Category Archives: Life Issues/ Motivational Posts

5 Ways To Be A Sustainable Fashion Consumer

I know it isn’t New Year, the traditional time to make resolutions, but sometimes resolutions need to be made straightaway and now is as good a time as any! I’m talking about a resolution to help make fashion sustainable. When you go shopping, do you enjoy seeing an array of clothing collections and do you like it when the range for sale changes regularly? I admit, I have done in the past – especially when I was a teenager in the 1980s, shopping for new, cheap outfits every weekend and rarely wearing the same outfit twice. It came as no surprise to me that the concept of “Fast Fashion” was conceived in the 1980s – regular new collections at often cheap prices and not so great workmanship to meet the demands of the consumer. The concept sounded fantastic at the time, but nowadays the latest data has shown that an estimated £140 million pounds worth of wearable but discarded clothing goes into landfill each year! That is mind -boggling! Making fashion sustainable is crucial – to save the planet and to save the clothing industry too. As a consumer, buying habits and clothing attitudes need to change also. Not as daunting as it sounds though – here’s my 5 easy ways to become a sustainable fashion consumer:

BUY CLOTHES MADE OF NATURAL MATERIALS

Become a material snob! I was shocked to discover that 63% of clothing is now made from plastic derived manmade materials, such as polyester and acrylic. Every time you wash an item made from plastic, invisible microplastic fibres are released, it has been estimated that over 700,000 microplastic fibres are released in a typical 6kg wash – water that will eventually make its way into the oceans. Choosing natural materials – such as wool, sheepskin, cotton and linen – is the way to go because the materials last longer and they do not pollute the environment due to the fact that natural materials decompose safely. Further reading on sustainable fashion choices: http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/an-interview-with-made-with-respect/

A dress made from natural cork spotted in a boutique in Funchal, Madeira. Photo credit: Linda Hobden

BUY GARMENTS THAT ARE DESIGNED TO LAST

It is a sure thing that if you pay peanuts for an item, then possibly it will be poorly made and doesn’t last long. Price doesn’t always mean that an item is shoddy, but you can feel how well an item has been made and often it is worth paying slightly more for an item that has been well made and has been designed to last more than one wearing. Buying brand new isn’t the only way – well designed and well made garments are in abundance at “preloved” boutiques too – timeless classic designs that can bring joy to more than one owner – and are an affordable way to add some variety into your wardrobe. Further reading on garments designed to last: http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/an-interview-with-coral-turner-couture/

Me, wearing my favourite Jasmine Guinness designer dress that I bought a few years back and still is a wardrobe staple of mine!

LOOK AFTER THE CLOTHES YOU ALREADY HAVE

Basically, follow the instructions on the label on how to wash, dry and store your clothes! I learnt the hard way after shrinking t shirts in a tumble dryer (label said to line dry); misshaped a cardigan after putting it in a hot wash instead of the 30° wash as directed; hung up a wool jumper in my wardrobe and ended up with two permanent lumps on the shoulders (always fold knitwear); and I’ve used a hot iron on a dress with light voile sleeves … and yes, the sleeves came away from the dress and stuck to the iron, which ruined both the iron and dress and upset me no end as the dress was one of my favourites! I do try to stick to machine washable items, but my Jasmine Guinness dress, shown above, is dry clean only and I do adhere to that guideline and the dress has lasted for years. Lastly, if your wool jumper starts to go bobbly (pilling), it is not due to inferior quality as popular belief often states, but quite simply the natural reaction to material rubbing together, which is why the pilling often occurs under the arms. Regular de-pilling using a comb or an electric de-will help keep the bobbling under control. Further reading on clothing storage solutions: http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/an-interview-with-vault-couture/

RENT CLOTHING FOR SPECIAL EVENTS

Years ago, I was invited to a really posh evening function at the Dorchester Hotel in London, and I went into a mini-flap! Despite having a pretty substantial wardrobe, I really didn’t have anything suitable to wear nor did I have the financial means to buy a dress that I had envisaged wearing, nor could I really justify spending £1000 on a dress that I would realistically ever only wear for a few hours. I discovered a local dress agency where I could hire a luxurious designer dress for the weekend – it was the perfect solution – the rental charge was the amount I would have realistically spent on a dress normally, it gave me a chance to feel like a million dollars in my dream dress, and I didn’t have to worry about it languishing at the back of my wardrobe after the event. Renting outfits for special events – weddings, proms, social events, weekend parties – is such a great idea. Further reading about a dress agency: http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/an-interview-with-dress-code-nine/

A dress from Dress Code Nine. Photo credit: Dress Code Nine

SHOP YOUR WARDROBE

When I was preparing to move house, one of my most dreaded “jobs” to do beforehand was to declutter and downsize my wardrobe. The job wasn’t as daunting as I had thought – in fact it was very therapeutic and eye-opening! There were some outfits that I had literally forgot that I had and some outfits I was able to bring up-to-date with some well chosen accessories. Your wardrobe can be a revelation – have another look! If you are good at needlework, you could revamp your jeans, skirts, tops, shorts and dresses with beading, lacing … I found a stall at my local Steampunk fair that had made skirts out of jeans, shorts out of jeans and handbags out of jeans! Also, a company like Wingz sells “sleeves” so you could easily adapt those vest tops and sleeveless dresses. Further reading about Wingz: http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/an-interview-with-wingz/

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I hope that the 5 tips have helped in your aim of being a more sustainable fashion consumer. For more details on Fast Fashion and its cost to our planet, check out the excellent article by Celtic & Co. The facts and figures are mind blowing… https://www.celticandco.com/celtic/fast-fashion/

Linda x

Post copyright © LindaHobden.

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An Interview With Jay Mullings

Gracing my blog this week is award winning writer/director Jay Mullings. This man is certainly a busy bee – he is the author of The Thought Book series; founder & owner of Written Mirror Ltd – a bespoke content creation business; a fellow blogger; he writes poetry & music; and he has launched his debut feature film, The Jam. Is there simply no end to his awesome talent? Let’s find out… Hi Jay & welcome!

Hi! I’m Jay Mullings, London born Jamaican bred multiple international award winning Writer/Director. On top of that I am an author namely: The Thought Book & The Thought Book 2 and I also founded Written Mirror Ltd which is a content creation company + media publisher.

What was the inspiration behind launching Written Mirror Ltd?

Having something to call my own. A space where no one could tell me what to do and I would be allowed to fully realise my creative potential. In short it was to be a space where I could practice what I preach: Truthful Fearless Creativity…

Have you always enjoyed writing/ being a storyteller as a child? When did you discover you have a talent for writing?

I knew I had a way with words, language and logic from an early age. I could hold my own with adults in a debate, trip up teachers if they were trying to hide that they didn’t know something and I could even prove my innocence if wrongfully accused of things at home/school etc. I knew I was made to tell stories from early. My teachers would often share some of my stories which were either rib tickling comedy or pushing the envelope in terms of what a youngster should be writing about in school. I read a lot as a child and even then I fancied myself to be able to do the same if given half a chance.

Your “The Thought Book” series is a unique self help title. The series encourages the reader to adopt the mindset necessary for realising their goals. Why did you choose to write a self-help series? Was it an easy road to write and publish your books or was it harder than you thought?

Yes… The Thought Book Series, have you read the books? What did you think? I like to think of the books as unhindered self development books. I took out my ego, my bravado or whatever which way you’d like to sum it up and allowed the reader to place themselves in the book. I don’t think too many improvement books allow that to happen. I chose this style to help people in the most uncomplicated manner possible. Anyone who follows my doings knows that the message in both books is exactly what I use to armour myself against doubt, small mindedness and fear… 
It wasn’t hard at all. The books were a piece of cake; it was all the red tape and pirates looking to feast on your flesh that got draining. People have tried to steal my book from under me, overcharge me only to deliver inferior results and worst of all they have tried to pass the buck whenever they could not manipulate me. The books were the best part of it but the processes of working with greedy and unscrupulous people was not rewarding at all…

What genre of books do you tend to read?

I read when I have time to. Sometimes there is a lot of reading taking place and others little to none. That is the life of a content creator unfortunately. When I do read I like books that are very well written; by that I mean I don’t like wasted pages, filler or having to feel anger at just how large the holes in terms of logic are. The main reason for that is whatever, I start reading no matter how bad I have to finish it. I only try to read books that reward my work rate. Any genre any style would interest me so long as it is written well…

Have you always wanted to be a writer/director or did you have any other career in mind?

