Category Archives: Childrenswear/Child & Family Related Posts

Introducing Alphabetville

I’m pleased to introduce onto my blog this week illustrator Mary-Louise Hussey.  I have followed Mary on Twitter for a while now – her little creature drawings that make up Alphabetville, remind me of illustrations that used to be in my fairytale books as a child.  Her illustrations and the animal characters are delightful –  such a lovely way to introduce ABC.  I caught up with Mary-Louise recently to talk about her illustrations, Alphabetville and  life in the 1970s! Hi Mary-Louise!

Hello, my name is Mary-Louise Hussey and I was brought up in West Sussex in the UK.  I had an unusual childhood living in the wing of a grand old Victorian mansion, a preparatory school for boys.  I don’t remember being lonely, but looking back it was an insular existence to begin with spending long days in the nursery, or playing in the garden under the Old Lime Tree with imaginary friends, mostly of the wildlife kind.

When I left school I was sent off to various ‘courses for young ladies’ in London preparing me for life! One of these was Lucy Clayton modelling school, which taught me how to glide down a ‘cat walk’, and though tall and lanky apparently ‘my neck was too short for modelling’, something I am still self conscious about! Luckily this led me to look down other avenues.  Working in a glamorous fashion shop in Knightsbridge, the ‘heart of smart’ in London, gave me a lust for the latest fashions.  Mary Quant, Biba, miniskirts, hot pants, buckets of makeup and Beatles music were all the rage.  Inspired by this experience and with a small legacy from my grandmother I opened ‘Sheba’, my clothes ‘Boutique’ and fashion mecca in a charming little country village.  The 1970s were dizzy days and my confidence blossomed.

Later married and with two young daughters, we moved away to rural Herefordshire. Glorious countryside and friendly people, I took up painting once again.  With an urge to set up another business I fell into my new career.  Sheba Designs, a mail order catalogue selling ‘Personalised Gifts for Children’, most notably ‘Illustrated Name Pictures’.

What was the inspiration behind ‘Animals at Work’ who live in Alphabetville?

I’m so glad you asked me this as the memories are still quite deep. You remember the Old Lime Tree I was telling you about in our garden – I loved that tree?  Sadly in 1987 there was a hurricane which ravaged the countryside in the South of England.  We went down from Herefordshire to my old home, and I wept when I saw my Old Lime Tree had been whipped up and flung down, broken. Right then and there I determined that the memory of this beautiful old lime tree and the happy times spent under it with my imaginary friends should not be lost. On returning home I immediately set about designing my little animal alphabet ‘Animals at Work’ who now live in Alphabetville.  The design was a huge success in my business and when a Japanese wholesaler asked me at my trade stand at an exhibition if I had written stories around the characters, I crossed all fingers and said ‘YES’.  At home I feverishly created characters for my little animals and gave them the village of Alphabetville to make their home.  And that is where they are to this day making children everywhere happy.

You have written and illustrated 2 children’s picture books based on the antics of the animals of Alphabetville.  Can you describe Alphabetville in a nutshell and how the books can help young children in mastering their alphabet?

I love this question, but how to fit Alphabetville into a nutshell, and how to crack it without shattering the illusion? I’ll do my best.

The village is down in a little dell….not far from you actually!  Tarquin and Tarqueena the slightly eccentric Royals who live in ‘The Royal Oak Palace,’ leave all the essential running of the busy village to ‘The Animals at Work’.  From the School, the thriving Gift Factory and the Railway Station and Farm, to the Corner Shop and Church all is run fairly smoothly.  It’s not always a tight ship, but it’s fairly average really except that it is run by ANIMALS. Oh and did I say that they get into quite a pickle sometimes, well who doesn’t?

Our plan is at this early stage of learning the alphabet, for The ‘Animals at Work’ to become your children’s best friends – simple.  You see each animal’s name cleverly starts with a different letter of the alphabet. Ie.  Albert Mole head teacher of the village school, Boris Bear the chef who loves hot and spicy food,  Clarrie the caring nurse,  ‘Dodge’ Dougal the village policeman etc. So while the child becomes familiar with the characters and their names they soon begin to recognise the accompanying letters…. Here is the first tentative and enjoyable step towards learning their ABC.

I love the Alphabetville animals – my favourite is Gloria Gussey – a stunning lizard who is a super model with brains who hopes to become a doctor!  Have you got a fondness for any particular character?

