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Friday, 13 January 2017

Visit Venice and Vitality

It is an iconic landmark and so totally unique that everyone should visit Venice at some point in their life. However, it can sting your wallet quite considerably even if you get cheap flights and discounted hotels (as we did) as this place is expensive. It can also be a terrible temptation on the pasta and wine side if you're not careful.




I've visited this beautiful island a few times before so I was prepared for a lot of walking, and this is exactly why we chose to go as our early year treat.  January can be a hard month to get back into the swing of things, and after the over indulgence of the holidays, leave us feeling flat and fat, we decided to get over the hump and get walking.

My other half likes to walk in the Peak District despite having a dodgy leg from an accident.  Me, well I'm only interested in walking if I'm so distracted with my camera that I don't notice I'm doing it (I also like to stop for a coffee when I need one if my back is aching from carrying my really heavy camera but in Venice even that can cost a bomb if you don't watch out).

We stayed in a really great Air bnb, on a square between Rialto and San Marco, it was a large apartment and whilst it cost us roughly the same as a hotel, my main reason was to self cater.  I find that part of the experience of a place is to shop for food, all of a sudden a supermarket can be entertaining, a fruit and veg stall with unusual produce gets us quite enthusiastic to make our own meals. Simple salads bursting with flavour to accompany the most flavoursome parmesan I've ever tasted.






Like anywhere in Italy, the most basic food is top quality and the variety enormous.  The little man who stood at the fruit and veg stall in our square was there from dawn to dusk with some real rarities like black tomatoes (wow they tasted so sweet). I didn't even know what some of the things were but if you can cook and like to try new things then Italy is a great place for you. 

I think we could so easily live on tomatoes, salad, ham and cheese the parmesan and proscuto was to die for and that was just from a Co-op.  Annoyingly the amazing deli near our flat was discovered too late on the evening before we came home, a great excuse for a return trip. They sold fantastic looking olive oil, porcini mushrooms and truffle infused oil.

If you don't read the menu outside every cafe and restaurant you can be badly stung, it is not unusual to pay over 9 Euros for a coffee, and 40 Euros for two tiny portions of Gnocchi.  Yes we had a few shocks.  



I really would suggest self catering in Italy for the reasons of health and cost, and while the rest of Italy isn't as expensive as Venice, the pound against the Euro is terrible right now, so make sure you change money before you go.

We did a mixture of tourist sights but mostly tried to get off the beaten track.  The Guggenheim was stunning but cost 15 euros each to enter.  Water bus is also pricey, from the airport it is 15euros each and every individual trip is 7.50 euros each way.  You can buy a tourist pass which only run day to day, these are 20 euros for one day so I suggest you do all your water bus trips to Murano and Burano on the one day, with an evening going up the Grand Canal.





I didn't realise that it would be SO cold, it was -7 on arrival and most days it didn't get above 0 degrees, colder that Stockholm, but I felt that this had kept the hoards away, and it really wasn't too busy.  I can imagine in heat and crowds it can get very claustrophobic.

A few of my instagram friends had mentioned the bookshop Libreria Acqua Alta and it was so extraordinary it has to be seen.  The shop often floods, they have piled books in a gondola boat, a bath tub and made steps out of piles of books so you can see over the wall.
They have some nice cards and posters too.


Quite by accident, I was looking for one of the 'most beautiful churches' but instead found a vintage shop on the square behind it called L'armadio di Coco (Campo Santa Maria Nova).  They have a great selection of things, a good haul of cashmere jumpers, accessories and menswear.  On the 'beautiful churches' front, I thought that one of the best was Chiesa dei Gesuiti which is up near where the boats leave for Burano so worth doing en route. A lot of the churches charge money to get in so you may want to pick and choose which ones you visit. Pretty much they are all stunning.

We found that we ate out only at lunch times, as often we had walked so far we just needed an hour to rest and re-charge, then we enjoyed a good selection of fresh salads in the evening.  I love the way they sell rocket in Italy, just a big box full of it instead of those silly little plastic bags that we get. 