Centre forward for the mighty Arsenal! I wanted to replace Ian Wright…

Oh Jay, things were going so well !! I’m a Spurs supporter, your rival football fan! 😂… Let’s talk music instead! What were your musical influences growing up?

I was lucky to be born in the sweet spot for music. I had the best of the old and newer school growing up. My music knowledge often surprises people as it is very eclectic. We’re talking Fleetwood Mac to Bob Marley, Bowie to Gladys Knight and so on and so forth. You name it if it sounds good or has complexity to it I’m involved!

Writing poetry or writing songs? Do you have a preference?

Poetry can feed into songs so poetry! 

What genre of music do you personally listen to? What was the last concert you attended?

Dancehall/Reggae/Hip Hop/RnB/Classical and Soundtracks. The last concert I went to was in Brixton I saw Common’s band.

Imagine you are driving – what song would be top of your list to croon to whilst playing car karaoke?

Some Bob Marley or Missy Elliott to be honest!

Let’s talk about your debut feature film, The JAM (2019), that has already received 9 official selections since hitting the film festival circuit in April. How exciting! Can you give my readers a little summary of what The JAM is all about? 

The JAM is a feature length documentary that is centred on my life, my creative process, my family and friends’ reaction to my career choice as well as their hopes for my future. It’s the story that my community needs but not the one it has necessarily known it wanted. I wrote, edited and shot it myself. Oh yeah I wrote and recorded the Soundtrack too as Wicked Penman…

Congratulations on your latest award from the East Europe International Film Festival. Does that indicate that in 2020 you have other film plans or will you be concentrating on writing books or your music or will you be juggling all avenues? 😜

I can’t say too much but yes of course more content, more energy and more life.

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

I’m a practical dresser. I like being able to move and feel free. So I normally dress tactical. Joggers/Shorts Tees/Hoodies. Usually Written Mirror specials.

Do you have any favourite websites? (Apart from your own!)

Youtube! No doubt! So much helpful and funny content.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots! They’re made for walking! Seriously though I like Chelsea Boots they’re formidable and functional but very stylish simultaneously.

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

www.writtenmirror.com/blog

www.youtube.com/writtenmirror

www.twitter.com/writtenmirror

www.instagram.com/writtenmirror

https://open.spotify.com/artist/4dacYcT36TnsY1CbcPkmTY?si=_E2b2b5fQb6u-YjAY-HcZg

It has been great chatting to you,

Jay – I’m glad I’m not the only one who has to read a book, once started until the very end, regardless of how bad it is! Well, I did break that rule once when I read a book about the solo travels of a guy who trekked the Himalayas …. Anyhow, I’m looking forward to seeing The Jam and I wish you every success in all your ventures.

Linda x

All photographs are published with kind permission of Jay Mullings.

Article copyright © LindaHobden.

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Agnes In Bloom

“Agnes In Bloom – A Memoir” is a very touching memoir of a gutsy lady, Agnes, and her life in Birmingham at the latter end of the Second World War and beyond. Lovingly written by her daughter, Karen, this memoir is extremely frank, and has rollercoaster moments where you could almost feel yourself in Agnes’s shoes….BUT not quite, as Agnes and her mother Rose, both had guts, inner strength and are both totally inspirational.

MY REVIEW

The story begins when Agnes is evacuated to the countryside and discovers her love of being on a farm and being embraced into the family of Mr & Mrs Johnson and their daughter Lily. Unfortunately, her sister Margie was evacuated elsewhere and her experience was the complete opposite -an experience which only came to light years later. Returning back home from the farm, as a young teenager, finding her feet in life with her more worldly wise friend as company, Agnes goes to a party where things didn’t go so well. Finding herself pregnant, Agnes gets her dream job as an usherette … until her pregnancy started to show. Agnes harboured a dream of meeting her own Mr Right … her own Mr Johnson…. and that’s when her dream man materialised in the form of Bob. Agnes and Bob were happy together, despite working hours to make ends meet, and each babe born was loved and welcomed. Agnes became closer, I feel, to her mother, Rose, who was supportive as the family grew. Tragedy strikes though … Agnes strives to help her sister Margie after her marriage collapse and breakdown; Agnes finds out love secrets between her mother and her real father; husband Bob takes on extra work to carry on providing for his large family but alas becomes ill and is taken to hospital for a routine operation; her mother Rose is discovered to have cancer and is in hospital at the same time as Bob; being pregnant with her 7th child, Agnes has to face life as a young single mum as Bob unexpectedly dies before being operated on; Agnes, in her grief, becomes anorexic …. but this is an inspirational story, about overcoming adversity and death. The story does have a happier ending…. the main thing is that 7th baby was Karen , the author. Delightfully written memoir, well recommended.

So, after reading the memoir, I couldn’t wait to chat to Karen, daughter of Agnes and author of Agnes In Bloom. Hi Karen!

Hi ! I’m Karen. I was born into the inner-city slums of Birmingham. The seventh child of a humble and loving family. I’m a mother of two amazing young women. Both work in the fashion industry. I have been an entrepreneur since the age of twenty-three when I established my own company. I’ve since lived and worked in Dubai, San Diego, Bali, Koh Samui and currently I reside in Marbella. I love to travel and live in sunny climates. I have travelled and sailed the world, writing my memoirs.

Your mother’s story is truly inspirational – an amazing woman indeed – but what made you decide to write “Agnes In Bloom” in the first place?

After years of listening to my mother’s life and how she triumphed over adversity. I decided to write it, initially as a family legacy,  but I soon discovered that it’s an amazing inspirational story and others would enjoy it too. I asked 65 ladies from random groups to read my draft manuscript and offer their feedback. They all loved it and agreed with me that I should offer it to the world. 

I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. I liked how you wrote the book – I smiled at the part where Agnes was evacuated to a farm, and how much she loved the countryside; I was angry inside at the different experience her sister Margie had had; I cried when Agnes was raped at 17 , but was full of love and admiration for your father who accepted your mum and your eldest brother, and his overall love for all his family; my heart ached when Rose was ill, when Margie was unwell and when your father died whilst your mother was pregnant with you; I admired your mother’s coping mechanism and ability to learn to focus again when life dealt her a cruel blow;  I was in awe that despite everything, your steadfastness Karen, in hanging on and being born; I smiled when she was able to find happiness again.  Oh, and what fab siblings you have! The book is packed with plenty of antidotes that must have accumulated over the years – how long did the book take you to write? 

It took me 12 years to write it. I was running my recruiting business and travelling and sailing the world writing it. Writing for me is very therapeutic. A great relief from business. The main reason is that it’s a very emotional story for my mother. She sat with me to go over each event. It often made her tearful, which in turn made me cry too. 
 Once I had the story structure in place. I began to learn how to set scenes and write in omniscient and add dialogue. I wanted my mother’s story to be a perfect enjoyable, easy read. So that women of this era and their struggles are never forgotten. 

What was, for you, the hardest part(s) to write about in the memoir? 

As I’m writing this I’m in tears again. Just remembering those difficult parts. The chapter where my father dies is unbearable for me to think about and more so to write it in exact detail. The struggle that my auntie had was almost not added in the story, as my sisters didn’t want it in there. They were embarrassed by it. However, I think it’s extremely important that the abuse that Margie suffered, should be told. Especially because this horror, eventually gave her a nervous breakdown. We are all more aware of child abuse in society today. It should not be pushed under the carpet. It added so much more tragedy to my mother and grandmother. It’s part of their lives and I wanted my Auntie Margie to be remembered for her triumph over adversity too. My grandmother Rose had a hard life herself. How she coped with her own child abuse was incredible. It was as if no one cared about abuse back then and many children just got on with life, not realising that they are very effected by it. 
My grandmother was like a rock for my mother and her daughter Margie, through all their life’s tragedies. She also triumphed over adversity. 

Have you always enjoyed writing? Are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet?

