Category Archives: Reviews

Destination Boa Vista

I have had Cape Verde hovering around the top of my bucket list for a quite a few years.  I was wooed not by photographs, as at the time I hadn’t seen any.  I only knew two people who had been there – both said it was very windy and not much there apart from sand. Neither showed much enthusiasm.  No, I was fascinated by these islands because of their location and they were “new” to the travel scene, fascinated as only a geography/travel/map geek could be.  Over the last couple of years, Cape Verde has crept into those holiday brochures – pictures of exotic pools with swim up bars, palm trees …. and I was sold. Sort of. What I didn’t realise was that Cape Verde was made up of 10 islands and the main “tourist” island was an island called Sal.  However, just south of Sal is the island of Boa Vista – just opening up to tourism – and that was the island I was lucky enough to be visit  in August this year.

Cape Verde lies midway between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, approximately 300 miles off the coast of Senegal in West Africa. The island of Boa Vista, nearest island to the African mainland, is the 3rd largest island, but it is still tiny, taking just under one hour driving from end to end  – roughly 240 square miles … the size of the city of Chicago, in fact.  The population of the entire island, according to the official Cape Verde website, in 2010 was just 8,564. In fact it is the least populated of all the islands – the capital of Cape Verde, Praia, is on the island of Santiago.  Most people on Boa Vista live in the capital, Sal Rei … in fact my hotel located in the extreme south of the island, the biggest Rui hotel in the world, was bigger than the villages and towns! 

Diego Gomes, a Portuguese explorer, discovered the Cape Verde Islands, way back in 1456 – they were all totally uninhabited. By 1587, Cape Verde became a Portuguese colony.  The Portuguese used the archipelago as a stopover for slave traffic between Africa and America. From 1620, slaves were employed in the salt mines – processing the salt in the mountainous areas, hidden from pirate attacks.  The salt pans are still here, although more common on the island of Sal, but the industry has dried up due to the technical advances in the industry in other parts of the world. Cape Verde declared independence in 1975. Today, the population is mostly a mixture of Creole, African & Portuguese … with small pockets of Italians, Spanish & Chinese. The signs are all in Portuguese but the people speak a Creole language – the atmosphere is pretty laidback and has a Caribbean vibe in Boa Vista;the other islands have a more European feel.  

“Inside” the airport’s departure lounge

Most people on Boa Vista work in tourism in some way – either in the hotels, as tour guides or souvenir sellers.  Date-farming too. The airport, the grandly named Aristides Pereira International Airport, was opened in 2007.  The International Airport on Sal has navigational runway aids (runway lights) and looks like an airport – whereas the airport on Boa Vista is on the edge of the desert, is open air and has no runway lights.  The flight time from the UK is just over 6 hours – the plane is not large as the airport is too small to accept the modern Dreamliner jets.  There are only 3 or 4 planes landing a day so long queues rarely exist! Expansion plans are already being made.  As Boa Vista is hot and dry all year round, having an open air airport isn’t really a problem apart from the fact that it is hot and shade is limited plus at the end of August/September is Boa Vista’s “rainy” season (short sharp showers about 4 days a year!) so if it does rain, you’ll get wet! The airport is located in Rabil, the 2nd largest town and former capital. Rabil is known for its pottery and the longest river in Cape Verde, the Ribeira do Rabil, flows through it. Well, it should on the map look as though it should flow, but in reality it was a puddle with some trees around it (planted in the 1990s).

My sons sand boarding in the Viana Desert

Boa Vista is known for the sand dunes and moonlike volcanic landscapes of the Viana Desert.  The desert was formed by the accumulation of wandering sand grains from the Sahara.  The sand dunes in this desert are vast. One morning we travelled to the Viana Club Restaurant for an early breakfast of “catchupa” – the national dish, a sort of corn stew, served with fried egg and spicy sausage – and a refreshing glass of iced hibiscus tea. We then hit the dunes for a sand boarding session. It was hot, it was sunny and it was lots of fun!

Me, on Santa Monica beach

Boa Vista has a stunning coastline – it’s most coveted beach is the Santa Monica beach (named after the Californian beach) which extends 18km from the island’s westernmost point to the southernmost point. It is said to be one of the top 20 best beaches in the world.  Currently, the beach is devoid of hotels but not for long as a large hotel resort/spa  is being built – due to finish in the next 5/10 years.  In a decade, Boa Vista will be unrecognisable – I’m not sure whether that is a good thing or not – on the one hand more tourism will help to raise living standards but on the other hand, Boa Vista will lose its uniqueness.

