All posts by Linda

An Interview With Lucy Jade Sylvester Botanical Jewellery

If you are a big fan of nature then you are going to adore the botanical jewellery by Lucy Jade Sylvester. Inspired by her love of the British countryside and coastline, Lucy makes each piece by hand – beachcombing for shells, scouring the countryside for plants and grasses and insects such as flies and moths. Her wedding jewellery is simply stunning too. I caught up with the lovely Lucy to find out more… hi, Lucy!

Hi! I’m Lucy. I’m a countryside living jeweller, mum of two cheeky boys Archie and Alfie. Vegetarian for 32 years, lover of discovering new places, Chilli, log fires and strong cups of tea (I don’t take the tea bag out.) I have bee, butterfly, beetle and forget-me-not tattoos on my feet and around my ankle bone. I’ve always been a nature lover, on walks as a child my pockets would be filled with snail shells and leaves.

What’s your jewellery design background?

After a college Foundation Art course, I studied jewellery at Birmingham’s School of Jewellery, on completion I worked on my own pieces alongside teaching jewellery at a local college. A few years later I went back to University to take an MA in jewellery and metal work, this is where I focused and developed using nature in my work.

I started working on a website while I was teaching, so doing both on a part time basis. The college changed dramatically and asked staff who wanted to take voluntary redundancy, which I did, it gave me the push to leave my safety net and work for myself full time. This was the first time I applied and got accepted to have a stand at London’s Chelsea Flower Show.

What inspired you to specialise in botanical jewellery?

Nature has the most beautiful lines and textures, so I use it as directly as possible.

I take moulds from delicate woodland finds, dead insects, twigs, fallen leaves, and cast into the cavity they leave, this process allows me to create exact replicas of life in solid silver and gold that retain the finest details.

My insect based jewellery designs are all made from naturally deceased specimens, found by me or sent to me by people who know my work.

I give the specimens a new life in solid silver or gold, modern day fossils of the wildlife we have today.

These natural forms with beautiful textures would decay into the ground and be gone forever, with direct casting from them I’ve created something that will now be here forever, to be worn for a lifetime.

I love the Netted Dog Whelk Shell Pendant and the botanical wedding rings – very beautiful indeed. What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

The most recent collection is the coastal collection, the shells and sea urchin shells have the most incredible textures, I can’t wait to add more to the collection in 2020.

Living in Oxfordshire means we have to plan trips to the coast, the coastal pieces have evolved after family trips to stunning beaches on the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Cornwall and Wales.

The Coastal collection is currently silver, but we will be creating it in gold too, with many barnacle covered mussels and limpets set with diamonds, sapphires and rubies.

The coastal work is perfect for the summer, so now compliments the leaves and seed heads that can feel autumnal or wintery.

Acorn pendants are very popular, bought to mark a birthday, new job, new adventure or to remember a loved one, I can make them to enclose ashes.

Simple twig rings are bought as wedding bands, they also work well as stacking rings.

The designs for the botanical bridal and woodland wedding collections are growing, engagement rings from twisted twigs and leaves are created from grass, leaves and twigs that wrap around to form rings, the fragile veins and stems clearly visible with a scattering of diamonds.

Set with brilliant cut, rose cut or uncut diamonds these engagement rings can be paired with woven grass, leaf vein or lichen textured bands providing a timeless alternative for countryside lovers.

And moths are popular, too.

What are your favourite pieces?

My wardrobe essential is the Stag beetle necklace, I wear him or a long or short chain depending on what I’m wearing.

He is a lovely weight, his smooth wing casing makes him extremely tactile. He always creates a reaction from people, most love him, some aren’t sure, but I love that.

The stag beetle necklace is versatile, I wear him with jeans in the day or out for the evening.

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

All our jewellery is inspired by, and made in the UK, but we ship all around the world.

We use a tracked and insured postal service.

I’m very jealous of some of the destinations we’ve posted jewellery to!

You must have come across some interesting finds whilst beachcombing and countryside walking. Do you go out with an idea to look for something specific or do you fill your pockets at will every time you venture out?

My studio is filled with skip salvaged science jars filled with woodland and beach finds.

I love just coming across new inspiration, it could be a leaf on a path while on the school run.

Some finds I save to use at a later date, some finds I keep just to marvel at the magic of nature.

Wasp nests with the coloured stripes from different woods, bird nests blown from trees entwined with feathers, twine, grass and sheep wool, such incredible feats from these small creatures.

My mouse nibbled hazel nut pendant came from my garden when we moved house.

I’d seen a mouse occasionally run along a wall in our garden, under some tiles I discovered a stash of nut and seed husks, including the hazel nut shell, now in solid silver.

This necklace was created after buying a collection of Australian boulder opals, I set them with silver and 18ct gold twigs, hawthorn leaves, snails, bees and a stag beetle set with a round brilliant cut diamond. 

What was the hardest or most unusual piece you’ve created so far?

Technically the flies were the one of the most challenging to make, getting the wings and legs to stay intact took some time.

I occasionally create larger one off necklaces, usually after buying stones.

Have you always wanted to be a jewellery designer or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?

I originally wanted to print fabrics, I loved using screens and squeegees.

It was during a college course that I discovered saws and blow torches and changed what path I would take at University.

I recently discovered cyanotypes, very different to metalwork, but I loved it.

Your Hawk moth and poppy seed head ring was chosen by costume designer Michele Clapton to be worn by Sansa Stark in the hit medieval TV series Game of Thrones. Did it feel strange seeing your jewellery being worn on TV?

Michele’s love of craftsmanship can be seen in all her costume designs, the detailing is amazing, a huge honour to be involved with such an iconic programme.

The Hawk moth ring and the matching necklaces are very popular, many have flown across the sea around the world, especially to America.

My jewellery is owned by some incredibly inspiring people, I have a letter from David Attenborough and wonderful card from Dame Judi Dench. I’m not sure my work could be in better hands, both have such a love for the amazing world we live in

What recommendations would you give to help look after and maintain your botanical jewellery?

Our jewellery just needs a occasional rub over with a jewellery polishing cloth, we recommend taking it off before bricklaying or anything to rough!

For pinning later

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

I love flip flops, I’ll wear them for as long as possible but in the studio I have a pair of Timberland  Nellie pull on boots.

I also love converse, I have 2 pairs red, and leopard print.

I tend to wear jeans, with a simple black or khaki top. I accessorize with my short Hawk Moth or  Stag beetle necklaces

My latest buy was a gold leather bag from Clarkes shoes. 

I tend to use Ebay for much of my shopping or re buy things from the marketplace on Facebook, you can pick up vintage or new, and it comes straight to your door through the post.

What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?

I’ve just discovered a hole in my Joules Bumble bee wellies, I guess these need to be my next buy!

Find out more about Lucy Jade Sylvester Botanical Jewellery:

https://www.lucysylvester.co.uk/

https://lovefromengland.tumblr.com/

https://www.instagram.com/lovefromengland/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucy-sylvester-aa192416/

https://facebook.com/LucyJadeSylvesterJewellery

https://pinterest.co.uk/lovefromengland/

https://twitter.com/lucy_sylvester

Fabulous talking to you Lucy – it’s amazing what you can find when beachcombing or countryside rambling and I find it even more amazing at your talent to be able to make stunning jewellery out of the moths, shells, leaves…. I once found a fish head on Chesil Beach, Dorset camouflaged against the shingle and shells!

My gruesome beachcombing discovery!! © Linda Hobden

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Lucy Jade Sylvester (apart from my fish head pic!)


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Knights At Warwick Castle

One evening last July, whilst watching television, an advertisement was aired that immediately caught my family’s attention. It was talking about the “Dragon Slayer” Light & Show extravaganza at Warwick Castle. Apart from the stunning light show & fireworks, the Castle looked magnificent and there was a plethora of medieval activities going on. We thought it looked good & having not visited Warwick Castle before, decided to book an impromptu weekend away in August. Having sons in their early teens, Warwick Castle looked as though it was fun enough for them as well as mum & dad!

Glamping section of the Knights Village

Having looked on the website, we decided to book a Woodland Lodge in the “hotel” Knights Village, located in the grounds of the Warwick Castle Estate. The lodges were semi detached wood lodges consisting of a double bedroom with the usual tea making facilities; a twin bedroom with bunk beds; and en suite shower and toilet facilities. My sons found their bunk beds slightly uncomfortable – possibly because they are designed to accommodate younger children. Being that the lodges were semi detached, I was worried that the walls might be paper thin – but they were totally soundproofed and a peaceful night was had by all.

