Category Archives: Reviews

An Interview With Author Linda Rosen

I’m so excited this week to be part of Linda Rosen’s official book tour promoting her fabulous latest book “The Disharmony Of Silence”. I was lucky enough to be gifted an advanced copy of the book – which I thoroughly enjoyed- and even more thrilled to be able to ask Linda Rosen some questions…. but first, here’s the official resume of “The Disharmony Of Silence “….

BOOK SUMMARY

In 1915, jealous, bitter Rebecca Roth cuts all ties with her life-long friends, the Pearls. Eight years later, Rebecca’s son and young Lena Pearl begin keeping company in secret. Rebecca agrees to a truce when the couple marries. But the truce is fragile. Rebecca’s resentments run deep.

In 2010, Carolyn Lee, fitness instructor and amateur photographer, must come to grips with the fact that her mother’s imminent death will leave her alone in the world. While preparing her childhood home for sale, she realizes for the first time that her mother’s antique brooch is identical to the one pinned to the lady’s dress in the painting hanging above the fireplace. Coincidence or connection? Carolyn is determined to find out. What she discovers has the potential to tear lives apart or to bring her the closeness and comfort she longs for. It all depends on how she handles her newfound knowledge.

Genre: Women’s Upmarket Fiction

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ISBN-10: 1684334306

ISBN-13: 9781684334308
The Disharmony of Silence is now available to purchase at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. 

THE INTERVIEW

Hi Linda! Welcome to my blog!

Thank you, Linda, for reading my novel, The Disharmony of Silence, and inviting me to your blog. I am immediately drawn to you since we share the same first name as well as having a passion for writing and reading. To tell you a bit about myself, I live with my husband of almost 48 years splitting our time between New Jersey and Southeast Florida. I am not a fan of snow and ice and love swimming, playing tennis and pickleball outdoors all winter long in warm sunshine and reading with my feet in the sand, though I do miss my two grandsons who live less than a mile from me in New Jersey. 

After a successful career as a fitness professional, who or what inspired you to take the plunge and become a professional writer?

When I was approaching my sixtieth birthday, although I loved leading my exercise classes and working with private clients, which I still do when in New Jersey, I felt I needed something more. My creative side was calling to me. I was actually perusing an adult school catalogue for a photography class and noticed a writers workshop being offered. I signed up for it and the teacher was fabulous. After the first class, I was hooked. Since then, my fingers haven’t stopped flying across the keyboard.

“The Disharmony Of Silence” – your novel published on 5th March 2020 – and what a novel – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. Definitely different.  At first, I wasn’t sure of Carolyn and her quest to discover the mystery of the brooch, but as the story unraveled, I found myself engrossed – I gasped in horror at Rebecca’s attitude and mannerisms … I found myself questioning Carolyn’s methods of unravelling her family history …. Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoyed the book. Rebecca was definitely the most fun to write yet it is a tie between Rebecca and Kate for who I enjoyed writing the most. They are complete opposites. Kate embodies characteristics I admire in some of the older women who have taken my exercise classes and Rebecca is someone I hope I’ll never be, yet I do understand her and hope readers will try to justify her motives, not only judge.

As to the hardest character to write, Ben gets that award. I had to keep him vulnerable yet believable and since I haven’t been twenty years old for a long time, and I’m not male, he was a challenge. 


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

Yes, actually revising surprised me. I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy it. When I wrote the first version of The Disharmony of Silence, which had a different title at the time, I thought that was great. I enjoyed sitting at my computer creating characters and story. Though the more I learned along the way and the more I dug into my characters when not actually writing, just lying in bed, swimming laps or driving my car, the more I realized what I hadn’t written. That’s when the real fun began. I love playing with words and phrases and making them come alive on the page and that can only be done once I get the initial raw wording down. 

Unravelling family secrets – sometimes the results can have a pleasing ending and sometimes the results do not turn out for the best.  Delving into family history is, nonetheless, curiously addictive.  What inspired the novel topic? Did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the novel developed?

The inspiration for this novel had nothing to do with a real family secret. It came from a story my sister-in-law had told me when she was getting her mother’s house ready for sale. It centered around a painting that had hung in the living room her whole life. Since no one in the family wanted the painting and my sister-in-law didn’t want to throw it away she decided to search for the artist and, if alive, return it to her. I thought that was a great premise for a story. And, since I’ve always been fascinated by family secrets I’ve heard about, I created one. It wasn’t until I was on one of my later drafts that I realized that the definition of family was a major theme. I had been focused on secrets and lies, which are also themes in the novel and I have questions for book clubs concerning these themes at the end of the book. My personal feelings of what makes a family did influence me as I have an extended family and not all from blood. It also took quite a while for me to know how the book would end and my feelings on secrets did play a huge part in that – as well as Carolyn, my protagonist, telling me what she was going to do with her discovery. 

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

I am presently re-writing a novel I started years ago set on a hillside vineyard in the Hudson River Valley in the 1960s and ‘70s. It’s a sisterhood novel about grit and determination, raising women’s consciousness, and wine. 

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

I am a voracious reader and am drawn to upmarket women’s fiction and historical fiction. Some favorite authors are Barbara Kingsolver, Kristin Harmel, Susan Meissner, Kristin Hannah and not to leave out men, John Boyne and Pat Conroy. I love holding a real book in my hands though I do read on my Kindle and have also enjoyed listening to audio books

Is “The Disharmony of Silence” available to purchase worldwide?

It should be available on most sites. If there is an issue, readers can contact my publisher, Black Rose Writing. 

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

That’s a fun question. I suppose it would be the Outback in Australia. Ever since I read a book many years ago, whose title I cannot remember, about a female pilot who flew doctors in and out of the Outback, I’ve been fascinated with the place. 

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

I’m a jeans girl – skinny jeans with any kind of top, depending on occasion and weather though I do like summer skirts. As far as shoes, sandals win.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Several years ago Chicos was a favorite, though I’m tired of their styles now. Actually, I much prefer to shop in person for clothes and shoes rather than on-line, and any smaller store that displays outfits rather than going through racks stuffed with all kinds of styles is for me. 

What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?

As my mother used to say, I can shop in my own closet. I have clothes I barely wear so, honestly;I don’t have any wish lists at this time.


Boots or Shoes?

These questions are so much fun to answer. I’d have to say, given the choice, boots. Since I seriously do not like winter, I have trouble moving from flip flops to wearing shoes with socks and boots are a better look.

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

Thanks for asking. My website is linda-rosen.com where you can contact me if you’re interested in having me either come to or Skype with your book club. You can follow me on Facebook and Instagram @lindarosenauthor and on Twitter @lrosenauthor.  

