All posts by Linda

An Interview With Author Kay Hutchison

“My Life In Thirty Seven Therapies: From Yoga to Hypnosis And Why Voodoo Is Never The Answer”. An intriguing title for a book. I thought so anyway when I received a complimentary copy to review. I won’t beat about the bush – I loved the book and eagerly devoured each chapter/ therapy. A strange feeling though – part memoir, part guide – about dealing with midlife crisis, menopause, professional burnout, relationships – and yet amongst the facts and seriousness there were comedic moments and on occasions, real belly laugh moments. Kay has written her book in such a way that I could imagine myself being there in that therapy room or group alongside her, experiencing it all too. It may have been the way she described her therapists, companions or therapies. I do know that some therapies I’m glad I was only virtually there, not experiencing the moment for real; and I admired Kay for being able to maintain a silent vigil at the silent retreat over the Christmas period. I don’t do silent!! I couldn’t leave just a review though, I just had to chat to Kay herself and ask her a few questions… Hi Kay!

Hi, I’m Kay Hutchison, I’m an author and I run a small independent publishing company ‘Belle Kids’ that publishes mainly children’s books. I had good career in radio and television after studying music and French at Glasgow University. I started working in Decca Records, worked as a producer for BBC Radio and moved across to tv with Channel 4, then leading the launch teams of Disney TV and Channel Five.  I led the partnership that delivered a long term future for the Olympic Broadcast Centre.  It’s now a thriving tv and production hub. After founding my own company Belle Media, I launched Belle Kids in 2015. We produce multi-platform, conservation-focussed content for children and are best known for the Tigeropolis series – fun stories with wildlife conservation at their heart.

Your book, “My Life In Thirty Seven Therapies: From Yoga To Hypnosis And Why Voodoo Is Never The Answer” is truly inspirational  – I alternated between being fascinated by certain therapies, eg cupping; laughing out loud at others eg the voodoo episode; and admired your gutsiness when it came to enduring the silent retreat in Norfolk over Christmas. But what really made you decide to write about your experiences in the first place? 

So glad you feel that way about the book! 

What really made me decide to write about my experiences was preparing for a writing retreat in Wales.  My friend had persuaded me to join her – she didn’t want to go alone and she knew I loved retreats. Somewhat worryingly, I discovered there was lots of writing homework. I was a bit wary as we were to bring samples of our work. However, I got stuck in – writing about subjects that interested me and I discovered that I loved writing about the many therapies I’d tried and about my childhood and what led to my meltdown and mid-life crisis. The course was led by the critically acclaimed English novelist Mavis Cheek. She taught us the importance of dialogue, characterisation and clear structure. She was very encouraging.

I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. I liked how you wrote the book – the mix of your personal story, your people observations, your guide to the therapies and your sound advice. Your book is also published as an audiobook – I did listen to some excerpts on your YouTube channel.  How did it feel recording and reading your own book? 

I wasn’t sure what to expect in recording the audiobook. I was once a radio producer and so I was comfortable being in a studio together with technical and production experts.  However, it was a totally different experience. Being shut away for hours at a time in the quiet of the sound-proofed studio with the just the producer on the other side of the glass, made the narration quite intense. I think it’s a different story as you can probably hear some emotion in my voice in certain places.  It will be so interesting to know how readers react to the audiobook. Surely quite differently. Let’s see.

What was, for you, the hardest part(s) to write about?

Personal stories about my family, especially my father who I adored – struggling without my mother, becoming more dependent on alcohol to get through the day, being sad and alone as he aged and needed more care. It was also hard to write about my own personal failures – the loving relationship I thought I had with a man who turned out to be married. It brought it all back.  

So, having been through 37 therapies, at least, you must have some particular favourites? Which was the weirdest? And, which therapy did you find overrated?

My favourite was the silent retreat. I think I’m someone who needs a lot of solitary time (just as well as I need that to write) although I only realised that after I lasted 10 days without saying a word. It was challenging but ultimately so liberating and I realised I could cope on my own after that somehow. 

The weirdest was Voodoo – it’s only a small episode in the book but when you read it you will know why. It is right for some people but for me, it was an important experience as it helped me realise that I was recovering, I no longer needed the more unusual therapies to survive.  

For me, the most overrated is colonic irrigation. Some of my friends absolutely swear by it and are perfectly comfortable having regular treatments. My view is that it was too expensive, too intrusive and I believe it could even be dangerous if not done really well by highly qualified professionals. But that’s just my own personal view of course. Always check with your GP!

I liked the frank way you described your experiences and that there was a lot of trial and error involved along the way.  If somebody was going through a midlife crisis, menopause or professional burnout, which therapies would you recommend? 

Midlife crisis, menopause and professional burnout are such different things.  They can be all mixed up together – which was my experience – but if I had to recommend something for all three, it would be yoga without a doubt.  Yoga helps with menopausal symptoms as it is healthy physical exercise, combined with breathing control and requires good mental focus. These are all helpful but I should say I also take HRT now which solves so many of the symptoms like hot flushes, sleeplessness and mood swings.

Professional burnout requires you to be aware of changes in your work behaviour that are not healthy.  Often this is overworking and not being able to stop, being out of control. There are so many ways to deal with this – NLP, CBT, Skyros retreats in Greece are wonderful as they actually focus on burnout or more precisely life change.

Midlife Crisis sometimes doesn’t happen – I have some friends who have no clue what I’m talking about as they have sailed through it or are currently sailing through. For me, it’s when everything falls apart – work, relationships, stability. The great thing is that there are so many therapies that can help you out there – find something that appeals to you and start there. Perhaps try Reiki or Reflexology – they are wonderful healing treatments that allow you to take a step back and have someone look after you.  Get a recommendation from a friend or look up the organisations that regulate the practitioners to be sure you’re getting the best treatment. For example the Reiki Council, the Association of Reflexologists.

It must have been tough for you when you decided & suddenly realised you wanted to live alone and leave your husband after so many years. What was the hardest thing to leave behind?

The hardest thing to leave behind was the stability and balance of life. Everything was normal, everything was in place (we were married, we had a beautiful home, we were both relatively successful in our jobs).  Everything was in place – accepted and expected to always be that way by our friends and family. It was terrible to have to try to explain why I would wish to leave such normality and to start again.

So, what do you do to relax and de-stress nowadays? Are there any new therapies you’re tempted to try out?  

Yoga and massage are the two constants in my life.  I like different yoga classes with different teachers as they are always different – some more traditional, some modern with music being important, others who like to run gong baths afterwards.  Massage helps me unwind if I need to clear my head and recover after a long writing session (often stiff back results). 

I am still interested, still learning. Alexander technique is one on the physical side – it helps posture and works to improve the structure of the spine which changes as you get older. On the spiritual side I have recently tried Akashic Records – I would describe this as a library that contains all of life’s events, each person’s life records. A good practitioner can access these records and answer questions that you have about yourpast, your life and future direction. In my first session a message from my grandfather was conveyed to me – it made complete sense to me as he wanted me to ensure that his legacy was not forgotten; he was a well-known Scottish footballer who, after the war became known as the first ‘audio-describer’ for the blind. He took blind war veterans to football matches and described the action for the groups. I remember helping my gran make sandwiches for the group.

Is “My Life In Thirty Seven Therapies” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes the books are available in the big bookshops like Foyles and Waterstones as well as online (kindle and Amazon) and the new audiobook is available via Audible and will soon be available on streaming services like Spotify and Deezer. 

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

I have a lot of well made, classic suits and dresses that I have had for a few years. I look after my clothes and occasionally have them altered so that they last and are a really good fit. I like figure-hugging dresses or cropped trousers with a roomy coat or jacket over the top.  I have lots of scarfs to add a little extra colour (and to keep me warm) but I generally like a simple, pared-down look.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love browsing in big department stores where they have so many different brands in once place. I like Massimo Dutti for something special, but if I’m in a rush for something I’ll go to Zara, Hobbs or L.K.Bennett as their sizes usually fit my shape quite well. 

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

I would like a pair of toe-cap slingback shoes in nude and black. They are flattering especially if, like me, you’re not very tall. I saw a pair of these on Audrey A La Mode and Russell & Bromley have a similar-looking pair so I will probably buy those.

Boots or Shoes?

I have a large collection of boots in lots of different styles and fabrics but really only two main colours – black and brown.  I find boots are really versatile and work equally well for business meetings or going out (usually lace-up ankle boots with a decent heel or long sleek leather or suede boots with a small heel). I also like calf-length, low heel boots for casual walks so I spend quite a bit of the year with my feet hidden away. I always feel comfortable in boots.