Our bedroom. Woodland Lodge, Knights Village.

The Medieval Banqueting Hall was the main restaurant where dinner and breakfast was served. A buffet breakfast featuring both continental and cooked traditional food. Breakfast was included in the cost of the lodge – there was plenty on offer. We had also purchased a dinner and “Dragon Slayer” show package – Hot buffet style 3 course dinner with free soft drinks. I had a delicious homemade steak pie but I found the salad starters rather bland and unappetising; and desserts consisted of mini doughnuts with a plethora of toppings or a fresh fruit salad. The children liked the doughnuts, of course! I suppose, in keeping with food in medieval times, it was more focused on hale and hearty meat dishes with an array of delicious seasonal vegetables. I can’t remember if there were any vegetarian/vegan options. If you are an adult, and you are not a fan of drinking water, cola, lemonade, tea or coffee with your dinner – there is a bar where you can purchase wine and beer. Beware, the price for a small glass of wine and a bottle of lager is expensive! We stuck to tea & coffee for the rest of the evening. If you do enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, I would suggest bringing your own tipple to consume on your lodge decking. The Medieval Banquet Hall, of course, was decked out like it would have been in the Middle Ages – long trestle tables, low ceiling, light was from candless dotted around – it was really well done BUT it was August, it was hot outside, there was no ventilation apart from the entrance doors, no air conditioning (of course) so it was stiflingly hot inside, and the restaurant was full of diners. You had to wait to be seated, and I’m glad that we were positioned both days near the doors! It was slightly claustrophobic so we did not linger over our meal.

Medieval Banqueting Hall

We travelled to Warwick in torrential rain, but by the time we arrived mid afternoon the rain had cleared. Check in time is 4pm but when we arrived, just after 2.30pm our lodge had already been cleaned and was ready for arrival, so we were handed our keys. After a quick freshen up & a mug of hot tea we were ready to explore. The castle closing time is 5pm, so we decided to spend the last hour and a half in the castle grounds – we had a whole day pass for the next day too and as the weather forecast was hot and sunny we decided that was the day to spend in and out of the castle itself. Not forgetting the “Dragon Slayer” show later in the evening….

We made our way to the jousting field just in time to catch the final Wars Of The Roses Jousting show. There was adequate seating and standing room on both sides of the field – and an area dedicated to wheelchairs. To be honest, most people were standing and if you were seated on the benches you probably wouldn’t have seen a thing! Each stand represented either the House of York or the House of Lancaster – audience participation in the form of cheering and booing your “knight” was very much encouraged. The horsemanship was brilliant.

Audience Participation
The winner!

After the show, which was more enjoyable than I had imagined we headed over to the Birds of Prey field which overlooked the river. My youngest son likes watching Birds of Prey shows and we have been to many over the years. This was slightly different. As we perched upon the benches, with coffees in polystyrene cups in our hands, we were warned to keep as still as possible. There was a good reason for this because as the show progressed with displays from owls, kestrels, vultures, eagles and other rare birds of prey – not only did they perform in front of us but they expertly glided between the benches and over our heads with only inches to spare. The finale: all the birds swooped in a display literally inches above our heads. It was hard to take a picture!

Archery lessons

Back at the Knights Village, once the castle is closed, entertainment for the family is provided in the riverside field, free of charge – Lessons in archery, learning to be a knight, learning to be a princess and handling birds of prey. These activities are available in the castle grounds, during the day, but at a cost. As you can imagine, the knights and princess lessons were not of interest to my boys – but the classes were packed with excitable 5 and 6 year old boys and girls in long dresses and tiaras, both sexes brandishing foam swords! My sons opted for the archery lessons instead.

Dragon Slayer Show part 1

We didn’t spend too long in the entertainment field as it was time to venture back into the castle for the main Dragon Slayer Show. First half was taking place back in the jousting field, where the Wars of the Roses show had taken place that afternoon. The show is about the brave knight, Guy of Warwick. As legend has it, Guy of Warwick was a 10th-century English hero who travelled the world on a series of daring adventures in order to impress the Earl of Warwick’s daughter – Lady Felice – and win her hand in marriage. Sir Guy’s daring exploits include slaying a dragon, fighting a giant and battling in holy wars. In this part of the show, the legend unravelled using fire eaters, daring deeds on horseback and a lot of audience cheering & even a unicorn ….

It was soon time for Part 2 – the slaying of the dragon, which took place inside the castle walls, in the central courtyard. The castle walls were the screens as in front of our eyes, the dragon came alive, with a spectacular light show with flames that kept the audience absolutely mesmerising. It was the most dramatic light show I have ever seen – absolutely brilliant. There was a lot of standing, approximately 3 hours, but it was absolutely worth it. Unfortunately, I was so mesmerised watching the show that I didn’t take a photo or video. Yes, it was one of those wow moments. There are plenty of videos on YouTube though of the show.

Warwick Castle

Day 2 – Warwick Castle itself. Blazing sunshine and warm temperatures greeted us this morning – just right for visiting Warwick Castle itself. The terrain is pretty hilly – so make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes, trainers or walking boots. There are sweeping pathways suitable for wheelchairs & pushchairs – however, apart from the grounds, the state rooms, main castle cafe, dungeons and ramparts are not. Warwick Castle is a medieval castle developed from a wooden fort, originally built by William the Conqueror during 1068. I loved looking around the Great Hall, State Rooms and Chapel. The Great Hall was first constructed in the 14th century, rebuilt in the 17th century and restored again in 1871 after being badly damaged by fire. various suits of armour line the Hall. The State Rooms are lovingly recreated with wax figures depicting the various centuries. The Queen Anne Bedroom has her actual bed that she died in, in 1774. The 1st Earl of Warwick, Francis Grenville was given Queen Anne’s furniture by King George III, along with some gorgeous Delft tapestries, dating from 1604.

The Castle Dungeon Tour is where the ghoulish history of Warwick Castle comes alive with the help of some talented actors and special effects, including smells. I’m a bit squeamish so I baled out of the tour, relaxing with an ice cream in the castle courtyard instead, whilst my husband and sons merrily explored the depths learning about the days of the Plague to the tale of Moll Bloxham.

If you have a head for heights, and mobile, then climbing up the towers and ramparts is a must. The views from the top are astounding. There is a strict one way system in place as the stairways up to the ramparts are so narrow, so the only way is up! Caesar’s Tower is the tallest tower at the castle, standing at an impressive 44.8m tall. It was built on the orders of Thomas de Beauchamp in the 14th century. The lowest chamber of Caesar’s Tower is the Gaol – the original dungeon. You can still see graffiti from prisoners 100s of years ago on the prison walls.

A big surprise was the beautiful gardens, 64 acres of rolling landscaped gardens with peacocks strutting around. The gardens were transformed in the 1750s, under one of Britain’s greatest landscape gardeners, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. It is believed that Warwick Castle was Brown’s first independent castle commission. There are over 20 peacocks and peahens running around the garden. The Peacock Garden was designed by the Victorian landscape gardener Robert Marnock and consists of topiary peacocks, manicured hedges, pond and fountain.

The Horrible Histories Maze is also in the castle grounds and it is quite fun, whatever your age! Due to uneven flooring, pushchairs and the wearing of high heels are banned – although the maze is wheelchair accessible.

For pinning later

My Verdict

Weather is very important. If the weather is dry then this is a fantastic castle to visit as apart from The State Rooms & Great Hall, everything else takes place in the open air. For an estate of this size, there isn’t a lot of seating but plenty of grassy areas for sitting on the ground. There is a lot of walking, and a lot of standing (especially for the shows) . There is a castle cafe, which we didn’t visit, and plenty of food stands selling everything from pulled pork rolls to ice cream, tea & coffee to soft drinks. There is a lot to do, activity wise, for all the family – some activities have an added cost eg the archery, Dungeon tour, Knight training – but the jousting and birds of prey are included in your castle entrance fee. Young children will adore the knights and princesses; adults will appreciate the castle, gardens and everybody will love the jousting!

