Category Archives: Reviews

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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Walking In Thetford Forest

There is something undeniably therapeutic about being in a forest – the greenery is relaxing, the silence, the smells, the general aura of the trees, the feeling of being remote, the shade on a hot day …. Ever since I was a young child I have loved being amongst trees. My woodland playground in them days was Epping Forest, on the fringes of East London and Essex. A woodland setting for a hot July weekend away recently was bliss – destination Thetford Forest.

Mile Marker in Thetford Forest

Thetford Forest straddles the border between Suffolk and Norfolk in the East Anglia region of England. It covers well over 19,000ha (47,000 acres). It is the largest lowland pine forest in England, although other trees are present including oak, beech, lime, walnut, red oak and maple. These hardwood trees are found along the sides of the roads acting as fire breaks. This Forest is actually manmade – a fact I was amazed to discover- it was created after the First World War in 1922 to provide a strategic reserve of timber since Britain had lost so many oaks and other slow growing trees as a consequence of the war.

Deep in Thetford Forest

Considering that 4 main roads bisect Thetford Forest and that visitor numbers exceed 1 million annually; the part of the forest we visited was extremely quiet and remote and we passed only a couple of fellow walkers going the opposite way to us. Thetford Forest is a very popular destination for mountain biking – there are several trails to make the most of the experience.

Driving through one of the main roads that bisect Thetford Forest

However, as my youngest son had a broken foot and was on crutches, we didn’t partake. At his insistence though, we did the 5 mile circular walk trail through the forest, starting from Lynford Hall, passing the metal statue of the Lynford Stag at the halfway stage, crossing the Lynford Lakes and back to the hall. The walk is actually a distance of 4.5miles (7.2km) but we did get lost and ventured down the wrong path and had to retrace our steps! As the weather was hot and dry, the paths were easy to walk on (and to use crutches) but there were some areas where the paths were overgrown and my son did have some trouble disentangling his crutches out of the grass!

Half Way – Lynford Stag

Thetford Forest is home to a large population of hares, rabbits, game birds, scarce breeding birds such as woodlarks and golden pheasants, and breeds of deer (muntjac, roe deer & red deer). The air was alive with the sounds of birdsong and you could hear the occasional rustle in the trees … was that a gruffalo?! …. alas we didn’t see any deer but we knew they were close by as we came across piles of deer poo pellets! Ethan was trying to avoid landing his crutches in them! By the lakes we saw a few frogs though…

Part of the Lynford Lakes

The wildlife are able to thrive in the forest because of the Forestry Commission’s strict policies – dogs are welcome to be walked in the area but must be kept on a lead at all times and kept away from the children’s play areas. In the Lynford Arboretum area dogs are not allowed (except guide dogs). Each winter, The British Siberian Husky Racing Association hold several husky racing events in the forest. I have been on a sledge driven by huskies when I was in Finland – they went really fast over bush and logs etc – it was like a rollercoaster! So I can only imagine what fun husky racing can be! Might be something to mark in the calendar….

Thetford Forest

Our start and end destination to our walk was the beautiful Lynford Hall, set in the heart of Thetford Forest. The original Hall was built in the 1800s and belonged to the Sutton family, and sat in its grounds of 7,718 acres. In 1857 Mr & Mrs Lyne Stephens took up residence & began to rebuild the present hall, designed by William Burn. It took 7 years to build, and when it was finished in 1869 it became a grade 2 Mansion. Mr Lyne Stephens made his money by inventing Dolls Eyes that opened and closed. In 1930 it became residence of Sir James Calder who frequently entertained his friend, the then American Ambassador, Joseph Kennedy, and his son, John F Kennedy, who eventually became US President. Even King Edward VII viewed Lynford Hall as a Royal Residence but chose Sandringham instead.

Nearly finished the walk…. the drive of Lynford Hall

In recent years Lynford Hall has been the setting for many popular TV series including “Allo Allo”, “Love On The Branch Line”, “You Rang My Lord” and “Dad’s Army”. Nowadays it is a hotel that also hosts events and weddings – such a great venue amongst the lakes, parkland and thousands of acres of forest that adjoin Thetford Forest itself.

Lynford Hall Country House Hotel

When we’ve visited Thetford Forest before we stayed at Center Parcs …. and there are various other lodges and campsites in the forest that offer accommodation in the forest. This weekend though we stayed at Lynford Hall. My boys said they felt very “Royal” ! I didn’t get a picture of my youngest going up and down the grand sweeping staircase with his crutches but I did get pictures of the gorgeous views and gardens…

Ornate gateway of Lynford Hall
A window view, Lynford Hall

One thing my sons were fascinated with was the old gramophone that sat outside our room – I think they were dying to have a go but didn’t! Standing in the ballroom I can just imagine the Royals and other VIPs of the day, dancing to the sounds of the gramophone…

The gramophone At Lynford Hall

What a weekend – a lovely mix of nature and history, peace and romance! Do trees inspire you in the same way?

