Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

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

Big This Week

Recent Posts

Friday, 20 October 2017

Getting All Hygge again

It's that time of year again - let's all get that Hygge feeling !
So here's my top 5 tips of the best ways to do that Danish cozy thing that we have all embraced so heartily.

Number One ; Real Fires

For me there is only one option for a good and eco friendly fire, and that's products from Lekto Wood Fuels, who make all their bricks and fire lighters from the unused wood shavings that normally get thrown away.

The British company Lekto have been making their wood fuel for over twenty years, and they are suitable for open fires, multi-fuel burners, and firewood stoves. I can confirm that their wood wool fire lighters catch super fast, as do the briquettes, yet their burning time is good and they leave virtually no mess behind in the grate. It will save you so much time in cleaning out the ashes, are clean and dry and very easy to store. 

Number two; wool bedding 

It's been a revelation to me, as I'd simply never heard of wool bedding until last year, but again, this British Company WoolRoom have found a chemical free, totally natural way to keep warm and cozy in the winter, and cool in the summer with duvets, pillows, mattress protectors, toppers and more; all made from british wool or alpaca fibres, encased in natural cotton.

The natural wool sleep products are good for those with allergies and made without harming any animals.

Literally every time I change the bedding my Ziggy is there like a shot, padding and purring and snuggling up, he is the biggest fan of wool bedding, and we all know that cat's are excellent at choosing the most comfortable place to sleep.

I do appreciate that allergy sufferers are horrified that my cat's sleep in my bed, but with the help of a good pet hoover, we can all snuggle down together and they make good hot water bottles when you're feet are cold.

Number Three ; Candles

Hands up who else is obsessed with candles, for me particularly scented ones and beeswax ones. Find them hand poured into lovely old containers, or make your own by melting church candles into pretty cut glass bowls.  

Make sure you are safe with naked flames, so find a lovely candle shelter like the one here from Rose & Grey.

Number four ; cushions and rugs

Whether it's lovely Moroccan Berber or fur, rugs not only look cozy but also great under foot by the sofa or fireside.

Change your summer cushions and rugs over from cottons to wools, from linens to furs, it's time to get the Scandi chic vibe going in time for the cold season.

Number five ; warm food and hot drinks ... 

Whether it's a hot milky drink, a root vegetable soup or just your morning porridge, keep it health and comforting and get that warm glow on the inside as well as the outside. 

Last but by no means least, get yourself some lovely hand knits, or better still learn to knit and make a chunky sweater or just hat and gloves, real wool is breathable unlike acrylics and often hard to find in knitwear on the high street, and by making items yourself, you get to choose the wool and colour from a much larger range. 

I've got a fancy for a lovely ochre, mustard coloured jumper but not sure I have the time to knit the whole thing, so keeping my eyes peeled with some of my favourite clothing brands.  Be sure to watch out on Instagram for some of my winter looks. 

Love Janice x


Saturday, 14 October 2017

Annie Sloan, Oxfam and new colour Lem Lem

This weekend sees the launch of a limited edition colour of Annie Sloan's chalk paint.  This fresh green is called Lem Lem and has been inspired and created in conjunction with Oxfam and Annie's visit to Ethiopia. Delighted to be given the chance to try out this new colour, I set about hunting down the perfect thing to paint. 

As the colour is based on the green fields of Alliums at the Ethiopian Seed Project, and the word means 'to flourish', I knew I wanted to do something with plants.  After a few days hunting the charity shops in my area I finally found the perfect thing, and taking the idea from my Reclaim magazine shoot about botanicals, I spotted that this chair had the perfect recess when the seat was removed.

The chair was £7.50 as the seat cushion had degraded so much, but I could straight away see that the cushion would not be used as the handy storage area under the seat would make a perfect hole for planting.

My intentions with this chair are that it could be inside or outside, the succulents are a mixture of both indoor and outdoor ones, and I think that during these cooler months, this would work perfectly in a conservatory.  It's a great way of grouping plants together as well, and if outside, the back of the chair gives some shelter.

The fresh natural colour of Lem Lem is just so perfect, inspired by plants, it tones so well, and becomes an organic object in it's own right.

If you want to see how others have used it then follow the tag #anniesloanandoxfam and you can see some fabulous videos on Annie's facebook page of her visit to Ethiopia.

Every pot of Lem Lem sold will raise money for Oxfam GB, so head down to your local stockists or order online from Annie Sloan Home direct, (if you click on that link it will go straight to Lem Lem).


