Category Archives: Life Issues/ Motivational Posts

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. 

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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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The Cafe With Five Faces

Imagine a cafe with 5 different rooms, each room representing an iconic city and featuring food, chat and most notably coffee (some wine & mint tea too) …. that is the basis of a most excellent book by Chaelli Cattlin that I had the pleasure to review over the summer. Due to COVID-19 putting a dampener on my summer travels this year, having this book to read in my garden chair during lockdown was a real boost. Like always, I read the book and then got the urge to chat more with the author! But first, my review:

MY REVIEW
I used to work in a village cafe that used to be full of regulars and I often thought a book on overheard conversations would be very interesting reading.  The regulars in my cafe talked about similar issues, often with the same amount of intensity and repetition; that a newcomer would bring a breath of fresh air and a welcome change of topic.  So, The Cafe With Five Rooms, was the sort of book I was subconsciously searching for.  I absolutely adored the travel stories, the characters themselves were believable, loved the themed room idea, love the food and drink descriptions, love the details about coffee making – although I’m not a coffee drinker Chaelli so my drink of choice would be an Algerian mint tea! Or a glass or two of the Lebanese red wine 😊Maybe with a slice or two of Hungarian cake…..

LET’S MEET CHAELLI ….


Hello, I am Chaelli Cattlin, an author and a trainer working in the field of English language teaching, a job which has allowed me to travel all over the world for the past 25 years.

Your book, “The Cafe With Five Faces: What The Walls Heard 2018-2019   – is an engaging collection of short stories, presented as snippets within a fictional cafe with five rooms. Each room is themed and named after a location – Beirut, Budapest, Cape Town, Granada, Hebden Bridge. The stories feature everything including travel, gossip, politics, food , romance, and coffee. What made you decide to write a book of this nature?

While visiting Granada several years ago, I was sitting outside a cafe in the Albaicin district and surveying an empty property opposite, thinking what a nice cafe it would make. It had a few rooms / spaces and it occurred to me that it would save me from choosing between a Hungarian-style cake shop, a Spanish tapas bar, a Lebanese manouche shop and a CapeTown breakfast bar. So I decided to call my provisional cafe The Cafe with Four Faces. When I chose to make a book out of it, rather than a real cafe, I added my local village (Hebden Bridge) to the rooms as it fitted some of the characters I wanted to include. The five rooms of the book / cafe also allowed me to focus on different topics, each of which I wanted to discuss but wouldn’t necessarily fit comfortably in one setting.

I enjoyed reading the book  – I liked the mix of characters. I adored the travel anecdotes. My favourite characters were Zoe, Misha and “The Presence”. What character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Who was the hardest?

Misha was one of my favourites as he was so like me when I first moved to Poland 25 years ago and I quite enjoyed describing myself in self-deprecating but hopefully humorous terms. Mike rants in the way I like to rant myself, but rarely have the nerve to do so in real life, so he was a favourite too. And possibly Jimez, as I think he is such a lovable failure! The hardest ones were the minor characters who made infrequent appearances, like Anna and, I suppose, The Presence, because I would like to have made more of them, but seemed to let them down a bit.

The Five places featured as the rooms obviously hold a place in your heart – why did you pick Beirut, Budapest, Cape Town, Granada and Hebden Bridge?  Were there any other places you considered having as a “room”?

Beirut and Cape Town just picked themselves – they are unique cities and I just feel at home the second I arrive in them. Hebden Bridge was local – I could have chosen Haworth, but that is already very well-known for its Bronte connection. Budapest represents Eastern Europe (in its 1990s definition) – I could have chosen several others, principally Katowice, MInsk and Ljubljana, but I lived in Budapest for 7 years (just a little longer than in Katowice) and it has the old-style cafe society with its literary connections which I love so much. Granada represents the good life / place in the sun – it could have been anywhere in Andalucia, Sicily or Provence, all of which have very fond memories, but Granada is the city of most recent and lengthy acquaintance.


So, as we are talking travelling, where has been your favourite place you’ve visited or lived in so far?

In terms of full-time living, outside of the north of England (Lancashire and Yorkshire), I have lived in Opole and Katowice in Poland, and Budapest in Hungary. However, I have spent periods of 2-3 months in countless places and enjoyed so many of them for very different reasons, it’s rather hard to choose! As I mentioned above, Beirut and Cape Town are really special and I have lived in each for a total of around 3 years and 1 year respectively, and they really feel like home.

You are a coffee fanatic – that goes without saying – and I liked how you incorporated your coffee knowledge into your book.  What is it about coffee that really caught your attention?

This has been a slow burner for me, having grown up on Nescafe with milk and two sugars, and then Nescafe with milk without the sugar. I finally bought a percolator and started having one cup of ‘real’ coffee a day with fresh cream, Then I discovered speciality (third-wave) coffee shops and filter coffee where the addition of milk was frowned upon. It became a real interest to visit such cafes in every city I visited, and since 2016, there has been a dramatic growth in such establishments, which led to me wanting to own my own, In the meantime, I started buying a range of alternative brewing equipment for home use and then started taking training courses.