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

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Destination Lincoln

As part of my husband’s ongoing cycle training for the Grand Depart Classic in Brussels (first leg of the 2019 Tour De France) on Saturday 29 June 2019 – he is riding on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK (find out more HERE) – Adam took part in early May in the Lincoln GP Sportive (Lincoln Grand Prix). Although the Brussels ride is around 125 miles, the 75 mile Lincoln GP ride was excellent training as the finishing line was at the top of a 23% gradient cobbled hill – aptly named Steep Hill – and the cobbles were something Adam had not yet faced and the Brussels ride features two cobbled hills of steep gradients – so Lincoln was the perfect training ride. Fortunately the hills in Brussels are not at the end of a gruelling 75 mile undulating cycle ride but occur when legs are still relatively fresh, so to speak. Our two youngest sons and I were in Lincoln to cheer on Adam and to give him some moral support as he attempted the cobbles. In the meantime, the boys and I had about 6 hours to kill whilst Adam was poodling around the Lincolnshire countryside so we did some exploring of our own around the city of Lincoln…

This was the first time I had actually spent some time in Lincolnshire – I had travelled through the county on my way to Yorkshire, Newcastle and Scotland in the past – so I was looking forward to spending some time in Lincoln. I must admit I was under the impression that Lincolnshire was a flat county – however, I now know that Lincoln itself is pretty steep and Adam assures me that the Lincolnshire Wolds that surround Lincoln were pretty undulating too! Having arrived in the evening, in rain, it was great to open our hotel room curtains and have a terrific view of Lincoln cathedral and blue skies. The boys and I decided the first place we will be exploring was to be Lincoln Cathedral.

View of Lincoln Cathedral from Premier Inn Lincoln City Centre

It was a 10 minute uphill walk to the Cathedral and on the way we diverted into a small park with trees planted in dedication to university staff who had died. It was a pretty place to wander around with a small outdoor gym. I must admit I was hoping that there was an underpass or shortcut across the busy main road via the park but I was disappointed that the park’s path was a circular route (oh well, just think of those Fitbit steps!)

Lincoln cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral is pretty impressive. It was first constructed in 1072 in the gothic style of that era. In fact, from 1311 – 1548 it was the tallest building in the world. Nowadays it is the 4th largest cathedral in the UK after Liverpool, St Paul’s, and York Minster. The original Cathedral was damaged by an earthquake on 15 April 1185 – an eye witness described the Cathedral as having been “split from top to bottom”. All I can say is that the reconstruction must have been sturdier as the Cathedral looked strong to me! Lincoln Cathedral is one of the few English cathedrals built from the rock it is standing on. The Cathedral’s stonemasons use more than 100 tonnes of stone per year for maintenance and repairs. It was in maintenance mode when we visited, but the building still looked splendid. You might have seen Lincoln Cathedral in films: it doubled up as Westminster Abbey in “Young Victoria” and in the Netflix Shakespeare film “TheKing”. Lincoln Cathedral also once housed a copy of the Magna Carta – now it is housed in Lincoln Castle …

Lincoln Cathedral

Out of Lincoln Cathedral, past the Magna Carta pub, we ventured onto Lincoln Castle with its extensive grounds and intact wall. Visitors can now walk the full circumference of the wall, which is an impressive third of a mile long. The views over Lincoln and the countryside are supposed to be stunning but I must admit that the clouds started to roll in and a cup of tea beckoned so we retreated to the cafe that was set within the castle walls & the Victorian prison instead. Lincoln Castle was built by William The Conqueror in 1068. The Victorian prison was added on in 1788. In the Castle grounds was the impressive building of Lincoln Crown Court, alas not open to the public. The boys though were more interested in the Lego Space Exhibition being held in the grounds. Presented and built by Bricklive, the exhibits included larger than life models of The Earth, astronauts and the Space Shuttle.

