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Sunday, 23 October 2016

What it means to Hygge - Sights, Sounds and Smells

Tis the season to get Hygge, tra la la la la. The Danish art of getting cozy has become a huge hit with the rest of the world, perhaps we were already doing it and now it has a new name, or perhaps we just needed validation for a bit of slow living from the happiest nation on Earth.

 So what is Hygge, well it's the Danish practise of getting cosy, warm and comforted, by food, fire, blankets, socks and furs. Candle light and fire light, some lovely familiar sounds and some friendly faces.

My personal Hygge revolves around the fireplace. My parents were the generation who grew up with real fires in every room and for them the daily ritual of cleaning the grate couldn't be gone too soon. They wanted everything modern and they moved from a terrace house in London to a modern semi in Hertfordshire in the 1960's, they embraced every new technology, central heating being one of them. Perhaps they wouldn't have minded cleaning the grate so much had they been burning these briquettes, the fine ash just falls through the basket and leaves hardly a speck behind, I was quite amazed. 

From my very first flat I wanted old original features, draughty sash windows, open fires with a mantle and wooden floors and for me a fireplace is a selling point to any house, and if the house didn't have one then I'm sure I would plan a way to fit an old surround to a hearth, or a wood burning stove.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not sure I could survive without the back-up of central heating in the depths of winter,  but I would really die to have a fireplace in every room.  

When I moved to this house in the country I had to compromise on a few things, and the age of the house was one. Despite looking Victorian on the outside it was actually built in the 1980's. Luckily though there was one fireplace in the lounge, and as I have discovered, it gets a bit colder here (on a hill), so the extra heat is most definitely required in winter. 

I changed the fire surround for an old cast-iron Victorian one which I found on e-bay. The chimney breast is quite narrow and so this type of mantle and basket fit the proportions perfectly, although the fire basket is quite small so it can be tricky when burning tree logs as they often come too large.  

My only problem with real wood logs is the storage and I also find that they are pretty damp when you buy them, so over the last few years I've been using eco-logs more and more. Not only are they easier to store, but also drier. I find they catch light quicker and the heat gets up faster, which on a chilly morning is quite a bonus. But there is quite a difference between the different brands of eco-logs and briquettes as I've recently discovered. Mostly in the length of burning time.

Within no time my boy Ziggy was at the scene helping me to test these birch wood logs by Lekto, and if you hop over to their website here you can find out more about how they are good for you and the environment. Not only are they a bi-product from the wood industry (using pure sawdust and bark with no added chemicals), but they are more efficient as a heat source and even the ash they produce is useful. These logs are very dense, heavy and solid all the way through, so unlike those that are hollow, these last for ages, two logs lasted me over two hours and if you tap them they come apart into smaller sections.

The Lekto fire lighters are also brilliant, I've never had a fire going so quickly, they caught alight fast and burnt without the horrible odour of those white cubes.  The logs caught from them straight away and within minutes the fire was roaring without the faff of kindling and chopping.  

Storing these is also a hellava lot easier than logs and cleaner than coal, I'm a complete convert. The wooden fire lighters are made from shavings, and they burn for 10 to 12 minutes, giving out enough flame not to need kindling or paper. They are totally free from chemicals and perfect for storing indoors as they give off no harmful fumes. 

I didn't realise that you can add the ash from these to fertilise the garden, it can also act as a slug repellent if scattered around the base of plants, it's good for growing vegetables and you can use it to melt the ice on the path.  So this year I'm going to save my ash and put it to good use elsewhere.

Hygge is about creating a warm atmosphere for you and friends, and I can't think of a better way to do this than sit around a real fire and watch flames instead of television. 

Next week I will be looking at some cool ways to bring background music to your scene and news of getting hygge in Romania in an eco lodge.  

In the meantime I've curated a shop featuring Hygge basics to make it even easier for you to get your cosy setting, see below, hope you enjoy what I've put together.


Friday, 21 October 2016

Urban Jungle Bloggers - Desert

Ha, those brilliant people at the Urban Jungle HQ have come up with another tricky theme this month, and it clearly calls for 'photos of your cacti', but as I also have some lovely skulls, I thought they would work perfectly with this theme.

