An Interview With Author Miles Montague

I was kindly gifted a book by Cameron Publishing, a thriller called “Carbon Game” by Miles Montague, to review. Published on 16 February 2020, this thriller looked, well, thrilling, when I read the blurb on the back of the book. I am a great fan of thrillers and this one was set within the explosive political battles of the 1980s between South Africa and England; and the diamond trade. It was refreshing to read a thriller based on a topic that has rarely been explored, and as Miles is a former diamond valuer who operated from London in the 1980s, the thriller was made more credible due to the attention to details. Miles was born in Kenya and came to England in the 1960s and as I was reading the book, it occurred to me that there were similarities in style and pace of writing between Miles, and fellow African writer, Wilbur Smith – who happens to be one of my top favourite authors. Miles book jogged my memories of London in the 1980s although I did not know the ins and outs of the diamond trade nor the extent of the politics of the time. I found the thriller fast paced and exciting to read, the characters were believable and obviously the locations I could relate too. For a first thriller, this was more than excellent and I, for one, look forward to reading his second thriller! I was honoured therefore, to get a chance to chat to Miles who also shared his photos with me of the London locations used in “Carbon Game”. Hi Miles and welcome…

Hello, I’m Miles Montague, I’m British, married and currently living in Belgium. I’ve also lived in Germany, Switzerland and Africa.

I worked in London as a valuer in the diamond industry in the 1980’s. My first thriller, Carbon Game, is set during this period of great social upheaval, both in South Africa and Britain. My work taught me a great deal about the international diamond business. I have a deep interest in international politics and economics, and love the challenge of complex plot and deep character creation required of thriller writing.  

I was born in Kenya and lived there until my family, like many other colonials, returned to England in the mid 1960s.  I can still remember, as a young boy, watching the severe storm at sea when we rounded the South African coast on our way home and the swimming pool almost emptying of water as the liner lurched to the battering of waves. This gave me a love of nature and drama. So, I suppose it’s no surprise that today, I am turning a rundown, hilltop Italian wine-producing property into a sanctuary for nature where I can watch the storms rolling in whilst I write my second thriller, which is also partially set in Africa.

Who or what inspired you to become a professional writer?​

I cannot be specific on this, but my early interest was radio plays.  The reason for this is primarily that I like character creation.  The plot also needs to unfold quickly in a realistic manner that you can follow.  These are quite difficult challenges which I like.  

“Carbon Game” – your 1st thriller – published on 16 February 2020 – and what a thriller – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish.  Being set between South Africa & England during the political turmoil of the 1980s and the plot being based on the diamond trade; it was certainly fast paced.  As you were a former diamond valuer in London during the 1980s, a lot of the characters must have been based on people you knew and situations experienced.  Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

Actually only three minor characters were based on people I knew of or had met in the diamond industry.  I used my imagination to create the rest.  The way my writing brain works is that I first create an outline plot and then sub plots which give rise to situations wherepeople find themselves in.  I then think of what kind of people might get themselves in those positions.  I have met a lot of people in my life and I also like watching TV and films.

I enjoyed writing about all the characters even the minor ones.

Janet Bromsgrove was a challenge as I was creating a female character who in some ways is not what you would expect.  She is tough, self-assured, confident and had a background that offered her opportunities, and yet she chose to  turn her back on those opportunities and follow a radical direction.  An interesting character to write.

The locations were based primarily on my experiences.  The bomb threat on the DTC building was something I went through and the streets and buildings were often places I had been to or ones I had researched. I was born in Kenya and lived there as a child and so have some knowledge of Africa.  I have relatives who live in South Africa, although most of these have now gone to Australia.


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

A huge amount of effort went into the plot. Even so, along the way I was pleasantly surprised by ideas that came along that made it more interesting. For instance, I changed the ending of the finished book despite the fact that it created a lot of additional work.  I was lying in bed in that grey zone between being awake and asleep, and at 4am a new ending came to me.  I remember thinking, ‘stay in bed, you will remember it’, but I forced myself to get up and change it.  I often get ideas during my sleep.  

What made you decide to write a thriller about the diamond trade?  Did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the thriller developed?

My inspiration for Carbon Game came from when I was working for an international diamond company in London as a valuer, I was told a story by a diamond buyer which really got my imagination going.  