Lincoln Castle Walls
Lincoln Castle Walls
Lincoln Crown Court
Lego “Earth” at Lincoln Castle
Lego Astronaut
Lego Space Shuttle

Next stop, Steep Hill. This cobbled hill & its adjacent street, Mickelgate, was where the finishing line was. We still had a bit of time to visit a shop on Steep Hill that I had discovered online some months previously: Roly’s Fudge Pantry! I couldn’t wait to discover this little fudge enclave and I thought Adam and his fellow team cyclists might appreciate fudge once they passed that finish line. Let me tell you, the fudge pantry did not disappoint! The sweet aroma hits you as soon as you crossed the threshold and there was fudge being made in front of our very own eyes. So many flavours to choose from ! The fudge was appreciated by the cyclists at the end and we came back the next day to buy more before our drive home . We tried the following flavours: Maple & Walnut; Honeycomb; Strawberry & Prosecco; Mint Chocolate; Hot Cross Bun; Whisky & Ginger; Chocolate; Salted Maple & Pecan….. it was hard to pick a favourite but my 3 faves were salted maple & pecan; strawberry & prosecco and whisky & ginger. Apparently you can now buy them online.

Roly’s Fudge Pantry

Other shops on Steep Hill worth checking out are Pimento Lincoln’s Original Vegetarian Cafe for their soya hot chocolate with vegan whipped cream & marshmallows; Annushka Russian Dolls Shop (!) and the Mouse House Cheese Shop & Coffee Bar ….for marmite scones …

Steep Hill

Around 2.30pm, my boys and I were halfway down Steep Hill ready to cheer on the cyclists as they make their arduous way up the steep cobbled hill. Adam and his teammates made it up the hill in one piece and are ready to face the Belgian challenge.

Steep Hill
Adam on Steep Hill
Made it!

Lincoln is a university town so after dark on a Saturday night the place was buzzing with bars, clubs and restaurants – it was especially vibrant down by the waterfront. We ate in Zizzi’s and I highly recommend their King Prawn Linguine.

Lincoln had so much to offer that I didn’t manage to explore the shops, the Museum of Lincolnshire or The Collection Usher Gallery …. but I will endeavour to visit next time ( a repeat visit to the fudge pantry would be on my itinerary too)

Check out my previous blogpost about Adam & his prostrate cancer cycling rides: http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/one-in-eight-men

For Pinning Later

Linda x

Photographs are by Linda Hobden

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Hunkemoller Review

On trend this season – the rise of “loungewear/ leisurewear/ nightwear” – no longer are pyjamas taboo outside of the bedroom. Although I am still not a fan of the onesie – the other combinations of long pants/leggings/shorts with the combination of camisoles/sweatshirts/T-shirts have definitely grown on me. Comfortable to lounge around in whilst watching television in the evenings, as a warmer alternative to skimpier nightwear in bed, to wear before getting fully dressed in the day, respectable enough not to bat an eyelid on the school run, for those sick days…. the uses are numerous to say the least. One of Europe’s largest lingerie specialists, Hunkemoller, have one of the best ranges of loungewear I’ve seen in a long time …. here’s my review…. 

DISCLAIMER ALERT: The loungewear/nightwear has been supplied by Hunkemoller for the purpose of this review however all opinions expressed are 100% mine.

First of all, the website – www. hunkemoller.co.uk. It came across to me as an easy to navigate website, clear descriptions  and placing an order is simple.  We are talking luxury lingerie and nightwear of the highest quality – and I found that the prices were very reasonable indeed.

Delivery:  After you’ve placed your order, despatch is pretty quick, arriving within 2 – 3 days.  When I received my package, I was impressed.  Inside the large logo clad box, was enclosed my sumptious green velvet camisole and green loose fitting pyjama pants.

Velvet Lace Cami:

The company claims that this camisole:

  1. Feels super sexy and feminine.
  2. Has adjustable shoulder straps
  3. Velvet Fabric Finished With Sexy Lace Details
  4. Material: 95% polyester/ 5% elastane.

Well, on all 4 points the company are spot on! The velvet camisole certainly looks luxurious, it is soft to touch, has a slight stretch, feels comfortable to wear and is prettily edged in lace. The lace trim and the camisole itself is in a gorgeous dark green shade – I picked the colour as it is my favourite – but there were other colours available on the website including a pretty pink and a rich burgundy red.

Lace Edging On The Bottom Of The Camisole

Loose-Fitting Pyjama Pants:

The company blurb:

  1. Super comfortable
  2. Elasticated Waist
  3. 95% viscose/5%elastane
  4. Tie Closure
Tie Waistband

The pants I picked to match with the camisole were also dark green with black leopard print like spots. They had cuffed ankles and a comfortable elasticated tie waistband. The trousers were a lovely fit – not too baggy and not too tight. I’m a size UK10/12 and the “medium” was spot on. Lengthwise, I’m 5ft3” and as you can see from my picture below, the trousers sit comfortably on my ankle. The cuffed ankle was a feature I had not really considered before but apart from looking stylish, it helped to keep the trousers in place but to be honest, there wasn’t a lot of excess material gathering at the ankle, so the trousers may be a bit short if you are over 5’6”.