For pinning later

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

Website   www.kayhutchison.com

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/kayhutchison1/

Instagram:  Kayhutchison_author

Youtube   https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzvql4FXQ4BQY7QF2o1FDHw

Twitter        @37Therapies

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


Thanks so much Kay for agreeing to be interviewed and it was a pleasure to receive your book, too. I must say that I am short as well and I totally agree with you about sling back shoes – I love them. Currently I have pairs in black, black & white, and navy. I did covet a pair in coral recently … might need to add them to my collection!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kay Hutchison

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An Interview With Tot Knots Of Brighton

Tot Knots of Brighton specialise in turban hats, headscarves, tot knots and headbands made exclusively with Liberty of London fabrics. Owners Katie and Susan, wanted to promote their beautiful headbands from a completely different angle – as a great stylish addition to gym/sportswear. Gifted with a lovely multicolour graphic Liberty of London headband, my friend Tracy and I put the headband through its paces as part of our gym gear and took it for a run, walk, aerobic exercise, yoga and Pilates… here are our results…

Disclosure: I was gifted the “Multicolour Graphic Liberty of London Headband” in exchange for an honest review; all opinions expressed are entirely my ownand Tracy’s imput too!

Photo by Linda Hobden

REVIEW

THE WEBSITE: Lovely site full of lovely looking headbands, turbans, headscarves for both adults and children in a variety of colours and Liberty of London prints. From a gym/sports point of view : if you like to be colour coordinated, then I’m sure you’ll find a headband to match. The headbands are virtually bespoke – the headband needs to fit as snug as possible, especially when doing exercise – there is an easy to follow measuring guide on the website.

Photo courtesy of Tot Knots of Brighton

DELIVERY: Nice packaging. The headband print and colour matched the description on the website. It was silky and soft to touch. You can see at a glance that an awful lot of love, care and attention had been put into the making of the headband. There was a guide enclosed if the headband needed to be altered further – my headband was spot on. Very impressed. Taking it for a yoga and Pilates spin, the headband was soft to wear. My score: 8/10

Photo by Linda Hobden

Taking the headband for its energetic spin, my friend Tracy put it through its paces with a high powered walk, running and an energetic aerobic session ! Tracy ‘s opinion was that the headband looked good and was fine with the high powered walking, yoga and Pilates sessions; however, it was slightly too bulky, as it gets very sweaty, when it came to running and the aerobics sessions. During an energetic workout, the silky headband struggled to stay put – soon remedied with some clips though. Tracy’s score: for sports wear 3/10 ; for general use, as it looks good & is comfortable 8/10

So, who are Tot Knots of Brighton? I caught up with Susan & Katie to find out more… welcome ladies 😊

Hello. We are a mother (Susan) and daughter (Katie) team creating accessories and beautiful handmade headbands, hair ties, turbans and eye masks for little and grown up people. We specialise in Liberty prints and luxury, natural fabrics, perfect for delicate skin. I (Katie) recently left my role as Picture Editor on a UK national magazine to fully focus on Tot Knots and my family.

What inspired you to set up “Tot Knots of Brighton”? 

We were on holiday together with my little girls and were struggling to keep summer hats on their heads – especially as my littlest had cradle cap – so my clever Mum fashioned a turban headscarf al la land girls 1940s out of a handkerchief and e voila it worked! – not only did it stay on but they loved wearing them and got loads of attention from everyone we met.  So when we got back home we decided to develop this further and create our first kids readymade turban and see if there was a market for them – and there was
.

Your products are created using the beautiful Liberty of London fabrics, lined with 100% cotton or 100% silk. What do you like most about using Liberty of London fabrics?

Liberty fabrics are iconic and synonymous with quality and design – and, in fact, my mum has been working with them since the 70s. She used to make smocked dresses for us and private clients in the 80s. Tana Lawn is still believed to be the best cotton on the market, and it is exclusively produced for Liberty.  It is so lovely to work with and feels beautiful to the touch, and one of the best parts of the job is being able to handpick from a huge range of beautiful colours and prints for each of our collections.. For us it is really important that we only use the highest quality fabrics we can find – be it silks / velvets / cottons and wools to give our loyal customers the best quality products we can.


I personally love the multicolour graphic print that you kindly sent to me to review  –  and I love the new season Yellow D’anjo Floral design too. What items & prints are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season? 

We love the Merchant graphic we gave you and think that is going to be a big hit for us this season too.  The red and white Marco is proving to be our best seller – as it seems to bridge lots of seasons, but we’ve had an overwhelming response to our first summertime preview – in the yellow floral D’anjo – so we have high hopes for the new collection which is going to be fully released on 1st May.   

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

We love the twisted turban headbands as they are really vertisile  – can be worn to dress up an outfit, rectify a bad hair day – great on holiday sunbathing on the beach, or keeping your hair back during a work out.  There is no occasion it can’t be of some practical and stylistic use! They are classic and timeless and seem to suit all ages really well.
 
You currently offer a wide range of products including turban hats, headscarves, headbands – for adults & children alike. Have you got any new products in the pipeline?

Our summertime collection is going to launch on 1st May with a host of beautiful new prints.  We are very excited to be launching our ultimate luxury silk turban collection this month (date TBC) – this is going to be a very exclusive and limited edition using Liberty printed silk and silk crepe instead of Tana lawn, for the ultimate in luxury. 

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

Yes, we ship worldwide.  Mostly to the USA, but also to Australia and we are very popular in Europe.
 
When choosing print designs/colours to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, traditional charm, colour or bits of all those?  

Bit of all of those – it is quite an instinctive process – when we see a print we absolutely love it’s hard not go for it. 

Have you got any advice on how to keep your turban/headband in tip top condition? 

We recommend dry cleaning or handwash carefully in tepid water, with a very gentle silk / wool wash detergent but our top tip to give any of our products a refresh is to get the iron out and gently press them back to their beautiful crisp cotton, boxfresh-ness!

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in sewing/ craftwork/ textiles?

Yes it’s been part of Susan’s world since the swinging 60s when making clothes for herself and friends she realised she not only had a passion but a real talent for it – handed down by her own mum.  For as long as I remember there has been a family ‘cottage’ industry of sewing and handcrafts.  Being creative has always been part of our family life. 

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

I (Susan) have quite a modern classic style – slip on pumps, cut off trousers, and a cashmere or cotton knit top suits me just fine!I (Katie) love denim of all kinds – it’s so versatile and great teamed up with a plain, crisp, white shirt, big statement earrings and topped off with a tot knot twisted headband or Alice band for a splash of colour!

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

Susan loves Bimba and Lola, Pure, Paige Jeans, and loves a designer bargain.Katie loves Cos for classic basics and great cuts, Top Shop Moto jeans are affordable and fit  well, Whistles and Sezane for something a little extra special 13.

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

Susan –  Another Missoni dress (preferably in the sale!)Katie – I am always on the hunt for a pair of denim dungarees! I love Rockthejumpsuit.com and one day I will buy a pair of Chloe Susannah boots (crossing fingers!)

Boots or Shoes?

Boots – total comfort and work all year round not just for winter but look great with summer dresses and a good denim or leather jacket.
 

For Pinning Later

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

https://totknotsofbrighton.com/
Summertime collection goes fully live  on 1st May: https://totknotsofbrighton.com/collections/summertime

Thank you both for the headband and for chatting to us today about your lovely headbands & turbans. The material, products and prints are exquisite. I remember walking through Liberty store in London in the 1980s, a treasure trove of textiles! I adored the place.

Linda x

My thanks to Tracy Cook for reviewing the headband on my behalf.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Tot Knots of Brighton, Tracy Cook and Linda Hobden.

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An Interview With Desert Bells

Dream weddings overseas have been popular over recent years with UK couples and the destination of Dubai is a particular favourite. Dubai offers perfect weather, numerous beach venues, plenty of catering options for all budgets, the chance to go OTT with the bling, good flight links – reasons are endless. Desert Bells are Dubai destination wedding planners founded by Emirati sisters Chandan and Dimple. Dimple is based in Dubai, whereas Chandan is based in London. I caught up with Chandan to find out more about the delights of Dubai … Hi, Chandan!