Launderette in Sal Rei

Cape Verde has only just been upgraded from Third World category to Second World category – it is still pretty poor.  When visiting the capital, Sal Rei, the “launderette” was a row of concrete slabs where women scrubbed their clothes as they have done for centuries.  My guide said that the Chinese have recently introduced washing machines  but they are not widespread as yet. Next to the washing area was the water station. Water is scarce on the island so people come to the water stations with their wheelbarrows to collect their daily water tanks. The richer people can afford to have their water delivered. Our hotel had its own water desalination plant for its needs.

Santa Maria

Another nice beach was in the far north of the island, renamed Santa Maria, after the MS Cabo Santa Maria, a ship that ran aground there in 1968. The ship was carrying gifts from the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco on its way to Brazil and Argentina – the gifts apparently included sports cars! Thankfully, the crew escaped unhurt and the goods were salvaged. The wreck is still there, just a rusty shell now, slowly crumbling away after years being battered by the wind and constant waves.

I was mesmerised by the waves – the Atlantic breakers were very powerful and during my stay the red flag was constantly flying. Managing to paddle, the water was as warm as bath water – around 28 degrees centigrade.  I expected the sea to be colder. That is not the only thing that surprised me about the temperature.  The climate is warm all year round – August to October are the hottest (and wettest months) and the temperature hovers around 32/33 degrees during the day falling to around 27/28 degrees at night – what surprised me was that it was such a humid heat – I had thought it was more a “dry” heat like I’ve experienced in the Mediterranean. The humidity was often around 80% which meant that the constant breeze was a cooling blessing indeed although it was a false blessing as the island’s location meant that the sun’s strength was equatorial, and Factor 50 liberally applied was needed.  Tropical island – but I didn’t see any mosquitos but I did see plenty of wandering goats and the odd cow! Sea turtles are known to nest on the shores, while the coastal waters are a route for migrating humpback whales.  

Boa Vista has a few mountains, the highest being Mount Estancia at 1,270 feet.  Cape Verde does have an active volcano – on Fogo – which last erupted in 2014.  On the slopes of the volcano Fogo coffee is grown …absolutely delicious! 

Route 66

The roads.  The road from the airport to the capital and the roads in the towns/villages are mostly cobbled. There is a small patch of tarmac, south of the island, which was built by the Rui hotel chain to try and establish a good route from the south to the airport and Sal Rei. However, it is not finished and quickly goes from tarmac to unmade road. Some routes are not signposted but are tiny tracks meandering through the desert, naked to my eye.  Drivers drive on the right but, to be honest, it really depends on which side has the least potholes. I didn’t see one private car – I did see a police car, a couple of motorbikes, quad bikes, tour guide jeeps, tour buses, buses and the odd truck and taxi.  Boa Vista has another American equivalent – they have a Route 66 too – the cobbled road doesn’t lend itself to smooth riding on a Harley Davidson though! 

Estoril Beach

Food & Drink.  The RUI hotel I was staying in imports all its food and drink from the Canary Islands.  This is quite a sensible idea because the island doesn’t produce enough to cater for the number of tourists staying at the hotels. However, it does mean that those people staying put only in the hotel miss out on discovering the island’s cuisine.  The national dishes are quite hearty – stew features a variety of meat and fish – I tried the octopus stew which was very tasty.  

Lobster at Morabeza Beach Restaurant

At the Morabeza Beach Bar Restaurant  we ate freshly caught lobster served with exquisitely cooked vegetables …and drank Coconut ponche and Cape Verdian white wine.  It is the first restaurant I’ve been to where you can eat with your shoes off, the floor is the beach, and reggae music is playing in the background. It was here we watched fire eaters do their thing and my sons had impromptu African drumming lessons!

Guest House Migrante
Library Guest House Migrante

Apart from the big Rui hotels, the island has a couple of smaller hotels, apartments and guesthouses – mainly on the beaches around Sal Rei. I stopped off at the Guest House Migrante – a delightful guesthouse with a distinctly European flavour with a bar/cafe attached. It is the grandest looking building in Sal Rei and they serve the most delightful coffee (from Fogo) and grog (Cape Verdean rum).   The guesthouse had a gorgeous library area and an inner courtyard.  In Boa Vista I found that when it came to food and drink, you should never judge a bar/restaurant by its outside look – inside these places are clean and the food is out of this world – ask the locals for restaurant recommendations too.

Like any place in the world, people’s viewpoints on the same place differ vastly, and not everybody is going to fall in love with a place.  Boa Vista attracted me and is now engraved in my heart because of its ruggedness, its beautiful desert scenery and the people are so smiley.  Where else would you high five the airport officers as you board your plane home? Where else would you see brightly coloured birds tweeting in the passport control area as you land?  Where else would you see miles of untouched white sand beaches not lined with hotels? The hotel was gorgeous and clean but to be perfectly honest, being by the pool, you could be anywhere hot and sunny in the world. What made the holiday was the chance to explore outside of the hotel.  Boa Vista is not like the Canary Islands, despite the glossy holiday brochure pictures – but perhaps in 10 years it will be. 