Cuffed Ankle

Laundry Advice:

There is a recommendation to wash on a gentle 40º wash cycle – no ironing, tumble drying, dry cleaning or hand washing. The material is virtually crease proof.

My Verdict:

I loved them more than I expected to! The colour is gorgeous, the quality is superb and they are really, really comfortable. I would have no hesitation buying other products from this company – the designs are fabulous and the workmanship is first rate. 10/10

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My thanks goes to Hunkemoller for allowing me to sample their products – you’ve got yourself a fan!

Happy Shopping!

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden.

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Lipstick On Your Collar

Lipstick was on my agenda this week! After years of wearing nudes and pale pink lip glosses; the lipstick world exploded into 2019 bringing forth an array of bright bold lipsticks that exude colour, are non drying even the matt versions and are certainly not for the shrinking violets of this world! Although the Pantene colour of 2019 is reportedly coral pink, this hasn’t filtered through to the lipstick world – the trends are more of a blue hue and bright reds! Yellows for those who want to make a more subtle statement. Pinks are being shelved for this year… so I went out with my Christmas vouchers to update my lipsticks to find out what was on offer!

In the 1980s, when I was in my teens, I used to wear a dark burgundy lipstick and on special evenings out, my red Charlie lipstick….

As the 1990s and the Naughties approached, I took the much softer route – dusky pinks, peaches and nude lip glosses were my favourites. I abandoned the matte lipsticks and discovered Maybelline 24 hour stay lip glosses(which I still love to this day).Last year, I rediscovered lipstick. I bought a coral coloured moisturising Body Shop lipstick which has virtually been my main lipstick.

L’Oreal Color Riche Shine 906 #GirlsNight

So, what did I buy? My first lipstick was the pale lilac/grey L’Oreal Color Riche Shine 906 #GirlsNight. Ideal for during the day at work as well as evening. I couldn’t resist the lipstick cover design either, it was very chic….


L’Oreal Color Riche Shine 906 #GirlsNight

The other bold lipstick colours I splashed out on include a bright red colour by Estée Lauder, poshly called “Sculpting Lacquer” – it is a matte lip gloss; and I bought a couple of lip glosses by Avon plus I ordered a sample size lipstick in dark blue to try out (I haven’t been brave enough to wear that one out yet!) Here are the colours below:

L to R: L’Oreal Color Riche Shine 906 #GirlsNight ; Avon Mark Liquid Lip Lacquer Matte In Plump Up The Jam; Avon Lip Gloss In Plum Pretty; Avon Lipstick Sample in Blue Suede; Estée Lauder Pure Color Envy Sculpting Lacquer in Wicked Apple.

My thoughts turned to summer and my prediction is a return to the 1980s monochrome clothing with red splashes; yellows and oranges with white …. so for a more subtle lipstick look for daytime in summer I opted for 2 yellow shades, one from Avon and one from BarryM…

L to R : Avon Color Trend in Metallic Gold; Barry M lipstick in Unicorn 741.

My final buy was in a place you wouldn’t expect to find make up – in the beautiful smelling chocolate shop, Hotel Chocolat. OK, I didn’t just buy lipstick … you can’t go in that shop or near it without getting a craving to eat every delicious chocolate in store…. but Hotel Chocolat do a beauty range using the finest cocoa butter from their St Lucia estate. Ideal for keeping your lips smooth and kissable, check out their Honey Chocolat Rabot 1745 Lip Balm..

So for 2019, this is going to be the Year of the Bold…. are you game? Lipstick on your collar….

For pinning

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden. All views are my own. This isn’t an affiliate post.

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What Happens in France: A Book Review

If you are anything like me, I do like a good book to read, especially when I’m on holiday.  I like a variety of genres… I must admit to loving the gritty thrillers, horrors and mysteries; although I just as readily delve into the realms of the classics, the historical sagas, the travel journals and the fun loving feel good romantic comedies.        So when I was given the chance to read “What Happens In France” by Carol Wyer before it’s publication  on January 28th 2019, it was a more than a pleasure.

Carol is an author I’m well acquainted with – I read her book Three Little Birds and was smitten with her feel good romantic comedy style. Thankfully she agreed to an interview (read the interview HERE) and I’ve been following her career ever since.  I’ve read every book she has written since then too. Carol has written romantic comedies like “Life Swap”; she has written non-fiction such as “Grumpy Old Menopause” which won the People’s Prize for non fiction 2015; she has written thrilling crime in 2017 – the 1st book in her DI Robyn Carter series “Little Girl Lost” shot to #2 best selling spot on kindle, #9 best-selling audiobook on Audible, and a USA Today top 150 best sellers; and now Carol has returned to writing a heart warming romantic comedy – “What Happens In France”.

