Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

travel, interiors, photography, home, crafts, personal style

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25 May 2018

Cotswolds Highlights

Before we move to the East of England we have decided to pack the last month at our current location, with visits to places towards the West, focusing on the Cotswolds. On our first visit to some friends who recently moved to Burford, we realised that this area would need further investigation. So with my roving reporters hat firmly in place, off we set. 

Because I took too many photos just for instagram, I thought a whirlwind Insta visit to some of the things I found and loved. 

On our last visit we stayed so long at Daylesford Organic Farm, that we are kinda wishing it was on our doorstep, but it ate into our day so we came back for more. The staff are so friendly not only at the farm but also at their gastro pub The Wild Rabbit, where we were welcomed so warmly and so incredibly impressed with the flavours of the organic food, supplied by the farm. 

Not to be said for all of the stops on our trip, where some gastro pubs were decidedly frosty, and despite 'awards' served the most underwhelming plate of cheese, I can't even call it anything else, it was just cheese on a plate.  I mention this because I was desperately trying not to fall into too many tourist traps, where the wisteria covered stone building lulled you into a false sense of trust and welcome.

And so the Grade 1 listed church, with yew trees around the door ...

First I have to tell you about this magical door between two trees, it's in Saint Edwards church at Stow On The Wold. Overall, Stow, is obviously a tourist spot, as the town has more tea shops per capita than I've ever seen, all bursting to the seams with visitors. Our main purpose was, however to see the church.  Don't get me wrong, the town is super pretty, with wonky buildings and, of course, like everywhere here built in that fabulous Cotswold stone. 

Practically every little town we stopped at was gorgeous. There are great antique shops and centres (like Station Mill) everywhere, lovely pubs and cafes and of course the countryside between. 

Our absolute top favourite though, and the main reason for this post, is most definitely Chastleton House. A Jacobean wonder near Moreton In Marsh. Unlike a lot of National Trust properties, this is a place where you can really see how the last occupants lived during the 400 years of their stay. It has a mixture of furnishings from all periods, it's tatty, and full of charm. Probably one of my favourite houses yet to see. Famous for having a Long Gallery with barrel vaulted ceiling, a place where ladies could exercise by parading up and down the 72 foot room. 

yes I always wear a ruff to visit Jacobean houses

The house has been conserved rather than restored, and the belongings of the family who lived here make it all the more interesting. Some parts have been used in the filming of Wolf Hall and the Seymours. 

I was a bit disappointed that they had the lights on in many of the rooms, they were so much more photographable without the yellow tinge, and I'm afraid I freaked out one of the guides by switching them off to take a shot, but then I'm ruthless in my quest for natural light.  The wooden panelling is so warm and worn, and there are lovely tapestries, as once all the rooms would have been hung with these. Where time has marched on, remnants of Victorian wallpaper, 1930's gadgets can all also be found, transporting you to a time when this was a home. 

The garden at Chastleton also needs another visit as we got there a bit late, so I think we could be heading back that way again. We liked the way it was planted out and might be looking at it for inspiration for the landscaping at our new house. In true English fashion, there is tea and cake served in the churchyard next door, as the house doesn't have a cafe. This makes it even more appealing to us, a cuppa and a slice of sponge cake among the grave stones was simply perfect. The car park is a bit of a trek from the house, so please take comfy outdoor shoes, as you will need to negotiate an inclined field. 

Everything that is touched by the Daylesford magic is stunning. Please do look into all the different arms of their estate, the Wild Rabbit modern pub, the organic sustainable farm and shop, their ethos and their products. I would love to stay at one of their cottages, maybe a short holiday at another date. It is such a credit to this area and to my mind should be the centre of your investigations around this part of England. 

So I leave you down in the cellar kitchen at Chastleton, oh I wish we could organise an insta meet here!


20 May 2018

matcha tea & blood orange bundt cake

As mentioned previously, I bought some matcha tea and after a disappointing drink concoction, I though maybe it would be best to put it in a cake. After tasting it I decided that this is a flavour that needs to go with quite a lot of sugar. It is quite an acquired taste.

