Category Archives: Interview

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 sand 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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An Interview With Anna Rosenblum Palmer

For the next 3 posts I’m featuring interviews with 3 different bloggers that I have followed for quite a while.   This week I’m talking to the fabulous Anna Rosenblum Palmer.  What can I say about Anna?  Anna’s posts are diverse and always well written – some topics she writes about have had me rolling around the floor laughing – her conversations with her dentist about pole dancing  as well as her posts about boobs and vaginas!  Her family life, food and cats posts have me nodding my head, agreeing vigorously.  This lady is a talented writer and she doesn’t mince her words or sugarcoat them – which makes her a brilliant candidate to interview as I wasn’t quite sure how she’d answer my questions but I couldn’t wait to find out ….hi Anna!

Hi. For someone who does a whole lot of navel gazing on my blog I have a very difficult time introducing myself.

I live two lives…one in the summer when my family and I move back to Vermont and I walk on the literal and figurative paths that helped me grow into an adult. I have friends here who make things. Food and pottery, paintings and shoes. I wear eat and listen to fruits of the community that I am part of. Despite being here 10 weeks a year it has a tinge of the past to it. Even my kids say things like “for old times sake” and use words like “nostalgia” about their school playground. I am proud of it though. I am proud of the community farm that I helped fund and the restaurant that is in the space that my restaurant used to be. I pore over the program for the art festival I used to run and see that the fashion show I started has a larger and larger presence. I walk down the dirt road where the house we built stands and look at the changes while waving at neighbors who now live a country away. I drive past the school where I taught with its view of Lake Champlain and smell of cow and remember the good and the bad of the educational system in rural Vermont. Like my boys do I see all this in tones of sepia as if I am visiting an old version of myself.

For the rest of the year I live in Denver. We soak up sunshine and proudly live with one car. We answer the door when kids knock to ask my boys to play at the field across the street. We don’t answer the door as friends walk right in with our cat’s missing collar. I have never been someone to define myself in terms of my kids but in my life there I pretty much am a reflection of my relationship with them. I drink wine (or vodka) with their friend’s parents. I volunteer at their schools. I write essays about their struggles and triumphs. I wouldn’t say I live for them, but I live beside them and I can’t really introduce myself without giving my husband Steve and my sons Oliver and Leo at least half of my answer.

This exact instant I am a tea drinker and a writer and a Patriots fan. I love all of those things. I am also a fat woman and a begrudging pet owner and someone who lives every day with mental illness. I am working to love all of those things as well.

Your blog, annarosenblumpalmer.com, covers an interesting blend about the highs & lows of life, including topics such as sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder & the NFL. What was the inspiration behind starting your blog?

I started blogging 10 years ago when I was steeped in the world of non-profits. I introduced non profit efforts in our community and highlighted volunteer work and philanthropists. Pretty regularly I interrupted the normally scheduled posts to write about my cats and my kids and how much pee was in my daily life. (Lots and lots). People seemed to connect with those posts more, and by people I mean my mom and me. I found them easier to write. With non-profit profiles I had to research and edit and be respectful. None of those are my strengths.

Over time I had to admit that my writing was mainly about the life of a young mother and occasional philanthropist. I renamed the blog Shelburbia after our suburban/urban community of Shelburne and talked about the 3 year aged cheddar cheese and local apples I brought to the sidelines of soccer game. The polish I tried to put on my life then was so ridiculous and impossible to maintain. So many people related to it that I gained readers and trolls.

After I moved to Denver I needed to change the name and played with Denverb and a few other location based puns but finally landed on my name because, you know, wherever I go there I am. Or some other less first person platitude.

Apart from your blog, your writing can be found on Babble, In The Powder Room, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Making Midlife Matter…. amongst others (the list is seemingly endless). When you are not writing, what do you do in your free time?