I just have to say Emmie the talented faMouse artist or she would clobber me – because she is ME and my alto ego.  One major difference being that she has 12 little ‘mouselings’…. and I don’t!  I blame Emmie (Emeraldine) for the painting of all the pictures in my books, which sort of lets me off the hook a bit. Furthermore In a corridor in the Alphabetville village school you can find ‘Rogues Gallery’ where Emmie’s portraits of each of the pupils hang on their leaving.  She is now proud to have over 10,000 followers on her Twitter account. Have a peek @AnimalsatWork

When did you start designing and hand painting illustrated name pictures?

Both my daughters had started school and I took up painting again in earnest.  But one day trying something new, I illustrated a name picture with wildflowers for my goddaughter Amanda. It seemed to be a hit with those who saw it and I capitalised on that by taking a few orders from friends, then from coffee mornings, charity fairs, school functions and so on until I brought out my Mail Order catalogue and started advertising and even ventured into the wholesale market.

I can tell you are an animal lover – but are you scared or wary of any particular animal in real life? (I’m wary of cows and ants)

Yes, I love animals but I have to admit to being nervous of horses.  I was ‘plonked’ on a pony at the age of about 7 years and told to hold on tight.  The novice teacher led four of us off across a field at a trot.  Soon out of control I tumbled off and was promptly ‘plonked’ on again, whereupon the pony took off back to the stables with me hanging on for dear life. I love them but I have never trusted a horse since.

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

I rather fancied myself as a pop star when I was in my teens.  I used to strum along on my guitar with friends and we spent hours recording ourselves on a big old fashioned recording machine, we were pretty awful but had lots of fun. I will soon be recording the songs I have composed for The Animals at Work.

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

In a deckchair in the garden with the sound of birds singing in the trees, however that’s nearly impossible unless on holiday.  So as my husband goes to bed before me I crawl in to my side of the bed with my Kindle under the bedclothes and read till my eyes close. One of my historical novels will keep me awake like this for a short time but I usually find the Kindle still there when I wake up early the next morning.

Where can people purchase your Illustrated Name Pictures and books?  Is there worldwide availability?

Both through my website www.alphabetville.net                                                                                                                              The books and (eBook to come) –  self publishing at  https://www.blurb.co.uk/b/862c                                                                                                   Twitter @AnimalsatWork                                                                                              Facebook  –  Alphabetville

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

With long legs but rather thick ankles I normally wear trousers to flatter/hide my shape.  Colour is my thing, so my tops are many and varied.  Well cut shirts for style in linen or cotton, or silk skimming the hips, printed over tops, often with a matching scarf. Casual but neat flat shoes mainly or boots in the winter.  I’d be more wacky if I could find fun clothes for my age group.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

That’s a bit difficult really because I pick up clothes wherever I find them.  I used to be very fussy having had my own shop in days gone by, but now I seem to find clothes are all too classical for me and not adventurous enough.  It’s not fun anymore and after shopping in shops or online I seem to end up with the same dull old things.

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

I am now a blond haired person in a previously dark haired person’s clothing!  So I need to reassess my wardrobe completely really and go for subtle colours and soft flowing materials with drapes to hide unwanted lumps and bumps.  Flattering warm brown and light caramel colours with splashes of burnt coral. Short donkey brown boots and a large cashmere shawl to dashingly fling round your neck.  That doesn’t sound at all like ‘old me’, but then I’m not the ‘old me’ any more.

Boots or Shoes?

A good pair of stylish boots… or two, will take you anywhere and hide the thick ankles.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc. so that readers can find out more about you and the Animals at Work in Alphabetville.

Website: www.alphabetville.net

Facebook: Alphabetville

Twitter: @AnimalsatWork

Books:  1.  Animals at Work in Alphabetville,  2. Albert’s Birthday Surprise

Ahh…the hurricane of 1987..I remember it well as I had moved to my first house away from my parents who lived in London, to a small village in coastal Essex that very day the hurricane struck. We had a tree hang precariously over the bungalow but it was safely removed and thankfully, no other lasting damage! Sorry to hear of the demise of the Old Lime Tree, though.