“What Happens In France” in a nutshell….

For years Bryony Masters has been looking for her long lost sister Hannah.  When her father has a stroke, Bryony realises that time is running out and she is even more determined to find Hannah to reunite the family before it is too late.  Bryony spots an advertisement for candidates for a new prime time game show and  fondly remembering that Hannah was a TV game show addict, decides that applying to take part might be a great way of getting her search for Hannah in the public eye…hoping that Hannah herself would come forward.  Of course, Bryony gets through and that’s when her adventures begin…. a private jet,  stunning French countryside, a handsome team mate, interesting and unique personalities, game show antics….. and a delightful pug dog called Biggie Smalls….

What I loved about “What Happens In France”….

  1. The details.  Over the past year, I have spotted Carol on TV taking part in daytime game shows and I know that she has spent a lot of time in France … Carol has always embraced challenges in order to write truthfully about experiences – it shows in this book: the game show process, the characters, the knowledge of the part of France where the fictional game show is set.
  2. The characters.  Believable characters.  And the delightful pug dog, Biggie Smalls.   I loved how all the characters came alive in my head and were so relatable – the handsome team mate Lewis, the vain and pompous quizmaster,  Bryony’s ill father who asks for Hannah all the time.  Bryony is a fab character – she holds a place in my heart – I wanted her to believe in herself at times! 
  3.  The storyline.  It’s a different angle to most romantic comedies. It is really hard to do a review without giving too much away as quite often I want to tell every minute detail but although I want to  reveal all I am really going to zip it!  Suffice to say I really hope Carol follows up on this story with a part 2 … about  what happens  after France … I need to know what happens next! 
  4.  It is an easy going, feel good  romantic comedy that embraces friendships, family, love and laugh out loud moments. It is one of those books that the pages keep turning and you can lose track of time….  Ideal for relaxing by that pool, perhaps in France…. 
  5.   If you like authors such as Marian Keyes, then this book is in the same ilk. You won’t be disappointed. 

Book Info….

“What Happens In France” by Carol Wyer is published by Canelo. Release Date:  28 January 2019.                                                                                 ISBN: 9781788632768.                                                                                                   Pre Order from  Amazon  HERE.                                                                                

To learn more about Carol, go to www.carolwyer.co.uk or follow Carol on Twitter: @carolewyer. 
Carol also blogs at www.carolwyer.com

 For Pinning  Later.

Credits….

Thanks goes to Carol Wyer and Ellie of Canelo Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read the book before general release. I loved it. 

Thanks to Carol for her kind permission for allowing publication of the photographs (except the pinning photo which was taken by myself (Linda Hobden) in France).

Linda x

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My Favourite New Season Nail Colours

I am addicted to buying nail colours. There, I said it.  I have just moved my bottles into a larger toiletry bag.  I love the array of colours and shades available. I love to match my nail colour to whatever I’m wearing – sometimes not.  I have even bought a new nail colour today! I counted my hoard this evening – it was more than my shoe collection – 45 – including 10 different shades of green.   Can you not guess that green is my favourite colour?!

Talking to the assistant in the pharmacy this afternoon about nail colours, I told her that I couldn’t resist a new shade.  She replied that she doesn’t indulge herself, but she goes to the nail bar for her professionally applied colours that last 3 weeks.  I tried having my nails professionally done – I liked the result – BUT, yes there is a BUT – for me, at any rate.

My reasons for preferring bottled nail colours over professional gel nails:

  • My nails are short – I can’t work or type with long nails – and I feel that people with long, pretty nails benefit from the professional touch.
  • If I’m working in the warehouse, especially opening boxes, my nails are likely to get chipped.  I’d hate to spend money on lovely looking nails that, in the best will of the world, would be chipped half an hour later.  Holiday time is the best time to treat myself at the nail bar for those stunning finger & toe nails.
  • I get bored easily wearing the same colour, day in, day out. I like to change my nail colour on a daily basis!

I have found that some “cheaper” brands are actually better nail polishes than expensive brands in many ways.  I am attracted to colour choice, thickness (I don’t like a thin, watery colour), gel or gel like finish and quick to dry.  Here are some of my recent favourite nail colour purchases:

POUNDLAND

For £1 (or, in some cases 50p if they are end of range), you just can’t beat Poundland for nail colours.  They tick all of my boxes: cheap, great colour selection, great 1st layer colour (not too thick or thin) and very quick drying.  Decent size bottle too. My two favourite colours from this season’s collection are Copper Kiss and Mushroom Magic.

If you are a fan of pinks/reds or sparkles then Poundland’s Autumn/Winter range should certainly satisfy you, though!

