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Sunday, 26 March 2017

Easy French Food - a flavour of Lush Getaways

Another ambition of mine this year, in a quest to always be learning new things, is to cook simple tasty food from scratch, and it's got to be easy, I mean really easy.  Later this year I've booked to go to the South of France where I will be watching some experts cook and also shop for ingredients on farmers markets.  So in an effort to get in the swing of it before my Lush Getaway I'm going to try a few things out. It's just a question of getting in the habit really.

Maybe because I am partly French, from a Grandmother who died a month before I was born and whose family I know nothing about, I have always had a yearning for all things French, even my first boyfriend was!  My French Grandmother came to England, I know not why, and was dis-owned by her family when she married my Grandad who was lower class.  My mother never learnt one word of French, as Margarita had left that all behind her.  I have tried to follow my ancestry but sadly cannot find out anything about my Grandmother before she came the the UK.

I visited France as a child and we toured around in our Citroen car, yes even my Dad picked up on the love of all things French, I was besotted with the place, the religious statues on the side of roads or guarding vineyards in particular. 

So back to my cooking, after talking to Kim Mancha about how she is setting up this fantastic retreat in a 17th Century French Chateaux, and how they have top quality chefs demonstrating cooking, I got a craving for some simple cheese, wine bread and olives.  

As it's still a bit chilly to go on a picnic I thought I would do one indoors for me and him as a weekend lunch treat. After seeing two recipes for 'baked Camembert' I decided that this would be my first endeavour as it is warming and perfect comfort food.

I found two recipes that I liked the look of, one by Jamie Oliver who suggests putting some crusty French bread in the oven as well, with a drizzle of olive oil on it, some rosemary and sea salt, then dip the crunchy bread into the gooey cheese and then into some chopped cranberries and nuts.  

My other cooking guru is my friend Elinor, who is also known as The Beach-hut Cook and she has a recipe for cooking it on a camp fire with a splash of white wine, vermouth or cider on it.

Mine was cooked in the conventional oven for no longer than 15 mins, I scored the top and poked in garlic and rosemary, then drizzled with olive oil.

When I'm in France this year, Kim will be introducing all of us on the Lush Getaway Retreat, to local chefs and wine makers, as she has beeen living there now for over ten years, building up her business called The Bohemians, you can find Kim on instagram   @thebohemiansfrance and facebook as Kim Bohemians.  

Another part of the getaway is going to be some excursions to antique markets and shops, so between now and September, I will be planning which key pieces I really want to find over there.  Fairly soon I'm going to be putting together a guide to the essential pieces in creating the French Style in your home. I'm hoping that co-organiser and interior expert Johnelle at @mignondecor will guide me.

One of our chefs on the Lush retreat is Abigail Hitchcock who can normally be found in her Greenwich village Bistro, and will be putting an American twist to some French classics.  

Chef number two is local man, Christophe Dupuy who is the executive chef at the Brantome restaurant Les Jardins de Brantome.  His restaurant is in the Michelin guide describing his cooking as 'tasty local fare, sourcing ingredients from small-scale farmers'.

I can't wait to go round the local market with Christophe where he will demonstrate afterwards, how to cook the ingredients freshly bought.

Now then, we can't ignore the fact that here in Brantome we will be right in the wine region, home to Bordeaux and Bergerac vintners.

Jocelyne Pecou is a winemaker who will show us round her vineyard
and give us a 'purely educational' wine tasting, purely educational you understand, so I will make sure I go so that I can report back to you guys, unless of course, you decide to come with me! This is totally possible as the September Lush Getaway is just opening its books, so please don't hesitate, click on the links above and find out how to book your room at the chateaux.

One last thing, Kim tells me that the French never skip desert. My favourite is Tart Tartin, with plump fat caramelised apples on a flaky pastry base.  Serve piping hot or cold, it's great both ways.

Please have a look at and I'm sure you will be convinced to join me on this luxury week.

I'm currently exploring the culinary delights of Morocco which also has a French influence, more about that next week.  Until then - bon appetite.


