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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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Friday, 2 December 2016

Visit Romania part two.

I've had a struggle writing this blog post, my second about visiting Romania, because whilst this is the most breathtaking country for scenery, I really did get upset with seeing stray and injured dogs, sick and poorly cats, who had no chance of getting any vet's treatment or care.  I wasn't sure whether to mention it or not and I have been trying to get some perspective. 

We know in the UK and USA that we are crazy mad about our pets, and I'm no exception to this.  I am so cat mad it isn't true and as a wild animal rescuer I would say that this is my main passion. Back in the UK I go to ridiculous lengths to save animals every week.


I guess my point here is that for some people the animal welfare may spoil your visit. I could imagine that if I took my other half here, we would spend our whole time tracking down vets, finding food for the strays, trying to treat their wounds and ulcers and working out if we could bring all these dogs and cats home with us. We can't even drive past a sick or injured rabbit at home without taking it to the wildlife hospital. 

no this is not my other half, but a friendly shepherd with a motley selection of sheep and goats and a scraggy dog


The reality is that Romania is the most unspoilt and un-changed country in Europe, it still relies on farming with shepherds herding their flocks over the mountains as they have done for centuries. There has been very little in the way of development and the industry of wood still looks to be done in the same way, even transporting tree trunks on horse drawn carts. 

The history of poverty under previous leaderships, has resulted in a slow transition of attitude for the people.  So this authenticity of rural culture is a double edged sword, perhaps it is too much to expect that now they are in the EU they would abide by our standards of animal welfare, I can only hope that with education and charity it won't be too long.



The Bradshaw's guide for Romania written in 1913 described this area of the Carpathian mountains and Transylvania as ; snow clad granite peaks, mountain gorges, ranges of forests, delightful valleys with numerous beautiful small lakes, combine their charms in this romantic country.  Never has a country changed so little from a description written over a hundred years ago. 

It is so utterly beautiful that you cannot believe your eyes at times. It looks like a painted backdrop.  The history of the land bringing with it influences from Austria, Hungary and Turkey, having been battled over many times by these nations. Autumn seemed like the perfect time to visit with tree covered mountains in every hue from green to orange. 

The only deep scars on this land were those made during the period of 1947 to 1989 under communist control and the regime of Ceau┼čescu.
Evidence can be seen in the brutalist architecture of the tower blocks of flats which flank some cities. In some places they have preserved the old towns of red roofs and stunning architecture but it is common for even these to still have their ugly areas of concrete jungle.




One thing is for sure, this is a country of vast contrasts. Fairytale castles, palaces and peasants, chicken houses and shepherds huts. It may be our last chance to see how Europe was - once upon a time, with a sprinkle of oppression from the USSR. The old communist buildings stand out like a sore thumb, although they have some interest in their own right, others are just a carbuncle.  




I suppose my point here is 'can we have it both ways'; unspoilt like the land that time forgot but with modern views towards domesticated animals. I suppose not and perhaps it is the job of the traveller to keep perspective about differences in culture.



Tradition and regional customs are still completely untouched. Families are fairly self sufficient owning sheep, growing food, they use no pesticides and this makes Romania one of the cleanest countries in the whole of Europe. The old ways of managing land has preserved wild flowers long since lost to the rest of Europe. The small scale farming still genuinely in abundance with shepherds living on the mountains for the five summer months.



Here is a country with the largest population of wild bears, and wolves which still roam free.  So at times this place takes on the air of the Rocky Mountains too, it is truly unique. They have 6,000 bears and 3,000 wolves which has only happened because they have maintained their wilderness. 

Like other Eastern European countries there is a dichotomy between the past and the present. A country still farming the old ways which also has the internet, and so maybe they too are lacking perspective about the worth of some goods.   I am still reeling at some of the over-priced items we found, it's a shame because I like to shop but not to be taken for a fool. 

When Romania got it's freedom they had a lot of catching up to do, the EU now gives grants for new buildings and business enterprises and so the younger Romanians are ambitious and change is inevitable but at what speed anybody can guess.



The most impressive thing that I witnessed here was the landscape, I didn't get to investigate any towns but I heard from other travellers that it's not the best place for shopping, so go here to be impressed by mountains and not malls.  A perfect holiday for adults who are into photography and architecture, for people who like to travel rather than sun bathe.  I would recommend hiring a car as there are now many good Air bnbs and this gives you the freedom to stop and take photos as often as you like. Try to hunt down local craftsmen and women rather than buy in the tourist traps. Local weavers and wool spinners, leather and hide tanners seem abundant here but I was surprised not to come across any spoon carvers (I had the idea from research that fancy carved spoons were quite a popular thing). 