Saturday, 30 September 2017

Pumpkin Perfection

When I visited my local pumpkin farm today I let out a little squeal of delight at the sight of them all. I have no idea why they make me so happy, but I just love them. As a consequence I end up with quite a lot of them in my house as decorations (and I don't mean just for halloween either), but I do really need to start eating them more too.

I'm not much of a cook but I am trying to eat more healthily and prepare more things from scratch so this month I've been experimenting a bit with raw ingredients, pumpkins and squash being one of them.  So what is the difference between a pumpkin and a squash? well nothing really, the pumpkin is a type of squash, but they are all from the same family, so I thought I'd try and identify the different varieties but honestly, it's impossible, there are just so many.

With names like Aladdin, Cinderella, Cotton Candy, Halloween In Paris, Fairytale, Jack-be-little, Charisma and Full Moon, I have seen more than fifty types of pumpkin listed and that's separate from squash, which itself has so many types, there are Turban, Acorn, Blue Ballet, Orange Dawn, Pink Banana and so on. 

My first stop, recipe wise, is always soup, just in time for the colder days, the pumpkin is such a good base for a thick and nourishing soup, and I'm also partial to the colour, it's so appealing. Sometimes I mix it with other vegetables that I may have around, but generally I stick to just frying up an onion, chopping the squash (I wish the skin wasn't so hard to get through, the arguments we have had here over whether it's worth the hard work!), and then adding them to a bit pot with water and stock cube.  I like it really thick so I watch how much water I add. As I recently commented on instagram, I think I need to get one of those wand blender stick things to smooth it out a bit perhaps. Finish off with a big dollop of creme fraiche and a large slice of artisan bread.

This pumpkin farm is very close to where I live in Buckinghamshire, they are called, "Farmer Paul's Pumpkins" just outside of Aylesbury and they open in late September ready for the Halloween season. Paul's wife told me that a great recipe is to use the pumpkin as a cooking pot, take the top off, remove the seeds and fill it with cooked lamb mince and onions. Bake in the oven and then when you serve the orange flesh can be scooped out at the same time as the meat, having been infused with the meat juices and flavours, it will come away from the skin nice and soft.

If like me, you struggle with the chopping and peeling then perhaps you should try roasting it first, cut in half, remove seeds and drizzle with oil. 

Last year I had a bash at making pumpkin pie. You hear so much about it from American tv and film, but you don't see it so much here in the UK. I cheated and bought tinned puree, which only seems to be on the shelves here for a few weeks, so I've looked up how to make the puree filling from scratch.

You may want to google up how to do this, as I'm sure there are many different ways, and I wonder if we can get the same ingredients in the UK. I saw a recipe that says to get a 'sugar pumpkin' and I'm not sure we have those so commonly, cut in half, remove seeds and rub the skin with oil (recipe suggests canola oil which in the UK we call Rapeseed oil). 

So roast it the same as for most other recipes, then put the flesh in a blender, make it nice and smooth and mix with ;

Condensed milk, sugar, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves. Some recipes suggest molasses, lemon zest and cornstarch but I thinks it's probably good to experiment, I've also seen one that adds stem ginger.

Put the mixture into a pastry case and bake slowly until it is set, it could take one hour. 

I'm a fan of sweet and savoury mixtures so this appeals to me and I think I will follow a recipe that uses less sugar or molasses than the others. I've also seen one that suggests to steam the pumpkin instead of roasting it and this way it also comes away from the skin, (cut it into sections first).

Aside from soup, or as a roast vegetable accompaniment, this sweet to savoury ingredient is also great in rissotto, tagine, curry, cake, and on a savoury tart.

Do you have a favourite recipe for pumpkin then do let me know over on instagram. I've turned off comments on this blog due to high levels of spam but I'm sure you can find me on facebook or twitter too.

Wishing you and your pumpkins a happy autumn. 


Saturday, 23 September 2017

French Interior Style - from my LUSH getaway

My recent week in the South West of France was spent at the most immaculately decorated 17th Century Manor, a place that I hope will not only be an influence for decorating in my next home, but also in yours.  So I've picked up a few key ideas and flavours for us to look at in terms of getting ideas of what to look out for if you go to France or even if you are just buying off the internet.