If we were in your cafe, about to indulge in a drink and nibbles – which room would you feel most comfortable in? What would you recommend we ordered?

Every room suits one of my moods. I am the political ranter (Cape Town), the failed musician (Budapest), the ardent traveller (Granada), the bohemian floor-sitter (Beirut) and the aging reminiscer (Hebden Bridge), so it depends how the mood takes me. In terms of order, however, it would have to be a Chemex and a slice of Eszterhazy (cake), Jen’s favourite in the Budapest room.

When it comes to your personal reading delights – what genre/authors do you read? Kindle or book?

My tastes are rather random. I have a real liking for the humour of PG Wodehouse, while loving the gritty Italian crime of Michele Giutarri. I have also whiled away hours in cafes reading the Brontes, Jane Austen and, particularly, Thomas Hardy. I also read the entire Harry Potter series more than once! Ironically, I prefer paper copies! 

Are there any other book ideas in the pipeline for 2020 and beyond?

Yes, but they’re still in formulation! 

Is “The Cafe With Five Faces” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, through Amazon, Apple and Google Play, with Barnes & Noble and Kobo on the way.

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

I can hardly remember pre-lockdown! There were some comments in the book about Matthew (Granada room) and his love of Armani jeans, and I have 5 pairs, accumulated over many years, which I wear till they fall apart (and beyond) because they are so comfortable. I have a substantial collection of headgear, including a Colombian hat just like that of The Presence (picture attached) and a larger choice of bandanas than Jimmy. At the moment, T-shirts are it (with the names of assorted cafes if I can manage it), because I’m not working in public, and I have a range of shoes which would terrify many women by their quantity, my favourites being Doc Martens and trainers.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Armani Jeans in Milan! For certain items of clothing, I like the street markets in Hanoi, while for shoes, I always check out the windows of Vagabond in Budapest and those of a shop in Palermo the name of which I simply can’t bring to mind. Otherwise, I only seem interested in cafes and online coffee retailers!

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

I daren’t buy any more shoes for a while as I bought some pre-lockdown I haven’t worn since I left the shop. I love the shirts on the Konrit website, but unfortunately don’t like buying clothes online – I prefer to try them on and see before buying, so it may well remain on my wishlist rather than become reality

Boots or Shoes?

Doc Martens are a nice blend! Otherwise, comfortable trainers; nothing which comes up too high as I find them really uncomfortable.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc.
https://thecafewith5faces.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thecafewith5faces/?modal=admin_todo_tour

@thecafewithfa1 (Twitter)

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Fabulous to catch up with you “virtually” Chaelli and I really look forward to reading more adventures of the Cafe in the future. Thank you also to Ben Cameron for the copy of The Cafe With Five Faces to review. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chaelli Cattlin.

Linda x

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An Interview With Janelle Soong

What do pharmacists really do? Some people view them as people who just dish out pills; but there is a lot more to the pharmacy world than that. Pharmacy graduate Janelle Soong has just written a book that explains what working in a pharmacy is really about as well as true anecdotes from pharmacy school. It really is a well written eye opener of a book and reading the book, I discovered the amount of work that the pharmacist does, their expertise is second to none, and I cringed at some of the stories too! I invited Janelle to join us on my blog to chat about her life as a pharmacy graduate, her likes & loves, and whether she has taken the title of author in her stride! Hi Janelle!

Hello readers, I’m Janelle and it’s such a pleasure to be featured on Linda’s blog. I’m a Pharmacy (MPharm) graduate from King’s College London and the author of “Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie”. Frankly, I’m still trying to get over the bit where I get to call myself an author – I don’t think it’ll ever lose its novelty! “Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie” is my first book and I am so excited to share it with you. The short author bio on the back cover of the paperback will tell youthat I am an aspiring puppy parent and cake fiend. Both of those things are absolutely true.

Who or what inspired you to write your collection of funny yet true anecdotes from your Pharmacy School and from working in the healthcare sector itself? 

Sometimes, pharmacy can be a field where public perceptions don’t always do the profession justice. This is something that became more and more apparent to me as I progressed through my degree and gained a better understanding of the industry. Personally, I think this is simply a case of misinformation and a lack of awareness that has festered over the years – both easily curable. This book is me doing my bit to help elevate the profile of pharmacists in the media. I believe the world needs to know what pharmacists are truly capable of before we can get anywhere near changing these misconceptions.

The World of Pharmacy has always had its misconceptions – unfortunately a lot of people do think pharmacists are just there to “count the pills”.  Your book highlighted the diversity of pharmacy as a career too, especially when you described your degree course programme.  I found the book interesting as well as entertaining.  Do you have a “favourite” misconception?