If you enjoy self catering, then Boa Vista isn’t the place for you yet.  In Sal Rei, there is a small working fish market and a small fruit/vegetable market & a couple of shops where essentials can be found.  

Street Life

If you enjoy walking from your hotel to restaurants/bars, pick a hotel close to Rabil or Sal Rei where you can walk along the beaches to beach bars.  The RUI Tuareg at the south of the island is in a fab spot but it is only surrounded by desert scrubland.  The hotel has plenty of bars though! Alternatively, look at the neighbouring island of Sal, which is more geared towards tourism.

If you can afford it, splash out on the trips either operated by your tour operator or by Giggling Geckos ( a tour company on the island)    and see the island away from the hotels.  Quad bike tours have been highly recommended too. 

And try the local grog … apparently after four shots you end up talking fluent Creole …..

Linda x

All photos by Linda Hobden

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Spotlight on Golden Lady

The Golden Lady Company is a hosiery company that was founded in 1967 in Castiglione Della Stiviere, Italy. The company boasts 12 production sites  located in Italy, USA and Serbia with an overall production of 400 million tights per year, distributed in 70 countries worldwide. The Golden Lady Company is, not surprisingly, the market leader in Italian hosiery with a share of 35% (according to their website) and a key player in all the major European markets including France, Germany, Spain, and England, through its subsidiaries and sales agencies.  That’s an awful lot of tights!

It’s not just tights that they specialise in – although their classic styles are well made and pretty ladder resistant – they also do a range of knee highs, socks and footlets.  Their range of opaque tights is amazing – you can choose from various deniers ranging from 60 to 200 – and last winter, there was “warmy” tights which were a thicker denier and polar fleeced tights which had a thin fleece lining inside.  I bought some of the latter for my husband’s gran for the winter months – she was delighted because they certainly kept her snug and warm, without looking bulky!  Fashion tights have ranged in the past from polka dots, sparkly silver & gold, ribbed, to lacy – ideal to wear under ripped jeans. I’m looking forward to seeing what the new season range will bring.

In the UK, you can buy the range from Asda supermarkets and  online from Golden Lady UK website. Golden Lady’s American brands are No-Nonsense and Hue – available from Wal-Mart stores. I have also discovered Golden Lady products online on Tights UK website and on Amazon.

Golden Lady UK was established in 1989 with its Head Office and Distribution Centre based in Nottingham.  Golden Lady UK are currently celebrating the launch of their new online service and are offering a free pair of socks with your first order. 

I have worn Golden Lady tights – opaques in winter – for a number of years and have found them long lasting, good range of shades, well fitting and the cost is reasonable too.  I’ve got my free socks… are you going to give them a try?

Websites:

UK:  http://goldenlady.org.uk

Rest of the World:  http://www.goldenlady.com

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden.  

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Take 4 ingredients – Frozen Chocolate Bites

I enjoy cooking. I enjoy cooking meals for my large family. Over Christmas and other family occasions I normally cater from around 15 family members.  I love cooking main meals … but when it comes to desserts my repertoire is limited.  I can make apple pie, rhubarb pie, summer fruit pudding and… erm… banana and walnut cake.  Year after year, I churn out the same puddings! Looking at a copy of the Slimming World Magazine I came across a recipe for Gold Bullion Bites. These frozen chocolate-toffee treats looked easy enough to make, so I decided to have a dry run to see if they turn out alright and if they do, I thought that I’d make them for the next family do.

I bought all the ingredients, made the bites and all turned out well. So I decided to experiment a bit more with the recipe, and lo and behold I found a new dessert/snack to add to my repertoire – and the best thing is that you need only 4 ingredients!

So here is my version of the recipe…

Makes 14

Ingredients

  • 45g bar  Dairy Milk Chocolate (I used  Cadburys Dairy Milk), broken into pieces
  • 175g pot of SMOOTH yogurt (I used MullerLight Smooth Toffee, Mullerlight Raspberry & Cranberry, Strawberry)
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • Edible gold glitter/ gold cooking spray to decorate
  • Ice Cube trays ( flexible plastic ones that pop out ice cubes easily)

Method

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Once melted, remove from the heat, stir until smooth and leave to cool for a minute.

Quickly mix in to the chocolate 1 tablespoon of your chosen yogurt, to loosen, then add the rest of the yogurt. Add the cocoa powder and mix well.

Fill the ice cube trays – allow about 2 teaspoons per cube. Gently tap the trays to level the mixture. Put in the freezer for around 3 hours, until set.