Hello, I’m Chandan, I’m an Indian Emirati who grew up in the beautiful city of Dubai, I’ve spent 30 years there and have been in Marketing and Events for over 11 years. I’ve planned and organised not only weddings but press days, fashion shows, corporate conferences and several themed parties. I’ve now moved to London and encourage newly engaged couples and their families to choose Dubai as a destination for their nuptials, moreover choose us to plan their special days for them 🙂

What triggered the eureka moment to begin your company, Desert Bells?

I did my own wedding independently. I did not have a planner, it was all done by both families and we did a great job which was appreciated by everyone who attended. Our wedding even graced 4 pages of a well known glossy in the UAE, that’s how much everyone loved and enjoyed it. So one day during a casual conversation, knowing my forte and experience, my father-in-law suggested that I do wedding planning as a business for UK based clients like themselves, interested in destination Dubai. It definitely sounded like a great idea and never left my mind, but at the time I had just moved to England and knew very little about the people, their preferences and the overall market. I then continued to do a job in London and pursued my forte i.e. marketing, PR & events. This helped me to understand my prospective audience a lot better, their mindsets, the budgets they allocate for weddings, their perception of destination weddings in general, their perception of Dubai and so on and that’s how Desert Bells Wedding Planners came into existence. 

Have you always wanted a career in weddings/event planning or did your aspirations lie elsewhere?

My ultimate dream is to be a celebrity – I’m still working on it..haha !


What would you say are the most popular reasons that Dubai (& UAE in general) is a favourite wedding destination?

Dubai is a small city that packs a lot of punch. It is the city’s versatility that makes it extremely popular. With 7-8 hours travel time from most parts of UK & Europe, several direct flights and guaranteed good weather are, what I believe, make UAE very attractive. Moreover what lures couples is that they can visualise their wedding dreams coming to life given the luxurious venues, beaches, F&B options and the overall charisma the city exudes. It places a great deal of confidence in parties that both them and their guests will have a much greater time than anticipated. 

Which venue is the most popular place to hold a wedding?  Which is your personal favourite?

This is a tough one! There are so many amazing options available even with non 5 star properties, the venues are endless and that is without compromising a great deal. With clients who allocate huge budgets and desire the quintessential Dubai luxury it would have to be – The Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa, The Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons Hotel and of course the Burj Al Arab. Obviously not everyone wants to allocate budgets like these to their wedding. Also in the interest of dispelling some common myths, one can get huge value for their money (specially when converting from pounds, euros or dollars to AED) with other 5* properties: there are numerous gorgeous venues on Jumeirah Beach, The Palm Jumeirah and exquisite ballrooms and garden venues too. My personal favourite would be any Marriott property – their hospitality and efforts are truly A-grade and I have never been disappointed by any Marriott in the world. Having said that, “JW MARRIOTT MARQUIS in Dubai is pretty much my second home and my other favourite is Ritz Carlton JBR. I had my own wedding functions at both these venues too 🙂 

What legal requirements need to be fulfilled before a wedding can take place in Dubai?

These would usually be carried out by the planning company or, if you are organising it yourself, then the hotel would guide you through signing contracts and procuring certain permissions for entertainers, fireworks, etc. Some of these are chargeable, whereas others are just about applying for the permission. One needs to own an alcohol licence in UAE as well (this is charged) – again the planning company would organise this for you or the hotel would present you with the options available to them for you to take a call. 

What clothing guidelines do you recommend for the bridal party & guests? 

If you’re hosting your wedding in Dubai, I take it that you’ve come here to experience and show your guests the absolute luxe. Dubai is one destination where you can, without any fear, throw practical thoughts of out of the window and bring your Pinterest board to life. I’d say go with the theme, bring on the bling! Don’t wear dresses or footwear you think are comfortable to run around in, or worry about the weather. Your venue is not countryside and no, you don’t have to walk anywhere. Weather in Dubai is 99% guaranteed, it almost never rains and as most venues are within hotels you have the most convenient access to taxis, Ubers, the bridal suite, your rooms, butlers on service, tailoring teams at hotels and locker service too if you wish to put your expensive jewellery away safely before starting to dance all night long. It is really hassle free, so by all means go ahead and put on your sexiest heels and leave the pair of wedges in the hotel room for later. Do invest in a great pair of sunnies as you’d wear them most days. Anything you think is ‘EXTRA’ is perfectly acceptable in a city like this 🙂

Entertainment at a wedding is just as important as the ceremony itself. What activities are most popular?Most unusual or extravagant?

It varies quite a lot. DJ music is the most popular and a safe option guaranteeing everyone a good time; but things like Belly Dancing performances are very popular with the English, Europeans and Americans as it is a big part of the local culture which is entertaining and yet unusual for guests from abroad to experience. Other than that most Indian Weddings are very extravagant with singers, bands, performers – even Bollywood & Hollywood celebrities flown in for entertainment to wow the guests. 

Apart from Dubai, what other locations in the UAE do you think are worth considering as a wedding venue?

I’d say Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah. There are lots of beautiful hotels in Abu Dhabi, from Emirates Palace which is a gorgeous 5* property to beach properties like Waldorf Astoria in RAK is a destination that would give you the getaway vibes. Known for its stunning beach resorts, it is a getaway from the city with lots of fun.


If I was to visit Dubai, what are the top places/activities I should add to my itinerary?

  • Dubai Mall + Aquarium ( largest mall in the world with all the brands under one roof and plenty of food and drinks options too). It’s so huge it’s like a neighbourhood.
  • Go up the Burj Khalifa for that mandatory tick in the box.
  • Do a brunch – plenty of fun ones, some night brunches too with an after party but my fav and an absolute must go is the ZERO GRAVITY BRUNCH. It’s the best combination of unlimited food,drinks, pool access, beach access, people and music – you can experience that too for less than £100.
  • Dubai nightlife is very popular too and is very safe for women. Head to Club White for the ultimate fancy night out – very popular with fancy hen parties.
  • Some very popular restaurants to try are: Fish in Westin, Carnival by Tresind, Ramusake and plenty others you’d find on Time Out Dubai.
  • Go see the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi if time permits  – It’s truly a piece of art. 
  • Another must do is a Desert Safari if it is your first

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

You mean when in Dubai? I’ll be honest, I’m a summer girl. Before I moved to England, I did not own a single pair of denims, trainers or a coat #notjoking. My Dubai wardrobe is pretty summery, all dresses – I love maxi dresses, skirts, flattering jumpsuits, off shoulders outfits and LOTSSSS of Stilettoes !   

Boots Or Shoes?

Stilettoes 🙂  because they are the sexiest and can uplift any outfit and/or look. I miss not being able to wear enough of them in England 🙁 

For Pinning Later

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

www.instagram.com/desertbellsweddingplanners/
I’d also encourage readers to take a peak into my personality and check out my blog Fcube Dubai – www.instagram.com/fcube_dubai/

Thank you for chatting with me, Chandan … It was great to see the photographs and I love your enthusiasm for Dubai too. I hope that life soon recommences outside of lockdown and that travelling, socialising and dream weddings can once again take place. In the meantime, thank you for providing us with some glamorous escapism.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chandan/DesertBells Wedding Planners

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An Interview With Author Miles Montague

I was kindly gifted a book by Cameron Publishing, a thriller called “Carbon Game” by Miles Montague, to review. Published on 16 February 2020, this thriller looked, well, thrilling, when I read the blurb on the back of the book. I am a great fan of thrillers and this one was set within the explosive political battles of the 1980s between South Africa and England; and the diamond trade. It was refreshing to read a thriller based on a topic that has rarely been explored, and as Miles is a former diamond valuer who operated from London in the 1980s, the thriller was made more credible due to the attention to details. Miles was born in Kenya and came to England in the 1960s and as I was reading the book, it occurred to me that there were similarities in style and pace of writing between Miles, and fellow African writer, Wilbur Smith – who happens to be one of my top favourite authors. Miles book jogged my memories of London in the 1980s although I did not know the ins and outs of the diamond trade nor the extent of the politics of the time. I found the thriller fast paced and exciting to read, the characters were believable and obviously the locations I could relate too. For a first thriller, this was more than excellent and I, for one, look forward to reading his second thriller! I was honoured therefore, to get a chance to chat to Miles who also shared his photos with me of the London locations used in “Carbon Game”. Hi Miles and welcome…

Hello, I’m Miles Montague, I’m British, married and currently living in Belgium. I’ve also lived in Germany, Switzerland and Africa.