Oh, I have so many personal favourites – the chapter titled “How to Annoy Your Pharmacist” probably sums them all up in one little package. Generally speaking, I think there tends to be an opinion that pharmacists (and many other healthcare disciplines) take their instructions from doctors without offering any clinical input of their own. This could not be further from the truth in the context of modern healthcare. Doctors and pharmacists are trained very differently to one another, as I came to realise at university. Sure, there may have been some overlap when covering the fundamentals like basic physiology and chemistry – but otherwise, my course material was worlds apart from what the medics were studying. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this is something that is very much reflected in the nature of the jobs where different skillsets are paramount to performing them well. 

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

Writing (and publishing) my first book opened a whole new world of learning to me, specifically around the process of self-publishing. This was all very new to me, as self-publication was not something I had explored on any level prior to this. If anything, it made me realise how much the publishing industry has progressed in barely any time at all. On the writing front, I discovered that I can be a bit neurotic when it comes to editing. Naturally, I owe this to my perfectionist nature, so this hardly came as a surprise. I’m sure you know the feeling well, being a blogger yourself – “Maybe I’ll just tweak it once more!” Of course, “once more” is never really once. Make it about three or five more times if I’m feeling extra paranoid that day.

I had also heard from the Twitter writing community that it is dangerously easy to become blind to your own material. Having spent so much time on it, creating and polishing it within an inch of its life, I definitely found my eyes glazing over when I went through it for what must have been the hundredth time. Putting it aside (and on a dusty shelf in the back of my mind)  for a week did me a world of good – coming back to it with fresh eyes helped me instantly spot errors that I had simply failed to see before. The Twitter folk were right on that one.

What did you enjoy most about Pharmacy School, your degree course and working a pharmacy dealing with customers? What were the downsides? 

I was always a bit of a chemistry nerd at school, so I loved that it was very much a core element of Pharmacy. We had modules around drug design, formulation and drug delivery – I fell in love with this unique blend of physics and chemistry that make all sorts of clinical breakthroughs possible. It was these pharmaceutical science modules that made me curious about the pharmaceutical industry, and more importantly, the way it influences clinical prescribing. I think that this is one of the highlights of being a pharmacist – having the expertise to understand the situation from both the patient and the drug development/supply angles, whether it’s a clinical problem or a manufacturing problem. I enjoyed my course very much indeed, and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the profession. I only wish there could have been more clinical placement opportunities for pharmacy students. In comparison to other healthcare degrees, these were far and few between but they were valuable learning opportunities – some of my favourite memories from my Pharmacy degree are from my time spent on clinical placements.

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

Quite honestly, Pharmacy was something I fell into. I had aspirations to attend conservatoire and become a professional classical violinist, as I had grown up attending a music specialist school. The kind of school where no questions were asked if students had to skip academic lessons to attend music rehearsals, and the level of music training required made academics look like a very optional hobby. I had always had it in mind that I would go on to pursue a musical career full-time, but ultimately decided against it due to a combination of reasons.  I was a fairly academic student and I knew I enjoyed science, particularly chemistry. I was also curious about the applications of science in drug development, so pharmacy seemed like a very natural choice at the time. It’s funny how you wind up on certain paths in life that were never in the cards not too long ago.

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

Absolutely, though I am one of those people who partake in the whole “I wish I had more time to read!” I have always loved to read, but I have spent more time reading textbooks than any other kind of publication in the past few years – I guess I have university to thank for that. If I had to pick a genre, I’d say that non-fiction psychology fascinates me the most. I thoroughly enjoyed “Quiet” by Susan Cain, and recently read “The Cinderella Complex” by Colette Dowling, which I found extremely eye-opening. I enjoy a bit of humour from time to time too – I’m currently reading “This is Going to Hurt” by Adam Kay and I think he has a wonderful writing voice. I’d recommend it to anyone.

Is “Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie” available to purchase worldwide?

Yup, it is available on Amazon marketplaces worldwide as a Kindle ebook or as a paperback – if you’re like me and prefer to curl up with a physical book whose pages I can fiddle with as I read.

You have a blog called TheNellyBean – what is the origins of the title? What do you enjoy most about blogging? 

My blog has turned into a bit of a hot mess – in the sense that I now write about anything that takes my fancy; I like to think of it as an online diary where I get to be unabashedly myself. I wanted the title to reflect this, so I brainstormed words that came to mind when I thought of the things I enjoy in life. I’m a big fan of sweets and desserts, so I decided to combine “jellybean” and “Nelly” (a mildly embarrassing childhood nickname). “Thenellybean” was born. Thankfully, the domain name was available. 

I love that blogging allows me to reach all sorts of people who find themselves able to relate to my content in one way or another. The community can be so kind and supportive too, so that’s a big plus in my eyes.

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

I’m a big fan of skinny jeans and ankle boots. I’ve found that as I prioritise comfort so much more now, so a good pair of trainers are always a winner in my books. On the other hand, I do enjoy a preppy look (blame the private school upbringing), so I’ll pair a floaty button down with my favourite tan leather loafers or some brogues from time to time.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I adore Primark. I love that it’s a one-stop shop for all my wardrobe needs and I’ve never had trouble with the quality or fit of their clothes. Though I think investing in some decent trainers is a must, as I run fairly regularly. Skechers have never failed me.