When you are ready to serve as a dessert, turn out the chocolates and arrange on a serving dish, sprinkle with cocoa powder and gold glitter or gold spray.

These were so popular that I made several more batches and once frozen I put the chocolate cubes in plastic bags and stored in the freezer. Whenever anybody fancied an iced chocolate snack, they just helped themselves straight from the freezer.

I am hoping to try the recipe using dark chocolate and some new flavours of yogurt, such as Mullerlight’s After Dinner Mint. If I can find orange yogurt, that might go down well too.  Do let me know if you try the recipe and what chocolate/flavour combination did you use!

Linda x

Photos by Linda Hobden

Inspiration by Slimming World.

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Kinky Boots Weekend

It was all about boots last weekend in my household – a trip to London to see the West End smash hit musical, Kinky Boots. Wearing my favourite boots (not kinky, but stylish) – cowboy boots by Jeffery West – my husband and I set off to be wowed!

First stop was Piccadilly Arcade and a visit to the iconic Jeffery West shoe shop. Although my boots are by Jeffery West, the brand is mostly male orientated. The shop oozes sophistication from the shining array of leather shoes and boots on display, the comfortable snakeskin sofa to the iconic rock posters on the wall.

Jeffery-West is the brainchild of Mark Jeffery and Guy West, who both hail from the shoe making capital of the UK, Northampton.  Using an array of colours, leathers and imagination not often found in men’s footwear – if you’re looking for classic English brogues, then this is not the shop for you. The shoes and boots are inspired by actors and rock legends, such as Keith Richards, Oliver Reed, Peter O’Toole, Jarvis Cocker, Bryan Ferry, Roger Moore, Bram Stoker, Richard Burton. The footwear all have the signature red lining and even their men’s accessories, eg the leather gloves are red silk lined and the men’s briefcase is fashioned in black snakeskin and lined in red suede.

However, I was not here to merely window shop or to buy boots for myself.  My husband has had a pair of Jeffery West boots on his wish list for a while.  He was all smiles when he opted for some black snakeskin boots. They did look fab! As all the boots and shoes are named after icons, it was great to discover that the boots he chose were named after one of his favourite musicians, Phil Lynott.

If you fancy checking out Jeffery-West shops, you can find them online or visit their shops – they have 2 in London (Piccadilly & Cullum Street, part of Leadenhall Market); Barton Arcade in Manchester; The County Arcade in Leeds; and at 19 Christopher Street in Manhattan, New York.

Having changed into his new boots, my husband and I toddled off through the crowds that were celebrating Chinese New Year onto our next port of call, the Adelphi Theatre, to see the musical Kinky Boots. The musical, written by Harvey Fierstein, is based on the 2005 film of the same name.  The film is a big favourite of mine so I was looking forward to seeing how the story would act out on stage, so to speak.

The basic plot: “Price & Son” is a fictional traditional menswear factory based in Northampton.  Although Mr Price was into his shoes, his son Charlie did not have the same enthusiasm.  He ups sticks and moves to London with his fiancée – then he gets a phone call telling him that his father has died.  Charlie returns to Northampton and immediately everybody in the factory assumes that he’ll be taking over. Charlie finds out that the company was verging on bankruptcy, orders had been cancelled but as Mr Price couldn’t bear to see his workers suffer, he continued to make stock that was virtually useless. He thought about making the workers redundant, he thought about taking some stock to an old friend in London to shift at his store.  Whilst in London, Charlie spots a lady being accosted in an alley and goes to rescue her, but he wasn’t prepared for the lady’s deadly right hook.  The lady was drag queen, “Lola”.  Moaning about her cheap useless boots whose heel kept falling off, Charlie & Lola collaborate to save Charlie’s factory  by developing a line of high heel fetishwear sexy enough for a lady yet strong enough to support a man’s weight.  There were hiccups along the way – “it has high heeled, it has to be red, and scream sex” as Lola was trying to convince the straitlaced Charlie that was the way to go. Especially as they want to make inroads into the Milan footwear catwalk show! Interlaced with the main story, was factory prejudices, “Lola’s” story and a moral ending that is not exactly what you would at first think.

My verdict:  The show stuck to the plot of the film, near enough – a couple of variations that did work better on stage, for example,  the background of the factory & Lola’s story featured in detail at the start of the film was condensed in the show; in the film there was a hand wrestling match – this was replaced with an awe inspiring choreographed boxing ring bout.  Oh, the live drag show was spectacular – how do those blokes dance in heels? And, they were all utterly gorgeous! The songs/music were written by 1980s pop star  Cyndi Lauper (remember “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”?) so the 1980s vibe was alive and kicking.  I was mesmerised from start to finish – I laughed, cried, sang & danced.

