Category Archives: Interview

Introducing Boomer On The Ledge

You may have heard of the traditional American Christmas Elf on the Shelf – but I am going to introduce you to something even cuter – “Boomer On The Ledge”!  The book & toy “Boomer On The Ledge” was created by author Molly Stevens, whose blog “Shallow Reflections” just happens to be one of my favourites.  Having just been published this November,  I couldn’t wait to buy a copy of the book and I wasn’t disappointed – it was packed full of sketches that reflect Molly’s fun sense of humour!  I couldn’t wait to ask Molly about “Boomer” …. Hi Molly!

Hi! My name is Molly Stevens, and I live in central Maine. When I’m not writing, working or rummaging around in the middle of the night looking for a snack, I love to spend time with my husband, Patrick, and our son, daughter-in-law and two perfect grandsons. This is my first book.

What was the inspiration behind On Boomer The Ledge™ or BOTL™ (Humoroutcasts Press,2017)?

I watched my grandsons get excited about finding an elf posed each morning that monitors their behavior leading up to Christmas and thought my generation was missing something fun. I felt like we were invisible with no one watching us unless looking for signs of dementia. My mother left me a little vintage doll, and I started photographing it in different poses and it made me laugh. I brainstormed ideas with my husband, Patrick, and The Boomer on the Ledge concept was born. I waited for a year before I published it as a blog post, then decided I needed to expand it into a book with a new doll. I designed my vision of the doll, and worked with a fantastic seamstress, Brenda DeRoche, to make the doll come to life with a unique personality. The more we worked on the prototype, the more she looked like me, especially when I first get up in the morning.

Congratulations on being published – how does it feel to finally get your idea published and off the ground? What was your main highlight and what proved most frustrating?

Having this book published feels like giving birth, and this is not something I ever imagined at age sixty-four! The most frustrating part was meeting my deadlines while working fulltime.  Also, I shot the pictures during the height of summer, and in Maine, that means endless hours of bright sunlight. I used an umbrella, a blanket and even did a few photos in the bathroom with the shade pulled to improve the lighting. The highlight was selling the first book, hearing the buyer laugh and say, “Everyone will love it as much as I do!”

I certainly love the book and did have a giggle at some of the positions she got herself into – hard to pick favourites, but I did particularly like the “roasting pantyhose on an open fire” and “ drinking out of the dog bowl thinking it was gin” – so where did you draw your inspiration for the Boomer antics from?

Her antics come from my own life – balancing work and family, pursuing creative endeavors, trying to stay healthy, looking stylish while staying comfortable, planning for retirement, and some days not wanting to get out of bed.

Which Boomer On The Ledge antic is your personal favourite?

My favorite is cover photo, the doll hanging on the ledge, because this is symbolic of my life stage – hanging precariously between danger and adventure. When you are younger, it is a shock if an illness or injury strikes someone you know, but in your sixties, a disaster can be right around the corner. Conversely, I have found this age to be a fabulous time of self-discovery, creativity, and adventure.

What do you hope your readers get from this book?

I hope my readers can relate to the Boomer on the Ledge and have a lighthearted moment in a world that is often sad and scary. If I can give one person a moment of escape from this madness, I will have achieved my goal. I believe humor is the emollient that smoothes life’s rough patches and I want to show boomers how hilarious aging can be.

 

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

I dreamed of a career in the arts – music and literature were my favorite subjects. I grew up in a time when a teacher, nurse, or secretary were the most common career pathways for a girl. I chose a career in nursing and I have no regrets but I’m grateful my dream to be a writer ignited at sixty years old, and now I consider it my passion.

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?

I do most of my reading in bed but if I can’t sleep I settle into my swivel rocking chair. I read a mixture of hardback/paperback and kindle books, usually several at a time, which can get confusing. I have read a lot of non-fiction the past few years, but am getting back into fiction, which is my first love. I enjoy variety and will read about anything as long as it is well written, having no tolerance for dull concepts and shoddy writing.

Where can people purchase Boomer On The Ledge? Is there worldwide availability?

Boomer on the Ledge book is available on Amazon worldwide. The Boomer on the Ledge doll is available in the United States, made to order and available on my website at www.shallowreflections.com, (sold only with the book).

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

I love skinny jeans and flowing tops that leave plenty of room for me to eat a plate of nachos without revealing any bulges.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I like J. Jill clothing line for its style and comfort. Did I mention I like comfortable clothes?

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

I’m always cold and I want to take trip to mid-coast Maine to buy a warm, cozy alpaca sweater.

Boots or Shoes?

This time of year nothing but boots, short ones with my jeans, tall ones with my leggings/tops.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about you and Boomer On The Ledge.

http://www.shallowreflections.com
https://www.facebook.com/shallowreflections/
https://www.facebook.com/BoomerOTL/
https://twitter.com/ShallRef
https://www.pinterest.com/mstevens1953/shallow-reflections/
https://plus.google.com/u/0/+MollyStevensPerham/posts
https://www.instagram.com/mstevens1983/

Good golly Miss Molly, I sure do love your sense of humour and the Boomer doll is so cute! So, dear readers, what mischievous poses would you put your Boomer doll in?  In honour of Molly, I would opt for Boomer to be immersed in a bowl of Nachos …. ! 

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Molly Stevens.

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An Interview With Akosee

Whilst the  days in the northern hemisphere in November are getting colder, those countries that straddle the tropics and those countries south of the Equator are welcoming the sun – so now seems to be a perfect time to introduce onto my blog the Singapore based resortwear brand, Akosee. Ana, the founder, hails from Australia  and she has designed a range of resortwear that draws inspiration from the beaches of Australia, Maldives, St Tropez & Goa.   Launching her latest collection this week, “The Elements”, Ana has once again produced a stunning collection that can be worn all year round, both on holiday and in everyday life. I managed to catch up with the busy lady to find out more about her latest collection… hi Ana!

Hi! I’m Ana, the head designer and founder of luxury resort wear brand Akosée.

What inspired you to set up Akosée?

My travels have been a huge inspiration in the creation of the brand, but starting a new life chapter has been my main inspiration. Enrolling in a Diploma of Fashion Design and Technology was the start of a dream becoming a reality. The thrill of learning something new was a huge motivation and from there, the first Akosée collection was born.

Have you always had a passion for fashion, or did you have other career aspirations when you were younger?

When I was younger I wanted to work in travel mainly because of a desire to travel, so I’ve been lucky enough to travel for pleasure as much as I have. But yes, I’ve always had a love and appreciation of beautiful, effortless clothes and that’s exactly why I created Akosée.