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

I’m keeping an eye out for a nice pair of sleek black riding boots. I just think there’s something so elegant about them.

Boots or Shoes?

This is like asking me to choose between chocolate and fruit-based desserts. I’m indecisive and love my boots as well as shoes, so I’ll have to say both!

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

For Pinning Later

Blog: https://thenellybean.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/janelle_thenellybean/?hl=en

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thenellybean

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/j_thenellybean/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thenellybean/

Book link on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08BZQVF4C

Thanks for chatting with me today Janelle. Your “Boots Or Shoes?” answer was spot on. It is difficult to pick, and if the choice had been chocolate or fruit based dessert, then I would also have said , “ A bit of both, please”. Dare I say, what about cake??? ! Thank you also Janelle for the copy of your book. I enjoyed it immensely.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Janelle Soong.

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Spotlight On The Money Box Tree

You’ve most probably heard the saying, “Money doesn’t grow on trees” …. well, my guest this week is out to prove that money DOES grow on trees, especially when it involves the Money Box Tree. The Money Box Tree is a cleverly designed flat “savings” tree that hangs on the wall … savers can see their money “grow” when they add their pound coins or dollars or euros. The creator, Jackie Swainston, is my guest today …. Hi Jackie!

I’m Jackie Swainston, a fun-loving older mum of two young teenagers. I’m an artist and graphic designer by trade, but I’m also interested in being money mindful, reducing waste and being as eco-friendly as I can.

 What inspired you to create the MoneyBox Tree?

When I had my children, I became aware of the amount we as parents spend on unnecessary rubbish – far too many plastic toys and gadgets – and how we inadvertently pass those values to our kids. I wanted to teach mine that they didn’t have to buy into the ‘I want it now’ culture. I wanted them to learn the true value of money, not only the importance of saving and to try to waste less… but also that it can be a fun and enjoyable pursuit. 

I got so fed up with uttering the phrase “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” when my kids pestered me for stuff in shops, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps I could make money grow for them. An idea started to formulate and before I knew it, I’d sketched out a design for a flat moneybox with a clear front, so that money was visible. I made it tree-shaped so that the coins could drop into the ‘trunk’ and grow right to the top where the leaves and branches are. I created several designs on the back, punctuated by different amounts of money so kids could see when they’d reached £20, £40 and £60 and so on, one coin at a time. It’s so simple but very effective. Children love to see their money literally grow. 

What designs/colour choices are currently most popular?

I put so much care and thought into each and every design as that is what sparks young imaginations. Making saving fun like never before is what we want to build into the brand.We research current trends and try to incorporate those values into all that we do.

 WACKY TREE our best seller!

The WACKY TREE Money Box Tree is designed to appeal to those who love crazy colours. It will help build confidence and understanding, whatever the pocket money saving goals. In addition to being educational, the WACKY TREE Money Box Tree features lovable characters hiding among the branches. Each cute character will help everyone climb the top to success. Bright, bold, weird and wonderful, don’t ask us what kind of creatures they are … it’s a mystery!
Busy Town – Visit the Busy Town community, it’s where we all help one another. Make your way up that winding road and amazing things will happen. Save your precious coins for a sunny day and get to the top of the hill, then look down on all the lovable characters you met along the way. Remember change is good!
Magic Unicorn  – Magic Unicorns and fairies are what little people dream about. With their help you will magically resist the temptation to waste your shiny pounds and stop them disappearing down a rabbit hole. These sweet faces will watch over you as you save and reach the rainbow at the top of the waterfall. Good luck on your magic mission. 
The Bank of Mum and Dad – Bank of Mum and Dad says it’s a big world out there, so be street-savvy and stash your dosh away for a rainy day. Ratty will guard your booty, but have you got what it takes to count up a cool 100 pound or euro coins?

How much coinage can each MoneyBox Tree hold? 

Each tree holds 100 pound or euro coins. As soon as you get to the top, you can visit your bank, deposit the money and start over again. You don’t have to smash it like you do some money boxes. It’s totally reusable. 

From what age do you recommend teaching children about saving money?

With credit cards, online and contactless payments, money has become a virtual concept. Kids can pay with plastic as young as six! Parents and professionals are concerned that this is building bad habits. Children can get the hang of money earlier than you think. From three or four years old, let them handle coins. They can stack them into piles for fun and see how high they can make them. Then have fun  knocking them down. Hide coins in a room and get them to find them. Play shops and introduce the idea of how much money things cost in a simplistic way. As they get older, they’ll quickly get the hang of saving for things they really want.

Any ideas to make saving money fun?

It’s always good to have a goal. Kids love to have a sense of achievement. Make chores and tasks a  game (who can make their bed the quickest?) and then reward them with a coin they can pop into a  moneybox or savings account. Make it as visible as possible, with a MoneyBox Tree or even a simple chart on the wall so they can see how much ‘treasure’ they’ve collected.

