Category Archives: Interview

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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An Interview With Jane McAdam Freud


Currently exhibiting her sculptures in the Pasmore Gallery (Harrow School) in London, my interview guest this week is British conceptual sculptor Jane McAdam Freud.  If the name seems familiar, that is because Jane is the daughter of famed artist Lucian Freud and great granddaughter of psychologist Sigmund Freud. It is not surprising, therefore, that Jane’s artwork is highly influenced by her family history – her sculptures explore similar themes that her great-grandfather first explored, including sexuality, the unconscious and the other psychoanalytic theories.  Jane also has an impressive list of awards including being granted the ancient honorary decree on merit of Freedom of the City of London in 1991; and was winner of the 2014 European Trebbia Award for Artistic Achievement.  Without further ado, let’s welcome Jane onto the blog… hello Jane!

Hello, I’m Jane. I am Me. I am very much myself as far as my work and my life are concerned. As such I make works that feel authentic to the situation I am working in and to the context I am living in. By that I mean that everything affects us and we are all conduits for that information. My sculpture may inevitably reflect our times and will certainly reflect my particular circumstance on a personal level. So in short my work is my introduction.

Your biography states that you studied “mosaics” in Ravenna before returning to Italy to study sculpture in Rome. What inspired you to study and become a conceptual sculptor?

I have always drawn and made things and consider my first sculptural experience to have been in the sandpit at nursery school. I loved the feel of things, the feel of sand in water and the feel of chocolate powder on the finger and the feel of silk and satin. Working with different mediums and materials was something I got from my various studies. I loved learning about everything and thinking about everything. The combination of the two means that I make works driven by meaning, which is in shorthand – conceptual sculpture.

As a young girl growing up, had you always shown artistic ability or did you have dreams of following a different career?

I knew nothing else from the beginning as both my parents were artists, although my mother has been my main influence. She studied painting and then fashion at Saint Martins, which explains my love of the feel of silk and satin. I remember pulling the wishbone as a very young child and making the wish that my work would one day be exhibited at the Tate Gallery, so the answer to your question regarding ‘art always’ is yes, yes, yes always and forever and with a vengeance! Making drawings and objects was everything I did and everything I dreamed of. Nothing much else existed for me and I don’t think things have changed much, which sounds terrible but the drive is stronger than I. Luckily I went to nurseries and schools that were focused on art subjects and from aged eight till twelve I attended the Froebel Institute which focused on and encouraged creativity and spontaneity. The founder, Friedrich Froebel, is famous for his radical insight that the first learning experiences of the very young influence their later educational achievements. In his book written in 1826, Education of Man, he argued that “the spontaneous play of the child discloses the future inner life of the man” and that for the child “play at this stage is not trivial; it is highly serious and of deep significance”. This was a revolutionary statement made almost 200 years ago but generally accepted now. I owe so much to my teachers and to my classmates who told me so often that I would be an ‘artist’, which was a sort of constant reinforcement. I did in fact win all the art prizes from the infant school onwards and had my first solo exhibition while taking A-level. The show was organised by my art teacher, Robin Dale and was held in Putney Library. I used my mother’s name throughout that period and right up until I was 33 years old when I was awarded the Freedom of the City of London on merit, due to several institutions in the City, including the BM and the V&A having collected my works. I had these early successes in my mother’s name, which I’m totally proud of. Most importantly it allows me to celebrate success in my own right, a very important fact. I love that my main influences were my mother and paternal grandmother and that they made all the choices for my schooling. It is the power of those early forbears, those strong women that define my life.

You have lectured at Central Saint Martins, Morley College, London’s Royal College of Art and Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Having attended the Royal College of Art as a student, does it feel strange to return to teach? What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I just love playing with ideas and materials and to participate in the excitement and joy of discovery, so the thing I like most about teaching is engaging with creative individuals and helping them realize their thoughts and ideas through materials. I am currently artist in residence at Harrow School (the famous public school on the Hill – aka Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School). The residency involves some teaching of the younger years and for the same reasons I love exploring ideas with them too, although I would never dream of teaching full-time.

You have a solo exhibition at the Gazelli Art House from 24 November 2017 – 6 January 2018. How long before an exhibition do you decide a theme? Do you exhibit new work specifically for each exhibition or a mixture of both?