After a bit of digging around I found a recipe by Surf & Scallop and after a bit of chatting with Claire on instagram, we decided that her Yerba Mate could be substituted with matcha tea powder. If it wasn't for instagram I wouldn't have even known that matcha exists, so despite my feelings about Instagram, it does have some benefits.  One must try new things and challenge ourselves all the time. 

I managed to track down some blood oranges at the local farm shop and so I thought I was in business. Setting aside saturday to make the cake, watch the royal wedding and take photos I realise first thing that I haven't got much flour. Undeterred I thought, well it's only me at home this weekend so half the ingredients should be fine.

Second hurdle, I realise that my weighing scales have gone into storage. Today is not going to plan, but Ive been so depressed recently I wasn't going to let a few hurdles stop me. I needed cake to cheer me up.

I think I managed to guess the ingredient ratios ok, however, my biggest mistake was in the cooking time. It didn't occur to me that half the ingredients could mean less cooking time and so I feel that the outside is a bit harder (burnt or over cooked) than Mary Berry would allow. Having said that I really like the slight crisp to the outside with the soft green sponge inside.

I don't know why, but I can never get the icing glaze right. I made a really pretty one with the blood orange juice, it was a lovely pink but as I poured it over, it just disappeared. Perhaps it was too thin. I tried again with matcha powder added to the icing sugar and this time ensured the consistency was a bit thicker.

Yes I've also packed away all my cake stand, so a bit of improv was called for here too, in the end I gave up and just put it on a plate.

Also the sliced blood orange on the top just looked made it look like some weird pizza, so I switched it around for flowers from the garden. I thought that the orange slices maybe would seep into the cake, giving it an extra tang, but it just didn't work visually. There is also a bit of grated white chocolate sprinkled for extra sweetness, I was playing with ideas, and again, the grated chocolate just didn't look amazing. My decorating skills need work.

Because the ingredients were reduced by half, the cake isn't as tall as it should be, so it isn't the perfect photo star, my dilemma being that a huge glamorous cake is a bit much for one person, or even two, so until I have a few guests this size will have to do.

It gives me a chance to practise if nothing else. 

I'm considering getting some mini bundt tins as I think that will probably be a better idea when I'm only cooking for one or two. 

The taste is lovely, I do like these bundt cakes that use greek yoghurt. The ingredients are as follows;

  • 400g flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. yerba mate powder (or matcha tea  - you can probably get away with a little less of this quantity as it is expensive and my pot was quite small).
  • 100g coconut oil, softened
  • 170g butter, softened (or benecol tastes like butter spread)
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 4 eggs
  • 170g greek yoghurt
  • Juice of one small blood orange
And for more about how to make this, hop over to Surf & Scallop. Where you can see how Claire puts it all together. 


14 May 2018

lilac, green and copper

oh my friggin gosh (pardon my toned down swearing) but its been ages since I've been able to blog and it's driving me nuts. Reasons; well trying to locate to Suffolk isn't going smoothly. Firstly I bought furniture for a house that I really want and packed my belongings into boxes, ok another story, so I had a house full of boxes and large furniture and we couldn't move or do anything.

Secondly, as you do, I arranged for the broadband to be cut off. Three weeks of no broadband, going to cafes and friends houses and we caved in and had to get a new contract out to re-connect with the living world.

So I've moved all my stuff into storage so at least my stuff is living in Suffolk even though I'm stuck in limbo land trying to tie up contracts.

Anyway, now with a bit of space and wifi, I can at least update here a little bit. I've been decorating and coming up with ideas of new looks for the next house, you can see some of my inspiration on pinterest where you will also see that my banner is crushing on the lilac green theme as well. 

You may remember my bath that I made over using Annie Sloan products. I decided to add more copper leaf to it. To gild any object is super easy, you need to get something called 'gold size' strange name I know, but it basically glue.

You paint the 'size' glue on, wait until it turns clear and then press your leaves of silver, gold or copper onto it. Brush away the excess.  Leaves come in the three metallic shades and are either stuck to a backing or loose.  To be honest, the ones that are attached to a backing paper are much easier to handle.