I'm not a fan of eating late in the evening and this way we could also do some gently yoga stretching at our spacious apartment to help our leg muscles from all those bridges!

While a lot of the clothes shops can be outrageously expensive, (and there are all the main designers here), the odd little independent can still be found like the little hat shop which has been there since 1901 and has beautiful bespoke hats for men and women. The owner is Guiliana Longo who sells everything from Gondolier hats to the maribou one that I bought, this miliner is a real artisan and such a sweet lady.  The shop is on a little alleyway called Calle Del Lovo near the church of San Salvador and she has proudly been making her creations here since the late '70s.



I also found a wool beret to match my blush pink cashmere jacket and leather gloves from the vintage shop, desperately trying to keep styling in the freezing cold!

I'm going to be covering Burano on another blog post as it was so photogenic, it deserves it's own space. I also still have to go through all my photos again so watch out on instagram for those and some of the snaps I took on my phone.  I will also post more photos showing some details and talking more about the colours and textures from a photographers point of view.

Visiting cities like this are right up my street, I love to explore, architecture, culture but mostly the opportunity to exercise more and eat healthy fresh food. Italy really has got all the boxes ticked for me and I really must try and get into the countryside there when it is warmer for the flip side of Italian lifestsyle. Off I pop now to www.to-tuscany.com   as the other half is now smitten with Italy and plotting our return

Until next week, ciao - Janice





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Saturday, 7 January 2017

New Year New Looks

Oh my word, doesn't the house look bare now that 12th night has swept away all our Christmas decorations. The rooms seem a bit cold and harsh without the twinkles, and I know a few people who have left the odd fairy light string up to help them through the transition.

While in Oxford recently I visited my two favourite florists who always have the unusual.  I picked up some Cypress, I think it's called Italian Cypress as it has little nuts on it and beautiful hues of lilac and yellow.  It's shape was slightly curved so I could see that it would work as a wreath.

For some time I have wanted to make a giant wreath, but I needed a hula hoop to start with.  Having tracked one down, it was flourescent pink so I gave it a coat of dark green chalk paint.

After this I wired moss to the hoop, and wound some bendy twigs over that. This gave the hoop some thickness and texture, something to weave and wire other things into it.


Another bit of home styling I've been doing, is planting bulbs in all sorts of different containers.  The signs of growth are so very cheerful - don't you think?

I had a rather unsightly space on my wall, actually I need to paint the wall but that will have to wait.  



We have a hook above this table so I have thought I may also hang the giant wreath at some point.  It is quite likely that I will change it's look through the season, I'm not sure how long the Cypress will last.  

I can't wait for all the indoor bulbs to start flowering, I've planted them in wooden troughs, china tureens, all kinds of things.

And so next week I'm off to Venice and this is my winter travel wardrobe.  I picked up a feather filled puffer jacket from Zara, I think this is one thing they are really good at, although generally the cut of their clothes doesn't work for me.

The leather look jeans are '7 for all mankind' and were in the sale at Amelie in Berkhamsted, tucked into UGG biker boots and topped off with a cashmere sweater from M&S.  I'm keeping it all black as it's easier to pack light that way, just layers as I think it's going to be pretty nippy in Venice, and comfort for the feet as there will be a lot of walking to do.  

My main form of exercise is walking around with my camera, particularly in foreign cities.  I walked so much when I went to Amsterdam and I hope to do lots in Venice too. I've got a lovely leather back pack from Agnes B which helps to distribute the weight of my very heavy camera.  

I should be back here with the photos of my exploring next week, and hope to find some gems to share with you.

Keep warm, stay safe xx love Janice


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Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy New Year from Be Home Free

Well we made it - it's the end of 2016 and phew, what a year. I'm continuing next year as I mean to go on and how I lived my life for this last 12 months.