Warwick Castle itself 8/10

Knights Village. 4/10


Linda x

All photographs © Linda Hobden


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An Interview With The Image Tree

As the colour of the year has just been announced – Classic Blue – it has left me mourning the loss of the Coral palette that I have adored. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the bold blue, it’s just that the coral hue, I felt, suited my colouring more. I doubt if I will be totally rejecting my coral faves this Spring/Summer and no doubt a few classic blue pieces will be creeping into my wardrobe too. Sometimes it is hard to know what style of outfit would flatter – neckline, hemline, slim fitting or full skirt – as well as deciding on colour. I bought an evening dress, in classic blue actually, with a Bardot style neckline. It looked gorgeous online model. On me, the neckline wouldn’t sit right and gaped – it made my breasts look distorted. I swapped the dress for a v neck one in a red colour. The new dress neckline fitted like a dream and the colour was perfect. Sometimes we need some guidance when it comes to our wardrobes…. boost of confidence, change of image, decluttering our wardrobes, steering us in the right direction to avoid making expensive mistakes …. sometimes we need someone like my guest this week, Sara from The Image Tree! Welcome Sara!


Hi, my name is Sara Marsden-Shreeve, I’m currently 43 years young writing this but as a Chrimbo baby I’ll be 44 when this goes out. I’m married with two children Francesca 14, Jake 10 currently based just south of Derby but a Yorkshire bird through and through. Moved to Derby with my family when I was 11 years old.  Love to laugh, likes cheese and have too many coats and probably never enough boots.  I’m passionate about changing women’s mindsets around a better body image, promoting self care and a healthier relationship around clothes. You have to learn to rock what you’ve already got . So, Love Your Body, Wear Your Happy are my mottos which probably people get sick of hearing but I don’t care. I’m from a civil engineering background, have a BA Hons in Applied Social Sciences (which is basically psychology with a bit of sociology) Coventry University 1993-95, NLP accredited , various FIPI recognised Image Consulting qualifications acquired from First Impressions Ltd in Warwick. I’ve written articles for “Henpicked.net”, guest blogged, won various awards such as Theo Paphitis #SBS, Jacqueline Gold #WOW and worked with corporate clients at Canary Wharf. I love collaborations and have worked with brands such as Dandi Patch as well as other brands and small businesses with similar ethos around well being and self confidence.  I currently also co-run a Wellbeing Inspiration Network in Derby for women who have an interest in increasing their work life balance with well being and other holistic practices relevant to healthier mindsets and supportive business concepts.

Having worked in the civil engineering/corporate insurance sector, what made you decide to branch out and form the The Image Tree? 

I have to say this was genuinely some sort of Eureka moment after having the realisation that I’d suffered stuff in the past (failed pregnancies, bullying at school – Sticks & Stones built my business blog post – ) but had many skills and passions that potentially could help others in some way. After having happily worked for around 10 years in Civil Engineering sector I initially left (2005) to have my first child and didn’t really have any initial thoughts about going solopreneur. Prior to having Francesca we’d had gone through miscarriages and a harrowing termination on the advice of specialists. Needless to say my body image and self confidence was rock bottom. I hated my body for letting me down and had unhealthy feelings of being unfit to produce children at the time. I blamed myself and drowned in feelings of harrowing guilt. I later had counselling for this. So you can imagine when we had Franc I was determined to stay at home with her as much as possible.
I did return a few times over a few years on temporary contracts in alignment with child care and finances, which was super helpful but then after the birth of my second child Jake (2009), whilst I was still there, I decided that I wanted to concentrate on getting back to my dormant psychology roots and love of people.  
It’s no joke that I literally woke up one morning with the thoughts of mixing my love of colour and fashion with psychology. Whether I’d been whispered to in the night by an angel or had a Eureka moment in my dreams after months of soul searching to find my calling,  I’ll never know…  I was scared but I decide to do it anyway (2011)..   
Fast forward a year later and I was completing my training to be an Image Consultant when my son had turned two and freed up some time whilst he was at preschool. I started to research the arena and built my very own website in 6 months. I worked loosely, around kids, for the next 2 years under my name and then decided to brand up and create The Image Tree in 2014. Time to get serious!
From then on I have organically made Image Consulting more niche and merged it further with the advocacy of promoting Body Positivity and self care throughout all of my work. Largely through listening to what my clients were saying about themselves whilst looking in the mirror, hearing them share their negative image experiences and generally beating themselves with the ugly stick. Not on my watch…. Been there done that got the tshirt!
Hence my investment in NLP training, using effective coaching techniques and surrounding myself with Holistic practitioners and Wellbeing specialists I’ve met and collaborated with on the way. Image starts from the inside and isn’t just about one’s outside appearance.  Clothes, colour, fabrics and accessories are a powerful tool that help women relate to their assets and gorgeousness no matter their size and shape. We are not, after all, living in a society that is receiving of the naked form in public so clothes are an essential part of our everyday….and so too is a healthy mindset around self image- especially in a world that throws so many stones. Hence the merge of style and psychology!

Your image consultancy is very holistic in its approach with a heavy focus on body positivity.  Apart from your services & packages, you hold workshops encouraging body positivity too. What would I expect from attending a workshop? Would the workshops benefit trainee image consultants or the client?

My Love Your Body, Wear Your Happy workshops were a direct result of a partnership with a good friend and Metawellbeing coach (Susan Gardner) who gave me a kick up the arse to share my message of clothes and body love and introduce our combined passions of positive mindset and tools to a larger audience. They were small groups though to encourage a safe and judgement free environment.   They were aimed at women who wanted to get on to the path of liking their bodies a bit more and finding out how to use clothes to adorn their natural form and personality but didn’t know how or where to start?  So we gave them 6 useful steps to work through and identify on the day so that they could go away and make a few easy and simple tweaks to their mind, body (embracing it not changing it) and wardrobe.  The workshops are not available at the moment because we are currently converting the workshop to an online platform so we can release it as a course to the world in the Spring. Making it more accessible to women who want to achieve the same results from the comfort of their own home. 

You have many delightful services and packages including colour confidence, body confidence, wardrobe confidence, shopping confidence, style review… What service/package seems to be the most popular amongst your clients?

I would say that the main two roots of The Image Tree services, so the Colour and Body Confidence services are probably the most popular ones jointly because they are great starting points and get happier results quickly. Who doesn’t love learning about wearing flattering colours or dressing your shape in one session?

Which service/package do you really enjoy the most (or gives you most satisfaction) when helping a client?

 Ooh that’s a tricky one, I love them all.  If I had to pinpoint one… then it would have to be the New Beginnings package as it takes the client on a Style journey working through colour, body and your wardrobe in 3 flexible sessions with bespoke positive coaching support throughout the duration. I love afterwards too when the realisation sinks in and the magic happens

Nottingham family photographer

I love the sound of the service you offer called “The Secret Stylist” … what does that entail? 

So the Secret Stylist is a quicker, more affordable version of what I do in bite size chunks for women who need specific foibles sorting.  I’m currently changing it to make it solely virtual, so speaking to clients via zoom, skype or whatsapp video for ease and convenience for clients when they need me most.  So from the changing room, outfit advice via their phone or photos they send, 30 mins of coaching before an interview or date, or maybe they need me to find them a pair of jeans that they know will fit? Every client gets their very own Pinterest board for all clothing inspirations anyway so I can just pin stuff and they buy it.  It was based on a subscription before and I used a points system for clients to choose what they needed but it was a bit hard for me to keep track of let alone my clients. So streamlining it now to be neat and marketed clearly. 

I’m currently drawn to burgundy/black/coral/red colours for this winter season; is it    difficult when shopping with a client not to be attracted to your favourite colours rather than theirs?

I totally love colour and I know what works for me but that doesn’t mean it would work for them. As I’m trained in Colour analysis and have 7 years experience I can easily separate myself.  I’m not the colour police though and totally respect that some ladies can’t let go of colours they love even though they might not be as flattering as others on them…(black being the main culprit) You should always wear your happy and it’s just a case of mixing them into your outfits effectively.  

Working magic on flattering body parts and hiding less amenable parts is a job and a half!  What are the common “mistakes” that ladies make and what do you suggest they should try instead?