Yes I absolutely love writing stories. I’ve learned so much more by self publishing this first book. I have previously attended a creative writing course and joined various authors groups to keep learning updates on the benefits of self publishing. I would like to write more about female heroism. More current to our times. Before this book, I have written and published travel articles and training manuals for my recruiting business. I always received top marks at school in Literature. My teacher was very inspiring and told me to pursue a writing career, but back then it wasn’t possible for me to experiment with my career. I needed to earn a lot of money to buy my mom a house and pay her bills for the rest of her life and bring her out of poverty for good. I’m proud that I have accomplished this goal. 
I guess I wasn’t very confident as a teenager to become an author.

Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

Definitely, I am currently writing my own memoir to highlight the extreme differences between one generation of working class women. It’s a comedy. 

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I am a book worm yes. I have a kindle because I travel a lot and can’t take my books everywhere with me. I do like the feel of a good book though. I’ve been reading biographies of famous people for years. Now I like to read stories about ordinary women who triumphed over adversity. I love true crime related stories too. I’m a glutton for a memoir and biographies as I like that they’re real stories. Gets me hooked. 

Is “Agnes In Bloom” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes my debut memoir is available to purchase globally from Amazon. I have entered their story teller UK 2019 competition. This means I cannot go wide on all platforms until the competition ends in October. I plan to go open on all of them afterwards. 


Having 7 siblings, what do you or did you like most about being part of a large family? 

Being part of a large family is priceless. As I’m the 7th child I have been given access to various musical genres and books. Not to mention the continuous support, love, affection and inspiration from my singings. I can’t imagine not having my large wonderful family. Now at 79 and more to be born. 

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

As I have lived in the sun for the last 12 years. I like to wear vests and shorts. Summer dresses and loose clothes. I wear a lot of bikinis. I love Autumn fashion but only buy a few outfits for when I go home to England.I love to wear heels 👠 when I have business meetings and always wear smart suits. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online stores?

I have worn a lot of designer clothes in the past and still have some designer items. Prada and Gucci. Some French fashion that no longer exists. But now I only buy clothes from high street stores like Zara and Mango and Top shop. I have purchased clothes online from ASOS UK. Bikinis from Bravisimo and a clothing line in Dubai. 

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

I don’t have a wish list as I buy when I need new. I have become aware of throw away fashion and the awful foot print that clothing leaves on our planet. I find that I can make do with clothes for longer now. 

Boots or Shoes? 

Shoes and sandals I have to wear in the heat, but I love boots for winter back home. I’ve always loved wearing boots. They are extremely attractive and comfortable. 

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

My Amazon link 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07SZ3K9BM
My Facebook page 
https://www.facebook.com/karenbradyauthor/

Thank you so much for chatting with me about your book, Karen. My own father was the youngest of 10 and as a young child he wasn’t evacuated – he stayed in the Leyton area of East London (born in West Ham/Stratford area as my grandparents, myself and my sister (in Leyton)). My mother on the otherhand, was born just outside Cirencester in Gloucestershire in a farmhouse, because my grandmother was pregnant with my mum and she was evacuated along with my mum’s older brothers. They stayed together and returned to London when my mum was a toddler. It is great that these memoirs exist – I wish I had asked my dad’s mum a lot more questions about life at the beginning of the 20th century but she was very Victorian in her ways (she was born in 1895) and as a young girl I was slightly scared of her! She died just before my 16th birthday.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Karen Brady

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Revisiting Liat Hughes Joshi

Back in February 2015 I interviewed on my blog author Liat Hughes Joshi (read the original interview HERE). Since then, I have spotted Liat on TV ; she has written a couple more parenting books and her child has become a teenager! It seems a great time, therefore, to have a catch up!

Welcome back onto the blog, Liat! Could you please reintroduce yourself !

Hi! I’m Liat Hughes Joshi, a parenting author, journalist and broadcaster. Also a mum. I’ve written five parenting books and have just signed up for a sixth.  I live in London but grew up by the seaside in a place called Lytham St.Annes in Lancashire. Most people who have heard of it have an elderly relative who lives/ lived there because it has traditionally been a retirement town but it’s really changing and if you’re in the area, it’s worth a visit for the independent shops and restaurants in Lytham centre in particular.    

What truly inspired you to become a writer/ journalist in the first place? 

I did always love writing and it was something I wanted to do as a child but there were other ideas too. I wanted to be an interior designer at one stage and a lawyer at another. I’m also very interested in business so spent nine years as a management consultant before finally giving in to the urge to write in 2002.I do sometimes make forays back into the corporate world, giving talks on parenting and family life for companies and working with brands on their campaigns.

Since we last spoke way back in February 2015, you have since published 2 more books “How To Unplug Your Child” (May 2015) & “5-Minute Parenting Fixes” (February 2018).Was your book “5 Minute Parenting Fixes” inspired by your own parenting journey?

Yes and no. I’ve been writing about parenting for 14 years and it does come from a lot more than my own experiences as a mum. The idea for 5-Minute Parenting Fixes came because I realised there was SO much information on parenting out there now and it’s easy to get bogged down after a simple search on the internet with overload and confusion. At the same time we all seem to have busier lives than ever. Or it feels that way anyway. So I thought mums and dads might welcome a single, reliable and sensible source of information, and something that can be read very quickly – picked up for five minutes to check out solutions to a specific problem. Just as the book’s title suggests! It covers all sorts of common problems for parents of 5 to 16 year-olds, from dealing with bullying to getting them off screens more, or doing their homework or chores with less fuss.

Apart from your writing, you have appeared on TV daytime [and news] show debates on various parenting issues. Do you get nervous appearing on TV? Any memorable or embarrassing TV moments?

I have no idea why but I really don’t feel nervous at all with TV interviews. I just go in and chat  and debate with the people who are there and don’t think about or worry about the audience watching on TV at home. Pretty much all the presenters and newsreaders do a great job of making guests feel at ease though. There has been one TV project recently that pushed me out of my comfort zone…but I’m not allowed to talk about it until it airs which won’t be for a couple of months (sorry!). It involves comedy but luckily I wasn’t expected to be funny, or else people would want their money back. And they weren’t even paying. Most memorable…probably that one and when I had a spat with Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain.

Although non -fiction/parenting advice books are your writing genre, are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet? 

I’d actually love to write a sitcom but see above I’m not sure I am funny enough. Perhaps more realistically, I’m keen to explore ideas for radio. I absolutely adore Radio 4 and it’d be a dream to write and present documentaries on there.

Are there any new books or writing plans in the pipeline?

Yes! I am just sorting out the contract for a sixth parenting book. This will be my fourth with Summersdale. They are fantastic to work with and it’ll be interesting to see how much is different or the same now that they are part of Octopus, which is in turn part of Hachette.

What book are you currently reading?  What book is on your kindle wishlist?

I’m reading Nutshell by Ian McEwan, one of my favourite authors. It’s narrated by an foetus and quite unusual but entertaining and clever. I have given up on Kindles and reverted to reading print books so I haven’t got a wish list. I wrote a feature about switching back to analogue in various aspects of our lives [https://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/life/happened-gave-tech-went-analogue-month/] and definitely find material I read in print sinks in better.

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Are your books available to purchase worldwide?

YES! Both the original UK published editions are sold via international bookshops online but also in various local versions and translations. Off the top of my head there have been editions of one or other of my books published in the US, Vietnam, Romania, Italy, India, Portugal and Slovakia, with Saudi Arabia and Germany coming soon.

Family holidays – which place is a particular favourite family holiday location?

In the UK, my heart belongs to the Lake District. I had so many childhood trips there, both with family and my school (which had an outward bound centre near Ullswater). Luckily my teenage son and I share similar ideas, at the moment at least, about what we like to do on a holiday. It would involve days spent hiking, with perhaps a run or a bit of kayaking, then a lovely, hearty dinner in a gastropub. Repeat for a few days!

What other projects do you have in the pipeline?

I’ve recently agreed to join the charity Kidscape as an Ambassador and I’m really excited about being involved with them. I was bullied as a child and it sounds like a cliché but it’s a subject close to my heart.  