Just before Christmas in 2015 I was feeling pretty rubbish about myself, the menopause had hit me really hard, putting on weight around my waist, hot flushes every time I moved, I felt tired, and my face was sliding south to boot.  Feeling breathless everytime I tried to do something and getting horrible sweaty at the drop of a hat.  I can remember having a sleepless night while at a friends house and all I could think of all night was - I simply have to fix this. I got up the next morning and said to Rachel, 'right, I've decided I'm getting surgery". 

They say that money can't make you happy, but having worked all my life and because my parents have died, I find that I have a good early retirement income from savvy investments I made in my youth. So while the money sitting in the bank doesn't bring any joy, it can certainly help to make life better. That night I lay in bed I decided, I'm getting my figure and my face sorted out and as soon as January started I began to hunt down and book consultations with surgeons.  

I have documented here how happy I am with the results, and looking back I have definitely done the right things, I now look how I feel, and the lipo and facelift have left me healthier and more confident, not to mention the improvement a cosmetic makeover can give your mental health.

I also travelled more, became adventurous in staying in unusual places like yurts and shepherds huts and met a lot of good people in the process.

In 2016 I also launched my own hashtag on instagram and that community is so beautiful, I am so so happy and honoured every time you join in with it.  

@sarahpcorder took all these, her gallery is gorgeous

honourable mentions to fellow cat lovers @heatheryoung @lisapocklington and @_apothecary

I also learnt that life should be lived in the present, do as much as you can every week, and the passing of all the famous people we lost this year is testament to how we can't guarantee a long future, just make the most of it now. So with the frost on the ground, the cold preparing the growth for the spring and getting the bulbs ready to wake up, it's time to think about what I want to achieve next year.


I have already made a lot of plans for 2017 so that I can keep filling this blog with recommendations and tips.  I'm already planning the next photo shoot for Reclaim magazine with the dream team of Alice and Tamsyn.  I have a trip to Venice booked as it's been years since I've been and I thought I would see how it is off season when it's cheap to fly and find an apartment. (Return flights from Luton are so cheap right now and theres a discount on Air bnb too).



My curiosity in life and eagerness to grow includes several more workshops, learning new skills in the UK and Morocco and there's going to be a report about Easter in Sweden, looking at their traditions and customs.  


I pray that my health continues to be good and that yours does too. For without it nothing is possible.  Do whatever it takes to make the improvements you want for yourself, feeling good makes you function better for those around you if nothing else. Make hay while the sun shines.

So back to #behomefree.  It was so hard to choose one winner over all, but every entry I saw from this lady was stunning, so it is with great pleasure that I announce the winner of the goody bag from The Future Kept is Sarah - @sarahpcorder on instagram.  

If my cat lady friends would also like to send me their info, perhaps the new years fairy will bring their babies a little something too.

Sincere love to all who read this, your support means so much.  And don't forget my advise - act your shoe size not your age.  Love Janice age 4 and a half.

All photos and words are copyright on this blog.
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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Urban Jungle Bloggers and Be Home Free Festive Finale 2016

It's nearly the last post of the year and I'm struggling to keep up. I'm not particularly busy, just had a nasty flu virus which started only two weeks after my face surgery. Unfortunately it travelled into my ears and I have the most awful infection which is making my head feel like a lump of wood.  

I've tried to pull some photos together for the Urban Jungle Bloggers theme of 'festive plant styling' however, my mojo got up and left days ago and I'm going through a phase of hating all my photos and styling.  Are all creatives like this, I think probably yes.

So If we are to look at our indoor greenery at this time of year then we can't neglect the festive additions of a spruce tree and the grannies classic ponsettia plant.  I think we get one just to be reminded of our mums and nans.  


The lack of light during these winter days is not helping my photo mojo either, it's pretty much too dark by 2pm.  I haven't been able to get my head together enough to work out my options.

I'm currently forcing some spring bulbs which I will need in January for an exciting photo shoot, I hope I can time it just right, if not well, I will enjoy them anyway, it's so nice to have sprouting flowers just after Christmas.