I would say the most common mistake that women make is to focus on the parts they don’t like and forget about everything else, due to years of staring at them and berating themselves with negative self talk.  So my advice would be to ask yourself “What do I like about my body”? It’s a toughy because we don’t do it naturally!!  Be honest or ask someone you love and trust for their input.  It’s not vain nor is it egotistical, it’s merely giving yourself some love and validation, we ALL have the good stuff and we ALL have assets!!!!  Once you’ve identified at least one good aspect, think about what you could wear to make the most of it..  Good legs, wear a skirt, nice tights or fab shoes. Like your bum, find a good pair of jeans or trousers to hug those buns. The parts that give you the most sighs can be lovingly cared for with the right cut, shape fabric, hem or waistband. Distraction is a stylists main tool, so by wearing embellishment or interesting details or fabrics elsewhere can shift your gaze and show off your best bits whilst matt fabrics, darker colours and simple clever tailoring can totally make a difference.  Anything too tight or too big is never a good look. Skimming is the key word.
Another mistake I see is that women often presume that their bra size remains the same for every brand, style and shop out there since they got measured 12 years ago. I always recommend to my clients that they get measured more often (if they can) and get measured for the right bra style dependant on their breast tissue and shape, some work better than others for support and shape.  They are your under armour after all and provide the basis of your silhouette and can make a massive difference when trying on clothes and getting a better fit. So wear your best fitting one. 

As you are based in Derby, England, are your services available just locally or UK/ worldwide too?

Have car will travel… hahaha.  I have had clients all over England and only ask they cover my fuel on top of their service. Once the course goes online we’ll be able to reach further. 

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

I’m very eclectic and always dress mindfully to suit my mood or schedule, but mostly I will usually wear one quirky piece teamed with a classic separate. So think  skinny jeans, bold jewellery, tshirt and bright blazer or maybe a snake print pussy bow blouse with a leather pencil skirt. Shoes blimey.. I love em all but currently sporting a white flat-form trainer, metallic heels or a rock chick boot. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Hmm favourite shops, if I can go small I will and I love a charity shop or local boutique.  But online, I like Joanie for funky tops, SilkFred for dresses and for jeans it has to be NYDJ because fit is key, so investment and cost per wear in staples is savvy on the purse strings.   Despite this my secret crush is probably TKMaxx though because I love a rummage for designer discounted gems. 

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

Next on my clothes wish list is a sequin or sparkly blazer come tuxedo for christmas parties. Currently looking for one that has a bit of a semi fit rather than drapey. If this goes out next year then I’m after a new trench coat probably in Navy or a Dark Grey.

Boots or Shoes?

Nooo … that’s like choosing wine or cheese?  Hmm, going with boots if I have to then, though I do own a pair of shoe boots which would tick both boxes. hahaha/ Why boots… because I love Autumn and Winter and being snuggly and smug when its cold. Paired with a gorgeous wool coat and funky scarf you just can’t beat the polished look an ankle boot or knee high gives with jeans. 

For Pinning Later

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

www.facebook.com/WinDerby (ladies group)

www.the-imagetree.co.uk
Why not become a Special Subscriber and receive monthly exclusive updates, tips and offers? Or come follow me now on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or Pinterest… 

Great chatting to you, Sara – such great downtown earth advice! And, I definitely think “Shoe-Boots” are worthy competitors when it comes to my boots or shoes question! I love that style too!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Sara from The Image Tree ( apart from the Pinterest photo which is of me!)

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An Interview With Mosaico Jewellery

Brightening up the dullest day, the colourful & fun designs of gemstone jewellery designed by Mosaico Jewellery have been inspired by the combined Brazilian/South African/British heritages of the two lovely ladies whose designs and expertise are behind the brand. I caught up with the bubbly ladies, Paula and Jenny, to find out more about their designs and what lurks in their wardrobes… Hi ladies, please introduce yourselves 🙂

P: Hi! I’m Paula. I’m a married mum of two boys, and live in Maidenhead, Berkshire. My best friend Jenny and I co-founded Mosaico Jewellery. We met while working in a jewellery boutique about 15 years ago and we clicked right away, Jenny was even bridesmaid at my wedding. Needless to say, we absolutely love natural stones and jewellery!

J: I’m Jenny and I live with my fiancé in East Molesey. Paula and I did absolutely click when we met! We were even told off a couple of times for chatting too much on the job 😊 Now, our brand offers semi-precious gemstone jewellery that is luxurious, yet affordable. Designed and handmade in-house which means they are very unique and exclusive.


What inspired the setting up of “Mosaico Jewellery”?

P: I had the idea for the company for many years, but had always been busy building my career and then starting a family. I got to a point that my job was causing a great strain on me emotionally and physically, and I was no longer enjoying the work, the long hours away from my son and flexible work was apparently not an option. So I quit my job and after I had my second son, I did a post-graduation in Digital Marketing. I felt that somehow gave me a bit of a boost in confidence. I think that sometimes you can find yourself in some sort of inertia and lacking maybe the confidence to go ahead to pursue your dreams. Any change is scary as it comes with a great share of uncertainty. I kind of knew that it would be challenging, but I just felt that it would be better to try than keeping myself wondering “what if?…”. I had also done my research, I knew it was a great idea that had a chance. I then invited my friend Jenny who is so creative and talented to join me on this idea, and without much hesitation, she said yes to it. We work really well together and that reflects on our brand.

Specialising in jewellery crafted from sustainable sourced top grade gemstones & metals, I do so love your range of colourful jewellery, obviously, but my personal favourite is the Lava -Carnelian, Jet Crystal & Agate Lariat  – very beautiful indeed. What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

J: Oh the Lava Lariat is gorgeous. It is definitely one of our most popular ones too. Lariats are so great as you literally buy multiple necklaces in one purchase, and you style as you like, like you do with a scarf. It is all about you and how you like to wear it. Our gorgeous Esther necklace, ocean jasper beads threaded in an overlapping pattern is always eye catching at fairs we attend. Our Leaf earrings, Constellation and  Vivien necklaces are also some of our bestsellers, together with our Flor-de-lis necklace. I think often it’s the unusual that stops people in their tracks. The variety we are able to bring to the collections mean there is really something for everyone, which is great.

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

P: This is a hard question for us. One of my favourite pieces is the Aurora necklace. It is a long Amethyst necklace featuring one large stone at the end, with such particular markings! On top of that, Amethyst is my birthstone… so I just love that piece. I’m a big fan of earrings too, so I also love the Marigold, Alyssia, Caroline and Arabella earrings.

J:I love the Melissa necklace as you can see the work done in between the Tourmalines, it is so artistic! And I also love the Dahlia and Papillon earrings –  definitely personal favourites.

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

P: Yes they are. We ship worldwide. Although we have focused on the UK market so far in terms of advertising, we have already sent pieces as far as Hong Kong, Thailand and Canada. We have customers all around Europe too. We offer free global delivery and complimentary gift wrapping in our premium signature boxes to everyone.

When designing jewellery to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, requests, traditional charm or bits of all those?

J: We do have a bit of personal taste taken into account, and we both have a look at upcoming trends (such as upcoming shades for that year). We also take into consideration requests and popular stones from previous collections. However, this doesn’t dictate the collection to come. We look for stones that are unusual by shape, markings and/or colours, and then build the designs from there. We want people to express their individuality through colours and designs that are as unique as they are. So trends won’t help us with that. 

You do a bespoke jewellery service – what was the hardest or most unusual request you have had? 

P: We had a request for one bead. One nice interesting bead that would have great properties and energy attached to it. This was a gift to be given in a Blessingway ceremony. It was great to source that as the ceremony is historically a beautiful and unique way to honour a mother-to-be, to instil her with confidence and strength. We weren’t aware of these kind of ceremonies before but we loved sourcing the bead, which would be so full of meaning and part of such a heart-warming gift. That was super special.

A couple of hypothetical questions now!  Firstly, if you could go anywhere in the world for inspiration to create a new collection, where would you go and why?

P: Jenny and I pick the stones together and exchange ideas, but ultimately, she puts the designs together and I make the business tick. If we had to go somewhere for inspiration, it would probably be from our heritages – Brazil and South Africa. For me in particular, it would be the beautiful island I was born on, called Florianopolis, just off the South-East coast of Brazil. Jenny is British but has family in multiple places in South Africa. They are stunning places with dozens of beaches and nature. People are outgoing, fun and colourful in every sense of the word in both of these places, so you can’t help but be inspired by how people live and the style they express.  

J: In one of our first magazine reviews, the editor described our jewellery as ‘not for shrinking violets’, and that made us smile, as it sums up how expressive both cultures are and the inspiration we want to reflect in our pieces.

Secondly, which famous lady would you pick to be the “Face” Of Mosaico Jewellery and why?

P: Sofia Vergara! We would love her to be the Face of Mosaico. She has the perfect mix of bold, elegant, fun and colourful which is with our brand stands for. We are all unique and we want our jewellery to reflect this uniqueness in you. Sofia Vergara does that beautifully.   

J: Oh yes, that would be great!