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

I’ve turned into something of a ‘uniform dresser’ in the last couple of years. I almost always wear blue, especially navy. If you were to open my wardrobe, you would not find an array of colours and tons of pattern in there that’s for sure.  It means everything goes with everything and I can throw set combinations on without thinking too much. That’s not to say I don’t care about how I look. I absolutely do! It’s always a treat if there’s ‘hair and make up’ on offer at the studios before TV interviews. My default outfit most days certainly involves skinny dark denim jeans (Levis Mile High Super-skinnies are top of my list currently). Fashionable or not, I’m too short to carry off those wider leg trousers everyone is wearing at the moment. I have noticed far fewer women in London seem to wear heels nowadays but I’m really quite short (5ft1) so do like a bit of a height boost, either via my flatform white Superga, some long boots, or espadrille wedges. When I do TV interviews, I have a favourite Reiss TV jacket. I’ve tried to diversify and find others that I like as much but it is just so perfect. It’s fitted, single-breasted and so flattering. And it’s navy (obviously).

Liat’s adorable dog!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

As I’m short, I do struggle with finding things that fit. The majority of clothing ‘drowns’ me. Wandering round most clothing shops on a high street is a waste of time for me, as I’d simply end up frustrated in the changing rooms. Reiss and Boden are favourites because they do size 6 and the latter has a petite range that I’ve got a fair few things from.

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

I’ve got really quite minimalist so actually…I can’t think of anything! I often reorder the same favourites, such as the Levi’s skinny jeans, Jigsaw’s t-shirts and a fresh pair of white Superga trainers now and again. 

Boots or Shoes?

Boots…for daily walks with my dog and hiking! 

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

My website is liathughesjoshi.co.uk and I’m on Twitter and Instagram at @liathughesjoshi. My books are available on Amazon.  

It was great to catch up with you Liat! I’m loving the fact that you champion the colour navy – I wear black for work as part of my “uniform”, so navy is always the colour of choice for me when I want the smart and classic look. That goes for shoes too – I love my navy slingback kitten heels! 🙂

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of it Hughes Joshi.

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An Interview With City Dance Parties

It might have been the popularity of TV shows like Strictly Come Dancing or it might have been the heady days of the 1970s/1980s with the emergence of films such as Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Fame…but one thing is for sure is that on the whole the UK seems to be “dance- mad”. I’m sure the other world nations are the same, though. Since launching in January 2017, City Dance Parties have gained in popularity, and they were winners of the “Best Hen and Stag Provider” category at the 2019 British Wedding Awards. The dance parties are not just for hen nights, as I found out when I chatted with founder, Jenny Haynes. Hi Jenny!

Hello! My name’s Jenny Haynes, and I’m the founder of City Dance Parties, a nation-wide dance party company that specialises in dance classes for hen parties, birthdays and corporate events. 

Congratulations on being the winner of “Best Hen And Stag Provider” at the 2019 British Wedding Awards  – so, what triggered the eureka moment to begin your company, City Dance Parties? 

Thank you! What a bonkers surprise, I’m absolutely over the moon still. I trained as an actor at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and to earn a bit of extra money to help with living expenses, started teaching hen party dance classes on a Saturday afternoon (we were in school Monday-Friday from 8am -7pm). It was after my partner pointed out that he always really enjoyed hanging out with me after I’d finished teaching the classes as I was in such a good mood that  I realised how much I really enjoyed the work, and thought this was something I might want to take more seriously.  After I graduated from Bristol, I started putting things into action, so I could try to forge a side hustle that would work in tandem with auditions, and acting……we’ve grown step by step from there really! 

Have you always wanted a career in dance or did your aspirations lie elsewhere? 

I’ve always loved dance/movement, and always wanted to work in the physical theatre and movement side of acting – discovering how much I enjoyed teaching hen parties dancing took things on a slightly off piste path (a path I’m very grateful for), into a career that is a mixture of event planning, dancing and teaching!  

You offer a vast range of dance classes, including Burlesque, Beyoncé, Bollywood, Dirty Dancing, 80s & 90s dance classes, salsa ….What would you say are the most popular dance masterclasses?

The most popular last year was definitely Beyonce! Everyone is loving Queen B (and with good reason in my opinion) – we once had a booking for a Beyonce class for a 70th Birthday, which I thought was absolutely F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S.  This year (for obvious reasons), Spice Girls have been making a big resurgence, and 90s dance is always super popular, as 90’s Children/Teens are all starting to get married now! Disney, which we added last year,  has been a really popular choice, and, Dirty Dancing continues to be a firm favourite! 

Which dance masterclass is your personal favourite? 

I have to say I love a bit of Roaring 20’s…..it’s the perfect opportunity to get dressed up, and get really into the feel of the class (we’ve had some fabulously dressed groups for our 20’s classes over the past few years!). 90s Dance, Beyonce and Belly Dance are also solid favourites of mine to teach! 

What does a typical Hen Party Dance Class include?

The exact details of the class can vary slightly depending on what length of class you choose, and what style, but you can expect lots of laughs, all the basics of your chosen style, taught to you by a professional choreographer, dance-offs, and a fun-filled group routine (we sometimes even crack out a MegaMix routine depending on the style of dance!) that everyone can perform together, and video, so that you’ve got a long lasting memory of your special day. 

A lot of parties like to dress up or at least have a few accessories to jazz up the weekend – what clothing guidelines do you recommend? What dressing up outfits are most popular? What has been the most unusual/unique dance party outfit you have seen?

We tend to say that as long as you can move comfortably, that’s the main thing! Some groups love to dress up, others wear dance/gym gear, and some wear slightly more relaxed clothes they’re wearing out later on. It’s all about finding what you’re comfortable in, and what will make the session most enjoyable for you. We’ve had some fantastic fancy dress, and some absolutely bonkers costumes….some of my highlights are: a group we had come in dressed as archaeologists and dinosaurs, a group that came dressed as various iconic artists from the 90’s (YES to the lady who came in a power rangers morph suit!!), and a group who donned the most stunning vintage outfits for a 20’s masterclass. One that always sticks in my memory though, is one from a few years ago, when a group of ladies came to a burlesque class slightly later on in the day (I think a few glasses of bubbly had been had by that point!), and within 5 minutes of the class, one lady had stripped completely naked, and was stood covering her modesty with two strategically placed feather fans!!  (NOT compulsory for Burlesque Classes I might add!) 

You currently operate in Bath, Bristol, Brighton, Cardiff, Durham, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle and York. Any new places on the horizon for 2019?

We actually added Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham, Birmingham and Chester to the list last year! I’m always keen to keep expanding and branching out into new cities. Sheffield is one that’s definitely being added to the list, and we’re slowly taking over the UK! I never want to rush things and try and grow too quickly, as I want to really establish a good quality base in each city we offer. We do have our first international booking in May this year, so just watch this space!! 

Would the dance classes take into account those who may be uncoordinated, unfit or not as agile?  

Absolutely. With an event like a hen do, or a birthday, there’s often going to be a big range in abilities, ages, and often co-ordination, so I try to cater the sessions so they’re really suitable for all abilities, and they’re fast paced enough for those experienced in dance, but also really accommodating and fun for those who have never donned their dancing shoes before! We’ve had groups of ex professional dancers in before, and ladies who have never taken a dance class in their life; whatever the ability, our main focus is creating a class that’s fun for you, and will ensure you have the best time possible.  
Often the idea of dance can be a bit nerve-racking,  especially if you haven’t got much experience, or haven’t danced in a while, so we try to make the sessions focused around having fun, creating some special memories and building confidence. It’s actually one of my favourite things about the work….having ladies come in who aren’t confident at all, and are perhaps a little resistant about the idea of dancing leaving with big smiles on their faces, new skills, and the realisation that dance can be great fun! 

I love shows like Strictly Come Dancing – I especially love watching the Argentine Tango! Which dance style do you enjoy watching?  Is there any dance style that you would like to try that you haven’t attempted before? 

I LOVED watching So You Think You Can Dance when I was a teenager – it’s an American reality dance show, that showcases some incredible choreographers and dancers of all different styles. I personally love a bit of jazz and commercial….the sassier the better! I’ve never been particularly good at tumbling or flips, so I’d say the ‘Acro’ or ‘Gymnastics’ side of dance is something I’d love to really master one day.  

Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear for a dance class?

Now…I’m a sucker for a lace leotard. I have some customised City Dance Parties leotards I wear for classes I teach (I mostly work on the admin side of things now, but always try and jump in and teach on quieter weekends!) , and my absolute favourite is a backless black lace number. Combine it with some bright, funky leggings (my wardrobe is 99% lycra so I need to make sure I’m kitted out properly!) and some bright trainers and you are good to go! A brand I’ve been LOVING recently is KYODAN, which I buy through TK Maxx; they’re really gorgeous designs, fab fitting, and won’t break the bank. 