When thinking of the designs to add to your MoneyBox Tree collection, do you select by what  has proved popular in the past, current trends, customer requests, personal preferences or all of  those things?

I look at trends in fashion and design for inspiration. I’m guided a bit by what has been popular previously, but I like to innovate as well, so the company is always pushing forward with new ideas and is never boring.

Is your career background mainly design or financial field or neither?  

I come from a design background, drawing was and is my first love. But I wanted to have my own business from a young age and a sense of control over my own destiny. This was borne out of an insecurity of not doing well at school. I’m passionate about people building savings and creating a secure future for themselves. I feel strongly that money skills should be taught in schools and that we should all have a strong understanding interest rates, and how mortgages and credit cards work. I think there would be far less debt in society if everyone understood how to manage money properly.

Can you remember the first thing you saved up to buy?

Worthy as it sounds, I did save most of my money to get my first mortgage, even in my teens! However, I do love clothes and spent some of my hard-earned cash on a gorgeous suede jacket that I wore until it fell apart, and a few singles (remember those?) of the Vamps, Chrissie Hynde, the Sex Pistols and Nick Cave.

Looking towards the future – have you got other savings items or themes in the pipeline to add in addition to the MoneyBox Tree themes you already sell? 

I’m constantly innovating and yes there are new products in the pipeline, both digital and physical, but they’re top secret at the moment, all I can say is that it will be character based!  I’ll come back and share those with you when I can.

 As you are based in England, is the MoneyBox Tree available overseas? 

I am UK based, but I’ll ship to anywhere in the world, at the moment we produce only to fit one pound or euro coins … but can adapt to any market . 

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

I’m a classics girl with simple tastes. I live in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, which is a rural spa town, so I wear clothes suitable for being in town and the countryside – usually boots and jeans with a silky shirts and chunky jumpers…. I do love a chunky jumper! I love unusual fabrics and gorgeous scarves though. When I can afford it I go to Stella McCartney, I tend to go for investment pieces that last forever, rather than fast fashion.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

If I could afford it I’d just shop all the time at Stella McCartney. I love her simple aesthetic. Even  though it goes against my ‘slow fashion’ ethic a bit, I also really love Mango and Zara. The clothes are stylish, fun and reasonably priced. It’s all about HOW you wear something… I like to think I look good for my age so can afford to go a bit edgy with my looks.

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

I’d love an investment Stella Jacket!

Boots or Shoes?

Definitely boots. It’s mostly boot weather in Harrogate, you can wear a decent pair boots with anything,  even shorts. I have a spaniel, Jess who loves a muddy walk through the woods. Only boots will do really. You are always ready for anything if you are wearing your boots!

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about CoinIt-In and the MoneyBox Trees.

To find out more about the best gift you can give a child go to https://www.coinit-in.com/ 

Sign up for when new stock arrives and you will get 15% OFF!
https://www.instagram.com/coinitin/
https://www.facebook.com/CoinItIn/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/37486075/admin/

I think the Money Tree is a fab idea – thank you Jackie for showing us your trees and giving us ideas of how to save money as a family.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of CoinIt-In.Com

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An Interview With Poet Kamand Kojouri

Poetry this evening, my friends. I love poetry. I love reading poetry out loud – doesn’t matter if nobody else is around, poetry just needs to be read out loud. Poetry just sums up emotions and situations. My guest this week is the gorgeous Iranian poet Kamand Kojouri. Her poetry is a breath of fresh air. Her poems have been read on the radio, in sermons in churches and synagogues, used as lyrics for a rock song, and even her poem about Aleppo, “Heaven And Hell” was placed next to James P Graham’s stunning artwork at his Desacration exhibition at Biblioteca Vallicelliana in Rome. Praise indeed. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Kamand’s 2nd collection, “God, Does Humanity Exist?” Having devoured the book word for word, I had some questions for the poet herself …. so hi Kamand!

Hi! I’m Kamand, an Iranian poet and writer living in the UK. I’ve written two poetry books and I’m currently writing a historical novel for my creative writing PhD programme.

I write to raise awareness about the injustices in the world, to remind us that we are all responsible for one another, and to instil hope and love into our lives.

What inspired you to write poetry?

It’s quite simple, really: I fell in love…

My brothers, Hafez and Khayyam, are also named after the great Persian poets. When we were little, my brother,Khayyam, would receive at least one collection of Omar Khayyam’s poems as a birthday gift. My mother often recites lines from poems mid-conversation as well, so poetry had always been an intrinsic, albeit dormant, part of my life. Funnily enough, the literal translation of my name (Kamand) is a lasso. But Kamand is actually an ornamental word used in Persian poetry to describe long beautiful hair.

“God, Does Humanity Exist?” was published on 2 March 2020 — your 2nd collection of poems focusing on suffering, resistance, and hope. I personally enjoyed reading the poems out loud. Actually, I don’t know if I can read poetry any other way. I truly believe poetry is also better understood by reading out loud. Interesting title to your book though, Kamand. So, was it hard to think up a title for your poetry collection that seemed to encapsulate the verses contained within? Why did you pick the title?