I love the Kaftanna green Paisley dress & the leather tie belt! What items are proving popular amongst your customers?

Our dresses and kaftans are always really popular as they are versatile, throw-on pieces that can easily be worn by the pool, beach or bar so there’s endless styling options. The most popular items from our first collection have been the Blue Mosaic Kaftanna and the Pink Mosaic BeachLyd.

Tell me about your new collection 🙂

Our new collection, The Elements, has been designed with comfort and style in mind and to be more versatile so we aren’t just limited to beachwear but rather offering a summer style element so that the garments can also be used for every day wear. The Elements should be seen as a capsule collection of everything you would need on a holiday, relaxed beach cover ups, casual shorts and top sets, no-iron travelling clothes and smarter dresses for evening and lunches. There’s plenty of mix and match separates that are great for different occasions, from a weekend brunch to easy everyday wear.

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

I can’t possibly say a favourite! We’ve got some amazing new styles coming soon in our latest collection so there’s always lots of new styles to get excited about.

Your travels around the world have left you with plenty of inspiration for your collections – Australia, Maldives, St Tropez & Goa – as well as pop up shops in glam spots such as Monaco and Singapore. So, what place is on the top of your travel bucket list?

I’d love to go to Machu Picchu in Peru and see something totally different. I haven’t been that far afield yet.

Which famous lady would you love to see as the “face” of Akosee?

I have always loved Nicole Richie’s style, elegant with a touch of cool. She’s probably busy being the face of her own label though!

What new items are in the pipeline?

We have recently produced some luxury hand printed beach bags, made exclusively for Akosée in Bali, a beautiful matching tweed shorts and jacket set as well as dresses for day and evening, shorts, skirts, tops and more!

Your company is registered in Singapore, are your products available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, all styles on www.akosee.com can be shipped worldwide within 2 days of receiving the order. The delivery time depends on the courier company though! We offer free shipping in Singapore too.

When designing outfits to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, traditional styles or bits of all those?

Our collections are constantly being developed to cater to our audience around the world and the luxurious fabrics we source mean that our customers can enjoy wearing something that is unique, relaxed and comfortable whilst looking stylish too! We always welcome feedback from our customers so this information often gives us some direction when creating new collections.

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

Silk shorts, I love tailored silk shorts.

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

I enjoy shopping on Net-a-Porter and FarFetch for designer pieces and I also like looking for bespoke vintage pieces such as accessories to mix my outfits up a little.

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

Red Velvet Yves St Laurent boots for winter!

Boots or Shoes?

Living in Singapore, the only way to go is sandals! That said, for evening I’ll wear heeled espadrilles, wedges or high heels from Jimmy Choo. I’m a fan of white trainers for day time too.

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

To shop the Akosée collection you can visit www.akosee.com or follow us on our social media channels here:

Facebook @akoseethreads – https://www.facebook.com/Akoseethreads/

Instagram @akoseethreads – https://www.instagram.com/Akoseethreads/

Twitter @akoseethreads – https://twitter.com/Akoseethreads

I hope your new collection is a success, Ana! I love the idea of a capsule holiday wardrobe – however I do tend to overpack still.  I found on holiday this year my most useful and worn item were my pink sparkly espadrilles – for beach through to bar at night! I nearly left them at home but decided to pack them at the last minute! Dear readers, what item of footwear or clothing did you find most versatile on holiday?  Did you pack anything that you didn’t wear or use? Do share your stories, I’d love to know.

Linda x

All photographs published with kind permission from Akosee.

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Spotlight On PEMF Therapy

Pain. How do you relieve pain?  After an operation, how do you cope with the pain that comes with healing? Do you use medicinal drugs or mind over matter or do you use PEMF ( Pulse Electro Magnetic Field) Therapy? New Med Ltd is a subsidiary of Bedfont Scientific Limited, a company established in Harrietsham, Kent, in 1976 that specialises in exhaled breath and gas monitors  for use in the medical industry. The New Med Division  deals primarily with its hugely successful range of PEMF therapy systems as well as focusing on increasing awareness of PEMF Theory.  The New Med division was introduced by Andy Smith in 2014 after he discovered first-hand the benefits of PEMF therapy. I caught up with Andy, who is Head of Sales, to find out more about PEMF Therapy….

Hi Andy …please introduce NewMed Ltd 🙂

NewMed is the UK’s one-stop-shop for Pulsed ElectroMagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy devices. It is our mission to promote the benefits of PEMF’s through independent and unbiased advice. Our vision is to improve quality of life through safe and effective, drug-free pain relief.

What attracted NewMed to concentrate on PEMF therapy systems?

I  had heard about PEMF therapy from my father. After suffering from sudden unbearable stomach pain, I was diagnosed with a hernia and also umbilical abscess (an infection from an ingrown hair). 2 days later, I underwent stomach surgery but the surgery led to further complications. Left with an open wound that became infected, I was still in pain despite taking strong pain medication. I was prescribed antibiotics to fight the infection however I was on a cocktail of medication which in turn only led to more stomach pain and cramps. After using PEMF therapy, I  couldn’t believe how quickly  I started to see and feel results. The wound started to clear up and heal properly and the pain was less every day. Within a week I was off the antibiotics and painkillers.  I continued PEMF therapy for weeks and when I went to my final follow up meeting with the surgeon, they looked at the scar and told me that they were not expecting to see what I had showed them. They told me that following the infection, they were worried about more medical intervention to clean the wound properly if the infection did not clear, but instead they were looking at a completely healed scar that looked like it was done a year ago – not 2 months! After such a positive experience using PEMF therapy, I thought there would be no better advocate for it in the UK and that’s how NewMed began.

Wow, so Andy, what is PEMF therapy?

PEMF (Pulsed ElectroMagnetic Field) therapy replicates and uses the Earth’s magnetic fields in a concentrated manner to provide non-invasive and drug-free pain relief. PEMF therapy stimulates cellular repair to improve your body’s overall performance and has many benefits such as improving recovery time, pain-relief and sleep. PEMF may sound like a new technology but it has been safely and effectively used throughout Europe for more than 50 years. Thousands of studies including those by NASA and King’s College London have proven the benefits of PEMF therapy; it is widely used for improved health and enhanced performance of people and animals around the world.

Could you describe a typical therapy session?

A typical therapy session starts off by switching the PEMF therapy device on and either lying on the PEMF therapy mat or placing the device on the area you wish to treat, depending on the device you have. You would then select the desired program to suit your needs and sit back and relax for 30 minutes. Again this all depends on the device you are using as some devices are portable so you can carry on with your day to day activities whilst the therapy is on, and different devices and program times vary.

