Category Archives: Life Issues/ Motivational Posts

Spotlight on NABAS

Party season is fast approaching and if you are looking to decorate your party room with balloons and other event accessories then who better to give advice than NABAS – The Balloon And Party Professionals Association – the only registered trade association for the balloon and party industry in the UK. I caught up with current chairman, George Oustayiannis… hello George and welcome…

Hello! I’m George Oustayiannis and the current Chairman of NABAS, and Director at GO International, the UK’s leading importer and wholesaler for everything party!

What is the story behind setting up of NABAS?

NABAS was set up almost 35 years ago (2022 will be our 35th Anniversary). All the leading manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and decorators came together to form a non-profit association, run for the members, for the members, with a number of benefits. It was created to be a voice for the industry.

What would you say are the pros of hiring, say a balloon professional that is a registered member of NABAS?

 Without doubt, the knowledge that a NABAS member is insured, and that they have a network of over 650 members willing and able to help and support them.

What perks does being a NABAS member offer a balloon and party specialist?

The ability to network with your peers, as well as having access to leading manufacturers, wholesalers and balloon decorators. We also have dedicated team of NABAS approved instructors, as well as the most comprehensive insurance on the market.

Apart from being Chairman of NABAS, what specialist balloon & party profession are you in?

I’m also on the Board of Directors for The Impact Group – an invitation only organisation of the UK’s leading wholesalers.

Have you always wanted a career in the balloon/party professional spectrum or did you have other aspirations?

As the eldest son of a very traditional Greek family, I had two choices. I could be a lawyer or a doctor.  But if I wasn’t that bright, they’d settle for accountant. I actually started in law, and became a city broker, and was the youngest divisional director for one of the city’s leading firms. But my wife decided I didn’t want to be a broker anymore! I’m afraid I took away my parents “Church Bragging Rights” with the “What does you son do for a living?” question.

What advice would you give to anybody thinking of starting up as a balloon and party  professional?

Join NABAS! The wealth of knowledge and support is unparalleled.


Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear when in “party mode”?

As casual as the host allows. I spent far too many of my earlier years in a suit and tie. I try and avoid fancy dress, and only ever looked remotely acceptable as Batman, because I could hide my true identity behind a mask!

Boots Or Shoes?

Shoes, as a Piscean, I hate any kind of footwear and  can’t wait to go barefoot! Shoes are so much easier to kick off, or quickly put on when need be!

For Pinning Later

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

www.nabas.co.uk  

www.gointernational.co.uk 

Thank you George for chatting to us today. Let’s hope the parties can go ahead as safely and as healthy as possible this year!

Linda x

All photographs (apart from the Pinterest and header pic ) have been published with kind permission of NABAS.

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An Interview With Meee

Not an interview with me but an interview with Sid Madge, founder of Meee (My Education Employment Enterprise) ! To date, Meee has transformed the lives of over 20,000 people, from leaders of PLCs and SMEs to parents, teachers, students, carers, the unemployed and prison inmates. That is a lot of people! I caught up to Sid to find out more about Meee ….Hi Sid and welcome 😊

Hi, my name is Sid Madge. 


What made you decide to launch Meee (My Education Employment Enterprise)?

I started the Meee program after I was giving a talk in a school in Wales to a group of young teenagers. I asked them to describe themselves using one word. 

The first lad I asked answered “weirdo”. I smiled and said well what a great word, so creative. And he said, “No I’m bullied, I don’t like being at school, don’t see the point in education and don’t like learning”. I was horrified. I went round the rest of the class andothers used words such as freak, misfit and weirdo.

That session had a profound effect on me, so I did some research on young people and mental health. I started running workshops in schools with teachers and then worked with the unemployed and people in prison. I did a Tedx Talk and wrote my first book and followed up with two more.

My belief that this really could work, grew.

We started working with businesses and we’ve had tens of thousands of people through our programmes. We’re developing specific tools for personal development, and professional development around leadership, around culture. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m very grateful.

I guess your job isn’t an easy one as some people’s aversion to change is not that easy to solve! What sort of reasons hinder their adaptability?

Yes, people have multiple barriers to change. There’s a great saying is there no one likes change, except a wet baby!

Too often we see the process of change as negative and that’s what makes it so hard. We have to accept the situation we’re in and then create change – think of those amazing people who have got through extraordinary adversity, for example, Helen Keller, John Wilson who started sightseers International. It’s those people who have determination and the ability to regard change as positive. Others include Kobe Bryant who sadly died last year, Michael Jordan Ariana Huffington. They embrace change and that’s what Meee does. 

What approach do you tend to use to help people believe in themselves?

It’s best to start in safe conversation, exploring values and where our thinking comes from.We’ve got a great programme called Fuel and that’s all about Feelings and Understanding Emotions and Logic and Learning. I think once you start having those conversations around values, purpose and your own performance goals people start to change. They realise that they are their own instruments of change. They may have developed negative beliefs but a process like this can help them change their internal script, and help them change their lives. 

What is it about your job (& Meee) do you enjoy or gives you the most satisfaction? The downside?

I love what working both with young people and adults and taking them through a process of change. People of all ages have change their lives, but they do the changing and we’re there to guide and support.

When you listen to the stories of what they’re achieving for themselves, for their families, for their friends, for their communities there is no greater gift. 

The downside? I want more people to do the programme but finding the money is often challenging. But we’re getting more corporations involved so that we can then subsidise the education work and work in prisons. 

You are also an author of “Meee in Minute” series of books which each offer 60 ways to change your life – work or family – in 60 seconds.  What are 5 of your top tips?

• Words matter – think about the words that you use and how they impact others

• Never stop learning – there is so much to learn from yourself, from other people from going places, from doing things e.g., reading, writing, watching films etc, exploring the world. There is learning in everything that we do.

 • Remember that we all matter. Every single person matters. We’re all in this together and everybody can make a huge contribution to this wonderful world when you find your purpose and your passion.

• Think about the energy that you have – it’s a finite amount that we get every day so spend it wisely, 

• Honour your negative feelings. We all have them in a regardless of who we are. What’simportant is to acknowledge them but not to feed them. If you’re in a bad mood find out why, and what you can do to move the dial and put yourself in a better mood.

Growing up, did you always want a “People related” career or did you want to pursue a completely different direction?

At one point I wanted to be a vet, but I thought I wasn’t clever enough! I discovered the world of branding and design which has been great to work in, but it was never truly fulfilling. When that young lad said the word weirdo that changed everything.

Do you think the COVID pandemic has made a difference in the people’s mindset regarding change and life in general?

I think Covid has changed a lot of things. It has made some people more fearful but it’s made some more optimistic. It’s made us question things and what is truly important. I hope we’velearned that we’re not invincible and need to look after each other and this wonderful planet.

As you are based in the UK, are your services available worldwide too?

We are based in the UK but we deliver worldwide

©Linda Hobden. – Jeffrey West store in Piccadilly, London

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

Trainers shorts and T-shirts mainly. I love being casual but also love dressing up smart too for the right occasions. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love John Lewis and Fortnum & Mason. For convenience Amazon is useful – although I don’t think they aren’t doing the retail world a huge favour at the moment.

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

My clothing Wish List is more about the children. I have three young children and I like buying clothes for them. I also like finding second-hand clothes. Recycled cool stuff is good for me especially as since the start of Covid I haven’t had any in-person meetings.

Boots or Shoes?

I used to wear a lot of Jeffrey West boots love love love his boots but now it’s trainers, it’s shoes and I love my slippers.