He told me that in Western Africa there was a great deal of diamond smuggling from the alluvial deposits, primarily because of the civil war in Angola.  This theme is partially shown in the film Blood Diamonds starring Leonardo di Caprio.  The buyer went on to say that there were agents or buyers from all over the world located there and their task was to buy the best stones they could. He went on to describe how the smugglers would buy brand new 4×4 vehicles, often Land Rovers.  They would bag up their diamonds and hide them in the engine oil sump.  However, often some diamonds would escape and get into the engine mechanism which would wreak havoc.  One way the buyers would know that the smugglers were coming was the loud rattling noises coming from those broken engines.  After the smugglers had got the diamonds out from the engine sump they would often just leave the vehicle in the middle of nowhere and go buy another one.

These highly valuable alluvial diamonds are the best in the world.  They are quite literally beautiful as they are eroded so they have a smooth skin and when they trickle through your fingers they give a sensation that you will never forget.

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

I am currently writing my next book, and this will be a suspense / psychological  thriller with  some criminal subplots. It starts in Uganda where certain significant events lead to tragic consequences about twenty five years later in Britain driven by personal ambition and lies.  I have already written the first 30,000 words.

I actually have plot ideas for my next four thrillers. The world is in such a state of flux at the moment that opportunities for ideas have probably never been better.

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

I would not classify myself as a bookworm, but I am a bit of a news, economics and politics follower.  My favourite authors are Alistair MacLean and Frederick Forsyth.  I like real paperbooks, but appreciate that Kindle is really popular. 

 Is “Carbon Game” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, via Amazon and you can get to it via the links on my website: www.milesmontaguebooks.com

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

Places in Africa, probably the coffee region in Uganda.

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

Smart casual.  Jeans and sweatshirts. In the Summer I wear more linen shirts and trousers.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Definitely an Armani man but I also like Weston for shoes. 

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

Some decent jeans.

Boots or Shoes? 

I like both. I have some old ostrich leather boots which I love made by Lanvin which need some renovation.

For Pinning Later

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

www.milesmontaguebooks.com

Twitter and Facebook accessible from the website

Thank you Miles for agreeing to be interviewed. I really enjoyed reading your book and I can highly recommend it. My thanks also go to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publishing for my review copy.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Miles Montague (apart from the top photo which is by Linda Hobden)

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An Interview With Barlooon Germany

Hanging from trees, shrubs, gazebos and tents, waterproof lanterns known as “barlooons” give an alternative outdoor lighting option for your garden, patio or outdoor space. The barlooons are manufactured by Barlooon Germany using material that has been specially adapted to the climatic conditions in Europe. I chat to Hanna Barten, MD of Barlooon Germany to find out more about these colourful lights. Hi Hanna!

Hello, I am Hanna Barten, in my late thirties, managing director of Barlooon Germany GmbH and mother of two charming and lively girls.

Your company designs and makes weatherproof lanterns “barlooons”. What inspired the company to concentrate on this type of outdoor lighting?

I love lanterns! And I wanted them for our garden all year round. But the lanterns that existed before didn’t last long, because they were made of paper. And you couldn’t light them up either. So I thought to myself: There must be another way! The idea was born.

By the way: The name Barlooon is written with 3xO, because we have our lampions in three different sizes, namely with 30 cm / 50 cm and 70 cm diameter. And the 3xO stand for our 3 sizes. 

It is not unusual for Barlooon to be written with 2xO only, but always with the thought behind it, it will actually always be spelled correctly in the future.


What is the material used to make the barlooons? Are they suitable for leaving outside throughout the year? 

The material we use for our lampions is a very robust PVC material, which is also used for beach chairs and awnings. It is therefore designed for year-round outdoor use and is wonderfully suitable for our products. 

And: Yes! Of course our lampions can be outside all year round. In rain, snow or storms….. 

However, we recommend to clean the lampions if necessary, which is also possible without any problems.


There are some lovely colours to choose from including white, cream, yellow, orange, red, green, black – I rather like the dazzling orange, but which colour seems to be the most popular amongst your customers? Do you have a favourite colour?

In spring most customers choose our lampions in white, yellow and orange. In summer more for white.

Towards autumn, the orange and yellow ones are the most popular and the red lampion is mainly bought in the pre-Christmas period.

It is always very interesting to see how the year passes by in colours 🙂 

Our special colours like green and black are really very rarely asked for. But we are happy if we can also help customers with special wishes.

Furthermore, our customers also have the possibility to create their own personal Barlooon; with our “YOU-Edition”.

I personally like our white lanterns best. They are colour neutral and therefore blend in well in the garden all year round – no matter what is flowering or not.