Well I am training for my first triathalon. Bah hahahahaha. I can’t even spell triatholon. Not even my computer can spell it. In Denver everyone is training for something. At a party most of the talk is about school choice and upcoming races. My goal is to walk 10,000 steps a day. It’s good to have a goal. I love puzzles, crosswords, logic and jigsaws. My husband had a big piece of plexiglass cut so we can cover whichever puzzle is spread out over our dining room table and still eat there. Speaking of our dining room table I take a lot of time training my kids how to eat politely. They wait to start until everyone is at the table, they say please and thank you and clear plates at the end of the meal. In addition to these skills I help make sure we talk about poop or pee at least once a dinner. We have about a three year streak going. (No pun intended.) Without even discussing it we clean up our potty talk in restaurants and when we are hosting. In fact in restaurants the boys are consistently complimented on their manners and on not one but two occasions other diners have bought our family our meals because they are thrilled at the way our kids behave. Although I think this might be a sad commentary on other families rather than a compliment to ours it is some of the best natural positive reinforcement my kids have gotten. Even if they ask to claim half of the savings to spend on candy and Pokemon cards.

I am also a huge Patriots fan. Many of your readers might not be familiar with the NFL because watching  grown men in tights giving each other concussions isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. I come by it naturally though. I grew up in Boston, one of the top three sports cities in America. My father was an anathema, a visual artist who loved sports and was a virtual shut in. It was up to me to find common ground and as an only child I took that task seriously. I wrote about the Celtics in my journal and when I went away to college the only way I could keep him on the phone was to talk about the Patriot’s draft. I studied for this task as seriously as I did the archeological finds of Mesopotamia (my major…the utility of which might explain why I have so many different career identities.) After he died when I was in my twenties the damage had been done. I knew everything there was to know about the team and had many memories of my father intertwined with the Patriots. Long story short I spend 10 hours a week listening to a Patriots podcast.

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?

Ah, social media. I have the biggest audience on Twitter (@annawritesstuff) but my followers rarely interact with me or my blog. I find it virtually useless for promotion or being social. Instead I check my feed to track traffic and follow acts of terrorism in almost real time. Which might contribute to why I find it depressing.

Facebook and my blog Facebook page are the most social of the social media. Sometime I can really get a conversation going. Plus I can see baby sloths taking a bath. On my regular Facebook feed most of my friends and I share politics so I have a slanted view of American beliefs. I never thought there would be a President Trump. Reading about his cabinet appointees kept me offline for a while. But the sloths got me back to the feed, because…baby sloths in the bath.

Pinterest is the biggest driver of my traffic. My most popular blog post has 740,000 views and almost all of them came from Pinterest. I have tried to sleuth out which huge Pinterest star must have shared the post but my meager skills don’t allow that so I just sit back and enjoy it when once a week or so I get 15,000 views in a day. The post is about lazy parenting (obviously I didn’t include how hard I worked on teaching potty talk because that took patience and dedication. The responses range from “right on sister” to “I should call the cops on you.” This is the kind of debate I want on my blog.

What do you like most about blogging?

For one thing I only think through writing or talking. My internal life is pretty meager. Alternatively we can say that my meditation practice is working and I am great at clearing my mind of thoughts. In either case the blog lets me understand what it is I feel about my own life. The best thing is when those feeling resonate with other people. I wrote a post telling people how much my marriage benefits from having sex 5-7 times a week and although the comments on that post are not numerous my email filled up with readers recounted how much this post has changed their lives. I LOVE that. My posts on mental illness always seem to ring true for lots of people. Even if 1,000 words can’t change a life long situation it can still help you feel less alone. So a small thing like a blog post can have a big impact. I wrote a post explaining suicidal thought after someone I knew killed herself. Many people reacted to the idea of suicide as selfish. I argued the other side and issued a call to action to family, friends and people in positions of power to change the way society views mental illness. By getting it out of the shadows we can all receive the support we need. I can tell you the latest health care proposal is taking us in the opposite direction.

Let’s talk food… what is your favourite meal? What food genre is your favourite when eating out?

My restaurant was farm to table so I know this cuisine well. It is my favorite but it lost some allure when I broke it into the tasks of inventory and plate costing. In Denver the food scene is incredible. My favorite restaurant is called Linger and it is in an old mortuary. I know that sounds weird but it is cool not creepy. It features international street food elevated almost to the level of fine dining.

That said my favorite meal is chicken wings and french fries. We eat them every Sunday for football. No matter how many times I order them extra crispy they are never crisp enough so we put them in the sheet pan and bake them even longer. So salty, tangy and good!

If you could visit any place in the world, money no object, where would you go & why?