The thing evolves really and always depends on where I am in my head ideas wise, what I am doing at the time, but most importantly is the fact that the theme is a developing thing and depends on what I have done immediately prior and what is coming up after. These things are all connected to each other and grow out of each other, kind of laterally. The exhibition at Gazelli in November follows on from a large body of work I made during my residency at Harrow School, so the Gazelli show will no doubt contain some of those works but will also contain the follow up works I make in the meantime, ie between now and November.

If you could visit any place in the world to get inspiration for an exhibition of sculptures, where would you go & why?

I don’t really go looking for inspiration as I find that inspiration is all around in the immediate events of a life and in the immediate field of vision ie in front of our noses. Having said that,  I travel a lot and am looking, for work purposes, to go soon to Rio in Brazil and Timisoara in Romania and also back to Istanbul.

I’m sure every artist has some form of art theme that they just cannot master as well as other themes – some avoid drawing people, others animals etc. What theme of sculpture do you find hardest to recreate?

I don’t really approach my work like that – it is not a question of avoidance but more a question of utilizing the skills one has mastered and of mastering new skills when needed – for example, if a project calls for a video, I have to invest in the kit and learn how to make and edit the video or to make it do what I want it to do. Or alternatively, I might have a go at something new and happen on an accident, which somehow says it all. This way of working can also help in the discovery of new ways of doing old things so as to find new ways of saying ‘said’ things.

Your work has been exhibited around the world – including the Victoria & Albert Museum, National Gallery archives in London, Brooklyn Museum in New York City, British Museum, to name just a few – have you got a favourite venue? Are there any venues/galleries that you haven’t exhibited in yet but are on your bucket list to do so?

This takes me back to my childhood dream, which was to exhibit at the Tate. I also think the National Portrait Gallery could show some of my earlier portrait sculptures. On my bucket list are the following, South London Gallery in Camberwell, Serpentine, Whitechapel, ICA and oh, so many!

When you are not sculpting, do you have any other hobbies?

No…., well reading perhaps if that can be considered a hobby, more a habit I think. Also walking, jogging and a bit of yoga.

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

When working I throw on any old comfortable thing and this usually consists of a tunic style dress – often my beloved jeans dress and loose fitting lycra sports slacks with flat shoes or boots. If not working I love feeling tall and I love platforms best. Otherwise I favour my nude colour, pointed mules with a small heel worn with a knee length skirt or dress – for smarter occasions.

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

A new wardrobe with loads of summer dresses and really dainty sandals. I think this is a reaction to the recent hot weather but also to the fact that I have been wearing my oldest and dirtiest clothes to make sculpture this last two years.

Boots or Shoes?

I prefer boots but they are so seasonal. Boots feel supportive, can be high and also comfortable and look best under trousers.

For Pinning Later

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 work.

My website

www.janemcadamfreud.com

One video I particularly like is called Memories and Reflections https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Adshlx2oJ8

And this Crane TV one

Also the recent video made in the Harrow School Studio

Great to chat to you Jane – it was fab to know that the female side of your family are just as artistic and were the major influence in your life.  I loved how you were saying that you used to mould objects  whilst in the sandpit as a child …it is amazing how an interest as a child can lead to a similar career choice as you grow older.  My middle son has always been adamant from the age of 6 that he was going to be an animator – he is now 19 and studying animation at university. Dear readers, have you pursued a career in adult life that stems, in a roundabout way,  from your early childhood habits/games? Did you used to have a “Girls World” model head and played with the hair to later become a hairdresser? Did you constantly make mud pies to later become a chef?  Do share your stories, I’d love to know….

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Jane McAdam Freud and Gazelli Art Gallery.  Photo Credits: Jane’s picture: Jens Marrot;  Artwork pictures: Ben Westaby.

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Crazy About Shirts

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

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

What is it about shirts that you really love?

They are airy and cool you down in summer.

Do you prefer long sleeves or short sleeves?

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

Do you have a favourite shirt?

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

From Next

Do you have a favourite colour? 

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

From Next

Who is your style icon?

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

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

My dad has a really cool butterfly shirt.

Dad’s butterfly shirt

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

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

Do you like wearing your school uniform?

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

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

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

For pinning later

What’s next on your clothes wishlist?

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

What would you like to do when you are older?

I would like to be an airline pilot.