Are there any new additions/colours to your range of lights in the pipeline for 2020?

At the moment there are no new colours planned. We are currently working on adding a stand for the ground spikes to our accessories so that the ground spike can be used where there are no beds. For example for roof terraces or terraces as such.

In addition, we are developing a very large lantern, which has a diameter of over one meter. We affectionately call it our “Megalooon”.

Are there any rules or recommendations about where to display these lights?

Our Barlooons can actually be used everywhere. Whether it is in a tree or positioned totally flexible with our earth spike and solar module. 

The solar module is recommended for use where it can also be charged by the sun. 

With the wired lighting solution, our lanterns have more power and shine correspondingly reliably, even in the dark season.

As you are based in Germany, are your products available to customers abroad?

The work on our English online shop is in its final stages! Therefore, from about the beginning / middle of March, customers from all EU countries will be able to order easily in our shop. 

Of course we are also happy to accept inquiries from other countries. However, due to customs formalities, it may take a little longer to process them. 

We are so happy that we have such a great response to our lampions!

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

As a rule I always wear quite comfortable clothes with even more comfortable shoes, because there are always situations where you have to help out. 

And besides that I am always on the move in my private life. That is not missing with small children. Spontaneous playing catch with the children in high heels is a bit unhappy. Besides, I’m already quite tall with a height of 180 cm and with high-heeled shoes, finding pants is really a challenge.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

Frankly speaking, I’m a bit of a shopping grouch. I have quite a lot of clothes in my closet, but as it is: Most of the time I always go back to the same comfortable clothes.

If I have the possibility I try to support the local retail trade here in the small town, even if it is maybe a little more expensive than in the online shop.

Moreover, most of the times you always meet some friends and get into nice conversations over and over again. 

If I am looking for something special, I am very happy about the medium internet and the possibilities it offers.

Online shops are great and it is impossible to imagine today’s world without them.

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

The garden season is coming up and last autumn my beloved rubber boots broke, so I urgently need new ones…..

Boots or Shoes?

I can’t even say I prefer any of them. It depends on the opportunity and what I’m wearing that day. And, of course, also on my mood 🙂

For pinning later

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

These are the links from our German social pages. We are in the process of creating English pages for this. These will be finished bit by bit. 

You can find our shop under www.barlooon.com

https://www.facebook.com/Barlooon

https://barlooon.tumblr.com/

https://www.xing.com/companies/barlooongermanygmbh

https://www.instagram.com/barlooon.wetterfester.lampion/

http://twitter.com/barlooon

http://www.pinterest.de/barlooon/

Many thanks Hanna for chatting to me . Do check out Hanna’s Instagram page, dear readersthe photographs are fabulous as well as the products.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Barlooon Germany

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Spotlight on The British Craft Trade Fair

Every April for the last 45 years, the British Craft Trade Fair has taken place in the pretty town of Harrogate, Yorkshire – a real celebration of all things British and handmade. It is probably the most important event in the UK that supports British- made products. There is a very strict criteria for exhibiting – nothing mass marketed or imported, guaranteed to have been made in the British Isles or Ireland, using handcrafting techniques and, wherever possible, local materials. Various craft disciplines are exhibited, including fine art, wall art, glassmaking, paper products, baby and children’s wear, metalwork, ceramics. The exhibitors themselves range from newbies to old hand exhibitors. In 2020, the first ever public opening day was announced for Saturday 4 April, followed by the trade only show from April 5th – April 7th. Alas, the Coronavirus outbreak has put the spanner in the works for 2020, and the first public day will now be on 10 April 2021, followed by the trade show 11-13 April 2021. So, for 2020 the British Craft Trade Fair will be a “virtual” exhibition… http://bctf.co.uk

I have spent some time scouting the exhibitors catalogue, and as the trade fair is not going ahead now in the conventional sense, I thought I would highlight 10 exhibitors that impressed me… not an easy task as all the exhibitors were worth a mention…

AMANDA CRUMP CERAMICS – SHEFFIELD (http://amandacrump.com)

Amanda’s artwork is an investigation into the relationship between ourselves and the creatures we share our world with. Her influences include storybooks, her young son, fashion design, day to day happenings. Her artwork is ceramic “almost” stoneware fired along with other objects such as feathers, horse hair, vintage buttons. I’m not sure what attracted me to this particular model – perhaps because it’s a dressed up cat! The detail though is quite exquisite, especially in the cat’s face.