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BOOK BLOG TOUR DATES

March 2nd @ The Muffin

What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Grab your coffee and join us as we celebrate the launch of Linda’s blog tour The Disharmony of Silence. Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book too!

http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

March 4th @ A Writer’s Life

How much does setting matter in a novel? Author Linda Rosen talks about this very subject over at Caroline’s blog today. You can also enter to win a copy of her book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com/

March 6th @ 12 Books

Make sure you visit Louise’s blog and read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. You can also enter to win a copy of the book as well!

http://www.12books.co.uk/

March 7th @ Lori Duff Writes

Be sure to stop by Lori’s blog today and you can read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://www.loriduffwrites.com/blog/

March 8th @ Bring on Lemons

Visit Crystal’s blog today and you can read a review written by her daughter Carmen about Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. Don’t miss it!

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

March 10th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Make sure you visit Anthony’s blog today where you can read his interview with author Linda Rosen.

March 11th @ A Storybook World

Blogger Deirdra Eden spotlights Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://www.astorybookworld.com/

March 13th @ Lori’s Reading Corner

Stop by Lori’s blog today and you can read a fitness inspiring post by author Linda Rosen! She shares some tips about strength training while reading audiobooks. You can also enter to win a copy of Linda’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://www.lorisreadingcorner.com/

March 14th @ Boots, Shoes and Fashion

Stop by Linda’s blog today and you can read her interview with author Linda Rosen. Don’t miss it!

http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/

March 15th @ Choices

Make sure you stop by Madeline Sharples’ blog today and read Linda Rosen’s blog post about inspiring your creative self by getting outdoors. Don’t miss it!

http://madelinesharples.com/

March 16th @ Reviews and Interviews

Visit Lisa’s blog where she interviews author Linda Rosen about her book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.com/

March 17th @ Coffee with Lacey

Grab some coffee and join Lacey over at her blog today. She reviews Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://coffeewithlacey.com/

March 18th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit Anthony’s blog again today and read his review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. Don’t miss it!

March 19th @ AJ Sefton’s Blog

Make sure you visit author AJ Sefton’s blog today and read a review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://www.ajsefton.com/book-reviews

March 20th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Looking for a new book to add to your reading list? Make sure you visit Bev’s blog today and read her review of “The Disharmony of Silence.” You’ll want to add it to your list!

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

March 21st @ Bookworm Blog

Visit Anjanette’s blog today and you can read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://bookworm66.wordpress.com/

March 22nd @ 12 Books

Are you part of a book club? Author Linda Rosen shares fun activities you can do for your book club. Don’t miss this fun, inspiring post!

http://www.12books.co.uk/

March 23rd @ Cassandra’s Writing World

Make sure you visit Cassandra’s blog today and read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://cassandra-mywritingworld.blogspot.com/

March 25th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

What do you do if you are writing about a made-up setting? Make sure you visit Bev’s blog today and you can read Linda Rosen’s guest post where she shares her advice.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

March 26th @ Lady in Read Writes

Stop by Vidya’s blog today and you can read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://ladyinreadwrites.com/

March 27th @ Jessica Belmont’s Blog

Over at Jessica’s blog today, you won’t want to miss her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. You can also enter to win a copy of the book as well!

https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

March 28th @ Bookworm Blog

Stop by Anjanette’s blog again today and you can read her interview with author Linda Rosen.

https://bookworm66.wordpress.com/

March 30th @ It’s Alanna Jean

What does your writing space look like? Author Linda Rosen shares her tips for setting up your writing space over at Alanna Jean’s blog. 

http://itsalannajean.com/

April 3rd @ Joyful Antidotes

Make sure you stop by Joy’s blog today where she reviews Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://joyfulantidotes.com/


April 5th @ Teatime and Books

How much do you love revising? Does it spark joy? Linda Rosen shares her thoughts on the joy of revising over at the blog Tea Time and Books. 

http://teatimeandbooks76.blogspot.com/

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Linda Rosen.

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Food & Drink Of Madeira

Ahh… Madeira. I could wax lyrical about this island for hours! However, this week I’m writing about the food and drink of Madeira. The Madeira Archipelago is an autonomous region of Portugal, consisting of 4 islands lying off the north west coast of Africa. The island is closer to Morocco than to Portugal. The main island of Madeira is volcanic, green, rugged and extremely scenic. Known already for its Madeira wine and warm, sub tropical climate – the food and drink in Madeira warrants a special mention. Yes, there is a McDonald’s – in Funchal, the capital – and a Starbucks ( much to the islanders’ disgust) situated at Funchal airport. The thing is that Madeira’s soil is fertile and volcanic – the warm year round climate lends itself to producing a vast array of fruits, vegetables (especially garlic & sweet potatoes), sugarcane, wines, coffee – and its location in the North Atlantic Ocean …. the fish! And Madeira cuisine is absolutely delicious!

Banana Plantation in Ponta Delgada, Madeira © Linda HobdenA

BANANAS

Bananas, bananas everywhere! The bananas grown are small and sweet. Alongside the different types of passionfruit, they are the main varieties of fruit you will come across in Madeira. Unfortunately in the UK we tend to see the larger bananas imported in from the West Indies or from West Africa.

MERCADO DOS LAVRADORES

Mercado Dos Lavadores © AdamHobden

The main marketplace for fruit, flowers and fish In Funchal is a “must see visit” on everybody’s tour list. It is a fully functioning market – the upper floor is full of fruit, vegetables and exotic flowers. The smells, colours, varieties are intoxicating! There are many strange and wonderful hybrid of fruits to try – such as banana-pineapple; passion-fruit pineapple; passionfruit-banana; lime passionfruit; peach-mango. Stall holders will try to entice you with samples of fruit to try. Beware though – it is rather pricey and you might find better prices in the smaller stalls outside of the main market. However, it is still worth a wander around – great for people watching and photo opportunities. It gets very crowded and, in summer, very hot. I prefer the cooler lower floor which houses the fantastic fish market. Yes, it is smelly but I don’t mind the fish smell. The range of fish on sale straight from the harbour is amazing – tuna, black scabbard fish, parrot fish, mackerel, castanets, limpets …

THE FISH

Castanets are small fish that are seasoned with salt & fried. Parrotfish is fried also – pay a visit to the Doca do Cavacas Restaurant in Funchal which has a reputation of cooking the best fried parrotfish on the island. Lapas or limpets are a slightly chewier version of clams. They are usually served in the frying pan they are cooked in. Tuna is extremely popular – tuna soup with noodles; raw in sashimi; tuna & onion stew; marinated tuna cooked with potatoes and chick peas; grilled tuna medium-rare steak; tuna steak with fried maize …. I must admit I was very surprised to see just how big tuna was! However, the ugly looking Black Scabbard fish – Peixe Espada Preto is divine. This is the fish you must try when visiting Madeira. It is grilled or lightly fried in a crumb batter and served in restaurants with a fried banana and a passion fruit sauce. It is better than it sounds, believe me! The sweet/savoury combination works well. As a snack though, try a black scabbard sandwich – a local favourite – tastes a bit like an upmarket fish finger sandwich!