I also thought about trying matcha tea. I bought some at the wonderful Daylesford Farm Shop. My first attempt to use it was as a latte made with almond milk. Unfortunately the taste wasn't great, although it looks ok in photos. I maybe will try using it differently next time, (not the fault of the tea, more of my ineptitude).

I hope to be doing a big re-launch in a month or so, and perhaps manage to blog in between.  Until then please find me on instagram or facebook. I really appreciate your understanding.

On a personal note, my very dear friend Ben passed away this week, he was an incredibly talented soul who I met when he was playing with the band Miranda Sex Garden. The world is slight less interesting for the loss of him and Ben, wherever you are, I miss you already. 

Love to all, hold your loved ones tight. x


26 Mar 2018

rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb

What's the big deal with rhubarb then. Well firstly it's in the shops right now in March, although it's probably forced in hot houses, so I'm not entirely sure if it's seasonal or not.  This humble vegetable, yes you read that right, it's a veg and not a fruit (which I say with an element of surprise because that hadn't occurred to me before), is packed full of goodness.

A few facts about why you need to get cooking with these beautiful long stems of ruby. It's low in fat, low in calories, cholesterol free (my main reason), and high in fibre. Rhubarb also contains as much calcium as a glass of milk, (great for the vegans then)and also has vitamin A and potassium. Unfortunately because it is 'tart'to taste, it's easy to overdo the sugar, so I've tried to hold back on that and using brown sugar with stevia in it to reduce the calories. 

I've tried a few recipes to see how to get some variety but I'm not going to post those here, I just googled up some ideas and what you can see here is a galette and some 'biscuits'. The galette was perfect, so just find yourself a recipe for the pastry and then add the rhubarb. It seems like a good idea, according to most recipes,  to soak the cut rhubarb in some juice and a bit of sugar, although I'm not entirely sure what difference that makes. When you place it on the galette pastry don't include the liquid though. As the stalks are nice and firm, you can cut and arrange in lovely patterns. I sprinkled a bit of sugar and cinnamon on the rhubarb and pressed some flaked almonds onto the pastry crust. 

 The 'biscuits' weren't such a success story, I followed a recipe but something wasn't quite right on my part, they were basically sponge cupcakes without the paper case. All was not lost, I stewed the remaining stalks and then did a chef kinda styling thing with the soft biscuits, piling them up and placing the remaining stalks on top. To keep it healthy, I topped it off with a chocolate soya desert. It occurred to me that these soft biscuits would actually make a good alternative to a trifle type layered desert. 

As a novice I'm still experimenting a lot, and finding inspiration on instagram and vero from those much better than myself.

Here's some cool cooking blogs to check out ;
Figs and Pigs, who also sell kitchenalia www.figsandpigs.com and have so many mouthwatering recipes I don't know where to start.

For a much more sophisticated tart than mine check out https://www.twiggstudios.com/2018/03/rhubarb-lemon-rosemary-tart/ which might just be the next thing I try, the photos on both these blogs are really beautiful too. 

Because I'm cutting down on cholesterol I replace butter with benecol, which may well mean that the pastry isn't anything like it should be, but it tastes fine to me and the mister. 

So that's all I've managed to get up to recently while I'm waiting to relocate to my new base in Suffolk. My old suffolk cottage will be an Air bnb if all goes well so watch out if you want a lovely weekend break near Southwold. 

Love and rhubarb x


9 Mar 2018

amazing bundts and I cannot lie

I've got to be honest, until a few weeks ago I had no idea what a bundt cake was. I kept seeing these fantastic shaped, highly photogenic, cakes on instagram and vero, which after closer inspection, turned out to be this cake called bundt.

It seems, from what I can find, that a bundt cake is not any particular recipe, but just one cooked in a bundt pan, or tin. I think the tins are beautiful and as I do love a bit of kitchenalia, may have to get a few. Based on a European Gugelhupf, a bundt is more about the shape, always in a ring, with fluted sides. 

I followed the recipe I mentioned in my previous post, from eighty20nutrition for Rose and Pistachio bundt cake,  although I didn't have the dried ligonberry powder or the rose petals, but instead found some freeze dried raspberry bits. I do think the lingonberry powder sounds lovely, so may have to treat my baking cupboard to a jar.

