Story lines: Anton du Beke

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Anton du Beke chats to Peter Anderson about writing his new novel One Enchanted Evening ahead of another UK-wide dance tour with Erin Boag in January.

London, 1936. Inside the spectacular ballroom of the exclusive Buckingham Hotel the rich and powerful, politicians, film stars, even royalty, rub shoulders with Raymond de Guise and his troupe of talented dancers from all around the world, who must enchant them… captivate them… and sweep away their cares. However, accustomed to waltzing with the highest of society, Raymond knows a secret from his past could threaten all he holds dear.

Nancy Nettleton, new chambermaid at the Buckingham, finds hotel life a struggle after leaving her small home town. She dreams of joining the dancers on the grand ballroom floor as she watches, unseen, from behind plush curtains and discreet doors. She soon discovers everyone at the Buckingham – guests and staff alike – has something to hide…

“I have to hope for that elusive line of tens!”

Book Mock-WEB

Throughout his career, Anton du Beke who lives in Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire, has loved a good story, but up until now he has told it through dance or more recently song. Now, with One Enchanted Evening, his debut novel, Anton has put them into words. So, did all those years of characterisation in dances (and who hasn’t loved some of his creations on Strictly!?) help him with the characters in the novel? He says: “The novel’s characters are based on people I’ve met or stories I’ve heard throughout my career. There are plenty of stories – whether it is of the dance bands and those who loved them – or tales of evenings down the pub, where after the pints had flowed, it tended to be fists that started flying.”

I find it interesting that Anton’s novel harks back to the halcyon days of the 1920s when Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin represented a more avant-garde scene. He laughs. “That’s a connection I hadn’t made. But I loved stories that were based at a definitive period in history.” One of his favourite current writers is Berkshire-based writer Robert Harris whose novels once again are set during World War II.

I ask Anton whether he hopes to continue writing. “Well,” he replies, “there are certainly plenty of tales and adventures I still have in my head for the hero, and there is a second book in the pipeline. But just like my success – or lack of it in Strictly – how many books the publishers are keen on printing depends on the audience vote – and I just have to hope for that elusive line of tens!”

• One Enchanted Evening is published by Bonnier Zaffre in hardback, paperback and e-book and available from all good booksellers and online.

Look out for our January competitions online and in your local Round & About for your chance to win tickets to Erin & Anton’s show at a theatre near you!

Mr Tumble talks to us

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Peter Anderson chats to children’s TV star Justin Fletcher MBE, 48, ahead of another star turn delighting families as we hit pantomime season.

Q. What inspired you to go into acting? “I have always been interested in acting and drama, including making my own animated short films when I was younger with my dad’s Super 8 camera. I was born in – and have always lived in – the Reading area and went to drama school in Guildford. A chance meeting with Philip Scofield led me to asking him how I might get into BBC children’s television. He said ‘make a showreel’, and so I did! Having experience with the Super 8 was a great help. Now I have my own production company and am still loving my children’s television work.”

Q. Who were your inspirations? “One of the people I always wanted to appear with was David Suchet, whose career was also launched in Berkshire [at The Watermill in Newbury]. But one of my real loves – and obviously great for pantomime – is slapstick. I adore watching Laurel & Hardy and their looks directly to camera. I was blessed to have been taught slapstick by Jack Tripp, who is sadly no longer with us. He was considered one of, if not the best pantomime dame in this country.”

Q. How do you think children see your character within this year’s pantomime, at Reading’s Hexagon? “Although I am known and billed as ‘CBBC’s Mr Tumble’, I probably take on more than 20 roles across the programmes I make. But it is very important for the children to understand within the pantomime [Aladdin] who my character is. So, every performance we always have fun with the children about who I am as a character in the pantomime, and get them on-side to help me through the rest of the show.”