GEORGE AT ASDA

I like this supermarket’s range of gel effect nail colours – the 4 colours from their range this season that I’ve bought are (from left to right) Mali-blu; Twilight; Dusk; Echo.  The gel effect nail colours are dearer than the other type of nail enamel produced by Asda, but you are still looking at around £3.  Quite a small bottle, but the colours glide on perfectly first time with a decent first coat and are quick drying. I love the latest colour, Twilight, that was introduced in October. It is a dark teal/navy with subtle sparkle… gorgeous.  Here’s me wearing Mali-blu (only one coat applied):

AVON

You are spoilt for choice with Avon.  I have bought many colours and types over the years and found them quite excellent on application, colour and drying abilities.  I’ve bought 2 colours from Avon this Autumn – both pastel shades despite the season – Moondust and Lemonade.

OTHER BRANDS

I also recently bought 4 other colours from different brands :

Rimmel “On Fleek” 60 seconds Super Shine.   This was the colour I bought today. It is a gold/black/green colour that is super sparkly – just great for the Holiday/Party season. Rimmel is one of my favourite make up brands and this nail colour dries super quick.

Max Factor Gel Shine Lacquer in “Gleaming Teal”. Fab colour & coverage.

Maybelline Color Show 60 seconds in “Watery Waste” & “Downtown Red”.  Perhaps the most expensive of my favoured nail colours – I love the Maybelline brand and the nail colours are pretty bold (& quick drying).

Do you like nail colours? Any favourites? Let me know  via  my Facebook Page what you think!

For Pinning

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

 

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A Visit To The Orla Kiely Exhibition

Earlier this week, fellow blogger Carol Cassara and I met up in Bermondsey, London to visit, among other things, the current Orla Kiely exhibition “A Life In Pattern” being held at the Fashion & Textile Museum.

The Fashion & Textile Museum was founded in 2003 by the zany, iconic British designer Zandra Rhodes – who happens to be one of my favourite designers ever! I was very tempted to knock on her studio door just a few yards away – perhaps another day as this particular day Dublin -born designer Orla Kiely was the focus of my attention.

Orla Kiely’s career really started when she was commissioned by Harrods to design wool felted hats – but she very quickly expanded into bags.  And what lovely bags! As soon as Carol & I entered into the museum foyer, there was on display of the most gorgeous private collection of big, bold Orla Kiely bags. I loved them all. Carol headed straight to the gift shop to purchase a bag or two… disappointingly for her, no bags were available to purchase at the shop.  As Orla Kiely products are available in over 33 countries, we quickly googled & found an outlet to ensure we get our “bag fix” another day! 

Orla Kiely’s textile patterns are very distinctive – she is recognised globally as the designer of the iconic “stem” pattern…as well as various flower designs.  Not only are the patterns replicated onto bags but on a range of other items including scarves, shoes, pumps, flower pots, notebooks, and even a birdhouse ( which Carol took a liking to).  

Orla shares my love of the colour green – she uses every shade of green known to man (!) from moss green to seaweed.  The colours she uses reflect her Irish background – the greys, browns, and mustard yellow represent the Irish skies, the rolling hills and the gorse & wild flowers of the roadside verges. I did wonder about the splashes of orange, though. I then read in the book that accompanies the exhibition, that her colour preferences were also influenced by her family kitchen that had olive green worktops and  units …and a vivid orange shiny ceiling. Mmm… not creating a delightful picture to me but I can understand where the orange colour fits in! I wonder if she had an avocado green bath too?!

 

The main room of the exhibition that really stood out was the “Alice In Wonderland” room. Hanging from the ceiling were enormous dresses and coats, made of fabric. Along the walls were dolls wearing the same outfits but miniature versions of them.  Really well thought out and fascinating.  The outfits themselves were very much of the late 1960s/early 1970s era – very Mary Quant – I remember my mum wearing similar styled dresses when I was very young.  Carol & I both preferred the colourful trench coat – the  colours & pattern were eye catching – great to wear over a black polo neck top,  black drainpipe jeans and black knee high boots! 

The museum had a cafe (delicious cappuccino) and a small gift shop  which sold lots of knick-knacks (sadly no Orla Kiely bags) – but they did have a superb collection of fashion coffee books  including the book published to accompany this  exhibition – “A Life In Pattern” by Orla Kiely, published by Conran Octopus Publishing.