My family talks about this all of the time. Every other year we take a big trip with my mother. Four years ago we went to Istanbul and two years ago we went to Italy. They were both incredible. This year we were planning the Galapagos but my claustrophobia, my son’s seasickness and the cost combined to have us cancel the trip. Instead we are headed to Hawaii which is not much of a schelp from Denver. I’d say my top three spots are Fiji for those thatched huts over the water (maybe without our boys?) Morocco because, Morocco, and Iceland for the architecture.

A lot 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?

I read ALL of the time. I read single books in a day and a hundred books a year. The vast majority of them are schlock but my two favorite books from last year are very very heavy. A little Life which the author, Hanya Yanagihara, describes as Ombre in that it goes from light to dark. And Mischling which is a novel about Nazi doctors experimenting on twin twelve year old girls. I can’t believe how beautiful Affinity Konar made the most horrible thing you can think of. The language is one of a kind.

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

I’ll go with Marilyn Monroe because my limited fashion expertise doesn’t include women with curves. I love a wrap dress and loose curls. I don’t think I would ever mimic her heels, red lips, or affairs. Ideally I would echo the looks of a woman from a Reuben’s painting. Those sheets are so drape-y and they wear no makeup or shoes. I could hang with them.

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 grew up in the eighties and still have a fondness for Jelly shoes and bracelets and stretchy belts. I could live without the banana hair clips and acid wash jeans. It’s funny to see my son layer neon socks. I did that just as frequently as I changed the bands on my swatch to keep them from matching. Most of the time I try to stay comfortable, but I do love cashmere sweaters and Frye boots. Usually I pair them with pants or no one can appreciate the sweater.

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

In the summer I wear a lot of turquoise. It makes my eyes seem even more blue. In the winter I wear a lot of grey. I probably have 5 grey sweaters and although they each have a different use and personality to me my husband thinks they are all the same. Despite a robust renovation to our house Steve and I share a closet and he has three quarters of it. He is MUCH more stylish than I am.

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

I love singer songwriters from Simon and Garfunkel all the way to Sarah Harmer. My range is small. Think Coffeehouse on Satellite radio.

Describe your perfect day.

I would wake up to sunshine and temperatures ranging between 72-74 degrees F. I would meditate for 30 minutes and my boys would surprise me with breakfast in bed. I would leave my family sleeping so everyone would be in a good mood later and walk to the coffee shop to meet my cousin for a few hours to share a table and write. At this point with meditation and walk and writing behind me I have checked all of my boxes and can do exactly what I want. When I get home Steve will be cooking a late brunch and he will have the Decembrists on the record player. The boys will be in the living room reading and drawing and I will work on the crossword puzzle with the dog on my lap. After eating outside we will take a family outing. A short one so I can spend time on the patio or in bed before going out to dinner. We will walk to a burger spot near our house while all playing Pokemon go. At dinner we will have our family meeting offering one another appreciations and reviewing our words of the day and contributions. We would stroll home and sit together (with dog and cat who in my perfect day would not be fighting) and watch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. It is completely inappropriate for my boys but is both funny and educational. We have had deep discussions about vaccines and gerrymandering, and cursory discussions about “Russian whores” all because of this half hour show. Then I would head to bed to read again. I would be asleep by 10 pm. The best part of this story is how close every day is to my perfect day. I have a lucky life.

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

Today I have on white jeans, a blue T shirt and flip flops. In the fall I will have on blue or grey jeans, a white T shirt and clogs. In the winter I will have on grey or black jeans, a white grey or black sweater and black clogs. I like to mix things up.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

For household items I love CB2. It is modern and affordable enough to allow me to change things out. As oblivious as I am to clothing I am dedicated to decor. As for clothing…I spend some time on soccer.com for my younger son. Their mystery three pack of soccer shorts in always a thrill. For my husband I like Queen City Dry goods. This is a friend of ours from Vermont (of course) that makes gorgeous mens goods. Leather jackets, shoes, messenger bags, wallets. They are all incredible.

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

I would love a really high quality oatmeal cashmere turtleneck sweater that clings to the chest area but is boxy around the belly.

Boots or Shoes? 

Are clogs shoes? Then clogs. They slip on AND offer some height. Plus it gives me practice growing a thicker skin while my friends and kids tease me.