10.  What recommendations would you give to help look after and maintain your gemstone jewellery?

P: We believe you just need to use your common sense and if the jewellery is well made, that should be enough. To clean it, you can use a soft cloth after you have worn it, and place them in your jewellery box, maybe inside a jewellery pouch or in a place where it won’t get tangled. 

J: Also, don’t ever wash them, instead you can use an old toothbrush and some lukewarm water and scrub very gently behind the stone, where dust can collect. Each of our pieces come with care instructions, and a card that outlines the properties of the main stone of the design. We are also introducing jewellery pouches, so if you buy a necklace, you don’t need to keep the box, instead you will have a pouch to store your necklace securely.

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

P: You will find me wearing jeans and long, sometimes baggy tops. Another reason we like jewellery is that it can just take any outfit from simple to trendy. 

J: We do believe it is all about the way you accessorise. I vary my outfits a bit, but weekends you will most likely find me in jeans and a nice top too.

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

P: Most shopping I do nowadays is for kids! Jojo Mama Bebe is fantastic. I also love this brand for kids clothing called Bluezoo. I am a big fan of online. It is just so easy to browse in the evening, when the kids have gone to sleep. If I need anything for myself I tend to go to the House of Fraser website at the moment as some of my favourite brands are available there.

J: I do quite a bit of shopping online too nowadays, but when I go on a shopping spree you may find me in Zara, or in womenswear at Selfridges.

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

P: I need to buy a pair of jeans. I am that kind of person that goes shopping for (needed) trousers and end up buying more (not needed) tops 😊

J: Boots, I just need a new pair of boots at the moment.

Boots or Shoes?

P: Nowadays I say boots! A good pair of comfy Boots! I’ve lived in the UK for 15 years now, but my South American side still needs to be wrapped up warm, particularly between October and March! A good pair of boots and I’m good to go in all weathers.

J: I guess you know now what I will say….. Boots it is! For similar reason, just comfortable and they go with everything.

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

www.mosaicojewellery.co.uk

Instagram: @mosaicojewellery

Facebook: /mosaicojewellery

Sofia Vergara, if you’re reading this, you know where to contact the ladies!! Thank you Paula and Jenny it has been great chatting to you, and I wish you continued success in 2020.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Mosaico Jewellery.

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An Interview With Radical Tea Towel Co

I’m being decidedly topical this week – the impending General Election in the UK next week, the current strikes in France, the ongoing criticism of Donald Trump in the USA…. what could be better than interviewing a homeware & giftware brand that has been inspired by radical thinkers throughout global history? Designing tea towels, aprons and other paraphernalia on topics such as democracy, the NHS, the Welfare State, Free Speech, Free Love, Votes for Women…. in fact, every topic done designed for those radical left and liberal minded people to proudly display their political and social beliefs. To find out more, I caught up with co-founder Bea of The Radical Tea Towel Company …..Hi Bea…

Hi! I’m Beatrice and I am a co-founder of The Radical Tea Towel Company.

Who or what inspired you to create the Radical Tea Towel Company?

It was May 2011 and I was looking for a birthday present for an elderly relative who was into left-wing and radical politics. His sight was poor so a book was not an option. I decided something practical like a tea towel with a political message on would be a great idea but, despite googling for over an hour, I simply couldn’t find one anywhere.

History & Politics abound in your range of Radical Tea Towels – how do you pick your design topics – do get ideas from customers, from what’s trending on social media?

It’s a combination of those things: customers do make suggestions all the time and we add the best ones to a list which we review each January. We also think about topics that are in the news, for example in 2015, when the refugee crisis was at its height, we produced our Refugee tea towel with the quotation by Emma Lazarus from the Statue of Liberty. 

Which topic/ tea towel has attracted the most attention so far? Have you got a personal favourite?

It’s probably the ‘Women’s March’ design.  It was based on a design by Margaret Morris for the song sheet of Ethel Smyth’s suffragette anthem “The March of the Women”. 

My personal favourite is the  ‘Rosa Parks’ design which shows her sitting on the bus in the run up to the Montgomery bus boycott just before refusing to give up her seat. What an inspirational woman! 

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

Yes! We have websites in the US and Canada. but we get orders from all over the world! 

 Radical Tea Towel US

Obviously the tea towels can be used as tea towels, but some people have had them framed like works of art and even some have used them as ready made banners for activists at rallies. Where was the most unexpected place you’ve spotted your tea towels? 

I have 3 great examples!

A customer sent in a brilliant image of our ‘Women’s March apron’ hanging on a balcony in Galicia on International Women’s Day as part of a defiant protest for women’s rights. It’s a tradition in Spain to show you are on strike! 

Another one sent in an ‘LGBTQ tea towel’ from the McMurdo Station in Antarctica. The temperature was minus 40! 

And then Jeremy Corbyn brought out a ‘Tony Benn tea towel’ and read out the quote about hope on it at a speech he made to his supporters at the Sanctuary Pub following his September 2015 leadership victory!

Have you always had a career or a hobby in the homeware/giftware sector in the field of designing, marketing etc? 

No! I was a languages teacher for most of my working life! This business was a completely new departure for me! 

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

Jeans and stripy tops with a gilet and leather ankle boots.


Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Yes, Boden for tops, M & S for footwear & jeans.

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

Some dark brown, calf length leather boots.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots. I find them very comfortable and they keep my feet and legs warm and dry in wet Welsh weather!

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

www.radicalteatowel.co.uk

https://facebook.com/radicalteatowel

https://twitter.com/radicalteatowel

Thank you Bea! There you go readers, if you’re stuck for ideas for gifts, for whatever the occasion, for that radical person in your life …. or if you yourself are a loud and proud radical, why not get yourself a tea towel or two!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of The Radical Tea Towel Company

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Spotlight On Workout Shoes

If you are looking for a pair of trainers (sneakers), there are so many styles, brands, soles, prices, those that are dull looking and those that are very bright; that choosing a pair can be quite daunting. It really isn’t as simple as it seems. Trainers are made in different ways and styles according to what they are used for – and it is important too to differentiate between a workout/gym shoe and a running shoe. Although both are similar in design and style, the running shoe has been made to support forward movements and are generally more cushioned to absorb the shock from each footfall; the workout shoe/cross trainer is designed for the gym and is sturdy enough to withstand an intense bout of high intensity interval training. There are Workout Shoes for those who want to do weightlifting; some cross-trainers have the capability to accommodate short distance running, weight training, cycling, HIIT; others are more lightweight and have been created for indoor/studio use eg dance, cardio, aerobics. Don’t pick a workout shoe designed for weightlifting if your normal workouts involve jumping jacks and sprints.

The price of the trainers differ greatly. I came across an interesting study conducted by Nick Rizzo, Fitness Research Director at RunRepeat, the largest athletic footwear review company in the world. Nick is an elite level power lifter too, so he knows his stuff! Nick published a new study analysing 323,776 reviews and prices of 336 workout shoes representing 20 different brands. What I was amazed at was that one of the key findings indicated that the cheaper a workout shoe, the higher the ratings and user satisfaction. The top 10 most expensive workout shoes cost 183.05% more and have a 2.3% lower rating on average than the cheapest workout shoes. I was pleased that my favourite brand, Skechers rated highly; my teenage sons and husband wear Nike and Asics, which scored favourably too. To read Nick’s full report: https://RunRepeat.com/affordable-workout-shoes-better

Copyright ©Nick Rizzo, RunRepeat

According to Nick’s study:

3 Worst Workout Brands: Merrell; Vivobarefoot; The North Face

3 Best Workout Brands: NoBull; Skechers; Jordan

3 Cheapest Workout Brands: Avia; Skechers; Ryka

3 Most Expensive Workout Brands: Vivobarefoot; NoBull; Inov-8

Copyright ©Nick Rizzo, RunRepeat.com

So having sorted out the brand in the price bracket you’re happy with, what should you look for in a workout shoe?

  1. Think about your workout/gym routine. Look for a workout shoe designed for the purpose – weightlifting, cross training, aerobics, Pilates….
  2. Comfort. Workout shoes are supposed to feel comfortable and sturdy as soon as you put them on. Unlike normal shoes, there shouldn’t be a breaking in period …. Firm cushioning rather than soft to provide a stable base.
  3. Support. The workout shoe should be able to provide a complete foot support – especially solid support in the side panels and heels. A supportive ankle bar is a necessity for during sprints and interval training.
  4. Fit Well. Too loose can hinder performance and can even cause accidents. The shoe should have a secure lacing system, a padded tongue and collar.
  5. Breathable.
  6. Sole. A good workout trainer should have a relatively flat sole, especially at the heel where it should also be wide. For indoor/studio use, a smooth rubber outsole with minimal or no treads is ideal.
Copyright ©Linda Hobden. For Pinning Later

Your workout shoe should also be durable. How long your shoe lasts does depend on how often you use them, but with a bit of due care and attention you should be looking at least 6 months wear plus. Replace when the support is no longer there and visible signs of wear and tear have set in. Always keep your trainers dry and well ventilated. Avoid wearing them outside of your workout eg walking on pavements.

