Category Archives: Flowers/Plants/Trees

Create Your Own Calm

2020 has been quite a year, to say the least! All the more reason why my guest’s latest book, “Create Your Own Calm” is creating quite a stir. Author Becky Goddard-Hill has written this book that is simply bursting at the seams with simple, practical ideas and fun activities to stave off boredom and, more importantly, to manage feelings of stress, anger and anxiety. Although it is aimed at children aged 7 – 12, adults would still benefit from Becky’s words of wisdom. I caught up with Becky to find out more… Hi Becky!

Hi! I am Becky Goddard-Hill,  a children’s therapist and a wellbeing author. I blog at Emotionally Healthy Kids  and Simple Parenting and my podcast Emotionally Healthy Kids can be found on ITunes. I have 2 teenage kids and I live in Nottingham. My background is in  Social Work. My latest book, Create Your Own Calm is published by Harper Collins and came out in September 2020.

As a former social worker & child development trainer, what inspired you to write “Create Your Own Calm”  and the other books you have written?  

I strongly believe emotional health and wellbeing to be as important to life as physical health and intellectual pursuits. If not more important. But how often do we actually focus on teaching them the kinds of skills they need to manage their mental health? Rarely. I wanted to give kids a tool kit of coping skills to help them be robust and resilient and I wanted to introduce these in fun and light hearted ways  and that’s the focus and purpose of my books. They each contain loads of activities that teach kids great emotional health skills whilst having fun. 

I admire the fact that you run 6 blogs, all highly ranked within the UK, predominantly focused on family life, emotional well-being & being active/creative. How do you find writing books compared to writing blogposts?

Because my books are activity books I find each activity a big like a blog post to write. I love, love, love that my books are illustrated though and interactive.

What do you like most about blogging?

My blogging community is awesome and my various blogs are diverse and interesting. I  have to do quite a lot of social media to promote my blog – I don’t love that quite so much.

copyright © Linda Hobden

“Create Your Own Calm” is aimed at children aged 7 – 12, and yet looking through the book, I think the tips and activities to create calmness in these stressful times could also help adults. Learning the science behind emotions was especially good. Do you have a “favourite” tip to help when you are particularly stressed?

Yes. My favourite tip is to do something mindful, eg colour a mandala, bake bread, gardening. When you are focused you cannot worry about the past or the future and your brain clears making problems much easier to solve. 

The activities suggested in the book are really fun & quite innovative – such as growing a pizza garden & cloud watching (my favourite). What inspired the thoughtful activities? Any favourites? Any activities that you tried that didn’t quite work out?

Oh, I tried to make a lava lamp to show how people  are like oil and water – that they could coexist even though they could be very different. I ended up with about 20 lava lamp attempts all sitting round my house, none of which had worked!  My favourite activity in my teen book, Be Happy Be You, is that they have to befriend an apple for the day, name it, really get to know it and spend time with it. It’s to show them that whilst you might just think all apples are the same they aren’t at all, they are all individuals and deserving of your time in getting to know them. Appreciating diversity and inclusion are so important to instil.

copyright © LindaHobden

I noticed a lot of reviews for the book (and I am in agreement) commented that the language you used got the point across to young people without talking down to them or being patronising. That is a great skill to have. Is it a lot harder to write a book/ article aimed at a young person?

I don’t think so. My language is never formal when I write and I have teens myself. The publisher has a reader to check the language is just right too.

Your career background has been in the field of social work/child development; was that the career you aspired to have as a youngster or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I want to save the world! I don’t know how to, but that was my grand plan. I’ve since realised that might be a tad ambitious but I do still desperately want to help people and make a difference. 

Being an author of 7 books already, are you a bookworm yourself?  If so, what genre(s) do you usually read?

 I am a huge sucker for a gorgeous romance and I love David Nicholls.

copyright © Adam Hobden


Looking towards the future – have you got other books in the pipeline?

Yes,  Create Your Own Kindness will be published in Feb 2021. It teaches kids to be kind to themselves, other people and, in fact, to the whole world! 

As you are based in England, is “Create Your Own Calm” available overseas?

Yes, on Amazon – pretty much everywhere.

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

Ah, I’m a very comfy dresser. At the moment, it’s oversized cosy jumpers and jeans/joggers with my trusty silver Superga. I also love a pair of dunagrees.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I like FatFace and Hush.

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

I am desperate for a cosy coat and some new tall boots as mine are battered!

Boots or Shoes?

Neither. I have about 15 pairs of converse and rather a lot of other lace up pumps too. They are my go to.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about You & “Create Your Own Calm”

 I blog at Emotionally Healthy Kids  and Simple Parenting and my podcast Emotionally Healthy Kids can be found on ITunes.