Thursday, 16 March 2017

What to pack for Morocco - Top Ten Travel Tips

I apologise that this is the not the most attractive of posts but as this year I'm doing a lot of travelling, I thought it would be worth me telling you my packing and travel tips. Obviously, it varies from country to country, not just the weather but also local customs and what is considered respectable. This is also the result of years of being on the road when I was in the music industry, working in International Promotions for many years.

I'm off to Morocco in a few days on a creative writing retreat with 'Magical Journeys' Claire Steele.  We are staying in the Villa Maroc in Essaouira, which strangely and coincidentally was the same amazing hotel that I stayed in on my last visit 17 years ago to celebrate my 40th.  Claire regularly takes her writers here so she is a good person to consult on what it's like now, however, there are still a few basic rules and tips for this kind of holiday.

1. No bare flesh - for some continents reveal as little as possible, you will thank me if you follow this, as the unwanted attention can be quite a pain in the posterior. This is for Africa and India particularly. It's ok to sunbathe in the proper areas, like your hotel or resort, but if you are intending to walk the city streets then you need to get covered.

So my clothes are long, loose trousers, mostly linen, and very thin cotton t-shirts which can be layered up with a long sleeve blouse. Scarves are very handy to have in your bag as an additional instant cover up. Please remember not to bare too much as it is disrespectful to the culture. I have one pair of cotton pantaloon trousers from Holy Cow Home that look like a skirt, they have an elastic waistband and be dressed up or down.  My pink leather journal is also from Holy Cow Home, essential for this writing trip!

2. Natural fabrics, try and stick to fine cotton and linen, when shopping on line I saw some lovely sheer tops but they were rayon and I think this could be counter productive to wear synthetics.

I find that the best t-shirts for layering are American Vintage, this label is simply brilliant and they have taken the basics to a new level of luxury.  I get mine from Amelie Fashion in Berkhamsted who also sell '7 For All Mankind' Jeans.

leather backpack Agnes B, Jacket Zara, Night Dress from Mistress Of Linen, fine lace wool scarf knitted by me.

3. Sensible handbag which you can wear across your body or on your back.  I have this great leather rucksack from Agnes B as it's the best way for me to carry my very heavy camera.  You can fit a lot in this type of bag and it is considered a handbag by the airlines.

I use the outside pockets for daily essentials like hand sanitiser, insect repellent and lip balm.

American Vintage extra fine cotton t-shirts

4. Travel in something more substantial than shorts and heels, going from the UK to Africa you will experience quite a change of temperature so layer and layer for the outgoing trip.  I wear stretchy jeans and the ones from '7 For All Mankind' are my favourites, they do a thin coated cotton that looks like leather but is light as a feather, and a super stretch pair that look like suede, you hardly feel as if you are wearing them. I think these are a bit dressier than blue denim, also lighter in weight, smart and fashionable.   If you are sitting in cramped conditions on a plane or car you want something with a bit of give and stretch too. In black these can work for an evening outfit when the temperature drop and dressed up if you treat yourself to a posh hotel cocktail. 

I'm teaming these up with lots of other black layers for the journey, a t-shirt, a blouse and an embroidered jacket (from Zara), the layers can get peeled off as the climate gets warmer and worn in any combination. I found this pure silk blouse from M&S which has an open back with a tie, ideal for letting the heat escape while looking classy.

Wear very comfortable shoes, lightweight trainers are ideal for pounding the long walks on airport corridors with all your bags. Im adding gel insoles to mine to give extra bounce.

pearls and lace wash bag from Van Asch Sweden  Silk blouse with back opening from Marks & Spencer

5. Decant your toiletries. I got a pack of empty bottles from Boots and labelled with a sharpie, so I only carry as much shampoo and conditioner as I need, these can be quite heavy items. I've also just had an Olaplex treatment done on my hair which means it will he a lot easier to wash and style as the Olaplex is a mega conditioner for colour treated hair, it makes the hair soft, shiny and more manageable, good to do if you are in the sun as it will protect your hair.

