Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

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

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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. 


14 May 2018

lilac, green and copper

oh my friggin gosh (pardon my toned down swearing) but its been ages since I've been able to blog and it's driving me nuts. Reasons; well trying to locate to Suffolk isn't going smoothly. Firstly I bought furniture for a house that I really want and packed my belongings into boxes, ok another story, so I had a house full of boxes and large furniture and we couldn't move or do anything.

Secondly, as you do, I arranged for the broadband to be cut off. Three weeks of no broadband, going to cafes and friends houses and we caved in and had to get a new contract out to re-connect with the living world.

So I've moved all my stuff into storage so at least my stuff is living in Suffolk even though I'm stuck in limbo land trying to tie up contracts.

Anyway, now with a bit of space and wifi, I can at least update here a little bit. I've been decorating and coming up with ideas of new looks for the next house, you can see some of my inspiration on pinterest where you will also see that my banner is crushing on the lilac green theme as well. 

You may remember my bath that I made over using Annie Sloan products. I decided to add more copper leaf to it. To gild any object is super easy, you need to get something called 'gold size' strange name I know, but it basically glue.

You paint the 'size' glue on, wait until it turns clear and then press your leaves of silver, gold or copper onto it. Brush away the excess.  Leaves come in the three metallic shades and are either stuck to a backing or loose.  To be honest, the ones that are attached to a backing paper are much easier to handle.

I also thought about trying matcha tea. I bought some at the wonderful Daylesford Farm Shop. My first attempt to use it was as a latte made with almond milk. Unfortunately the taste wasn't great, although it looks ok in photos. I maybe will try using it differently next time, (not the fault of the tea, more of my ineptitude).

I hope to be doing a big re-launch in a month or so, and perhaps manage to blog in between.  Until then please find me on instagram or facebook. I really appreciate your understanding.

On a personal note, my very dear friend Ben passed away this week, he was an incredibly talented soul who I met when he was playing with the band Miranda Sex Garden. The world is slight less interesting for the loss of him and Ben, wherever you are, I miss you already. 

Love to all, hold your loved ones tight. x


26 Mar 2018

rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb

What's the big deal with rhubarb then. Well firstly it's in the shops right now in March, although it's probably forced in hot houses, so I'm not entirely sure if it's seasonal or not.  This humble vegetable, yes you read that right, it's a veg and not a fruit (which I say with an element of surprise because that hadn't occurred to me before), is packed full of goodness.

A few facts about why you need to get cooking with these beautiful long stems of ruby. It's low in fat, low in calories, cholesterol free (my main reason), and high in fibre. Rhubarb also contains as much calcium as a glass of milk, (great for the vegans then)and also has vitamin A and potassium. Unfortunately because it is 'tart'to taste, it's easy to overdo the sugar, so I've tried to hold back on that and using brown sugar with stevia in it to reduce the calories. 

I've tried a few recipes to see how to get some variety but I'm not going to post those here, I just googled up some ideas and what you can see here is a galette and some 'biscuits'. The galette was perfect, so just find yourself a recipe for the pastry and then add the rhubarb. It seems like a good idea, according to most recipes,  to soak the cut rhubarb in some juice and a bit of sugar, although I'm not entirely sure what difference that makes. When you place it on the galette pastry don't include the liquid though. As the stalks are nice and firm, you can cut and arrange in lovely patterns. I sprinkled a bit of sugar and cinnamon on the rhubarb and pressed some flaked almonds onto the pastry crust. 

 The 'biscuits' weren't such a success story, I followed a recipe but something wasn't quite right on my part, they were basically sponge cupcakes without the paper case. All was not lost, I stewed the remaining stalks and then did a chef kinda styling thing with the soft biscuits, piling them up and placing the remaining stalks on top. To keep it healthy, I topped it off with a chocolate soya desert. It occurred to me that these soft biscuits would actually make a good alternative to a trifle type layered desert. 

As a novice I'm still experimenting a lot, and finding inspiration on instagram and vero from those much better than myself.

Here's some cool cooking blogs to check out ;
Figs and Pigs, who also sell kitchenalia www.figsandpigs.com and have so many mouthwatering recipes I don't know where to start.

For a much more sophisticated tart than mine check out https://www.twiggstudios.com/2018/03/rhubarb-lemon-rosemary-tart/ which might just be the next thing I try, the photos on both these blogs are really beautiful too. 

Because I'm cutting down on cholesterol I replace butter with benecol, which may well mean that the pastry isn't anything like it should be, but it tastes fine to me and the mister. 

So that's all I've managed to get up to recently while I'm waiting to relocate to my new base in Suffolk. My old suffolk cottage will be an Air bnb if all goes well so watch out if you want a lovely weekend break near Southwold. 