Finding the right workout shoe is like navigating through a minefield, but with perseverance you’ll find the right shoe. Remember, the best workout/gym shoe should offer improved grip and support so you can workout more safely and with greater effectiveness.

Linda x

My thanks to Nick Rizzo Of RunRepeat.com for introducing me to his research.

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5 Reasons To Choose Wool

There are so many textiles in the world, and when you pick out garments for your wardrobe, do you really think about the material? After reading the reports by clothing brand, Celtic & Co, about the impact that microplastics have on polluting our waterways and that every time we wash our synthetic made clothes thousands upon thousands are released into our waterways via the humble washing machine; I began to look into the benefits of natural textiles such as cotton and, as it is currently winter in the UK, wool. You can read my blogpost about Celtic & Co’s report HERE. There is certainly more to wool than meets the eye – and here are my 5 reasons to choose wool:


Photo::Linda Hobden

WOOL IS A NATURAL PRODUCT. Wool is renewable. Wool obviously comes from sheep, but also wool is obtained from other animals including alpaca, llama, camel, goat, yak, beaver, otter, rabbit…. Wool has many eco-advantages over synthetic materials, such as polyester, acrylic and nylon: synthetic fibres all derive from plastic and wool, unlike synthetic materials, is naturally flame retardant. It is the flame retardant properties that makes wool the choice material for garments made for firefighters and soldiers – also wool is a natural insulator and is breathable. Have you noticed that wool carpets are used on trains and planes too?

WOOL IS RENEWABLE AND RECYCLABLE. When wool is disposed of, it naturally decomposes releasing valuable nitrogen-based nutrients into the ground. Recycled Wool is made by cutting or tearing apart existing wool fabric and then respinning the fibres, sometimes adding raw wool – this process was invented in West Yorkshire. It makes absolute sense to me to unravel old woollen items and respin or knit …

Photo: Celtic & Co

WOOL IS ODOUR RESISTANT. Wool clothing doesn’t smell, it doesn’t promote the growth of bacteria and is stain resistant too! Good news if you do perspire a lot, especially as wool is breathable so you don’t feel clammy. Wool doesn’t need to be washed as often as synthetic clothes – saving water, power, and you’re not releasing those microplastics into the environment either via your washing machine. Superwash wool ( or washable wool) technology first appeared in the early 1970s – this is wool that has been especially treated so that it is machine washable and may be tumble dried. So wool is even more convenient. According to Wikipedia, in 2007, a new wool suit was developed and sold in Japan that can be washed in the shower, dries off ready to wear within hours with no ironing required. The suit was developed using Australian Merino wool.

WOOL LASTS. Fashions come and go, but wool garments are usually very classical in style. My navy blue wool coat has been in my wardrobe for well over 20 years, might even be nudging 30 years old – it is a classic style that hasn’t dated, it is still immaculate, it still fits and it is still very warm indeed. Wool garments may be more expensive than their synthetic counterparts, but they do tend to last longer.

Wool clothing by Celtic & Co: Toscana Gilet, Flecked Funnel Neck Jumper; Aran Cable Beanie. https://celticandco.com

WOOL IS MICRO-CLIMATIC. Wool is amazing! Wool can keep you warm in winter, and can actually keep you cool in summer! Wool has a natural high level of UV protection. That is why desert peoples, such as the Bedouins and Tuaregs, use wool clothes for their insulation properties. Wool fabrics have a greater bulk than other textiles, and they hold air, which in turn causes the fabric to retain heat. Weather and geographical locations do influence wool in terms of quality and type of fleece – for example, Welsh Mountain Sheep have fleeces that are strong and robust – as the animals have to endure harsh weather; Lowland sheep have fleece that is often softer and finer, which is perfect for blankets. Sheep are resilient animals and can thrive in the hardiest of places where other livestock struggle to survive and crops can’t be grown. No wonder wool is one of the oldest textiles in the world!

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Thanks to Celtic & Co for their report on Synthetic v Wool; Wikipedia & MakeitBritish.co.uk for the facts about wool.
Photographs are by Linda Hobden apart from the Celtic & Co photos that have been marked as such in the article

Linda x

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Entanglement

A lot of people already know that I am a keen bookworm, and that I am willing to try out new genres so, Ben from Cameron Publishing sent me a real challenge recently. He recommended that I read and review a first published novel from author Andrew J Thomas called “Entanglement”. This is a sci-fi mystery book about parallel worlds … and it also includes cake recipes too! This book sounded intriguing – I admit, I’m not a big sci-fi fan but I was willing to give it a go. And I wanted to know… why the cake recipes?! I enjoyed the book – I found the book easy reading with a twist. I never really understood parallel worlds, but Andrew had explained it in such a way like scientist Brian Cox ( 😊). I loved the entanglement of the storylines – parallel worlds, moles (animal kind), relationships, journalism, secrecy and the significance of cake. I also liked the footnotes too. After reading the book, I wanted to find out more about the writer and his ideas…. so welcome Andrew…

Hi, I’m Andrew J Thomas, author of ‘Entanglement’ and I was born in Bristol, England. I started writing it in March 2018 and was published 18 months later, during which time though, my mother had a major stroke. My focus therefore expanded to include giving her a copy while there was still time, and happily, I succeeded. I’m unmarried, I live with my cats in a thatched cottage in the heart of England, and I’m currently writing the sequel to ‘Entanglement’, ‘Transference’.

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

It’s a good question, as I’d written on and off all my life, but what tipped me over the edge was work. I wasn’t happy in my last job so I’d got a few interviews lined up and there was one which I thought was perfect, only I didn’t get it. Then the next day I woke up and simply thought “Enough’s enough”. I resigned a couple of days later, moved to the countryside, spent the next 18 months renovating a 17th century thatched cottage, and then started writing. When I left work, it was what I told everyone I was going to do, and I still remember the day I opened my laptop and started typing.

“Entanglement” is your debut novel – and what a debut novel – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. Definitely different.  I haven’t come across a sci-fi mystery book about parallel worlds that also included cake recipes and footnotes! I liked the characters of Jenny & Nigel – I know a couple in my own town that are best of friends, spookily in the same vein as these two – and I had a fondest for Liz, Erica & Gran too. Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

Jenny is my favourite character, and I loved writing her, as while she shares some traits with me (cats, tidy, impatient …) she also goes through things in her life, that I haven’t. Without giving anything away, she’s an old soul who moves from place to place a lot and undergoes some pretty life-changing events. It was therefore funny when friends read the first draft and commented on things about her, and Nigel for that matter, which they recognised from my own life. Amazing how these things creep in without you noticing. The hardest characters to write were those in the military and government, as I didn’t want them to stereotype them, so I reached out to people in those fields to get their take on behaviours, conversational styles etc..

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

Oh yes. The part that amazed me was how some days, the story flowed out of me so quickly, it felt more like I was reading it than writing it. OK there were other days when I could agonise over a single paragraph for hours, but the others were astonishing.

To be honest, I’m baffled by sci -fit and the whole parallel worlds theories but I must admit, though this is a novel you explained the phenomena is “layman” terms and the footnotes were interesting too, without making the novel “heavy reading”. Why did you pick this topic for your first novel and did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the novel developed?

You know what, I didn’t pick it as such. The first pieces I wrote were some of the conversations between Jenny and Nigel. Then one of the sub plots, and it was only when I got the notion of a vanishing building that I started to ask myself how and why. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed all the research around the science piece and although I’ve clearly messed with it a bit for the sake of the story, I was keen to keep the baseline entirely real. I knew nothing of the facts of it before I started the book though, barring a few sci-fi programmes here and there, so the thing that struck me most as the novel developed, is the way parallel universes are not just the realm of science fiction, and there are lots of well-respectedscientists around the world who absolutely believe all the theories I reference in the book.