Boots Or Shoes?

I have to say shoes…..in particular trainers!! I grew up wearing high heels on any occasion (Geordie Girl born and bred!)  but after a back injury in my early 20’s switched over to trainers pretty much full time, and I’m now a convert to trainers for pretty much whatever occasion I can get away with wearing them! 

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about City Dance Parties

City Dance Parties – www.citydanceparties.co.uk Facebook – www.facebook.com/citydancepartiesTwitter: @CityDance_UK Instagram: www.instagram.com/citydanceparties

Thanks Jenny! Those classes sound a lot of fun! Talking about loving lace leotards – in the 1980s one of my favourite “disco” outfits was a bright yellow lace leotard/bodysuit which I wore with black satiny leggings and a bright yellow/black kimono style shirt/jacket held together with a wide black patent belt! And black patent court shoes with a high thin metal stiletto heel! 🙂 Couldn’t dance in heels like that nowadays though!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from City Dance Parties; apart from the Pinterest photo which is by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With Made With Respect

I’m heading down under to New Zealand this week to chat to Susan Stevens, founder & CEO of “Made With Respect”. Made With Respect’s mission is to support sustainable brands from around the world in the areas of fashion, self care, home and outdoor products; as well as educating and informing consumers of the importance of making conscious choices and living more sustainably. Sounds very impressive! Hi Susan & welcome….

Hello! My name is Susan Stevens, I live in NZ with my husband and 3 children (2 girls and a boy) aged 6, 9 and 12. I travelled extensively in my 20s with my husband, experiencing many vibrant cultures and appreciating contrasting landscapes.  I have always loved spending time outdoors and at the beach and now with our children we spend almost all our free time in the water surfing. I have a huge appreciation for nature and what it provides us. I am passionate about protecting the amazing natural resources that we have been blessed with, particularly the ocean and the wildlife that we share this planet with.  

What was behind the inspiration for Made With Respect?

In 2018 we launched Made With Respect, but my journey really started when I left behind a successful corporate career after experiencing a suppressive work environment and learning the importance of empowering and enabling others.  In 2014 when I launched my first business working with artisan brands and overseas suppliers, I saw first hand the transparency (or lack of) in supply chains. Through my work over the past few years I’ve become gravely aware of the negative impact we as consumers have on our planet, it stirred a passion within me to create a business that made a difference whilst supporting and enabling others with a shared vision.  

The stats are quite scary.  If the global population reaches 9.6 billion by 2050 (currently 7.5 billion and projected to increase by 1 billion in the next 12 years), the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain our current lifestyles.  Given we’ve only got one planet, that is quite a concern. Add to that the WWF 2018 Living Planet report which shows evidence that nature is dying with 60% decline in the animal population across the planet, 83% decline in freshwater species and 90% of seabirds consuming plastic. Alarmingly, if we continue with the current rate of plastic waste there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.  We have to stop burying our heads and being ignorant of our behaviour because unless we change, our future looks bleak. I created Made With Respect to not only be a platform that champions sustainable brands who give a damn, but through MWR Movement, we are educating and informing consumers of the crucial role we play in the problems our planet face and through taking consistent conscious actions we can start to be part of the solution.  

Your company is a proud member of “1% For The Planet” – what does that entail?

As a member of 1% for the Planet, MWR donates a minimum of 1% total revenue to approved nonprofit partners who do essential work across six core focus areas; climate, food, land, pollution, water and wildlife.  So that means that every dollar Made With Respect generates gives back to the health of our planet.

Your website features brands from all around the world – from  France, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Spain, Peru, Italy, USA, Ireland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Iceland, Germany, Lithuania. What criteria have you have set for brands to qualify to partner with MWR?

Brands who we partner with that design and manufacture sustainable products in self-care, fashion, home and outdoor must fall within the following 4 pillars;

  1. Devoted to craftsmanship; making quality products that last and can be passed down through the generations.
  2. Transparent supply chain; good working conditions, no child labour
  3. Natural materials & natural ingredients; no chemicals or toxins (organic where possible), recycling, upcycling, regeneration and reduction of waste, embracing renewable resources and preserving the environment
  4. Contributing to make the world a better place; supporting local or disadvantaged communities, being more than a profit driven operation

We have amazing brands who are giving back on so many fronts, not only are they operating in a circular economy, minimising waste and making the most of resources but many are contributing part of their profits to worthy causes or supporting disadvantaged communities.  

We absolutely have to embrace these brands, we have to shine the spotlight on them and make them the example.

From clothing to bed linen, and lots of categories inbetween, your website caters for many. To date, what has been the most popular items/products/brands ?

Skin care, followed by children’s & women’s fashion, has been the most popular categories so far.  But ideally we want to be known as a place where consumers can conveniently shop (and support) sustainable brands across categories.  There are amazing sustainable brands in the market, but often they’re not easy to find as they don’t have the marketing budgets or distribution networks of the multi-nationals that are purely profit driven.

In a world where people tend to be time poor, if we can’t find what we want then we’ll resort to the easiest and most convenient option – the problem with this is often the quickest and easiest is also the most damaging and destructive.  One of MWR’s goal, through our partnerships with sustainable brands, is to make it easier for consumers to find, buy and support those brands that are making a positive difference.

What’s your favourite item?

I’ve got so many favourite items and brands that I can’t name just one!

This southern summer I’ve loved wearing my NZ & Brazilian Aurai swimwear top made from bio-degradable and regenerated materials.  You’ll also find in my wardrobe my Wolven leggings made from a fabric that is regenerated from recycled plastic bottles, along with my Atode Skater Navy Lace Dress and Atode Audrey Orange Silk Dress.  My daughters favourite fashion label is Feather Drum in Australia, they have a selection of timeless, gorgeous organic cotton pieces hanging in their wardrobes too!

In my bathroom you’ll find certified organic skincare products from The Divine Company in Australia, Soley in Iceland and Icelandic brand Hannes Dottir.  You’ll also find my husband’s all natural male grooming products from Hunter Lab in Australia, 66°30 in France and C3 in the USA. And I accessorise with my gorgeous Tamara Salman Cherry Red Mini Tote

As Made With Respect is based in New Zealand, are the products on the website available to purchase worldwide?

Absolutely, our brands are located from all around the world and their products are shipped to customers around the world.

At Made With Respect we are conscious of our own carbon footprint.  To ensure we operate sustainably and in order to reduce our own impact on the environment, rather than holding our brand’s products in a central warehouse, instead the brand ships directly from their workshop to our customers.  There is no double handling of product and no additional packaging wastage.

I noticed on your website you have The MWR 31 Days Of Sustainable Habits Challenge – can you explain this challenge?  What habit did you find was the hardest to change?

The objective of MWR 31 Days of Sustainable Habits Challenge is to show consumers we don’t need to go to extreme measures, we simply have to make more conscious choices in our everyday life to make a positive impact, we want to reinforce that small changes ultimately make a difference. I see this as being the crucial place to start, because it’s often the starting that is the hard part, once started it’s much easier to build momentum and once you start something you become more aware and more educated, education is key.  

I think people can become overwhelmed when they don’t know what to do and where to start, the mentality then becomes `how can one person possibly make a difference’.  What our Sustainable Habits Challenge does, is it shows consumers there are simple things they can easily implement into their lifestyle that will make a difference. For instance;

  • Place lint in the trash rather than wash it down the drain.  Why? Because microfibres, which are too small to be caught by waste treatment plants, are responsible for 85% of shoreline pollution across the globe.
  • Buy natural fibres instead of synthetics materials.  Why? Because they are by-products of petroleum and are non-biodegradable plus during the wash cycle these micro plastic fibres are released into our waterwaste and end up on the shoreline, eaten by wildlife and fish and polluting our foodchain.
  • Carry a reusable drink bottle.  Why? Because 50 billion plastic drink bottles are consumed every year, for every 10 bottles, only 2 end up recycled the rest end up in landfills and polluting our oceans and beaches.

The Sustainable Habits Challenge isn’t just about telling people what to do but also educating and informing them why they need to do it.

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

I generally wear very neutral colours; white, grey, beige, navy blue and in particular black.  I’ve always felt that colour dates and may only be ‘on-trend’ for that particular season whereas neutral colours, especially black is very versatile, timeless and can be dressed up or down.