What are the benefits of PEMF therapy?

– Pain Relief
– Sleep Management
– Mental Sharpness
– Relaxation

Having experienced PEMF therapy and discovered its benefits first-hand, which product from NewMed Ltd  do you feel was most beneficial?

When I first discovered PEMF therapy  I used the Magnetovital PEMF therapy mat, and  I still use this every night before I go to sleep. I have also used the FlexPulse for sporting injuries and found this to be as beneficial.

What advice would you give to somebody considering PEMF therapy?

Purchasing a PEMF device for yourself or your family is an important investment in your health, but determining which system may be best for your individual needs can seem overwhelming. We have a variety of devices, to try and meet peoples need. We suggest that you contact us so we can discuss what would work best for you.

Is PEMF therapy suitable for everybody?

PEMF therapy is drug-free and non-invasive. It has been safely and effectively used throughout Europe for more than 50 years, an exception to this is if you use a pacemaker or similar device, as PEMF devices could interfere with them.

Although you are based in the UK, is PEMF therapy available overseas?

Yes PEMF therapy is available overseas – it is already well established in Germany and America. We work very closely with Dr William Pawluk, MD, MSc, a Board-Certified Family Physician and a leading voice on PEMF in the US.

When you’re not working, what hobbies/past times do you enjoy?

I enjoy boxing and going to the gym. I am currently training for the 2018 London Marathon.

Boots Or Shoes?

Shoes, most definitely shoes – I don’t own any boots!

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

www.newmedltd.co.uk
https://twitter.com/NewMedLtd
https://www.instagram.com/newmedltd/
https://www.facebook.com/newmedltd/

Thank you Andy – I wasn’t 100% familiar with PEMF Therapy but your results speak wonders for the therapy and I am happy to know of alternatives to manage pain that work!  I wish you lots of luck with the London Marathon too! My only real experience of operations was, like Andy, an umbilical hernia at the age of 18 months (scar still visible after 50 years) and a Caesarian section 10 years ago (scar barely visible!) Advancement in medicines and operation procedures have certainly changed vastly over the years.  So, dear readers, have you ever had the need to use PEMF therapy? What are your thoughts about medical advancements? Do share your thoughts, I would love to know!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Andy Smith & New Med Ltd.

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An Interview With Author Simon J Stephens

Thrillers are my favourite book genre and I have read a good variety over the years.  One thriller that I have read recently is “Righteous Correction?” by Simon J Stephens. Without giving too much away, it is a crime fiction that takes place on the English canals, one that raises questions about justice and vigilantism – and their relationship to the official justice system. Apart from the main storyline, the book describes the canals with such vividness that you could close your eyes and imagine being by the canal side, pint in hand!  So it will come as no surprise that the author, Simon Stephens, lives aboard a canal narrowboat in Staffordshire.  I caught up recently with Simon to find out more about his writing and his life on the waterways. Hi Simon..

Hello! My name is Simon J Stephens and I am an aspiring author who lives on a narrowboat with my wife and three dogs. As the boat is only 15 metres long, we are definitely at full capacity just now, although if another rescue hound comes our way, I guess I’ll be camping on the towpath! We’ve lived on a boat for five years, prior to which I’d spent my working life in retail, driving 40,000 miles a year, looking after up to 70 stores, taking phone calls 24/7, and loving every minute of it …until I didn’t. I suddenly decided that life was too short and that I was stuck on a roller coaster, so, I jumped off, and we’ve never looked back. I still have to work but I just do a few nights in a hotel which is a nice, stress free way to earn just enough.

“Righteous Correction” is your latest crime thriller that raises questions about justice and vigilantism – and their relationship to the official justice system. The main character, Zipoly, lives on a canal narrowboat and to all intents and purposes is an ordinary chap – but not all is as it seems as he is an agent for an ancient secret order. So, having worked in the retail sector for most of your working life, what was behind the inspiration to turn author and write a thriller?

Writing has always been a key part of my life and, interestingly, played a part in my retail career with training manuals and weekly newsletters being a part of the job that was most satisfying. I wrote my first full-length children’s books when I was seventeen, have written another half-dozen novels whilst in-between jobs and, for the last fourteen years have written hymns every day (just about to hit the 10,000 mark!). With moving onto the boat, I found myself both time-rich and with the opportunity to write about a world and a lifestyle that is very English and very special. Along came ‘Righteous Correction?’ and, for the first time, I really felt that it was of sufficient standard that it should be published. Since then, I have written two sequels to that and a very different thriller which I’m seeking an agent for. The canals are incredibly inspiring, but Righteous Correction? was also inspired by a desire to find a way to make a living off the boat and by ideas that come when you have time to stop and think about big issues like justice and futuristic concepts such as drones. There’s a bit of all that in the novel.

Living on a canal narrowboat yourself and cruising the waterways of Staffordshire and the Midlands, you are able to bring your book to life in your detailed and vivid descriptions of canal life – which I feel is important and immerses you into Zipoly’s world. If you could visit any place in the world to write another thriller (money no object!), where would you go and why?

I know that this sounds really odd, but nowhere in the world can match the canals and there isn’t anywhere I’d hanker to visit. I was able to travel the world a little in my retail career and I’ve seen more than enough of airports. That said, if money were no object, I’d spend five years covering the inland waterways network of Britain.

If “Righteous Correction” was made into a film, which actor (dead or alive) would you cast as Zipoly?

The main character in Righteous Correction? undergoes a physical transformation as he progresses in his role, and I can see Jason Statham as the perfect actor to play the transformed part. Can I also request Guy Ritchie to direct please?

As a child, what books did you enjoy reading? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?

As a child I progressed from Paddington Bear to the Hardy Boys, with Dr Zeuss in there and lots of factual books. Now, I read anything I can get my hands on and am lucky to be able to get through two or three a week. Any mainstream thriller is a nice snack for me, but I love picking up unusual factual books on any subject at all. Ken Follett is a firm favourite and I’ve just finished the third Kingsbridge novel which came out last month.

As much as you like writing thrillers, is there any genre you would like to dabble in that you haven’t yet tried?

I’ve just done a children’s book which was fun- ‘Alf, the Bear’ is a retelling of the Prodigal Son story, written for adults to read to children. I’d like to do more like that. I’m also planning to write a comedy, but that’s brewing at the moment and it looks like the next one will be a thriller again.