Q. Do you enjoy doing panto? “I always enjoy doing pantomimes, in the same way I enjoyed going to the Hexagon as a child in the 1980s to watch them. Aside from, as I said, slapstick being one of my favourite kinds of theatre, it is a marvellous way to get people – especially families – to go to the theatre. Pantomime is one of those things that can be enjoyed by the whole family, parents and children. Then if we can get them coming to pantomimes as they grow older they may wish to try other types of show.”

l Justin is patron of local charity Make A Wish foundation: www.make-a-wish.org.uk

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Peace offerings: Christmas recipes

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Here are some indulgent yet wholesome and uncomplicated recipe ideas to help keep us grounded throughout this mad month.

Almond biscotti

(makes 24)

These are great to make ahead and present in a glass jar or tin when you are serving coffee or after-dinner liqueurs. Dip these in Vin Santo to transport yourself to heaven. Give me these over mince pies any day!

Preheat your oven to 170°C. Add 220g of plain flour, 1½ tsp of baking powder, generous pinch of salt, 60g of ground almonds, 120g of whole almonds and 150g of golden caster sugar to a large bowl and mix together. Lightly beat two eggs and add to the mixture with 1tsp of almond extract and bring together with a wooden spoon. Use your hand to bring the dough together into a ball (it may be a little sticky) then lightly flour a work surface, divide the mixture into two and roll it into two long sausage shapes, about 20cm long each. Lay on a baking sheet lined with parchment and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and slice into 1cm thick pieces using a serrated knife then lay flat back on to the baking sheet and cook in a cooler oven at 150°C for another 20-30 minutes or until crisp and golden.

Chuck steak con carne

(serves 6-8)

This is the kind of one-pot dinner that gives you a break after all the fiddly, feasting food. Really hearty and another crowd-pleaser. Serve with sour cream with a dusting of paprika, grated cheese, nachos and rice or winter slaw.

Heat your oven to 170°C. Chop 1kg of beef brisket into 2.5cm chunks then brown in a hot pan with 2tbsp of vegetable oil in batches. Transfer the beef to a casserole pan then finely chop two red onions and sauté until softened and starting to turn golden. Add five minced garlic cloves, cooking for a few minutes then add 2tsp each of ground cumin, smoked paprika, dried oregano and ½tsp of ground cloves. Add more oil if you need and cook out the spices then add 2-3tbsp of chilli paste (chipotle or ancho work well) and transfer everything to the casserole with the beef. Add two tins of plum tomatoes and 500ml beef stock and bring to a boil then put the lid on and transfer to the oven for two hours. Drain and rinse two tins of kidney beans and add to your casserole, cooking for a further hour without the lid until the beef is tender. Check seasoning and serve.

Winter slaw

(serves 6-8)

Something fresh and tasty to go with leftover turkey or ham. This makes a large bowl and looks great piled high in the centre of the table for people to help themselves. Add some pomegranate seeds for a little sparkle.

In a large bowl mix together 4tbsp of buttermilk, 1tbsp of Dijon mustard, 1tsp of celery salt and the juice and rind of one lemon. Add in two grated carrots, ¼ red and ¼ white cabbage, finely shredded, five finely sliced radishes, five sliced spring onions and a large handful of roughly chopped parsley. Mix together, adjust seasoning to taste and pile high into a serving bowl.

 

Chive blini with salmon, caviar and crème fraiche

 

This is always a great crowd-pleaser. I like to serve these on Christmas morning between breakfast and lunch, as we are all opening presents with some bubbles. It is really worth making these yourself as they are far more tasty than shop-bought, just warm in the oven before serving.

In a large bowl weigh out 100g of plain flour and add a generous pinch of salt. Separate an egg, adding the white to a clean mixing bowl and the yolk to the flour. Measure out 150ml whole milk and add half to the flour. Use an electric whisk to whisk the egg white until it begins to stiffen and leave to one side whilst you then whisk the flour mix until smooth. Gradually add the rest of the milk while continually whisking then 25g of melted butter and a handful of chopped chives. Fold through the egg white. Warm a pan and brush with a little butter until it begins to foam then add small spoonfuls of your batter. Cook on a low heat until the bottoms begin to brown then flip and repeat. Serve warm with a dollop of crème fraiche, smoked salmon, caviar and dill.