Black scabbard fish with banana & passionfruit sauce. Onda Azul Restaurante, Calheta Beach © Linda Hobden

MEAT

Being an island, fish dishes do dominate however meat dishes are popular too – mainly pork and chicken. Estapada means food cooked on a skewer. In Madeira, wooden skewers are made from fragrant bay laurels, which season the meat as it cooks. Casseroles consisting of wine, garlic & pork are on every restaurant menu too. Garlic is widely used in Madeiran cooking – garlic oil, garlic cloves .

VEGETARIAN OPTIONS

Vegetables grow in abundance on the island and the vegetarian dishes I have come across have been wholesome basic vegetable stews/ kebabs that are just as delicious as their meat counterparts. If you are a vegetarian that eats fish, then you have no trouble being well fed on this island!

BREAD

Bolo de caco is Madeira’s regional bread, named after the caco or basalt stone slab that it is cooked on. The bread is extremely soft and is often served up in restaurants as a starter, with garlic butter.

FENNEL

Funchal (Madeira’s capital) literally means “The Place Where Fennel Grows” . This indigenous plant is especially found in the rocky mountains around Funchal. It is used for cooking, in the production of cough candy, in essential oils, tea and liqueurs.

Fennel © Linda Hobden

DESSERTS

The main dessert is Passion Fruit Pudding, using the various species of passionfruit available on the island. Passionfruit pudding is made with passionfruit pulp, jelly, condensed milk and cream. Tasting like a cross between a mousse and yogurt, it is a refreshing and flavoursome end to a meal. Fresh fruit salads are a healthier option, especially with the various fruit varieties available that the dish isn’t boring at all! Madeirans do have a sweet tooth, and a popular “cake” is the “Queijadas” made with cottage cheese, eggs and sugar.

Array of desserts, including the passionfruit pudding. Hotel Calheta Beach, Calheta © Adam Hobden

Talking of cake, traditional Madeira Cake isn’t the yellow light sponge found in the UK. Authentic Madeira Cake, “Bolo De Mel” is a sticky dark honey cake, a bit like a British Christmas Pudding. Served in slices, it looks like a thick gooey tart and tastes divine. The Calheta Sugar Cane Mill is famous for the dark honey cake and walking past the kitchens where the cakes are made … well, the air is filled with the delicious aroma of molasses, alcohol, almonds … in fact, the whole sugar cane factory is enveloped with the smell. A giant cake is made every January , which is matured and freshly basted throughout the year, and is then ceremonially cut a year later. The cultivation of sugar cane was the first significant agricultural product in Madeira. The sugar cane is used to make molasses, dark honey, Madeira Cake, rum & the island drink, Poncha. The mill in Calheta is still a working factory, open all year round and visitors are welcome. There is a small museum, the mill itself, a shop and tasting area. Free entry and I have visited many times over the last few years – it is a lovely place to while away an afternoon.

Although not Madeiran in aspect, the Reid’s Hotel in Funchal has a tradition that goes back donkeys years – the afternoon tea, British style. Every afternoon, proper brewed tea served in dainty wedge wood china cups ( or champagne) is served along with scones, sandwiches, petit four and cake. It really is quite a civil affair and a dress code is rigidly applied – no shorts, flip flops or trainers. Famous celebrities that have stayed in this hotel are numerous and include George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Charlie Chaplin.

The Madeirans are great sponge cake bakers – I tried a delicious slab of homemade orange cake ( and some chocolate cake) at a cafe near the church and cable car station in Monte, washed down with local Madeiran coffee. In Calheta, the homemade apple pie and ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon was a delight. And, cheese lovers need not despair – the cheese courses in restaurants are alive and kicking with some of the best European cheeses you can imagine.

Cheese … Calheta Beach Hotel, Calheta © Adam Hobden

DRINK

Like their Portuguese mainland counterparts, Madeirans do love their coffee. Unlike Italian coffee which is 100% Arabica beans, Portuguese coffee is a mixture of Arabica & Robusta beans. I was disappointed at first when my coffee with milk (Garoto) was served in a small espresso cup; but I soon discovered that asking for a Chinesa instead got me the same coffee with milk, but double the quantity in a larger teacup. All other styles of coffee, including cappuccino, espresso, iced coffee are available in the more touristy cafes in Funchal.

Brisa is a range of soft drinks produced and distributed in Madeira. A variety of flavours available include cola, cola light, cola zero, tonic water, orange, lemonade, apple, mango and, of course, passionfruit.

Madeira wine is one of the two fortified wines that Portugal is famous for – the other being Port. Unlike port, Which is stored and matured in a cold cellar, Madeira wine is stored in a warm place like an attic. The 4 most famous Madeira wines are Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, Malmsey.

Madeira produces some excellent table wines also, although not widely exported, they are well worth hunting out. There’s around 12 table wine producers in Madeira; 24 varieties of red, white & rose. The vineyard I visited was high up in the mountains above Sao Vicente on the north coast. The vineyard is small but oozes character, the producers are knowledgeable and they are rightly proud of the wines they produced. After a tour of the vineyard, I was able to taste the wines – all were good, hic! – and all had a touch of sea saltiness from the air and volcanic earthiness from the volcanic caves they were stored in.

If you like chocolate and cocktails, then you won’t be disappointed with a “Ginjinhas” – a strong cherry liqueur served in an edible chocolate cup. Cheers!

You can’t visit Madeira without trying PONCHA. Poncha is believed to have been inspired by an Indian drink called “panch”. Panch means 5 and was named because it is made from 5 ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, tea or spices. Traditional Poncha consists of sugarcane rum, lemon juice, and honey mixed together with a wooden stick called a “caralhinho” – named for its distinctive male genital shape!! And is served without ice. Legend also has it that fishermen used Poncha has a remedy for sore throats when they disembarked from their ships. For tourists, Poncha is now available in various versions – Surinam cherry, passionfruit, tree tomato, tangerine, orange. I’m not sure whether it is a great remedy for a sore throat, but as a drink it is delightful. Best to drink some at a local rustic bar where it is made in front of you, of course. You can buy premixed Poncha in bottles at the airport and supermarkets, which are nice but a bit sweeter than the real mccoy.

For pinning later.

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite! I know I’m craving for a slice of Madeira cake and a glass of Poncha now!

