Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

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

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6 Oct 2018

Hygge with Lekto Wood Fuels

Hello October, it seems unbelievable that it's that time of year again particularly as here in the East of England, there are still some splendid days. But we know it won't last much longer and as the rain and colder days are only a matter of weeks away, then it's time to get Hygge ready especially around the fireplace.

As you may know, I've moved to East Anglia, not far from the coast to a Tudor house surrounded by farms, the juxtaposition between countryside and seaside is just perfect. We are getting used to the traffic which is basically a couple of enormous tractors going down the lane every day, sometimes we count the number of cars we see on the drive to the nearest town and watch the seasons change with the crops growing, ripening, harvesting and then preparing the soil again for another year (gosh that is really pongy when they are muck spreading but hey, it's where our food comes from). 

Coco enjoys the heat, she is one of our four rescue cats and is blind

I've been dying to try out the enormous inglenook fireplace, so was super happy when Lekto Wood Fuels asked if I wanted to try out their  heat logs. I already use their hardwood heat logs, for many sensible and practical reasons. Firstly there's no dirty insect ridden logs having to be dragged in from outside and then cut into the right shapes for the fire. Secondly, they catch fire really quickly so it's less time in the grubby grate on your hands and knees, trying to light the thing and keep it going. Best of all they produce very little mess and ashes so cleaning the aftermath is easier and less frequent.  

The heat output from the hardwood logs is much higher than with chopped wood and there are no chemical additives to the logs which are made using a high density compacted wood for longer burning and more efficient heat production. They are easier to store too.

Lekto are now selling mini packs, a box of either night briquettes as you can see here, or of the heat logs which are unpacked behind. The 20kg mini pack is great for smaller homes that don't have the storage space, so if you click here you will see how to order. The night time briquettes burn for 8 hours so will release a slow even heat all through the night, they are good for wood burners and stoves too, delivered to your door in this handy box.

white opalescent lights above the fireplace are from Rose & Grey

If you have a fire or stove and would like to try them I'm giving away one box. To enter the competition then follow Lektowoodfuels on Instagram and tag your hygge or fireplace photos with the tag #lektowoodfuels   If you don't have Instagram then comment to me on my facebook page or twitter or even here. The competition is open to  UK only.

I have a new instagram account for the Air bnb at the house, it's called Old Suffolk Cottage and if you watch this space there will be discounted rooms available during the winter for followers of my social media.

If anyone is interested in holding events at the house then please do consider us. We plan to have a Brocante next spring with some local vintage sellers and makers congregating in our garden and would love to hold some courses here where you can stay overnight if you wish. Probably sewing, knitting, creative writing and photography from me and in the music studio there is drum tuition, song writing and recording too.

Warm hugs Janice. 


18 Sep 2018

Embroidery and Inspiration

Last week I stumbled upon an embroidery workshop not far from me, it was just one of those serendipitous moments to find the last place was still open on the day course to embroider a beautiful small piece with stitchery guru Nicki Franklin. Not only that but Nicki was holding the event at the stunningly inspirational home of Rosehip In The Country antique dealers and their daughter Kate of Oyster Bridge & Co.

One would assume that the venue wasn't terribly important, being as how Nicki puts together such lovely kits for her workshops, but actually this house for me was just one on my list of 'must have' places to see, due to the fact that it has many similar challenging features as my own newly acquired Old Suffolk Cottage. The house, also listed, has been restored more to my taste than my own home if I'm to be brutally honest, but has so many similar features I knew it would help me to focus on where to go with my own restorations. 

Highly envious was I, of these stone floors, oh yes. The walls have the same open stud work in the walls as I have in my cottage. It was comforting to see the familiarity as this is quite a common feature of the old Suffolk cottages and longhouses.

