Energy, I drink it before every workout.

Where do you source your coffee beans from?

The Medium blend sources from Asia and Africa – it’s a little unconventional, but it’s based on Monsoon Malabar beans that give it an incredibly smooth and creamy taste. The Dark blend is a brighter and fruiter pairing Central and South American single-origins with Ethiopian Mocha Djimmah beans for boldness.

Can the coffee be purchased as a one off or is the coffee available on a subscription basis only?

Coffee can be a one off or as a subscription at your chosen interval. The bags each contain 14 daily servings so with most customers being daily drinker a two week subscription is the standard.

As you are based in the UK, is your coffee available to customers abroad?

Currently we don’t ship abroad, but we’re actively looking into distributing around Europe.

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

Generally, i’m a monochromatic man. Black Levi 511, black leather Janoski and a long sleeve sweatshirt.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Most of my tops come from Reiss, Cos or Arket. Recently started to use Farfetch online though which I like.

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

A new coat is next on the shopping list – all suggestions welcome.

Boots Or Shoes?

Boots – I think they give a cleaner line to a silhouette.

Links you would like to share:

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

New coat, eh Bryn?… I think a black leather coat would look good especially as the styles of the 70s & 80s are trending at the moment. For a more classic look, a black wool pea coat always looks stylish and you can wear a suit under it although it equally looks good with those black Levi’s you favour 🙂  Thank you for introducing us to your coffee and it’s great to know that we can still have our coffee with the health kick included.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Bryn Ray/ Vitamin Coffee

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Artist Ben Riley

Over the years I have interviewed people who have made bags out of old books, old vinyl records …. and I have interviewed musicians, music producers…. and I have interviewed sculptors, painters, doodlers…. AND this week it gives me great pleasure to interview somebody that is a combination of all 3.  A bit cryptic I know, but my guest is the accomplished British artist Ben Riley, whose art features icons of music throughout the ages using the medium of broken and ground down pieces of vinyl records on canvas.  Intrigued?  Hi Ben & welcome…

Hi, I’m international artist, Ben Riley.

What inspired you to specialise in artwork out of broken & ground down pieces of vinyl on canvas? Why vinyl?

It is easy to fade into the background and do what everyone else is doing. I believe as an artist, you should strive to create your own methods, styles and diversity. I have a huge love of music and art so I bridge the two. The idea behind my work is creating portraits of music icons of the past and present using the music itself, eliminating the use of conventional mediums such as paint, pencils and charcoals, thus creating my own method.

Your pictures feature icons of music throughout the ages – do you have a favourite?

My favourite icon that I have created is Jimi Hendrix as his music and fashion style was very unique and unconventional like my work. I feel that it’s the perfect match.

Do you have any other favourite artwork mediums?

I love pencil and pen studies, particularly shading between light and dark. That’s what I also like most about my work, creating complete darkness, extreme highlights and all the gradients in between, it’s very dramatic.

Growing up, have you always wanted to be an artist or did you have other aspirations?

At one point I wanted to be a photographer, I have had a few different career paths, I can’t quite remember many of them :/ I think I was put here to create art, it’s not by any means an easy or stable career, but it’s the path that I’ve been put on by fate.

As your artwork features music icons, I gather you are a big music fan yourself. What genre do you enjoy? Any favourites?

Yes, I’m also a singer/songwriter. I have a big love for bands from the 60’s including The Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience to The Rolling Stones, and more recent artists including Amy Winehouse, I believe that she was ‘the’ icon of this generation.

Your artwork is full of detail & expression? Do you work from photos, sketches or from sitting studio sessions?

I start by doing a sketch, roughly get it drawn on the canvas then start building it up with large pieces of broken records, then I work on the details from dark to light. As I work with them flat on a table, it’s not until it’s finished that I get the chance to step back and look at the piece.

I’m sure every artist has some form of art theme that they just cannot master as well as other themes – some avoid drawing people, others animals etc. What theme of artwork do you find hardest to recreate?

I’d say landscapes, they just aren’t my thing.

Your work has been exhibited throughout the world – have you got a favourite venue or exhibition?

I love exhibiting in London, it’s one of my favourite cities. Some of my favourite shows have been in the US, I particularly like LA.

Although you are based in Staffordshire, do accept commissions worldwide?

Yes, I think it’s important not to be restricted to the UK.

What music icon pictures will you be working on in 2018?

I mainly work on a commission basis, so it’s whoever comes in I guess..

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

I love vintage clothes, they are generally better made, more individual and your less likely to pass someone on the street with the same thing. Shoes, I like brogues, and Chelsea Boots. Also love vintage hats!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

eBay is pretty good, if you have an idea what your after, you can find some hidden gems on there.

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

No idea.. Erm a nice pair of jeans maybe..

Boots or Shoes?

Ankle boots, I don’t know why, I just prefer them, maybe just less formal.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your work.

www.benrileyart.com
www.facebook.com/benrileyart
Insta @benrileyart

I love all your artwork Ben, but I think my favourite out of the photos I’ve published is the one of Mick Jagger – I love the facial expression and how you’ve captured it to a T.  Dear readers, What do you think of this art medium? Which of Ben’s artwork do you like best & why?  Do share your views!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Ben Riley. Photographer: Ben Riley.

Share This!
Pin It