A few days before I leave I work out what is the minimum amount of make-up I can cope with, I ditch the usual array of brushes and stick to a palette of colours with a sponge applier from Lily Lolo. My foundation is a mineral one with high spf of 30, another essential. Please remember to put these in your checked-in bags as you can't take liquids through security without a lot of hassle.

Think about all eventualities - food poisoning, sun burn, insect bites etc.  For a country like Morocco take Imodium, insect repellent, dioralite for re-hydration and sun screen.

My latest 'all round handy product' is Moringa Oil, you can use this for just about anything and there's 10% off before the end of March.

So here's my legs to demonstrate two things - one is that I use Moringa Oil on all my dry skin and tattoos, it brings the ink out beautifully as my legs get very dry. (The second point is to show why I'm wearing long trousers, I have the feeling that the tattoos might get too much attention).  

If you haven't heard of this oil, well it's got so many uses, for dry skin, hair and scalp, it is said to have anti-ageing properties as well as antiseptic properties which can treat insect bites, sun burn, skin infections and can be used on children. My skin is very glowing and soft after just a few weeks of using it.

Denise at Wikaniko says the following about getting your Moringa Oil at a reduced price ; there are links for purchase and information

This link to be used to direct your readers to the oil:
Also if they use the code: MOR10 - this will give them 10% off of their purchase (valid until the end of March).

This link can be used to see how our Moringa is grown on our plantation in Spain:

This link can be used to go to the page with all our Moringa products on:

pantaloon cotton trousers and pink journal from Holy Cow Home.  7 For All Mankind and J Brand Cargo pants from Amelia Fashion Berkhamsted.

6. Sandals.  I read one travel blog which suggested wearing jelly shoes (in a ballet pump style).  Sorry, but this sounds like one big sweaty fest to me, there is only one shoe for me when it comes to heat and walking - the Birkenstock.  It's only when I wear these that my feet don't swell up like Frodo's feet and stay cool. The thicker sole is non slip and the lip around the edge prevents dirt and dust flying under your feet.

7. Sunglasses/Transitions.   If, like me you wear glasses or even if you only wear reading glasses, then I suggest you invest in a pair of bi-focals (or vari-focals) which transition to sunglasses as soon as they are exposed to light.  I never have to bother changing glasses over, I wear them all the time and it stops the hassle of constantly changing your glasses over.

8. Suitcase on Wheels.  Backpacks are all very good for the young and strong but for us ladies of a certain age, get a decent soft case with wheels, I say soft because for a short trip you can pull the straps in to slim it down and for longer stays, let it expand to accommodate all the things you bought on holiday. Mine is from Eastpack.

9. Sensible Nightdress.  I find that most places you go you end up running into hotel staff in your nightie, so it's probably best not to have a see-through one.  Mine is a heavy linen antique French smock, which although it's quite thick is remarkably cool. You may end up on the roof or a balcony in your nightdress or pj's so keep them sensible, mine could pass as a dress in it's own right.

10. Don't take what you may buy when you get there.  This might sound odd but here's an example. On this trip I have researched that I might be able to get some ethiopian jewellery, I generally like ethnic jewellery so I'm not going to wear any or take any as I think I will be buying some in the Essaouira souk.  

I suggest you research what an area specialises in and check what prices you should be paying for things. There's no point in buying something for the same price as you would have paid on e-bay, you need to be getting it cheaper at source.  

If you are worried about how much you want to carry then stick to items like jewellery and textiles, unbreakable, small and light.     
If you haven't travelled for a few years you may find that there is quite a difference in security at airports, please allow lots of extra time for queues, you will probably have to take your shoes off to go through the metal detector, (so avoid something with lots of laces) and don't carry any liquids. You are not allowed to take your bottle of water or recently purchased drink through with you.

Items like travel plug adaptors (for recharging), ear plugs, luggage labels, can all be bought at the airport, just allow enough time before your flight. 