Linda x

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Review: Trendhim

Men’s jewellery is enjoying a bit of a revival, especially when it comes to bracelets. In the past, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, gold curb and rope chain necklaces and bracelets were in vogue. Chunkier the better, and yellow gold was the colour. I remember shopping in Corfu Town in 1992 and there were jewellery shops selling gold rope and curb chains by the length. Pop icons such as Wham enhanced this fashion for men. Spring forward to 2020 and men’s jewellery is enjoying popularity again but with a more subtle approach – beads and leather bracelets in blacks, browns, and other shades are worn either on their own or in a stack – teenagers, businessmen, musicians, young, old, bikers, cyclists… you get the drift. It’s a trend that you can wear on any occasion too. Having the chance to review a bracelet for Trendhim, a company based in Denmark – my husband Adam, a fan of leather bracelets, was pleased to take part, of course!

Disclosure: I was gifted the “Lucleon Pleated Black Leather Bracelet ” in exchange for an honest review; all opinions expressed are entirely my ownand Adam’s imput too!

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SO WHO ARE TRENDHIM?

Trendhim are a menswear/accessory brand founded in late 2007 by Sebastian and Mikkel. Their products are designed in Denmark and they currently offer 13 unique house brands and they launch several collections a year. In 2014, Trendhim expanded into Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands. At the end of February 2016, they had further expanded into 11 new countries, hired 43 translators as all 3000 of their products and website had to be translated into 8 different languages! In 2017, Trendhim became the 10th fastest growing company in Denmark. In 2018 Trendhim has opened up in 12 new countries including Australia, Singapore, South Africa, Canada, NewZealand and the USA.

THE WEBSITE

https://www.trendhim.co.uk/

https://www.trendhim.com

Apart from the main Trendhim website, there are also dedicated websites for both the UK and USA. I looked at both the USA & UK websites and found them to be very slick, informative, good selection of products, easy to navigate and reasonable prices too. The pictures on the website are pretty much what you get. For the bracelets, selecting your size was pretty simple: you need to measure your own wrist – my husband’s was just under 7.5 inches. The sizes then go by wrist size and whether you want a tight fit or a loose fit. My husband opted for a loose fit, and it was true to size.

Showing the fit of the Lucleon Pleated Black Leather Bracelet, in large (7.5 inches) loose fit.

PACKAGING & DELIVERY

There were two options of delivery available – standard delivery quoted as being 3 – 5 working days; and next day delivery by DHL. I did feel that the next day delivery charge to the UK was a bit steep at £12. The standard option was £4 ( in some cases free). If you are a regular reader of my reviews then you’ll know that I do have a wee browse in the reviews of brands left by customers. I am pleased to report that the majority of customers were very satisfied, but those that did have a grumble wasn’t anything to do with the products but delivery times. It was being reported of waiting up to 10 working days for items – it was around Christmas time so that might have disturbed the apple cart. My experience – I opted for the standard delivery; I received tracking details. I could see that the company had processed and despatched my order within 24 hours. And then Brexit happened. Things slowed down somewhere between Denmark & UK . I am not going to lie – I did get anxious. When it comes to deliveries I do like a quick service… but I waited 5 days…. the parcel came on working day 6. Not too horrendously late. Trendhim are working to try and improve delivery times, but unfortunately they are tied by the efficiency (or non efficiency) of the courier companies. My advice? Learn to chill! If you are ordering for a special occasion, order 2 weeks in advance or go for the next day service. The bracelet came in a strong “climate controlled Jiffy- type bag envelopealong with 2 yummy sherbet lemon sweets (gratefully devoured after the photo was taken). The bracelet was not in a box or pouch – there are available extras: personalised engraving, gift box, wrapping & gift tags, wooden jewellery stand – details on website.

Inside the package
The Envelope

THE BRACELET

Our chosen bracelet was the Trendhim brand Lucleon Pleated Black Leather Bracelet. As my husband Adam is a Leo, the brand’s lion logo instantly appealed. The bracelet is double thickness plait design – he already has a Pandora leather single plaited bracelet, so Trendhim’s bracelet compliments his “stack”. The clasp is magnetic, which is unusual – there is no locking mechanism although it is highly unlikely that the bracelet will come undone . The workmanship of the bracelet is really good – the leather is good quality and it is visually stunning.

Close up of the plaited design
The logo
Magnetic clasp

MY VERDICT

Trendhim’s website and newsletters contain a wealth of information regarding how to care for your jewellery, how to wear bracelets, how to create your perfect stack, how to wear your bracelet with your watch…. signing up to the newsletter would also give you the chance to get free gifts with your orders such as socks etc .

Adam has given the bracelet a score of 8/10 – it is very well made but his only fear was the clasp coming undone, although his fear might be unfounded.

My thanks goes to Trendhim for gifting the beautiful bracelet for this review.

Linda x

All photographs are copyright © Linda Hobden




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Review: Prestige Flowers

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

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

The Website


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

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

The Package I Received

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

The Roses

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

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

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

Looking After The Roses

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

For pinning later

My Verdict

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

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

Linda x

All photographs are by © Linda Hobden

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Knights At Warwick Castle

One evening last July, whilst watching television, an advertisement was aired that immediately caught my family’s attention. It was talking about the “Dragon Slayer” Light & Show extravaganza at Warwick Castle. Apart from the stunning light show & fireworks, the Castle looked magnificent and there was a plethora of medieval activities going on. We thought it looked good & having not visited Warwick Castle before, decided to book an impromptu weekend away in August. Having sons in their early teens, Warwick Castle looked as though it was fun enough for them as well as mum & dad!

Glamping section of the Knights Village

Having looked on the website, we decided to book a Woodland Lodge in the “hotel” Knights Village, located in the grounds of the Warwick Castle Estate. The lodges were semi detached wood lodges consisting of a double bedroom with the usual tea making facilities; a twin bedroom with bunk beds; and en suite shower and toilet facilities. My sons found their bunk beds slightly uncomfortable – possibly because they are designed to accommodate younger children. Being that the lodges were semi detached, I was worried that the walls might be paper thin – but they were totally soundproofed and a peaceful night was had by all.

Our bedroom. Woodland Lodge, Knights Village.

The Medieval Banqueting Hall was the main restaurant where dinner and breakfast was served. A buffet breakfast featuring both continental and cooked traditional food. Breakfast was included in the cost of the lodge – there was plenty on offer. We had also purchased a dinner and “Dragon Slayer” show package – Hot buffet style 3 course dinner with free soft drinks. I had a delicious homemade steak pie but I found the salad starters rather bland and unappetising; and desserts consisted of mini doughnuts with a plethora of toppings or a fresh fruit salad. The children liked the doughnuts, of course! I suppose, in keeping with food in medieval times, it was more focused on hale and hearty meat dishes with an array of delicious seasonal vegetables. I can’t remember if there were any vegetarian/vegan options. If you are an adult, and you are not a fan of drinking water, cola, lemonade, tea or coffee with your dinner – there is a bar where you can purchase wine and beer. Beware, the price for a small glass of wine and a bottle of lager is expensive! We stuck to tea & coffee for the rest of the evening. If you do enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, I would suggest bringing your own tipple to consume on your lodge decking. The Medieval Banquet Hall, of course, was decked out like it would have been in the Middle Ages – long trestle tables, low ceiling, light was from candless dotted around – it was really well done BUT it was August, it was hot outside, there was no ventilation apart from the entrance doors, no air conditioning (of course) so it was stiflingly hot inside, and the restaurant was full of diners. You had to wait to be seated, and I’m glad that we were positioned both days near the doors! It was slightly claustrophobic so we did not linger over our meal.