I also had a bit of a mis-hap with the rose essence, and perhaps will be sure not to overdo it next time. 

The topping is a bit naughty but incredibly tasty, not too sweet and adds to an already moist and fluffy cake. It uses coconut cream which opened up a whole debate over whether coconut oil is good or bad for cholesterol. My good friends on instagram/vero - Alternative Ageing (who is a nutritionist) and Jax both sent me links about how,  although coconut oil is high in saturated fat, it does not create bad cholesterol. If you look on the 'Trust Me, I'm A Doctor' website, you will see that in tests the group who had coconut oil had no increase in the bad cholesterol, just a minor drop in it. 

So, while I'd been googling about whether I should or should not have coconut oil, some of the reports were not entirely accurate.

Back to this gorgeous recipe, the great thing about the coconut cream is how it stays looking perfect and doesn't sink into the cake and it also gives a lovely look to the decoration, running exactly where it is poured. The ingredients are free from flour as the recipe is nutritionally very good, containing dates, ground almonds, olive oil, apple cider vinegar ... so many good whole food ingredients. See the site http://eighty20nutrition.com 

I can honestly say this is one of the most delicious cakes I've ever tasted, even after a few days it was still moist. I'm actually not a lover of cake normally, I find it too sweet and I don't want to consume butter and sugar in large quantities. If you are looking for a healthy alternative to normal cake then this is the one for you.

I also think that the shape of the bundt lends itself perfectly to decoration, fill the centre with fruits and sprinkle nuts and dried fruits on top of the coconut cream.  

I've got my eyes on a bundt recipe using blueberries and yoghurt but I will definitely be going back to this one time and time again. 

On the Eighty 20 nutrition site I've also seen a beetroot and chestnut soup, oh hello!  Two of my favourite ingredients. 

If you have any cholesterol busting recipes then message me the link over on any of the social media platforms - Instagram, Vero and Facebook.  I will happily give it a try and feature you on my blog, (you also get to keep photos of what I've cooked if you like!).

Happy Baking .... Janice Issitt

3 Mar 2018

Spice up your Pears - Poached in Cider

I never thought I would get so enthusiastic about cooking but the promise of a lovely new kitchen when I move, and the influence of some amazing cooking photographers and bloggers ... I couldn't resist.

Every time I see a photo of poached pears I think 'oh I really must remember to try that' and immediately forget. They look so gorgeous when ruby red, poached in wine or port, but I really didn't want to open a bottle of wine just to poach the pears, so I rummaged in the wine rack and found something that I guessed might work.

I read a lot of different poaching recipes to get the general idea, some of which were for mulled wine, with cinnamon and other spices, and so I guessed that my random left over bottle of un-opened Heston mulled cider would probably be just as good.

Unfortunately no longer available for sale, maybe it will come back on the shelves again at Christmas. It's an oak aged Herefordshire cider that is spiced with cloves, cinnamon and ginger. Great, I thought, seeing as I don't have any cloves or cinnamon sticks in the cupboard, this should do the trick.

I peeled the pears very carefully, leaving the stalks intact, and slicing just a bit off the bottom so they can stand up. However I didn't poach them standing up, but laid them in a saucepan with a lid and covered in the cider, some sugar, and a chunk of fresh ginger. I also added a dash of vanilla and maple syrup.   

Simmer the pears for anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes, some recipes say longer but personally, I think they might have fallen apart if I'd left them too long.

Remove the pears from the saucepan and leave to one side while you boil up the leftover cider to reduce it. I had no idea how it would taste so it was a complete guess.  Served with a dollop of fat free greek yoghurt and a drizzle of the cider reduction.

Eh, voila! A beautiful warming way to get one of your five a day!

So I mentioned on Vero that I would feature some of the great accounts I have found there. I'm about to try a recipe for a Bundt cake from the www.eighty20nutrition.com which is the website of Donna Crous, if you see the photos there you will want to make everything, and they are not only healthy but also use things like the nutribullet to whizz up the ingredients (which was a relief as I don't have any gadgets). 