For More Information:

For Pinning Later. Lincoln’s Lego Exhibition 2019. ©Linda Hobden

Web: www.meee.global

Web: www.meeebooks.com

Twitter twitter.com/Meee_HQ
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MeeeHQ/
Instagram www.instagram.com/meeehq
YouTube https://youtu.be/fISupZWZMQc 
TEDx https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bR3Cyjs62c8

Photographs have been published with kind permission of Meee (apart from header, Pinterest photo, and Jeffrey West shop – ©Linda Hobden)

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An Interview With Author Shaun Hand

During lockdown I read a book that was sent to me to review by book publicity agent Ben Cameron – a book which made me laugh, cry and pine for a night down at my local pub to “people watch”! This book was called “The Sadness of The King George “ by author & musician, Shaun Hand. It was a book that was laugh out loud funny; the characters were absolutely believable; and, as it says in the book blurb, “unflinchingly honest”. The story is set in a local, rundown pub “The King George” in the West Midlands – an old style pub that has sticky carpets and tables, soggy bar towels, regular customers who sit or stand in the same places exchanging the same words of wisdom; the Saturday night aggro; run by the pub landlord, the Gaffer, who no one sees; the mouthy barmaid, Siobahn, who runs the place like clockwork although no one really appreciates her; the pompous barman; the young 20 year old barman who wonders if there is more to life than pulling pints, pondering over love and looking forward to the next fag break; and Amy, the new young barmaid – full of hope and object of desire. Written from the viewpoint of the 20 year old barman as he tries to find his way through life especially when it comes to love, work and being cool. So, it was with great pleasure that I was able to catch up with the author Shaun … Hi Shaun & welcome…

Hello, I’m Shaun Hand. A life-sized writer, musician, charity shopper, and amateur gardener from Birmingham (the UK one).

“The Sadness of the King George” is a refreshing modern tale of life from the old pub – a young 20 year old unconfident lad who serves the locals, the confident barmaid, the landlord, the characters who frequent the local on a daily basis –   What made you decide to write “The Sadness of The King George”?

Thanks! I wanted to write it ‘cos that’s the world I lived in from the time I was 18 to 35, pretty much half my life! It’s a world that’s dying as the 21st century establishes itself, and so I wanted to capture it realistically, good and bad.

The book characters are all absolutely believable and probably found in most pubs in the UK – as you worked in pubs and bars in your twenties too, were your characters based on observations of people you’ve come across in the past and incidents you’ve experienced ? Who were the hardest characters to portray?

Totally — although some were exaggerated or embellished for effect. The hardest one to portray was probably the narrator because although he was partly based on me at 20, he was also based on about four other people, and so I had to be careful sometimes not to just make him do or think what I would do in real life.

Copyright © LindaHobden

Your first book was “Pop Art Poems: The Music Of The Jam”  – vastly different genre to “The Sadness Of The King George”. Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

It was the first time I’d ever written a long-form piece of fiction, and I think the biggest, most pleasant surprise for me was a point pretty early on where one of the characters started telling me what they should say and where the story should go rather than the other way round — I realised that they’d come to life and that it was becoming more of a novel than an idea.

Hypothetically speaking, if you could go anywhere in the world to get inspiration for another book, where would you go and why? 

I don’t think I’d need to go anywhere specific, really. I tend to write about smalltown, suburban England, so maybe somewhere to escape that! I’ve got a romantic notion of going off to a B&B in Llandudno or somewhere for a week and just writing.

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you have other aspirations? 

I always wanted to be a professional musician, but having tasted the reality of the work involved to barely make ends meet (leaving your family for months on end to go touring etc)and some of the darker side of it, I think I’m happier and more fulfilled being a writer who does books, music, poetry, whatever takes my fancy. Right now, that feels more liberating to me than any amount of distance I could travel to play to four people for no money (or even no people for four money).

Copyright © LindaHobden

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

I am, and I read more and more avidly as I get older, but I don’t have a favourite genre. I love anything with a good story and vivid characters, but then I also love a good music or author biography (I’ve just finished Billy Bragg’s book about skiffle, which was brilliant). The only author I’ve read everything by (even the bad stuff) is George Orwell. My wife put me on to Sarah Waters, and I’ve really got into her; Fingersmith is a brilliant book. Also slowly working my way through David Bowie’s 100 Favourite Books list, although some of it’s a little too dry for me.

And books, absolutely, every time. I can’t walk past a charity shop without having a nose. Kindles just don’t have that magic, or the smell.

 Is “The Sadness Of The King George ” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes. You can either line Jeff’s Bezos’ pockets or contact your local indie bookseller. It’s orderable through Waterstones too.

You are also a musician with your band FABRIK – what instrument do you play? What music genre?

My main instrument is the guitar, but I also play piano and bass and make drum loops for us to write songs over. We’re pretty trip-hoppy but a bit weirder. If you like stuff like Portisheadand Massive Attack, then we’re probably your kind of thing.

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

I flit between two extremes: trackies and trainers if I’m round the house, just nipping out, or just want to be comfortable. If I’m going out, DJing, gigging, or just want to look good, then it’s a suit with some nice loafers or these black-and-white 1920s-style shoes I got from one of those “4 shiny suits for £10” kind of shops years back.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

For clothes? Probably H&M. I live in Wolverhampton and everywhere else decent has shut down. Increasingly, I’m getting stuff from charity shops; I don’t like buying clothes online really.

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

I’ve got me brother-in-law’s wedding coming up, and I’d really like to get a decent dark blue, fitted double-breasted suit for it, but I can’t find one that wouldn’t make me look like an early ‘90s Tory MP. Beyond that, I’ve got a few suit jackets from charity shops that need taking in.

Shoe-wise, I’d love some decent brogues and could do with some boots — trainers with jeans limits the kind of top you can carry off, and loafers with jeans can be dangerous territory. I need some new wellies too for me gardening.

 Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?)

Shoes because I like wearing brightly coloured socks (teddy-boy style, not ones with novelty patterns).

For Pinning Later

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

Buy book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sadness-King-George-Shaun-Hand/dp/1916084575/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Instagram: @shaunpatrickhand

Twitter: @shaunhandauthor

FABRIK: https://www.fabriktheband.co.uk/

Thanks very much for the nostalgia trip – I really enjoyed the book and the customer antics! Thank you Ben Cameron for sending me the book to read and review in the first place.

Linda x

The photographs of Shaun have been published with kind permission of Shaun Hand; the other photographs were taken by LindaHobden.

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An Interview With Judy Piatkus

I’m excited to introduce my guest this week – entrepreneur, publisher and business coach Judy Piatkus! Judy founded Piatkus Books in 1979 and in April 2021 she released her first full-length book & memoir “Ahead Of Her Time: How A One-Woman Start Up Became A Global Publishing Brand”. Without further ado, let’s say Hi to Judy …

Hello! My name is Judy Piatkus and I am an entrepreneur and former publisher, wife and mother.

What made you decide to write your memoir ahead of Her Time: How a One-Woman Startup Became a Global Publishing Brand?

Throughout my working life, women have asked me how I grew my company alongside bringing up my family as a single mother. I wanted to share my story now to help women who want or need to start up on their own.

You founded Piatkus Books in 1979 from your spare bedroom. What inspired you to start your own business?

I had a dream of starting my own business and being my own boss and I built my first business with a partner. When that business relationship didn’t work out, I started again on my own.

Were there any aspects of writing your memoir that surprised you either by being harder or easier to relate than you expected?

The book tells the story in a linear way. However, I wrote the chapters that I found easiest first and then put the whole story together.  

As well as being a keynote speaker, you are also a coach/mentor to business startups. What main parts of your management style and experience from owning Piatkus Books do you try to impart to other budding entrepreneurs?

I believe that every one of us wants to have the opportunity to do good work. The onus is upon the leader of an organisation to create a culture in the workplace that empowers and inspires people to give of their best. This requires the leaders and the managers to understand themselves well and to treat their workforce with respect and in the way they themselves would like to be treated. 