Purchasing a T shirt to remember my fantastic day – I urge you all to Keep Calm and Buy Kinky – buy the DVD, buy tickets to see the Show or Film – honestly, you won’t be disappointed.

Finally I want to thank my gorgeous husband, Adam, for buying me the DVD & show tickets for Christmas – and for a brilliant London trip!

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden

Disclaimer:  I have not been paid or sponsored to feature either Jeffery-West or Kinky Boots.  The boots were purchased by my husband. I’m such an avid fan of Jeffery West that I just couldn’t let this post go by without mentioning their website!

 

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Five Go Sparkly

Recently I’ve come across on Amazon adult spoof books written by Bruno Vincent based around Enid Blyton’s old children’s books of the adventures of the Famous Five  … such as Five On Brexit Island,  Five Go Gluten Free,  Five Give Up The Booze…. and they do look like fun books, so I decided to base my blog title around Bruno’s idea.  That’s where the similarity ends…. well sort of….

The number 5 is certainly true and my post takes place on Brexit Island (UK) …. But the giving up booze part… Nah, not happening! Here’s the story….

I kindly received some sparkly fashion jewellery from the delightful  Belinda of Belinda’s Handbags & Accessories to review. Belinda sells some really nice handbags and shawls too as well as some fun, sparkly fashion jewellery – ideal for parties, dates, gifts, weddings … and for nights out on the town with the girls.  So with the wine in full flow, my  5 friends and I road tested the fashion jewellery on our recent night out…

Becky favoured these sparkly earrings  – and they were the overall favourite earrings of the evening as voted by all us girls.  Becky liked the way the earrings blended well with her other studs – a bonus if you have more than one piercing on an ear.  Very stylish for a glam event!

Vicky chose the long, long  goldtone necklace and it really did look super with her black dress.  It was one of those necklaces that looked better once on  and was certainly not for the shrinking violet!  A really fun fashion piece.

Ella chose the sparkly flower & teardrop earrings which were very cute and elegant looking.  Ideal for the party season and beyond!

Harriet’s choice of earrings were these large goldtone ones with a  green simulated gemstone.  At first glance, I must admit,  I thought they were rather big and OTT …. but they have now wheedled their way into my affections.  I do love the colour green – and the green/goldtone setting of these earrings make them a good choice especially when worn with black.  Again, maybe not for the shrinking violet!

Tracy has beautiful hands and nails, so I wasn’t surprised that she chose to model the sparkly cluster ring with an adjustable band.  Stunning on, it wasn’t obvious that the ring was a totally affordable fashion jewellery item.

There are still a few days left before Christmas and New Year – if you need a gift for somebody or if you need that sparkly item for that works party or New Year Ball – or you would just like to treat yourself –  have a look at Belinda’s online store and see if something tickles your fancy! You can find Belinda’s full range here:

Website is www.belindashandbagsandaccessories.co.uk

Facebook business page is https://www.facebook.com/belindashandbagsandaccessories/?fref=ts

Facebook group is https://www.facebook.com/groups/75930301624/

Twitter https://twitter.com/BelindasHandbag

Pinterest https://uk.pinterest.com/bagsandjewels

My thanks goes to Belinda for sending me the pieces of jewellery to review (all opinions are my own)  and thanks to my friends who agreed to model the pieces for me … Becky, Vicky, Ella, Harriet & Tracy.

Linda x

All photos were taken by Linda Hobden.

 

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An Interview With Bling Art

Talking nails this week…false nails to be exact.  I do love my nail enamels but my nails are very short – not bitten – but short on purpose.  I like to type and use my iPhone using the pads on the top of my fingers and long nails just get in the way.  I’ve tried growing them and I did succeed. I have had the shellac treatment and my nails looked lovely, however I couldn’t use my phone properly, and besides, I prefer the convenience of having short stubby nails that I can paint on a whim.  False nails never crossed my mind. I did try false nails once, in April 1988… they were long, awful looking and a relief when they fell off. So when my guest, Sophia of Bling Art, sent me some of her modern false nails to see if she could change my mind, I wasn’t very confident.  I reasoned that stubby nails don’t look right on an evening out, so I agreed to give them a whirl.  Here is a rather unflattering picture of my hand in its usual state:

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I had 3 evenings out to try the new nails.  The kits themselves are nicely packaged and apart from nails, there’s a file and plenty of glue.  Finding a false nail that corresponds to the width of my own nail, I applied a small blob of glue onto my clean nail and onto the false nail, and pressed them together, holding for a second or two to set.  As easy as that. I was able to file the nails like you would do to give them a natural shape and look – these nails were a “medium” length – long enough to look elegant, short enough to look, dare I say it? ….Natural.  The nail photos are all my own nails. What do you think? So was I converted?  For a special evening out I would definitely consider them.  The nails stayed put – they last around 5 days, and are scratch resistant. No chipped nail polish! 