When you’re not writing what hobbies/past times do you participate in?

I’ve discovered this great hobby called ‘living’! When I’m not writing, I’m reading, taking the dogs for a walk, relaxing in the pub or cruising the boat. What else could I ask for?

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

It never changes – T-shirt, jeans and rigger boots or trainers – I’m a child of the Eighties and coming back on trend just now!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I am a great fan of Amazon as an online business (tax affairs aside). As to bricks and mortar shops, I don’t venture out too often but when I do it’s to the big new discount sheds – I love to browse away in B&M and Home Bargains! My favourite retailer, although I don’t use them often, would be Timpsons – just a great, ethical business.

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

Think I need to upgrade the Wickes rigger boots to a decent pair of Timberlands.

Boots Or Shoes?

Boots. Safer, dryer, longer-lasting, better looking and nobody can see if your socks don’t match!

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

I’m not a big social network person so just the website – www.righteouscorrection.com

Life on the narrowboat certainly sounds idyllic and is a dream that some members of my family also hope to pursue in the near future.  Thank you for chatting with me – I loved the book, Simon, and I’m sure your crime writing will continue to flourish. I’m really amazed at your hymn writing – bizarrely enough, I always think of hymns being written by people in the 19th century – a pleasant surprise! So, dear readers, do you love thrillers? Do you live on a narrowboat or have a dream to do so?  Do share your thoughts, don’t be shy, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission of Simon J Stephens.

 

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An Interview With Canine Chic

In the past I have interviewed and been wowed by many jewellery designers – from pearls to silicone; silver to diamonds – we’ve read them all!  This week though we are talking about our lovable pooches and their jewellery needs  – yes, that’s right – jewellery for dogs!  My guest, Sarah Eyton is a designer and creative director of “Canine Chic of London”  specialising in pug pendants – luxurious and stylish identity pendants for dogs (and their owners).  I caught up with Sarah to find out more…. hi Sarah!

Hi! My name is Sarah Eyton (pronounced Eye Ton). I am a jewellery and fashion accessories designer from London.

What was the inspiration behind your choice to make pug pendants?

The idea came to me about a year ago, due to clients requests and realising a gap in the market. Within my profession as a jewellery designer, I had often been asked if I could work to varying types of commission. Several customers were asking if I could design and make personalised identity discs for their dogs’ collars. They were asking because they had searched everywhere for beautiful and stylish ID discs to adorn their loved ones’ necks but the search for them had not been fruitful. They’d looked and they couldn’t find anything that came close to what they were searching for – unique designer pendants that complimented or expressed their sartorial aspirations for their four legged friends. Equally important, they often wanted matching ones to wear themselves. They are called PugPendants because my first client was a Pug owner – the name just seemed sweet and appropriate.

Your pug pendants have been promoted by UK based celebrity dogs, including Marcel LeCorgi, Miss Marple, Monty the Frenchie & Coco the Frenchie. I’m fascinated by the Zodiac discs! To date, what has been your most popular pug pendant style?

Yes, I’m very fortunate to have attracted the support from some of the most famous dogs in the U.K! So far the most popular PugPendants are the individual star sign discs – most people know their Dog’s birthday and many owners are getting their own specific zodiac pendant to match. They make a lovely gift, as they come with a little printed scroll depicting the Personality traits of that particular Star sign.

Each piece is so lovely and unique – available in 24K yellow or rose gold plate with a crystal colour choice – where do you find inspiration from for the range of dog tag designs?

I am inspired by sacred geometry. The ‘Oracle’ and ‘Starburst’ PugPendant designs are both derived from this. Then I have fun with the colours of the crystals. Swarovski have such an amazing colour range.

As you are based in London, are your pieces available to purchase worldwide?

All PugPendants are shipped worldwide which is included in the purchase price.

Do you own a dog (or any other pet)?

I have a lovely cat called Eden! It may seem strange to design for dogs when I don’t have one but the truth is if I had my own – he would have been my model and my Muse, so I would never have met all these wonderful dogs and their Humans. They guide me a lot in the creative process by identifying what (in an ideal world) they would want for their furry friends and I can remain (slightly) objective.

You are also a “human” jewellery designer. Have you always been interested in jewellery or did you hope to follow a different career path whilst growing up?

I was a Professional Actress from the age of 14 till 26.
I thought that I would always do that, however in my mid twenties, my circumstances changed. I decided to do a Art foundation, which led to a BA Hons in 3 dimensional design and silversmithing at Brighton University. I consider myself fortunate to have been very involved in many aspects of design, from interiors to furniture and homewares. However, the last 8 years have been focussed on designing jewellery and fashion accessories, including handbags – and now dog apparel!

Your jewellery collection features a lot of Perspex bangles as well as other materials such as aluminium, precious metals, silver & gold. Why do you enjoy using Perspex, over other materials?

I love Perspex! The colours and its versatility. When I first started there wasn’t many fashion people designing with it and laser engraving was in its infancy. I felt like a pioneer and wanted to explore this arena. I wanted to change the impression people had of plastics being seen as landfill – obviously some is and that is a real problem! However, branded Perspex is about 3 x the price of glass, so I consider it a luxury material and treat it as such. As they are handmade, none of my pieces are mass produced.

Are there other canine chic pieces in the pipeline for the future?

So many ideas, so little time! I have a whole new range of products for dogs (and occasionally their humans) in production, mainly to be released in time for Christmas and next year.

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

I love heels but they have to be comfortable. I’m better with quite tailored clothes and have to look fairly smart for meetings etc but am more casual at home.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I pick up most pieces in the High Street stores like TopShop and Zara etc but occasionally get a versatile designer piece to dress things up.

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

I really need some smart winter day boots to walk around town in.

Boots or Shoes?

I’m afraid it has to be both. It’s a London weather thing…boots in winter and shoes during our short and unpredictable summer…
I like ankle boots to wear with jeans etc and higher boots with skirts.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Canine Chic and your own jewellery collection.

Canine Chic of London is on www.caninechicoflondon.co.uk also please follow on Instagram, as that’s where the day to day stuff happens @caninechicoflondon 

My Perspex jewellery and handbags is at www.saraheytondesigns.co.uk and on Instagram I am @saraheyton

Thank you Sarah! I’m fascinated by the zodiac pendants for dogs! I wonder if pets exhibit the same characteristics as humans born under the same star sign?! I don’t have dogs but I do have 2 cats who were both born at the end of July, making them Leos. You certainly know they are there, they enjoy being made a fuss of and they love being brushed …. hmm.. just like my Leo born husband and son! What star sign are your pets? Do they show any characteristics usually linked with that star sign? Do share your opinions, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photographs published with kind permission from Sarah Eyton/ Canine Chic of London.