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

http://annarosenblumpalmer.com

https://www.facebook.com/annarosenblumpalmerwritesstuff

https://pinterest.com/annawritesstuff/

https://instagram.com/annawritesstuff/

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AnnaRosenblumPalmer

http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/annawritesstuff/

https://flipboard.com/@annawritesstuff

Thank you Anna for appearing on the blog today.  I don’t think that your sporting obsession is strange – I enjoy watching sport although here in the UK it is mostly football (soccer) and motorbike racing that captures my attention! What about you dear readers, are you fanatical about sport? Do share your stories, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Anna Rosenblum Palmer.

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An Interview With Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda

Holiday season is in full flow so there is no better time than to introduce onto the blog a rather special hotel in sunny Portugal. Originally the 17th century home of a noble family, the Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda, is now a member of the “Healing Hotels of the world” – the emphasis here is on health and relaxation with a holistic and sustainable approach to life.  Furthermore, this hotel is one of the few hotels that I have come across that has a special package that introduces no single supplement to enable solo travellers to indulge in the same benefits as their fellow guests at no extra cost. And the food – Mediterranean fine dining with plenty of vegetarian, vegan and raw dishes available.  But don’t just take my word for it as I’ve been talking to Vera Gaspar, the Assistant General Manager, to find out more about this delightful place. Hi Vera!

Hello! My name is Vera Gasper and it has been my privilege to have been the Assistant General Manager of the Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda for 2 years. It is my responsibility to ensure the smooth running of the hotel and that our guests enjoy the vacation of their dreams.

The Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda has introduced a no single supplement to enable solo travellers to indulge in the same benefits as their fellow guests at no extra cost – so, what made the hotel decide to buck the trend and introduce this no single supplement?

We have seen a growing trend in people choosing to travel alone, the main reason being to enjoy total peace and tranquillity, re-energising the body and soul away from busy urban life. Why make this more expensive simply because someone chooses quality “me” time? As well as no single supplement we provide personal airport transfers if travellers take advantage of our solo offer. As a small family business we can offer our solo guests that little extra personal service.

The hotel is a member of the “Healing Hotels of the World” group – what can guests expect from the hotel being a member of the group?

For us at Vivenda Miranda, holistic health means to understand the body/mind relationship in respect to health and healing. Recognising the relationship between mind and body, our guests seek to spend relaxation time in an environment that allows them to regain emotional balance and the joy of life.

We host a series of health, fitness and wellness breaks and courses year round and our restaurant prides itself on serving healthy Mediterranean cuisine with many vegetarian, vegan and raw dishes. With health and nutrition in mind, we use seasonal produce that is organic or locally sourced, and has been grown in or reared on fertile, healthy soils with no chemical involvement.

Award winning Ethical and Organic Neal’s Yard Remedies of Covent Garden, London (NYR) is our Spa health and wellness partner. In fact we were their first overseas health and beauty Spa. What you put on to your skin is just as important as what you put into your body, so only the purest organic skincare elements are used in our Spa that contain no added parabens, GMOs or nano- technology. All are 100% vegetarian and not tested on animals.

What would you say is the most popular attraction of the hotel?

Without question our location! Nestled into the cliff top amidst beautiful lush Mediterranean gardens it occupies a secluded peaceful location with stunning panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, dramatic coastline and endless sky – A peaceful oasis of calm and tranquillity it really takes your breath away. I would also say that guest love the authentic, unique character of our Vivenda Miranda. It was once the home of a British noble family in the 17th century and retains much of its historic charm albeit with a comfortable modern twist. All our rooms are individually styled and decorated by our own in-house interior designer so I think our visitors feel they are guests in a comfortable, luxurious home.

The Food… based on artisan gastronomy, the restaurant has nutritious plant based menus and offers Mediterranean fine dining cuisine based on organic or locally sourced ingredients, including vegetarian, vegan and RAW dishes options. What dishes are most popular? 

Our menus are seasonal and we find that our Chef’s Daily Menu is very popular rather than one particular dish – although the Cataplana which is a traditional, regional dish is always in demand. We are finding that more and more people are choosing the vegetarian/vegan options…. Especially in summer time when the light dishes and salads are very popular…

The hotel has an ethical organic Neal’s Yard Remedies Spa – what spa treatments are most popular?