Thank you for taking the time to chat to us about your beautiful illustrations and  Alphabetville – it has been a real treat! 🙂

Linda x

All illustrations/photos have been published with the very kind permission of Mary-Louise Hussey

 

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An Interview With Incredibly Cool Events

Embarrassingly, I had always associated cheerleading competitions with America – along with baseball and American Football – until recently, that is, when I discovered that cheerleading competitions are alive and kicking in the UK too!  I’m delighted to introduce onto my blog this week, Kimberley Mason, founder of ICE (Incredibly Cool Events) who gave me an insight into the cheerleading scene in the UK. Hi Kimberley!
Hi! I am Kimberley Mason I was born in the West Midlands and was raised on dance classes and competitions.

What inspired you to start up ICE (Incredibly Cool Events)?

After running my community interest company and working in sport for disadvantaged communities I felt there was a big need for affordable accessible cheerleading and dance competitions.

ICE organises cheerleading and dance competitions, workshops & Coaching. What would a cheerleading team expect if entering an ICE event?

They would get a help from a friendly team during the lead up to the event, affordable prices and all the support needed to get their teams feeling confident so they could give their best performance on the floor. There are big trophies, a medal for each competitor and a beautiful back drop to perform in front of. We have a highly trained judging team that offers constructive feedback at each of our events.

When did you start “cheerleading” & what was it about cheerleading that attracted you ?

I started Irish dance at the age of 7 and although I loved it the heavy shoes were not for me. I then tried freestyle dance and loved it. Dance became my passion from then onwards and I took part in competitions on a weekly basis. I found cheerleading at the age of 18 and the more I learnt the more I fell in love with it. I loved the fact that it was a team sport and the way the competitions were organised. The cheer spirit and the team ethos were definitely the main attraction.

What are the benefits of cheerleading?

Cheerleading has many benefits; it improves fitness, helps with life skills such asworking as team work and co-operation, it helps build confidence and there is a fantastic social side.

Is cheerleading suitable for everybody?

Yes all ages and abilities, cheerleading is done on a level basis so there is a level suitable for everyone. There are different elements to a cheer routine, dance, tumble, stunt and jumps.

Do you enjoy any other genre of dance?

Yes I enjoy all styles of dance, we offer pom dance, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop and next season we will be offering Acro.

Although you are based in the UK, are teams outside of the UK allowed to enter your events?

Yes of course we welcome everyone.

What ICE events are planned for the rest of 2018/2019?

We have lots of dance and cheer events lined up for the next season and they take place all over the country :

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

At the moment I’m pregnant with my second baby so a big maternity dress with expandable sandals for my swollen feet. When not pregnant you will find me in leggings and jeans and flats, usually covered in George’s (my toddler) latest  meal.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love ASOS because there is so much to choose from and outfits and shoes for every occasion.

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

I would love some fashionable day wear but I have a feeling with baby boy number 2 on the way it will be a while until I make any major investments into my wardrobe, although I will be investing in some winter boots at the start of the winter season.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots, they look lovely and are very comfortable plus there are lots of different styles, long, mid length, ankle, flat etc so there is something for most occasions.

For Pinning Later

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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IncrediblyCoolEvents/
Website: www.incrediblycoolevents.co.uk
Twitter: @ICE_Events1
Intsagram: incrediblycoolevents

I wish you the very best for both your impending nappy event and your programme of events, Kimberley. I think the name of your company is incredibly cool too….

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission from Kimberley Mason (Incredibly Cool Events).

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An Interview With Mandala Dream Co

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

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

What was behind your choice to concentrate on hemp?

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

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

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

More about my favoured Hemp:

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

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

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

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

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

 

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

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

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

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

Linda x

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

Models: Sahara & Kingston

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5 Fashion & Beauty Camping Case Essentials For The Newbie

Happy New Year!  Have you made any New Year Resolutions?  More importantly, are you sticking to them?! According to the Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show 2018, everybody should put “Spend 24 Hours Outdoors” on their New Year Resolutions list.  Various researches from organisations such as The Camping and Caravanning Club and the World Health Organisation have revealed that camping is generally good for your your mental health; it makes people feel happier; it’s a great social leveller; it’s a great way to make new friends (especially for children); and children are more than likely to encounter new experiences eg kite flying, tree climbing, den making and cooking on a campfire.

Location, location, location …. there are many different types of campsites in the UK from the glamping spots; the really deserted one tent in a field spots; adapted farms that have become campsites in idyllic locations, with modern shower blocks & facilities such as a pool, shop, restaurant, launderette, bar;  and some which are part of a holiday village with full entertainment & other amenities. 