Create Your Own Calm is published by Harper Collins and is available on Amazon and in all good book shops 

I have also co-written a  happiness boosting book for teens Be Happy Be You which was published earlier this year 

You can find me on Instagram here https://www.instagram.com/beckygoddardhill

Thank you so much for the chat, Becky. I love the idea of befriending an apple! Highly original!

Linda x

The author & book photographs were published with kind permission of Becky Goddard-Hill. Other photographs are by Linda Hobden & Adam Hobden.

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An Interview With Enchanted England

Inspired by the glorious English countryside – and who can blame her – my guest this week is illustrator/writer/painter Sarah Keen. All her designs are firmly rooted in the natural world and her prints/artwork are delightful. Being a lover of the English countryside myself, it was a pleasure to welcome Sarah onto the blog…. Hi Sarah!

Hello great to be here. My name is Sarah Keen. I am in my fifties and following a career change, I design prints, fabrics and gifts based on the natural history and folklore of the English countryside.

The Enchanted England range of products is aimed for people like myself who don’t really enjoy shopping in endless malls that all sell essentially the same product. All my designs are rooted firmly in the natural world and beliefs that are associated with them. 

I am inspired by the English countryside. As a child, I grew up in Buckinghamshire and spent much of my childhood roaming the chalk based hills and fields that surrounded my family’s home.

After living in Southampton for many years, in 2004 I moved to a nearby village set in Hampshire’s beautiful countryside and nearby shimmering seascapes. I never really saw things the same way again. 

Hampshire’s chalky, flinty fields and gentle countryside unlocked memories of my childhood growing up in the Chilterns where I had been surrounded by books and artists. The change of scene persuaded me into signing up for an M.A in Creative & Critical Writing with the University of Winchester and this gave me the confidence to write and illustrate.

On completing my M.A I was asked to illustrate a most magical book about the Hampshire Countryside. It was written by a herbalist who walked each day to collect herbs for her treatments. Her charming accounts of her walks became a seasonal diary that contained seasonal recipes and remedies.  Originally published as a blog, it had such encouraging feedback, I developed a range of cards and gifts based on the paintings for her book. The Enchanted England range has grown organically from this project.


What inspired you to set up Enchanted England website?

I needed a website to showcase the range of goods and services available from Enchanted England. In my past life I was an I.T contractor and web contents editor so I was fortunate to be able to draw on that skill set to design the site.

Sarah wearing the Enchanted England Bluebell Dress and holding an Enchanted England porcelain mug.

You have a lovely variety of gifts and your prints are very beautiful indeed. I like the “Garden of Love” satin tie – the print on it is exquisite. What gifts/prints are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Thank you, Linda, that’s really lovely to hear. Immediately following the lockdown the shop had surge of interest in bird illustrations and cards.  I am not sure if that was connected with the glorious sounds of birdsong that surrounded us at the time, but it was a noticeable spike in demand.  So, my bird cards flew away.

Now, the new range ‘The Garden of Love’ is sparking a lot of interest – particularly for bridal and marriage services. I plan to offer a comprehensive wedding stationary and fabric package for 2021 The Garden of Love design was for my engagement and wedding this summer so it’s very close to my heart. Our wedding was postponed but we hope the new date in September will go ahead!

You use a variety of methods to illustrate and create your prints – silk, paper, pen, ink, natural textures & watercolours.  Have you got a favourite medium though to use? Favourite print? 

I am a huge fan of watercolour and waterproof pens on textured paper. I love the way watercolour allows you layer translucent washes. It is also a dangerous medium. If you make a mistake there is very little chance of rescuing your design. You can’t overpaint with watercolour as you can with oil or acrylic.

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

Yes, they are. The website offers shipping to most of the world and I would be happy to quote to send any item overseas.

Sarah, wearing an Enchanted England face mask

Living in rural Hampshire, you must have come across some interesting finds whilst beachcombing and countryside walking that have inspired your illustrations. Do you go out with an idea to look for something specific to draw? Do you draw in situ or do you take photos and illustrate from there? 

It’s been inspiring to live in this part of Hampshire, as there are so many walks and beaches to explore. Recently I visited a holy well on a local estate in a near village. This would have been passed by St Wilfred as he walked through the Meon Valley hoping to convert the pagans. This was one of the last areas to convert to Christianity. I find landscapes linked to religion and practice inspiring and spark my imagination.  I take photos and notes while walking. Then I use them for a starting point in my studio. 

Being an illustrator, some things must be easier to draw and create than others. What was the hardest or most unusual piece of illustration you’ve created so far?  

I could always draw animals and I love to use them in my illustrations. Recently I completed a set of illustrations based on the writing of Alice Gillington. She wrote about the lives of the Gypsies who lived and worked in the New Forest in the early 20 century.  I created some sunsets and technically these were very difficult but made spectacular backdrops for the gypsy caravans.