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

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With Artist Niyaz Najafov

There is an art exhibition currently showing  until this coming Saturday at the Gazelli Art House  in London by a self-taught artist, Niyaz Najafov.  This is his 2nd exhibition with the Gazelli Art House, and his paintings are in a similar vein to the artist Francis Bacon, who was also self taught.  Drawn towards nature and human/e situations, Niyaz has certainly produced thought provoking work  – in Paris, where he now lives and works,  he started actively painting flowers on found paper and cardboard in 2016/2017 and stuck them on various street corners. He did it so that people walking past could absorb the work, remove from the walls and continue with their journey. To date over 1000 flowers have been painted and distributed.  I was lucky enough to interview Niyaz and ask him some questions about his life and work… Hello Niyaz …

Hello. I’m Niyaz Najafov, born 1968 in Baku, Azerbaijan. I went to school then I joined the Soviet army and worked in police departments. I experienced a darker path with drugs and imprisonment. I  was drawing all this time but mainly as a hobby – I came out of prison in 1998 and in spring 2003 I first started experimenting with canvas, which I still do today.

What inspired you to do the “Absorb, Adhere, Advance” exhibition in London?

I didn’t know this would happen so no particular inspiration but the title, I presume, was picked due to the style and the subject matter in the paintings and the selection that was made. Although this inspiration was on an unconscious level to me, I guess I still influenced the title.

Dog 2016 Oil on Canvas

Your flowers have adorned walls all over Paris. How many flowers were made? What was the reaction of the general public?

The “flowers” exist there alongside the surfaces of the streets/walls.This hasn’t been done all over Paris (yet) – I assume if I will be continuing to do this for another 3 years, it will end up ‘decorating’ the whole of Paris! Probably around 1700 flowers have been put out there so far. Social reaction varies – from tearing it down to having a positive engagement with them. A girl once walked passed flowers that were no longer there (they were torn down) and said that it was a shame they were no longer there (she said this to a shop assistant of a shop that was next door to one of the walls the works were on)…there are various responses – another one was when accidentally I was sticking another work on a wall of a police building and the police asked what I was doing, when I explained to them and immediately asked “…shall I take this down, it is probably illegal…”, they urged me to carry on!

You describe the selection of your colours as “social art”  rather than  “Street art”.  What are the differences?

There is no difference between the two. I deeply dislike intentional work – if I know I am doing something for a specific reason, it automatically loses any purpose or value to me. I work whether for the purpose of a selling exhibition , or to stick it on the walls of the streets, because I have to , because I want to.

Sex at Night 2016 Oil on Canvas

You were raised in Baku, Azerbaijan and trained as a soldier, as well as being a professional sportsman coaching hand-to-hand combat. Did you enjoy that career?

Azerbaijan is a very peaceful international place – even during the Soviet times, we were never paying attention to where people that lived there were from. I was born during the soviet times and yes, the army training set me up to protect rather than attack. I never had a profession out of the martial arts – karate, kyokoshin kai- I never made money out of it or intentionally. Life so happened that I trained.

What made you change your profession and become an artist?

I lost faith in me as someone who can combat – I couldn’t make a living out of it, despite having won 7 medals in competitions. I came back to Baku from Ukraine (where these competitions were held). The drugs interfered with the whole process , with that part of my life. You do not become an artist, you’re probably born one and then become that during your time here on Earth.

Present 2016 Oil on Canvas

If you could visit anywhere in the world to get inspired for the colours , where would you go?

Nowhere – anywhere in the world and any place in that location – be it a toilet cabin, or an airplane – Louvre or Hermitage – a woman, a fight, policemen, museums … anything around can be inspiring.

What subject matter is the most difficult for you to create?

The subject of money! This would be most difficult for me to create or recreate… this might be my next body of work – money from countries that do not exist. It is something I thought of on my way back to Paris from London this time round. I am already going towards that direction with a body of work produced as the ‘attack of the frame’ …

For pinning later

Niyaz’s artworks have been exhibited throughout Europe – London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow and Geneva.  He is currently exhibiting his work in London until Saturday 3rd June 2017 at  the Gazelli Art House, 39 Dover Street, London. W1S 4NN.

www.gazelliarthouse.com

Thank you for time chatting to me Niyaz and I am looking forward to seeing your next body of work.

Linda x

All photographs are copyright of the artist (Niyaz Najafor); courtesy of Gazelli Art House.