ATLANTIC DESIGN STUDIO – NORTHERN IRELAND. (www.atlanticdesignstudio.com)

Stunning jewellery by designer & silversmith Lou Gillett. I love these earrings – the pleated look to them that is material like.

BEASTIE ASSEMBLAGE – JEDBURGH (www.beastieassemblage.co.uk)

Linda Lovett makes assemblage and jewellery incorporating vintage China and other found objects. I particularly picked this assemblage as it is full of the joys of Spring and the colours work well together. I love how the bits of vintage china have been incorporated into the scene too.

BEBANNE ART – STOURBRIDGE (www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BebanneArt)

Bev Bernhardt-Bridges is a fine artist with a passion for art, creativity and colour. She is an established silk artist with a selection of exquisite colourful silk scarves. Inspiration comes, predominantly, from the Natural World; from its shapes, colours and hues. Why did I pick these scarves? I love the vibrant colours.

COMPASS ROSE SOAPS UK – ROCHESTER (Facebook.com/CompassRoseSoapsUK)

These soaps are made to a premium olive oil based recipe, scented with essential oils and flower absolutes. They also have a collection of vegetable butter bath melts and sold foam bath balls. I was attracted by the colours and intrigued by the bath products.

DIANE JONES – BRADFORD (dianejonestextiles.com)

Colours again caught my eye! These sumptuous devore silk velvet scarves are hand painted. So, so pretty 😊

DREYA GLASS – NEWQUAY (www.dreya.co.uk)

Coastal inspired fused glass art at its best! Dreya Glass is based in Newquay, Cornwall. The fish look eerily realistic and are stunning.

HOLY LOCH POTTERY – DUNOON (www.holylochpottery.co.uk)

Inspired by the ancient Scottish landscape, these handmade ceramics are made from either an earthy buff or black high-fired stoneware clay. I do so love all textural things like this.

JANIE KNITTED TEXTILES – NOTTINGHAM (www.janieknittedtextiles.co.uk)

Using British and Merino wools sourced from UK suppliers, these colourful handmade interior accessories, lighting and soft furnishings have just put a new spin on “knitted items”.

KEREZ LTD – LEEDS (www.kerezltd.com)

Using beads, Kerez Ltd’s main products are cute bead handbags and bead art.

There are so many good exhibitors in the catalogue that I didn’t have the space to feature them all here! I hope that in 2021 the fair goes ahead as planned and for 2020, visit the virtual fair and see what talent is alive and kicking in Great Britain and Ireland.

For further details about the 2021 Trade Fair, 2021 public day, the virtual fair 2020 & catalogue, if you want to be considered as a future exhibitor, contact: http://bctf.co.uk

For Pinning Later

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of British Craft Trade Fair

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An Interview With Author Linda Rosen

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

BOOK SUMMARY

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

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

Genre: Women’s Upmarket Fiction

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ISBN-10: 1684334306

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

THE INTERVIEW

Hi Linda! Welcome to my blog!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?

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


Boots or Shoes?

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

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

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

For pinning later

BOOK BLOG TOUR DATES

March 2nd @ The Muffin

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

http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

March 4th @ A Writer’s Life

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

http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com/

March 6th @ 12 Books

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

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

March 7th @ Lori Duff Writes

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

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

March 8th @ Bring on Lemons

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

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

March 10th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

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

March 11th @ A Storybook World

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

http://www.astorybookworld.com/

March 13th @ Lori’s Reading Corner

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

http://www.lorisreadingcorner.com/

March 14th @ Boots, Shoes and Fashion

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

http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/

March 15th @ Choices

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

http://madelinesharples.com/

March 16th @ Reviews and Interviews

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

http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.com/

March 17th @ Coffee with Lacey

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

https://coffeewithlacey.com/

March 18th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

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

March 19th @ AJ Sefton’s Blog

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

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

March 20th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

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

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

March 21st @ Bookworm Blog

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

https://bookworm66.wordpress.com/

March 22nd @ 12 Books

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

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

March 23rd @ Cassandra’s Writing World

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

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

March 25th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

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

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

March 26th @ Lady in Read Writes

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

https://ladyinreadwrites.com/

March 27th @ Jessica Belmont’s Blog

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

https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

March 28th @ Bookworm Blog

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

https://bookworm66.wordpress.com/

March 30th @ It’s Alanna Jean

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

http://itsalannajean.com/

April 3rd @ Joyful Antidotes

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

https://joyfulantidotes.com/


April 5th @ Teatime and Books

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

http://teatimeandbooks76.blogspot.com/

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

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An Interview With GuanAnAn London

Going oriental this week as far as textiles go, at any rate. GuanAnAn London was established in London at the end of 2018 by founder Ju Guan, and they have a fabulous range of cushions, wallpapers, lampshades and fashion accessories in unique prints based on Ju’s drawings of characters from ancient oriental mythologies. Ju has a passion for sharing stories through her drawings as I found out when I interviewed her. Hi Ju!