Let’s welcome onto my blog Sophia ….

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Hi!  I am Sophia Aziz. I am a mother of 2, married 20 years. I have a passion for nails and I am the founder of Bling Art. We are more than simply a seller of false nails, we not only design but manufacture our nails under our brand Bling Art.

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What was the inspiration behind setting up Bling Art?

I have always loved nail art. As a child I would play dress up with friends and I would always know which colours or styles would suit who. Unfortunately, as I aged I realised my hand eye co-ordination was nowhere near as good as I needed to pursue my passion as a full time career. At this time, false nails were only really available at salons, having your nails done was an “experience”, a chance to catch up with friends and unwind. However over the years I noticed not only more and more cheap Chinese imports of false nails being available in markets and on stalls but also exponential growth in the number of nail “booths” opening. The demand for nail art was growing but the selection of false nails, particularly with regard to design and quality were few and far between. There were so many unanswerables e.g. glue safety, staff training and qualifications and to be honest the booths made me feel like cattle, with rows of us sitting and waiting to be “processed”. So I decided, there must be more women like me, who loved nail art but didn’t have the time to maintain nails that would look glamorous with nail varnish and were not prepared to pay budget prices in salon booths. Instead, I took the view I would prefer to do my own nails and if only I could make designs that were not only amazing and appealing but could be perfectly reproduced so women like me could sit at home, enjoy “me” time and not worry about safety and quality, instead focus on adding the nails and recapturing the childhood girly innocence of enjoying the nail art experience.This time with a stunning design and made from superior quality.

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Have you always had a passion for nails?

 YES….always, from as far back as I could remember. I am the little girl who would be doing something to everybody else’s hands during sleepovers.  I wish I could have been a nail technician with the skill to create what I see in my mind. True nail art is spectacular and I believe the artists (yes, I see them as “artists” and not simply nail technicians) are not credited as much as they should be.

Why do you think false nails have come back into fashion?

Personally, I believe it is due to a number of factors:

  •  the number 1 reason I think is the internet coupled with mobile phone photography technology, apps like Instagram, Facebook and social media in general have had a direct impact on what I call “social media friendly products”.
  • Nails are social media friendly, e.g.: post a beautiful set of nails and the chances are people (women) will click more than if you showed a bottle of milk.
  • Nails have benefitted because they do not require a woman to “dress up” for her selfie or be conscious of what else is in the photo. She won’t be judged on her appearance but rather she is complimented / critiqued on the nails she is showing.E.g.: take a few minutes out from a busy day, apply nails in me time, simple to use, easy to follow instructions, quality, consistent and durable product. Take a pic on my phone, share with my friends and hey ho I feel good and off I go J
  • Improved designs and production techniques. The quality of the nails has significantly improved over the last decade. All our nails are made from abs virgin plastic and our products have been subjected to numerous tests and procedures before being classified as safe.
  • Price – The massive growth in booths in towns and cities across the UK and market nail salons has not only driven prices down but by competing at the prices they do, but by dropping prices as aggressively as they have done, they unwittingly bridged pricing gulf that used to exist between false nails and professional salons.

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I particularly like the Bling Art False Nails French Manicure Metallic Light Green. What nails are proving popular so far?

I am glad to know you love our Light Green. I LOVE our gel nails in particular, Athena, Valentina, Fuchsia and Andromeda. If anybody has shied away from false nails and prefers gel nails, then you must try our new ready-made selection. These nails are extremely glossy and to add the extra sparkle we have embedded glitter into the finishing process. This not only brings the nails to life but gives them an ultra-smooth finish. Our most popular nails are Red 4 Danger and Purple for Joy. These nails are gorgeous, it really has to be seen to be believed. My favourite is Our Matte Black Nail, this is the most popular nail globally, it is chic, elegant and I guess black is the universal colour.

I left my nails on until they dropped off naturally, but how best do you remove a nail if you cannot wait for it to drop off naturally?

There are a number of ways to remove the false nails, I prefer to soak them in hot water after 5 days or so and they gently come away. You can use any acetone based cleaner and it will do pretty much the same thing but given the number of other “removers” I have in my life, I am happy with soaking my hands in warm water as it feels good.

Can they be re-used?

Yes, but would I recommend it…NO, the time, energy and effort you expend to clean the old glue off etc. . I think it is more cost effective to purchase and wear a brand new set

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Hypothetically speaking, which famous person would you pick to be the “hands” of Bling Art nails?