I worked in London as a valuer in the diamond industry in the 1980’s. My first thriller, Carbon Game, is set during this period of great social upheaval, both in South Africa and Britain. My work taught me a great deal about the international diamond business. I have a deep interest in international politics and economics, and love the challenge of complex plot and deep character creation required of thriller writing.  

I was born in Kenya and lived there until my family, like many other colonials, returned to England in the mid 1960s.  I can still remember, as a young boy, watching the severe storm at sea when we rounded the South African coast on our way home and the swimming pool almost emptying of water as the liner lurched to the battering of waves. This gave me a love of nature and drama. So, I suppose it’s no surprise that today, I am turning a rundown, hilltop Italian wine-producing property into a sanctuary for nature where I can watch the storms rolling in whilst I write my second thriller, which is also partially set in Africa.

Who or what inspired you to become a professional writer?​

I cannot be specific on this, but my early interest was radio plays.  The reason for this is primarily that I like character creation.  The plot also needs to unfold quickly in a realistic manner that you can follow.  These are quite difficult challenges which I like.  

“Carbon Game” – your 1st thriller – published on 16 February 2020 – and what a thriller – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish.  Being set between South Africa & England during the political turmoil of the 1980s and the plot being based on the diamond trade; it was certainly fast paced.  As you were a former diamond valuer in London during the 1980s, a lot of the characters must have been based on people you knew and situations experienced.  Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

Actually only three minor characters were based on people I knew of or had met in the diamond industry.  I used my imagination to create the rest.  The way my writing brain works is that I first create an outline plot and then sub plots which give rise to situations wherepeople find themselves in.  I then think of what kind of people might get themselves in those positions.  I have met a lot of people in my life and I also like watching TV and films.

I enjoyed writing about all the characters even the minor ones.

Janet Bromsgrove was a challenge as I was creating a female character who in some ways is not what you would expect.  She is tough, self-assured, confident and had a background that offered her opportunities, and yet she chose to  turn her back on those opportunities and follow a radical direction.  An interesting character to write.

The locations were based primarily on my experiences.  The bomb threat on the DTC building was something I went through and the streets and buildings were often places I had been to or ones I had researched. I was born in Kenya and lived there as a child and so have some knowledge of Africa.  I have relatives who live in South Africa, although most of these have now gone to Australia.


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

A huge amount of effort went into the plot. Even so, along the way I was pleasantly surprised by ideas that came along that made it more interesting. For instance, I changed the ending of the finished book despite the fact that it created a lot of additional work.  I was lying in bed in that grey zone between being awake and asleep, and at 4am a new ending came to me.  I remember thinking, ‘stay in bed, you will remember it’, but I forced myself to get up and change it.  I often get ideas during my sleep.  

What made you decide to write a thriller about the diamond trade?  Did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the thriller developed?

My inspiration for Carbon Game came from when I was working for an international diamond company in London as a valuer, I was told a story by a diamond buyer which really got my imagination going.  

He told me that in Western Africa there was a great deal of diamond smuggling from the alluvial deposits, primarily because of the civil war in Angola.  This theme is partially shown in the film Blood Diamonds starring Leonardo di Caprio.  The buyer went on to say that there were agents or buyers from all over the world located there and their task was to buy the best stones they could. He went on to describe how the smugglers would buy brand new 4×4 vehicles, often Land Rovers.  They would bag up their diamonds and hide them in the engine oil sump.  However, often some diamonds would escape and get into the engine mechanism which would wreak havoc.  One way the buyers would know that the smugglers were coming was the loud rattling noises coming from those broken engines.  After the smugglers had got the diamonds out from the engine sump they would often just leave the vehicle in the middle of nowhere and go buy another one.

These highly valuable alluvial diamonds are the best in the world.  They are quite literally beautiful as they are eroded so they have a smooth skin and when they trickle through your fingers they give a sensation that you will never forget.

Are there any new thriller ideas or writing plans in the pipeline?​

I am currently writing my next book, and this will be a suspense / psychological  thriller with  some criminal subplots. It starts in Uganda where certain significant events lead to tragic consequences about twenty five years later in Britain driven by personal ambition and lies.  I have already written the first 30,000 words.

I actually have plot ideas for my next four thrillers. The world is in such a state of flux at the moment that opportunities for ideas have probably never been better.

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

I would not classify myself as a bookworm, but I am a bit of a news, economics and politics follower.  My favourite authors are Alistair MacLean and Frederick Forsyth.  I like real paperbooks, but appreciate that Kindle is really popular. 

 Is “Carbon Game” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, via Amazon and you can get to it via the links on my website: www.milesmontaguebooks.com

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

Places in Africa, probably the coffee region in Uganda.

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

Smart casual.  Jeans and sweatshirts. In the Summer I wear more linen shirts and trousers.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Definitely an Armani man but I also like Weston for shoes. 

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

Some decent jeans.

Boots or Shoes? 

I like both. I have some old ostrich leather boots which I love made by Lanvin which need some renovation.

For Pinning Later

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

www.milesmontaguebooks.com

Twitter and Facebook accessible from the website

Thank you Miles for agreeing to be interviewed. I really enjoyed reading your book and I can highly recommend it. My thanks also go to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publishing for my review copy.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Miles Montague (apart from the top photo which is by Linda Hobden)

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An Interview With Barlooon Germany

Hanging from trees, shrubs, gazebos and tents, waterproof lanterns known as “barlooons” give an alternative outdoor lighting option for your garden, patio or outdoor space. The barlooons are manufactured by Barlooon Germany using material that has been specially adapted to the climatic conditions in Europe. I chat to Hanna Barten, MD of Barlooon Germany to find out more about these colourful lights. Hi Hanna!

Hello, I am Hanna Barten, in my late thirties, managing director of Barlooon Germany GmbH and mother of two charming and lively girls.

Your company designs and makes weatherproof lanterns “barlooons”. What inspired the company to concentrate on this type of outdoor lighting?

I love lanterns! And I wanted them for our garden all year round. But the lanterns that existed before didn’t last long, because they were made of paper. And you couldn’t light them up either. So I thought to myself: There must be another way! The idea was born.

By the way: The name Barlooon is written with 3xO, because we have our lampions in three different sizes, namely with 30 cm / 50 cm and 70 cm diameter. And the 3xO stand for our 3 sizes. 

It is not unusual for Barlooon to be written with 2xO only, but always with the thought behind it, it will actually always be spelled correctly in the future.


What is the material used to make the barlooons? Are they suitable for leaving outside throughout the year? 

The material we use for our lampions is a very robust PVC material, which is also used for beach chairs and awnings. It is therefore designed for year-round outdoor use and is wonderfully suitable for our products. 

And: Yes! Of course our lampions can be outside all year round. In rain, snow or storms….. 

However, we recommend to clean the lampions if necessary, which is also possible without any problems.


There are some lovely colours to choose from including white, cream, yellow, orange, red, green, black – I rather like the dazzling orange, but which colour seems to be the most popular amongst your customers? Do you have a favourite colour?

In spring most customers choose our lampions in white, yellow and orange. In summer more for white.

Towards autumn, the orange and yellow ones are the most popular and the red lampion is mainly bought in the pre-Christmas period.

It is always very interesting to see how the year passes by in colours 🙂 

Our special colours like green and black are really very rarely asked for. But we are happy if we can also help customers with special wishes.

Furthermore, our customers also have the possibility to create their own personal Barlooon; with our “YOU-Edition”.

I personally like our white lanterns best. They are colour neutral and therefore blend in well in the garden all year round – no matter what is flowering or not.


Are there any new additions/colours to your range of lights in the pipeline for 2020?

At the moment there are no new colours planned. We are currently working on adding a stand for the ground spikes to our accessories so that the ground spike can be used where there are no beds. For example for roof terraces or terraces as such.

In addition, we are developing a very large lantern, which has a diameter of over one meter. We affectionately call it our “Megalooon”.

Are there any rules or recommendations about where to display these lights?

Our Barlooons can actually be used everywhere. Whether it is in a tree or positioned totally flexible with our earth spike and solar module. 

The solar module is recommended for use where it can also be charged by the sun. 

With the wired lighting solution, our lanterns have more power and shine correspondingly reliably, even in the dark season.

As you are based in Germany, are your products available to customers abroad?

The work on our English online shop is in its final stages! Therefore, from about the beginning / middle of March, customers from all EU countries will be able to order easily in our shop. 

Of course we are also happy to accept inquiries from other countries. However, due to customs formalities, it may take a little longer to process them. 

We are so happy that we have such a great response to our lampions!