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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 Oscar Francis

My guest this week is qualified architect, Sarah Evans, who established her London based studio “Oscar Francis” in 2013. Sarah has a passion for architecture – using that passion and her creative flair, she has diversified into producing architecturally inspired prints and textiles.  I caught up with Sarah recently to find out more about her business, her passion and her forthcoming book too…. welcome Sarah!

My name is Sarah Evans. I live and work in London with my partner and  two children. I am an architect turned artist/illustrator. I started my own business in 2013 creating hand drawn artwork and digital prints almost entirely inspired by modernist architecture.

What inspired you to establish your studio, Oscar Francis?

The idea for the company grew over a period of time and was born out of a series of events, which prompted me to strike out on my own. The London office that I had worked in for 6 years closed due to the loss of a very large project and we all found ourselves out of a job. I was pregnant with twins and about to go on maternity leave so I knew then that I would need to find a new job in a new office and cover the childcare costs for two. I had always wanted to be my own boss so I began to work on what I called my “alternative” plan. If I didn’t go back to a new job could I set up my own company? So I began putting together a plan of what I wanted to do, of what I would like to do. I had a clear idea early on that I wanted to create an art label inspired by my love of architecture, but I had to figure out the ‘how’. I worked on it for 18 months before I launched the website.

Why did you settle on calling your studio, Oscar Francis?

When I decided to set up my company I initially came up with the name “Pattern Architecture”. I then realised that this could be limiting if I wanted to reach beyond the urban environment and explore other subjects. So I had a dilemma, I wanted to use a name that meant something to me but that also gave me enough room to move in another direction if I so wished. I felt that my name was too ‘ordinary’. My twin boys are called Oscar and Francis…and it just felt right!

The majority of your current collection focuses on post war modernist architecture from the 50s to the 70s. The range of products available varies from prints to wash bags, mugs to tote bags, cushion covers to tea towels. What products/prints are most popular with your clients?

When I started out I assumed that the printed textiles would be the lead product and the direction the company would go but the giclee art prints are the most popular by far – which I am really pleased about!

Do you have a particular favourite product or print from your range?

It’s hard to pick a favourite. Oddly the most popular, best selling prints become the ones you like the least because you see so much of them! I suppose it’s like a band with a hit song that they have to keep singing over and over again. My favourite work is usually the most recent I have produced so at the moment its my latest collection ‘Landmark’. These are all inspired by modern cultural buildings from all over the world. It’s the first mixed international collection I have produced. I am very proud of it.

On October 15th 2017 (November 15th for the US), your book “Modernist London” – 22 posters of inspirational architecture – will be released. As you have a passion for architecture & city/housing types, have you got a favourite place/poster?

My favourite piece from the new poster book has to be Croydon No.1. It made the front cover, and rightly so. It’s really striking and I enjoyed creating it immensely. The hand drawing I produced prior to the digital work took a ridiculously long time, but it was worth it.

People have travel bucket lists, but I would like to know, if you could travel anywhere in the world to view a building/housing/cityscape, what place would be top of your bucket list?

There are so many! If I had to name a couple they would be the Church of Light by Tadao Ando in Osaka, Japan and the National Assembly Building by Louis Kahn in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I will get there, I will.

Oscar Francis designs and products have been featured in a number of magazines such as Grand Designs, Elle Deco & Good Homes. Your products are also sold in a number of UK based boutiques and gallery shops. As you are based in London, are your products available overseas?

The shop is online only but we ship all over the world. We are building up the stockist list outside of the UK so its best to check in the ‘Where to buy’ section on the website. Here you will be able to see the latest information on stores near you that sell my products.

Growing up, what were your career aspirations? Have you always wanted to be an architect?

I wanted to be an artist. I had huge respect for the discipline of architecture, but I loved drawing and painting and thought I would study fine art. However, when I was considering further education and university I decided to try architecture. The argument being that this route was just as creative but might also open up a wider range of job opportunities. My late father was an architect and he was, of course, an influence in this decision. I had been helping out in his practice since I was 15 years old.

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

It depends what I am doing. This time of year, day to day, I am in fitted trousers or dark jeans and a jumper or blouse with heeled boots. I prefer classic and unfussy. I save my creative energy for my work.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I have a go to list of sites and blogs for everything from going out in London to cool homewares and interiors. Here’s a selection of my favourites: London on the Inside; The Nudge; Such and Such – interiors and homewares; An Artful Life; Laura Lea Design; We Built This City; RIBA – Royal Institute of British Architects; Design Milk Blog; London Design Festival; Indie Wire; Little White Lies.

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

A stylish raincoat. It rains a lot here this time of year.

Boots or Shoes?

Usually boots. London is only warm about three months of the year so boots of all shapes and sizes are preferred.

For pinning later

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

Web:
https://oscarfrancis.co.uk
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/oscarfrancisprints
Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/oscar_francis/
Twitter:
https://twitter.com/OFrancisLondon

Thank you Sarah and I love the fact that you named your studio after your twin boys!  My mum named her house years ago “Carlin” after my sister Carol & myself! Dear readers, have you ever named a business, house or boat after your offspring?  Have you got on your bucket list a building or other structure that you’d love to visit? I think the Taj Mahal is one building I’d love to see.  Share your views in the comments below, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission of Sarah Evans.

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An Interview With Bagsy Me First

A few years ago I interviewed Tink from Bedhead Boutique who made bags out of old vinyl records. This year I have discovered another lady who makes bags but this time out of books! My love of books and bags first attracted me to Kate Lowe’s website, Bagsy Me First.  In  June 2016, Kate was awarded #WOW Winner (Women In Business) and the award is well deserved too.These handbags are exquisite, and being inquisitive, I had to interview Kate to find out more. Welcome Kate…

Hello! I’m Kate, and I make purses, wallets and all kinds of bags out of books. (I do love books and I am very gentle with them, I promise. But if you shudder at the very thought of a folded page corner, look away now.)

What inspired you to launch Bagsy Me First!?

As a bookworm and inveterate ‘maker of things’ I was inspired by celebrity book clutches to evolve my own recipe for turning real books into bags. When people realise your bag is made out of an actual, for-real book… *Big smile!*

Where do you find the books to use to turn into handbags? Where do you source the fabric used for the lining?