In summer you’ll mostly find me in shorts & a camisole or a little black floaty summer dress with sandals.  In winter I love wearing jeans or black pants, a tee, jacket or blazer and a pair of casual white sneakers or ankle boots.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Yes, Made With Respect!  

I’m a very conscious shopper (I always have been), I prefer to buy less but buy quality pieces that last and look great for years.

With MWR I always support our brands first.  If I do find myself browsing in clothing shops and I see something I like I always check the label first, if it’s made from sustainable materials such as organic cotton, linen, tencel then I’ll try it on.  Once you become aware, it’s amazing how easy it is to spot synthetic materials.

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

At the moment I’ve got AmaElla lingerie on my wish list.

I don’t buy a new wardrobe every season. I have pieces that I’ve worn, both clothes and shoes (that get reheeled) year after year, because they are made from quality materials that wear well, wash well and last.  They are designed to be timeless so they transcend fashion trends and for any pieces I do chose to take out of my wardrobe, they are always in great condition to recycle at op shops, or loved all over again when passed on to girlfriends, my mum & more recently my daughter.

Boots or Shoes?

I love ankle boots in cooler weather.  A good quality & timeless style will last you years, they are so versatile with pants, jeans, dresses and skirts, you can dress them up or down.   

For Pinning Later

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

Our website: https://www.madewithrespect.com/
The MWR blog: https://www.madewithrespect.com/blogs/the-mwr-blog

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/MWR.movement

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MWR.movement

Thank you for your interview Susan. So many important points to ponder over and the sustainable habits challenge is a start and doable. Your website features some beautiful products too – thank you for introducing us to some quality and sustainable brands.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Susan Stevens (MWR).

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An Interview With Elaine Robertson North

I’m an avid bookworm. I make no apologies for that. I read all sorts of genres – I do have my favourites such as thrillers, mysteries, travel based – I like the occasional romcom, autobiography, historical drama, English literature classics, classics from non English writers, fantasy. I like to read out of my comfort zone at times and when an author comes along whose debut novel just hooks me in on the first page, spins me along on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, makes me feel the characters inside out and upside down, each page a revelation that it is hard to put the book down and turn off the light to sleep – that’s when you know you have to spread the news far and wide to fellow bookworms that this is a book and author you need to check out. I was sent a complimentary copy of “I Can’t Tell You Why” by Elaine Robertson North to read and review. Apart from reviewing the book and leaving my 5 star review on Amazon, I couldn’t resist being cheeky and asking for a chance to interview Elaine herself….. Hi Elaine!

Hi, I’m Elaine. I’m originally from Scotland but spent most of my childhood in Berkshire. After three years in Bournemouth studying for a degree in Media and Communications, I couldn’t get to London quick enough to get my career underway and have basically been here ever since. I enjoyed an exciting career spanning all corners of the media but always wanted to write. There were sporadic attempts along the way but it wasn’t until I drew a line under my career and my youngest son started school, that I was able to make it my focus. Today, I’m happily married with two beautiful boys. I’m proud to call myself a wife, a mother, and finally, an author!

After working for 25 years in the marketing & communications field in the media & entertainment industries, including several years in a variety of senior executive roles in TV, radio & film; who or what inspired you to write a novel?

The need to write has always been there. It was just something I always felt I would do so I don’t think there was ever one person or event that inspired me. I think I’ve just been subconsciously soaking up the many characters, situations and events I’ve experienced over the years, waiting for the moment when I could put it all to good use!

“I Can’t Tell You Why” is your debut novel – and what a debut novel – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. Definitely a page turner, I got sucked into the novel straightaway.  My feelings towards the characters changed with each chapter – like a rollercoaster! Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

Thank you! That really is lovely to hear. I’d have to go with the main character, Dani, as the one I most enjoyed writing about. I love the fact that she is strong and gutsy and able to handle tough work situations with a cool head. But personally, she’s massively flawed and getting that balance right was a real challenge, which also made her the hardest character to write. She’s a good person who makes some very bad decisions. It was tough, therefore, to make sure she was always believable and was someone who readers would still root for.

Were there any aspects of writing a novel that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

I’m constantly surprised at how long it all takes! In many respects, writing the book is the easy part. It’s the endless rounds of editing that are obviously essential, but hideously time-consuming for someone annoying like me who likes everything done yesterday! I do love, however, when after days of struggling with an element of the plot, everything suddenly falls into place. That is very satisfying!

“Most people believe that affairs are wrong. That they lead to heartbreak and suffering for everyone involved and never end well. Most people think they know better. Yet they do it anyway….” Your book is about a powerful subject – love affairs – and the characters are all totally believable. Why did you pick this topic for your first novel and did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the novel developed?

I’m one of those people who has pretty black and white views about things so I love a moral dilemma when I’m forced into the grey! I was hooked on the idea that a perfectly reasonable and likeable person, can cheat and lie, even when objectively speaking, they know it makes no sense. Once I had that as a starting point, a compelling love triangle seemed like the most effective way to explore this. As for my opinions and thoughts, my starting point would always be that affairs are wrong. Simple! The reality is that of course, they rarely are, so it was great to explore why people have affairs, whether it’s ever possible to say that good can come from an affair, and also how our childhood experiences can have a massive impact on our own approach to relationships. 

Are there any new novel ideas or writing plans in the pipeline?

I’m about two thirds of the way through book number two. The central theme is about taking control of your own destiny and having the confidence to just be yourself, whatever life throws in the way. The tension comes from a ruthless desire for revenge and the backdrop this time is a newspaper. 

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

Yes to the bookworm! I’m probably a contemporary women’s fiction fan first and foremost, but I also like the odd thriller thrown in for good measure. As for authors, I recently discovered Sally Hepworth and immediately read every book she’s written, and also Kathryn Hughes. Read all of her books back to back too! I’m a big fan of Liane Moriarty and Lisa Jewell, and also Clare Mackintosh and Fiona Barton. The key thing for me is a book that has me hooked from the very beginning. I love actual books but have to confess I do most of my reading on a Kindle or my phone. I spend lots of time hanging around while my sons enjoy various activities, so being able to read while I wait is a massive plus for me!

Is “I Can’t Tell You Why” available to purchase worldwide?

The paperback and ebook are on Amazon in all key territories, so wherever Amazon is available, you should be able to buy it! 

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why? 

I’m tempted to say anywhere hot and quiet! Just having uninterrupted time to think would be a joy! That said, I’m a people-watcher and love bustle and noise, and as it’s likely I’ll be sticking with the worlds of media and entertainment for the time being at least, I’d probably go for somewhere like New York or Los Angeles.

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

At this time of year, it’s all about coats and boots for me! I walk my boys to and from school so am normally in jeans, a jumper and then it’s the coat that makes the outfit. I have a long padded coat, a slightly lighter-weight quilted coat, a parka, a raincoat that I love, a fur-lined bomber jacket – basically, a coat for every mood or weather condition imaginable! Ankle boots or trainers and that’s me sorted! 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I tend to do most of my clothes shopping online. I’m a big fan of ME+EM and Finery when I fancy something different that I know I’ll feel really great wearing. I love an oversized jumper and have a couple from Baukjen that I would hate to be without. If I’m looking for a really great pair of boots, Penelope Chilvers would be the first place I look, but I’ll also happily browse M&S for everyday stuff.

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

I have a favourite pair of wedge heel ankle boots that are definitely past their best, so top of my list at the moment is finding a replacement. 

Boots or Shoes?

Definitely boots! Unless I’m going somewhere that requires a posh frock and heels (which is very rare!), I’ll always opt for boots. Whether I’m wearing jeans, a skirt or a dress, the appropriate ankle boot always works for me!