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

As a rule I always wear quite comfortable clothes with even more comfortable shoes, because there are always situations where you have to help out. 

And besides that I am always on the move in my private life. That is not missing with small children. Spontaneous playing catch with the children in high heels is a bit unhappy. Besides, I’m already quite tall with a height of 180 cm and with high-heeled shoes, finding pants is really a challenge.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

Frankly speaking, I’m a bit of a shopping grouch. I have quite a lot of clothes in my closet, but as it is: Most of the time I always go back to the same comfortable clothes.

If I have the possibility I try to support the local retail trade here in the small town, even if it is maybe a little more expensive than in the online shop.

Moreover, most of the times you always meet some friends and get into nice conversations over and over again. 

If I am looking for something special, I am very happy about the medium internet and the possibilities it offers.

Online shops are great and it is impossible to imagine today’s world without them.

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

The garden season is coming up and last autumn my beloved rubber boots broke, so I urgently need new ones…..

Boots or Shoes?

I can’t even say I prefer any of them. It depends on the opportunity and what I’m wearing that day. And, of course, also on my mood 🙂

For pinning later

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

These are the links from our German social pages. We are in the process of creating English pages for this. These will be finished bit by bit. 

You can find our shop under www.barlooon.com

https://www.facebook.com/Barlooon

https://barlooon.tumblr.com/

https://www.xing.com/companies/barlooongermanygmbh

https://www.instagram.com/barlooon.wetterfester.lampion/

http://twitter.com/barlooon

http://www.pinterest.de/barlooon/

Many thanks Hanna for chatting to me . Do check out Hanna’s Instagram page, dear readersthe photographs are fabulous as well as the products.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Barlooon Germany

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Spotlight on The British Craft Trade Fair

Every April for the last 45 years, the British Craft Trade Fair has taken place in the pretty town of Harrogate, Yorkshire – a real celebration of all things British and handmade. It is probably the most important event in the UK that supports British- made products. There is a very strict criteria for exhibiting – nothing mass marketed or imported, guaranteed to have been made in the British Isles or Ireland, using handcrafting techniques and, wherever possible, local materials. Various craft disciplines are exhibited, including fine art, wall art, glassmaking, paper products, baby and children’s wear, metalwork, ceramics. The exhibitors themselves range from newbies to old hand exhibitors. In 2020, the first ever public opening day was announced for Saturday 4 April, followed by the trade only show from April 5th – April 7th. Alas, the Coronavirus outbreak has put the spanner in the works for 2020, and the first public day will now be on 10 April 2021, followed by the trade show 11-13 April 2021. So, for 2020 the British Craft Trade Fair will be a “virtual” exhibition… http://bctf.co.uk

I have spent some time scouting the exhibitors catalogue, and as the trade fair is not going ahead now in the conventional sense, I thought I would highlight 10 exhibitors that impressed me… not an easy task as all the exhibitors were worth a mention…

AMANDA CRUMP CERAMICS – SHEFFIELD (http://amandacrump.com)

Amanda’s artwork is an investigation into the relationship between ourselves and the creatures we share our world with. Her influences include storybooks, her young son, fashion design, day to day happenings. Her artwork is ceramic “almost” stoneware fired along with other objects such as feathers, horse hair, vintage buttons. I’m not sure what attracted me to this particular model – perhaps because it’s a dressed up cat! The detail though is quite exquisite, especially in the cat’s face.

ATLANTIC DESIGN STUDIO – NORTHERN IRELAND. (www.atlanticdesignstudio.com)

Stunning jewellery by designer & silversmith Lou Gillett. I love these earrings – the pleated look to them that is material like.

BEASTIE ASSEMBLAGE – JEDBURGH (www.beastieassemblage.co.uk)

Linda Lovett makes assemblage and jewellery incorporating vintage China and other found objects. I particularly picked this assemblage as it is full of the joys of Spring and the colours work well together. I love how the bits of vintage china have been incorporated into the scene too.

BEBANNE ART – STOURBRIDGE (www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BebanneArt)

Bev Bernhardt-Bridges is a fine artist with a passion for art, creativity and colour. She is an established silk artist with a selection of exquisite colourful silk scarves. Inspiration comes, predominantly, from the Natural World; from its shapes, colours and hues. Why did I pick these scarves? I love the vibrant colours.

COMPASS ROSE SOAPS UK – ROCHESTER (Facebook.com/CompassRoseSoapsUK)

These soaps are made to a premium olive oil based recipe, scented with essential oils and flower absolutes. They also have a collection of vegetable butter bath melts and sold foam bath balls. I was attracted by the colours and intrigued by the bath products.

DIANE JONES – BRADFORD (dianejonestextiles.com)

Colours again caught my eye! These sumptuous devore silk velvet scarves are hand painted. So, so pretty 😊

DREYA GLASS – NEWQUAY (www.dreya.co.uk)

Coastal inspired fused glass art at its best! Dreya Glass is based in Newquay, Cornwall. The fish look eerily realistic and are stunning.

HOLY LOCH POTTERY – DUNOON (www.holylochpottery.co.uk)

Inspired by the ancient Scottish landscape, these handmade ceramics are made from either an earthy buff or black high-fired stoneware clay. I do so love all textural things like this.

JANIE KNITTED TEXTILES – NOTTINGHAM (www.janieknittedtextiles.co.uk)

Using British and Merino wools sourced from UK suppliers, these colourful handmade interior accessories, lighting and soft furnishings have just put a new spin on “knitted items”.

KEREZ LTD – LEEDS (www.kerezltd.com)

Using beads, Kerez Ltd’s main products are cute bead handbags and bead art.

There are so many good exhibitors in the catalogue that I didn’t have the space to feature them all here! I hope that in 2021 the fair goes ahead as planned and for 2020, visit the virtual fair and see what talent is alive and kicking in Great Britain and Ireland.

For further details about the 2021 Trade Fair, 2021 public day, the virtual fair 2020 & catalogue, if you want to be considered as a future exhibitor, contact: http://bctf.co.uk

For Pinning Later

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of British Craft Trade Fair

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An Interview With Author Linda Rosen

I’m so excited this week to be part of Linda Rosen’s official book tour promoting her fabulous latest book “The Disharmony Of Silence”. I was lucky enough to be gifted an advanced copy of the book – which I thoroughly enjoyed- and even more thrilled to be able to ask Linda Rosen some questions…. but first, here’s the official resume of “The Disharmony Of Silence “….

BOOK SUMMARY

In 1915, jealous, bitter Rebecca Roth cuts all ties with her life-long friends, the Pearls. Eight years later, Rebecca’s son and young Lena Pearl begin keeping company in secret. Rebecca agrees to a truce when the couple marries. But the truce is fragile. Rebecca’s resentments run deep.

In 2010, Carolyn Lee, fitness instructor and amateur photographer, must come to grips with the fact that her mother’s imminent death will leave her alone in the world. While preparing her childhood home for sale, she realizes for the first time that her mother’s antique brooch is identical to the one pinned to the lady’s dress in the painting hanging above the fireplace. Coincidence or connection? Carolyn is determined to find out. What she discovers has the potential to tear lives apart or to bring her the closeness and comfort she longs for. It all depends on how she handles her newfound knowledge.

Genre: Women’s Upmarket Fiction

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ISBN-10: 1684334306

ISBN-13: 9781684334308
The Disharmony of Silence is now available to purchase at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. 

THE INTERVIEW

Hi Linda! Welcome to my blog!

Thank you, Linda, for reading my novel, The Disharmony of Silence, and inviting me to your blog. I am immediately drawn to you since we share the same first name as well as having a passion for writing and reading. To tell you a bit about myself, I live with my husband of almost 48 years splitting our time between New Jersey and Southeast Florida. I am not a fan of snow and ice and love swimming, playing tennis and pickleball outdoors all winter long in warm sunshine and reading with my feet in the sand, though I do miss my two grandsons who live less than a mile from me in New Jersey. 

After a successful career as a fitness professional, who or what inspired you to take the plunge and become a professional writer?

When I was approaching my sixtieth birthday, although I loved leading my exercise classes and working with private clients, which I still do when in New Jersey, I felt I needed something more. My creative side was calling to me. I was actually perusing an adult school catalogue for a photography class and noticed a writers workshop being offered. I signed up for it and the teacher was fabulous. After the first class, I was hooked. Since then, my fingers haven’t stopped flying across the keyboard.