Here's my list of recommended retreat holidays for you to consider;

Magical Journeys - creative writing with Claire

Hill View Moments - with Natasha, generally these are yarn, wool, knitting, crochet and weaving related trips.  Currently booking for Portugal

Lush Getaways - the full on French experience, food, cooking, shopping, wine, relaxation, cocktails, yoga, all in a 17century manor house.  Next one is September

I am expecting to be able to offer you a discount on the Lush Getaway retreat in September, more about that soon, but do please check out the beautiful property and be sure to book soon.

Safe Journeys everyone x

Friday, 10 March 2017

Meet The Macrame Maker

I've always held the belief that artistic people are multi-faceted, that this side of the brain can be responsible for music and art, dance and craft. My friends from 'way back' are no exception, many of them were in a successful singing group yet now, on top of being mothers, are entrepreneurs in the fields of home furnishings and clothing.

Nicole Frobusch is one such lady, having had her own children's clothing label, and organising a trade show for small independents in that field, she is also passionate about her spirituality, reiki and natural therapies, and her home reflects her eye for textiles.

Based in London with her two beautiful daughters and a menagerie of cats, rabbit and one mahoosive dog, Nicole is now turning her hand to macrame and tribal influenced wall art.  Taking a lot of her vibe from native American Indians, and the Indians on the other side of the globe, the pieces, available on Etsy, are more than just a nice thing to hang on the wall.

The wool is hand dyed using natural colours, turmeric and beetroot for example. Some have crystals and stones attached which have been collected by Nicole on her travels.  These pieces are woven with love. There are good positive vibes tied into these knots.

You can find these works at Bird Tribe Wall Art on Etsy, and there you will see the influences behind the pieces.  The ones on hoops are titled 'earth, fire, water and air' and you may be interested that she also let's you know what Horoscope sign they relate to.

Some of the hangings have cleansed crystals attached, which will attract peace, balance and Love to your home environment.

Although we are late to the party, I also want to congratulate Joanne Hawker on her hashtag prompt for March - Meet The Maker.
You can find the illustrator over at, where she has a prompt for every day of March, it's such a great idea.

For the full range of Bird Tribe Wall Art go to

Over on instagram we are gifting one of these beautiful pieces to the chosen winner of March #BeHomeFree so get tagging your pics for a chance to win one.

And this, below, is the actual one you can win, so get tagging and don't forget to follow @birdtribewallart 

Coming soon - what to pack for an early sunshine getaway and how to create the French Style in your home.

Love and bunnies from Janice, wishing you a happy peaceful home.

Friday, 3 March 2017

spinning a yarn

I thought it was about time for a knitting and yarn related post and tell you about what's on my needles at the moment and some of my latest discoveries.  Coincidentally this is also the weekend that the new yarn company Hill View Moments launches on line, and I have been fortunate enough to try their yarn myself. It is hand dyed in beautiful muted tones.

As always, whether sponsored or not, I only ever recommend products that I have tried and tested myself, and I want to point this out as some companies expect bloggers to feature their products just for a fee without ever having tried it. I never use stock photos, only my own so that I can prove I have had the product in my hands before I recommend it.  If I don't like it I send it back.

On my recent trip to Loop in London (a beautiful yarn shop in Islington's Camden Passage) I fell in love with some lace shawls they had there, the pattern for one is a free Loop pattern and the yarn is an exquisite hand painted Freia Californian lace weight, the free pattern is available here.

This is a perfect pattern for a beginner and I'm now completely hooked on knitting lace, so I've ordered a book with more patterns and bought some Madelinetosh lace in a gorgeous pale silvery colour.

I popped to see Natasha at Hill View Farm to show her the things I had knitted with her chunky wool, this jumper is from a pattern written and designed by Renee at East London Knit and is worked from the top down.  I usually alter patterns to fit me, being a bit shorter in the body and smaller around the head than most average sizes.

The Starflower Sweater has a discount on the pattern so pop over to East London Knit's blog post here for more information.

the Hill View Farm yarns are hand dyed in the most exquisite colours

Madelinetosh lace weight

Freia hand painted californian wool with free Loop pattern.
As I adapted the Starflower Sweater to be shorter than suggested with a longer rib, (finishing at the waist), I had enough left over for some hats and fingerless gloves.  I'm going to write a rough guide for these and let Natasha at Hill View try them out.