 

So, your children have persuaded you to buy a tent and book a camping holiday … put the tent up beforehand to practise and to check that it is in fact waterproof … (we’ve had to buy a new tent day 2 into our 14 day camping holiday when a torrential downpour overnight left our old tent uninhabitable!  Thank goodness our site had a launderette and I was able to use the dryers to dry our damp clothes & bedding!)

And here’s some tips to help you pack those all important fashion & beauty essentials:

1. FOOTWEAR.  Hiking/Walking Boots. To wear all the time when you are not in the tent.  I use my motorbike boots.  Camping fields can get extremely muddy, especially if it rains.  Make sure the boots are comfortable, sturdy & waterproof. For tent wear: slip on trainers, ballet shoes or flip flops. 

2.  ONESIE.  I’m cringing as I type this.  I rarely feel the cold but I must say, that even in  August, it was cold and damp at night in the tent.  I did wrap up under a  duvet but I couldn’t help but think that wearing a onesie would have been preferable at that moment in time.  I did visit a local store looking for a onesie but being August, and it was warm during the day, the shelves were full of swimming costumes not fleeces.

3. MAKE UP/BEAUTY PRODUCTS.  Being outdoors gives you a healthy glow.  Being on a campsite means that the shower facilities/lighting/mirrors are not really ideal to perform your normal make up and skincare morning and evening routines.  I would suggest packing shower gel, 2 in 1 shampoo, moisturiser, BB cream (to replace primer, toner & foundation), waterproof mascara, lip gloss and eye make up remover pads.

4. COMPACT MIRROR.  At night you should really take off make up but when camping, it is rather off putting to go to a dimly lit shower block armed with your torch to help you navigate your way.  Having a compact mirror means that you can take your make up off in your tent ( and apply your morning make up after your shower in privacy, if you wish).  I used my mirror to make sure I didn’t have too bad bed head hair in the morning as I travelled across the field to the shower block!

5. HAIR PRODUCTS.  Your brush. Ditch the straighteners, hairdryer, tongs, hairspray … go for the tousled look instead. 

With those essentials packed, you are ready to fully embrace the outdoor life with your family – we walked for miles, went shell collecting on the beach, visited the local swannery, did some kite flying, rope swinging… 

Are you going to add “24 Hours Outdoors” to your list this year? Are you a camping guru… or newbie?  Any camping stories you can share? Do tell …

Linda x

The Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2018 takes place at Birmingham’s NEC from 20 to 25 February.  Prices are from £7 for adults; children under 15 go free. Tickets are on sale now – for more details check their website: www.ccmshow.co.uk

All photos are by Linda Hobden.

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Destination Rocamadour

Set in a gorge above the River Alzou, a tributary of the River Dordogne, in the Lot Department of South West France, lies the small cliff top village of Rocamadour.  Rocamadour attracts pilgrims from all over the world and has done for centuries – famous pilgrims from history include Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II of England; Kings Louis IX, Louis XI & Charles IV of France. In summer, this little village in the middle of nowhere, is jammed packed with visitors.  Apart from its stunning location, Rocamadour is known for its Cite Religieuse complex of religious buildings, accessed via the Grand Escalier Staircase. The complex includes the Chapelle Notre Dame, with its Black Madonna statue and the Romanesque – Gothic Basilica of St Sauveur.

In August, Rocamadour’s campsites (of which there are many), are invaded also by music lovers – the Festival de Rocamadour include chamber music, orchestral music and soloists.

Interesting though the village is, for families with children, the prospect of climbing the steep stone stairways viewing ancient buildings in the August heat isn’t really appealing.  BUT, Rocamadour to me and my family isn’t really the village – we head to the north east corner of the village to a magical place we first discovered in 2006. This place is La Foret de Singes (Monkey Forest), a park where around 150 Barbary Macaques (aka Magots) live and roam free in a forest environment. 

The Barbary Macaques are an endangered species, originating from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The idea of the park is to provide the apes with natural living conditions as close to their native conditions as possible in order to preserve the species and once numbers increase and they are no longer endangered, they will be ultimately reintroduced into the Atlas Mountains. 

Raising public awareness about threats to the species is another aim.  Entering the park there are strict regulations for visitors – both for the safety of the visitor and the apes.  The park is well secured… there are gates to enter in and out of the forest itself .. but other than that, no other zoo like feature exists.  Regulations include not going too close the apes, especially the babies as the parents could consider the visitors as a threat; the young apes are prone to taking food out of people’s pockets/bags and hats off heads  – the young ones are braver and will approach you to take food off your outstretched hands.  You can get bags of popcorn at the entrance so you can feed the apes you come across as you follow the paths through the forest – and there are also set feeding time  areas where the rangers feed the apes whilst explaining (mostly in French) their work, the apes and the conservation aims.