“The Disharmony Of Silence” – your novel published on 5th March 2020 – and what a novel – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. Definitely different.  At first, I wasn’t sure of Carolyn and her quest to discover the mystery of the brooch, but as the story unraveled, I found myself engrossed – I gasped in horror at Rebecca’s attitude and mannerisms … I found myself questioning Carolyn’s methods of unravelling her family history …. Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoyed the book. Rebecca was definitely the most fun to write yet it is a tie between Rebecca and Kate for who I enjoyed writing the most. They are complete opposites. Kate embodies characteristics I admire in some of the older women who have taken my exercise classes and Rebecca is someone I hope I’ll never be, yet I do understand her and hope readers will try to justify her motives, not only judge.

As to the hardest character to write, Ben gets that award. I had to keep him vulnerable yet believable and since I haven’t been twenty years old for a long time, and I’m not male, he was a challenge. 


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

Yes, actually revising surprised me. I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy it. When I wrote the first version of The Disharmony of Silence, which had a different title at the time, I thought that was great. I enjoyed sitting at my computer creating characters and story. Though the more I learned along the way and the more I dug into my characters when not actually writing, just lying in bed, swimming laps or driving my car, the more I realized what I hadn’t written. That’s when the real fun began. I love playing with words and phrases and making them come alive on the page and that can only be done once I get the initial raw wording down. 

Unravelling family secrets – sometimes the results can have a pleasing ending and sometimes the results do not turn out for the best.  Delving into family history is, nonetheless, curiously addictive.  What inspired the novel topic? Did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the novel developed?

The inspiration for this novel had nothing to do with a real family secret. It came from a story my sister-in-law had told me when she was getting her mother’s house ready for sale. It centered around a painting that had hung in the living room her whole life. Since no one in the family wanted the painting and my sister-in-law didn’t want to throw it away she decided to search for the artist and, if alive, return it to her. I thought that was a great premise for a story. And, since I’ve always been fascinated by family secrets I’ve heard about, I created one. It wasn’t until I was on one of my later drafts that I realized that the definition of family was a major theme. I had been focused on secrets and lies, which are also themes in the novel and I have questions for book clubs concerning these themes at the end of the book. My personal feelings of what makes a family did influence me as I have an extended family and not all from blood. It also took quite a while for me to know how the book would end and my feelings on secrets did play a huge part in that – as well as Carolyn, my protagonist, telling me what she was going to do with her discovery. 

Are there any new novel ideas or writing plans in the pipeline?

I am presently re-writing a novel I started years ago set on a hillside vineyard in the Hudson River Valley in the 1960s and ‘70s. It’s a sisterhood novel about grit and determination, raising women’s consciousness, and wine. 

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

I am a voracious reader and am drawn to upmarket women’s fiction and historical fiction. Some favorite authors are Barbara Kingsolver, Kristin Harmel, Susan Meissner, Kristin Hannah and not to leave out men, John Boyne and Pat Conroy. I love holding a real book in my hands though I do read on my Kindle and have also enjoyed listening to audio books

Is “The Disharmony of Silence” available to purchase worldwide?

It should be available on most sites. If there is an issue, readers can contact my publisher, Black Rose Writing. 

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

That’s a fun question. I suppose it would be the Outback in Australia. Ever since I read a book many years ago, whose title I cannot remember, about a female pilot who flew doctors in and out of the Outback, I’ve been fascinated with the place. 

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

I’m a jeans girl – skinny jeans with any kind of top, depending on occasion and weather though I do like summer skirts. As far as shoes, sandals win.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Several years ago Chicos was a favorite, though I’m tired of their styles now. Actually, I much prefer to shop in person for clothes and shoes rather than on-line, and any smaller store that displays outfits rather than going through racks stuffed with all kinds of styles is for me. 

What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?

As my mother used to say, I can shop in my own closet. I have clothes I barely wear so, honestly;I don’t have any wish lists at this time.


Boots or Shoes?

These questions are so much fun to answer. I’d have to say, given the choice, boots. Since I seriously do not like winter, I have trouble moving from flip flops to wearing shoes with socks and boots are a better look.

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

Thanks for asking. My website is linda-rosen.com where you can contact me if you’re interested in having me either come to or Skype with your book club. You can follow me on Facebook and Instagram @lindarosenauthor and on Twitter @lrosenauthor.  

For pinning later

BOOK BLOG TOUR DATES

March 2nd @ The Muffin

What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Grab your coffee and join us as we celebrate the launch of Linda’s blog tour The Disharmony of Silence. Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book too!

http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

March 4th @ A Writer’s Life

How much does setting matter in a novel? Author Linda Rosen talks about this very subject over at Caroline’s blog today. You can also enter to win a copy of her book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com/

March 6th @ 12 Books

Make sure you visit Louise’s blog and read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. You can also enter to win a copy of the book as well!

http://www.12books.co.uk/

March 7th @ Lori Duff Writes

Be sure to stop by Lori’s blog today and you can read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://www.loriduffwrites.com/blog/

March 8th @ Bring on Lemons

Visit Crystal’s blog today and you can read a review written by her daughter Carmen about Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. Don’t miss it!

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

March 10th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Make sure you visit Anthony’s blog today where you can read his interview with author Linda Rosen.

March 11th @ A Storybook World

Blogger Deirdra Eden spotlights Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://www.astorybookworld.com/

March 13th @ Lori’s Reading Corner

Stop by Lori’s blog today and you can read a fitness inspiring post by author Linda Rosen! She shares some tips about strength training while reading audiobooks. You can also enter to win a copy of Linda’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://www.lorisreadingcorner.com/

March 14th @ Boots, Shoes and Fashion

Stop by Linda’s blog today and you can read her interview with author Linda Rosen. Don’t miss it!

http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/

March 15th @ Choices

Make sure you stop by Madeline Sharples’ blog today and read Linda Rosen’s blog post about inspiring your creative self by getting outdoors. Don’t miss it!

http://madelinesharples.com/

March 16th @ Reviews and Interviews

Visit Lisa’s blog where she interviews author Linda Rosen about her book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.com/

March 17th @ Coffee with Lacey

Grab some coffee and join Lacey over at her blog today. She reviews Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://coffeewithlacey.com/

March 18th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit Anthony’s blog again today and read his review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. Don’t miss it!

March 19th @ AJ Sefton’s Blog

Make sure you visit author AJ Sefton’s blog today and read a review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://www.ajsefton.com/book-reviews

March 20th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Looking for a new book to add to your reading list? Make sure you visit Bev’s blog today and read her review of “The Disharmony of Silence.” You’ll want to add it to your list!

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

March 21st @ Bookworm Blog

Visit Anjanette’s blog today and you can read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://bookworm66.wordpress.com/

March 22nd @ 12 Books

Are you part of a book club? Author Linda Rosen shares fun activities you can do for your book club. Don’t miss this fun, inspiring post!

http://www.12books.co.uk/

March 23rd @ Cassandra’s Writing World

Make sure you visit Cassandra’s blog today and read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://cassandra-mywritingworld.blogspot.com/

March 25th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

What do you do if you are writing about a made-up setting? Make sure you visit Bev’s blog today and you can read Linda Rosen’s guest post where she shares her advice.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

March 26th @ Lady in Read Writes

Stop by Vidya’s blog today and you can read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://ladyinreadwrites.com/

March 27th @ Jessica Belmont’s Blog

Over at Jessica’s blog today, you won’t want to miss her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. You can also enter to win a copy of the book as well!

https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

March 28th @ Bookworm Blog

Stop by Anjanette’s blog again today and you can read her interview with author Linda Rosen.

https://bookworm66.wordpress.com/

March 30th @ It’s Alanna Jean

What does your writing space look like? Author Linda Rosen shares her tips for setting up your writing space over at Alanna Jean’s blog. 

http://itsalannajean.com/

April 3rd @ Joyful Antidotes

Make sure you stop by Joy’s blog today where she reviews Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://joyfulantidotes.com/


April 5th @ Teatime and Books

How much do you love revising? Does it spark joy? Linda Rosen shares her thoughts on the joy of revising over at the blog Tea Time and Books. 

http://teatimeandbooks76.blogspot.com/

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Linda Rosen.

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An Interview With GuanAnAn London

Going oriental this week as far as textiles go, at any rate. GuanAnAn London was established in London at the end of 2018 by founder Ju Guan, and they have a fabulous range of cushions, wallpapers, lampshades and fashion accessories in unique prints based on Ju’s drawings of characters from ancient oriental mythologies. Ju has a passion for sharing stories through her drawings as I found out when I interviewed her. Hi Ju!