Have you always wanted to have a career in the book/ publishing industry or did you have other aspirations?

From a young age I was an avid reader and I could think of nothing better than working with books all day long. I always felt very lucky that I was able to work in publishing and read and publish novels that people enjoyed and non-fiction that opened their minds to new ways of thinking about their lives.

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

After I sold the company I thought I would read more than I do. Like so many of us, I get distracted by reading articles on the internet. However, I always read a lot on holiday. The topics I still enjoy most are the genres we published – popular fiction especially crime novels and books about relationships – and interesting new books about personal growth and spiritual development. I always prefer to read a printed book and avoid another screen but kindle has its uses.

Is Ahead of Her Time: How a One-Woman Startup Became a Global Publishing Brand available to purchase worldwide?

Watkins, my publishers, have sold copies of the book all over the world. You can buy the printed book, download it onto your kindle or buy the audio version and listen to it.

What do you enjoy most about speaking to audiences?

Speaking is an opportunity to inspire people to follow their dreams. I like to find out about the audience before I speak so I can target my talk to what I think will be of interest.  Publishing is a very complex industry but it’s one that everyone can understand. I am usually asked many questions about becoming an entrepreneur or how to get a book published and that keeps me on my toes.  

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

I like to look smart but I am a lazy dresser. Throughout my publishing career I got up every morning and put on a black top and black trousers and I had a variety of different jackets to go over the black top. That way I didn’t have to spend too much time thinking about what to wear. My favourite designers are Armani and Max Mara but I could only afford 5 outfits – one for each day of the week – and when one wore out, I replaced it. I usually wore comfortable but smart Russell and Bromley boots so I didn’t have to think about footwear either.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Large department stores such as Selfridges, Harrods or Harvey Nicholls always excite me. I also like individual carefully-curated small boutiques especially in towns outside of London.Its been such a tough time for the retail industry and I do hope that many of these shops are able to survive. Now I don’t have to go to an office every day I buy a lot of clothes in Gerard Darel as I like the variety and the cut. I much prefer trying before buying so that I can choose clothes that fit well.

Aside from clothes stores, I am unable to walk past a bookshop without popping in. I try and buy as many books as I can in bookshops because if we don’t support them, we won’t have the luxury of browsing and discovering unexpected treasures.  

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wishlist?

I want to have exciting places to go to where I can wear some of the clothes in my wardrobe that haven’t had much of an outing in the last eighteen months. Yesterday I was walking down the street and a very elegant woman came out of a block of flats nearby. She looked amazing and it reminded me how we have all got used to dressing-down. I want to dress up again.

Boots or shoes? (& Why?).

I have always been a boot person. I want life to be easy and I have always found it more comfortable to walk around town in boots rather than shoes. Wearing my favourite pair of boots with heels, I always feel I can conquer the world!

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share.

www.amazon.co.uk

www.bookdepository,com

www.judypiatkus.com

www.consciouscafe..com

Twitter: @Judypiatkus.com  

Instagram: Judypiatkus

Fabulous to “meet” you Judy and thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. I am so with you on the dressing down issue … I can’t wait to start dressing up again and visiting exciting places! 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Judy Piatkus.

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Sins Of Our Mothers Book Tour

I’m pleased to be part of the “Sins Of Our Mothers “ book tour to celebrate the latest Dystopian fiction by author Nicole Souza. Dystopian fiction isn’t a genre I’m familiar with but as I read “Sins Of Our Mothers” with an open mind, I found myself getting totally engrossed with the storyline and the characters. This is a great book to read on the sunbed as summer approaches….

Book Summary

It has been fifteen hundred years since the solar flare devastation of the Global Catastrophe. Due to the radioactivity in the harvesting fields, society dismisses its defective children as nothing more than flawed products of the malfunctioned seeds in the field.

But Lyratelle, a hyper-observant musical prodigy, believes these “defects” are intelligent, particularly her own sibling, the youngest child of her impervious mother. Abandoning her dream career, Lyratelle climbs the bureaucratic ladder to run the Defect Research Center, where she can safeguard the child.

With an underground team of women who share her uncertainties, Lyratelle unearths the Old History truth that womankind’s survival actually hinges on the existence of these defects.

When General Sarah Love, the city’s most powerful advocate against the defects, detects Lyratelle’s sympathy toward the creatures, she threatens the life of Lyratelle’s sibling.

Now Lyratelle’s desperate attempt to save this child endangers everyone she loves—her team, her family, even the existence of the defects themselves.

Print Length: 358 PagesGenre: Dystopian FictionASIN: B08FNMQ3XVPublisher: E.L. Marker  
Sins of Our Mothers is available to purchase now on Amazon.com.

MY INTERVIEW

It is with great pleasure to welcome Nicole Souza onto the blog. Hi Nicole!

Hi! I’m super envious of ancient philosophers. I imagine they gathered in groups, passing around their favorite snacks while stretching their aching joints, immersed in discussions surrounding the questions that link human hearts: Where did we come from? Why are we here? What is truth? How can we maximize joy and minimize suffering? What is the meaning of family relations? Where does death take us?

I’m envious, that is, until I realize this is the very scene at my family girls’ nights. Though overall our society dedicates less time to questioning mortality and our existence in general due to the insane velocity of modern demands, we’re all philosophers in our souls.

Conversation is my fuel. I love people. I love others’ unique stories. I love finding connections with members of the human family who live oceans apart from me, who speak other languages, and whose experiences are vastly different from mine. While I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, my husband was born and raised in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. Our upbringings, and the way we experience life, are so distinct. I’m profoundly grateful.

Among my immediately family—parents and eight siblings—are spoken seven languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Tongan, Mandarin, and Dutch. Among my siblings-in-law, including one who passed away thirteen years ago, are five ethnicities and four nationalities. My nieces’ and nephews’ heritages span the globe. Most are being raised in bilingual households, three of whom live in beautiful Taiwan where English is their second language.

If all I had in life was a pretty piece of land and my family to enjoy it with, I’d want for nothing. I love my people.

As if I don’t get enough language in my personal life, I also got my B.A. in Languages with a minor in Women Studies. Growing up I thought I’d study music. I’ve played piano since age five and violin since age eight. Teaching violin was my first job and I thought it would be my last. But I’ll be honest, as much as I love people, especially kids, I’m not equipped with the divine patience needed to teach them how to play musical instruments. Oh, my heart; how terribly, terribly hard that was for me. I’m grateful to have found my thing—writing stories alone in my room surrounded by dogs and donuts.

Who or what inspired you to write “Sins Of Our Mothers”?

In college, I made an astounding observation: nearly all my straight, married girlfriends, and those with a live-in boyfriend, were the sole providers in their relationships. Each one of their husbands or boyfriends was profoundly unhappy and had developed at least one addiction that was affecting their relationship. Though all relatively close to my age, these weren’t just friends here in the states. These were women of multiple ethnicities and cultures.

Some spoke English, some didn’t. Some had children, some were students, some had mortgages, some were renting, some lived with parents or in-laws. The one thing they had in common was an unemployed adult man depending on their salary. The most bizarre detail was that none of the women with children depended on their male partners for childcare, even though they were home all day. They either relied on relatives or paid for professional childcare.

The men’s addictions ranged from simple things like alternate realities to more intense things like pornography and even detrimental things like alcohol and destructive drugs. Some of the men were students. Some were college graduates, some high school graduates. All had essentially disappeared from their families, their communities, and society—a trend I began to notice extended far outside my circle of contacts.

While several of these couples split or divorced, many pulled through and have progressed together. The fact that so many close friends—wonderful, intelligent people—intersected in this weird place all at once felt significant. I remember thinking, “These women literally do everything. They could just remove the men and their lives would remain the same, but without the stress of supporting a grown man and his addictions. All women really need from men is their sperm, right? Aside from that, are men even necessary?”