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An Interview With Coruu Silicone Jewellery

Finland bound this week – Coruu Silicone Jewellery is a Finnish women powered company whose exquisite jewellery pieces are designed by three talented Finland based designers: Satsuki Hata, Tessa Ojala and Sara Tuuli.  Coruu Design Finland is owned by Mrs. Sari Jokinen and Mrs. Maarit Fellman. Not having come across silicone jewellery before, I was intrigued to find out more …. so I put some questions to the owners & entrepreneurs Maarit and Sari.  Welcome ladies….

What was behind your choice to concentrate on silicone jewellery?

The story of Coruu goes back to 2014, we were long-time colleagues and decided that it was time to give entrepreneurship a go.Our focus was on training in marketing and ecommerce, but at the same time we decided to start an online store of our own.
Silicone jewellery came to mind. For a shop on the Internet, Coruu products are ideal, as they are easy and cheap to ship, including internationally. No massive amount of storage space is needed, either. We found three Finland-based designers, who were excited to jump at the new kind of opportunity. The selection has recently expanded with a range of Moomin characters. With the license to sell Moomin jewellery, now we are hoping to enter Asian markets and UK. Now Coruu has one full-time employee looking after the online store and a few part-time staff members.

Hypothetically speaking, what famous lady (dead or alive) would you love to see as the “Face” of Coruu Silicone Jewellery?

We would like to see Marilyn Monroe as the face of Coruu.

I love the “Flowery Necklace”in both black & white; and the “Studded Necklace” in white. To date, what has been your most popular jewellery item?

Our popular necklace is black Flowery and black Feather earrings.

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

Our favourite earrings are Feathers in all colours and Studded necklace.

Each piece is so lovely and unique – where do the designers (Satsuki Hata, Tessa Ocala and Sara Tuuli) get their inspiration from for their collections?

Our designers seek inspiration from the natural world and graphic patterns. Only the best and most showy design will be included in the Coruu selection – the genuine statement pieces!

Are you introducing any new items to add to your collection into for 2017?

All the time we are designing new items. At the next summer, we launch couple of new bracelets necklaces and earrings. For example, Aster bracelet and necklace.

As Coruu Silicone Jewellery is based in Finland, are your pieces available to purchase worldwide?

Our webshop is worldwide and we have free shipping to all countries.

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

Maarit like jeans and high heels. Sari like jeans also and colourful clothes but wear comfortable shoes.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Maarit like sailing so her favourite shop is www.pellepetterson.fi. Sari loves dogs her favourite shop is www.zooplus.fi.

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

Maarit is planning to buy new sailing coat from Pelle Petterson shop. Sari will buy a new shirt from Design by Pias.

Boots or Shoes? 

High Heels 

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

http://www.siliconejewelryshop.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CoruuSiliconeJewelry/
Instagram: @coruu_jewelry

Thank you for enlightening me about silicone jewellery – the pieces are certainly exquisite.  Dear readers,  I have used my native tongue spelling of “jewellery” throughout this post (I am a Brit after all!) but please note that the company links spell it the American English way.   So, dear readers, do you wear silicone jewellery? What type of jewellery do you like wearing? Do share your views, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photographs have been printed with kind permission of Coruu Design Finland.

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Going Teal

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the USA with its trademark teal ribbon worn by supporters.  My guest today, nurse and blogger Mandi, has gone that step further by dyeing her hair teal. Mandi shares with me today her reasons for making her teal blue hair change and why she wholeheartedly supports Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Welcome to the blog Mandi….

My name is Mandi and I am a mother of three wonderful kids, a pediatric nurse, writer and professional hugger. I also happen to be a survivor of rape that happened when I was seventeen.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the USA and the colour teal is the colour of sexual violence prevention. What made you decide to go a step further with the teal and dye your hair? (It looks great, btw)

I started the tradition of dyeing my hair teal for Sexual Assault Awareness Month last year. It is symbolic to me of the fact that sexual assault survivors, like myself, carry the impact of the assault with them everywhere that they go, much like we carry our hair with us always. Many times those who are not survivors seem to have the idea that after the initial hard times immediately following the assault have passed, that a survivor’s life goes back to normal. The truth is that sexual assault changes a person in very profound and personal ways and we are never, ever the same after. We carry the impact of the assault with us twenty-four hours per day for the rest of our lives, it changes us right down to our DNA.

Mandi at 17

The theme of the month this year is that “Prevention is possible” – promoting safe behaviour, thoughtful policies, healthy relationships. What steps do you feel somebody can take to prevent a person from being a victim of sexual assault?