Natasha kindly took these photos of me wearing them when I popped over to her new premises this week.  Hill View Farm will be hosting retreats when the building work is finished, the bespoke luxury accommodation is currently being built, it will be a unique experience where you can meet the sheep that provide the wool and see how the yarns are dyed.

I can't wait to try out the other weights of yarn from Hill View, keep an eye out at as I know Natasha is busting a gut to get them all up on the site as soon as possible.

Keep those needles clacking and let me know if you have discovered any mind-bloowingly beautiful artisan yarns.  This is a 'no acrylic' zone.  

Love and bunnies from Janice x

Thursday, 23 February 2017

February Winner of Lekto Eco Logs

Storm Doris is hitting us in the UK and bringing heavy gales, so what better time to sit in front of the fire than now. This month on #behomefree I asked you to show me your fires and wood burners because those lovely, and rather brilliant, makers of eco logs Lekto have offered a few trial packs to the winner.

If you haven't tried these heat logs then I really promise you that you won't be disappointed, without going on about the heat efficiency and the fact that they are made from bi-products, my favourite thing about them is the lack of ash and mess left behind. 

I hardly every need to clean out my grate now as the ash is so fine and in such small quantities from each burning. Anything that results in less cleaning is a winner in my books.

So here are just some of the lovely fire related entries ...

@harryandfrank @janiceissitt_life_style @wild_meadow @prettytablepia

@crunchyandsnickerty @joeunderthethatch @eakygirl @hygge_and_me

@harriet.emily @geoffreyandgrace @farmcountrysoup @onrshop
It's been so hard to pick one, as always, but I'm going to plump for the snowdrops by the fire from Wild Meadow's Andrea, who is creating a haven in beautiful Wales with her shepherds hut and eco-cottage, what better for the eco cottage fire than some eco logs.

Here's a couple of photos from me getting in the hygge spirit, the candles and matches are from Amalia at The Botanical Candle Company,
The pale grey plate from Rose & Grey and the curly handled cup from my recent trip to the potteries of Wales.

Keep on tagging your photos with BeHomeFree and in a few weeks I hope to show you some amazing wall art and macrame which will also be a prize.

See you soon, love Janice

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Harris Tweed, Hand Knits and PoZu

I want to do more posts about clothes and personal style, so when I was asked to review these boots from Po-Zu I thought it was a great opportunity to talk about mixing up vintage classics, handmade knits with new layers.

In this first photo I'm wearing my nightdress (a french linen chemise from Amanda Leader at Mistress Of Linen), I popped my new Piper boots on with bare feet so I could nip out to the garden and pick some snowdrops. I personally don't like to wear socks with shoes and so this is the ultimate test to me, how comfortable are they with bare feet? 

Lots of friends like to see my tattoos, hence why I've posted this pick.  My right leg is mostly tattooed by Amy Williams and the tattoo you can see on the left leg is the one by Amee Cornwell.   Anyway, I digress, so this is when I first realised just exactly how comfortable these PoZu boots are, they feel like someone just wrapped your feet in sponge.

So anyway, I thought I should probably get dressed to go out, always a good idea, and we planned a day of lunch at The Old Flight House in Weston On The Green (near Oxford), where the food is amazing and its set in the best antiques centre around.

I decided to take the lead from the brown tweed Piper boots by pairing them with a vintage (mens) Harris Tweed jacket, found in a charity shop, some hand knitted accessories, cashmere jumper and skirt from Jigsaw (which is now in the sale). 

The great thing about mens jackets are the pockets! I wish womens' jackets had those big inside wallet pockets, they are perfect for the mobile phone.

On our way home we popped in to Claydon House which isn't open yet for the season, but you can still look around the outside where they have a great show of snowdrops and aconites and some impressive views across Buckinghamshire.

this small orangery is to die for, theres a flowering camelia inside

Po-Zu are an amazing brand, I suggest you check them out, not only ethical (using renewable, low impact components) but fair to their workers as well.  These hand made shoes and boots have a unique sole, made like a foot mattress, with two layers of springy latex and natural coir.  