Our range of massage treatments, especially the Aromatherapy, Indian Head and Ayurveda are always very popular. With our skilled therapists and the ensured quality of Neal’s Yard Remedies organic essential oils we know our guests are in good hands. Our spa days, where we offer treatments with a complementary lunch menu that’s designed to support and enhance the treatment element, are also regularly enjoyed by our guests as well as people living in or visiting the area. We are currently developing this treatment/food synergy approach further, to offer our guests and day visitors even more health benefits and wellness knowledge.

The hotel was originally the home of a 17th century noble family that has been lovingly restored by its present owners. The pastel colours of the buildings provide a peaceful oasis and the rooms are decorated in a contemporary boutique chic style with a classic comfort twist. What was the inspiration behind the hotel decor?

We wanted to create an authentic, charming but at the same time contemporary ambience that reflects our stunning setting. So by using both classic and modern elements in the decoration and bold colours with unexpected artistic wall paintings not normally seen in hotels we believe we have achieved style, comfort and the wow factor! Every single room is different in layout, furnishing, colour scheme and decorative features. It’s an artisan concept we try to promote throughout the hotel. This approach of integrating the old and new is appealing to an ever younger generation.

As a wedding venue, what do you think makes the hotel the ideal location?

I know I am biased, but it really is the perfect place for the wedding of your dreams. With our stunning location enjoying amazing views of the sea, sky, beach and cliffs set amidst beautiful gardens – What could be more perfect? Especially if you include our amazing bridal suite which is ideal for the wedding party to get ready in and of course enjoy the wedding night! Our menus have been created to please every palate, and the intimate restaurant and secluded ambience of the sun terrace enables the wedding party to enjoy the experience of a lifetime. It is even possible to reserve the Vivenda Miranda for exclusive use providing bookings are made well in advance of course!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda and booking information

www.vivendamiranda.com
https://www.instagram.com/vivenda_miranda/?ref=badge
https://www.facebook.com/boutiquehotelvivendamiranda

http://vivendamiranda.tumblr.com/
https://twitter.com/vivendamiranda
https://www.pinterest.pt/vivenda_miranda/ 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/129763807@N07/albums

To contact us for reservations or any questions:
Email: info@vivendamiranda.com
Tel: +351 282 763 222
Address: Rua das Violetas, Porto de Mós, 8600-282 Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

For pinning later

Have I whetted your travel appetite, dear readers?  Have you been to Portugal, or indeed have you visited the hotel? Have you done any solo travelling? Do share your stories, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Vera Gaspar/ Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda.

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An Interview With Personal Trainer Nicola Pybus


In 2015 I was looking on Facebook and I came across a “beach body challenge” –  simple exercises per day to tone the legs, bum & tum area – it was just what I needed and the exercises were fun.  So, I did the challenge, went on holiday, and forgot about it! In 2016 I came across another challenge, this time Legs,Bums & Tums, and I signed up for email sessions too. It wasn’t until after Christmas and New Year, that I realised I wanted to seriously tone up for 2017 and that’s when I received an email about some monthly challenges from the same lady, I signed up and never looked back. Personal trainer and fitness mentor, Nicola Pybus, has certainly inspired me to challenge myself, she has motivated me to tone up and she has made exercising seem fun.  I love her challenges … not always easy, I must say… so I set her a challenge to answer a few questions …welcome Nicola…

Hi! My name is Nicola Pybus, I am a competitive athlete and Level 3 Personal Trainer. I work exclusively with women to motivate, inspire but most of all to make their fitness journey an exciting and sustainable one.

Where did you get inspiration from to start the personal training fitness challenges?

The challenges started as a way to help my friends/family members exercise without having to pay for a Personal trainer by the hour or afford expensive gym memberships. I found that many of my female clients felt very self conscious at gym or couldn’t afford a personal trainer on a long term basis, so it inspired me to create something that ALL women could do in the comfort of their own home, could afford and that would be worthwhile.

I think your fitness challenges online provide a real alternative to traditional personal trainers and mundane workouts in the gym; however, you are also a fitness model & competitor – how do you prefer to work out – in a gym, personal trainer or at home?