I find books online and in second-hand bookshops/charity shops. Very occasionally a customer will supply a book. The fabric is from a local shop; sometimes online. It’s best to see/feel fabric up-close and personal.

You have an online shop and cater for custom orders. Have you had any unusual requests?

I’ve had custom orders for bags constructed out of gig posters and a ‘Goosebumps’ book handbag that lit up, for a stage show.

What are the most popular titles/authors requested/sold?

All the classics. And Harry Potter, of course.

What book are you turning into a bag at the moment?

Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ is on my sewing table right now and it’ll be a handbag tomorrow.

To start a company like this, you must have a love of books! What genre of books do you like reading? Any favourite book or author? Have you got a favourite book bag?

I have a weakness for vintage green Penguin paperbacks. My own wallet is made out of a 50 year old green Penguin paperback by John Dickson Carr (I collect his books) and using it daily gives me joy.

Do you read the books before they are turned into bags?

No, but I made it a mission to read some of them afterwards. If a customer wants a bag made out of a particular book then it must be special! I have a long list of handbags that I’ve now read, that I wouldn’t have read otherwise.

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

Driving a mobile library around villages is something I’d love to have a go at. My ‘proper’ job is a graphic designer.

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

Over breakfast with a cup of tea.

You are based in the UK, do you ship overseas too?

Yes; I have customers using my items in 30 countries (so far!) which feels pretty cool.

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

Mostly thrift-store dresses of varying vintage, and DM’s or pumps.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Vintage/thrift shops and second-hand book shops make me go ‘Oooh’ quite a lot.

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

A pair of trail shoes for X-country. Going to give it a go this season.

Boots or Shoes?

Can’t beat boots for comfort (and stomping!)

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

Oh, do come say ‘hi!’ Help yourself to a good ol’ rummage in my shop and if you fancy something made out of a particular book, just ask. The kettle’s on, and we have Hobnobs; welcome to Bag End!
http://www.bagsymefirst.com
https://www.facebook.com/bagsymefirst/
https://www.instagram.com/kate_bagsymefirst
https://twitter.com/Bagsymefirst

Did someone say “hobnobs”? Thank you very much Kate for joining us on the blog! I am having a hard time trying to think which book I would love to have as a bag… The Alchemist is a contender … and Lady Chatterley’s Lover … or perhaps, The Great Gatsby… dear readers, which books would you pick? Do share your thoughts, I’d love to know…

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Kate Lowe, except for the black & white pin later photo which is by Linda Hobden

 

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An Interview With Skipah

This week, gracing my “blog” is the man from Indiana – Gary Mathews (aka Skipah!) I have followed Gary’s blog since day one – from his life as a newly divorced father of one gorgeous little girl, trying to fathom out the legal system and trying to co parent successively; his life in Indiana; and now as a happily remarried newly wed! His style of writing is addictive reading – I’ve learnt a lot about Indiana, the Ohio River and Kentucky – and he always makes me smile! Gary is one “hell of a nice guy” … so, without further ado, come and meet the Skipah…

To say I was flattered when the World Famous Linda Hobden asked me to participate in her August blogging series, would be an understatement! Greetings everyone, I’m Gary Mathews or the Skipah from Skipah’s Realm. I’m the father of one beautiful young girl, stepdad to two others, and recently married the woman of my dreams, Miss Madison! The journey I’ve taken to get here is one for the record books!

What inspired you to start blogging?

The inspiration behind the beginning of my blogging career is one full of sadness and despair. I had recently been blindsided that my first marriage of 13 years was abruptly ending. As anyone that has been in that position knows your mind is going 100 mph and focusing on anything is an effort in futility. One day I just started screwing around on the internet and said “the hell with it” why not start a blog. I went self hosted from the start and it was the one thing I got to call 100% mine after the divorce proceedings had started. Three years later I’m still at it, albeit the doom and gloom is a distant memory.

So why is your blog called “Skipah’s Realm”?

When I was starting my blog I kept bouncing names off of my best friend. He finally came up with Skipah’s Realm. Skipah is my childhood nickname that I have never been able to shake. I actually wrote a post about the mysterious origins of Skipah. I’m 40 years old and probably still get called Skipah by half the people I interact with.

Being a blogger you need to have regular Interaction on social media. What social media outlet is your favourite and what is your least favourite? What social media tends to attract more readers to your blog?

Social media is a blogger’s best friend, worst enemy, and biggest distraction. My personal favorite is Facebook and I get a great amount of “real” views from it, my largest source of traffic though usually comes from Stumbleupon (which is iffy to call social media), and I do OK with Twitter. Facebook has become a way of life for me, I’ve met so many great people all over the world that I feel like if we ever meet in person I could just show up and ask for a drink and pick up on our latest online conversation. Also, there are some great Facebook Groups out there, and believe it or not this red blooded male has a whale of a time with this great group of ladies (and a few men) in a group known as Blog, Share, Love. They keep me grounded, laugh at my dumb jokes, and picked me up when I needed it the most when I lost my custody battle after my divorce. My least favorite is Pinterest, I don’t even know why I have an account there. Oh wait, I read somewhere in the Bloggers Bible that it was essential.

I know from following your blog that you do like your food and that you are a dab hand in the kitchen.  So let’s talk food … what is your favourite food? What food genre is your favourite when eating out?

My favorite meal has nothing to do with the kitchen. I’ll take a porterhouse on the grill seven days a week if my heart could stand it! When they put me on death row (if they ever catch me) for killing people with kindness, my final meal will be a crisp salad with ranch dressing, 22 ounces of Angus, and a loaded baked potato! I have been known though to make a killer manicotti if I must get the kitchen dirty. My favorite genre when eating out is by far any joint my south of the border friends have opened. I love Mexican food in all shapes and forms, plus the all you can eat chips and salsa always a great “free” appetizer!

I love reading about your road trips and local places that you visit – I’m getting knowledgeable about Indiana now! So, if you visit any place in the world, money no object, where would you go & why?

I have always had a fascination with Australia or New Zealand. I know those two countries bicker amongst themselves, but I would love to go to either place if life ever allowed me to. That little dot in the Atlantic Ocean known as Bermuda ranks pretty high up also. Why? I live in freaking Indiana, aka the Hoosier state! Hoosiers and all the other Midwest states have perfected the art of daydreaming over beach pictures and exotic places. Exotic locales for us consist of maple trees and maybe a lake. Plus the aforementioned places have local “fresh” seafood. I can’t eat this crap they call seafood in the Midwest!

A lot of bloggers I know are also bookworms …are you one?