I was worried that the lack of light through the house would affect my plants, I've lost a few due to neglect while I was ill and so I've put a selection of the others in the conservatory to lap up a bit of daylight, I've even put a heater in there for them to take the chill off.  


At least I can take enormous pleasure the the #behomefree tagged photos, one lucky winner will received some surprise gifts from our favourite company "The Future Kept" and I will announce them at the end of the month, please enjoy the beauty of the following entries;

@ridasj @aquietstyle @lisapocklington @fishman1963

@sigridsminde @brigittegita

@rachelandhercoffee @kelkijojoface @peschkart @trish.sweetnellie

@tamsynmorgans @actual_pheonix @lunaa80 @alison_sadler

@ehpyle @contemporary_life @c_colli @myyellowjumper
There's still time to join with Be Home Free by tagging a photo, the winner will receive their gift in the New Year.

Here's me signing off for a short while and wishing you all peace, love and roast potatoes a plenty.

With my warmest wishes - Janice Issitt
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Sunday, 11 December 2016

Guide to getting a Tattoo - how to choose a tattooist and how to remove an unwanted tattoo

I am always getting compliments about my tattoos and the thing that most people say straight away is "they are like works of art". 

There are so many brilliant tattoo artists out there but there are some dreadful ones too who are making money off the back of the current climate of acceptance for ink.  I learnt this the hard way like a lot of people, and even tattooists themselves have one or two tattoos that they don't like.




I can't emphasise enough how important it is to choose the right artist, the one that works in the style you want. Like all artists, tattooist work in different styles, some only work in black ink, some are superb with colour (including blending shades and choosing colours which work together).  Every tattooist is different, so it is essential that you do your research before booking an appointment.

Golden rules ; never go to a tattoo parlour just because it's the nearest one to where you live, never get one on holiday when drunk, never get one because it's cheaper than the others.

So how do you choose your tattooist?  If you are thinking 'I want a tattoo but I don't know what I want' then it's probably better that you don't get one at all until you have made your mind up, thought about it for a good long while, and checked out all the artists working in that style.




I found my first decent tattooist on Pinterest of all places, her name is Amy Williams and she was working in Sheffield at the time (Amy now works in Newcastle at Cock A Snook and her name on instagram is @amybirdart).  I travelled three hours every time I went to see her sometimes staying in an Ibis overnight, it was worth every bit of effort because the work that Amy did on my leg is superb.  At the time Amy was specialising in colour work and while she still does this she has moved into black dot work, look at her feed on instagram for an idea of what I'm talking about.

All my tattooists have been women, so I investigated their work by looking at who was working at tattoo conventions, like Brighton or London, where they list all the people with a sample of their work. Here I discovered Guen Douglas (who is now in Berlin) and Angelique Houtkamp who is the owner of the famous tattoo parlour Salon Serpent in Amsterdam. 



So when you have decided what you would like and where you want it start to look around for who works in that style.  For example, if you want an all black ink botanical piece then look at the work of Rebecca Vincent who works out of Parliament Tattoo in London, where all these photos were taken.

If you want colour work with Pre-Raphaelite themes then go to someone like Tracy D (who is now in Switzerland at Built To Last, I had my arms tattooed by Tracy when she was working at Kings Cross Tattoo Parlour in London).  If you want a large piece that looks like a masterpiece in oils then have a look at Aimee Cornwell who is just outside Oxford, she has recently done a beautiful bird and cherry blossom on my leg.  Aimee works in quite a different way as she tends to work free-hand on your body and spends a lot of time drawing on you with pens to get the shape to work with your body curves. If you want words or script this is also a specialist area, so again look for someone who has done a lot of this before.

All good tattooists have a waiting list, often as much as three months and you will always have to leave a deposit to hold your booking.  These people are professional and this is how they earn a living, so treat them how you would treat any top professional.

Most tattooists have an instagram account with a gallery of their previous work, this is a good way to focus on what you want, choosing elements of things they have done before.  