My collection is divided into four sections: Cries of Common Pain, Call to Action, Songs of Hope, and Echoes of Hope. It includes urgent poems about the devastation of war, the refugee crisis, the dangers of silence, mass shootings, the atrocities being committed across the pond and even the ones on our doorstep… And although the poems are rooted in dark realities, ultimately the message is one of love and togetherness.

I remember brainstorming ideas for the title and discussing it with my twin sister and my father. I decided to go with God, Does Humanity Exist?  and my father said that it was very interesting but perhaps sounded a bit pessimistic, and that was far from my intention. In order to eliminate any ambiguities about the title, I added an author’s note at the beginning of the book that explained my reasoning. The idea is that for thousands of years people have been asking “Does God Exist?” I wanted to turn this age-old question on its head and ask God, whether humanity exists. Of course, I don’t doubt humanity’s existence, but I want us to think, speak, and act more humanely—with more compassion, empathy, and understanding. So the title is meant to make us think, and it’s also meant to make us act.

It was hard for me to pick a favourite poem from this collection — it was a tie between “We Don’t Find God” & “ Writers Aren’t Alchemists”. Do you have a particular favourite? 

My favourite poem is “We Are, Each of Us, Refugees”. Whenever I’m reading it out loud by the time I get to this last stanza I get quite emotional:  

When home turns into hell,

you, too, will run

with tears in your eyes screaming rescue me!

and then you’ll know for certain:

you’ve always been a refugee.

Have you always hoped for a career in poetry/ creative writing or did your career aspirations as a child lie elsewhere? 

I always wanted to become a doctor to help people. As I became older, I chose neurosurgery as a speciality. I studied sciences in my undergraduate years and volunteered at a big hospital in downtown Toronto. One day one of my patients asked me to read to her. From that day on, I started renting out books from the library to read during my lunch breaks, and that’s when I fell in love with reading. It was a bit daunting because I had envisioned my entire life as a neurosurgeon but then all of a sudden I had found this ardent passion for reading and writing. I remember trying to intellectualise my decision—making a list of pros and cons for each career. I showed my friends and family the list and discussed it with them. It was a big risk but I decided I could still help people with my writing and I thought that I’d be doing something that truly complemented my soul. The greatest thing about pursuing a career in writing is that you become a life-long philomath. You develop this hunger to learn, and the more you read and the more you write, you realise how very little it is you know.  

Born in Tehran, raised in Dubai & Toronto, currently residing in Wales; you have been to places that must have influenced your writing somewhere along the line. Hypothetically speaking, if you were able to visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new collection of poems, where would you go and why?

That’s such an interesting question! My mother’s greatest passion is travelling. Every summer, she’d try to take my siblings and me to a new country. I have visited around forty countries and I think I don’t necessarily need to visit a place to get inspiration from there. For instance, the novel I’m currently writing takes place in three different cities that I have yet to visit.

I think it ultimately depends on what you have in your heart and your mind at the time of travelling. A few years ago, there was a revival of a very popular musical (based on Victor Hugo’s novel) in Paris called Notre-Dame de Paris. At the time I was doing my Master’s programme in London, so I hopped on the Eurostar to see it on opening night. I’d been to Paris a few times prior, so I planned to revisit my favourite places (the cathedral, Place du Tertre in Montmartre etc.) and a couple of new museums. I had taken a collection of Hafez’s poems with me and I remember being so inspired by the beauty (the music, architecture, paintings and sculptures) that I filled a small journal with Sufi poems. It’s uncanny to think that I wrote my most spiritual poems whilst on a trip to Paris to see a musical… Anywhere in the world that has beautiful artwork, a little bit of nature, a place of worship (like a temple or a church—perhaps it has something to do with the higher vibrational frequencies), inspires me. And if I go to a classical concert when I’m there, then I’m in heaven.

Are you a Bookworm?

I’m definitely a bookworm, but because of my OCD I’m quite a neurotic reader. That’s why I used to dislike reading as a child. What it means now is that I’m not a fast reader, because I like to highlight beautiful lines and often rewrite them into a journal. My favourite genre is poetry and I also love philosophical novels. I have too many favourite authors!My favourite poets include Nizar Qabbani, Rumi, Pablo Neruda, and E.E. Cummings. Favourite writers: Javier Marias, Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, Sarah Waters, and Anton Chekhov.

It’s funny because I bought my dad a Kindle (he reads many books concurrently like I do) but he regifted it back to me. I haven’t used it in years as I prefer actual books.

Is “God, Does Humanity Exist?” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, it’s available on all the Amazon websites in paperback and eBook. It’s also available on Barnes & Noble and third-party booksellers online. For every copy sold, a tree is planted in Sub-Saharan Africa to help provide families with food, income, and a sustainable way of life. All of the royalties will also go to children’s charities in Iran.

Which other forms of writing, other than poetry, would you love to try your hand at? Songwriting, thriller, children’s books? 