I used to be a bookworm, not anymore – I just use books to level a dresser that is uneven. When I was a voracious reader though anything Tom Clancy was definitely a page turner for me. Michael Crichton and John Grisham were also some of my favorites along with true crime novels. True story, when I was 18 years old I read Helter Skelter in one night and couldn’t sleep the next day. Currently I’m reading “How to stayed married for longer than 13 years.”

Have you got a favourite style icon?

Fashion icon for me? Justin Timberlake….dude is a stud! I don’t know where he ranks in the fashion world, but in my next life I want to dress like him!

I like dresses from the 1950s; tunic dresses from the 1960s; the hippy styles of the 1970s; the colours of the 1980s … what decade of fashion are you drawn towards?

Without sounding sexist at all, I absolutely love seeing images of women from the 50s in their poodle skirts. Can you bring the poodle skirt back like Justin Timberlake brought sexy back? Fashion from 70s can go into some time capsule and never come back, granted I was only born in 1976 but I’ve seen the pictures. Bell Bottom jeans? Who thought this was a good idea?

What is your favourite colour?

Favorite color..err I mean colour is red. Although I’ve been told I look good in yellow, and my eyes are green. No I’m not some communist supporter with my love of red, my favorite sports team is the Cincinnati Reds, and I just like the color!

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

My music tastes are all over the place. I mean I grew up in the 80s so anytime I hear a good 80s jam I’m dancing like a white boy at a wedding reception. Classic Rock, top 40 hits, old school country I’m really up for anything with music. There is that slight obsession to Katy Perry that I should probably mention. It’s OK my wife knows about it and even scored us some concert tickets later this year.

Describe your perfect day.

My perfect day? Hmm, depends on the day I guess. A perfect day for me is waking up and my beautiful wife is next to me. My daughter is in her bedroom asleep, and my stepkids are bickering over what to watch on TV. Granted this would be in our beach side mansion in the Outer Banks, North Carolina or anywhere in the world that offers me fresh crab cakes.

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

Outfits and shoes? I’m 40, a dad, and from the Midwest. Since it’s August and the heat index can’t get over it’s addiction to topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius, I did my homework) you will find this chiseled hunk in a pair of cargo shorts, probably a T-shirt, and tennis shoes. If I’m feeling kinky I’ll wear my sandals. I’m so boring fashion wise, insomniac groups follow me on Instagram just to fall asleep.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Like most of the world I’ve been sucked into the Amazon world a time or two, but that is turning into an online Walmart now! If you turn me loose at kitchen store, like say, Williams Sonoma, make sure you hide your credit cards from me or it’s going to get ugly fast!

What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?

Next up for me in the clothing department will more than likely be some kick butt clearance deals on men’s clothing. It is usually how I buy my “nicer” clothes, and local retailers tend to run amazing deals in August to get the summer inventory out the door.

Boots or shoes?

Since I look ridiculous in boots I’m going to say shoes. Give me my trusty pair of Nike’s any day of the week! Although if I need to look presentable my dress shoe of choice is a Rockport.

What no more questions? I was just getting warmed up! 

You can follow Gary’s exploits on:

Skipah’s Realm
Twitter
Instagram
Facebook

Thanks Gary for being such a charming guest! I like the idea of bringing back into fashion poodle skirts too… dear readers, what fashion item from yesteryear would you like to revived and brought back into fashion? Do share your thoughts!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Gary Mathews.

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An Interview With Jennifer Koshak

This week I get to talk to the lovely blogger, Jennifer Koshak.  What do I like about Jennifer and her blog, Unfoldandbegin.com?  Jennifer makes me feel happy – her love of life and having fun is contagious – and we share the same motto, that “Laughter is the spice of Life”.  Jennifer has two cats, like me – however, she is allergic to cats! And, what’s more, her husband is a chef and chocolatier!  Hello Jennifer!

Hello! My name is Jennifer Koshak. I’m a blogger from Connecticut in the U.S. I used to work as an Operations Manager for Verizon Wireless until our office location was closed in March of this year. So, I’m currently blogging full-time (dream job) while also looking to see if there is a job that I absolutely WANT to have. For instance, I recently applied, but didn’t get interviewed, to a company that wants to bring coding education to kids in inner city schools. I don’t code which is probably why they didn’t even interview me. But coding will be important to future jobs and I would have loved to have been a liaison between the company and the schools.

My husband is a chef and chocolatier. At one point, we owned a chocolate shop where he made truffles and caramels and other delicious goodies using Belgian chocolate. My self-appointed job title was CET or Chief Executive Taster. We had fun naming chocolates like the Nutty Friar which was made with Frangelico and crushed hazelnuts. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, which was an 80% dark chocolate truffle and my absolute favorite, Sinfully Delicious which was a salted, chocolate caramel either in dark or milk chocolate. I would have rolled around in that stuff if I could have. To this day, I have never found a better tasting caramel.

I was also an active yoga teacher up until a few years ago. Then I started working full-time (having had the luxury of being a job/share employee and only working 25 hours a week at my company.) Because of the full-time work, I had to give up my yoga classes which were during the day.

You started your lovely blog, Unfoldandbegin.com, 4 years ago. What was the inspiration behind starting your blog?

I love to write. You can’t stop me. I write in three or four different notebooks each day. I buy notebooks and pens like other people buy books. I wanted to blog for years and actually did a couple of years earlier when I started a blog and then deleted it a few months later. Mind you, no one had even read any of my posts but I was afraid they would!

I found thinking up a blog title really difficult – I settled for something simple – but tell me, what made you go for Unfold and Begin?

At the time that I started my first blog, I called it Unfold and Evolve because I was writing about my yoga journey and what I was learning about myself. One of the reasons why I deleted it was because I felt the title was too pretentious—evolve? What right did I have to say that I was evolved? That’s how much I was getting into my own head about letting people know the real me.

So I deleted it and then a year later, I decided that Unfold And Begin was a better title. The “Unfold” part was of course, about opening up to others. The “begin” was that I was taking baby steps to put myself out there. That meaning has since evolved (ha…there’s that evolve word again) into trying new things—beginning something new, being open to learning, to trying and to your creativity.

Being a blogger you need to have regular interaction on social media. What social media outlet is your personal favourite? What social media tends to attract more readers to your blog? What is your least favourite & why?