I hope my blog posts about the trip have given you a small taste of what you could expect to see here, just brace yourself if you are a pet owner ...
words pictures and opinions are all my own - Janice Issitt

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Sunday, 27 November 2016

Urban Jungle Bloggers - Creative Plant Pots

I am a huge supporter for the hand made and for artisan products, most especially for ceramics as it's the one area where I am absolutely useless.

I find, like most makers, I can turn my hand to a lot of artistic things; embroidery, stained glass, silversmithing, knitting, these are all areas where I can make something passable but for some reason I can't get my head round ceramics.



Do you know what I think it is?  I don't like getting my hands mucky, particularly getting clay under my nails.  Sounds a bit OCD I guess but show me an artist that doesn't get obsessive about something. 

This year I've been drawn to a particular blue glaze and planters with this colour and little feet.  It's quite an achievement to get hold of a piece of work by Stella Baggott of Atelier Stella (www.atelierstella.co.uk) whose work I first saw in one of Igor Josif's photos for Urban Jungle Bloggers.  Stella has flash sales which sell out immediately so you have to hover on her site at the time of the sale and just be super quick in snapping up these creations.  Based in Brighton, Atelier Stella can sometimes be bought at open studios and pop up shops.  

Actually these photos have a 'Brighton' theme, as most of the other things here are from the pop up open studio at 64 Sandgate (as featured in an earlier post). Which leads me nicely onto the other planter, the gorgeous round one with a turquoise glaze. The ceramists is Father Christmas's doppleganger, Chris Murphy whose instagram account is @gitagrip and you can also find him on facebook as Chris Murphy Ceramics.



I've made a garland from a branch and on this hangs some of the other pieces bought at 64 Sandgate, the felted mushroom by Emma at Sew Recycled (Emma has an etsy shop), the turquoise stars by Holly Bell (www.hollybell.co.uk), cute paper mistletoe by @apetalunfolds who also has an etsy shop under that name, and last but not least, the white china stars from Ceramic Magpie - Katie Robbins.  




The candles above are from my own online shop where you can order these from Oggetto as well as from other suppliers, I've put them in some old tin cups, an idea I got from Tamsyn when we worked on the Reclaim magazine photo shoot, the mag is still on the shelves or you can order it online.  The centre candle is another maker I love to support, The Botanical Candle Company - Amalia Apothecary.  

I hope you enjoyed meeting my favourite planters, and if you hop over to Urban Jungle Bloggers you will find links to other bloggers favourites. 

Coming soon is my second part of my Romanian trip... and more about my recovery from surgery (which is going so remarkably well I can't quite believe it).

Love as always Janice Issitt
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Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Be Home Free Christmas

The beautiful Be Home Free hashtag gallery of sumptuous photos is growing every month into a collection to be proud of.  It reflects our lives, our moments, the seasons and the every changing light. Low winter sun often burning bright but cool causing quite dramatic shadows, the shorter days pushing us inside to warm fireplaces and hot drinks.

As the blaze of autumn now lays mostly on the pavements and roadsides, the colours around us take on the brown and grey hues of winter, all the more reason to decorate our homes with greenery foraged and found. Any little pops of red are more than welcome and all of a sudden we are in the Christmas spirit.



@deborahvasspain  @jennalambdin @chloeimages

@lapinblu @atno67 @kendracastillodesigns
The winter solstice falls just one month away, on the 21st December and the combination of pagan and christian rituals become a melange of all that is good in the world.  The hoarding and sharing of food, storing up these goodies for the day of celebration, and whether your memories of this time are based on 1970's or set in the 1870's 
this is a time to be thankful for the simple things.

Decorating the home with nature get's into full swing over the next few weeks, adding to it day by day with lights, scents and sights.


@marciadefries @rebecca.kathryn @fishman1963

@hanbullivant @mandydearest   @theolivetreesandthemoon  @peonyandpraxis
Real fires crackle, hot chocolate steams, warm blankets over knees and candles lit.  Let's settle down for a few minutes of calm and look at this collection of photographers who, with a keen eye and a sensitive heart, share their moments with us at Be Home Free.