Medieval Banqueting Hall

We travelled to Warwick in torrential rain, but by the time we arrived mid afternoon the rain had cleared. Check in time is 4pm but when we arrived, just after 2.30pm our lodge had already been cleaned and was ready for arrival, so we were handed our keys. After a quick freshen up & a mug of hot tea we were ready to explore. The castle closing time is 5pm, so we decided to spend the last hour and a half in the castle grounds – we had a whole day pass for the next day too and as the weather forecast was hot and sunny we decided that was the day to spend in and out of the castle itself. Not forgetting the “Dragon Slayer” show later in the evening….

We made our way to the jousting field just in time to catch the final Wars Of The Roses Jousting show. There was adequate seating and standing room on both sides of the field – and an area dedicated to wheelchairs. To be honest, most people were standing and if you were seated on the benches you probably wouldn’t have seen a thing! Each stand represented either the House of York or the House of Lancaster – audience participation in the form of cheering and booing your “knight” was very much encouraged. The horsemanship was brilliant.

Audience Participation
The winner!

After the show, which was more enjoyable than I had imagined we headed over to the Birds of Prey field which overlooked the river. My youngest son likes watching Birds of Prey shows and we have been to many over the years. This was slightly different. As we perched upon the benches, with coffees in polystyrene cups in our hands, we were warned to keep as still as possible. There was a good reason for this because as the show progressed with displays from owls, kestrels, vultures, eagles and other rare birds of prey – not only did they perform in front of us but they expertly glided between the benches and over our heads with only inches to spare. The finale: all the birds swooped in a display literally inches above our heads. It was hard to take a picture!

Archery lessons

Back at the Knights Village, once the castle is closed, entertainment for the family is provided in the riverside field, free of charge – Lessons in archery, learning to be a knight, learning to be a princess and handling birds of prey. These activities are available in the castle grounds, during the day, but at a cost. As you can imagine, the knights and princess lessons were not of interest to my boys – but the classes were packed with excitable 5 and 6 year old boys and girls in long dresses and tiaras, both sexes brandishing foam swords! My sons opted for the archery lessons instead.

Dragon Slayer Show part 1

We didn’t spend too long in the entertainment field as it was time to venture back into the castle for the main Dragon Slayer Show. First half was taking place back in the jousting field, where the Wars of the Roses show had taken place that afternoon. The show is about the brave knight, Guy of Warwick. As legend has it, Guy of Warwick was a 10th-century English hero who travelled the world on a series of daring adventures in order to impress the Earl of Warwick’s daughter – Lady Felice – and win her hand in marriage. Sir Guy’s daring exploits include slaying a dragon, fighting a giant and battling in holy wars. In this part of the show, the legend unravelled using fire eaters, daring deeds on horseback and a lot of audience cheering & even a unicorn ….

It was soon time for Part 2 – the slaying of the dragon, which took place inside the castle walls, in the central courtyard. The castle walls were the screens as in front of our eyes, the dragon came alive, with a spectacular light show with flames that kept the audience absolutely mesmerising. It was the most dramatic light show I have ever seen – absolutely brilliant. There was a lot of standing, approximately 3 hours, but it was absolutely worth it. Unfortunately, I was so mesmerised watching the show that I didn’t take a photo or video. Yes, it was one of those wow moments. There are plenty of videos on YouTube though of the show.

Warwick Castle

Day 2 – Warwick Castle itself. Blazing sunshine and warm temperatures greeted us this morning – just right for visiting Warwick Castle itself. The terrain is pretty hilly – so make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes, trainers or walking boots. There are sweeping pathways suitable for wheelchairs & pushchairs – however, apart from the grounds, the state rooms, main castle cafe, dungeons and ramparts are not. Warwick Castle is a medieval castle developed from a wooden fort, originally built by William the Conqueror during 1068. I loved looking around the Great Hall, State Rooms and Chapel. The Great Hall was first constructed in the 14th century, rebuilt in the 17th century and restored again in 1871 after being badly damaged by fire. various suits of armour line the Hall. The State Rooms are lovingly recreated with wax figures depicting the various centuries. The Queen Anne Bedroom has her actual bed that she died in, in 1774. The 1st Earl of Warwick, Francis Grenville was given Queen Anne’s furniture by King George III, along with some gorgeous Delft tapestries, dating from 1604.

The Castle Dungeon Tour is where the ghoulish history of Warwick Castle comes alive with the help of some talented actors and special effects, including smells. I’m a bit squeamish so I baled out of the tour, relaxing with an ice cream in the castle courtyard instead, whilst my husband and sons merrily explored the depths learning about the days of the Plague to the tale of Moll Bloxham.

If you have a head for heights, and mobile, then climbing up the towers and ramparts is a must. The views from the top are astounding. There is a strict one way system in place as the stairways up to the ramparts are so narrow, so the only way is up! Caesar’s Tower is the tallest tower at the castle, standing at an impressive 44.8m tall. It was built on the orders of Thomas de Beauchamp in the 14th century. The lowest chamber of Caesar’s Tower is the Gaol – the original dungeon. You can still see graffiti from prisoners 100s of years ago on the prison walls.

A big surprise was the beautiful gardens, 64 acres of rolling landscaped gardens with peacocks strutting around. The gardens were transformed in the 1750s, under one of Britain’s greatest landscape gardeners, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. It is believed that Warwick Castle was Brown’s first independent castle commission. There are over 20 peacocks and peahens running around the garden. The Peacock Garden was designed by the Victorian landscape gardener Robert Marnock and consists of topiary peacocks, manicured hedges, pond and fountain.

The Horrible Histories Maze is also in the castle grounds and it is quite fun, whatever your age! Due to uneven flooring, pushchairs and the wearing of high heels are banned – although the maze is wheelchair accessible.