Hi! My name is Ju Guan, I come from China. I lived and studied in Glasgow from 2012 to 2018, then I moved to London and set up my brand here. I graduated from the Glasgow School of Art, and my major was Painting & Printmaking.

What inspired you to set up “GuanAnAn London”? 

While I studied at GSA, I found out a fact that I always have had a passion for sharing stories through my drawings and connecting with people on an emotional level through my artworks. So, I started this brand with a strong belief in the power of storytelling. When people buy a product, they do not just get a daily-use item, they will gain joy from the stories. This is the thing I always wanted to do. To bring something interesting into people’s daily life.

Your brand creates unique prints for luxury home decor and fashion accessories based upon inspirations from ancient oriental mythologies. What do you like most about drawing the oriental mythologies? 

Let me take the first collection “The Fish” as an example.  It’s based on classic Chinese mythology called the Classic of the Mountains and Seas……. Actually, I don’t know if I should call it mythology because the characters in the literature are described as real existed creatures over 4500 years ago, rather than characters of a story. It’s more like a dictionary of ancient Chinese mythological creatures.

“There is a fish called He Luo, it lives in a river in the North. It has one head and ten bodies, and it yells like a dog. People love it not only because it is one of the best-tasting fish, but also it can cure illnesses.”

I read the words and imagined what if they existed in a world just like horses and snakes around us today. Then I designed every single character by hand drawing on paper with watercolour and ink. When the characters had been completed, I used a drawing tablet to create the final illustration on the computer. 

This is a very enjoyable designing process for me. 

I personally love your He Luo cushions – in all the colourways! What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Yeah, people are asking about He Luo cushions all the time. The octopus body is very eye-catching. And there are a lot of people like the twilly scarves for the fine details and rich colours. 

Out of all your collections, do you have any favourites?

I currently just finished the design of my second collection “The Blue Bird”. It’s a much bigger project than “The Fish”. I spent quite a lot of time on the feathers and I will say it worth of time. I love both the outcome of the design and the story.

The Blue Bird is much more popular in the oriental culture. The Chinese saying is: “There are three bluebirds. They have the most beautiful feathers, redhead, and black eyes. They are servants of the most powerful goddess. Two of them accompany the goddess all the time, and the third one is the messenger who represents the goddess.” You will see magpies(symbolises joy and good luck) are flying around the bluebird. So, that means the bluebird is bringing good news from the goddess.

You offer a bespoke service & are able to print your designs on any kind of fabric developing it into soft furnishings. What has been your favourite bespoke request so far?

I reupholstered two vintage chairs for my family. The reason why they are my favourite pieces is because of a special bespoke man-made suede. That fabric is the softest fabric I have ever seen, and it’s heavy. I have a velvet Calathea at home, the fabric feels to touch just like the plant.  That gives me an idea that I can make the whole interior a match, not only the patterns and colours but also the touch. 

You currently offer a wide range of products including silk scarves, silk kimonos, silk nightgowns, cushions, wash bags, lampshades, wallpapers.  Have you got any new products in the pipeline? 

I am planning to develop my designs into ceramics. I made a sculpture of He Luo with clay and talked to some ceramic professionals trying to build up a reliable production relationship. It will cost a lot to develop a new product, and I insist on high-end production that makes it harder for the plan to become a reality. 

As you are based in England, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

Yeah, of course. We can ship to overseas customers and we will be very happy to know there are more people in other countries that like our brand. 

When choosing items to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, traditional charm, colour or bits of all those?

As an independent brand, I would say the designs are very much based on a personal taste. I believe that if I can create interesting things and pass some joy through them to the customers, they will buy it. And I think the most important thing is not following the current fashion trends, it’s to lead a new trend. But, of course, customers’ requirement is important for me, that’s the reason I welcome bespoke orders.

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in art/textiles? 

When I was a kid, every time people asked me what do I want to be when I grow up, I say artist. The answer never changed. I started drawing before I can remember, and I was training painting skills for many years, since 7 years old. Then I learnt how to be more creative and finished my study at GSA. Developing a career in the art area is always my dream.