Settlement 1163 in the novel represents the struggles of those men. Lilac City, where the women live, represents women who bear and raise their children, as well as provide for their families, alone. While the burden of supporting men in their homes is gone, they still, unknowingly, support the men in the settlements through taxes. But the emotional burden of feeling like they do everything alone doesn’t exist in the book because the only world the characters know is a completely female one.

The first draft of Sins of Our Mothers sent me on an arduous journey where I learned that, not only are men necessary, but masculinity is infinitely more valuable than those currently in power would have us believe. There’s a lot of talk nowadays about toxic masculinity. What’s not being talked about is how essential masculinity is to a free, successful, harmonious society. If we’re to achieve our potential as the twenty-first century generation of the human family, and ensure future generations can liberally pursue happiness, we need good men.

The final draft of the book is, I hope, a depiction of what I learned along that journey.

 I really enjoyed reading your book, “Sins Of Our Mothers ” and I particularly enjoyed the character of Lyratelle Faith. What character did you particularly enjoy writing about? What character was the hardest to portray?

Lyratelle is my favorite character, too. She embodies female power and the strengths of womanhood as I’ve come to understand them thus far in my life. I hope one day to see someof her relentless drive in myself. But that’s a far, far distant goal. I most enjoyed writing her, inside and out. It’s so fun for me when readers ask about her because it feels like we’re chattingabout a mutual friend. She’s the kind of woman with whom anyone would benefit from a friendship. She’s compassionate, aware of and concerned for the disenfranchised, and constantly striving to better the world for her loved ones and, consequently, the human family.

The character that was the hardest to portray was Grace, hands down. She’s so brilliant and passionate about technology and electronics, which is quite the opposite of me. While I do love many virtual reality games, especially Beat Saber, I have no idea or desire to understand how it all works. I’m grateful there are people like Grace in the world so people like me can undeservedly enjoy their hard work. If everyone were like me, we’d literally sit around all day, passing around our favorite snacks while stretching our aching joints, immersed in philosophical discussion. Grace is so rad because she would dominate those discussions while simultaneously programming virtual worlds and haptic suits.

Researching for your novel must have been quite interesting… did you discover anything that shocked you or uncover some nugget of information that was unexpected?

I learned a lot about IVF. It astounds me that doctors have developed medicine to the point where they can initiate humanlife in a petri dish and reimplant the fertilized egg into the woman’s uterus. Again, I’m grateful these kinds of advanced humans exist in the world. It makes me appreciate even more profoundly the variety that exists among our human family.

Studying pregnancy in general made me appreciate men far more than I did previously. Of course, growing up with an awesome dad, grandpas, three brothers, and more male uncles and cousins than I care to count, I always loved and appreciated men. But really internalizing, not just casually knowing, that women can’t bear children without men was strangely humbling.

I’m so accustomed to women being these independent powerhouses that push through mortal suffering and just get stuff done. Even within pregnancy, the participation between the female and male is so mind-blowingly lopsided, and yet, a woman cannot have a child without the sperm of a man. I spent a ton of time just pondering the significance of this fact. I’d known it since I was a child but somehow maintained this superior image of women that was so distinct from the simplicity of men. I didn’t realize I’d been subconsciously questioning men’s significance.

Well, I don’t doubt it anymore thanks to the research and careful consideration that went into writing Sins of Our Mothers.The world needs good men more than anything else right now. I hope that came across clear in the book.

This novel comes under the genre of Dystopian Fiction  – have you ever explored or hoped to write under other genres?

Yes! After the Sins of Our Mothers trilogy is complete, I’ll be working on a fantasy series. I also have a manga-style adventureproject I work on when I need a break from the heavier writing.It’s slow coming because my art skills are about a two out of ten. But I’m inching along. I actually asked my thirteen-year-old nephew recently to take over the drawing part for me as he’s far more talented. I promised to get him some sample pages by the end of the week, so we’ll see.

I’m also working on my mother-in-law’s biography. She has the most fascinating life story and I really want to make sure it’s told.

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations?

The one commonality I share with Lyratelle is in our youths we both dreamed of being concert mistresses of renowned symphonies, but ultimately chose other career paths. While she went the way of geniuses and hardworking folk, I chose to lock myself in my room with my snacks and write stories.

My private violin instructor was a member of the Utah Symphony. I went to her rehearsals during those career shadowing days in elementary school. I just knew that would be my future. Yet, here I am. It’s been weeks since I even touched my beloved violin.

I did always want to tell stories, too. Being a writer was high on my list of career options. There’s just something about storytelling that awakens my soul. I learn so much better reading and writing stories than I ever have doing busywork. I believe the greatest minds throughout history have taught in parables because stories can be understood by all minds, no matter where they fall on the genius scale. Stories are powerful and unifying.

Is “Sins Of Our Mothers ” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! Barnes and Noble has international shopping available online. Amazon Kindle International is available in over 170 countries. Amazon also ships hard copies internationally to over 100 countries.

If you could visit any place in the world to inspire your next novel, where would you go and why?

Taiwan, definitely. My sister and her family live there. It’s one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. Vast cities pressed right up against gorgeous beaches create the perfect setting for a multi-genre/crossover story. There’s so much romantic simplicity in the island’s nature and so much modern hustle and bustle in the thick of the cities. And the Taiwanese people are the friendliest, most generous, polite people I’ve ever had the pleasure of interacting with. I’ve always loved Mandarin Chinese so spending quality time in Taiwan would boost my speaking and listening skills, though I don’t suppose I’ll ever get the characters down.

Having lived in several cities in Brazil, I would say the state Rio Grande do Sul is next on the list. It’s my second home and I miss it every day. Especially the amazing people.

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres (or authors) do you usually like to read?

My two lifelong favorite books are The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, and The Giver by Lois Lowry. The Hiding Place is a kind of anomaly as I don’t usually enjoy nonfiction as much as fiction. But The Giver fits right into my type of story. In fact, it shaped my reading preferences quite a lot. I first read it when I was really young so every book since has been measured against it.

I don’t discriminate against any genre as there are good books in all. As long as a story keeps me interested, I’ll devour it.

Lately, I’ve been more immersed in manga than novels. Hajime Isayama satisfied my longing for a well-written story with his amazing series Attack on Titan. I don’t suppose I’ll ever love anyone—real or fictional—as much as I love Levi Ackerman. Though Otcho/Shogun from Naoki Urasawa’smanga series Twentieth Century Boys comes close. I guess I’m a sucker for strong, independent men with traumatizing pasts.

I know it’s cliché, but I can’t fail to mention J.K. Rowling’s mind-blowing talent for storytelling. I know I’m not the only one because I’ve heard others mention how reading the Harry Potter series felt much more like watching. That world truly lives on those pages.

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

If you ever find me at home, it’ll undoubtedly be in a MooMoo and department store ankle socks with my hair down. On a regular day out and about, I prefer tall, form-fitting print T-shirts (likely featuring Levi Ackerman), loose leggings (deep pockets, of course), and Vans slip-ons with my hair in a messy bun. Not because I’m stylish and rock a messy bun, but because everything I try to do with my hair is messy, and buns are convenient when running errands. I’ll most likely be in glasses when dressed casually.

Because I’m aware that none of these outfits are conducive to an adult lifestyle, I do have an alternative outfit for meetings and social gatherings. There, you’ll find me in boots, a long comfortable skirt, a dressy loose blouse, and oversized earrings. I don’t wear jewelry often but when I do, huge earrings and gaudy rings are my thing. When it really matters, I have my sister do my hair.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I don’t say this as an author: if ever I go somewhere in person to browse, it’s a bookstore. I love the smell of books. Plus, I’m always on the lookout for the children’s book You Are Special by Max Lucado. I keep buying myself a copy only to give it away. It’s such an amazing book. Strangely, it’s often unavailable in stores so I check occasionally to see if it’s stocked.