For pinning later

My Verdict

Weather is very important. If the weather is dry then this is a fantastic castle to visit as apart from The State Rooms & Great Hall, everything else takes place in the open air. For an estate of this size, there isn’t a lot of seating but plenty of grassy areas for sitting on the ground. There is a lot of walking, and a lot of standing (especially for the shows) . There is a castle cafe, which we didn’t visit, and plenty of food stands selling everything from pulled pork rolls to ice cream, tea & coffee to soft drinks. There is a lot to do, activity wise, for all the family – some activities have an added cost eg the archery, Dungeon tour, Knight training – but the jousting and birds of prey are included in your castle entrance fee. Young children will adore the knights and princesses; adults will appreciate the castle, gardens and everybody will love the jousting!

Warwick Castle itself 8/10

Knights Village. 4/10


Linda x

All photographs © Linda Hobden


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Review: Ecopanda Reusable Make Up Remover Pads

DISCLAIMER ALERT: The make up remover pads have been supplied by Ecopanda for the purpose of this review however all opinions expressed are 100% mine.

This week I’m looking at make up remover pads. How do you take off your make up? Hands up those who, like me, use wipes to remove your makeup! Or do you use tissues/cotton wool balls to use with your cleanser/toner? I was approached by Ecopanda to try their reusable makeup remover pads…

Ecopanda are a small UK brand that have only just been established this year. They are determined to stop the madness of the disposable use of reusable products – a habit that a lot of people are guilty of. Ecopanda supports the deliberate exchange of plastic for sustainable products made from renewable raw materials. I’m always up for a challenge and so I’ve been using the reusable pads and here’s my opinion:

The Product

When you order the product you get 18 good sized fairly thick cotton pads (you can use both sides) in a pretty cute and handy storage box with a mesh bag. The pads are meant just for removing make up and not for exfoliating… I read one review on Amazon from a customer who bemoaned the fact that the pads were not exfoliating. The pads are dry – you need to add the cleanser/toner – unlike makeup wipes that are already moistened. The pads were soft and removed my makeup adequately. They do the job they were meant to do….. 10/10

Are they convenient/reusable/habit breaking?

Are they convenient? It depends: if you use cleansing lotion/ toners on a regular basis and usually use tissues/cotton wool then the answer is yes. I would use them for home use. Personally, for travelling, I would vouch for the make up wipes – no added baggage and I try to travel as light as possible. I am also aware that wipes are not environmentally friendly – these pads tick the environmentally friendly box. Hard to score. 7/10

The Wash tests

After removing make up, when using wipes, the dirty wipes are then chucked into the bin. With these reusable pads – well they need cleaning. The company admits that after washing, the pads are not snowy white but are clean enough to be reused. The company guidelines are to wash, in the bag provided, in a 60° machine wash, and any stubborn mascara marks, hand wash first. So, I conducted 4 washing tests: machine wash 40° ; handwashed using washing up liquid; handwashed using liquid soap; boiled water machine wash 60°. I decided to try other washing methods because I rarely use a 60° wash on my washing machine and, in this day and age, a lower temperature wash is encouraged. However, I did do a boiled wash test. I used 4 separate clean pads and used to take off my make up on 4 separate days:

Test 1: Machine Wash 40°

Test 2 – Handwashed – washing up liquid

Test 3 – Handwashed – liquid soap

Test 4 – boiled wash 60°

So, I found that hand washing with washing up liquid produced the cleaner result. Although the other washing results produced similar results. I didn’t use vanish, ace or other in wash washing machine stain removers – I imagine using a pre wash stain wash would produce better results. Personally, I would reuse the pads because the stains are very slight and the stains don’t affect the work of the pad in any way. However, if you have sensitive skin, think about washing powder/soap reaction from the pads once washed. They don’t look particularly clean either after washing, although they are, so it is a matter of personal taste whether you’d be happy reusing them. 7/10

CONCLUSION

I’m liking these pads the more I’m using them – they are better than using dry tissue or cotton wools. These will be used at home. For travelling though, I think I’d be sticking to the disposable wipes (sorry!) – but never say never! The box they come in is very cute and looks great on the bathroom shelf or dressing table. Price wise – they are not cheap however as you do get 18 pads and you use both sides, that is 36 days…and then a machine wash and use them again… And they are definitely a big nod towards the non disposable idea. Overall score: 8/10

For Pinning Later

Ecopanda pads are available from Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07NHYB1BN

Thank you to Ecopanda for giving me the opportunity to try your reusable make up pads. I do endeavour to break the disposable habit!

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden.

Photos and Article copyright © LindaHobden.

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Art London

I do so love art and I do so love my city of London, where I was born & bred, so you can imagine my excitement at being given the privilege of reading a preview of the fantastic book “Art London” – a guide book with a twist. It’s a book every art lover should have on their coffee table – but used like any other well thumbed guide book. It is a guide to places, artists and events – author Hettie Judah has sniffed out some hidden gems in back streets and in otherwise non descript buildings; has given information on the more well known galleries and museums; found some enticing galleries to add a picture or two to your collection; and details on every event to fill your diary. But, the book is so much more. It is jam packed with stories and historical data on everything art, including but not limited to, the artists, galleries, statues, architecture, public artwork as seen in the subways of the London Underground, as well as the general art scene. The book is a little mine of information! It has renewed my enthusiasm to revisit forgotten galleries and discover new places – adventures I hope to write about in future blogposts. Oh, and I mustn’t forget about the innovative photography in the book by Alex Schneideman! Superb! In the meantime though, I caught up with art critic and author of “Art London”, Hettie Judah …. hi Hettie!

Photographer Alex Schneideman

Hi! I’m Hettie. I’m an art critic and writer – chief art critic for the British daily newspaper The I, and a regular contributor to The Guardian, Frieze, Vogue International, Art Quarterly and lots of other publications with ‘art’ in the title. I talk about art at events in galleries and museums.

“Art London” is a guide book extraordinaire – I was enthralled to read the history of some places that I had previously walked past eg the statues of Parliament Square and the building above St James Park Station, and not really taken much notice – and now I have my “tourist goggles” on ! What made you decide to write “Art London” in the first place?

Most Saturdays when I’m in London I spend the afternoon catching up on exhibitions in small commercial galleries clustered around a particular area. I was relying on a few mapping apps to locate the galleries, but realised that I was missing a lot – unbelievably there was no one app, book or website that offered anything close to a definitive list or guide to London’s small galleries. There also wasn’t much information about their history – I walked past the amazing Autograph gallery for years without realising that it was the gallery of the Association of Black Photographers, and that it had a very important history. One thing that’s fascinating about London is that it has such a diverse population and history – it was important to me with the book that I represented that as best I could, offering a set of parallel art histories for the city. I wanted Art London to be a friendly paperback rather than a glossy coffee table book: I’m hoping people will find it approachable, informative and entertaining, and most of all be able to get out there and use it.