 

 

Play time! Toys and games

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Do you have youngsters to buy presents for this Christmas? Liz Nicholls rounds up her 2018 choices…

Rampant consumerism hits its peak during December. My ten-year-old is currently obsessed with the LOL dolls which are all about plastic packaging and (with ever more and more to collect, natch) to exploit that acquisitive streak all children have. I’ll indulge her with one, hoping the fad passes the way of Minecraft paraphernalia. Also all the rage are PlayFoam Pals. What about some family board games? Monopoly (created in 1935) has long engaged families in capitalist battles and the new Cheaters Edition (RRP £23.99) takes it to the next level!

Traditionalists might prefer the new versions of old classics Rummikub , Dixit (RRP £29.99) and Othello (RRP £23.99). Of course we’d all rather our children and grandchildren play with sturdy (not to mention tasteful) wooden toys. The toys by Cornish brand Hape are beauties, such as the Discovery Box (£32.49) and Roadster and Sky Flyer (£8.99) for age one year and up. For real longevity Steiff has been hand-making teddy bears since 1847 and its toys and kids’ clothing is of collectible quality, including Mungo the magnetic monkey (£85). Gifts For A Girl offers top-quality presents such as this Ride-On Zebra (from £219) while supporting charities who care for abandoned and trafficked children, mainly girls, in Cambodia. For more ethical goodies (in a stocking-filler price range) check out the creative range from Clockwork Soldier Shop and, for dinosaur-mad children, do also check out the lovely range from the Natural History Museum shop, including the cuddle T Rex and Cluedo paleontology board game! Remember mood rings from the ’90s? Pomsies (£17.99) are feline plush toys whose eyes change colour according to whether they’re happy, sleepy or hungry, while Rescue Runts (£17.99) encourage their new owners to groom their new puppies clean before their fur becomes messy again and the dirt reappears on their paws… The whole concept reminds me a little of that scene in Withnail & I but at least we have moved on somewhat… Enjoy your Christmas!

Craig Revel Horwood: Strictly panto star

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Craig Revel Horwood shares his thoughts on Strictly, his varied schedule and meeting his wax twin.

Q: We have heard about your waxwork doppelganger in Blackpool – what was it like meeting him? A: “It was quite bizarre, seeing another me because no one ever sees themselves three dimensionally like that! It was so lifelike it was ridiculous. My mum was there and she couldn’t tell us apart! We had the launch in Blackpool Tower. Of course the last time I’d been there was with Strictly and they had spotlights on it in the centre of the ballroom, six dancing girls and fireworks…it was incredible!”

Q: Are you looking forward to playing the Wicked Stepmother in the panto Cinderella at Woking’s New Victoria theatre? A: “I do feel like I’ve come full circle, I just wish I was as beautiful as I was 30 years ago! You have to look after yourself as you can’t go off partying the whole time… but it’s fantastic, it keeps me thin all the way through Christmas! [Pantomime} is an introduction for children to live theatre and as live theatre is my passion I really encourage that. It also teaches children generally about theatre, which I think is the most important thing about doing panto. Coming to the theatre is a unique and individual experience and you can interact with the cast too… it’s great!”

Q: You seem to have a hectic schedule, do you? “I’m working on material now for Christmas 2020. It is crazy! As for Strictly  I still get very excited and very nervous when I hear the opening music… It’s a whole new bunch of people, a whole new cast each time, so it’s always fresh. Seeing people who’ve never danced before realising dance can actually be taught.. and just seeing the enjoyment that people get out of it is great. It’s a gift.. people are no longer socially inept when it comes to dancing and that’s fantastic! It’s the only show really you can have on a Saturday night with the whole family… It’s great fun, the best Saturday job ever!”

Q: Which is your favourite dance to do yourself? “The Argentine Tango is my favourite, I just love that; it’s the way the body is intertwined, how fast it is and how the woman responds to the man’s lead and how much is improvised, it’s a very cool dance, when it’s done well!”

Q: How do you feel about Shirley Ballas’ addition to the judging panel? A: “I think Shirley has made a fantastic addition to the Strictly family, she’s really confident and has learned to be less technical which is good, I think, as that can bedazzle people… she’s fitted in nicely and it’s wonderful having another woman on the panel.”