Online, I spend a lot of time browsing redbubble.com. It’s a great site for personalized gifts and keepsakes, especially if you’re looking for something related to an inside joke. Plus, I adore such shops that feature independent artists.

This might be too bizarre a detail but, being from Utah, I like to hop on ksl.com and visit the classifieds to see what farm animals and RVs are available. I have this dream of buying a little farm and filling it with all the cute animals city living doesn’t accommodate. I also dream of an RV but haven’t found the right one. It’s as important to get right as was choosing my spouse.

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

It’s been a long time since I had a proper gorgeous pair of boots. That will definitely be my next big clothing purchase.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots! I love boots! Especially being from Utah. A stylish pair of heavy-duty boots that allow me to hike and also hit the town with friends is the best piece of clothing. Winter, summer, rain, or shine, boots work for everything.

I have the feeling I’ll be browsing for boots online in my MooMoo tonight.

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

https://nicolesouzabooks.com

https://www.facebook.com/nicolesouzabooks/

https://www.instagram.com/nicolesouzabooks/ 

THE BOOK TOUR DATES

Great to chat with you Nicole! I look forward to reading your mother in law’s biography too. I hope your farm dream becomes a reality and thank you so much for the advance copy of your book and inviting me onto your book tour. I’ve had a blast!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Nicole Souza

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Spotlight On GoBo

Lamonts & Co is a brand that specialises in bringing new products to the UK market first – from zero noodles (calorie free noodles) to the recently developed GoBo – the UK’s first AHA based natural deodorant which uses glycolic acid to neutralise odour whilst allowing the body to perspire naturally. Voted #1 Natural Deodorant by Good Housekeeping Magazine 2021 , this deodorant is ideal for vegans and is cruelty free too. I caught up with Laura Lamont to find out more about her latest creation. Hi Laura and welcome….

Hi, my name is Laura, founder and director of Lamonts and Co.


What inspired the development of your recently launched AHA based natural deodorant, GoBo?

I’m a qualified Nutritional Therapist and so have always beenbig on health and healing through nutrition and plants but it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child (now 6) that I really started to look at chemicals in cosmetic products and lotions and was horrified at what I learnt.  The first thing I tried to change was my deodorant but was constantly disappointed by the results and never managed to find one that actually worked for me until the end of the day.  I actually created GoBo by accident as it was never something that I set out to do. One day I decided to try my AHA toner on my underarm to see if it could help with the hyperpigmentation I had and then just happened to notice that after 2 days without showering (I probably shouldn’t admit that) there was no smell what so ever!  I was so excited that I spent the start of the first lockdown developing my deodorant recipe so I could share it with the world.

What are the benefits of using GoBo?

Well, the number one benefit is that it’s natural but actually keeps you smelling fresh until the next day.  On top of that,the AHAs help to exfoliate the dead skin cells which leave your skin unusually smooth and soft, and it slowly fades pigmentation caused from shaving.  It also prevents in-growing hairs.  I like to think of it as the first multifunctional deodorant.

Out of the 4 types of GoBo available (Rose, Orange Blossom, Jasmin, Orginal ), which one is proving to be the most popular at the moment?

 Surprisingly the Unscented seems to be the winner, I think a lot of people have irritation from deodorant which they tend to put down to the heavy perfumes or essential oils used.  But even with our scented varieties we only use pure flower waters which won’t cause any irritation and they are so delicate that they won’t interfere with your perfume.

What are the ingredients in GoBo? 

Glycolic acid, Water, vegetable Glycerin, Sodium Bicarbonate, Guar Gum and Arrowroot flour, Floral water.

GoBo was voted #1 Natural Deodorant by Good Housekeeping in 2021.  Congratulations!  Lamonts & Co have also introduced Zero Noodles (calorie free noodles) to UK. Have you any other new products to add to your range in the pipeline for 2021?

I sure do!  I am always working on new products and business ideas but with two young children I can’t always find the time to launch them.   Eventually I shall expand the GoBo line and create more natural and functional skin care products as well as extending the Zero Noodles line with more varieties and flavours.

Have you always been interested in developing products or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere? 

Yes, I have always been more creative than academic as well as a bit of a dreamer and always wanted to be my own boss.  I remember as a teenager having a note pad where I started writing down my business ideas but it wasn’t until I met my husband, who already had his own business, that I had the confidence and support to actually go for it.  My first business was as a weight loss clinic, offering diet coaching for weight loss… this led onto Zero Noodles which quickly took over.

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

No – not yet, we hope to expand across Europe eventually but currently can only just keep up with the UK sales. 

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

Well, I now live in the New Forest which is very casual, which I find refreshing after living in London for so long and feeling like you have to make an effort just to nip to the shops. So I’m very much a jeans and tee kinda girl now, but I love chunky boots and fun colourful belts.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I’m loving Hush and Mint Velvet right now but for the summer I love Free People for a Bohemian look.

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

Probably some more bright coloured fun tee shirts for the Spring that I can throw on with my jeans and wellies to play in the forest with the kids.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots always.

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

https://www.lamontsandco.com

Fabulous chatting to you Laura and congratulations on what you have developed so far…. and I am looking forward to seeing your skincare range in the future too!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Laura Lamont.

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But First Rumi Book Tour

I’m really excited to be able to interview author Chitra Ramaswami as part of her “But First Rumi Book Tour”. “But First Rumi” is a delightful memoir by Chitra Ramaswami. Rumi is a beautiful stray Omani street cat who took a liking to Chitra and trusted Chitra to help him and in return Rumi helped Chitra. This book is more than a tale of a cat being rescued – the memoir explores how love and trust between cats and people can develop, how attitudes towards street cats develop, and how love develops. The book is written in such a refreshingly honest way and I loved reading the escapades of Rumi & co. I really enjoyed chatting to Chitra about all things cats …. But, before that, here is the official resumé of the book:

When Chitra discovered a stray cat in need of help, she never thought they’d wind up saving each other. Struggling to come to terms with an unexpected diagnosis, Chitra returned home to Oman seeking a sense of familiarity. What she discovered instead was a very special cat who changed her life. But First, Rumi is the story of how, day by day, Rumi and Chitra got to know one another, and as she learned to love the little stray, she began to see greater life lessons about herself, her family, her home country and her place in the world. 

What unfolds when girl and cat meet? What happens when you follow your heart? What if the world is not as it seems? Is it worth taking a chance? 

Print Length: 158 Pages

Genre: Memoir

THE INTERVIEW

Hi! I’m Chitra – author of the memoir  “But First, Rumi” . I was born and brought up in the Middle East to Indian parents and now live in New Jersey. I’ve worked in healthcare as a physician and a health educator and now I’ve turned author. This is my first time publishing and excited to see what this experience brings my way. 

Who or what inspired you to write your memoir, “But First, Rumi!”?

I believe the answer lies in my book title 🙂 My cat Rumi inspired me to share our journey with the world. As someone who’s written most of her life, I believe every story has its own predestined time – from when it gets penned down to when it is on its way to its readers where it finally comes to fruition. 

Your book highlighted the life of an Omani Mau/street cat, and your growing love of Rumi.  I found the book interesting as well as entertaining.  I thought how different were the attitudes towards cats, stray cats in particular, in Oman compared with the UK/ USA. Why do you think the Omani street cats are regarded with such suspicion?