Have you always wanted to be an illustrator or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I have always painted and drawn animals but I never thought to become an illustrator. In the 1980s when I graduated I would have chosen to go into publishing. It was a time of high graduate unemployment however, so in the end I found work as an IT contractor, setting up networks, getting involved in the fledgling internet and website content and design. It gave me the technical skills to publish books and understand how to format photos and illustrations with software such as Adobe and Gimp, so I don’t regret my years with the INTEL chip but wouldn’t want to return to it.

Apart from illustrating, you have had some books published. Can you tell us about them? 

I have worked on three books and always looking to work with authors. The first book that was the inspiration to Enchanted England was ‘Blessed Be – an illustrated walk through a year in the English Countryside’ This is a beautiful and gentle book. It is packed full of recipes and remedies for each month of the year. I also designed the front cover for the ‘Hare and the Sword,’ an amazing autobiography of a white witch who lives in the New Forest. Finally, I illustrated the biography of Alice Gillington who wrote about the wildlife and people of the New Forest.  I am currently working on two new book projects.

When you are not illustrating or writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 

I enjoy walking, cycling and gardening and spending time with my friends and family.

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

I love vintage clothing and am always on the lookout for dresses in various second hand shops near me. I enjoy wearing dresses and not often found in leggings or jeans unless decorating or working in the garden.  I love quirky, colourful shoes that make me smile.

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

Yes! I have two vintage high street shops – one is Labels in Bishops Waltham and the other is The Clothes Line in Winchester. They are not currently open alas – so I also keep an eye on the Vestiaireapp that sells ‘preloved fashion items’ and the online shop, Wolf and Badger who support independent and ethical brands across the world. For amazing shoes as art, I enjoy looking at Freya Rose designs in Southsea,

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

Well as my summer wedding was postponed I need a warmer wrap or bolero jacket for September and change from shoes to boots. So looking for a pair of slightly 18th Century style pair of boots, festooned with ribbons!

Boots or Shoes?

I love boots and often can be found in London Fly footwear as they make me feel confident, stylish and that I can walk miles in them.

For pinning later. © Linda Hobden

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

Please visit facebook.com/enchantedengland or email Enchanted England and sign up for a newsletter. It would be great to see you in Enchanted England.

Thank you Sarah – I wish you all the best with your forthcoming wedding ❤️ I think Victorian style gothic boots would look gorgeous!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Sarah Keen of Enchanted England; apart from the Pinterest photo and the header photo of trees which was taken by myself. Header pic was taken in Thetford Forest, Norfolk & Pinterest photo was taken in Holland-on-Sea, Essex.

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10 Essential Oils To Help You Sleep

Have you noticed that cats have the ability to sleep anywhere at any time? Sleep is critical to our physical health and the effective function of our immune system. COVID-19 has made a severe impact – a lot of people are finding it hard to sleep let alone getting the quality sleep that they need. According to a recent national sleep survey by The Sleep Council, 75% of people surveyed said that the current situation is affecting their sleep patterns; 77% said that the lack of sleep is interfering with their daytime functionality – they are experiencing daytime fatigue, poor concentration and low mood. The survey also found that women find it harder to fall asleep than men.

I must admit, I don’t have any trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep – even if I wake up in the night to use the toilet, I can fall back to sleep again relatively quickly. My husband is the complete opposite, though. So, what can you do to try and help get to sleep – a cool bedroom, a hot milky bedtime drink, reading a book, listening to an audiobook, listening to an app of calming sounds, listening to the radio, soft chilled music, darkened room, blackout curtains, hot bath before bed, sleeping tablets ….. there are various ideas you can try.

Essential oils, like any other medicine, can have a powerful effect and can chemically alter the body. There are many oils to help aid relaxation, help induce sleep naturally and safely without the side-effects of medication. Aromatherapy specialists, Base Formula, have compiled a list of their top 10 recommended essential oils that are known to help aid sleep and to ease stress:

  • VALERIAN ROOT ☑️ Top choice for a restful night’s sleep because it has calming, tranquilising properties. ✖️It has a distinct, pungent aroma which might put you off!
  • CLARY SAGE ☑️ Powerful relaxant. ☑️ Particularly good for stress related problems ✖️ Do not use if you have consumed alcohol ✖️ Do not use if you are pregnant.
Clary Sage & Lavender Essential Oil. © Studio Forty Seven
  • ROMAN CHAMOMILE. ☑️ Soothing and calming both physically and mentally. ☑️ Anti-depressant. ☑️ Particularly good if you are nervous or stressed.
  • SANDALWOOD ☑️ Meditative qualities that help to quieten and sedate the mind.
  • VETIVERT ☑️ Deeply relaxing. ☑️ Known as the oil of tranquility ☑️ Is an immuno-stimulant so it helps in combatting stress without becoming ill.
Lavender Lovelliness © Border In A Box. www.borderinabox.com
  • LAVENDER ☑️ Calming, anti- depressant – commonly used to aid sleep.
  • PATCHOULI ☑️ Soothing ☑️ Slightly hypnotic effect ☑️ Calms an over active mind.
  • FRANKINCENSE ☑️ Deeply calming & uplifting ☑️ Traditionally used as an incense
Gumleaf Essentials Frankincense Essential Oil © Buckley And Phillips
  • GERANIUM ☑️ Has anti-depressant, uplifting qualities ✖️Avoid use during pregnancy
  • YLANG YLANG ☑️ Soothing & uplifting ☑️ Particularly good for anger, shock, fear and anxiety. ☑️ Can help to slow over-rapid breathing and easing heart palpitations.

HOW TO USE THE ESSENTIAL OILS

  • In the bath
  • Massage
  • Aromatherapy Diffuser
  • Candles
  • Pillow spritz
  • Steam Inhalation
  • Cotton pad or tissue with a couple of drops of lavender & frankincense, placed inside your pillowcase.
For Pinning Later

FOR ESSENTIAL OILS & FURTHER INFORMATION

http://www.baseformula.com

http://www.buckleyandphillips.com

http://www.studiofortyseven.co.uk

Linda x

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Review: Prestige Flowers

Roses. Who doesn’t love to receive some luscious red roses? Roses just happen to be my favourite flowers so when Prestige Flowers asked me to review their luxury red rose bouquets for the forthcoming Valentines/Mother’s Day season, it was more than a pleasure – it was a delight. Prestige Flowers are an online florist based in the UK but deal with orders from the UK and international clients.

Disclosure: I was gifted the “Valentine’s 12 Luxury Roses + chocolates” in exchange for an honest review; all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

The Website


https://www.prestigeflowers.co.uk/valentines-day-flowers

Easy to navigate and a great variety of bouquets on offer. The site does offer Next Day Delivery – but there are exceptions according to where you live. Delivery of my flowers was prompt and was by Royal Mail 24 hour tracked delivery. The roses were delivered in a substantial cardboard box and was handled carefully. I was very impressed with the whole packaging. I always check out the website reviews – this website has a mixed bunch of reviews (which is always healthy!): Negatives were mainly delivery times (next day not always being available); the positives about the standard of the flowers.

The Package I Received

Inside this gorgeous box I received the “Valentine’s 12 Luxury Red Rose Bouquet” plus a box of 12 delicious luxury chocolates. The bouquet consisted of 12 large red Rhodos roses, copper ruscus foliage, bear grass. Plant Food. The roses were well packaged with a wet cotton wool like envelope at the end to keep the roses moist whilst in transit.

The Roses

There are over 20,000 varieties of rose and red roses symbolise love. “Freedom” red roses have traditionally been the most popular red rose for florists to use in Valentine bouquets – these are bright red roses with thorns. In recent years, new varieties have crept into the red rose Valentine arena – including the Rhodos rose, from the slopes of Mount Kenya.

The Rhodos rose is a darker red in colour than the “Freedom” rose, with a distinctive dark edge around its petals. Almost velvety in touch, the Rhodos rose is a slow opening rose bud, has a fatter thornless stem and is fast becoming a Valentine favourite.

This bouquet of red Rhodos roses has been complimented with the copper ruscus – my husband feels the copper, green foliage and the darker red of the roses gives the bouquet a “classy look”; I personally love the velvety darker look of the roses.

Looking After The Roses

My bouquet came with a handy flower guide with hints and tips on how to look after your roses. Tips such as keeping the roses out of direct sunlight, keeping them in a cool room would help the roses to last longer, removIng the outer discoloured petals as these are “guard petals”, and how to revive drooping rose heads … by placing newly cut stems in an inch of boiling water for 30 seconds before placing in the vase.

For pinning later

My Verdict

I was very impressed with this bouquet from Prestige Flowers – the roses are absolutely gorgeous and they looked like their picture on the website. I particularly liked how they were presented – a lot of care and attention had been given to the packaging to ensure the flowers arrived in a pristine condition. I loved the copper & foliage that accompanied the roses too. A lovely touch. My score: 8/10

My thanks goes to Prestige Flowers for sending me the lovely roses to review – it was an absolute pleasure to receive them. My score is based on my experience with the company and the product received. I did not order or pay for next day delivery so I can’t comment on the next day delivery service.

Linda x

All photographs are by © Linda Hobden

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