Another style which looks great is the traditional small individual tattoos like sailors would collect on their travels, this style is called 'Sailor Jerry" (based on the work of an American artist). This is often something you can choose from a Flash Sheet.  A flash sheet is a pre-drawn tattoo, often on a piece of paper with many other similar style and size pieces and displayed on the walls of the tattoo parlour).  If you go to a 'walk-in' then you will most likely be choosing a piece from a flash sheet.  Not all tattoo parlours do 'walk-ins' but some like Salon Serpent in Amsterdam, have one day a week, usually Saturday, when you can wait in line and it is first come first served to get inked by the tattooists working on that day.

Many salons have guest artists, tattooist like to move around, so if one of your favourites are a bit too far away, ask if they will be guest spotting anywhere or working at a convention. If you are a collector like me, then this will be an ideal opportunity to get a small piece of flash from someone you admire.

Most good tattooists will draw your tattoo especially for you after you have emailed them your requirements. They will want to know an approximate size, where you would like it and some themes of what you want.  If they are worth their salt, they will be honest with you about what will and won't look good.  Take their advice, and have a few ideas so you can be flexible.  Don't be afraid to tell them all your requirements but do respect their opinion.

When you arrive for your appointment they will show you the drawing they have done for you and at this point you can ask for it to be bigger or smaller, or tweaked a bit. They will make a stencil from the approved drawing and between you, decide on the exact placement. They transfer the design to your skin and this is their guide of where to tattoo so that their lines are accurate. 

Parliament Tattoo in London is the loveliest parlour I have yet visited, it is large and airy and decorated in fun and cool ways, like most parlours they have collections of religious ephemera and animal skulls, but their extra touches like free biscuits and lollypops, coffee and tea, make them extra special in my book.  If you are having a larger piece requiring a few hours of work, you will probably need a sugar fix to get you through. It is a very female friendly place, with many of their tattoists being women, they even have their own clothing ranges, I bought a really cool polo neck dress with long sleeves from Mary Wyatt's latest range. They are currently making cardigans with embroidery and I simply can't wait to get one. Parliament Tattoo are a custom salon, you can find more information about them at http://www.parliamenttattoo.com/
They have a great video on their site which gives you a feel for the place and how it looks to get a tattoo.

Pain? yes there will be, some areas a lot more than others, a general rule about how painful it will be is that the nearer to a bone you get where the skin is thin, like ankles, feet, front of leg, elbows etc. the more painful it will be.  It varies, I've found that legs are more painful than arms.  If you pain is more of a concern than placement then ask your tattooist which area is best.






Hopefully if you have done your research and found your person, nothing will go wrong but there is always a risk that the lines will blur and 'blow-out'.  I have had this in a few places on my arms and it is due to several reasons.  One reason is that the tattooist has gone too deep and hard with a thick line and the ink spreads instead of staying in one place. Another reason will be your skin type and where on your body it is.  Very pale people are prone to this and particularly women, there are certain places on women's arms which are extremely likely to blur if you have that Celtic paleness.

I recently discussed this with Rebecca Vincent who has a really great understanding of this problem, so she was super careful with my latest piece and because I want it to continue up my arm we will be avoiding the hot spots for blurring.  




So, if something does go blurry, or you end up not liking a tattoo what are your options?  Well, two really, get it covered up (you have probably seen this done on the TV show tattoo fixers), but in order to cover it up convincingly you will need a much larger piece over the top.  Your other option is laser removal and I have met several tattooists who have had laser removal, because everyone will have one piece that they aren't totally happy with.

Like choosing a tattoist, choosing a laser removal specialist is just as crucial.  It is quite normal to need several sessions with the remover for the ink to disappear and there are a few different types of equipment used to do this.  It is painful and often it is harder to remove coloured ink than black ink, however the lasers which burn are more painful than the ones that use pulse light.