Firstly, thank you for reading our story and am glad you enjoyed it. Yes, attitudes towards stray cats are different in Oman as compared to say a Western country. But what makes it interesting is that Oman is  home to people from all over the world added to its own descendants and  this varied demographic may hold the reasons that have led to the current state of the Omani stray cats. We have collectively failed our felines. I believe suspicion towards anything generally arises from a certain lack of awareness or unfamiliarity or a previous negative experience. And yes, this is only a part of the problem as I explain in the book. Another common issue is abandonment either due to misjudgment of what caring for a cat entails or when people leave for their home countries and haven’t planned well for the transition. Ofcourse, COVID-19  has added additional financial strains to the process as well.

Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

The process of writing the book was enjoyable. I also had a great editor and we worked well together. What amused me the most was the amount of work that went into publishing a book outside of actually writing the book! The time and effort needed to get your book in front of your readers has been eye opening. I’ve learnt a lot over the past few months. Maybe I should write about it haha!

What do you enjoy most about having a cat? What did you find most daunting at first?

I’ve come to realize over time that my energy is quite similar to a cat’s. I remember watching a documentary that talked about how cats and humans are actually more alike evolutionarily as compared to say dogs and humans. So it’s not surprising to me that I’m able to just be myself around them rather effortlessly. However, before my experience with Rumi, I  was rather wary of cats and didn’t really know what to make of them. I maintain that I didn’t give them a fair chance and went with the popular notion that dogs were more expressive and loving as companion animals. 

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing  or did you have other aspirations?

Funnily, I never thought of writing as a career even though I always wrote. But moving forward, I’ve decided to share my works with the world. I’m curious by nature – always have been, which in turn has led me to pursue many paths. So be it working with people with various ailments, or teaching or riding horses or ice climbing…. the list is diverse. I’m not really a one aspiration person and am eager to see where my life takes me next. 

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

Yes, I’ve loved to read since forever. Favorite genres – Biographies, memoirs, short stories. I’m not into fiction much but am on board with Haruki Murakami’s magical realism. It’s bewitching almost. Love Khaled Hosseini’s works. In poetry – Works of Rumi, Tabrizi, Gibran to name a few. There’s always more than one story that‘s being told in a book and one of them is about the author themselves, their roots,  convictions, motivations – it all comes through. So I tend to consciously seek out authors from various backgrounds for this experience. I find it as good or even better than travel. 

Nothing beats the feel of an actual book but I’m a recent Kindle convert – saves space, easy to bookmark, or look up anything I need to, can even read on my Kindle app on my phone etc 

Is “But First Rumi” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes worldwide – Both ebook and paperback. It’s also available in a bookstore in Oman and managed to sell out and has just been restocked! 

Will there be more tales about Rumi in the future?

Definitely 🙂 There may be a second book in the works as we speak!

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

Hmmm. Depends on the season. I’m a sucker for knee length boots in the winter – I never grew out of my Michael Korrs Preston boots with the golden buckle – love those tiny touches! I also love my riding boots from Dover’s. If I’m going out for dinner or tea I love getting dressed up – A-line skirt and top or a Pakistani embroidered suit( we call it shalwar Kameez), and peep toed heels but overtime I find myself settling for pointed flats – Zara and Rothys always have a lovely line of those. These days, I’m always in my adidas and pumas – thanks to COVID! Not complaining though – I always manage to find something to fall in love with! 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Zara, Kate Spade, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Image…the list goes on also love custom shirts I design myself. Etsy’s also a very interesting place – be it for custom clothes, accessories etc 

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

I’ve been looking into vegan fashion lately. It’s a fascinating world and I’m still exploring it. Love the Dharma Store – fun tees and they have vegan phone grips too! I also have my eye on the Catalina tote from lo and sons – super functional and love the shoe compartment at the bottom. So yes, I won’t be surprised if my fashion choices will be completely different five years down the line. I’m learning and growing every day. 

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
Website: https://cramaswami.com/Instagram: @rumionamission2017


My thanks goes to Chitra for agreeing to be interviewed, for inviting me to join in her book tour and for a copy of her delightful memoir.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chitra Ramaswami

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An Interview With Breast Dressed

With Mothers Day approaching this weekend in the UK, it seems to me entirely appropriate to introduce “Breast Dressed” – a brand of sustainable maternity and breast feeding clothing to cover all stages of modern mum-hood. The company was launched in June 2020 by Hester who has worked in the fashion industry for over 12 years. I caught up with Hester recently to find out more. Hi Hester & welcome…

Hi! I’m Hester and I’m the founder and designer of breast dressed. I currently live in London after a 6 year stint of living in Hong Kong. I live with my husband and my cat Stu who we fostered in Hong Kong and brought back with us so he could experience the outdoors, and he loves it! I am a fashion designer and have been in the industry for 12+ years. I enjoy HIIT classes, going to the theatre and ice skating – although I am pretty terrible at it!

What inspired the launch of Breast Dressed?

I have always known that one day I wanted to have my own brand I just wasn’t sure what that brand would be. When I moved to London I started to feel unfulfilled so it was then that I really started to pin down what I wanted to do. A lot of my friends had started to become pregnant and have babies and they kept saying how little choice of maternity clothing was out there, and then how even less choice of breast feeding friendly clothing was out there. I did some market research and found everything looked the same, it was all frumpy, mostly striped jersey dresses and it just was all a bit ‘mumsy’. So I thought right, let’s do this! It took me a long time to take the plunge from the safety of my full time job, but I now work part time and do freelance work to help support my dream of growing breast dressed.

Have you always had an interest in fashion  designing or did you have other career plans whilst growing up? 

My mother and father both worked in the fashion industry, they actually met whilst they were both working at Speedo. My mum was a swimwear designer and then had her own business designing ice skating dresses and my father was a marketing director and then became a wholesale distributer. So I have always grown up surrounded by the industry. As kids we used to attend trade shows, have boxes of samples lying around the house, help with sample sales etc. My mum’s studio was at home so I remember when I was poorly and off school I would lie under her cutting table on all her piles of fabric and fall asleep to the sound of her cutting scissors clanging against the table and the rumble of her sewing machines, a noise I still find super comforting. So I feel it was a given I would go in to the industry, I always loved art and textiles at school, so after A-levels I did my art foundation and then went on to study fashion design at Uni.

What are the sort of things you have to consider when designing maternity clothes as opposed to designing clothes for the non pregnant woman?  

I guess the main thing is comfort, it’s so important that my customers feel comfortable wearing my garments. I strive to make my styles as versatile as possible so I actually design them to be suitable for all stages of pregnancy and breastfeeding and for before and after pregnancy too so that they have longevity. Sustainability is key to my brand so I want my styles to be able to be worn for a long time and to want to be worn for a long time. Each style supports your growing bump, up to full term, and they all have easy breast feeding access which is subtle enough that these styles can then be worn and loved long after pregnancy and not look like they are your typical maternity dress. 

I love the Ada Jumpsuit from your collection. It is just the sort of garment I would have wanted to wear when I was pregnant (many moons ago!)  What products/designs are most popular at the moment? 

The Ada is definitely one our most popular styles as is the Lucy dress. I think they are both so easy to wear and style up or down and the suit all body shapes. We just launched the Margot Mummy Collars too which are made from our scrap fabrics and they are proving to be a popular accessory.

 Do you have a favourite style from your collection? 

My favourite is the Ada Jumpsuit – I have it in a few different colours. It’s just so comfortable and easy to wear and I feel really stylish in it too. I wear with my Dr Martens in the winter and my sandals in the summer. Eek, I also love the Airi dress, I feel so feminine in it and our deadstock navy gingham fabric is fab, it’s a printed gingham so feels really unique and its so easy to wash and requires very little ironing so its really practical, a really good throw on style when you don’t know what to wear but want to feel a bit glam.