This is a sticky question for me in many ways. After my assault, the questions that were asked to me by both professionals (nurses, police officers, etc) and by laypeople were directed at what I, the survivor, had done. What had I been wearing? Had I been drinking? I want to be very clear in the fact that there is nothing that a victim could have done to have made the rape or assault their fault. We live in a culture that places the burden of sexual assault on the victim and that needs to change. I think that we must continue talking about consent and rape culture in hopes of someday not having a society that seems very accepting of sexual assault in many ways. It isn’t the actions of potential victims that needs to change, it is the actions of the perpetrators that must change. This is why I made the very hard decision of coming out publicly as a survivor of rape last year when I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post entitled ‘A Thank You Letter to My Rapist’. It was honestly one of the hardest and most vulnerable action that I’ve ever taken. After that piece went live, I was shocked by the deluge of messages and e-mails from fellow survivors who wanted to thank me for writing it and wanted to tell me their own stories(many of them telling someone about their rape for the first time). There are so very many survivors in the world, many more than people realize. If we can have public conversations about rape and about how profoundly it impacts those who survive it,I believe that it creates tiny ripples of change and possibly prevents future assaults.

Being a nurse as well as a blogger, what reaction has your hair received being dyed teal? Has it led to some meaningful discussions?

I was actually quite nervous about dying my hair teal because I was worried that it would look unprofessional. I do work in a non-traditional nursing environment as I am a public health nurse who goes into the homes of low-income families to provide support and education so the reaction may be different for me now than it would have been when I worked in a hospital. The population that I work with is very accepting of those who may not subscribe to societal norms, so they have been very accepting and, in fact, one client who was unsure of accepting my services said that she allowed me into her home because of the teal hair which signaled to her that I might be someone that wouldn’t judge her for the ways that she didn’t fit in to society. I have not talked to my clients about why I dyed my hair teal as that would take the focus off of them and onto me and that would be inappropriate. However, in my personal life I have had many conversations with complete strangers so far this month and that has made it very worth the trouble. I also had a co-worker share that she also is a sexual assault survivor and I don’t think that we would have been able to have such an intimate conversation had my hair not triggered the discussion.

Sexual Assault is a public health issue as it ultimately affects women, men children, families and communities. What short term or long term consequences do victims of sexual assault tend to experience and the knock on effect to the people around them?

Before I answer this question I want to take a moment to address that many survivors loathe the term victim and don’t like to use it. I honor that stance and most often use the term survivor. However, I also embrace the term victim for the very reasoning that it was a violent act that changed my life forever. Each survivor will have their own unique experience in the aftermath of their assault. I often think of rape as the a ripple in a pond. That ripple in the water will continue to spread outward farther then we will ever know and impact the survivor and those around them for many years to come. In the immediate aftermath of my own rape the week of my seventeenth birthday, I experienced deep depression, PTSD (I still have mild PTSD symptoms today, 21 years later) and suicidality. I attempted to take my own life multiple times and the last attempt was nearly successful. I was in so much pain that I truly wanted to die. There is no way to describe in words how dramatically the assault impacted my life. The girl that I was before the rape and the girl that I was after were two completely different people.

Donald Trump himself during his election campaign was alleged to have sexually assaulted over 15 women – although he has denied the allegations. Do you think his appointment to presidency and the allegations against him has helped or hindered the work of the Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaigners and supporters?

This is such a tough question. I think that it has both helped and hindered the work of changing rape culture. On one hand, I’ve seen public conversations about sexual assault on a level that I’ve never before seen in my life. On the other hand, I do think that there are some that will have heard the audio tapes of our now president bragging about sexually assaulting women and still being voted in as president and will believe that it must be okay if so many believe that a man, who in his own words bragged about grabbing women’s genitals without consent, can be our nation’s leader. It is a very confusing time to be a survivor. I had very close family members that defended Donald Trump’s words about sexual assault in social media posts that showed up in my feed. It was sickening to realize that they posted those knowing that survivors would see these posts and it would hurt them. Rape culture in many ways is so ingrained that I fear it will be hard to turn the tide and change the way that people think about sexual assault. This election and it’s aftermath has distanced me from family members and friends who I never before would have realized had such ugly beliefs about sexual assault and humanity in general. I have to believe that the ugliness that is being brought forward now is being brought to the surface so that it can be healed. We can not heal, as a nation and as a world, what we do not recognize exists. We are now seeing,in a very public way, just how deep sexual assault stigma and rape culture is. It is now our job to counter that darkness with light and awareness.