Hi! My name is Ju Guan, I come from China. I lived and studied in Glasgow from 2012 to 2018, then I moved to London and set up my brand here. I graduated from the Glasgow School of Art, and my major was Painting & Printmaking.

What inspired you to set up “GuanAnAn London”? 

While I studied at GSA, I found out a fact that I always have had a passion for sharing stories through my drawings and connecting with people on an emotional level through my artworks. So, I started this brand with a strong belief in the power of storytelling. When people buy a product, they do not just get a daily-use item, they will gain joy from the stories. This is the thing I always wanted to do. To bring something interesting into people’s daily life.

Your brand creates unique prints for luxury home decor and fashion accessories based upon inspirations from ancient oriental mythologies. What do you like most about drawing the oriental mythologies? 

Let me take the first collection “The Fish” as an example.  It’s based on classic Chinese mythology called the Classic of the Mountains and Seas……. Actually, I don’t know if I should call it mythology because the characters in the literature are described as real existed creatures over 4500 years ago, rather than characters of a story. It’s more like a dictionary of ancient Chinese mythological creatures.

“There is a fish called He Luo, it lives in a river in the North. It has one head and ten bodies, and it yells like a dog. People love it not only because it is one of the best-tasting fish, but also it can cure illnesses.”

I read the words and imagined what if they existed in a world just like horses and snakes around us today. Then I designed every single character by hand drawing on paper with watercolour and ink. When the characters had been completed, I used a drawing tablet to create the final illustration on the computer. 

This is a very enjoyable designing process for me. 

I personally love your He Luo cushions – in all the colourways! What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Yeah, people are asking about He Luo cushions all the time. The octopus body is very eye-catching. And there are a lot of people like the twilly scarves for the fine details and rich colours. 

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

I currently just finished the design of my second collection “The Blue Bird”. It’s a much bigger project than “The Fish”. I spent quite a lot of time on the feathers and I will say it worth of time. I love both the outcome of the design and the story.

The Blue Bird is much more popular in the oriental culture. The Chinese saying is: “There are three bluebirds. They have the most beautiful feathers, redhead, and black eyes. They are servants of the most powerful goddess. Two of them accompany the goddess all the time, and the third one is the messenger who represents the goddess.” You will see magpies(symbolises joy and good luck) are flying around the bluebird. So, that means the bluebird is bringing good news from the goddess.

You offer a bespoke service & are able to print your designs on any kind of fabric developing it into soft furnishings. What has been your favourite bespoke request so far?

I reupholstered two vintage chairs for my family. The reason why they are my favourite pieces is because of a special bespoke man-made suede. That fabric is the softest fabric I have ever seen, and it’s heavy. I have a velvet Calathea at home, the fabric feels to touch just like the plant.  That gives me an idea that I can make the whole interior a match, not only the patterns and colours but also the touch. 

You currently offer a wide range of products including silk scarves, silk kimonos, silk nightgowns, cushions, wash bags, lampshades, wallpapers.  Have you got any new products in the pipeline? 

I am planning to develop my designs into ceramics. I made a sculpture of He Luo with clay and talked to some ceramic professionals trying to build up a reliable production relationship. It will cost a lot to develop a new product, and I insist on high-end production that makes it harder for the plan to become a reality. 

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

Yeah, of course. We can ship to overseas customers and we will be very happy to know there are more people in other countries that like our brand. 

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

As an independent brand, I would say the designs are very much based on a personal taste. I believe that if I can create interesting things and pass some joy through them to the customers, they will buy it. And I think the most important thing is not following the current fashion trends, it’s to lead a new trend. But, of course, customers’ requirement is important for me, that’s the reason I welcome bespoke orders.

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in art/textiles? 

When I was a kid, every time people asked me what do I want to be when I grow up, I say artist. The answer never changed. I started drawing before I can remember, and I was training painting skills for many years, since 7 years old. Then I learnt how to be more creative and finished my study at GSA. Developing a career in the art area is always my dream.

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

Casual. Comfortable is the most important thing, followed by style.

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

I love the concept stores supporting independent designers like me. I can always find cool things in Notting Hill. 

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

Haha, a lot.

For Pinning Later

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

Website: http://guananan.co.uk

Instagram: @guanananofficial

BTW, I just released discount codes on my Website for Mother’s Day gift. 20% off on everything and an extra 20% for the silk scarves.

Thank you Ju for explaining the background to the weird and wonderful mythological creatures … I wonder if they really did exist or whether somebody had a vivid imagination?!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Ju Guan

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An Interview With Salt And Steel

As I am currently renovating my home, I am beginning to enjoy looking at furniture and other home accessories in shops, on TV programmes and on websites. In fact, it has become almost an obsession! There is such a wide choice that it can be mind boggling – which colours and styles to go for, should you follow or buck the trend. One website that caught my eye is “ Salt And Steel” – it is the home of everything monochrome and textural. It is a site that made me go “all touchy and feely“ – I love textures and metal and most of the pieces on this website I hadn’t seen elsewhere. I caught up with the founder of Salt And Steel, Sarah, to find out more about her brand and her passion of all things monochrome and textural. Hi Sarah!

Hi, I’m Sarah, Founder and owner of Salt and Steel. I live in Oxfordshire with my two children and mad chocolate labrador. In my spare time I can be found at the gym, walking the dog or in the many coffee shops and beautiful restaurants around the county.

What inspired the founding of the brand, Salt And Steel? Why did you decide to specialise in all things monochrome & textural?

I’ve always loved interiors and having worked most of my working life as a business consultant I finally wanted to find something that I’m passionate about. I took the plunge in 2019 to start Salt and Steel and haven’t looked back. I LOVE anything with texture that is a little different and monochrome hues just fit perfectly.

I am particularly fond of the Hammered Metal Side Table – and the unusual  Metal Hand Hook. To date, what has been the most popular product from your range?

Oh yes I love them too. Now that’s a very difficult question to answer as I don’t tend to re-stock smaller items as I want to keep the brand fresh and forever moving.

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

I definitely can’t answer that! I love everything. That’s how I’m building my brand…if I don’t love it then I won’t buy it.

As Salt And Steel is based in the UK, are your products available to purchase and order worldwide?

As it’s a new business my focus is on the UK but of course I’m happy ship overseas on request.

Hypothetically speaking, if you were able to visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new design collection, where would you go and why?

Probably India. I just love the detail and the craftsmanship that goes into their homeware. I try to source products that are handmade where possible.


As you have an affection for monochrome, do you personally like to accessorise with a shot of bright colour or keep it pale? Which colours?

Interestingly, I can wear colour but I just don’t like to have it in my house. I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with me! I love wearing coral and electric blue.

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

I do love a heel…either a kitten or stiletto. Heels always make me feel better. I don’t tend to wear skirts or dresses. I’m usually found in skinny trousers or a jumpsuit.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Boringly no and for that reason I subscribe to Stitch Fix.

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

Summer dresses, I’m going to push myself out of my comfort zone. 

Boots or Shoes?

Boots. I love a boot. Boots always seem to be easier for some reason.

For pinning later

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

www.saltandsteel.co.uk 

Facebook: @saltandsteeluk

Insta: salt_and_steel_uk    

Thank you Sarah for chatting to me about your brand. The love of kitten heels is another passion we share – don’t you think the curviness of a kitten heel mimics some of the metal textural furniture and shapes?

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Salt & Steel.

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Food & Drink Of Madeira

Ahh… Madeira. I could wax lyrical about this island for hours! However, this week I’m writing about the food and drink of Madeira. The Madeira Archipelago is an autonomous region of Portugal, consisting of 4 islands lying off the north west coast of Africa. The island is closer to Morocco than to Portugal. The main island of Madeira is volcanic, green, rugged and extremely scenic. Known already for its Madeira wine and warm, sub tropical climate – the food and drink in Madeira warrants a special mention. Yes, there is a McDonald’s – in Funchal, the capital – and a Starbucks ( much to the islanders’ disgust) situated at Funchal airport. The thing is that Madeira’s soil is fertile and volcanic – the warm year round climate lends itself to producing a vast array of fruits, vegetables (especially garlic & sweet potatoes), sugarcane, wines, coffee – and its location in the North Atlantic Ocean …. the fish! And Madeira cuisine is absolutely delicious!