More of that bundt cake coming soon ... don't forget to find me on vero love and pears xx


27 Feb 2018

Vero True Social

Hello Vero ! or Vera as I keep calling it, that or Viro, I am the original Mrs Malaprop (although I'm nowhere near as bad as my Mister, who had a head injury in a RTA and constantly says the wrong words).

Anyway, here's my thoughts, for what they are worth, on Vera, sorry Vero.  Well she's a temperamental old bugger at the moment, a bit slow and sometimes fails to make an appearance at all. I see her as a grumpy old caterpillar waiting to burst out of her cocoon, all shiny and perfect. Fingers crossed. It is improving rapidly.

So why do we need another social platform. One word which sums it up for most people is 'algorithm' and second is probably adverts. If you manage to be in the first wave of users signing up then the platform will be free, after that it will be a small subscription so that it can remain advertising free. I'm so on the verge of leaving sarcastic comments on the terrible adverts I see on instagram right now, but biting my tongue. I would happily pay Instagram a yearly subscription to not have adverts and bring back the chronology with the promise that all of my followers see all of my posts. 

I can't be the only one is is getting depressed with the Jekyll and Hyde Instagram. It started out for me as a real life saver, meeting new 'like minded' people, on line and in person, and being inspired by different creatives from all over the world. But then, just when we were all really enjoying it, the nasty side appeared. It stopped showing posts chronologically and decided to show us what 'it' thought we wanted to see. And if you don't work it just right you disappear from sight and don't even know what you've done wrong. The whole thing is so bloody unfair, some of us really make an effort to take good photos, spend time liking and encouraging others on there. It was like that time we really enjoyed our job, and then they brought in a new Boss. The new hashtag top nine is rubbish, although I do like the hashtag follow feature which is a great help to us who started tags (like my #behomefree) in order to run competitions and improve interaction.

So for a lot of us Vero could be a new start and a relief from the frustration, a level playing field at last.  Of course, we don't know what plans they have for change, but if nothing else, perhaps facebook and instagram will be forced to review their unpopular changes if enough people move across and sign up. It's a bit like tactical voting. I think we have to review whether the free platforms are worth the annoyances or not. 

There was a time when the small independent maker, like I once was, had no access to free advertising globally. If you wanted to sell your pottery or macrame you booked a stall at a market and sat there all day trying to flog your stuff. I did it for years. Advertising was extremely expensive and trade fairs also. Social media changed all that and I saw some potters who sold out the minute they posted something on Instagram. But, of course, they cottoned on to us making a 'living' or trying to, and whack, hey no-one will see your facebook page unless you pay to boost it.  

From what I can make of Vero so far, (as the overwhelming popularity has made it incredibly slow, a victim of it's own success), I feel we may have something to look forward to here. Perhaps because the users will be paying will result in the platform listening to their customers instead of treating us like a commodity to be managed. Yes, it's fine for them to reap in millions but not for us to make a few quid.  Hey who remembers My Space?? just saying. The social platforms should take nothing for granted, moving over has a snowball effect ... my point, nothing on the virtual world lasts forever and we need to make ourselves heard - we don't want to be treated like sheep.

Vero seems to me to be a combination of Instagram and Facebook.  You have different levels of interaction with people, so you can build your list but mark the people on it as; close friend, friend, acquaintance or just follow. There are two levels of interaction. So if you are having a bit of a rant about your personal life you may just want to choose your close friends to see it, but if you have a really good book recommendation then you can make it public to followers. 

The only slight disappointment for me is the aesthetic of the feed, which has become a ridiculous obsession for us all on Instagram, and perhaps we need to learn to chill a bit more. But I'm driven by the 'look' of things and so the way my feed looks is a bit annoying, as I don't like the words to show. However, it's never stopped me being on facebook and that looks like a right old jumble sale over there.
Having said that, now I pop back to instagram it looks a bit dated, compared to the all singing all dancing vero.

There is one great feature and that's collections. It's a different way to view your stream and the posts of everyone you follow. So if you only want to see your friends photos, or links you choose which collection to view. They can view your profile similarly, by either your photos, links, books, films etc. 