I don’t have to do hypothetically, thank god Adele said “hello” after 3 years because if you watched the Brit awards she was wearing the most spectacular stiletto nails! I choose Adele as our perfect role model because she loves nails and is amazing. You listen to Adele because her songs take you places, her voice is unbelievable and everybody recognises it. She does not play up to the unattainable standards the media expects of women. She does not pretend she is super slim and always looks perfect unlike women like the Kardashians portray/ project. Instead Adelle is a talented singer and songwriter and she is respected for this. I  think women like the Kardashians, the wags, the Instagram models and others are unhealthy for the girls of today, ladies of tomorrow. Adele gives girls/women who have not been blessed with today’s version of what beauty is, the confidence to pursue their dreams and see her as living proof that talent is what counts. Our nails, I hope give women that same feeling, a way to express themselves and use medium like social media in a positive woman friendly way. They can simply apply them and if they feel like, take a picture and share (if they wish). No need to add makeup, pout like a goldfish, dress up and worry about everything else a visual selfie might entail.

Where can people buy your nails and do you deliver outside the UK?

Our Nails are available to buy online from our website as well as on Amazon and eBay. We have managed to amass a loyal following globally and in order to improve service standards and particularly delivery times we have our nails in the Amazon depots in US, UK,DE, FR, IT, and ES. Therefore any orders placed in these countries means women can enjoy the same delivery times as our UK customers enjoy. In time we hope to work with strategic partners and make them readily available in retail environments globally.

Any new nail ranges coming out soon?

We have a brand new selection of 25 + Stiletto Nails to our range. It has taken us years to perfect and I am very excited as I know not only have we cracked it on the design and quality but the quality is out of this world. My only worry is getting our pictures to do the nails justice. I think for this collection we will need to show them using hd video.

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

I wear business attire during the day, smart black pants, white blouse topped off with a coat and boots. I know I should wear comfortable shoes but boots do it for me (and I am the boss) so I wear black suede ankle boots.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I must confess I am lipstick mad and my favourite online store is Mac. I find the site so engaging and the colours on offer are so rich and intense. If I have a busy day I often find myself looking through their offerings and treating myself to the latest colour.

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

Most probably red boots with a shade of lipstick to match!

Boots or Shoes?

Boots most definitely. I am passionate about beautiful designer boots. Not the sky high heels( I’d break my ankles and neck ) just the ones that at first you don’t notice but when you do you can’t take your eyes off of them. Beautiful boots complement most outfits and if possible I will wear them over shoes any day. They give me confidence, a little more height and are perfect for the British weather.

Links you would like to share:

www.blingart.co.uk

www.artplus.uk

Thank you for persuading me to give false nails a try Sophia!  Dear readers, look out for the new nail styles coming out later this month – stiletto nails no less! Have you any nail tales to tell?  Have you tried false nails or are you a proud owner of natural long nails? Do tell!

Linda x

Photo Credits:  Nail pics – Linda Hobden

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A Night At The Museum

It was a cold but clear night. Travelling from the wilds of the Essex salt marshes to the heartland of England’s shoe industry – Northampton – went myself and my husband, on Friday 23rd November 2012.  Our destination was the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery home to the world famous shoe collection – the second largest shoe collection in the world (the largest being in Ottawa, Canada), no less.

We had been invited to the Press and Celebrity Private Evening Viewing of the fabulous collection of Milly J Shoes and I had been looking forward to this evening for weeks!  Milly couldn’t have picked a better place to launch her exhibition – Northampton Museum is “Heaven on Earth” for shoe lovers and I fell head over heels in love with the place as soon as I stepped over the threshold. As well as shoes, the museum also has a prestigious collection of Italian and British artworks, including work by John Collier and David Hockney.  But let’s get back to shoes….as I was saying, the ground floor of the museum looks at shoe fashions, shoemaking and the significance of shoes and in the comfortable Shoe Lounge, currently exhibiting until 6 January 2013, is the fantastic artwork shoe creations of the delightful and unique Milly J.

Milly J Shoes – one-off art to wear shoes and shoe sculptures are unique and the work and creativity that goes into each and every item needs to be seen in the flesh, photographs cannot do them justice. I found myself looking at each and every shoe with awe and wonder – I have seen them before in photos on Milly’s website – but up close…well, the details blew me away!! The shoes are works of art, no doubt about that, but wearable too …and ever since Jodie Marsh stepped onto the This Morning’s set in her “teapot” shoes designed by Milly J …other celebrities and non celebrities have been clamouring to own their own unique pair and be part of the Milly J Shoe  Envy Club.

So, which were my favourites?  I loved the Red & Black Vampire Diaries court shoes that matched the dress I was wearing that night…but they are owned by a lovely lady called Emma, who won’t part with them (understandably!) I also had a crush on the green lace up army boots …little army figures climbed up the heel and around the shoe …they would look fab with my jeans although my husband did point out that one trip and the little man at the front would probably come to a sad end!