For Pinning Later

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

Facebook: @elainerobertsonnorth
Instagram: @elaine_robertson_north
Twitter: @RobbieNorth

Thank you very much Elaine for agreeing to be interviewed. I’m so looking forward to reading your 2nd book! My thanks also goes to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for sending me a preview copy of Elaine’s book in the first place.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Elaine Robertson North (apart from the Pinterest picture which is by Linda Hobden)

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An Interview With The Vegan Society

Living the Vegan Lifestyle has been in the news a lot recently – January was “veganuary” and the spotlight was on all things Vegan. The reactions from various people have been mixed when the word “vegan” has been mentioned – most people I’ve spoken to hadn’t really got a clue what the Vegan lifestyle entailed; some guessed that it was a more extreme form of being a vegetarian; some have embraced the ethics of being a Vegan wholeheartedly; some were interested and some were not. Personally I am not a Vegan – I do eat meat but I do embrace vegetarian and vegan dishes too. There are a few Vegan restaurants springing up and with thousands of products being granted the coveted Vegan trademark on a daily basis, embracing a Vegan lifestyle is not as daunting as you may think. I caught up with the lovely Dominika of The Vegan Society to find out more about The Vegan Society and living the Vegan lifestyle. Hi Dominika….

Hello! My name is Dominika and I work as media and PR officer at The Vegan Society. We are the world’s oldest vegan society whose co-founder, Donald Watson, came up with the word ‘vegan’ back in 1944. Everything we do is to help people go vegan and remain vegan! 

The Vegan Society has produced an app – Veguide App – that covers the basics of transitioning to a vegan lifestyle with 30 short daily videos. What inspired the creation of the app? 

We wanted to bring vegan pledges into the 21st century – we know that most new vegans are young people, and this demographic is also the one most likely to use mobile apps and social media. VeGuide features two mentors in the similar age group to our target audience which we thought would help its users to relate to them.

VeGuide is free to download on Android and iOS devices. Its users receive a combination of daily informational videos, motivational quotes, quizzes, recipes and discounts, all of which aim to help them ease into vegan living.


The Vegan Trademark – sunflower symbol – guarantees that products are free from animal ingredients and animal testing.  There are now over 30,000 products and services registered with the Vegan Trademark.  How does a brand go about registering their products? 

Brands can contact our Vegan Trademark team at trademark@vegansociety.com, which will be followed up by some questions that include the number of products a company wants to register, their turnover and size, so that my colleagues can provide them with a quote. After this, the Trademark team carefully checks all the ingredients in the products about to be Trademarked to make sure they’re animal-free. We can also help brands veganise products and suggest alternatives to any animal products their items contain. 

From curries to cakes, virtually any recipe could be made suitable for a vegan lifestyle, as long as they are made from plant-based ingredients. Have you got a personal favourite vegan dish or recipe?

I’m all for quick and easy recipes that don’t require tens of ingredients! I’m personally very much into Korean and East Asian cuisine, so I love dishes like kimchi jjigae, ddeokbokki, jjajangmyeon, Japanese curry, mapo tofu, bibimbap, and various side dishes, called muchim in Korean cuisine. For those with a less oriental preferences, I find that making vegan versions of easy classics like lasagne, chilli con carne, shepherd’s pie, enchiladas or roast dinner is best! 

I read on your website that honey was the product probably most frequently mistaken as vegan -friendly.  I must admit I thought it was! Why is honey excluded? What other foodstuffs are also mistaken as being vegan friendly?

Honey is a product made by animals, so for the sake of consistency is excluded from a vegan diet. Veganism opposes the use and killing of all animals. Other foods that sometimes may not be vegan are alcohol (beer and wine mainly).

What are the nutritional  and other benefits of becoming vegan?

You can get everything your body needs on a vegan diet – vegans actually tend to eat much more fruit and vegetables than the rest of the population which has amazing health benefits. The British Dietetic Association, an independent UK authority on nutrition, states that a vegan diet is suitable at any age or life stage, including infancy, childhood and pregnancy

Eating a balanced vegan diet helps to limit saturated fat and get plenty of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Research shows vegans have lower blood pressure, lower chances of getting heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. This is partly because animal products, unlike vegan food, contain a significant amount of cholesterol.


In the UK all medicines are required to be tested on animals before being deemed as safe for human use.  Obviously, if you are a vegan how are you able to get the medication needed without compromising your beliefs? What are The Vegan Society’s recommendations?

Vegans avoid using animals as far as is practicable and possible. When choosing cosmetics, vegans can pick products that have not been tested on animals but unfortunately we don’t currently have such a choice with medicines or vaccinations. The Vegan Society never advises anyone to stop taking prescribed medicines but we do encourage patients to speak to their doctors to see if a vegan-friendly alternative is available.

What is the hardest part, or the hardest thing to forgo, did you find, of transitioning to follow a vegan lifestyle?  

Many people find it difficult to avoid cheese. However, the human tastebuds have a wonderful ability to adapt, so if you resign from cheese for a month or two and then try vegan cheese, you’re very like to enjoy the flavour. Most vegans say the hardest part of going vegan was simply making the decision to do it.P

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?  

I shop online a lot, on websites like Asos, EMP and Yesstyle which features East Asian fashion. When I go to a shopping mall, I often wander around all the different stores in search of a thing I’m looking for at that moment. It’s amazing how easy it is to find vegan clothes and footwear on the high street!

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

I’ve been looking at Luxe Derbys from Will’s Vegan Shoes for a while now. They’re beautiful but pricier because they’re made of eco-friendly, durable vegan leather. I’m just waiting for the right moment to get them!  

Boots Or Shoes? 

Boots – I get cold very easily so I like footwear that covers my ankles! However, I’m 6ft tall which is a lot for a girl, so I’m not at all interested in adding any more inches which makes it tricky with boots!

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

Website: www.vegansociety.com

FB: www.facebook.com/TheVeganSociety

Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheVeganSociety

Instagram: www.instagram.com/theoriginalvegansociety 

For Pinning Later

Thank you for the chat Dominika – those Japanese and Asian dishes really do sound interesting (and no doubt delicious!) I really hope, dear readers, that Dominika has helped to dispel any myths and if you do want to follow the Vegan route, then Dominika has given you some inspiration to go ahead and take that leap!

Linda x

Photo Credits: Pinned Photo by Linda Hobden. The other photos in the article have been published with kind permission from The Vegan Society & Dominika Piasecka

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7 Vegan Valentines Gifts

Valentines Day is almost upon us and shelves in the supermarkets and shops are full of red heart shaped delights from chocolates to prosecco to perfumes. If you or your partner are vegan, there are a range of products that might just tickle your fancy as well as your tastebuds!

The Vegan Society is the world’s oldest vegan society and registered educational charity. In fact, in 1944, co-founder Donald Watson actually came up with the term “vegan”. There are now over 30,000 goods and services that bear the famous Vegan Trademark symbol.

There are many ways to embrace vegan living, but one thing all vegans have in common is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat, fish, shellfish, insects, dairy, eggs, honey – as well as products leather and anything tested on animals. So, when it comes to choosing a Valentines gift – or a gift or treat for anytime – here are 7 ideas that might just fit the bill….

  1. Chocolate & Love’s Dark Chocolate Tin

A beautiful, colourful tin full of vegan dark chocolate Neapolitans. The vegan chocolate is a mix of Panama 80% single origin, Rich Dark 71% and 70% Madagascan single. A must for fans of dark chocolate! www.chocolateandlove.com

2. Broadland Wineries’ Proudly Vegan Wines

Before my friend became a vegan, her main worry was not being able to enjoy a glass of wine. That isn’t an issue nowadays as Proudly Vegan wines have a selection of palatable rose, merlot and Sauvignon Blanc to choose from. Even the ink and glue on the labels are 100% vegan! The wines are available from Ocado.

3. Eden Perfumes’ Gift Set

Eden Perfumes match your favourite designer or popular fragrances, perfume and aftershave, using vegan ingredients such as jasmine (my favourite), vanilla, passionfruit, musk, saffron, sandalwood amongst others. www.edenperfumes.co.uk

4. Honest Brew’s 12 Beer Mixed Case

Prefer beer to wine? This mixed case of vegan-friendly beers might be more up your street. www.honestbrew.co.uk

5. The Gin Guild’s Organic London Dry Gin

Gin is all the rage at the moment and this London Dry Gin is 100% organic and GM-free. All their grain is grown organically without the use of toxic pesticides, insecticides and industrial fertilisers. They also hand harvest and dry their botanicals on site. They have a FairWild Certificate which means that those harvesting are properly paid for their junipers. Introduced in 1999, The Juniper Green gin has so far won 25 international medals against all the world’s gins, including golds in both the UK and USA. Available from Ocado, Amazon and online www.theginguild.com

6. Booja Booja’s ChocolateTruffles

Handmade luxurious Chocolate truffles inebriated with organic fine de champagne. Just stylish & sophisticated. Find these in Waitrose.