Jen of Rosehip and daughter Kate of Oyster will both be at the Country Brocante being held at Daylesford Farm next weekend. It looks to be full of the creme de la creme dealers, particuarly of French finds. They also have pop up shops in this house and so I was able to do a bit of shopping after my day of embroidery with Nicki.

dried flowers from Rosehip, glass dome from Rose and Grey 
So why embroidery, well it was my first ever learnt craft, something taught to me as a child, I took it as a subject at school and even passed exams in it. I thought it would be a nice relaxing workshop as it's a subject engrained in my muscle memory, my only hold back now being my eyesight, but my results were still very nice and the joy was in the doing. 

this is the beautiful folder that Oyster Bridge Kate had made for our embroidery kits 
If this sounds like something you would be interested in then have a look at Nicki's website www.nickifranklin.com She has a studio at the location I've often used for photos, Castle Ashby, and coming up both Jen from Rosehip In The Country and Kate from Oyster Bridge and Co., will be joining her for a dried flower and gift wrapping workshop at the end of November. 


7 Sep 2018

Autumn New Beginnings

I thought it was time I made a return to my blog with an update from the last few months. As you may, or may not know, I moved to Suffolk  and we are so busy there's barely been a minute to take a photo. Half our worldly goods are still in storage while we build a big and beautiful studio in the large grounds of the new house. When I say, new house, I mean new to us that is. The house is over 500 years old and we have become the latest guardians of it's magnificent beams, some of which are so low that most people, myself not included, bash their heads on, including the other half.  

The Old Suffolk Cottage has carvings on it's beams from 1610 but it is thought to date back to hundreds of years before that. No walls or floors are straight or level, and while the house itself needs no major renovations, we have lots of plans for decorations and tweaks to the colour schemes and fixtures.  

The weather was glorious from the day we moved in so we have set to work digging some borders for flowers and clearing away overgrown areas of the grounds, especially around the small lake. The ground was very hard with the lack of rain so it was hard going, but I've managed to establish some flowers and add a splash of colour to the front of the house. I was a bit late ordering my Dahlias but I've managed a few blooms, and judging by other Dahlia fans, it's not been idea conditions for them in the UK this year.  

It's taken a few weeks but I've now got a decent cooker, a range style one but not an AGA. Mostly I've been busy on internal design and my biggest job so far was to remove the old varnish from the living room floor, with a hand sander because the boards are so warped. I've decided to leave the wood bare as every treatment I tried on it turned it an orange colour which I then had to try and remove again. 

The wood panelling around the giant inglenook has become a dark slate colour and I've highlighted the fire surround in a pale stone colour. We have trawled around many reclamation yards, found lovely old windows from a convent for the studio, and scaffold boards for shelving. 

Every weekend there has been some great event or other happening, mostly of the antique fair variety, the best being the yearly street fair in Halesworth but closely followed by the Brocante in Diss and the barn sale by new friend Liz. If you follow me on instagram then just ask me for a link to her - @lkmakes insta page for more info about her barn sales. 

Then, this week, one fine morning there was the most glorious mist, we can see for miles and miles from our cottage, just fields and fields of wild flowers and crops, with an ancient church somewhere over there in the distance. The mist brought with it an incredible dew, and just like that, there were thousands of sparkling cobwebs. I rush for my macro lens, and still in my dressing gown, spent hours in the garden desperate not to miss any of the wonder. 

One of my absolute favourite things about this part of the world, is the 'honesty box' stands of flowers and vegetables at the end of people's driveways. There's a lot of small holdings as well as farms and some experienced growers to meet and buy from. No chemicals and no carbon footprint, what could be better, and with my large kitchen and new stove, I'm getting set for some good food. There is an original bread oven here too, but more about that when I've worked out how to use it.  

At the Halesworth street antique fair, I found this cute side table and a set of Welsh studio pottery that will be getting it's own shelf in the kitchen. We also came across a shop in Harleston that was closing after being there for over a hundred years, some of it's stockroom clearance was old books from 1850 and Victorian ice skates  which we salvaged from a skip (with their permission), what an exciting find that was. 

The pumpkin bundt cakes seen above, are super delicious, they are a Nigella recipe https://www.nigella.com/recipes/pumpkin-bundt-cake  which I've not tried before and it was a triumph. Just to warn you the cake rises a lot in the oven, so don't overfill your bundt pan. I can also confirm that my new oven is great. 