Wandering through the forest, some places reminded me of scenes from Disney’s Lion King – I was expecting Simba the lion to appear on a rock and roar! 

The highlight of the day for us all was being able to feed the apes, although on our first trip my eldest son was very wary and was too scared to participate – but the others were a lot braver and enjoyed the experience.  Outside the gated area is a shop with the inevitable shelves lined with soft cuddly Barbary Apes; and a cafe where you can get a well deserved ice cream – or have a picnic indulging in freshly made baguettes with the local goats milk cheese, “Rocamadour”, which was awarded AOC status in 1996! 

As a family, we’ve always visited in the height of the season in August – the roads to get into Rocamadour are often congested but away from the centre, as you head to the forest the traffic is fairly light and the park itself, although busy, does not feel crowded even at lunchtime.  If you get a chance, just along the road is the Dinosaur Park – a cleverly laid out park winding down a hillside featuring some fabulous dinosaur statues – very pushchair/wheelchair friendly and wasn’t crowded whenever we’ve visited, either. 

The La Foret de Singes was opened in 1974  – it has other parklands in the “group” in Europe where you can experience the work of the Barbary Macaques conservation associations.  These are: La Montagne des Singes (France); Affenberg Salem  (Germany); Trentham Monkey Forest (England).

If you wish to visit the forest, it is open March – November. 

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden. 

 

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Introducing Hippomottie

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

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

What was the inspiration behind Hippomottie?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

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

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

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

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

Linda x

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

 

 

 

 

 

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An Interview With Box Ed’s Paper Crafts

When I was a little girl, many moons ago, I used to play with paper dolls with paper clothes.  The  fashion designs could be coloured in or they were already adorned in the colours of the day – I remember mustard yellow, navy blue and baby blue being the predominant ones (this was in the 1970s!) Nowadays, paper toys are a bit more sophisticated but just as much fun to construct. My son has a model that he constructed of Star Wars R2D2 … it now stands pride of place on our window sill…

It gives me great pleasure this week to welcome onto my blog Andrew Dunn, a paper toy designer.  His paper toys cover a vast range from famous name icons to sporting figures to animals with moving heads, to name but a few! Hello Andrew!

Hello I’m Andrew from Torquay in Melbourne, Australia. 25 years living in England, 10 in New Zealand and 5 in Melbourne. Full time husband, full time dad, part-time administrator, part-time illustrator (prioritised in that order ;o))

What inspired you to launch your business, Box Ed’s Paper Crafts?

I started to create paper toys in 2011 as a way to share my passion for drawing and crafting with my two young children. My kids love of Lego and Minecraft inspired me to design paper crafts that children could build to create their own worlds.

What are the benefits of using paper craft figures as opposed to using other materials?

Paper is such a versatile material, easy to manipulate, familiar, cheap and surprisingly sturdy too. My paper crafts activities introduce children to how 2D shapes combine to create 3D shapes. The activity allows children to develop their fine motor skills by cutting, folding and sticking. It teaches them patience and accuracy, how to use and combine materials and gives them a real sense of accomplishment once completed. The inclusion of a blank template in each pack allows the creative freedom to colour-in and design a unique, custom paper toy.

I do so love the “Hipster” and “Donald Trump” paper craft figures. What paper crafts have proved popular with customers so far this season?

The cats and dogs a​re always popular in my Etsy store. I do a few craft markets every year and the tiger and lion are always the favourites because of their flip top heads!​

Out of all the paper crafts, do you have a particular favourite?

I’ve just completed a series of American sports paper toys – basketballers, baseballers etc. and I was particularly happy with the Ice Hockey players getting their sticks, pucks and skates all onto two sheets of paper.

What has been the most unusual paper craft figure you’ve created? Have any been really difficult to reproduce?

I’ve designed a skeleton which I remember agonising over. I think because it was essentially just black and white it was tricky to get much detail and make it fit within my template. I gave that a flip top head though and that seemed to help!

Your collection of paper craft figures is vast… How did you decide what paper craft figures to first introduce? Were your ideas influenced by customer requests, your children’s ideas, or your own observations?