I like to make my challenges fun but challenging as I know people tend to get bored with the same workouts over and over again. I think people should still be able to enjoy working out even if they aren’t in a gym setting. I train alone at gym, listening to my music and use that time to focus on my goals. I do , however, also enjoy training with someone or group of friends with the same workout ability as me, as I have found I’ll push myself harder & get a laugh in between sets.

So what do enjoy most about being a personal trainer and fitness mentor? Have you a favourite exercise?

I honestly love it all. I love helping women reclaim their power through exercise and work on developing self love. To give them motivation and strength when they can’t find it. To give them that push when they think they can’t do another rep of an exercise. To see their smiles when they get the results they want, I don’t just see my clients as just another paycheck but I develop a friendship with them and enjoy keeping up with their journeys once they are ready to go out on their own.

My favourite exercise would have to be the Barbell Deadlift. It is such a powerful exercise!

What exercises or aspects of your personal training programme seem to be the most popular with your clients?

I deal specifically with female clients and without fail, they all want to “lose weight” or “Get skinny”. I am not one of those personal trainers that promotes thigh gaps and quick fixes, so I always use this as an opportunity to shift their focus to improving their health overall in a long term aspect rather than quick fixes that only work short term.

What exercise(s) seem to yield most results? What seems to be the least popular – or gets the most groans when you suggest it? (I hate push ups personally – although I am getting better!)

That’s a very loaded question. There are lots of factors that help contribute to results, such as getting your nutrition on point while exercising. All exercises work and will yield results IF you also work on cleaning up your nutrition. The nutrition side of things is the side that women moan and groan about the most I’d say. It’s the cutting out of chocolate and yummy treats that they battle with.

Which famous lady or gent would you love to do a spot of personal training with?

Sara Sigmundsdottir, she is a badass crossfit chick who definitely could teach me a thing or two!

Have you had any funny moments or disasters that you can tell us about whilst trying to video a personal training session?

Disasters more than funny moments I’d say hahaha It would definitely always involve my daughter, you’d be in the middle of filming and she’d start crying, walking into the shot, playing with the camera equipment and we’d then have to start ALL over again or stop filming for the day and resume hours later at her next nap!

You are a Fitness competitor – what inspired you to enter competitions? what is it like competing in competitions such as the Miami Pro European Championships? Is it nerve racking?

I entered because being a competitive athlete is the ultimate challenge. It tests your discipline and willpower. It takes your body, mind and training to a whole new level. Many will attempt the journey to the stage, but many will fail, simply because it requires 100% dedication to your goals. I always need to be growing, working towards a goal and bettering myself and my training.

Competing for me was such an exciting time! Getting up on that stage is the fun and easy part, the hard work has been done and you just have to enjoy it. The nerves definitely kick in but you have to feel the fear and do it anyway. Your legs will shake, your mouth will twitch, you might forget all your poses, but in the end all you can do is just be yourself and let that shine on stage.

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

I have a slight obsession with active wear! I love bright coloured racer back tops and strappy, criss cross type sports bras. Leggings for me MUST be squat-proof! There is nothing worse than seeing someone’s thong through their tights while they squat! My gym shoes are either Nikes or Sketchers because I love their range of colours!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Nike, Forever 21, Lorna Jane

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

Gymshark sculpt leggings… everyone seems to have them so I want to see what all the fuss is about too

Boots or Shoes?

It really does depend on the weather and occasion. I LOVE boots in winter, but when summer rolls around I wear sandals to keep cool.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you & “Fit & Flashy”

Website: www.fitandflashy.co.uk

Instagram : nicolapybus_fitness

Facebook page: fitandflashy

For pinning later

Thanks for chatting to me, Nicola … and now it’s time to tackle today’s challenge!  Ummm…how many pushups in 2 minutes? Here goes…. dear readers, do you go to the gym, have a personal trainer or do you do challenges like me from home?  Do you enjoy exercising? Do share your experiences, I would love to know…

Linda x

Pictures of Nicola have been published with kind permission of Nicola Pybus.

Pinned photo – Linda Hobden

 

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An Interview With Box Ed’s Paper Crafts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes? 

Chucks! Simple, comfortable and classic.

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

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

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

Linda x

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

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