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Saturday, 19 November 2016

Rest and Recuperation - Nips and Tucks

Psst, I will let you into a little secret .. don't tell anyone but I've been for a bit of cosmetic surgery.  Currently I'm resting now for a few weeks, I have kept my diary deliberately free for the rest of the year so I can do what I have been planning and wanting to do for many years now - fix the bits of my face that have dropped with age.  

scented paper wall hanging and pure linen pillows


It seems that so many of life's realities are deemed to be taboo. Depression, menopause, body modification, you name it, there's always something we are supposed to not be talking about. But who does it help by keeping silent? It's only the fear of being judged that keeps people silent, I just wonder who are these perfect people who do the judging. 

my Ziggy sent me 'get well soon' chocolates through Morse Toad with a photo of himself on the box 

book from The Future Kept bedding by Soak and Sleep

Modern day dilemma's often seem to revolve about what other people think, but really one should only ever worry about pleasing oneself.
It is a cliche but, we only have one chance, one life, and as I turn past the 50 marker I feel that I need to be brave enough to sort out the things that bother me.  While we all want to please and be popular, I'm sure that honesty has to be a big part of what draws me to people, and I hope likewise too.

I am not enjoying growing old, there I said it, some of my friends are fine with how they have aged, I am not.  My mind still tells me I'm in my twenties, I am very exuberant about all sorts of things and enthusiastic to keep learning new skills, but I am not at all happy with some of the realities of time taking it's toll physically.

So here's the thing, I don't want to look like anyone else, I just want to look how I did a few years ago, so I've been under the knife and I want to share my experience of that for anyone who feels the same as me, because yeah, it's another one of those taboos and not saying anything is just silly.


scented wall hanging from a kit by Sarah Notes, dreamcatcher made using porcelain feathers from Ceramic Magpie
My procedure involved two nights in hospital, it's pretty horrible shaking off the general anaesthetic and the soreness in your throat from being put to sleep.  The pain of the wounds does hurt a lot, even painkillers didn't completely make it go away.  This gets less after a few days however. Now I'm just keeping calm and relaxed while I wait for the swelling to go down, this will probably take a few weeks. Also the anaesthetic makes things taste pretty awful for the first day and I found that chocolate masked it pretty well, just sucking on small pieces was very soothing and comforting. 

chocolates from Morse Toad, Linen nightshirt by Soak and Sleep on dark grey linen pillow case
I did my research pretty well in finding a surgeon, as with anything physical, be it tattoos or a tummy tuck, never never pick someone because of the price.

Despite feeling that I had thoroughly sussed out what I wanted, when it came to meeting my chosen surgeon, I discovered that not everything you read on the internet is necessarily as simple as some websites make out.  So it is best not to have a pre-conceived idea of the procedure you want, just be clear to the surgeon what you want to achieve in the long run and let him explain how to achieve it. Please have consultations with at least three different prospective surgeons to begin to get an opinion about the procedure and decide who makes the most sense to you.



pure linen bedding from Soak and Sleep

My current regime for recovery is all about the relaxation, I've been stock pilling things to do when I'm recuperating, I've got some books and magazines to read, some knitting and crochet to do and I have set up my bedroom to be calm, comfortable and very zen.

A new set of Soak and Sleep sheets were my biggest treat, and as I had to stay in hospital I also got myself the linen night-dress and robe.  If you every experience linen sheets you will never go back.
They aren't scratchy like you may think, but soft and warm, more like brushed cotton.  I particularly like the heat regulatory aspect of this material, cool in summer and warm in winter. The robe and nightdress have a very clean feel to them, and I was pleased they were cool as the hospital was so hot, also I didn't want anything fluffy. One of the nurses actually commented on my robe, she was very impressed, right before she knocked me out!  

I couldn't sleep in the hospital, but as soon as I hit the pillows back at home I was off like a baby. After surgery you have to wear a bandage bonnet thing, it is not attractive, the cat's ran away the minute they saw me, but sending a selfie to a best mate is quite hilarious.





I've been getting my linen bedding (and towels) from Soak and Sleep for quite some time now and have sets in three of the colours that they do, a pale grey, pale aqua and pale pink.  This time I also have the dark grey to use as under pillows.  Mixed up they look really good together and the fitted sheet is lovely and deep so you can get it round the corners of the mattress, something that really bugs me with fitted sheets is that some keep pinging off the corners.

Bath products and scented candles are two things that I get a bit obsessive about.  If they don't foam up or smell just right I am disgruntled.  Earlier this year I was given the opportunity to try out products from Organic Surge and was really impressed with many of their hair products but particularly the foaming bath. 
I often alternate a foamy bath with a crystal one, and for this I use the Moroccan Rose scent from The Future Kept. 