I recently discovered Pulse Light clinic in London  http://www.pulselightclinic.co.uk/tattoo-removal-london 

and I'm going to be booking an appointment with them to discuss the removal maybe of something and ask them if they can treat areas of blurring.

The pulse light clinic has different equipment to your usual laser removers, their pulse light machine breaks down the ink into tiny particles that can be absorbed by the body and naturally removed, it is much less invasive and at worst will leave you feeling like you have a bit of sunburn, which can be soothed with Aloe.

I would like to also see them and ask how soon after a tattoo removal can another tattoo be placed in that area, so when I have seen them I will report back here on the results.

To contact the Pulse Light Clinic and book a free consultation and patch-test you can email info@pulselightclinic.co.uk or telephone 0207 523 5158

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have and pick my brains about tattooists, I'm more than happy to help.




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Thursday, 8 December 2016

Simple Seasonal Styling

I really love Christmas, not necessarily the day itself, but the weeks leading up to it when you have carte blanche to go mad with fairy lights - guilt free.

During the lead up to the holiday I start to add natural touches first, with snippings from the hedgerows, pine cones and berries.



Regular readers will know my affinity with Sweden, sadly I haven't managed to get there this year but my blog on Swedish Christmas Markets still gets a lot of hits and my influences with how they decorate is pretty obvious.  

One of the main features of a Swedish Christmas is lights in the windows, this began as a tradition to light the pavements for passers-by in the short dark winter days. Even shops in Sweden have a candle outside their front door as a sign of welcome, and if you are having guests over then it's essential to have your outside candle lit. I would love if we did that here in the UK

The two main features of Swedish festive decorating are the star and the candleabra, both taking centre stage in the windows at this time of year. 


Some of my regular sponsors have sent me fab decorations this year to play with. There are black paper stars from Rose & Grey, simple stylish and perfect for anyone who decorates in a monochrome Scandi style. 



The large glass Christmas Tree is hollow with a lid so you can fill it with whatever you like and can be found over at One World Trading.   I thought, oh I will start with some baubles and lights and then try some other things, however, it took me a while to get all those baubles into place and I loved it so much I couldn't bear to change it.  I'd be interested to see how it looks with natural greenery clippings and cones inside.  You can buy fairly lights which run on batteries from my blog shop, this gives you the chance to have lights when your object isn't near a plug and saves having cables all over the place. 



Above my table I often hang this ring and weave ivy and berries into the willow.  It has a dish resting inside, right now I've just put candles but in a few weeks I will plant some hyacinth bulbs.

If you follow me on instagram you will have seen that we have been tarting up the front of the house. God, it's been long overdue much to my shame but the truth is that I can't do it alone and it's taken a few years for my other half to be in the right mood to go up the ladders!!



Anyway, I showed him some photos on Pinterest and said I would like some wooden facia on the roof pointy bits (technical term), and a painted front door.  I will be doing a post soon about front doors as I discovered that colours have different meanings and suspicions attached.

The final thing was to add brackets to hold window boxes upstairs and two bay trees either side of the door.  I've wanted two trees like this for so long and luckily for me, my local nursery had them really cheap, probably a third of the cost anywhere else, so I snapped them up.  They have solar powered fairy lights in them, these don't really work very well but it was my only option.  I think the front doesn't get a lot of sunlight so the solar charger never really gets charged enough. 





These little nibbles bowls are on my blog shop too, they have a lovely rustic look to them and the grey speckled colour works very well with scandinavian themes on the table.

One of my personal traditions is to go shopping in London, have afternoon tea somewhere and see the lights.  We particularly like to go around St. James (Burlington Arcade and Fortnums) and Marylebone High Street where my favourite shops all happen to be.  

To find the paper stars go to Rose & Grey at http://www.roseandgrey.co.uk/ 

For the hollow glass Christmas Tree find it at One World Trading

I'm hoping that in the next week I will be able to write a post about how to choose a tattooist, random maybe, but as someone with a lot of tattoos I get asked A LOT of questions so I thought it might be of interest to a lot of you out there.  
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