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

Casual. Comfortable is the most important thing, followed by style.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

I love the concept stores supporting independent designers like me. I can always find cool things in Notting Hill. 

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

Haha, a lot.

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/Facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about GuanAnAn London

Website: http://guananan.co.uk

Instagram: @guanananofficial

BTW, I just released discount codes on my Website for Mother’s Day gift. 20% off on everything and an extra 20% for the silk scarves.

Thank you Ju for explaining the background to the weird and wonderful mythological creatures … I wonder if they really did exist or whether somebody had a vivid imagination?!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Ju Guan

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An Interview With Salt And Steel

As I am currently renovating my home, I am beginning to enjoy looking at furniture and other home accessories in shops, on TV programmes and on websites. In fact, it has become almost an obsession! There is such a wide choice that it can be mind boggling – which colours and styles to go for, should you follow or buck the trend. One website that caught my eye is “ Salt And Steel” – it is the home of everything monochrome and textural. It is a site that made me go “all touchy and feely“ – I love textures and metal and most of the pieces on this website I hadn’t seen elsewhere. I caught up with the founder of Salt And Steel, Sarah, to find out more about her brand and her passion of all things monochrome and textural. Hi Sarah!

Hi, I’m Sarah, Founder and owner of Salt and Steel. I live in Oxfordshire with my two children and mad chocolate labrador. In my spare time I can be found at the gym, walking the dog or in the many coffee shops and beautiful restaurants around the county.

What inspired the founding of the brand, Salt And Steel? Why did you decide to specialise in all things monochrome & textural?

I’ve always loved interiors and having worked most of my working life as a business consultant I finally wanted to find something that I’m passionate about. I took the plunge in 2019 to start Salt and Steel and haven’t looked back. I LOVE anything with texture that is a little different and monochrome hues just fit perfectly.

I am particularly fond of the Hammered Metal Side Table – and the unusual  Metal Hand Hook. To date, what has been the most popular product from your range?

Oh yes I love them too. Now that’s a very difficult question to answer as I don’t tend to re-stock smaller items as I want to keep the brand fresh and forever moving.

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

I definitely can’t answer that! I love everything. That’s how I’m building my brand…if I don’t love it then I won’t buy it.

As Salt And Steel is based in the UK, are your products available to purchase and order worldwide?

As it’s a new business my focus is on the UK but of course I’m happy ship overseas on request.

Hypothetically speaking, if you were able to visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new design collection, where would you go and why?

Probably India. I just love the detail and the craftsmanship that goes into their homeware. I try to source products that are handmade where possible.


As you have an affection for monochrome, do you personally like to accessorise with a shot of bright colour or keep it pale? Which colours?

Interestingly, I can wear colour but I just don’t like to have it in my house. I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with me! I love wearing coral and electric blue.

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

I do love a heel…either a kitten or stiletto. Heels always make me feel better. I don’t tend to wear skirts or dresses. I’m usually found in skinny trousers or a jumpsuit.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Boringly no and for that reason I subscribe to Stitch Fix.

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

Summer dresses, I’m going to push myself out of my comfort zone. 

Boots or Shoes?

Boots. I love a boot. Boots always seem to be easier for some reason.

For pinning later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Salt And Steel. 

www.saltandsteel.co.uk 

Facebook: @saltandsteeluk

Insta: salt_and_steel_uk    

Thank you Sarah for chatting to me about your brand. The love of kitten heels is another passion we share – don’t you think the curviness of a kitten heel mimics some of the metal textural furniture and shapes?

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Salt & Steel.

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Food & Drink Of Madeira

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

Banana Plantation in Ponta Delgada, Madeira © Linda HobdenA

BANANAS

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

MERCADO DOS LAVRADORES

Mercado Dos Lavadores © AdamHobden

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

THE FISH

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

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

MEAT

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

VEGETARIAN OPTIONS

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

BREAD

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

FENNEL

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

Fennel © Linda Hobden

DESSERTS

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

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

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

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

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

Cheese … Calheta Beach Hotel, Calheta © Adam Hobden

DRINK

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

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

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

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

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

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

For pinning later.

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

Linda x

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Review: Trendhim

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

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

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SO WHO ARE TRENDHIM?