Although your hair has been dyed teal for this April campaign, will you keep the colour beyond April? Have you any other hair colour preferences?

The reason for placing the teal in my hair was not for beauty but I’ve found that I absolutely love it. It brings out the blue in my eyes! I am an introvert that doesn’t generally like to call attention to myself, so I doubt that I will keep it but haven’t yet decided. I’m the type of gal that trusts her stylist(Lisa Klein of Hair House in Pleasant Hill, Iowa) so much that I always just plop myself into her chair and tell her to do what she likes, so we shall see what the next color is!

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

Do scrubs count? Ha! Sometimes on non-work days I think about wearing my nurse scrubs simply so that I don’t have to think about what to wear! I love shirts with inspirational messages and funky, retro headbands and sunglasses but otherwise don’t have too many fashion preferences. I’m an easygoing kind of girl!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love sites that give to charities when you buy from them. Some of my favorites include Headbands of Hope, Sevenly, Toms and Krochet Kids International.

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

A bathing suit for summer that I won’t be embarrassed to wear in public. I think buying a swimsuit each year is my most challenging fashion purchase each year!

Boots or Shoes?

I pretty much live in either my nursing clogs or flip-flops. This may be the worst answer to this question that you’ve ever had! I call shoes “foot prisons” and would actually live in my bare feet if it were socially acceptable.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about your blog & Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

I hope that anyone reading this who may be a survivor that is struggling will head over to RAINN to learn more and seek out help, if needed. I want to tell you that you may be suffering now, but there is hope on the other side of this pain. Never stop seeking out the help that you need. You are needed in the world. So much love to all of those in the world who are struggling through this right now.

Here is a link to the article in the Huffington Post that I referenced earlier. Don’t let the title scare you- it isn’t really a thank you letter to my rapist, it’s a thank you letter to myself for the finding the strength to survive. In the immediate days after assault it can feel as though the pain will never end. If you are in the midst of the excruciation aftermath of assault, please know that it does get so much better.

Here is my humble blog(http://thezenrn.blogspot.com/). I love to connect with others that may be survivors or are doing work for prevention and awareness of sexual assault. My readers remind me that the world can be a beautiful place, even though terrible things happen to many of us daily. I’m also very active on my facebook page and, as an introvert, love to connect with others while sitting on my own couch(https://www.facebook.com/thezenrnblog/)!

Thank you Mandi for giving us an account of your experiences and for showing how people can get behind the sexual assault awareness campaign to make a big difference.  Dear readers, have you ever done anything to highlight a campaign you believe in so deeply? Have you dyed your hair like Mandi or sky jumped for charity?  Do share your stories, I’ll love to know…..

Linda x

Photos of Mandi have been published with permission of Mandi Redhead.

The Pinterest photo was taken by Linda Hobden and is an exhibit from the Musee de l’insolite, in Sauliac-sur-Cele in France.

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An Interview With Living Streets

May is National Walking Month in the UK and there couldn’t be a better time to keep fit than to enjoy walking and doing those 10,000 steps in the Spring sunshine, with our fitbits synchronised.  In fact, the Fitbit has become so popular over the last year or so and closing those “circles” or getting the 10,000 steps fireworks  a day can become rather addictive.  And what a good addiction to have!  Living Streets is a UK charity championing everyday walking and I was lucky enough to interview Tanya Braun from the charity about walking …. welcome Tanya!

Hi! I’m Tanya Braun and I’m the media and communications manager at Living Streets which means I’m in charge of promoting walking, why it’s great and how we can help people do more of it!

Living Streets is a UK charity championing everyday walking. When was the charity founded? What are the aims of the charity?

We were first set up back in 1929 when we were known as the Pedestrians’ Association. In the early days our campaigning led to the UK’s first zebra crossing and the introduction of speed limits. Today we face new challenges, but our work is as important as ever.We want to create a walking nation, free from congested roads and pollution, reducing the risk of preventable illness and social isolation and making walking the natural choice. We believe that a walking nation means progress for everyone. Our ambition is to get people of all generations to enjoy the benefits that this simple act brings and to ensure all our streets are fit for walking.

May is National Walking Month and Living Streets are urging the public to “Try20” – encouraging people to walk 20 minutes every day throughout May & to observe the big differences small steps can make. What are the those differences?