There are a few options as well for vegetarians and vegans, and so by shopping with them you can thoroughly investigate every part of the product you are buying and trust with confidence about your purchase.

While looking at the info on their website I discovered the Brisk sneaker, a fully customisable sneaker so that you can design your own pair and these have the same sole as my boots.  If, like me, your feet suffer from walking on hard surfaces for long periods of time, then these must surely be the answer to giving support and impact protection. They look to me to be the perfect shoe for travelling, (when you are walking a lot around a new city and through airports) and so I'm going to consider a pair for my trip to Morocco in March. 

I have a thing for pairing my shoe colour with my outfits, which range in either brown or black tones, but as I can't pack ten pairs of shoes for a trip, I'm going to design my own sneakers on the P0-Zu site so they have both brown and black elements to them.  These will be perfect for exploring the medieval city of Essaouria. Also they are really light weight, another essential consideration for travel.

Po-Zu also have a few high heels too which intrigue me, I wonder if they can provide the same great comfort in a heel?, now this I am interested in, being only 5 foot 2 and a bit.

Over on instagram I shall be featuring the vintage items I found at the antiques centre, these include crystal champagne glasses, some china, linen and books. 

Have a lovely weekend - Janice xxx


Friday, 10 February 2017

Making Winter - retreat with Silver Pebble

Last weekend I spent an amazing two days with a group of ladies who were brought together to learn new crafts and skills by Emma, also known as Silver Pebble.

Emma is writing a book where she looks at all the elements of why and what living through the darker colder months is all about.
The book will be out later this year, so watch out for it in Autumn and you can get yourself prepared to snuggle down and deal with winter.

My trip to the cute village of Reach was to take part in the Making Winter retreat, a weekend of making some great items and learning new crafts, with good food and great company. Can I just say to anyone who is a bit shy about doing this, you never have to worry, women in groups making craft will always be a laugh, everyone will be nervous about their skill level, and it's not a competition, just bloomin' good fun.

We also went on a nature ramble where Emma shared her expert knowledge of plants, we discovered the first signs of spring, blessed by beautiful soft warm winter sun. These dried plants below are great hiding and nesting places for ladybirds.

I was really pleased to advance my crochet along, with the expert crochet guru Jemima, who, as it turns out lives near me in Buckinghamshire so I also plan to learn lace knitting with her, if she can be persuaded to organise a group lesson.  We made some fingerless gloves with beautiful yarn supplied by Loop London, the mecca of wool shops in Islington. This is the second retreat that I've attended where Loop have sent us goodies so I paid them a visit in Islington to say thanks and came away with some great items. 

Loop London's pattern book celebrating 10 years

Emma is also known for her silver jewellery and so she taught us how to make a mould in a latex putty and then cast a silver pendant using a silver clay, which I've never tried before but plan to get straight on the internet now and order some for myself.  I cast a little acorn and some of the other crafters pressed foliage into the mould and cast shells which they had collected themselves from beach combing. The materials can be bought from Cookson Gold and Metal Clay Ltd.  I'm going to play with it some more and write about the technique in more detail here.

We also learnt to weave with willow and rush, another craft that I want to do a lot more of, how satisfying to make your own baskets. 
Our teacher Val, helped us make a candle holder/ bird feeder depending on which way up you have it, and the basics of a wreath. I want to do my own basket so let's nag Val into doing a course just in that shall we?

Our last group activity was with Emma and Lu Summers, who showed us that anyone can draw nature, whether your style is traditional and illustrative, or stylised into pattern forming and design.

We were given a useful goody bag of notepads, pens and pencils, and a gorgeous book handwritten by Emma, this inspiring book is filled with projects perfect for when you are nesting away in the warm.

I'm so glad I booked with Emma (go to Silver Pebble ) this was great value, well organised and full of quality craft projects.  It's been a while since I came away from a class itching to do more of it. I will let you know how I get on with the silver and willow.  

Val the willow weaving teacher is also known as DottyCookie so let's all nag her to set up more classes eh?

Cozy wishes from me Janice Issitt

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