7. LUSH’s All Yours Gift Set

Available at all LUSH stores, the All Yours Gift Set was designed by artist Kim Sielbeck. She was inspired by the colours of the sunset and verdant mountains that fill her with magical energy. Certainly vibrant – inside this box you’ll find a Peachy bath bomb, Avocado wash shower gel, American Pie body conditioner and a Bubblegum lip scrub. Just the job for a pampering session…..

With Love, Linda x

For pinning later. Photo by Linda Hobden

Apart from the last photo, all other photos have been published with kind permission from The Vegan Society (and the featured brands)

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An Interview With Mom Transparenting

There are many “Mommy/Mummy” blogs out in the World Wide Web – some I read as they are teenage based (my children are now in their teens and twenties) so I can relate; and a few I read as I find them interesting on many levels even though I have no real affiliation with them, but occasionally I can comment with a few words of my own experience in bringing up a family. I find it interesting to read about family life in other countries other than your own too. One such favourite “Mommy” blog I read falls squarely into my latter category… Nicole of Mom Transparenting has a gem of a blog and I was over the moon when she agreed to be interviewed! Come and meet Nicole… Hi Nicole!

Hi! My name is Nicole. I’m a divorced/single mom of three and a realtor in a suburb of Chicago. I have a Master’s Degree in Counseling although I have never worked  in the field. I’m very intrigued by psychology and passionate about mental health. 

What made you decide to set up your blog, Mom Transparenting?  

I started my blog about 6 months after my (then) 4 year old son came out to me as transgender. For years I have been posting on my personal FB page about various parts of life in short story form and had been told I should start a blog. It took me a long time to figure out what that even meant! (LOL!) After divorcing, custody battles, and then my son coming out I decided it was time to curate a space to share my personal experiences and stop bombarding my friends and family with it all. It’s much more socially acceptable to put it in an “article” and call it writing than it is to vent on social media about a screaming toddler 😉

As with many parent bloggers I know, blogging about family is often very difficult.  However, I do feel that reading parenting blogs helps the parent realise that they are not alone, especially when a blog tackles a particular subject. What has been the general reaction about your blog from family/friends and from readers?  How have your children reacted?

If I am being completely honest, the staggering majority of my readers and  followers are NOT my family. Most of my family doesn’t even know this blog even exists. I have some very conservative family members and I just don’t want to deal with the backlash of their opinion about how I raise my child. If I didn’t have a transgender child, that wouldn’t be the case. But this is the reality of the world we live in. When you share something like that with people that think they “know” you, they feel like they have the right to tell you how to raise and handle issues that arise with your children. Even if you aren’t asking for advice. Personally, I prefer my followers and readers be those that sought me out because they were looking for someone to relate to. I know many of my experiences seem mind-blowing to me as they happen, but I also know I am very much NOT alone and many women (and men) have similar struggles. My goal in all of this was to some how connect with other parents like me, speak from the parent perspective and not of that of a trans person, because I’m not trans. I don’t know what it is like to be trans. But I do know what it is like to have a trans child and what it’s like to be the parent under the microscope. That was reason number one I decided to share our journey in an open and raw way. 

I personally know of two people who are “transparenting” and their children, like your son, were determined at a young age to follow the gender they feel they are. How did your son approach the subject with you & what was your initial reaction?    

I have an article that was recently published on Motherly that answers this exact question: https://www.mother.ly/life/raising-4-year-old-   transgender-child

What advice do you give other parents – both in the same position as yourself as well as those who are not?

Whenever I post an article about my trans son, struggles with divorce, or custody I get numerous messages from various people telling me their similar experiences. Many ask me about their own children or want to vent about their own divorce/ex. When it comes to divorce single-motherhood I am empathetic to their situation and urge them to find someone they can connect with to help them get through this tough time. It’s an all around shit show having to juggle kids, homes, pets, work, splitting up, and financials of divorce. I wish that on NO ONE. When someone messages me regarding questions about their children’s comments about their own gender I tell them what everyone told me in the beginning. Let them lead the way, if they want to change their clothes, let them. If they ask to make a name change, do it. Give them the chance to live the way they are asking to and let them decide if this is truly them “coming out” or if it’s a phase. Because at a young age you can’t know for sure. The key (according to professionals) is consistence, insistence, and persistence. And that’s over a period of time. Considering my son has been living this way and insistent on his feelings that HE. IS. A. BOY. for at least 9 months now tells me that we are likely past any chance that this could be a phase that will pass. But, even if that were the case, my reaction and how I continue to let him lead the way would not change. 

I have found that, generally, children are often matter-of-fact and accepting.  How did your son’s siblings react? 

My youngest was only 3 and she was very quick to make the language changes my son requested and made a conscious effort to call him her brother. She has probably been the one with the least questions and the most acceptance and I find her innocence and pure view of the world so truly beautiful. If only everyone could be like that. My oldest was 7 and he was confused and sad at first. He flat out didn’t like it. But I explained to him that as family, we support each other. Even if we sometimes don’t like it. And that was enough for him to get on board and make the changes he needed to. We have conversations about it from time to time (more at first, they’ve become less and less over time) and I usually just frame it around “this is just the way it is.” You can’t change who someone is fundamentally adamant so why try? Just be loving, supportive, and accepting and be the good people I know I raised. As far as friends go, it’s interesting. My son is “stealth” at school, but I use that term loosely because he really isn’t quiet about it we just don’t go around screaming it from the rooftops. There are plenty of classmates and families that know he is trans, and just as many that only know him as a little boy. I urge my son to share when/if he’s ready and don’t ever want him to feel like he has a secret to hide or something to be ashamed of because of this. But when he does share with friends, their typical response is either “huh?” and that’s it. Like they think he’s joking. Or my favorite has been, “Oh, I used to be a girl” and his friend said, “oh, yea? Me too!” LOL

 Let’s talk about your blog & blogging in general!  What do you enjoy most about blogging?  What is your least favourite “blogging job”?

I love having an outlet to share our journey. I love being able to connect with other writer and content creators that I idolize and look up to. The inspire me to do better and be better in every interaction I have with them. I’ve met so many wonderful people that I am so grateful to know. I appreciate the feedback I get and I find that (for the most part) between my followers and the community of fellow bloggers I’ve met everyone has welcomed me with open arms and has become a great resource in times of need. My least favorite part is rejection. I submit a lot of guest posts and even though I know not everything I write is amazing and not every post I submit will be accepted, it still stings. 

Where do you find inspiration for posts? 

In my kids, my family, my work, basically my every day life. If my kid does something funny, I can usually find a story to write around it. When something bad/sad happens it is therapeutic for me to write about it, even if I may not share that post on my blog, it gets my feelings out and moves me forward to a place where I can be a better writer in general. 

What is your favourite social media for (a) blog networking and (b) personal browsing? 

I tend to shine on Instagram. I write memes and the majority of my followers are there. I use Facebook, twitter, and pinterest as well, but IG is really my baby. 

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

Oh, GAWD! Black leggings, a t-shirt or sweater (I LOVE big, comfy sweaters!) and this time of year Sorel boots. During the summer it’s flip flops, all day, every day. I wish I were more fashion forward, but as a busy mom I’m more of a function and comfort addict than I am for brands and style. Personally, I have a fun/trendy style when I can afford it! But when you’re a single mom sometimes your closet and shoe fetish takes a back seat to your kids sports and after school activities. Gotta make those hard choices, and us moms tend to make sacrifices for our kids from our own wants/needs. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

I’m not a trendsetter. I shop at Target and on Amazon to keep me from leaving the house at all costs.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots. All day. I loved when skinny jeans came back in style so I could show off my boots again ALL THE TIME! 

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 Mom Transparenting 🙂

Blog: http://momtransparenting.com

Instagram: https://instagram.com/momtransparenting

Facebook: https://facebook.com/momtransparenting

Twitter: https://twitter.com/momtransparenting

Thank you very much for chatting to me today Nicole! I wish your blog continued success as you make your way through the jungle that is parenting 🙂

Linda x

Photographs of Nicole & her son have been published with kind permission of Nicole (Mom Transparenting) 

Pinned Photo is by Linda Hobden.


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