Oh wow. This is a tough question. I love Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter but of the three of them, I guess Facebook must be my favorite, because I’m on it the most. I’m also starting to use Instagram more. I didn’t know what to do with it at first since it’s so visual and I’m a writer. But I’ve started learning. Stumble Upon, Pinterest and Facebook drive the most traffic to my blog in that order. I feel guilty about Stumble Upon because I don’t personally use it that much (and really just have a basic understanding of it.) So while it drives the most traffic it’s also my least favorite since I don’t really get it or use it that much.

What do you like most about blogging?

Besides the writing? I love “meeting” all the people I’ve met through blogging. I found a fellow blogger in the town that I live in (which is a very small suburban community) and we’ve met a couple of times at a local coffee shop to share blogging tips. I also like a lot of the blogging Facebook groups that I participate in. My favorite group is small and we’re like a family that is spread around the world. We’re all very friendly, support each other when help is needed and make fun of each other like only family can.

Apart from being a blogger, you are a yoga teacher and your husband is a chef and chocolatier… so let’s talk food… what is your favourite meal? What food genre is your favourite when eating out?

OMG! Food! I love food as long as someone else is making it for me. Not only is my husband, Chris, a chef, but he went to the same school (the Culinary Institute of America) that my father went to. As far as I’m concerned, men belong in the kitchen. Even my ex-husband was a cook in his father’s restaurant. Chris jokes (only it’s not a joke) that when he met me my refrigerator only contained milk, beer and condiments. When he opened the freezer it was all frozen dinners just lined up in a row.

Every Valentine’s Day, my husband rotates between my two favorite meals that he’s ever made me: Filet Mignon in a Puff Pastry or Lobster Newburg in a Puff Pastry. I don’t know why they are better in the Puff Pastry, but they are. Just to make this even more special….my husband is allergic to shell fish. He cannot taste the Lobster Newburg, but he makes the BEST that I’ve ever tasted (and that includes what my father used to make.)

As for food genre? I really have no favorite. While I grew up in a household that required you eat everything on your plate whether you like it or not, I have a different rule. You don’t have to eat anything you don’t like, but you do have to try it first before you can declare you don’t like it.

I know that you like trying new things, having fun and laughing – so, if you could visit any place in the world, money no object, where would you go & why?

Money is no object? That’s such a hard decision. I’d love to go to a lot of different places, including Base Camp on Mount Everest. But if I had to pick just one thing, I’d love to go on a safari in Africa. I love zebras. Their color and pattern just fascinate me and I would love to see them in their natural environment. Oh, but then I would also love to go to every beautiful, warm beach in the world.

Jennifer & her mum

Alot of bloggers I know are also bookworms… are you one? What genre of book do you like reading? What book(s) are you currently reading?

YES! I love books. I used to buy actual books, but I’ve recently downsized and found that I even gave up my beloved Harry Potter collection, because I’m a Kindle and Audible girl now. Have you heard the Audible versions of Harry Potter? They are fantastic. I used to eat mysteries and suspense for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My sister and I would share these books. Recently, I’ve gotten into biographies and seem to be interested in old film and comedy stars. I finished a biography of Dean Martin written by his daughter and an autobiography of Dick Van Dyke. I’m currently reading Jerry Lewis’ autobiography and since I like trying new things, I Dare Me by Lu Ann Cahn about her year of trying one new thing a day.
And yes, I usually have two books going at the same time. I have a different set of books on my Kindle than I do on my Kindle App on my phone. When I get stuck waiting, I can pull out my phone and when I’m curled up on my couch, I use the Kindle.

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

Not really, when I was growing up though, I was fascinated by Twiggy’s look. And when I was in High School, the whole Annie Hall look. I wore a man’s suit jacket into school a couple of times.

I like dresses from the 1950s; tunic dresses of the 1960s; the hippy styles of the 1970s; the colours of the 1980s… what decade of fashion are you drawn towards? Which popular styles of any decade didn’t/don’t float your boat?

I guess I’m more drawn to the late 60’s/early 70’s flower child look. Jeans, flowing shirts and sandals. I hated the satin anything of the 70’s and the fakeness of the neon 80’s. I was more comfortable with the grunge of the 90’s.

Jennifer, circa 1980, in cords, jacket & platform boots! 

My favourite colour is green although glancing at my wardrobe most of my clothes are shades of blue! What is your favourite colour?

My favorite color is yellow. But it looks terrible on me. I stop in my tracks when I see someone with a yellow shirt or jacket. I did paint my living room a sunset yellow to make up for not being able to wear it.

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

All music except country. I love rock, soul, blues and New Orleans style jazz that’s a little heavy on the clarinet. I also love the old electronic music of the 70’s. Rick Wakeman’s Six Wives of Henry the VIII and Bo Hansson’s Lord of the Rings. Isao Tomita’s Snowflakes are Dancing album blew my mind. It’s this electronic music that I listen to when I’m writing.

Describe your perfect day.

Is this real or fantasy?
Real, up by 5:30am and writing for a couple of hours then going to the gym on some of the days, then writing or social media, throw in taking care of my mother throughout the day and some self-care like a mani/pedi or massage or reading or even an afternoon movie. Fantasy, that gym would be replaced by a warm beach.

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

Yoga pants, jean shorts or anything similar and Birkenstock sandals or Skechers in the summer. Jeans, fleece and LL Bean wool clogs in the winter…unless there is snow on the ground, then it’ll be Merrill ankle high hikers. (When I eventually move south to a beach town, the winter options won’t be needed.) I was in a car accident a couple of years ago that left me with severe back pain when I stand too long. I’ve found that the Birks and the Skechers are my best options for providing additional support.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

You mean besides Amazon for moleskins notebooks? I’m a fan of Zappos, get most of my shoes through them. Although it might not seem like it, shoes are important to me because I need to wear the ones that will support my back the best.

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

I need to buy a new pair of Birkenstock sandals.

Boots or Shoes?

Neither. I’m all for sandals as you may have noted. Although, before the accident I liked to hike and once this back is healed, I will hike again. Then Merrill hiking boots are added to the list.

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

Blog: http://UnfoldAndBegin.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/unfoldandbegin
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/UnfoldAndBegin/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unfoldandbegin/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/unfoldandbegin/?hl=en

Thanks Jennifer for chatting to us!  I must say I adore chocolates and I would have loved to have tried the Sinfully Delicious – dark chocolate with salted caramel just sounds like heaven to me. I would love to be a chocolate taster sampling different flavours. My favourite place to eat chocolates is in bed, with a good book ( and  with my husband by my side sharing them too! :)) So, dear readers, do you like chocolates? What flavours would tickle your fancy? Do you eat chocolates in bed too?  Do share your secrets…

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission of Jennifer Koshak

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