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

Absolutely, I’m about a third of the way into writing the sequel to ‘Entanglement’, ‘Transference’. The book begins by filling in some gaps from the end of Entanglement so as to set up the new story, then picks up from the very instant that ‘Entanglement’ finishes. It features all the same main characters as before, with a new ‘supporting cast’ and whereas ‘Entanglement’ was very much about “What if?”, ‘Transference’ asks “What next?”

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

I’m not a daily reader, but when I find an author I love, I tend to devour their books for a few months and then take a break. I’ve traditionally been a book reader, although I bought a Kindle last year and find my reading has actually increased since, although the bulk of my consumption tends to be audiobooks in the car where it’s often PG Wodehouse or Agatha Christie. At home though, it tends to be Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, re-reading Douglas Adams and recently going through some old horror classics like Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stephenson

Is “Entanglement” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes. The paperback, hardback and ebook are on Amazon worldwide. The ebook is also available on Apple Books, Nook and Kobo. Plus the print versions can also be ordered online or in store at places like Waterstones, Foyles and Barnes & Noble

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

I’m lucky to have travelled the world a lot over the years and being an outdoorsy sort of person, some of my favourite places are Montana, Utah and Japan. For ‘Transference’ though, the new location in the story relative to ‘Entanglement’ (which was largely set in Scotland), is Snowdonia, so it would have to be there.

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

Jeans, casual shirt and something like desert boots or chukka boots. In fact if you read Nigel’s dress sense, that’s roughly me, although I like to think I’m slightly smarter!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Amazon every time for shopping online. I also use a site called Canva for creating my daily posts on Instagram and Twitter. Apart from those, the Apple store gets a visit occasionally, but by far the bulk of my browsing is for research on my current novel. On the high street, it tends to be Waterstones, outdoor shops like Cotswold, and places like Lakeland, as I’m a sucker for kitchen gadgets. Well, gadgets of all kinds really.

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

Probably some new chukka boots as my current ones have been worn to death, trekking back and forth between home and the village pub … or shop.

Boots or Shoes?

Both I guess, as I prefer shows for hiking and smart, but boots for casual. 

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

www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1916044018

http://www.instagram.com/andrewj.thomas/

https://www.twitter.com/AndrewThomas109

http://www.andrewjthomas.net

Thank you Andrew for chatting to us and I am looking forward to reading the follow up, “Transference”. Dear blog readers, if you’re looking to read a book that is slightly different or want a change from your usual genre, give “Entanglement” a read – it’s like a breath of fresh air!

Thanks to Ben of Cameron Publishing for sending me a copy of “Entanglement “.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Andrew J Thomas & Cameron Publishing; apart from the photo for Pinterest which is by myself, Linda Hobden

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An Interview With Anne Welsh

Living with an invisible disability is difficult as people and businesses are often unaware of the chronic pain a person may be suffering. Sickle cell anemia sufferer Anne Welsh has written an interesting book about overcoming chronic pain through management, lifestyle and diet choices. This book is an interesting mix – Anne tells her own frank personal story about her life living with sickle cell anemia – warts ‘n’ all. From being a small child, how her parents coped, teenage years, university, work life, boyfriends, married life, pregnancy. Intertwined with the chapters are Anne’s honest look at the decisions made and what she advises to help make the life of someone suffering with chronic pain easier and advice for family and friends too. How to stay positive is her mantra. Although her advice can help all those living with chronic pain, she is adamant to spread the word about sickle cell disease, which is actually the most common genetic disease in the world, but people are not necessarily aware of it. I really enjoyed reading Anne’s book,” Pain-less “- she has a lovely chatty style – and I highly recommend it. You don’t need to suffer chronic pain to understand and devour her book – although she does give invaluable advice! I caught up with Anne recently and asked her a few questions….!! Hi Anne!

Hi! I would say that Anne Welsh is an internationally recognised author, entrepreneur and philanthropist.  Most importantly I am a married mother of two and finds great joy in being close to family and friends.  I have recently launched my memoir, Pain-less to inspire people who, like myself, live with sickle cell and work hard to find a path-way to a gratifying life while living with pain.  It is a book that will motivate the reader to act and overcome challenges in life. 

Through this book I am using my voice to help others by speaking on many radio and television spots, such as the BBC and London live, and in front of decision makers and parliamentary political leaders in the UK or in countries around the world where sickle cell is a serious health issue.   

I have a degree in Accounting and Finance and an MSc in Investment Management and broke barriers as an investment banker with Lehman Brothers, by establishing workplace practices for ethnic minorities and people with disability.   I now run my own consultancy firm based in London, England and is an expert in bringing business opportunities to investors around the globe.

Your book, “Pain-Less” is truly inspirational  – but what made you decide to write “Pain-Less” in the first place? 

I decided to write my book Pain-Less as I felt it was time to finally share my story with the world. It was truly a struggle growing up.   I was constantly in hospital and each time I would lose hope that I would be better or would I just be burden on my family and society for the rest of my life.  

As I broke away from the negativity that surrounded my life, I knew that I could make a positive difference to others with invisible illnesses, who were going through  similar experiences to me.   By sharing my story I could help them to overcome their fears, live life to the fullest and being able to achieve their life long aspirations. 


I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. I liked how you wrote the book – the mix of your personal story, your struggle to overcome chronic pain and your sound advice. Fortunately, I don’t suffer from a chronic complaint but I do know people who do, so it was an eye opening insight for me to understand what it is like living with an invisible disease. I really appreciated the advice you gave in the book to family, friends, peers and employers on how to handle someone with an invisible disability. What changes do you feel that employers/businesses should think about to help those with an invisible disability?

People with an invisible illness are prone to the same emotions as everyone else.   They often don’t ask for special treatment, but they do ask for an understanding of the invisible illness you have.  Sometimes negative reactions from your colleagues are amplified because you don’t look sick or have a visible physical disability that accompanies empathy that is often demonstrated by people you may be working with.  

Therefore, awareness is key.  As a person with an illness you must make your employer aware that you have an invisible disease.  Employers should take the time to put in place suitable infrastructure where necessary to make the lives of those living with an invisible illness can perform without restrictions. I can tell you the moment my employers were able to give me the help I needed; I saw an improvement in my performance  and my contribution to the team was immediately recognised. 

What was, for you, the hardest part(s) to write about in “Pain-less”? 

Overcoming the fact that I was putting myself out to the world to scrutinise.  A memoir is more than just your life highlights – to do it well you must make the point of including those things that make you the person you are at a moment in life.  It creates a personal tension within yourself and forces to analyse your true feelings about many subjects that you had not really considered before.  This can be a very mentally demanding task. 


I had heard about Sickle Cell Anaemia, mostly through a novel I recently read written by a Nigerian author who mentioned it in passing as one of the characters was a mum whose children died of sickle cell at toddler age – but I had no idea of the symptoms of sickle cell, how some people are carriers and some get the full blown disease, and that it doesn’t automatically carry a death sentence.  Neither did I realise that Sickle Cell disease is the most common genetic disease in the world. Being an Ambassador for Raising Awareness Of Sickle Cell Disease, what are your main aims & tasks? What are the main misconceptions about sickle cell?   

My aim is to ensure that proper attention is paid to this disease.  Often it helps to have those difficult conversations with decision makers and influencers, and I will use my network to have as many as I can.  

A huge misconception about sickle cell is that it is a life sentence that and those who suffer from it cannot lead a truly fulfilling life.  True it drastically reduces the life span of individuals in areas where basic pain management and health care is not readily available; however, this capacity for care continues to improve worldwide. 

Finally, the struggle is as much a mental struggle as a physical one. The disease’s negative impact on a person must be viewed in its totality.  Depression, loneliness, difficulty in securing a job are all issues that need to be addressed by the individual and society in general.  

In your book you describe your ways of helping to manage your pain via lifestyle choices, diet and medication.  I liked the frank way you described your experiences and that there was a lot of trial and error involved along the way as you tried to make your way as a schoolgirl, as a teenager, as a university student, as a girlfriend, as a wife, as a mother too.  As an adult, it is easier to make sensible choices re lifestyle & diet; how was it trying to stay positive and manage your disease as a youngster? 

As a youngster, I could not fully comprehend why I was different other than the pain was terrible, and I could not do the things my sisters and friends could do.  I felt isolated and I truly relied on my parents to survive.  I just knew I had to survive.  It is not more complex than that. 

As a mum myself, I know how stressful it is going through pregnancy and eventual childbirth.  Knowing that you also had the added risk of passing on the genetic disease to your unborn child; the pain of giving birth on top of your chronic pain; yet your desire for children  – must have made it a tough decision for you and your husband to make!  What worried you most whilst pregnant? 