Q: You’ve directed the opera La Traviata and seem willing to tackle an infinite variety of projects? “As long as I’m in the Arts, those challenges push you forwards. I conducted Act II of La Boheme which was amazing… I studied music at school and can read music which helps and I’ve been singing, dancing and acting to music my whole life so this was really another way to understand what the conductor does. When you’re doing it yourself you get very immersed in it and you and the music become one.”

Q: You’ve written a new volume of autobiography, out soon, In Strictest Confidence, how do you feel about that? “It’s a good, fun read. I try and keep it light but it’s also tackling the death of my father and goes into all the emotions that one goes through. [His first memoir] All Balls & Glitter was really to get skeletons out of the closet so other people couldn’t tell stories about me; whereas this one is answering questions that people ask.. about Strictly, about my life and how one copes with being a celebrity and how that changes your life entirely.”

Q: Do you enjoy being in the public gaze? “The only thing I find good about being a celebrity is that you can raise money for charity and I’ve done quite a lot of that. My mum has chronic rheumatoid arthritis but osteoporosis can be prevented by exercise up to the age of 23 so that’s why it was a charity I chose in order to change people’s lives.”

Q: What was it like choreographing the final scene in Paddington 2, the big dance number led by Hugh Grant? “I taught Hugh to tap dance which was fun; he was absolutely fantastic and really applied himself because it’s tough; he literally learned in three weeks but was spending three hours a day practising.”

Q: You’re also reprising the role of Miss Hannigan in Annie in the West End… A: “She’s wonderful, a misunderstood character who actually has a lot of love to give but unfortunately the children don’t see that. She just really wants a man in her life to take care of her and not finding it tries to find the answers at the bottom of a bottle which, as we know, doesn’t work. I just enjoy her, she’s a lovely character and is funny and scary with it too, you don’t often get all that!”

Q: What’s your life philosophy? “Life is very short and you have to just go out and don’t fear anything. I’m open to whatever comes along. I’d love to direct a film as well but I think I need to act first to see how it all works then can apply everything I’ve learned from that (and from directing musicals) to film.. and perhaps promote dance in film. I’d love to do that!”

Coast vs Country

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We chat to Scottish and Oxford-based television presenter of Coast vs Country

October has seen award-winning Oxford interior designer Kerr Drummond swap dreaming spires for scenic sand dunes as one of the co-hosts of Coast vs Country.

This Channel 4 show gives house-hunters the choice of a future in a rural idyll or seaside hotspot. In each episode, house hunters are shown three coastal properties and three countryside properties, as they decide whether their heart lies within the UK’s rolling hills and pretty villages, or in a stunning coastal location packed with seaside culture.

So, how did Kerr come to be involved in the programme? It turns out Coast vs Country is not his first television show. “It was the second television programme I had done,” he says. “I was approached in 2008 to do Kitchen SOS which was produced by a television company owned by Nadia Salwalha. They had sold the concept to UKTV’s Home channel, but one of the conditions was that one of the designers had to be up and coming and new to TV.

“I had just been nominated for Young Designer of the Year, so when they did a Google search they found me quite quickly. After three years in that show, I applied for Coast vs Country and it was either the instant rapport I got with the fellow presenter, Kirsty Duffy, or the fact that they were totally bored of interviewing people. Something must be going right, we are now on out third series!”

      

Are the presenters quite competitive… perhaps keeping score as comes across on screen? “Officially nope, but I think I ‘won’ series 1 and 2 against Kirsty. In series 3 the rural idyll is being looked after by Sara Damergi as Kirsty has had a break to have a baby. Fingers crossed I can keep my record up – not that I’m keeping score!”

What made Kerr choose Interior design as a career, considering he is now on television… “It wasn’t my first choice; I was going to go to drama school and my poor drama teacher and given me a lot of help filling in forms etc  – then I chickened out! I was flicking through a local paper looking at various jobs and somebody wanted a junior bathroom designer and I had the entry qualification – an ‘A’ at A-level art. I got on really well at the job and progressed to senior designer after four or five years before starting my own company.”