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

THE WEBSITE

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

https://www.trendhim.com

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

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

PACKAGING & DELIVERY

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

Inside the package
The Envelope

THE BRACELET

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

Close up of the plaited design
The logo
Magnetic clasp

MY VERDICT

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

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

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

Linda x

All photographs are copyright © Linda Hobden




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An Interview With Pepper Sq

I do so love watching those house makeover/interior design type TV programmes – the ones where whole houses have been renovated room by room. I love seeing how the clever use of colour, design, and furniture can transform a room. Even shifting furniture around a room could make a big difference in helping to accentuate the size of a room. I’ve come across a “one -stop online interior designer and furniture shopping destination” that really impressed me – Pepper Sq. Pepper Sq offer “Ready to Buy” Room sets – you can discover the best furniture for your space, estimate the total cost, assess the dimensions and visualise the room design. I caught up with Oxana, co-founder of Pepper Sq, to find out more about her brand, and her personal design loves. Hi Oxana!

Hello, my name is Oxana Yanushkovskaya, I am a CEO and Co-Founder of Pepper Sq.(www.peppersq.com) – which is an online resource for room-by-room makeovers, setting out interior ideas and offering carefully curated furniture.

What inspired the founding of Pepper Sq?

Pepper Sq. was launched in autumn 2018 with a mission to make ‘spacemaking’ simple and efficient. Following our own experiences of online furniture shopping, we noticed a gap in the market for a new entrant – one which provides vast yet considered furniture selection, digital ‘interior design’ tools and smart curation to foster better customer experiences. Our aim is to revolutionise the furniture retail, by creating unique customer experience and simplifying the purchasing decision making process. While a lot of people want to design their perfect homes, they find it extremely time consuming to shop in-store or search through thousands of portals on the Internet. Needless to say, many people don’t feel overly confident choosing furniture, as it involves dealing with sizing, colour and style matching issues and thus, money and time are wasted on sorting returns. This is where Pepper Sq changes everything, reduces noise that’s out there and lets customers hone in on precisely what they are after.

Simple 1.0 room set

I absolutely love the idea of the “Ready-To-Buy-Room” sets and the way your website offers the solution to visualise your room space, discovering the best furniture options for that space, and the cost of an entire room. How can customers utilise this facility? 

The platform features a new concept of complete room designs, which can be tailored by customers to suit their spaces and budget. The room ‘spacemaking’ function offer also comes with price reductions compared to buying individual items. All of the items featured within the room designs are also available separately. 

You can follow three simple steps: 

Discover – Browse our impressive collection of room designs, compare styles and find your favourite.

Design – Customise your favourite room designs, check dimensions, match colours, choose patterns or find alternatives.

Enjoy – Turn that space into a thriving reality. Click and buy – you’ll soon enjoy your new room design.

Every look comes with a visual reference so you can imagine how it might look in your own home, and you can see the actual budget.  Last but not least, you can find recommendations on finishes and décor, or get in touch with an interior designer who created the room you like in case you are looking for something bespoke and different.

Which room do you find is the hardest to makeover? 

There are three areas that give an emotional ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the house.  In my experience, these are often dining area, living space and master bedroom. It’s the heart of the home and really transforms the rest of the interiors, so it should capture your lifestyle, taste and vision. And it’s most critical to have it done right.

What room set is the most popular?

Oh! It’s a good question… Depends on a season. New rooms are always getting more attention. Last year there were a few rooms that were probably most ‘wanted’ by consumers and journalists (appeared in press): Simple 1.0, Sakura Dreams, Stone Island, Pastel Explosion, Eggnog Throff…  (our Christmas edition) .

I love the Hoxton Corner Sofa and the Yeux Rug. What’s your most favourite item(s)in your furniture/rugs collection?

The cane bentwood combo takes our heart this season. Rounded shapes and sinuous lines are known for giving a softer and more welcoming feel. We have a vast collection of bentwood and cane furniture, that’s extremely popular among our customers. Madrid and Lucien are my favourites. 

Janson is a statement sofa and is utterly elegant, you will be surprised with the level of comfort it provides. When I say you can sink into your sofa, I mean it. It can be complimented by an oversized Janson Armchair, that is designed to switch off from the outside world with a book or a movie, stunning and spacious.

Our transforming multipurpose furniture collection, that is perfect for a smaller space, includes Barbican and Levante coffee-turn-dining tables, Origami Folding Table or Flap Console-turn-Dining Table. My current favourite is Schasta that was recently added to our catalogue.

Malibu Console/Dressing table – beautiful in its minimal design, it functions as a hallway table, dressing table or a desk. 