I’ve always designed my paper crafts for everyone and anyone who live anywhere – crafters from 5 to 95 anywhere in the world can cut, fold and stick together a character and have some fun. So cats, dogs and bunnies were the first characters. My kids are always giving me ideas and feedback on what works and doesn’t work which is great to get some constructive criticism.

I also love your sideline products of the tank tops, mugs etc that feature your paper craft figure motifs. My personal favourite is the Ice Hockey mug. What sideline products have proved most popular?

Thanks, actually the ice hockey designs have proved to be the most popular. The designs are pretty much lifted straight from my paper toy designs, with a few tweaks here and there to make it suit the t-shirt or cushion cover or shower curtains they’ll be printed on!

As you are based in Melbourne, Australia, do you ship overseas too?

All my paper crafts can be instantly downloaded wherever you are. The internet has made the world a whole lot smaller and more accessible. I do offer a physical product too so I can send my craft packs wherever people want to get their craft on.

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

For the past 5 years I’ve not strayed far from black t-shirts, blue jeans and a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love flipping through the sites where I have my online shops Etsy, Redbubble and Society6. People are so creative and crafty and these platforms allow anyone and everyone to express themselves and get their art out to the world. It feels good knowing that I’m supporting artists and creatives just like me.

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

Well August and September downunder is coming into spring time and living at the start of the surfcoast road I’ll be stocking up on flip-flops/sandals/thongs and possibly some rad surf-influenced tshirts!

Boots or Shoes? 

Chucks! Simple, comfortable and classic.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Box Ed’s Paper Crafts.

Website – www.boxedspapercrafts.com
Instagram – @boxedspapercrafts
Store – www.etsy.com/au/shop/BoxEdsPaperCrafts

Thank you Andrew for chatting to us! Dear readers, did you ever have paper toys as a child?  What do you think of Andrew’s designs? As always, do share your views … I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from  Andrew Dunn apart from the R2D2 picture at the top of the post which was taken by me. 

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Crazy About Shirts

Do you like shirts?  My husband is a fan. I have 4 sons – my eldest lives in football (soccer) shirts; my 2nd son likes his Jack & Jones t shirts; my 3rd son worships his baggy trousers, t shirts and hoodies ….. and my youngest son, well, he is just plain crazy about shirts! So he has agreed to talk about his love of shirts and give us some insight into what is “cool” in the world of shirts today!

Hi! I’m Ethan.  I’m 10 years old and I really love shirts!

What is it about shirts that you really love?

They are airy and cool you down in summer.

Do you prefer long sleeves or short sleeves?

It depends on the time of year – I like long sleeves in winter and short sleeves in summer. I don’t like my sleeves rolled up.

Do you have a favourite shirt?

Yes, my flamingo one. It is summery and cool.  ( I bought this shirt for Ethan from Next )

From Next

Do you have a favourite colour? 

Blue is my favourite colour.  I like wearing all colours apart from black. I do like bright colours.  

From Next

Who is your style icon?

Ricky Wilson (lead singer of the Kaiser Chiefs). He wears cool shirts and waistcoats. I would like to wear a shirt and waistcoat for Sian’s wedding next year.  (Sian is my daughter, Ethan’s sister).

Out of your dad’s shirts, do you have a favourite that he wears?

My dad has a really cool butterfly shirt.

Dad’s butterfly shirt

What outfit do you like to wear when going out somewhere special?

Short sleeve white shirt, skinny blue jeans, and my leather jacket.

Do you like wearing your school uniform?

Yes, because I can wear a white shirt and it makes me look smart.

I notice that you and your friends wear your shirts buttoned right up to the top. Why?

(Shrugs)… I like to look smart and it’s how everybody wears a shirt at school. 

For pinning later

What’s next on your clothes wishlist?

A shirt, of course …. or jeans, skinny not baggy.  

What would you like to do when you are older?

I would like to be an airline pilot.

So, dear readers…. out of the mouth of babes, my youngest child has carved out a fashion style of his own – in stark contrast to his older brothers!  Do you have children who follow different styles?  Do share your observations!

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

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The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book

I love colouring.  I love fashion. I love art. I love the latest fad for adult colouring books. And I love “The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book” by fashion designer Natasha Itzcovitz.  “The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book” features 100 hand drawn fashion illustrations, showcasing her own unique designs as well as her interpretation of fashion styles of previous decades.  I just had to interview the talented lady that has created through this book a chance for us all to be budding fashionistas, designers and artists in our own wacky colouring world. Please welcome onto the blog Natasha….