Creating the vibe of a desert in Arizona doesn't exactly come easy to person living in a village in rural England, but my mini cacti collection came to the rescue.

And while I'm here, it's essential that I also tell you about their latest book, so let's get our Hygge going, as this weekend I start to talk about some ways we can do that, feet up, cozy socks, hot drink, wicked sounds, and a real fire ... oh yes and our favourite plants of course.  

Join me this weekend and next for more in depth ideas about Hygge, that danish practise of giving ourselves a warm hug. Love Janice.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Pumpkin Pie - the cheats version

As you may know by now, I am not a cook, so when I found I could cheat at making a very delicious pumpkin pie, well I thought, If I can't do that then nobody can. 

Quite frankly, I usually only buy pumpkins to feature in my photos as they make such lovely table decorations, on the odd occasion I have made soup so as not to waste them.  Apparently we throw away tons of pumpkins every year, only having used them to make halloween lanterns and such, so it is rather naughty of me to make this cheats version but if you are either rubbish at cooking, and short of time, this is a great way to produce a 'home made' desert. 

Presentation is everything, particularly if you are cheating (insert winking emoji here), so some unusual and beautiful platters, pots and dishes will make this all the more welcoming and in the true sense of Hygge.

For this cheats version you will need ; a tin of 100% natural pumpkin, (I found the baking buddy one in Waitrose), and this comes with the recipe on the can. Also needed, two eggs lightly beaten, granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves and condensed milk.  As condensed milk is very sweet I cut back on the granulated sugar and the taste was still sweet.

 I bought a ready made pastry base, the sort you use for tarts. Mix all the ingredients together, pour into the case and cook for about 40 minutes on about 180 Gas mark 4, so not to burn the crust.

The pie will set when it cools down but you need to check that its not too runny before you take it out of the oven.

That hole in mine is where I was checking if it was cooked.  The smell it filled the house with was glorious, very comforting and homely.

In true cheats fashion I also bought squirty cream and then sprinkled a bit of cinnamon on top.  When presenting the dish I put my cinnamon in a little bowl from Rose & Grey, which they had sent me to style. They also have some serving bowls in the stone look design which I quite fancy getting to match, you can find it here It's a nibbles bowl really but so lovely in colour and design, quite japanese looking, I can see it taking on many jobs in food preparation or even with a cute cactus in it.

My preparations for Hygge are now well underway, next stop get the fireside all cosy and set the scene for entertaining and welcoming in friends from the cold. 

This post is written and photographed by Janice Issitt Life & Style.

Friday, 14 October 2016

October Be Home Free

Before I dash off to Romania on retreat with 'Taking A Moment In Time', I thought I should mention that this month I will be gifting a few souvenirs of my travels to my favourite photo.

In case you are wondering I (Janice Issitt) have created a hashtag on Instagram called Be Home Free and it's open to interpretation by yourself.  Because I like to have variety on my blog I love to see photos of travels and home, landscape or shelfie, I am fascinated by it all.

Oh and in case you are wondering why I emphasise that I am Janice Issitt, well that's because my blog has been copied entirely without any changes by someone in Indonesia, having reported this I am very surprised that the blog still remains, thanks Blogger.

In celebration of Autumn/Fall I am drawn the the earthy tones and warmth of these photos, and start with my own photos taken in Paris where the leaves have started to fall and the trees are golden brown.

@melindajk @_thehouseonthehill_ @vanillalemoncake @christnagreve

@this.little.wandering @modelmother @hanbullivant @undertheplumblossomtree

@lobsterandswan @so_siehts-jinke @bramble_and_b @lazydaisyjones

I hope you can find some inspiration for your photography and home styling by following this hashtag.  I am very proud of it. Big thanks to all you regulars who join in and fingers crossed you may be the winner of a little goodie bag from Romania, expect yarn related contents. 

Happy Autumnal snappy xxx


Friday, 7 October 2016

Amelie chasing in Paris

While I probably have more affinity with the bar owner than Amelie herself, the film has become a visual map of all that is perfect and quirky in Paris. So as I don't have bones of glass this year has been led by the motto Carpe Diem, do everything you can before times runs out. We pass the time of day to forget how time passes.