I would love to write a children’s book one day! 

A brilliant American composer used my poem “War on Silence” to compose a piece for a choir recently, and a band used my poem “They Want Us to Be Afraid” as lyrics for one of their songs. Music is one of my greatest passions as well so I’d love to try my hand at songwriting—best of both worlds.

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

I’m always in business casual and a pair of black suede ankle boots, unless I’m going to a nice dinner or jazz night then I’m in stilettos.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I lived in Canada for about eight years so my favourite shop is Aritzia, a Canadian boutique.

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

I don’t have a wish list right now, but I’d be very happy to purchase a bright-coloured top in-store because that’d mean that the pandemic is over and we can celebrate summer.

Boots or Shoes?

Heeled ankle boots all the way! I’m average height but my twin sister is much taller than me and my brothers tower over me so I like the extra bit of heel.

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

Instagram: www.instagram.com/KamandKojouri

Twitter: www.twitter.com/KamandKojouri

Facebook: www.facebook.com/KamandKojouri

Linked-In: www.linkedin.com/in/KamandKojouri

Website: www.KamandKojouri.com

Thank you very much Kamand for chatting to us today. Thanks also for the copy of your fabulous poetry book and thanks also to Ben Cameron. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kamand Kojouri.

Linda x

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AN Interview With Marlene Watson-Tara

Continuing on my healthy living theme this month, this week I’m chatting to Marlene Watson-Tara – author of “Go Vegan”, co-founder of the “Human Ecology Project”, Health councillor, teacher and expert in the field of plant-based nutrition. So, it is with great excitement that I welcome Marlene onto my blog….hi Marlene!

Hi! I’m Marlene, a long-time vegan, activist, lover of animals, nature and life and passionate about human ecology. As an eternal optimist, increasing the number of people worldwide to switch to a wholefood plant-based diet and vegan life is my mission. Together with my husband Bill Tara, we have created The Human Ecology Project. 

As a high profiled and dedicated health counsellor and teacher with over 40 years’ experience in the health industry, my dietary advice draws from the fields of Macrobiotic Nutrition, my studies in Traditional Chinese Medicine and my certification in Plant- Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.

My clients range from the movies and arts to members of royal families. In the last 10 years I have been teaching chefs the art and skill of wholefood plant-based cooking and nutrition. As a regular columnist for many health magazines and websites I share my knowledge on living healthily. My vast experience informs a body of knowledge that I eagerly share with the world.

As the international author of Macrobiotics for all Seasons and my latest book Go Vegan  I share information that is simple, direct and effective, along with delicious recipes and medicinal teas. I teach alongside my husband Bill Tara. We have graduates from our “Macrobiotic Vegan Health Coach Programme” in 27 countries. I’m a driving force for health and fitness to all who cross her path. Our “Ultimate Health Experience” workshops have been offered in Europe, America, and Australia

My favourite saying – “If you don’t look after your body, then where are you going to live?”

Being a long time vegan, what inspired you to embrace the vegan lifestyle?

On school holidays my family would go to the countryside and it always seemed such a sad time when all the lambs were taken from the fields and loaded onto trucks.  As I grew into my teens, I had health issues with skin, digestion and menstrual pain. As I wouldn’t eat meat, I ate mostly dairy.  When I changed my diet to completely plant-based all these health issues disappeared.  When you connect the dots with diet and the development of disease, there is no turning back. When you look behind the curtain to the scale of what happens globally to our animal kingdom you cannot pretend to not know what is there. 


As you are an author of “Macrobiotic For All Seasons” and “Go Vegan”, surely you must have a favourite tried and tested recipe?  Do you prefer cooking “main meals”, desserts or are you a baker?

I find it exciting to create new recipes and train chefs and home cooks utilizing my seasonal menus and cooking skills, using the five tastes. My favourite creations are soups, I live and love them daily. From my delicious creamy decadence soups to the bean comforting cozy stews, soup is a daily staple in our home.

Food historians tell us the history of soup is probably as old as the history of cooking. The act of combining various ingredients in a pot to create a nutritious, filling, simple to make meal was inevitable. Healthy and healing soups are part of the cooking traditions in every country.

I always try and prepare my soup from fresh, organic, in season, and ideally local ingredients. Whether your ingredients are coming freshly grown from your own garden or you’ve bought them directly from the farmers’ market, making the connection between the food you eat, and your local environment is important. The food we eat is part of our cultural identity. Eating local foods helps produce a more resilient and sustainable future, both for yourself and for future generations.

Recently in my local supermarket there has been a promotional “push” towards plant-based meals. As you are an expert in the field of plant-based nutrition, what do you feel are the main benefits to follow a vegan/plant-based diet?

Thankfully, the popularity of plant-based diets has grown, which makes this an easier era than ever to start. Can I Get Enough Nutrients on a Plant-Based Diet? This is always the number one question that I am asked. Yes, and it’s easier than you’d think to consume these essential nutrients. You just need to know where to get them. For example, Omega-3 fatty acids often come from animal-based sources like fish. However, you can also get an ample supply from hemp seeds, flax, chia, and walnuts. It’s merely about understanding the alternative ways to get the nutrition you need.