Mirrors and walls ... to add depth and contrast in any room, mirrors will play a key role in arranging the light. Using them to bounce natural light around is something I always do and I also find that mirrors come in such a variety of frames that they can make the eye move around an area.  Place one near a window and have it central to some pictures or wall sconces as above gives a focal point to this grouping (on this fabulous rough plaster/painted wall in pale pinky peach colour).  Group them together, making the spacing just right, I am completely in love with these small mirrors placed around the larger one and hope I can find a place to do this in my next house.

Old magazines are a great thing to watch out for on your travels, either keep a pile on the coffee table or use them as wallpaper in a small area like the toilet. They are lightweight and non-breakable too so can be carried back in luggage so easily.

Using colours in a different way. I found this manor has some interesting choices of colour combinations, ones that I wouldn't have thought of but will make me explore more.  Using dark paint instead of white gloss on frames and window ledges to continue a colour theme in a room, like here where they have stuck to a black and white wallpaper in the cloakroom and carried it through to the printed pages of magazines in the toilet.

Lighting - I find this the hardest thing to find. You will need a good ceiling height for a French chandelier of this size, however the overhead light does need to be in proportion to the room dimensions, so avoid a small ceiling light in a big room or it will look ridiculous. If you don't have original features like this ceiling rose, these can easily be added. There are still plenty of shops around selling plaster roses and coving which set off the central pendant light just perfectly.

French lace curtains are unlike any others. Forget the nylon nets that your grandma had and hunt down the cotton crochet ones which can still be found in French markets and on ebay. They are often really long for those tall French windows and can work perfectly as door curtains or to soften a wall arch. The ones below aren't exactly like this but do have a lovely lace trim and are beautiful for diffusing the light.

French beds are to die for but not that easy to track down or to make work. It's often possible to find the bedhead and foot board which you will need to set around your own bed base. Often with embroidered tapestry or like here, with rattan. Simple embroidered bedspread can be either an original one or maybe use a large table cloth as a cover for a light fresh look.

Another use for an embroidered table cloth is to cover an old bed head, or make your own from doilies and sheets, then fit it over your existing head board. A simple cover can transform a room. 

Keep a look out for interesting items to collect, like these soda syphons in the prettiest colours. Arrange with dried flowers or simple branches.

 You may have seen our feature in Reclaim magazine about re-purposing inside furniture to the outside. I had to smile when I saw this old cast iron oven being used as an outside table, the patina and rust working so perfectly with the stone walls.

At the Brantome Manor, every room was decorated differently and I'm so happy with the one I was given. Kim must have know that with it's unusual colour combinations of pale yellow and green, with stencilling of white roses in a few places, this is just my kind of room. I also loved that the beams were painted white and the furniture was something to be coveted.

It also showed me that rugs can take on a different look depending how you use them. Taken in isolation I would not have picked this green rug, nor overlayed it with another smaller one, but on the old wood floors and the way they were teamed up with the walls and furniture, it works so well. I will definitely broaden my outlook to old rugs from now on. If you choose one with a lot of pattern though, make sure you keep the rest of the room plain as nothing shouts Granny more than too many patterns.

Here's the links for Lush Getaways and if you are in the USA for Mignonne Decor in San Francisco where you can find help to track down French inspired pieces, some vintage accents and designer chairs.

Happy antiquing x


Saturday, 16 September 2017

Lush Getaways to France part two

I hope you enjoyed my overview of the LUSH Getaways week in the French countryside, there's so much to say I've decided to break it down into several blog posts, so here is part two where I'm going to give you more information and links.

So, let's talk a bit about how to get there. The group who came to this week of French cuisine had flown from all over the world, mostly from the USA and myself from the UK. The cute little town of Brantome sits on the river and is postcard perfect with it's old buildings and isn't over-run with tourists and touristy shops, so you really can get a feel for true French life, it's slow pace of shopping for quality ingredients for meals is just one aspect of the French style.

some fun times and conversations were had under this porch of an evening.

Part of the reason it isn't spoilt is probably transport related as it's not right on top of an airport or main station. So for our little group we found that flying into Paris then catching the reliable and efficient train to Angouleme was the way to do it, with  LUSH transport picking us up from the station at Angouleme. If you fly in from the USA I would advise having a break in Paris to rest up and adjust to the time difference a few days before. You can catch the direct train from both Paris central and the airport at CDG.

While this region is not the easiest to reach on your own, with Lush providing transport it opens up the possibilities to investigate more interesting places, and unlike some 'escorted' trips, you don't feel herded around like a tourist sheep. This is important to note, because having done both types of holiday there are some really big differences here with LUSH. First it's personal, Kim and Johnelle are showing you what they love, what they have discovered and they invite you to share a slice of their life in this beautiful region.