As I have some swelling and bruising I have also got myself a range of eye masks.  I spend far too much time on the computer and this can make your eyes tired and itchy, so for a quick and effective fix try a couple of the Optrex products.  The spray can be carried with you and sprayed over make-up but for a complete de-stress and un-wind try the new warming eye mask.


towels and sheets from Soak and Sleep


linen robe from Soak and Sleep, eyemask from Optrex

I have ear-marked a few things on the t.v. to watch and bought another copy of Jitterbug Perfume to read, (I first read it in the 80's and all I could remember was that it was brilliant). I sometimes remember to join with 'A Circle Of Pine Trees' for 'A Year In Books' twitter chat.  This gets my little grey cells working and remembering about books read and those still to devour. Laura who runs the hashtag has this chat once a month, the next one is 9pm Monday 5th December.  She always asks thought provoking questions and I always come away with a list of books to buy.  

If you want to order chocolates that spell out a message I can offer you a discount of 10% with Morse Toad just use the code - JANICE
at https://www.morsetoad.com/

For Soak and Sleep go to http://www.soakandsleep.com/ where you can find all kinds of bedding and bath. They often have good discount offers so sign up to their newsletter.

The scented wall hanging made of little paper flowers and gold embroidery threads was made up from a kit that Sarah Notes put together, please check my instagram feed for a link to her.  The woven baskets which keep my vitamins tidy is from my own online shop here where you can put items from different companies into your basket and just pay in one go. 

While I'm at home resting I will be curating different looks for the online shop and watching out for new lines to be added by the suppliers.  

See you next week, but in the meantime find me on instagram. All the best Janice
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Saturday, 12 November 2016

Brighton Open Studios - 64 Sandgate

My last official event of the year (as on Monday I go into hospital for a cheeky bit of cosmetic tweeking, call it a 50,000 mile MOT!) was to visit a group of artists in Brighton all exhibiting at 64 Sandgate.  This will take place for the last three weekends of November and the work there is beautiful.

The artist Philippa Stanton, better known as '5ftinf' over on instagram, has curated works of other artists and given them the opportunity to take part in a pop up shop in her home. Philippa's own work in oils is stunning and she has also reproduced her iconic instagram photos into a calendar and jigsaw.

During the open studio weeks Philippa also turns her art shed into an installation and this November it is a sensation for the olfactory sense.




Inspired by her work earlier this year with perfumiers Floris, Philippa has hidden scents in boxes and cupboards all around the shed for you to guess the smell. The overall effect to me was churches but as a lot of the scents are the kind that bring back childhood memories, the whole feeling is enormously comforting.






Of course, the whole shed is a delight of arranged objects, I love the nod to Christmas with the log cabin and snowy cards, boosted by the natural spruce branches tucked under the sofa.




I have come home with a lovely planter which I will be featuring in a future Urban Jungle Bloggers post, a stunning piece of jewellery and some cute christmas decorations which include paper mistletoe, a felted toadstool and ceramic stars, (I will be making some kind of garland from these so keep a look out on instagram).

Still time to get along and buy from the maker a gift for yourself or a loved one that is totally unique and also experience something very special in the scented shed.

You can find 5ftinf on instagram and facebook (also as 64 Sandgate).
I will be tagging some of the other artists leading up to Christmas when their items will no doubt feature in my festive faffing.

Oh yes, and me, well I will also keep you updated on my surgery over the month all being well and providing I'm not too grumpy.

Love and peace - Janice Issitt
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Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Reclaim Magazine Christmas Competition

Earlier this year, Tamsyn Morgans, Alice Roberton and myself had a brainstorm about how to create a reclaimed Christmas, using vintage props and a bit of up-cycling the result can be seen in this month's issue of the glossy magazine - Reclaim.

We had such fun playing with looks and ideas in my home, thinking of alternative items for Christmas trees and ways to display baubles and lights. Tamsyn had great ideas for wrapping presents and Alice had some pretty vintage wallpapers for making tags.






From today, the 10th November you have one week to win yourself a six month subscription to Reclaim magazine, starting from the next available issue.




Here's all you have to do - leave a comment here saying why you would like to win, or hop over to instagram, follow @reclaimmag and myself and tag a photo #reclaimmag_christmas (you can post your own photo or re-post one of mine).  

I will be picking five UK based winners after the 17th and pass your names and addresses onto the subscriptions department so they can post out your magazines.




Good luck with the competition, I think it's a fabulous offer, please tell all your friends.

Love and peace to you - Janice Issitt
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