Plant-based/vegan diets have been linked to a number of health benefits, including reducing your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, diabetes and cognitive decline. Plus, transitioning to a more plant-based diet is an excellent choice for the planet and will end the death and suffering of our animal kingdom. Two billion animals are slaughtered daily for food. There is no need, we receive all the nutrients we require from plants. At the end of the day, the largest and strongest animals in the world are vegan, giraffes, elephants etc., they get their nutrients from the same source we as vegans do… from the plants.

Having received a copy of “Go Vegan”, I was impressed by the range of recipes – the ingredients were not too daunting or difficult to obtain; the cooking instructions were easy to follow; and the glossary was a godsend especially when I came across an ingredient I had never heard of. Was it difficult to put together suitable recipes that lived up to your ethos?  

Eating from my ethos is simple and doable for everyone. 95% of what constitutes my approach is obtainable from most supermarkets. Grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Foods like miso, tofu, and even some dried sea vegetables are now available in supermarkets. This makes my heart sing to see this growth year on year. One or two of the condiments I use are available from natural food stores or online. My teaching of plant-based/vegan nutrition is based on my teachings of Macrobiotics, a wonderful philosophy that teaches us that everything is connected, animal, plant, human, environment.  When I create and cook all of these considerations are always there. 


As you are currently based in the UK, is “Go Vegan” available to purchase worldwide? 

Yes, Go Vegan is available world-wide on amazon. U.K. and US 

You currently teach alongside your husband, Bill Tara, your MACROVegan Health Coach Programme.  Sounds intriguing. In a nutshell, what does that involve? 

We now have students who have travelled from 27 countries to study and graduate as a MACROVegan Health Coach. We see this as switching on lighthouses around the world. We now have students studying with us online which is fantastic. Our students leave as proficient and amazing cooks as well as wonderful health coaches. It makes our heart sing as more and more graduate and teach this work.

MACROVegan Health Coach Course

The dramatic rise in degenerative disease attributed to diet and lifestyle has created a demand for solutions to disease prevention and personal health maintenance. What is called for is a new generation of men and women who are capable of offering practical advice on how to live a healthy life in modern society. 

During the two weeks of study you will have the opportunity to learn the techniques of effective Health Coaching and experience the power of healthy living. You will leave prepared to be a more effective promoter of natural health care and set up practice as a Professional Macrobiotic Health Coach.    

The Macrobiotic Vegan Health Coach curriculum has been designed by Bill Tara, co-founder of the Kushi Institute, creator of the International Macrobiotic Institute (Kiental, Switzerland) curriculum and designer of the American and European Kushi Institute Teacher Certification Programmes along with his wife Marlene Watson-Tara who is certified in Plant Based Nutrition. 

This is a rare opportunity to study with teachers who are expert consultants and draw on decades of practical experience. Macrobiotic philosophy serves as the foundation of these studies and provides the link between the disciplines and life skills we will explore together.  This course also offers additional tools to enhance professional or Para-professional skills in both the orthodox or complimentary health and healing arts.

The Modules

Health, Healing and Human Ecology

Health and Emotion / East and West

Traditions of Nutrition

Wholefoods Plant Based Cooking & Home Remedies

Health Assessment

Principles and Practice of Health Coaching

When you are not working, what activities do you enjoy, to relax and unwind? 

I adore growing my own vegetables, and love being in nature. I am an avid and longtime yogi, (my daily practice keeps me in check) and miss teaching yoga, one day, I will have my own studio again. I adore cycling with Bill and of course, reading and writing, and I am currently working on my next book.

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

I live in yoga gear… always cycling, doing yoga, or working at my desk here so casual and comfort works for me. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?  

Yes, I love https://bambooclothing.co.uk

I always purchase clothing using cotton, hemp, linen, etc., More and more companies offer these wonderful alternatives for vegan and ethical clothing. I love Matt & Nat for more dress shoes and bags and Wills London for my backpack and casual shoes and have boots from both of them. 

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

A new Ciao Bella – I adore feminine frilly dresses on the search. My next pair of yoga toe sandals from Supplefeet are on the list. They are fantastic, I have worn them for years and they keep your fee in great shape. 

Boots or Shoes? 

I love my chunky rubber sole sneakers, they look great with jeans, yoga gear, shorts and casual dresses. They are my first choice daily for comfort.

My Chelsea boots are my second choice…they are so versatile and can be worn in all seasons.

For pinning later

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

Website, Instagram, facebook, you tube, linked In, twitter, 

www.macrovegan.org

https://www.instagram.com/macroveganinternational/

https://facebook.com/marlenewatsontaragovegan/

https://www.youtube.com/user/Molly19571/videos?view=0&sort=p&flow=grid&disable_polymer=true

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/

Thanks Marlene for an interesting chat and you have given me and my readers “food for thought”.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Marlene Watson-Tara

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