Actually, passing on the genetic disease was luckily not an issue.  My husband was Caucasian with European  lineage so the passing on of the disease on was not a worry. 

Everything else on the journey to motherhood was stress filled. Getting to the finish line and having a healthy child pop out was always in my thoughts.  Both children were born five weeks and the care regime I was placed under helped me reduce the anxiety greatly. I cannot thank the team of doctors and nurses that helped me along the way.

Being stressed doesn’t help anybody, let alone somebody with sickle cell anemia – so what do you do to relax and de-stress? 

I constantly monitor the health of my body.  I realise when I need to rest and when I need to reduce the work-load I am under.  I just enjoy hanging out with my family, sisters and their families and friends.  

Following the correct eating plan and doing exercise plays a very important role in achieving the relaxation and a I less stressed environment. 

Is “Pain-Less” available to purchase worldwide?

The book can be purchased directly from the publisher SilverWood Books or it  an be found on Amazon. https://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/product/9781781329047/pain-less-hardback

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

I love the classic mixed with modern look. Now we are in autumn you will find me wearing lots of sweaters dresses, ankle length boots in a variety of colours, always accented by the appropriate sunglasses.  

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Zara and Net-a-porter

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

A new Trench coat from Burberry and the Jimmy Choo white boots. 

Boots or Shoes?

When it is cold and raining,  definitely boots.   Boots, keep me warm and this prevents a sickle cell crisis from  coming on quickly. 

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

www.annewelsh.com

Instagram: @ladyannewelsh

Facebook: ladyannewelsh

Twitter: @ladyannewelsh

YouTube: annewelsh

It has been a real pleasure chatting to you Anne and I wish your book every success. Your tips are truly invaluable and I am sure that many readers will appreciate your honest advice.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Anne Welsh.

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An Interview With Concrete & Wax

Suffolk duo, Mr Concrete & Mrs Wax (aka Alex and Laura) are gracing my blog this week – Mr Concrete makes modular, stackable candle holders from hand poured concrete; and Mrs Wax makes the most delightful scented soy wax candles …or non scented beeswax candles (with a slight natural aroma of honey) to match. Coming actually from a fashion background, they decided to launch Concrete & Wax In November 2018. I caught up with them recently to find out more about their delightful products ….

Hi! We are married design duo Alex Sommer and Laura Keller. We live in a sixteenth century cottage with our 6 year old Marley and slobber-dog Boadiin the Suffolk countryside. We worked for over two decades in the fashion industry, the last 15 of which through our creative consultancy 2Som Studio, designing and providing trend forecasts to many casual and sportswear brands. In 2018 we decided to combine our creativity with a new focus and, after many months of development, launched CONCRETE & WAX, a collection of concrete holders and natural wax pillar candles, all hand poured in our Suffolk workshop.

After a background in fashion including the running of a trend and forecast magazine – what inspired you to start your company, CONCRETE & WAX?

After Marley was born we knew that we needed a shift in career so that we travelled less. We batted around a few ideas over the years but never both felt equally passionate about one in particular. A close family illness at the start of 2018 meant Laura was away for long periods of time and in the evenings Alex distracted himself by tinkering with concrete. This inspired Laura, when at home, to experiment with wax, believing that the two contrasting materials would work beautifully together. It was like a ‘POW’ moment for us – we knew this was what we wanted to do. Alex suddenly became Mr Concrete and Laura became Mrs Wax! Alex’s love for modular, intelligent design in clothing transferred easily into the stackable, interchangeable collection of holders and candles that we have today. We love to think that our customers can put together their candle arrangement depending on their mood, in the same way they might pull together an outfit from their wardrobe.

I am amazed at the colour versatility of the modular, stackable concrete candle holders – and the Wax candle essence range, especially the unusual “tobacco & oak”. To date, what has been the most popular colour candle holder & popular wax candle fragrance?

Our customers seem to love the monochrome colours the best: Grey, white, black and, for the more adventurous, a little snocam camouflage paired with our white soy wax candles. Lime, Basil and Mandarin is the number one fragrance for women and Tobacco and Oak for men. It always amazes us to see how our customers style the products they’ve chosen to light there space.

What’s your most favourite item(s) in your collection?

It’s hard to pick favourites really, because they all have such unique personalities even though they really are very simple in design. But, our favourite thing by far is the fact they are modular and so can be stacked in many different ways. During the design process it was critical that we created product that would stand the test of time. Knowing the concrete would outlast the candles, and not wanting our customers eternally restricted to buying candles from us, the fact each holder has been designed to fit any standard tealight is a design element we are very proud of. 

Mrs Wax, when deciding fragrances to add to your soy wax candle collections, do you select by what has proved popular with other candle makers, current trends, customer requests, personal preferences or all of those things?

It’s absolutely been about personal preferences. I’ve worn Lime, Basil and Mandarin perfume for most of my adult life so naturally this was my first development. The other fragrances I’ve added for the simple reason that I like them. There is nothing too sweet or overpowering because I don’t like to walk into a room and feel overwhelmed by a fragrance. 

We’re not quite at the personal request stage just yet in terms of our customers contacting me to ask, but I am completely open to that idea, so if anyone has a favourite they’d like me to look into then please get in touch.

I love that you are bringing to life candle holders using hand poured concrete – I love the smooth texture, the colours, the sheen & the fact that no two holders will ever look the same!  – they all look fantastic! Mr Concrete, how long does it take on average to make a concrete candle holder? Which part of the process gives you the most satisfaction?

Thank you. After pouring the concrete, it sits in its mould for 2-3 days, before I remove it – which is the best moment because it’s only at this point that I can see the unique characteristics of each piece, due to tiny air bubbles forming during the initial drying process. The concrete is then left to cure for two weeks before I add our branded cork foot to the base and apply a natural waxed oil protective coating. It goes back on the shelf for another week. Then it’s good to go. The camouflage concrete is always the most fun to pour because Mrs Wax helps me with this, as it is a two-person job. As there is no exact science to our pouring technique, no two pieces are ever the same and we love that fact.

Mrs Wax, can you tell us more about the different types of wax candles you make? What are the properties of the different type of waxes used?

I use only natural wax for our candles. The fragranced white candles are a blend I developed combining soy wax with a sprinkling of beeswax. The beeswax is important to add strength to the pillar candles because soy wax is a much softer wax, hence the reason it is usually used for container candles. And the yellow candles are natural beeswax. I just love the subtle honey aroma they throw out.

As CONCRETE & WAX is based in the UK, are your products on the website available to purchase worldwide? 

Yes – we ship internationally, but as we make concrete, it is a heavy product to ship and some countries are absolutely weight dependent in terms of shipping costs. This has an impact on the price we have to charge for shipping and we fully appreciate that many customers are not prepared to pay for that. All we can say is, as we get bigger and ship bigger quantities we’ll have more negotiating power with the shipping companies and then the costs will come down.

Are there any new products or candle fragrances in the pipeline for 2019/2020?

Yes, we have three new colours in concrete in a tranquil, calming palette. They are lovely. And we’re also working on a couple of new candle fragrances. It’s a little early to specify exactly what yet because many are still in early testing phase, but Mediterranean fragrances are the inspiration, such as fig, orange, rosemary and basil.

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

L: Jeans, a casual top and easy footwear. As I’m a working Mum to a 6 year old it’s mostly about throwing it on in the morning to get breakfast, hair style and tooth brushing sorted in time for the school run (all of those things for her by the way, not me). Once that’s done I’d love to say I come home and glam up, but I usually jump straight on to the computer or into candle making.

A: A rather more masculine version of what Laura wears! Or camouflage overalls when I’m in the workshop.


Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

L: When I have an hour or two to spare I love a good hunt through the rails at TK Maxx as invariably you can find something special at a great price. 

A: Goodhood or End Clothing are my go-to sites.


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

L: Something glamorous for the Christmas season.  

A: I’m on the hunt for a vintage quilted leather jacket. 

Boots or Shoes?

We hate to admit it, but usually trainers. After working for so many years in the sportswear industry, it’s a tough style choice to shift because there are just so many great ones out there – and you just can’t beat the comfort. 

L: Although saying that I have been wearing a cute pair of pale grey suede Chelsea boots quite a lot recently.

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

www.concreteandwax.com

Facebook & Instagram: @concreteandwax

I hope your business continues to burn brightly – I really am amazed at the colour variations available for concrete!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of CONCRETE & WAX

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