 My husband Adam loved the boots made for TV personality and MMA Announcer Bret “Hollywood” Freeman …they started life as a pair of Jeffery West white boots and with a little magic from Milly they have been transformed into boots full of skulls! Designer Guy West (Jeffery -West) also admired the transformation! (Jeffery – West are also exhibiting their 25th Anniversary exhibition in the adjoining room until 9 February 2013 – to the delight of my Adam and Bret who had a quick mooch around that exhibition too!)

Bret “Hollywood” Freeman opened the proceedings with a toast to Milly J and her achievements in just less than a year.Milly J presented to the museum a special exhibit called the Tap Shoe – this was a shoe in a black/white check (reminiscent of traditional bathroom tiling) with a tap and plug on it….hard to describe but it is a fab piece of artwork….

 

Milly J is certainly a talented lady …apart from wowing us all with her creative shoe artworks, she is a lovely chatty and friendly lady with a proud, supportive and equally lovely fiancé Mark, and her main forte is actually being an actress and classically trained singer …and she blew me away with her fantastic rendition of In The Summertime ...it was just a fantastic evening and the fabulous cupcakes with edible shoes on them also deserve a mention … these were provided by Cuppies ‘n’ Cream …delicious Natalie, thank you.

So, here are some of the gorgeous Milly J Shoes creations…made with lots of love…

Wedding boots with a difference…and the Birdcage…

Liquorice All sorts …Breast Cancer Awareness Shoe..

For photograph enthusiasts…these were another favourite of mine…

Oranges…ideal if you’re feeling fruity…

At the Cafe – look at the detail – menu board, tablecloth, crockery…

Rubik’s Cube…

Secret Garden…

Another pretty one…ladybirds and roses…another favourite contender..

 

 

Dotty Tea Pots..

 

 

 

 

 

These have removable candles on the front with faux flames …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now I’m pleased to welcome to the blog the unique lady that is Milly J. Hi Milly, I really enjoyed meeting you and seeing your creations close up… so please introduce yourself ..

I am Milly J, aka Emily J, the shoe artist

Your shoe designs are amazing! Where do you get your ideas from?

My inspiration comes entirely from my belief in what is possible. I do not hinder myself and I am not scared to take a risk and surprise myself. I am from a theatrical background and this has put me in good stead to truly go out with an idea and see it to the end process. My skills in communication, my love of surrealism, my upbringings abroad, culture, society, anthropology and food. Though what really inspires me are the people that come to me. By talking to them and building a rapport of what makes them tick is very important. By having a hook in any form of work, your work will breath life.
In your opinion, what has been your wackiest design?
To be honest, to me I know that those that perhaps are more “middle” of the road would see my designs as “whacky”, though it’s when you read the titles and start to understand the meanings behind the shoes, they make complete sense. Though in terms of un-conventionalism, I’d have to say, the Mad Hatter’s teapot. Not just due to the actual design, but also due to the whole psychology of the Mad Hatter Character. A totally bonkers entity that sees elements where perhaps elements are not apparent. I took this mentality and tried to create this through a shoe.
Have you got a favourite out of all the shoes you’ve designed?
Yes, the Guardian Angel Shoe. This shoe was created almost straight after the passing of my brother. It is a shoe that is steeped in sensitivity,  based on “real” situation that is so very dear to me. A shoe that speaks of taking flight and letting what will be rest.
What do you like best about being a shoe designer?
The uninhibited nature of being an artist is so very liberating. Be able to realise that art is simply what works. Being able to create for not just yourself, but others too. The non selfish aspect of designing is so very special too, sharing your work with the world.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing  ?
I am at heart not someone who is hindered by what the market perhaps may subtly tell us to wear.Like my work, I like to be free in the notion that there are so many possibilities for me to fit in to. So it could Boho, Rockabilly, preppy… what ever works for me.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?
I love etsy. As it’s an avenue where you can really enjoy hand made creations that are created by fellow artists and designers, from the heart. None of that manufactured, processed malarky!
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I want to own a really nice Boho coat. I already have one, but another wouldn’t hurt! The type you can find in Camden. With silks and embroidery that speaks of craftmanship and skill.
Boots or Shoes?
Any works for me :-). I after all am a shoe person full stop. I love demonia boots to look at but I also love a dainty shoe to ponder over.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
Thanks Milly …it was lovely to meet you …and don’t forget if you are in Northampton pop in to that gem that is the Northampton Museum and be mesmerised, as I was!!! In the meantime, check out her website and have a look at all the other creative works not shown here…Milly J surprises me daily with new creations!!! 
Linda x
Photo Credits: Adam Hobden Photography; Linda Hobden
 

 

 

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