Secondly, accommodation! I'm so bored with hotels, and having spent so much of my life making my home full of the things I love, I don't really want to spend a week in somewhere uninspiring and bland. When Kim discovered this mansion in her town, she managed to convince the owner to let us 'borrow' it for a few weeks, so in a nutshell, you can only stay there if you join with Lush, this isn't some homogenised version of a French Manor, it's the real deal.

The second you arrive at this stunning house you feel the stresses and strains of life wash away with your first cocktail in the garden. Hello, it's Apero time! There is a lovely welcome basket in your room with your Lush apron, snacks, soap and wine.

Brantome market

The itinerary for the week was planned to include flexible activities such as canoeing and yoga, with plenty of time to do your own thing. The manor is central to the town so it's easy to walk and mooch at your own pace and make your own discoveries, like the tea room with book shop and garden run by a lovely English gentleman. 

Our own personal yoga and massage guru Janet was on hand for classes and treatments every day which could be slotted in during the trips out to visit other towns and vineyards. This and cooking classes were held at the manor with your choice to join or do your own thing.

chopping techniques were covered as part of the classes

On Monday evening we headed to the town square of Bourdeilles for their regular knees up of live music and a bbq with the locals. The Cafe De La Halle is built up against the huge stone walls of the castle and we sat in it's presence while the full moon rose above us and the traditional music romanced us to the small hours. 

our beautiful garden at the manor

The following day we met local French chef (and accomplished painter) Christophe Dupuy, owner of the beautiful local hotel and restaurant 'Les Jardins  du Brantome' and he led our group, including Chefs Aby and Justin, around the market and shops before taking us to his kitchen for a demonstration in how to prepare our own starter with simple ingredients. We were able to explore his lovely herb garden, sniffing and touching our way through the greenery and flowers until we sat in the shade of the trees to be served several more courses for lunch. 

You may have seen my live feed in Instagram stories, as next day Justin showed us how to make the perfect omelette before we jumped in our Lush bus to explore some flea market shops and have a mooch around the prettiest town of Perigeux where I found a plant shop that had it's own bar, beer and plants, only in France !

Justin having a good rummage in the herb garden
The drive to the wine region gave us the chance to see the lovely countryside and before long we started to see more and more fields of grape vines, an indication that we were getting close to the vintners. First stop was the beautiful Chateaux which produces the wine Montbazillac, a quick look around, some lunch and then off to the second winery of Vignoble des Verdots. I can thoroughly recommend this small producer, particularly for their Merlot, it's a family business who make their wine with true love, and you can taste it in every glass, even their lowest price bottle is smooth as velvet and an exceptional price.

wine made with love and by hand when the moon is just right 

markets of produce and farm made ingredients

shutters and geraniums couldn't be more French

After this we headed to the town of Issigeac, one which I really want to go back to, a couple of hours from Brantome, oh my, it's so beautiful with some great shops. They were having an outdoor food festival in the evening so we stayed on and chose our own meal from one of the stalls which surrounded the square. French sausage, moules, grilled cheeses, and many more washed down with local beer or wine, although I opted for a Pernod, when in Rome! 

the back streets of Bourdeilles
Our week flew by, it was packed full of interesting things to do while managing to feel relaxed at the same time. A perfect retreat for couples and singles alike. One of my favourite things was to hear Abigail and Justin talk about how they had prepared our food. I've never met anyone who can speak about food so passionately as Abigail, she weaves her enthusiasm and draws you in to see how the sharing of food with good people is the spice of life. I didn't realise until I listened to our three chefs, that food could be so sexy. 

My favourite dishes, hard to choose, but I'm still dreaming of the risotto that disappeared far to quickly from my plate in a whirlwind of amazing courses. 

To sample the cooking of our chefs during the rest of the year you can find them here ; 

Christophe Dupuy - http://www.lesjardinsdebrantome.com/en/rooms/ for food and accommodation in Brantome. (Also check out his art exhibition).

Abigail Hitchcock - not far from Greenwich Village at https://www.camaje.com/visit/

Justin Wright will be working from a new venue soon, find him at The Almanac Beer Company in San Francisco.

Janet DeHart - Yoga and Bodywork http://www.dehartbodywork.com
San Francisco

To secure a place for next year hop over to https://www.lush-getaways.com

On my next post I will be looking at the Manor house interior as a template for creating the French look.

Blog Design Created by pipdig