Hello! I’m Natasha Itzcovitz, a fashion stylist/ author/ illustrator from London 🙂

“The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book” is a fabulous adult colouring book that showcases your designs. So what was the inspiration behind compiling this book?

I was working in a retail shop that was selling patterned colouring books and felt inspired to make one in my own fashion style. I had already been drawing colouring pages for my cousins for years but never thought to make it into a book until then!

There are 100 hand-drawn illustrations that follow fashion through the ages – from famous fashionistas including Marie Antoinette and Jane Austen, to more contemporary styles eg boho chic and hipster street styles. Where did the inspiration for each colouring page come from – your own fashion designs, historical designs, fashion magazines, your own wardrobe?

The colouring pages are a mix of clothes I’ve made, some I wish I could make, clothes I own and fun characters in my head! I looked to fashion photoshoots for poses as well as manga and vintage fashion for historical inspiration and my cat may feature in a few pages.

Do you have a particular favourite colouring page? What fashion style is easy to recreate? Which fashion style was hard to capture?

My favourite page in my book is the drawing of the girl made of wool that’s knitting herself – it’s just so mad! I’ve drawn a lot of street style and the men’s wear especially, can be recreated. Also, if you head to a costume shop, I’m sure you’d find Mary Antionette’s dress and wig! The historic fashion eras which I found hard to capture were not included in the book – only the best for my readers.

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

Yes, my book is available on Amazon worldwide and if you search the title on google, you’ll find that it is on book related websites from many different countries!

Have you any plans to expand your range of colouring books in the future?

I’d love to illustrate more books and do more with my art in the future – look forward to it!

What do you do when you are not drawing?

I’m currently a freelance stylist so I assist on photoshoots and when I get down time, I like to watch anime, ballroom dance and play the guitar.

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

A typical Natasha look would be a fun printed dress, over-the-knee socks, grungy boots, a choker, chunky knit and maybe a cheeky bandanna – I’ve gotten into those recently (try and spot one in the book).

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

High-street shops are my favourites, I find different ones are good for different things. Topshop, New Look, Forever 21 and asos are pretty good to me and recently I’ve fallen in love with Zara’s Kidswear.

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

I went into Zara kids for a styling job and wanted to buy things for myself – think my next purchase will be a dress from there. I’m also planning on getting summer shoes as soon as it brightens up!

Boots or Shoes?

Both boots and shoes suit different occasions so it’s hard to pick one or another. I personally love boots and would wear them all year long since I love how they grunge up a feminine look and are comfy at the same time but you can wear shoes for all occasions and in any season so shoes win on practicality.

Links you would like to share:

Check out my Instagram @itzdrawings for regular artwork! My twitter is @natashaitz and my website is www.itzfashion.uk if you’d like to see some of the clothes and accessories I hand-sew.

Thank you very much Natasha!  I find colouring therapeutic – I loved art as a child and my children do too. Dear readers, do you find colouring therapeutic?  What sort of illustrations would appeal to you?  Do share your thoughts!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Natasha Itzcovitz

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An Interview With Afrika Presents

On the blog today is Mara Menzies, Kenyan-Scottish storyteller and founder of Afrika Presents.  Afrika Presents draws inspiration from Africa’s rich stories and vibrant cultures when designing its products.  I was particularly drawn to their “The African Fashion Design Sketchbook”, a book that combines the history and beauty of African fashion textiles to children, with the aim of inspiring children to want to learn more about the amazing continent. I caught up with Mara recently to find out more…. Hi Mara and welcome….

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Hi, I’m Mara, a storyteller, founder of Afrika Presents, mother of 2 incredible children, dreamer, dancer, reader and traveller.

“The African Fashion Design Sketchbook” is a book that brings together the incredible history & beauty of fashion textiles from Africa to children. So what was the inspiration behind writing & compiling this book?

I returned home from Kenya and wanted a gift for my daughter and bought a fashion book where she could design a model and I found myself wishing that there was an African version of that so she could create, imagine and explore the things she loved but learn about her African heritage at the same time. Then I thought I’m going to do that and I did! African fashions and textiles are so beautiful and their histories are so intertwined with other cultures around the world but we never hear about that so I took the approach to make sure it was fun but informative too.

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You are a Kenyan Scottish storyteller – so how come you decided to start up your company, Afrika Presents?