The Fashion & Textile Museum in Bermondsey was a little gem. The museum receives no public funding – it holds exhibitions such as this one, and hosts some fabulous workshops instead. The museum was founded by Zandra Rhodes, but is owned by Newham College London (one of Europe’s largest further education colleges).  It is the only museum in the UK solely dedicated to showcasing developments in contemporary fashion. It also provides inspiration, support and training to those working in the industry.  Lying south of the River Thames, close to the Shard and between London Bridge and Tower Bridge, it is definitely worth checking out next time you are in London.

The Orla Kiely exhibition runs until 23 September 2018. The Museum is open Tuesday – Sunday from 11am.  The next exhibition will be “Night And Day: 1930s Fashion And Photographs” from 12 October 2018 – 20 January 2019. 

For more details check out the website: www.ftmlondon.org

All photos are by Linda Hobden.

 

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Keeping Hydrated With ION8

If you feel inspired to participate in any sporting activity, it’s important to keep well hydrated, especially if you are:  sweating away in a poorly ventilated gym; lobbing a shuttlecock over the net in a sports hall; cycling up and down the hills and country lanes; hiking in the wilderness;  scoring goals on the football (soccer) pitch or netball/basketball hoops.  In fact, keeping well hydrated daily is a must, even if you are not particularly active.  Drinking water regularly as been shown to: increase energy, relieve tiredness, boost the body’s immune system, improves the skin, promotes weight loss (water has zero calories!), aids digestion, relieves cramps and headaches.  Schools in the UK encourage children to take in a water bottle to use and sip throughout the day to help them keep alert and use those brain cells.  Having 5 children and an active cycling mad husband, I have a drawer full of water bottles – not all are the same and when I was given by ION8 their water bottle to review, I was looking forward to seeing if the ION8 stands up to my family’s scrutiny!

My 12 year old son Jack was the perfect reviewer/critic. He has had  3 water bottles since the start of the school term. One was lost; one leaked badly due to the spout snapping off that he had to have a new rucksack; and one split.  He takes a water bottle to school and refills it throughout the day; the water bottle has to endure a bus journey there and back; and Jack doesn’t treat his bag with kid gloves either. So, the ION8 has a lot to live up to! This is what Jack expected:

1. NEEDS TO BE REUSABLE & ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY.

Jack drinks a lot of water during the day – it is important for him to be well hydrated as he does suffer from migraines and water helps to alleviate the headaches.  It is also cost effective according to Jack as it gives him more money  by refilling his water bottle to buy another chocolate muffin! Refilling bottled water bottles isn’t a good idea as tiny cracks often appear in the bottle after its initial use and these cracks can harbour germs such as the dreaded norovirus.  Reusable bottles have been designed for multiple usage.  The ION8 is reusable, is bpa free and is made of non toxic Tritan – a material that is highly resistant to odours, can be easily cleaned & is dishwasher safe.                                                                                               10/10

2. NEEDS TO BE STYLISH.

The ION8 is definitely stylish.  The product was winner of the Reddot Design Award 2017. I wasn’t sure until the water bottle arrived, what colour I would receive.  There are 14 different colours to choose from – I was hoping it wasn’t going to be pink as I have 4 boys and a daughter who doesn’t go a-bundle on pink – but as luck would have it, I received the black glossy onyx colour. This was the preferred choice.  Jack approved. I think the colour was the main deciding factor for him.  From my point of view the range of colours was a fabulous idea especially in families where each person can have their own water bottle identified by a different colour.  Like packs of toothbrushes in assorted colours….. I’m sure you’ve got the drift 🙂  Only downside to the design that Jack mentioned was that opening and shutting the lid, the click was loud especially when he was taking a quick swig of water during his lesson and the classroom was relatively quiet.                                                                                           9.5/10

3. NO LEAKS.

Having been through various water bottles that have leaked despite being upright for the majority of the time, this was a major consideration. Soggy schoolbooks are a no no. Soggy gym kit – not amusing. ION8 claim to be 100% leakproof 100% of the time. They also offer a lifetime guarantee.  The lid lock offers that peace of mind  as well as the inner seal (which can be replaced).  Most water bottles have just the spout at the top which opens and closes – where most leakage occurs – so the lid is a pretty good idea.    The ION8 has lasted 10 days with no leaking so far….                                                10/10

ION8 comes with a tough carry strap, but I did not test the strap. Another difference is that the spout is at the side and not in the centre like most water bottles.  Drinking out of the water bottle is like drinking out of a cup – you need only to tilt the bottle slightly.

The aperture on the ION8 spout is wide to allow a uninterrupted flow of water. Water bottles, including the ION8, do not have thermal properties, such as keeping a hot drink hot or a cold drink cold – but the ION8 is capable of holding cold beverages as low as  -10C as well as hot beverages up to 96C.