My other half has written a song with a friend and singer, called 'An American In Paris" and so I hunted down the cheaper seats on the Eurostar and a low price Air bnb so we could walk and film in the steps of Amelie and beyond. 

My recommendations for catching some of the films most iconic locations will take you on a most romantic trail, away from the main streets and the obvious sights.   Start your journey at the Metro station Lamarck Caulaincourt and find yourself immersed in Amelie country.

At Lamarck Metro station, with the double staircase either side, take these stairs up and head towards Place Dalida, the cobbled street going up will take you to the pink and green cafe on the corner of Rue St Vincent, this is where our film starts with the buzzy bluebottle. Stop and have a coffee or beer at the prettiest Cafe, La Maison Rose.

As you follow the winding streets up hill there is so much to entertain, passing by the square where the artists sell their work, until you reach the Sacre Couer. Perhaps use the telescope to look for love, or just stand and wonder how many people are having an orgasm this this precise moment.

We took the steps down at the front of the Sacre Couer and explored the area below, not forgetting to look along the Rue De Trois Freres for Amelies flat.

I like to look for things no-one else catches.

I have had a slight obsession with the Metropolitain line stations since I was a child, my first love was the Art Nouveau movement, I copied drawings and shapes, the fluid lines and swirls, and oh, shouldn't every railway station have a canopy so stylish.  The Metro station Abbesses should also be your destination on the Amelie trail. 

The most important destination however, is the Rue Lepic and the iconic cafe where our heroine works. The Cafe des deux Moulins.

 We stayed a while, drank some Kir, watched couples and film fans, and I can thoroughly recommend the steak and chips, but if you are a true Amelie fan then you must order a creme brulee so you can crack the sugar with your spoon.

 There were so many places I didn't have time to find, the green grocers, the Gare de l'Est, the Canal Saint Martin and the Pont des Arts, although as the Eurostar pulls in at the Gare de Nord you can almost begin the adventure as soon as you arrive.

Amelie[to blind man] Let me help you. Step down. Here we go! The drum major's widow! She's worn his coat since the day he died. The horse's head has lost an ear! That's the florist laughing. He has crinkly eyes. In the bakery window, lollipops. Smell that! They're giving out melon slices! Sugarplum, ice cream! We're passing the park butcher. Ham, 79 francs. Spareribs, 45! Now the cheese shop. Picadors are 12.90. Cabecaus 23.50. A baby's watching a dog that's watching the chickens. Now we're at the kiosk by the metro. I'll leave you here. Bye!

If I manage a trip over to France with the car I am going to seek out the seats which adorn the pavements outside every Cafe, some are such beautiful colours and even accessorised by the plants.

 I'm sure this city looks good in every season, I really want to return for Spring but I do love the golden tones of October and with some last days of sun.

Whatever you do, don't get tired as you simply have to see Paris by night, no trip is complete without a glimpse of the Eiffel turning twinkly on the hour ... the sky can also provide some lovely surprises to this scene, like the half moon hanging like a christmas ornament from the Eiffel's searchlight beams.

 Life's funny. To a kid, time always drags. Suddenly you're fifty. All that's left of your childhood... fits in a rusty little box.

postcard from Janice Issitt


Monday, 3 October 2016

Heinz Beans Can #cansong

My first mini movie is the #cansong which my friends daughter learnt and wanted me to record her and her singer Dad performing.

If you like our version, please go to instagram and watch it there so we stay high in the ratings. My instagram account is JaniceIssitt_life_style. (

Heres our video ... I haven't worked out how to upload a large high resolution version yet, so bear with me ...


Friday, 30 September 2016

Canon 5D MK IV camera chat

I'm not a gadget freak, or a follower of the latest models and updates, I generally try to keep up to date as much as it concerns what I do but techno babble bores me senseless, so here's my rough guide to my new camera for those out there who need to cut through the bullshit and just take cool arty photos. (Also it has a 600 page booklet ... hello !!!)

It started with me thinking about getting a new lens for the Canon 5D MKII, to wondering if I should get a second hand Mark III body, to then discovering that there is now a Mark IV model, which just came out in August.  The other half said, well why don't you watch some reviews comparing the models on youtube ... oh my word, now there's a whole other topic to talk about.  