When designing items to go into your collection, do you go for popular trendy styles and colours, customer requests, personal favourites or do you take all 3 into account?

I take all 3 into account, I think it’s really important to listen to your customers but also mix it with my knowledge of design to try and create something unique and new that’s not already out there. Before I began designing I did a big questionnaire asking peoples favourite kind of styles, colours, prints etc and I still refer back to that when looking at designing new pieces. As I want my styles to have longevity and be trans-seasonal I do try to make them classic shapes that will never go out of style but bring in an element of trend. Collars are a hot trend at the moment so we created out Margot Mummy Collars using our scrap fabrics and designed them to fit in to a mummy life style. 

As you are based in the UK, are your items available to purchase overseas?

Yes we ship worldwide through our website www.breastdressed.co.uk. So far I have sold styles to Australia, Singapore, Switzerland and Canada, It’s super exciting knowing that breast dressed is out in the world!

You have a Re:Loved collection – I have heard of preloved clothing, so what is re:loved? 

Yes so we source pre-loved garments from Ebay etc and we unpick them and mix them together to create new pieces that can then be re-loved by our customers. I love denim so I wanted to incorporate denim in to the breast dressed collection. But it can be costly to produce as you need special machinery for the heavy washes and I didn’t want to use raw denim as it can be quite stiff and I want all my garments to be soft to touch. So this was the perfect sustainable way to be able to incorporate denim in to our brand. We re-invent, re-wear and re-love. The other positive of this collection is that all profits go to charity. Giving back to the community is a long term goal and one we want to keep building on as a brand.

Your brand is striving to become a no waste company – so how are you achieving that aim?  

We use all of our scrap/waste fabrics left over from the pattern cutting of the main garments to create scrunchies, our Margot Mummy collars and brand labels so that our waste is very little. All of our packaging is sustainable and/or biodegradeable. We source fabrics and trims from deadstock suppliers in the U.K, so one man’s waste is our treasure. And we work on a made to order basis so we are only making stock that has been sold. We manufacture in the U.K which is also helping reduce our carbon footprint as the seamstress I work with is local to me so I don’t need to travel far to collect the garments. This will be an ever evolving mission and we are always learning of new things we can do to keep being as sustainable as possible.

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

Oooh, I’m a sucker for some high waist Levi’s, a boxy tee and high tops or Teva sandals! I do enjoy dressing up too but that feels like a distant memory during these current times!

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

Since launching breast dressed I’ve learnt what it’s like to be a small brand so I’m trying to explore new brands and shop from them. I love Paynter, their business model is really refreshing and their approach and customer interaction is brilliant. I also love Gung Ho London who raise awareness of global issues through their clothing.

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

My Paynter jacket! I am so excited, it was my main investment in 2020 and I know it will last a lifetime. I get a weekly update from the brand, last week it was being sewn!

Boots or Shoes?

Hmmm, can I break the mould and choose sandals? I hate wearing socks so yeh a pair of comfy sandals are winners for me!

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

www.breastdressed.co.uk

https://www.instagram.com/breast.dressed/

https://www.facebook.com/breastdressedlondon

Fabulous chatting to you Hester! Your designs are so wearable and desirable, pregnant or not!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Hester/ Breast Dressed

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Interview With Relationship Expert Mig Bennett

Happy New Year!

2020 ended up as being an extremely stressful year, to say the least. The Covid-19 pandemic really didn’t help as apart from the physical aspects of the virus taking its toll, it has left us grieving those who succumbed to the disease; it has heightened fears; it has laid people low with a range of mental health issues; it has brought together family units and broken others down. Problems have always existed prior to the pandemic but the awareness has been more pronounced. There is hope on the horizon and help is on hand to help guide those who need it, non judgemental advice. I interviewed relationship & sex addiction counsellor Mig Bennett about her career as a counsellor specialising in relationship problems…. Hi Mig & welcome…

Hello. I’m Mig Bennett. I’m a counsellor with a specialised focus on relationships and, in more recent years, in sexual compulsivity. This is more commonly known as sex addiction, and, contrary to common misconception, it’s not about having a high sex drive! 

What made you decide to launch your career as a relationship and sex addiction counsellor?

I became involved in counselling completely unexpectedly about 30 years ago. I suffered postnatal depression, set up a support group as I recovered and, as it took off I realised I needed more skills. So I took a basic counsellingskills evening class and the tutor was a Relate counsellor.  He persuaded me to apply to train with Relate for whom I still work some hours.  Now I also have a Private Practice specifically for relationship work and sexual addiction. 

The sex addiction interest came from a colleague who trained in the area and to whom I went for help when I worked with a couple where a long history of visiting sex workers emerged. That learning, and my colleague’s encouragement led me to take a diploma in that specific area.  It is very prevalent in our society but hasn’t really been acknowledged or addressed until the recent 20 or so years whereas gambling, drug, alcohol, eating compulsive behaviours have. 

I guess your job isn’t an easy one as some people’s problems are not that easy to solve! What sort of reasons do people come to you for help? 

Strangely, over the years, and I think other counsellors will agree, the problems presenting at my door come in swathes. I may have a period of seeing many affairs, for example.  But, aside from sexually compulsive issues, the common relationship themes are:

loss of connection or relationship neglect (“we’re like flat mates”), 

split agendas, often stemming from the above (one says it’s over, one is desperate to save it)

arguments and poor communication patterns (“we love each other but we end up having these same destructive rows”), 

sex, (although this really comes into all scenarios it can be brought as the primary reason for seeking help)

differing attitudes to parenting children and step children

affairs, including emotional infidelity 

When it comes to relationship/marriage/couples counselling, what approach do you tend to use?

I use mainly three therapeutic models in my work.• psycho-dynamic (looking at how significant figures from the past can influence us today)• systemic (focusing on how changing one partner’s behaviour will change the other’s)• transactional analysis (enabling us to look at our ineffective communication patterns and create better ones).

My clients don’t know that, of course.  What I think my clients would say they SEE is that I listen and really try to understand each of them, by playing back and asking questions, and that I gradually encourage the other to do the same using these skills. I help them use different words and tones, and it can be quite lighthearted learning!  

I look at why their pasts will be at play in their relationship today, which enables them to understand their reactions to situations and to each other. When we understand why we feel something we can spot our automatic reactions and change them. 

I use a lot of visual diagrams, mnemonics and little tricks, like post-it notes which I find, as with school children, all help understanding and memory. 

But maybe the most important thing I offer is the presence of a calm, warm, experienced third party in what can be a very heated, or very emotional, or very cold, or very tense meeting. I’m like a sort of stable scaffolding they can use to negotiate the difficulties.

As you have had over 25 years experience in this field, running your own private practice as well as with Relate, what is it about your job do you enjoy or gives you the most satisfaction? The downside?

It’s a great privilege to be trusted and have intimate elements of lives shared with one.  That sense of privilege never leaves me.  When people ask, “ how can you do that job?” that’s what I say. 

The downside? Yes a couple of thoughts on that.

It’s such a concentrated hour, working online. I am exhausted and have to take care to create gaps in my day and know when I cannot take on more clients. Face to face work is less concentrated and I can be quite energisedafter a session. I use tennis as a mental and physical counterbalance to my work. 

I also wonder, and in fact it’s been said, that friends think I’m silently seeing things in their relationships and wonder if I’m ‘analysing’ them! 

Do you offer face-to-face counselling or do you operate online?

Both. With Covid my work has all been online. It was difficult for some to see how it would work, as a couple, but no one has bailed out! Sometimes a couple use one screen and sit together, sometimes they are in different locations, even different parts of the country.

Growing up, did you always want a  “People related” career or did you want to pursue a completely different direction?

I always wanted to be a teacher and I was for some years, teaching children in the middle years, 8-12. Perhaps that’s why I love my flip chart, it’s my blackboard.