This leads me onto some other news - food related - that from the October issue, I will be contributing a feature on historical food ideas in Reclaim Magazine, so hunt down a copy or order it online to see that in it's full glory. 

I kicked off a little used hashtag on instagram too which I'd love you to join me with, use #autumncloseup for anything you find that shows this seasonal shift. 

One last thing, I've been nominated for an IBA again this year, but because my blog has been dormant for a few months I'm not asking for votes, I'm in the wrong category I feel so I will leave it for another year. 

I'm not entirely sure I can commit to weekly blogging any more, and I don't want to put myself under any pressure as I don't really like competition with other bloggers when I feel that the web is big enough for all of us. Blogging is something for those who don't like the corporate world, so in the interests of sanity, I'm giving myself time to do more real life things for a while. 

Next week I'm doing a one day course in embroidery so hopefully I will be sharing some information about that in my next post. Until then, look after yourselves, and see you soon.  

17 Jun 2018

making over the sofa

And finally, I can tell you, after months of uncertainty, that I will be moving to Suffolk at the end of this month. The house we fell in love with and will be hosting an Air bed and breakfast location, is a Grade 2 listed house that is over 500 years old. 

Before we go I've had a chance to change some of my existing furniture for the new look we will be nurturing to suit the ancient beams and crooked floors. This incredible old sofa, bought at auction for very little money is having it's second transformation with me, changing the dark wood and the floral covers to a pink and grey scheme.

Naturally, I wouldn't dream of painting furniture in anything but Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, but for this piece I wanted some subtle touches to age the paintwork.  While not obviously visible, I've added some details that will notice more when you are sitting on it.

One such technique is the crackle glaze which I've used in two different ways on here. You can see some short videos on my instagram highlights of the application process. On the back rail I painted the glaze over the Antoinette pink paint and applied dark wax into the cracks.  On the main part of the sofa, I applied white wax into the cracks to lighten the overall look of the Paris Grey.

To highlight the pink colour on the carved details I've done a couple of things here. I put dark wax into the grooves and used the gilding cream in copper onto the highlights. It doesn't look too precise in these close up photos, but the overall effect from a few feet away is that the effects are aged and worn. 

I am far from being an expert in upholstery, I do it to suit myself but it is not professional in any way. I believe you are supposed to cover your nails with a braid but I don't really like this look, and I'm quite a fan of the deconstructed look anyway, so I kept it basic. The fabric was super cheap from e-bay, I don't feel that my skills warrant an expensive fabric, also the cats will bound to take their turns on the seat, and one, who shall be nameless, does like to claw at sofa arms. I found some old and aged pink velvet to cover the bolster cushions, which I have just hand sewn for now. 

I've left it in a position that it can be changed quite easily, but is totally fine to use as a seat.

Because my next home is basically a wooden framed house, with original floorboards and lots of exposed beams, I need to neutralise the wood on the furniture or it will look a bit mad in that setting.  So painting with chalk paint is the perfect solution to making all your furniture complement the ancient wooden structure while matching with the other pieces. I've bought a few French pieces so I'm making my existing furniture tie in with that and keeping to a pale palette of grey with pink touches. 

Details and links will be posted here and on instagram for when the Air bnb is up and ready for visitors, so I do hope you can come and holiday with me. I may be talking about photography, social media and interior decorating in future retreats, perhaps also collaborating with some other experts and giving guided photo walks around the area.

Bye bye to my big Florence coloured wall and Buckinghamshire and hello Suffolk long house and seaside visits. Until then, find me on instagram. 

For more information on Annie Sloan products, including the crackle glaze, brushes, the copper gilding paste, the paints and waxes go to 


25 May 2018

Cotswolds Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

yes I always wear a ruff to visit Jacobean houses

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

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

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

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

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


20 May 2018

matcha tea & blood orange bundt cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It gives me a chance to practise if nothing else. 

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

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

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

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