Once the idea of the fashion book was born, there was so much else to explore that it made sense to form the company and think of what direction it could go. Being a storyteller is a real privilege as you share some very personal moments with small groups of people. I felt that there were so many stories to be told, so many other ways to explore such a vast and vibrant continent that it was impossible to do it just by myself. Through Afrika Presents, I have been able to work with a wider range of people – artists, designers, people experienced with the business side of things, and so many more.

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Africa has many rich stories – do you have a particular favourite tale?

There are so many to choose from but I do love an Ethiopian story about a woman who innocently throws a bone out of the window which is fought over by 2 dogs, which results in 2 boys fighting, then 2 women fighting, then 2 men fighting, then 2 villages fighting until suddenly the whole thing has spiralled out of control. Finally they realise that everyone involved could have stopped it before it reached that terrible point. Sacrifices are made and peace does return but the moral is that we must always think before throwing our bones out of the window. Of course the bone is symbolic of so many things in our lives but I love sharing this story because everyone gets caught up in the ruckus without realising where the story is heading and then suddenly BAM, they get it, and it is a wonderful feeling to take people on that rollercoaster.

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You are currently developing an app that will bring the pages of the book alive. That project sounds totally awesome, I must say. What parts of the app do you think will particularly grab a child’s attention in more ways than the book?

Yes, we’re really excited about it. There are videos, games and quizzes and we plan to continually upgrade the content too. I think the children (and adults) will really like the interactive elements as they can then test themselves and we live in a digital age so it is amazing to able to fuse pen, paper and the digital world.

What books did you enjoy reading as a child? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?

I grew up in Kenya and my diet consisted of Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, The Famous Five, The Nancy Drew mysteries, a series of books about twins from various cultures, and we always had National Geographic magazines around the house. I also loved the books where you had to choose which page to go to to change the path of the story. Nowadays, we are lucky to have access to authors from all over the world. I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Muthoni Garland as well as random books that I stumble upon, often with a traditional folktale structure. I’m currently reading The Book of Lost Things which turns folktales on their heads and is hugely enjoyable and thought provoking and I love books about Scottish mythology and mystical creatures. Scotland tells a great story.

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I have been to Kenya myself and was captivated by the beauty of the country – Mt Kilimanjaro was a particular favourite spot of mine. Have you got a favourite part of Africa? Any part of Africa you haven’t yet visited but is on your bucket list?

One of my favourite memories was at our farm in Kenya which is on the side of a valley. there was a silver river snaking its way at the bottom and quartz in the ground always twinkled at sunset. On one evening, somebody somewhere was playing a reed flute and it was just so beautiful. That is now my favourite place. I’d love to visit Botswana and Namibia and I love Malian music so will hopefully get there too.

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

I am seasonal in the sense that winter I close shop and wear boots, jeans and thick chunky jumpers and go for comfort over fashion. But in the summer I adore bright colours and patterns. I like shoes with small  heels. I can’t wear very high heels but I’ve always loved the grandeur of Victorian fashion and so the shorter, curvier heels make me feel part of that!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love raiding the charity shops and then tweaking what I find at home. I also find treasures in vintage shops. I do visit Zanjoo.com every now and again as they have some fantastic skirts and often match colours successfully that really shouldn’t work but always do. As I go to Kenya every year, I always find stunning fabrics and I have a tailor who makes beautiful clothes so I go with a wishlist. Otherwise I buy basics on the high street.

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

Now we’re heading for winter, it’s time for my annual boot splurge. I would love to own good quality boots in a vibrant red but they are hard to find! I sometimes find incredible boots for my 9 year old that I want in my size!

Boots or Shoes?

Flat boots for everyday comfort and lovely shoes or high heeled boots when I’m trying to impress:)

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

Visit the website at www.afrikapresents.com and we’re at https://www.facebook.com/Afrikapresents

Thank you Mara for introducing your fab company! I have always been fascinated with the continent of Africa and my youngest son has the continent in the number one slot of his bucket travel list – he loves animals and the vast outdoors.  Like you I grew up with the stories of Raold Dahl and Enid Blyton; I read the National Geographic Magazine from cover to cover – and my children have grown up surrounded by the same … along with modern technology.  One African story I liked was about the baobab tree that I heard whilst in Kenya – it is known as the upside down tree as its branches don’t have leaves and they look like tree roots!  Dear readers, are you fascinated by Africa? Would you like to visit? Or have you travelled there already? Do you have an African story to tell? As always, do share – I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Mara Menzies.

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