What are the common “problems” that new parents ask advice on and what do you suggest they should try instead?

Counselling isn’t about giving advice. The health visitor will give advice on sleep or feeding. When clients ask what to do, I suggest we try to work that out, together.

A lot of couple’s problems, especially sexually or with regard to feeling the relationship has shifted to ‘flat mates or siblings,” trace back to the arrival of children. It’s a life stage for couples.  I get  them to identify what they miss, what they would like to change and help them work out how that can be achieved.  It’s usually about not having expressed their needs, not having understood that his, her or their angry comments are coming from a vulnerable feeling of sadness, loneliness or powerlessness. But the big one is often about finding TIME to be us.  

As you are based in East Sussex, England, are your services available just locally or UK/ worldwide too?

Online I can be anywhere.  Worldwide depends on that country’s counsellingstandards and I have to check I am qualified and covered to work with foreign clients. I have done so though.

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

I’m very casual. My clothes wardrobe is always half empty. I wear a small range and cull what isn’t worn. Jeans and a simple top of varying degrees of warmth. 

I dress outfits up with earrings, necklaces and a statement handbag. My current favourite is a bright red bag with diamanté studs from Steinmart in America. I’ve another Steinmart bag for winter, of an unusual geometric black and beige design; I have a mini version in red for evenings.  

Shoes? Slip on coloured pumps in summer or fit flops. Boots in winter. I spend most on shoes and boots, bags and accessories. Aside from those, my attire may have cost under £20.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

All charity shops. Marks and Spencer. Sainsbury’s. I spend a few weeks in Autumn in Palm Springs, California, and love Steinmart stores for accessories.  When shopping, I head straight for footwear, handbags and accessories, then lingerie, then coats, then clothes. 

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

Flat, simple, knee high boots.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots! I love boots and have many pairs. All inexpensive (under £70), kitten heels, flat heels, over the knee, ankle.   I have many red pairs, some fabric, flowery ones, animal print ones, silver lurex ones! When I LOVE a pair I buy two.  Why boots? Maybe because I can look down and see and touch them and they are a bit ‘out there’ and sexy. 

For Pinning Later


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

http://www.migbennettrelationshipcounselling.co.uk/

Thank you Mig for an interesting insight into your life as a relationship expert. As you probably noticed, most of the photos in this post are of two delightful cats, my beloved pets Leo & Bounty, who have a love-hate relationship! Bounty the kitten is very playful and adores Leo, who doesn’t always reciprocate those feelings – but they do have their moments! All the photographs are by Linda Hobden apart from the one of Mig, which I have published with kind permission of Mig Bennett.

Linda x


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Create Your Own Calm

2020 has been quite a year, to say the least! All the more reason why my guest’s latest book, “Create Your Own Calm” is creating quite a stir. Author Becky Goddard-Hill has written this book that is simply bursting at the seams with simple, practical ideas and fun activities to stave off boredom and, more importantly, to manage feelings of stress, anger and anxiety. Although it is aimed at children aged 7 – 12, adults would still benefit from Becky’s words of wisdom. I caught up with Becky to find out more… Hi Becky!

Hi! I am Becky Goddard-Hill,  a children’s therapist and a wellbeing author. I blog at Emotionally Healthy Kids  and Simple Parenting and my podcast Emotionally Healthy Kids can be found on ITunes. I have 2 teenage kids and I live in Nottingham. My background is in  Social Work. My latest book, Create Your Own Calm is published by Harper Collins and came out in September 2020.

As a former social worker & child development trainer, what inspired you to write “Create Your Own Calm”  and the other books you have written?  

I strongly believe emotional health and wellbeing to be as important to life as physical health and intellectual pursuits. If not more important. But how often do we actually focus on teaching them the kinds of skills they need to manage their mental health? Rarely. I wanted to give kids a tool kit of coping skills to help them be robust and resilient and I wanted to introduce these in fun and light hearted ways  and that’s the focus and purpose of my books. They each contain loads of activities that teach kids great emotional health skills whilst having fun. 

I admire the fact that you run 6 blogs, all highly ranked within the UK, predominantly focused on family life, emotional well-being & being active/creative. How do you find writing books compared to writing blogposts?

Because my books are activity books I find each activity a big like a blog post to write. I love, love, love that my books are illustrated though and interactive.

What do you like most about blogging?

My blogging community is awesome and my various blogs are diverse and interesting. I  have to do quite a lot of social media to promote my blog – I don’t love that quite so much.

copyright © Linda Hobden

“Create Your Own Calm” is aimed at children aged 7 – 12, and yet looking through the book, I think the tips and activities to create calmness in these stressful times could also help adults. Learning the science behind emotions was especially good. Do you have a “favourite” tip to help when you are particularly stressed?

Yes. My favourite tip is to do something mindful, eg colour a mandala, bake bread, gardening. When you are focused you cannot worry about the past or the future and your brain clears making problems much easier to solve. 

The activities suggested in the book are really fun & quite innovative – such as growing a pizza garden & cloud watching (my favourite). What inspired the thoughtful activities? Any favourites? Any activities that you tried that didn’t quite work out?

Oh, I tried to make a lava lamp to show how people  are like oil and water – that they could coexist even though they could be very different. I ended up with about 20 lava lamp attempts all sitting round my house, none of which had worked!  My favourite activity in my teen book, Be Happy Be You, is that they have to befriend an apple for the day, name it, really get to know it and spend time with it. It’s to show them that whilst you might just think all apples are the same they aren’t at all, they are all individuals and deserving of your time in getting to know them. Appreciating diversity and inclusion are so important to instil.

copyright © LindaHobden

I noticed a lot of reviews for the book (and I am in agreement) commented that the language you used got the point across to young people without talking down to them or being patronising. That is a great skill to have. Is it a lot harder to write a book/ article aimed at a young person?

I don’t think so. My language is never formal when I write and I have teens myself. The publisher has a reader to check the language is just right too.

Your career background has been in the field of social work/child development; was that the career you aspired to have as a youngster or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I want to save the world! I don’t know how to, but that was my grand plan. I’ve since realised that might be a tad ambitious but I do still desperately want to help people and make a difference. 

Being an author of 7 books already, are you a bookworm yourself?  If so, what genre(s) do you usually read?

 I am a huge sucker for a gorgeous romance and I love David Nicholls.

copyright © Adam Hobden


Looking towards the future – have you got other books in the pipeline?

Yes,  Create Your Own Kindness will be published in Feb 2021. It teaches kids to be kind to themselves, other people and, in fact, to the whole world! 

As you are based in England, is “Create Your Own Calm” available overseas?

Yes, on Amazon – pretty much everywhere.

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

Ah, I’m a very comfy dresser. At the moment, it’s oversized cosy jumpers and jeans/joggers with my trusty silver Superga. I also love a pair of dunagrees.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I like FatFace and Hush.

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

I am desperate for a cosy coat and some new tall boots as mine are battered!

Boots or Shoes?

Neither. I have about 15 pairs of converse and rather a lot of other lace up pumps too. They are my go to.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about You & “Create Your Own Calm”

 I blog at Emotionally Healthy Kids  and Simple Parenting and my podcast Emotionally Healthy Kids can be found on ITunes.

Create Your Own Calm is published by Harper Collins and is available on Amazon and in all good book shops 

I have also co-written a  happiness boosting book for teens Be Happy Be You which was published earlier this year 

You can find me on Instagram here https://www.instagram.com/beckygoddardhill

Thank you so much for the chat, Becky. I love the idea of befriending an apple! Highly original!

Linda x

The author & book photographs were published with kind permission of Becky Goddard-Hill. Other photographs are by Linda Hobden & Adam Hobden.

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