If I click on books I can see these have been recommended by the people I follow. So it's good to follow as many people as possible, as the more you follow the more interesting the platform will be. I'm not judgy about other people's content and I don't like superiority in any form. If I want to shortcut the main feed then I look at collections of photos and with the grid format can see the ones which most appeal to my interests. 

So I'm going to let you find your own way round the platform, once it works at normal speed, this will be a hell of a lot easier and if you have any questions about it, then I can give it a go and if I've worked it out will be happy to help.  I expect further down the line I will be discovering things all the time with it, and expect that Vero itself will tweak it's format. I shall continue to update here and already this week they seem to have sorted our their server glitches.

I'm just hitting the buttons and testing it out, following as many people as possible and getting some interaction going with new groups. As any platform is only as good as it's users I'm following as many people as I can so that my stream is nice and full. If you have any account recommendations for me, including your own, then don't be afraid to give me a nudge. I think at the moment the people at Vero are a bit too male in their choices of recommendations so if you see this Vero, how about some females in your recommendations??

While a lot of people are saying they don't have time for another app in their lives, just think, maybe you only need one. Vero intends to add business and if we can do all our stuff in one place, wow .. Imagine facebook, instagram, etsy all smerged into one. You don't need another app, you just need THIS one.

I'm quite excited to see how they handle business, especially if it's a one click link to buy, book, listen. I will be adding my new venture there as soon as it rolls out.

Like with any new thing, there's a bit of 'scaremongering' about various aspects of Vero. I hate this sort of stuff, it's so out of context and lacking perspective. In my varying careers I did work with some unpopular famous people, and in my experience, the nasty stuff was usually unfounded and written to sell papers or other motives. We are all far too led by fake news on facebook, as I've said before, sharing information that is incorrect.

Firstly, the stuff about them 'owning your content' is bollocks, they have to put this into their terms in order to run the platform, if they weren't allowed access to your content then how could they share your photos to the world. Sorry, but I studied law and I get right annoyed when small print is misunderstood. It's exactly the same as you already have on all your other platforms, there's no trick here. Personally if a multi millionaire wants to steal my photo then he's welcome to it.

Secondly the owner. Well seriously, who gives a shit about who owns it anyway, really!!! Do you actually know about the owner of every single thing you use in your life? Really? No, nor do I. Will we refuse to watch every film that Weinstein was involved with, will we  stop going into Oxfam shops because their workers did something wrong, I dunno. I'm all for doing what I can to support the victims of injustice and abuse but we can't be suspicious about every single man in power. 

To launch a platform like this you need a LOT of money, so it's a guy with a lot of money who is listening to the complaints about Instagram and Facebook and taking that on board. We haven't paid him any money yet, so unless he starts funding a war with the proceeds of the monetised side of it, then I can't see a problem right now. 

It's social media guys, get a grip. If we don't like it on Vero then we move somewhere else. You need to speak with your actions not just your words, which is why I'm supporting Vero, as a protest to Instagram about how their users are manipulated. Only this week one of my photos would not show up in a hashtag feed no matter what I did. So I posted it again and it worked the second time, I'm suspicious about the machine at work there.

Rant over, I'm trying to form some communities over on Vero and for photos with a dark aesthetic I've gone with the tag #verodark and also #darkmoody ... please join me with your dimly lit moody shots.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, I am trying to move house. Hurrah, real life stress.  Fingers crossed we hope to be running photography and music retreats from our Air bnb near Southwold. The accommodation is fantastic, a 16th century cottage with no neighbours! a big old garden which we may put a Yurt up for the more adventurous, and a music studio where you can come and be recorded, or play the drums, or have a jam with the mister. 

I'm working on my culinary skills, which will be vegetarian, and will have a house full of quirky old props that any budding still life photographers may want to come and play with. So watch this space, and facebook and Vero and Instagram, to find out when this all gets implemented. 

In the meantime, please do find me on Vero, it's just; Janice Issitt, so shouldn't be too hard to find me and.

If you want to find out more opinions on Vero then have a look at https://meandorla.co.uk/whats-the-deal-with-vero-and-is-it-worth-the-hype/

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