Physical activity is important to stay healthy, and walking is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get active, it’s also really easy to fit into our everyday lives – walking to the shops, skipping a stop on public transport or taking a lunchtime walk. Walking helps to prevent weight gain; chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer; and has been shown to reduce depression. Plus with more people walking their short everyday journeys, there are fewer cars on our roads which reduces congestion and harmful levels of air pollution. We first ran Try20 for National Walking Month in 2016, over 7000 people pledged to take part and we had stories back of people feeling fitter, losing weight, saving money and seeing more people – lots of big differences from small steps!

There is walking and walking! Solid quick walking obviously would increase fitness but what benefits would walking on the school run reap?

The Chief Medical Officer recommends that adults are active for 150 minutes per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more, to stay healthy. Many people don’t realise that walking counts and so choosing to walk some – or all – of the way to school is an easy way to get these minutes adding up. It doesn’t have to be a race; to make the most of the health benefits of walking, we should be walking at a speed at which our breathing rate and heartbeat increases but we can still carry on a conversation – perfect walk to school pace.

For 2017 Living Streets have commissioned an extensive survey to find the best cities for walking judged on a range of criteria, including safety, air pollution and street clutter. Has a winner been announced yet? If not, who is in the running?

In the running are the top 10 largest UK cities by population: Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, London, Liverpool and Sheffield. We’ll be announcing the winner in May so watch this space!

When I was in Rome I walked everywhere in the city centre – it is a compact city. For UK, I was quite impressed with Bath – I walked everywhere there too, mainly because the traffic jams were horrendous and it was quicker to walk to my destination than take the bus! Which cities inside & outside of the UK do you think are pretty walkable?

I always like an excuse to take a trip to our Edinburgh office because it’s so easy to get around there on foot and the views are amazing when you do. The public transport links are great and they’ve recently introduced 20mph limits in built up areas so it all feels a lot safer – hiring a car when I’m up there never has to cross my mind! Melbourne in Australia has been classed as one of the world’s most liveable cities. They’ve had a ‘Local Connectivity Plan’ since 2014 which aims to build a network of neighbourhoods with access to social, leisure and retail facilities within a 20 minute walk of people’s home. I’ve not been myself but my colleague has and she loved how easy it was to get around on foot and how accessible everything was. I was lucky enough to hear Janette Sadik-Khan speak recently, she was New York City’s transportation commissioner and oversaw some historic changes to the city’s streets to make them more people-friendly, including closing Broadway to cars in Times Square. There’s lots of great stuff going on around the world which we can learn from to help us put people before vehicles in our cities.

Although the whole of May is dedicated to walking, which key events will be held to help fundraise for future walking projects etc?

Tuesday 16th May is Happy Shoesday! On the Tuesday of Walk to School Week in May each year, primary school pupils, parents and teachers across the country raise money for our walking projects, by wearing their happy shoes and donating £1. Shiny, decorated, colourful, cartoon, gorilla feet – whatever brings that smile on their walk to school. We’re more than happy for anyone to take part and join in on social media #HappyShoesday – I’ll certainly be wearing my Happy Shoes to work! You can find out how to join the fun on our website: https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/happyshoesday

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing when off for your 20 minute walk?

Lots of people say they can be put off walking by the weather but I always say, it’s not about the weather; it’s about what you wear! So, if rain is forecast I make sure I’m prepared and it’ll usually be a pair of boots – a simple pair of black leather boots, normally.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

For the High Street, I love Zara – and I’m a bit of an asos-fiend. The great thing about being based in East London is that on my way to the station, I pass a range of independent shops where I can always pick up something a bit different.

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

Jimmy Choos – if/when I become a millionaire! Until then, the nicer weather is as much of an excuse as I need to pick up a few new bits when I get inspired. I’ve got a couple of friends’ weddings coming up so I’m on the look-out for some nice dresses.

Boots or Shoes?

I definitely own more boots so it’ll have to be boots.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Living Streets & National Walking Month.

www.livingstreets.org.uk/nationalwalkingmonth
Follow us on Twitter @livingstreets or join in the conversation with #Try20

Thanks Tanya for the great tips to get everybody motivated and walking, wherever you are in the world!  I do love walking around the seawall that surrounds my village although it is a walk I don’t really do often enough – my husband puts me to shame as he does the 5+ mile walk on a daily basis! Dear readers, do you love walking? Have you got any favourite walking spots? Do share your views, I’d love to know.

Linda x

All main photos are published with kind permission from Living Streets. The Fitbit pin picture was taken by myself.

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