I liked how you wrote the book – I enjoyed reading about the established galleries I visited as a child – such as William Morris Gallery and the V & A Museum Of Childhood in Bethnal Green;  I can’t wait to explore the new modern art galleries and hidden gems; I was fascinated to read the mini biographies of artists of old and new – the book is packed to the rafters – how long did the book take you to write? What was the hardest part(s) to write about ?

Thank you! I’m guessing you must be a North East Londoner? I really enjoyed researching Art London – there was a lot of reading, and exploration – I hope that comes through in the writing. The book has taken about a year from start to finish, though I was drawing on knowledge that I have built up over a long career writing about art: there are stories such as the Tradescants’ Ark, or the husband and wife team behind Kelpra, that I have had in mind for years. The hardest part was knowing when to stop – the book could have been ten times the length – there are no end of fascinating stories. Every few days now I come across something or someone that I wish I’d had space to include – in June I interviewed Penny Slinger, who is a wonderful artist who was active in London in the 1960s. She is an ardent feminist, very sexually liberated: some of the stories she told would have been wonderful for Art London. Who knows, maybe I’ll do an expanded edition in a few years?

photographed by Alex Schneideman

Oh you guessed right Hettie! I was born in Stratford & brought up in the Leyton/Leytonstone area of East London; I went to college in Tottenham in North London – so yes, the north east corner of London was definitely my childhood “stomping ground” 😊 Have you got a favourite art gallery or museum?  Whilst researching your book, what were the hidden gems that surprised you the most? 

There are some very special art spaces in London – I love Dilston Grove in Southwark Park, an atmospheric space in an old church building. I’m great fans of 6A Architects who converted the new South London Gallery building in an old fire station: their buildings always feel airy and welcoming, full of natural light and a sense of the space beyond the walls. I’m ashamed to say that didn’t know about the Jean Cocteau murals in Notre Dame de France before I started researching the book: they really are hidden gems. We all move so fast in this city: sometimes we need to be reminded to look up and pause. I don’t think I’d taken in the Henry Moore carvings on the Time Life building until a curator friend posted them on Instagram – I’d been walking past the building on Bond Street for years without looking at them properly.

I loved discovering new artists and learning about their historical background, such as Mary Beale, Britain’s first female professional portraitist. Have you got any favourite artists?

So many! Hogarth has a special place in my heart. He was a great observer of raw human nature – drunk, lusty, ambitious, destitute – but I think he appreciated simple everyday pleasures around him too. Gwen John’s paintings are exquisite – there are a couple in Tate Britain’s collection that are definitely on my ‘would steal’ list (sorry Tate…) ditto sculptures by the Geometry of Fear generation: Lynn Chadwick and Bernard Meadows. I don’t think I’d fit Phyllida Barlow’s work into my house, but her recent show at the Royal Academy was glorious. And our cover star Gillian Wearing has done so much great work – and with such wit.

 “Art London” isn’t your first book – and you have written about art in many top name publications.Have you always enjoyed writing? Are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet?

I’m afraid I was that cliché as a kid: a bookworm and a daydreamer. I’ve not changed much. I enjoy research, and I don’t have a natural flair for plots, so non fiction is probably my natural home. I have written all kinds of things in the past, from poetry to scripts for short films. Even comedy sketches. And like most writers I have an unfinished novel lurking in a bottom drawer…

Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

Funny you should ask! I’m just back from a research trip in Mexico City for a short biography of Frida Kahlo – unknotting biographical fact from fiction has been fascinating, she was a great teller of tall tales. Frida will be coming out this time next year with Laurence King.

Knowing you’re a bookworm … what is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I buy a huge number of second hand books – I get through hundreds and hundreds in my line of work. As a result  I don’t get much chance to indulge in fiction – perhaps only one or two books a year, depending on whether I get the chance to take a holiday. If I do manage to squeeze in some holiday reading I try to reset my brain with something totally different, usually science fiction: China Miéville, Stanislav Lem, Ursula K Le Guin ….

Is “Art London” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! And please order it through local bookshops if you can, they need our support.

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

Always flat shoes – Converse or Supergas – art critics spend a lot of time on their feet. I’m usually in a dress: my frocks start life as evening wear and slowly filter down into my everyday wardrobe and then my dog walking and gardening outfits over the course of a decade or so. Like many in the art world I struggle with an unshakeable attraction to black clothing.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Vintage costume jewellery from eBay.

Boots or Shoes?

A solid pair of boots – I’m on my feet for hours every day.

For Pinning Later

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

My personal Instagram account it @hettiejudah – artworks from the exhibitions I visit, and very occasionally a picture of my dog.I started a separate Instagram account for Art London. For practical reasons we couldn’t show all the artworks and artists mentioned in the book – it would have been thousands of pages long – so @artlondon_book is a picture gallery for curious readers.

Thank you Hettie – it has been such a pleasure chatting to you and it was such a privilege to read and thumb through the preview of “Art London”. I’m so excited to check out some new venues! I’m also looking forward to reading your biography of Frida Kahlo – sounds really interesting.

Linda x

Photos: All photos (apart from the last one for Pinterest) are by Alex Schneideman and have been published with kind permission from Hettie Judah and photographer Alex Schneideman. The Pinterest photo was taken by myself, Linda Hobden – Street Art at a Market in Shoreditch, close to Liverpool Street Station.

“Art London” was published by ACC Art Books.

Photos and Article copyright © LindaHobden.

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Review: Rydale Boots

DISCLAIMER ALERT: The boots have been supplied by Rydale for the purpose of this review however all opinions expressed are 100% mine.

September! The start of my favourite season of the year – Autumn. Living in the south east of England, I love the warm, sunny days and the cooler nights; I love the changing colours of the countryside; but I think my favourite reason of all is that it heralds the start of “boot” season! I love my boots but I never feel comfortable wearing boots in summer – I do have an open toe heeled pair of boots but it isn’t the same. I like to wear my thick tights or socks with a pair of comfortable boots. So, I was so excited to receive a pair of uber cool suede chelsea style boots to review from outdoor country clothing and footwear company, Rydale.

Ladies Kirby II Heeled Suede Chelsea Boots in Brown/Plum

Rydale is a family company established in 1954 by John Nichols and now it is in the 3rd generation, still based in the heart of Yorkshire. John Nichols was inspired by a true passion for the country lifestyle and today Rydale’s ranges of outdoor country clothing, footwear and accessories for men, women and children are truly impressive. Their website features traditional wax jackets, tweed coats, flat caps, jodhpurs, riding boots alongside skinny jeans and, my favourite, the Chelsea Boot. Rydale has invested heavily into waste management and recycling. To offset their small carbon footprint, Rydale have created a woodland and have so far planted over 10,000 trees. All Rydale’s products are inspired and designed in Yorkshire – with an emphasis on quality, reliability and style…. so did the Chelsea Boots live up to the hype??