No doubt the properties on offer come from many centuries; is there a period in history Kerr would have loved to have been an interior designer, perhaps? “I guess being Scottish I would love to go back only a brief time to when Charles Rene Mackintosh was working in Glasgow. But, the other period that interests me is the time of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I when they went on travels all over the country staying with nobles who always tried to outdo the noble before. Though I guess the challenge for the designer was getting paid afterwards as a lot of the nobles overstretched their finances.”

For someone who extols the virtues of the coast, what is it that attracts Kerr to life in Oxford? “I moved down to Oxford with my parents when I was about three, but I really love the place and would not want to move. I live in the Osney area, and this summer could happily go swimming in the river or walk along the bank into the centre of Oxford. Then there are the travel links, I am only an hour by train from the centre of London, but nothing beats sitting outside a pub in Broad Street watching the setting sun glisten off the historic rooves of the colleges.”

Visit www.channel4.com/programmes/coast-vs-country

Will Greenwood: nice try

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With the autumn rugby internationals on the horizon, we chat to rugby legend and father Will Greenwood.

Q. What would you do to help injury in the senior game?
“There is no perfect world – the key is to get children to enter adult rugby having had a good technical grounding in the contact area and tackle point and make sure they have had a safe and enjoyable journey along the way – that’s what’s most important.”

Q. You’re a great ambassador for children’s rugby – do schools do enough?
“Schools are constrained by budget, safety and numbers of qualified coaches. Mentoring schemes, access to club and academy coaches are improving and I hope it continues. I try to do my bit coaching at my local club [Maidenhead] and with my holiday coaching business Legend Holidays & Events.”

Q. With Twickenham ticket prices so high, would it be a good idea to play internationals elsewhere in the UK?
“I like having a ‘Fortress’ at Twickenham – not always a fortress – but it looks and feels like one to me! However I feel the occasional game could shift north – which it is next year… to St James’s Park with a world cup warm-up game which is exciting.”

Q. What would you say is the best moment of your playing career?
“That’s a tricky one, but probably Durham University 1991-92 – playing some great rugby with people who are my best friends to this day.”

Q. What do you think is the best position to play in to captain an international side?
“I don’t think there is a best necessarily – history would suggest the forwards – but great people come in all shapes and sizes. Rugby is a great sport that caters for all those shapes and sizes; a legendary captain could play in any position.”

Q. Is there another Martin Johnson playing now who can fill the role of captain?
“There will never be another Martin Johnson – unique and awesome! They’re big boots to fill if someone is up to the task.”

Q. Why are the All Blacks so good?!
“I think their success comes down to a few key factors; culture, geography, genetics and Importance of the game as a national sport.”

Q. How do you relax?
“I love a good Sudoku puzzle, whenever I get time!”

Q. What’s your favourite book?
“I’ve read some brilliant books, but my favourite would have to be Flashman Papers by George Macdonald Fraser.”

Q. Music?
“Easy: Oasis or Take That.”

Q. What are your ambitions for the next year on?
“My biggest ambition right now is to be a good Dad, it always comes before everything else.”

A print success story

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Round & About Magazine expands in to its ninth county as the family business continues to fly the flag for print publishing

In October this year we launched the latest edition of Round & About Magazine, for all the residents of Hungerford, Marlborough and Pewsey. As per all our other magazines it‘s Royal Mail delivered to all the homes within the RG17, SN8 and SN9 postcodes, giving local and national businesses complete penetration within the area.

The region is a good match for our target audience, complementing our current geographical reach and it will offer existing and new clients another great region to target.

To cope with the demands of ever more editions and content creation we are very pleased to have Karen Neville join us. Karen, who leaves her current role of production editor at Bath Chronicle, has worked in newspaper publishing, including for the Oxfordshire Guardian group, for many years, and thus has a sound knowledge of the areas we already reach. She will bring a great amount of experience and a valuable skillset from an international business.

Working with Liz Nicholls, our talented editor, Karen will help Round & About deliver ever more localised content, writing articles on issues that matter to our readers and help the machine run smoothly!

Our expansion over the last few years brought us to Howbery Park in 2015, enabling us to have the space to grow and offer employees an enjoyable environment to work in.