The company mission is to produce the simplest and safest BPA free, spill free, leak proof water bottles, hydration products and drinking vessels.  My son and I are very impressed with what we’ve seen so far.  As far as water bottles go, the ION8 is the bees knees and we’ve been converted! 🙂

ION8 is available to buy via Amazon UK, Amazon USA, Amazon DE (Germany); Amazon ES (Spain); Amazon IT (Italy); Amazon FR (France).

For further information: www.ion8.co.uk

Disclaimer:  ION8 sent me the ION8 water bottle to review.  All views are entirely my own (and Jack’s).

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden. 

 

 

 

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6 Tasty Treat Discoveries

Food glorious food! I couldn’t not start the New Year off without sharing with you some tasty food treats that I discovered over the holiday period.  Trying new foods is always a pleasure – visiting my local Indian restaurant I usually order Lamb Rogan Josh but this winter they had revamped the menu and I actually tried a delicious squid curry… it made a lovely change and one that I hope is still on the menu when I next visit.  Here are 6 other tasty treats that I discovered recently … some healthy, some not so healthy .. but all are thoroughly delicious and worth tasting …

1. Wilkin & Son Tiptree – The Chocolate Collection.

People who know me know that I love chocolate spread – so I was really thrilled to receive this chocolate spread selection. Wilkin & Son Tiptree is well known internationally for their fruit jams, and over the years have expanded into fruit curds and spreads too.  The company uses 60% Belgian chocolate, real double cream and natural flavourings – the box selection contains plain chocolate spread, chocolate orange (yum), chocolate mint, chocolate cherry (reminiscent of Black Forest Gateau), chocolate coffee, and salted chocolate using Maldon sea salt (my favourite!).  The Chocolate Collection is completely nut free – as Tiptree’s factory is a completely nut free zone.  I love spreading the chocolate spread onto hot toast, or inside a warm croissant – but the chocolate can be melted to be used as an ice cream dessert topping or stirred into milk to make hot chocolate.

2. Galaxy Ultimate Frothy Hot Chocolate

My 12 year old son is a big fan of hot chocolate and this instant hot chocolate – I made it with hot water and 4 heaped teaspoons but milk can be used instead – was a big hit with him.  It is so frothy and chocolatey that it resembles the hot chocolate you can buy at the big coffee establishments but you can make it yourself at the touch of the kettle button!

3. Yeo Valley 0% Creme Fraiche

Creme Fraiche is cream with friendly bacteria added to it – the French version of soured cream.  Strict European regulations ensure that Creme Fraiche only contains cream and friendly bacteria.  I like the 0% fat version – it is still thick & creamy – but you can get half fat and full fat versions. A lovely alternative to milk when topping granola & fresh berries for breakfast.  Can be used instead of normal cream with desserts.  I add Creme Fraiche to my mushroom sauce when making my turkey & mushroom stroganoff. Or for a party dip idea, mix Creme Fraiche with a tub of hummus & a chopped bunch of coriander. Garnish with carrot and celery sticks.

4. Muller Light Rhubarb Crumble And Custard Yogurt

This season’s limited edition flavour, inspired by the traditional British dessert, rhubarb crumble and custard.  I was unsure of trying this yogurt.  Since I was a child my dad had always loved rhubarb yogurt and, that was the only flavour we had in our fridge – it was a thin yogurt and it was not my favourite flavour.  To be honest, rhubarb crumble nor custard were not on my list of favourites either. However, I think tastes change as you get older – I quite like rhubarb crumble and custard now ! My  impressions: it was a lovely creamy yogurt despite being fat free; it had bits of rhubarb in it – always a plus with me; and the flavour was surprisingly pleasant!

5. Castello Pineapple Cheese

Made in the land of the hygge, Denmark, this soft cheese made with pineapple, papaya and almonds, is unbelievably delicious.  It is for spreading onto crackers as part of a general cheeseboard ….. BUT, I love this cheese most of all spread on a slice of wholemeal, seeded or GI toast topped with mashed banana! It is my ultimate quick lunchtime snack!

6. Butterkist Salted Caramel Popcorn

If I eat popcorn, I tend to go for the sweet version rather than the salted version.  As I am a fan of all things salted caramel, I bought a packet of this popcorn for nibbles on Boxing Day.  I opened the packet in the kitchen, had a taste… had another handful … well, there wasn’t much left to put out for nibbles in the end! Basically this popcorn is coated with salted caramel flavour toffee  – so it would appeal to those who would prefer the sweet version.  It isn’t really that salty.  Although it is a sweet snack, the popcorn is made from natural wholegrains, is a source of fibre, is gluten free, vegetarian friendly and 125kcal per 30g serving.

What tasty treats did you enjoy over the holidays? Do share your tastebud discoveries…

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

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