Banana Plantation in Ponta Delgada, Madeira © Linda HobdenA

BANANAS

Bananas, bananas everywhere! The bananas grown are small and sweet. Alongside the different types of passionfruit, they are the main varieties of fruit you will come across in Madeira. Unfortunately in the UK we tend to see the larger bananas imported in from the West Indies or from West Africa.

MERCADO DOS LAVRADORES

Mercado Dos Lavadores © AdamHobden

The main marketplace for fruit, flowers and fish In Funchal is a “must see visit” on everybody’s tour list. It is a fully functioning market – the upper floor is full of fruit, vegetables and exotic flowers. The smells, colours, varieties are intoxicating! There are many strange and wonderful hybrid of fruits to try – such as banana-pineapple; passion-fruit pineapple; passionfruit-banana; lime passionfruit; peach-mango. Stall holders will try to entice you with samples of fruit to try. Beware though – it is rather pricey and you might find better prices in the smaller stalls outside of the main market. However, it is still worth a wander around – great for people watching and photo opportunities. It gets very crowded and, in summer, very hot. I prefer the cooler lower floor which houses the fantastic fish market. Yes, it is smelly but I don’t mind the fish smell. The range of fish on sale straight from the harbour is amazing – tuna, black scabbard fish, parrot fish, mackerel, castanets, limpets …

THE FISH

Castanets are small fish that are seasoned with salt & fried. Parrotfish is fried also – pay a visit to the Doca do Cavacas Restaurant in Funchal which has a reputation of cooking the best fried parrotfish on the island. Lapas or limpets are a slightly chewier version of clams. They are usually served in the frying pan they are cooked in. Tuna is extremely popular – tuna soup with noodles; raw in sashimi; tuna & onion stew; marinated tuna cooked with potatoes and chick peas; grilled tuna medium-rare steak; tuna steak with fried maize …. I must admit I was very surprised to see just how big tuna was! However, the ugly looking Black Scabbard fish – Peixe Espada Preto is divine. This is the fish you must try when visiting Madeira. It is grilled or lightly fried in a crumb batter and served in restaurants with a fried banana and a passion fruit sauce. It is better than it sounds, believe me! The sweet/savoury combination works well. As a snack though, try a black scabbard sandwich – a local favourite – tastes a bit like an upmarket fish finger sandwich!

Black scabbard fish with banana & passionfruit sauce. Onda Azul Restaurante, Calheta Beach © Linda Hobden

MEAT

Being an island, fish dishes do dominate however meat dishes are popular too – mainly pork and chicken. Estapada means food cooked on a skewer. In Madeira, wooden skewers are made from fragrant bay laurels, which season the meat as it cooks. Casseroles consisting of wine, garlic & pork are on every restaurant menu too. Garlic is widely used in Madeiran cooking – garlic oil, garlic cloves .

VEGETARIAN OPTIONS

Vegetables grow in abundance on the island and the vegetarian dishes I have come across have been wholesome basic vegetable stews/ kebabs that are just as delicious as their meat counterparts. If you are a vegetarian that eats fish, then you have no trouble being well fed on this island!

BREAD

Bolo de caco is Madeira’s regional bread, named after the caco or basalt stone slab that it is cooked on. The bread is extremely soft and is often served up in restaurants as a starter, with garlic butter.

FENNEL

Funchal (Madeira’s capital) literally means “The Place Where Fennel Grows” . This indigenous plant is especially found in the rocky mountains around Funchal. It is used for cooking, in the production of cough candy, in essential oils, tea and liqueurs.

Fennel © Linda Hobden

DESSERTS

The main dessert is Passion Fruit Pudding, using the various species of passionfruit available on the island. Passionfruit pudding is made with passionfruit pulp, jelly, condensed milk and cream. Tasting like a cross between a mousse and yogurt, it is a refreshing and flavoursome end to a meal. Fresh fruit salads are a healthier option, especially with the various fruit varieties available that the dish isn’t boring at all! Madeirans do have a sweet tooth, and a popular “cake” is the “Queijadas” made with cottage cheese, eggs and sugar.

Array of desserts, including the passionfruit pudding. Hotel Calheta Beach, Calheta © Adam Hobden

Talking of cake, traditional Madeira Cake isn’t the yellow light sponge found in the UK. Authentic Madeira Cake, “Bolo De Mel” is a sticky dark honey cake, a bit like a British Christmas Pudding. Served in slices, it looks like a thick gooey tart and tastes divine. The Calheta Sugar Cane Mill is famous for the dark honey cake and walking past the kitchens where the cakes are made … well, the air is filled with the delicious aroma of molasses, alcohol, almonds … in fact, the whole sugar cane factory is enveloped with the smell. A giant cake is made every January , which is matured and freshly basted throughout the year, and is then ceremonially cut a year later. The cultivation of sugar cane was the first significant agricultural product in Madeira. The sugar cane is used to make molasses, dark honey, Madeira Cake, rum & the island drink, Poncha. The mill in Calheta is still a working factory, open all year round and visitors are welcome. There is a small museum, the mill itself, a shop and tasting area. Free entry and I have visited many times over the last few years – it is a lovely place to while away an afternoon.

Although not Madeiran in aspect, the Reid’s Hotel in Funchal has a tradition that goes back donkeys years – the afternoon tea, British style. Every afternoon, proper brewed tea served in dainty wedge wood china cups ( or champagne) is served along with scones, sandwiches, petit four and cake. It really is quite a civil affair and a dress code is rigidly applied – no shorts, flip flops or trainers. Famous celebrities that have stayed in this hotel are numerous and include George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Charlie Chaplin.

The Madeirans are great sponge cake bakers – I tried a delicious slab of homemade orange cake ( and some chocolate cake) at a cafe near the church and cable car station in Monte, washed down with local Madeiran coffee. In Calheta, the homemade apple pie and ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon was a delight. And, cheese lovers need not despair – the cheese courses in restaurants are alive and kicking with some of the best European cheeses you can imagine.

Cheese … Calheta Beach Hotel, Calheta © Adam Hobden

DRINK

Like their Portuguese mainland counterparts, Madeirans do love their coffee. Unlike Italian coffee which is 100% Arabica beans, Portuguese coffee is a mixture of Arabica & Robusta beans. I was disappointed at first when my coffee with milk (Garoto) was served in a small espresso cup; but I soon discovered that asking for a Chinesa instead got me the same coffee with milk, but double the quantity in a larger teacup. All other styles of coffee, including cappuccino, espresso, iced coffee are available in the more touristy cafes in Funchal.

Brisa is a range of soft drinks produced and distributed in Madeira. A variety of flavours available include cola, cola light, cola zero, tonic water, orange, lemonade, apple, mango and, of course, passionfruit.

Madeira wine is one of the two fortified wines that Portugal is famous for – the other being Port. Unlike port, Which is stored and matured in a cold cellar, Madeira wine is stored in a warm place like an attic. The 4 most famous Madeira wines are Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, Malmsey.

Madeira produces some excellent table wines also, although not widely exported, they are well worth hunting out. There’s around 12 table wine producers in Madeira; 24 varieties of red, white & rose. The vineyard I visited was high up in the mountains above Sao Vicente on the north coast. The vineyard is small but oozes character, the producers are knowledgeable and they are rightly proud of the wines they produced. After a tour of the vineyard, I was able to taste the wines – all were good, hic! – and all had a touch of sea saltiness from the air and volcanic earthiness from the volcanic caves they were stored in.

If you like chocolate and cocktails, then you won’t be disappointed with a “Ginjinhas” – a strong cherry liqueur served in an edible chocolate cup. Cheers!

You can’t visit Madeira without trying PONCHA. Poncha is believed to have been inspired by an Indian drink called “panch”. Panch means 5 and was named because it is made from 5 ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, tea or spices. Traditional Poncha consists of sugarcane rum, lemon juice, and honey mixed together with a wooden stick called a “caralhinho” – named for its distinctive male genital shape!! And is served without ice. Legend also has it that fishermen used Poncha has a remedy for sore throats when they disembarked from their ships. For tourists, Poncha is now available in various versions – Surinam cherry, passionfruit, tree tomato, tangerine, orange. I’m not sure whether it is a great remedy for a sore throat, but as a drink it is delightful. Best to drink some at a local rustic bar where it is made in front of you, of course. You can buy premixed Poncha in bottles at the airport and supermarkets, which are nice but a bit sweeter than the real mccoy.

For pinning later.

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite! I know I’m craving for a slice of Madeira cake and a glass of Poncha now!

Linda x

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