To help us reach our growth plans in 2019 we are expanding our advertising sales team. The right person doesn’t necessarily come from a sales background but someone that is a “people person”, has strong customer service skills and can offer sound solutions to potential advertisers, matching their needs with our offering.

If you feel you have the skill set to manage some existing accounts and develop new ones we would like to hear from you. Please email the sales director Luke Maitland on [email protected]

Find out more about our story

Winter aches & pains?

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Pharmacist Kevin Leivers from The Naked Pharmacy explains how to find effective natural relief for joint and muscle inflammation this winter

As the temperature drops both athletes and elderly people alike notice their muscles and joints ache more and are slower to recover from injury.

There are a number of great natural remedies for these problems at The Naked Pharmacy. Two stand-out herbal products that can be applied regularly to aching muscles and joints are Arnica Massage Balm and Copper Ointment. Both are effective for reducing rheumatic pain in addition to improving circulation.

We also recommend supplementing your diet with high-strength tumeric capsules. This is a proven, natural and low-risk solution for a number of conditions including arthritis and sporting injuries. The therapeutic benefits of turmeric are produced by a class of compounds in turmeric called curcuminoids.

For the turmeric to be effective it must contain the correct strength; a minimum of 360mg curcuminoids in each capsule. Secondly, it needs to be formulated to enable the curcuminoid active compounds to be absorbed well in the gut.

On its own, only a small amount of the curcuminoids in turmeric are absorbed into the blood. Adding piperine (black pepper) resolves this issue. When piperine is mixed with turmeric, the total curcuminoid absorption increases significantly.

A turmeric extract that contains the highest strength of curcuminoids will be the most effective compared with extracts containing only curcumin.

For more advice visit The Naked Pharmacy or to speak to a pharmacist  call 01483 685630.

Thick & thin: hair loss tips

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Jamie Stevens, hairdresser to the stars including Hugh Grant and Olly Murs, talks frankly about the sensitive topic of balding – and how to combat it

Thinning hair is a subject that’s close to my heart. Researching it has helped me understand the reasons for hair loss, how to slow it and, most vitally, how to help conceal it without a hair transplant.

I’ve seen the effect hair loss has on confidence – our survey of 2,000 men revealed many would rather have a small penis, be cheated on or have their internet history made public than lose their hair. A fifth think thinning hair makes them less attractive and a quarter are worried it makes them look older.

Hair loss causes real anxiety. As someone who has thinning hair myself, I hope getting men talking will stop them suffering in silence. There are lots of options. Clever cuts can make hair look thicker, and hair fibres and disguise spray cover a balding spot well. Hair plugs are a more expensive but long-term option for men who really don’t want to be bald. There does come a point when shaving is best but some men go too early – Prince William, for example, probably didn’t need the buzz cut as soon as he did.

Tackle thinning hair early and you can hang on to hair for longer. Grooming staples are the foundation for any good haircare regime; anti hair-loss shampoo and conditioner plus a treatment spray help reduce the rate of hair loss by prolonging the growth phase.

About 70% of men will be affected by some sort of male pattern baldness, from completely losing the hair, to receding or thinning in areas. Genetics affect different areas of the hair. The top area will thin and fall out, but the gene that affects below the recession and occipital bone (what we call the “Friar Tuck” area) means this doesn’t thin or fall out in tandem with the top. The simple top tip for cutting thinning hair is the back and sides should be shorter and thinner than the top. Also try colouring: darker hair looks thicker, and colour swells the hair shaft to enhance thickness. Volumising products also offer short-term improvement. Disguise colour spray will instantly make hair look thicker; hair fibres matched to your hair colour are another instant solution to make the hair look thicker.

Find a style to suit fine hair; for example, adjust a parting to avoid bald patches. Longer hair weighs more and may leave more scalp exposed. Never rub wet hair with a towel: thin hair is fragile and can break, so pat dry. A silk pillowcase causes less damage.

Practice makes perfect – if I asked you to spray a car it’d take more than one go! Look online for how-to videos and avoid wet gels or waxes. Pastes and clays are best as they are more matte.

Click here to check out Jamie’s products.