The Vaquero Cowhide parquet rug that combines modern style and elegance, with it’stextured tones of calf hair that add subtle untamed luxury to any living space.

Flap Convertible Table

When picking items to add to your collections, do you select by what has proved popular in the past, current trends, customer requests, personal preferences or all of those things?

We love to be a trend setter, and every product added is hand-picked by our team members. The beauty is that we have very different life styles and cultural backgrounds, thus the tastes that make up our collections are broad, and (hopefully) attractive for many people.

There are two criterias we never compromise – quality and design. Our team hand-picks European furniture that is confident on its own, as well as part of our bespoke room design concepts.

Are you a big fan of the “feature wall” or do you think all walls should be papered or painted? 

I do not have personal preference, a space will dictate the rules…

Colour accent walls can add depth and dimension to a room, and make a room seem bigger, warmer, or brighter. If a room is small, a light colour accent wall can make the room seem more spacious. If room is too long, a dark colour accent wall can make the room appear more welcoming, and optically change proportions. 

On the other hand, you can use walls as a foundation … with single colour paint or same pattern paper, and go wild with wall décor. The benefits – you can change décor elements more often to create a new look .    

Have you got a favourite paint colour? 

I love Green colour, all shades of green really. My favourite paint is from Farrow & Ball collection – Mizzle 266. 

As Pepper Sq is based in the UK, are your products available to purchase and order worldwide?

The UK market is our primary focus for the next two years. It’s important to get it right. We are aiming to launch our service in a few other countries in 2022.

Hypothetically speaking, if you were able to visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new design collection, where would you go and why?

I have been lucky enough to explore the world. I was born and raised in Russia, lived in Far East for a few years, and worked across many countries and continents. 

Two countries stand out the most for me … 

Peru, with the myth and mist shrouded Inca citadel and it’s breath-taking landmarks, is one of the most fascinating countries in the world. It’s the place to re-connect with the Universe, absorb wild colours of nature, and Inca’s most colourful civilisation too.    

China, with it’s calm balanced environment (natural and cultural)  – order and creation of harmony.

Caleido Cream

Have you always wanted a career in interior design, or did you have ambitions elsewhere?

I studied arts for 8 years, and had a few personal exhibitions in the meantime.  By irony of faith, being a creative soul throughout, I didn’t apply my skills and passion in full until starting this company. I chose to pursue the career in the commercial world (though within the creative industries) and never regretted it and all the opportunities that came with it. 

Prior to founding Pepper Sq, I worked for 10 years with Discovery Communications Inc., where I led commercial strategy and business development teams across several networks and continents.  Before Discovery I was in homeware & DIY wholesale businesses, working closely with the largest European retail groups, in addition to European and Far East manufacturers.

So, getting back to design space, it’s almost getting back to my roots. 

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

I almost have dual personality now!

I love designer clothes, and even more, shoes! My favourite shoe brands are Jacquemus and Nikolaos Kirkwood. 

However, nowadays, you can find me in quirky t-shirts, jeans and sneakers more often than not. There is no better outfit to run a start up!

Madrid Lifestyle


Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I have been converted into ‘digital shopper’ many years ago, just never had time to visit physical shops. I still love to wonder through little boutiques shops when I travel, though. I am also a big fun of flea markets. My favourites are Place du Jeu Balle in Brussels, Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt in Paris, Grande Foire à la Brocante de Pézenas.

My favourite online shop is Pepper Sq. (of course)! 

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

More shoes from Jacquemus!

Boots or Shoes? 

Always stylish shoes ! Do I mention sneakers again? (Easier to style)

For pinning later

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

Site: https://www.peppersq.com/

Instagram: @peppersqcom

Facebook: @peppersqcom

Pinterest: @peppersq.com

Definitely food for thought – thank you Oxana. I do share your love of the colour green – all shades of green – my previous homes have been green colour based. Currently though, I’m attracted to pale colours for my interior walls (lemon, lilac, cream, white, baby blue); then I can go to town with bright colours such as yellow and orange accessories in the kitchen and bathroom. I absolutely adore Pepper Sq’s room set idea – it is great to be able to virtually visualise a makeover and have access to the ideal furniture all on one site. I hope you agree, dear readers!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Pepper Sq.

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Review: Prestige Flowers

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

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

The Website


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

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

The Package I Received

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

The Roses

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

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

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

Looking After The Roses

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

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My Verdict

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

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

Linda x

All photographs are by © Linda Hobden

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