What a silly question! They were all that I hoped and more! Let’s look more closely at Rydale’s claims…

  1. Quality. These boots are made of the finest soft suede leather fabric and the comfortable faux leather padded interior gave the boots an almost slipper feel. I took the boots for a day and night continuous “road test” – walking around villages and fields during the day and a restaurant meal in the evening. As the heel is only low, it came as no surprise that my feet didn’t ache. What really impressed me was that they felt like slippers and weren’t clunky or cumbersome; they didn’t rub my heel nor squashed my toes; and the boot has a slightly narrow fit which suits me as I have narrow feet and am forever slipping and sliding in standard/wider footwear. 10/10

2. Reliability. Obviously they are suede boots so not suitable for wearing in wet or snowy conditions. Rydale recommend cleaning with a suede protector spray. The boots have a rubber sole – I can only presume that they will be ok on an icy surface – but temperatures here are hovering around 25°C at the moment it was hard to road test the slipability factor.

3. Style. These boots definitely have the style X factor! These boots are an updated version of the original Kirby boots – which are also pretty stylish – and the colourways on offer are pretty scrumptious. My pair are in brown/plum; the other colours in the Kirby II style are Dark Green/Plum and Navy/Plum. I do so love the contrasting elasticated panel – the Plum colour is so on trend this year. 10/10

WEAR WITH…..

I like to wear mine with skinny jeans – in denim of all colours. Rydale do a range of skinny jeans – “Portia” – in a variety of colours from navy denim to berry. I particularly liked the Chelsea boots with Rydale’s dark brown jodhpurs – made a refreshing change from wearing them with traditional riding boots. Don’t be scared of pairing these boots with thick tights and a short tweed skirt; or embrace the current boho trend and wear with a long flowing 1970s style dress …. the possibilities are endless.

Like the boots?

Check out Rydale’s website and feast your eyes on some lovely footwear and clothing. https://www.rydale.com

Delivery of items are quick and postage costs are pretty reasonable too – I especially appreciate the fast delivery option of 1-2 working days – I get impatient waiting for goods!! The good news for my international friends is that Rydale ship to a wide range of destinations in Europe, America and beyond.

For pinning later

Thank you Rydale for introducing me to your gorgeous footwear range! I’m in love!!

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden.

Photos and Article copyright © LindaHobden.

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Steampunk Day At Bressingham

In July, my husband, myself and our teenage sons went on a day trip to Bressingham – a sort of steam railway/museum/gardens centre near Diss, in Norfolk. Finding a place that would amuse us all as a family, avoiding theme parks, is becoming harder now my boys are teenagers. Having not been to Bressingham before, and we all like steam trains, it seemed an ideal place to visit. The added attraction was that it was “Steampunk Weekend” too – but I was unaware of this until we arrived ….

Bressingham

So, what is Steampunk? According to the Oxford dictionary it is “A style of design and fashion that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction”… According to Wikipedia, “Steampunk is a sub genre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th century industrial steam-powered machinery.” I first noticed as we arrived at 10am glamorous women in Victorian lace up boots and long corset style gothic/Victoriana style dresses… men in dapper jackets … top hats and goggles . I thought they must be members of staff …. I thought Bressingham was just about steam railways ….but then I realised they were members of the public mingling in the queue alongside those in bog standard shorts and t shirts. I did feel underdressed!

My 14 year old son Jack was hooked – he immediately purchased a top hat that was customised for him whilst we looked around Bressingham and we was able to pick it up later. My youngest son settled for some groovy goggles. I enjoyed looking at the beautiful bodices being sold on the stalls … and I enjoyed admiring the gorgeous outfits being worn.

Bressingham itself is a great place to visit, with or without a special event going on, but the Steampunk event certainly added a special air to the place. Bressingham consists of many parts: Bressingham Rides, Bressingham Gardens, Bressingham Museum.

Bressingham Rides

We were lucky because on the day we visited all 3 railway lines with their impressive steam locomotives were running . The railway lines covered the woodland area, around the gardens and around the perimeter of the site. The working locomotives were all different and the journey times were longer than the usual miniature railway ride.

However, the large Victorian steam galloper occupies a prominent position near the entrance, and although my youngest son had his leg strapped up as he had broken his foot, with a bit of help, he was able to ride on the horse alongside his dad and brother. In fact, him and his brother had quite a few gos over the course of the day. I must admit, the merry-go-round looked lovely but it made me feel dizzy just watching let alone riding on it. I stayed at the side, holding Ethan’s crutches and taking photos.

There was an old fashioned fairground full of penny machines, hoopla stalls and other attractions of the Victorian age. A small crazy golf course was a lot of laughs and at £2 per person provided a good half hour’s entertainment as we battled it out between ourselves to see who would become the family champion …. my husband came first, I came 2nd…

Bressingham Gardens

The gardens are renowned worldwide for their horticultural excellence – there are four linking gardens displaying over 8,000 species and varieties within its 17 acres. The gardens are privately owned by the, appropriately named, Bloom family. Adrian Bloom and his father, Alan, have each created a 6 acre garden : The Dell and Foggy Bottom. Unfortunately we only managed to view the gardens from the garden railway train journey and didn’t have enough time to wander through the 17 acres as well. I will definitely head for the gardens on my next visit, perhaps in Spring when the gardens are in full bloom.

The Bressingham Museum

In fact there are 2 museums ….

The Locomotive Sheds were full of trains and carriages from yesteryear – bringing the glory of steam engineering up close. You couldn’t actually step inside the locomotives or carriages but there were especially built platforms along the sides so you can have a good old peek through the windows . The royal carriages were really fascinating. The old posters dotted around the walls were interesting too – the old away day trips by train I can remember well as a young girl – I remember one day railway trip we made as a family around 1974 was from London to Blackpool via Preston ( we didn’t have long there as a day trip and it rained all day!)

National Dad’s Army Collection – based on the popular TV series, Dad’s Army, you wander through the fictional “Walmington On Sea” with the original props and vehicles from the series.

Other Facilities

There is a gift shop and a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating that served the biggest slices of chocolate cake I have ever seen and picnic areas. Warranting a special mention are the toilet facilities for both men and women. They are both sparkling clean – hard to achieve in a public place – but the floors, toilets, sinks were spotless even by mid afternoon.

There were extra shops and stalls as part of the Steampunk event.

Recommend?

Oh yes, definitely.

If you are into gardens, then Bressingham gardens would delight. Steam train/train enthusiasts would enjoy. Ideal family day out – for babies the gardens would be ideal pram pushing area, for older children and adults the merry go round, crazy golf, & trains would delight. Not sure there was enough to please a toddler though.

For Pinning Later

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden.

For more details about Bressingham check out their website: www.bressingham.co.uk

Photos and 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. 

For Pinning Later

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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