Love and rhubarb x


9 Mar 2018

amazing bundts and I cannot lie

I've got to be honest, until a few weeks ago I had no idea what a bundt cake was. I kept seeing these fantastic shaped, highly photogenic, cakes on instagram and vero, which after closer inspection, turned out to be this cake called bundt.

It seems, from what I can find, that a bundt cake is not any particular recipe, but just one cooked in a bundt pan, or tin. I think the tins are beautiful and as I do love a bit of kitchenalia, may have to get a few. Based on a European Gugelhupf, a bundt is more about the shape, always in a ring, with fluted sides. 

I followed the recipe I mentioned in my previous post, from eighty20nutrition for Rose and Pistachio bundt cake,  although I didn't have the dried ligonberry powder or the rose petals, but instead found some freeze dried raspberry bits. I do think the lingonberry powder sounds lovely, so may have to treat my baking cupboard to a jar.

I also had a bit of a mis-hap with the rose essence, and perhaps will be sure not to overdo it next time. 

The topping is a bit naughty but incredibly tasty, not too sweet and adds to an already moist and fluffy cake. It uses coconut cream which opened up a whole debate over whether coconut oil is good or bad for cholesterol. My good friends on instagram/vero - Alternative Ageing (who is a nutritionist) and Jax both sent me links about how,  although coconut oil is high in saturated fat, it does not create bad cholesterol. If you look on the 'Trust Me, I'm A Doctor' website, you will see that in tests the group who had coconut oil had no increase in the bad cholesterol, just a minor drop in it. 

So, while I'd been googling about whether I should or should not have coconut oil, some of the reports were not entirely accurate.

Back to this gorgeous recipe, the great thing about the coconut cream is how it stays looking perfect and doesn't sink into the cake and it also gives a lovely look to the decoration, running exactly where it is poured. The ingredients are free from flour as the recipe is nutritionally very good, containing dates, ground almonds, olive oil, apple cider vinegar ... so many good whole food ingredients. See the site http://eighty20nutrition.com 

I can honestly say this is one of the most delicious cakes I've ever tasted, even after a few days it was still moist. I'm actually not a lover of cake normally, I find it too sweet and I don't want to consume butter and sugar in large quantities. If you are looking for a healthy alternative to normal cake then this is the one for you.

I also think that the shape of the bundt lends itself perfectly to decoration, fill the centre with fruits and sprinkle nuts and dried fruits on top of the coconut cream.  

I've got my eyes on a bundt recipe using blueberries and yoghurt but I will definitely be going back to this one time and time again. 

On the Eighty 20 nutrition site I've also seen a beetroot and chestnut soup, oh hello!  Two of my favourite ingredients. 

If you have any cholesterol busting recipes then message me the link over on any of the social media platforms - Instagram, Vero and Facebook.  I will happily give it a try and feature you on my blog, (you also get to keep photos of what I've cooked if you like!).

Happy Baking .... Janice Issitt

3 Mar 2018

Spice up your Pears - Poached in Cider

I never thought I would get so enthusiastic about cooking but the promise of a lovely new kitchen when I move, and the influence of some amazing cooking photographers and bloggers ... I couldn't resist.

Every time I see a photo of poached pears I think 'oh I really must remember to try that' and immediately forget. They look so gorgeous when ruby red, poached in wine or port, but I really didn't want to open a bottle of wine just to poach the pears, so I rummaged in the wine rack and found something that I guessed might work.

I read a lot of different poaching recipes to get the general idea, some of which were for mulled wine, with cinnamon and other spices, and so I guessed that my random left over bottle of un-opened Heston mulled cider would probably be just as good.

Unfortunately no longer available for sale, maybe it will come back on the shelves again at Christmas. It's an oak aged Herefordshire cider that is spiced with cloves, cinnamon and ginger. Great, I thought, seeing as I don't have any cloves or cinnamon sticks in the cupboard, this should do the trick.

I peeled the pears very carefully, leaving the stalks intact, and slicing just a bit off the bottom so they can stand up. However I didn't poach them standing up, but laid them in a saucepan with a lid and covered in the cider, some sugar, and a chunk of fresh ginger. I also added a dash of vanilla and maple syrup.   

Simmer the pears for anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes, some recipes say longer but personally, I think they might have fallen apart if I'd left them too long.

Remove the pears from the saucepan and leave to one side while you boil up the leftover cider to reduce it. I had no idea how it would taste so it was a complete guess.  Served with a dollop of fat free greek yoghurt and a drizzle of the cider reduction.

Eh, voila! A beautiful warming way to get one of your five a day!

So I mentioned on Vero that I would feature some of the great accounts I have found there. I'm about to try a recipe for a Bundt cake from the www.eighty20nutrition.com which is the website of Donna Crous, if you see the photos there you will want to make everything, and they are not only healthy but also use things like the nutribullet to whizz up the ingredients (which was a relief as I don't have any gadgets). 

More of that bundt cake coming soon ... don't forget to find me on vero love and pears xx

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