Apparently to be a camera reviewer on youtube you need to wear a baseball cap, and blurt out as much technical babble in a short amount of time as possible. The assumption being that you already know what all the abbreviations mean and this is what rocks your world.  I seriously think that photographers are split in two camps, those who revel in the new technical specs and those who just want to reproduce the beautiful images they see in their mind. These are two quite different beasts, and without appearing sexist, I do think that gender has a lot to do with it.  

Don't get me wrong, all the women photographers I know definitely know how to use their cameras, and get pretty excited when they buy new tripods and lenses as I do.  But generally we don't tend to rant on about f-stops and AF (auto focus) points, we just like to cut to the chase and say how the technical improvements affect us in our work. When talking pictures we are more likely to discuss how we make a composition and work with natural light, and how different locations lend themselves to different styles of photo.

I think the main thing that swung me into wanting this new camera is that it has a large screen on the back, this can be switched onto live mode so you can see what you would normally see through the viewfinder before taking the photo.  This is hugely helpful when you are setting up the right position for the tri-pod.  Then the very best thing of all, you can touch the screen to focus and take a photo, thus altering the points of focus quickly and accurately.

My eyesight has got pretty bad over the last ten years, it was perfect all my life and after 45 it just started to go, age related. I find it really frustrating trying to get sharp pictures but no longer have the stress wondering, as this camera can be relied on to get it perfect.  Also it has wifi, so you can also view what's going on in the camera, on your laptop and even take photos from the laptop remotely. This is something I will do in future when working with a team, so my stylist can see what the final photo will look like.

These 5D's work so well in low light and this new model has improved that even further. It's got more pixels blah blah, but all we want to know is how it handles the light in dark moody still life etc. The answer to that is incredibly.

Before even looking at the booklet I just popped the battery in and after finding where the new position is for the on/off, just started.  I sussed out where the button for the live screen is and it took a few minutes for it to sink in that the screen is now touch sensitive, it was like a revelation. I kept reducing the light and it just coped brilliantly, in fact it didn't go dark enough for me, but I need to mess about with the aperture and speed for this rather than using auto.

Day two, I have decided to start making videos and one of the things raved about by the baseball cap wearing geeks, was the quality of the videos shot on this camera. Not only is the quality incredible but the ease in which you can switch onto video mode. So I made some footage of a singer I'm working with and tested it out on a few simple clips. I made a few basic mistakes by shooting portrait and not landscape (so I had to flip the footage in editing), and I tried hand held filming which for this was simply not right.

To switch over to video mode you just move the 'live view' switch round and use the touch screen to focus.  It did an amazing thing, it has face recognition, so when the singer moved around it followed his face to keep it in focus, my word, is there anything this Mark IV can't do.

I bought the camera with a lens, a 24-70 as I didn't have one of these, as an interiors photographer you often need to go slightly wide angle, but have to be careful not to warp perspective too much. A 70 is lovely for portrait so this lens covers both my needs.

Day three we took the new 5D out for a walk and just shot some random footage outdoors so I could try it in a few different situations, I still need to get used to the auto focus through the viewfinder as it is a different system and can be adapted in different situations, thats a whole section of booklet I need to read. 

This weekend I'm going to make a fun short video with my friends as a test, I also need to practise how to edit, a skill I will be working on over Christmas. We are then off to Paris for more filming and photos and I have another singer lined up to shoot a video with too, so I had better get my act together.

Just one warning though, if you are updating to a new camera chances are you will need to update some of your other stuff too. Pain in the arse but my perfectly good laptop is too old to take the software needed to edit videos from this camera, so I now need a new laptop and the latest versions of i-movie and Final Cut Pro to edit the footage. I'm going to try both and see what I think of them. I've used i-movie before but it may be a bit too basic for my needs now.

If my weekend project works out I will be posting it here and on instagram.  In the future I want to make more little films, and maybe some tutorials too about crafts and diy. I hope my regular readers will find these entertaining.

Next week I will have some cool photos of Paris and some places to recommend, until then, au revoir. 
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