Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

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

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Saturday, 16 September 2017

Lush Getaways to France part two

I hope you enjoyed my overview of the LUSH Getaways week in the French countryside, there's so much to say I've decided to break it down into several blog posts, so here is part two where I'm going to give you more information and links.

So, let's talk a bit about how to get there. The group who came to this week of French cuisine had flown from all over the world, mostly from the USA and myself from the UK. The cute little town of Brantome sits on the river and is postcard perfect with it's old buildings and isn't over-run with tourists and touristy shops, so you really can get a feel for true French life, it's slow pace of shopping for quality ingredients for meals is just one aspect of the French style.

some fun times and conversations were had under this porch of an evening.

Part of the reason it isn't spoilt is probably transport related as it's not right on top of an airport or main station. So for our little group we found that flying into Paris then catching the reliable and efficient train to Angouleme was the way to do it, with  LUSH transport picking us up from the station at Angouleme. If you fly in from the USA I would advise having a break in Paris to rest up and adjust to the time difference a few days before. You can catch the direct train from both Paris central and the airport at CDG.

While this region is not the easiest to reach on your own, with Lush providing transport it opens up the possibilities to investigate more interesting places, and unlike some 'escorted' trips, you don't feel herded around like a tourist sheep. This is important to note, because having done both types of holiday there are some really big differences here with LUSH. First it's personal, Kim and Johnelle are showing you what they love, what they have discovered and they invite you to share a slice of their life in this beautiful region.

Secondly, accommodation! I'm so bored with hotels, and having spent so much of my life making my home full of the things I love, I don't really want to spend a week in somewhere uninspiring and bland. When Kim discovered this mansion in her town, she managed to convince the owner to let us 'borrow' it for a few weeks, so in a nutshell, you can only stay there if you join with Lush, this isn't some homogenised version of a French Manor, it's the real deal.

The second you arrive at this stunning house you feel the stresses and strains of life wash away with your first cocktail in the garden. Hello, it's Apero time! There is a lovely welcome basket in your room with your Lush apron, snacks, soap and wine.

Brantome market

The itinerary for the week was planned to include flexible activities such as canoeing and yoga, with plenty of time to do your own thing. The manor is central to the town so it's easy to walk and mooch at your own pace and make your own discoveries, like the tea room with book shop and garden run by a lovely English gentleman. 

Our own personal yoga and massage guru Janet was on hand for classes and treatments every day which could be slotted in during the trips out to visit other towns and vineyards. This and cooking classes were held at the manor with your choice to join or do your own thing.

chopping techniques were covered as part of the classes

On Monday evening we headed to the town square of Bourdeilles for their regular knees up of live music and a bbq with the locals. The Cafe De La Halle is built up against the huge stone walls of the castle and we sat in it's presence while the full moon rose above us and the traditional music romanced us to the small hours. 

our beautiful garden at the manor

The following day we met local French chef (and accomplished painter) Christophe Dupuy, owner of the beautiful local hotel and restaurant 'Les Jardins  du Brantome' and he led our group, including Chefs Aby and Justin, around the market and shops before taking us to his kitchen for a demonstration in how to prepare our own starter with simple ingredients. We were able to explore his lovely herb garden, sniffing and touching our way through the greenery and flowers until we sat in the shade of the trees to be served several more courses for lunch. 

You may have seen my live feed in Instagram stories, as next day Justin showed us how to make the perfect omelette before we jumped in our Lush bus to explore some flea market shops and have a mooch around the prettiest town of Perigeux where I found a plant shop that had it's own bar, beer and plants, only in France !

Justin having a good rummage in the herb garden
The drive to the wine region gave us the chance to see the lovely countryside and before long we started to see more and more fields of grape vines, an indication that we were getting close to the vintners. First stop was the beautiful Chateaux which produces the wine Montbazillac, a quick look around, some lunch and then off to the second winery of Vignoble des Verdots. I can thoroughly recommend this small producer, particularly for their Merlot, it's a family business who make their wine with true love, and you can taste it in every glass, even their lowest price bottle is smooth as velvet and an exceptional price.

wine made with love and by hand when the moon is just right 

markets of produce and farm made ingredients

shutters and geraniums couldn't be more French

After this we headed to the town of Issigeac, one which I really want to go back to, a couple of hours from Brantome, oh my, it's so beautiful with some great shops. They were having an outdoor food festival in the evening so we stayed on and chose our own meal from one of the stalls which surrounded the square. French sausage, moules, grilled cheeses, and many more washed down with local beer or wine, although I opted for a Pernod, when in Rome! 

the back streets of Bourdeilles
Our week flew by, it was packed full of interesting things to do while managing to feel relaxed at the same time. A perfect retreat for couples and singles alike. One of my favourite things was to hear Abigail and Justin talk about how they had prepared our food. I've never met anyone who can speak about food so passionately as Abigail, she weaves her enthusiasm and draws you in to see how the sharing of food with good people is the spice of life. I didn't realise until I listened to our three chefs, that food could be so sexy. 

My favourite dishes, hard to choose, but I'm still dreaming of the risotto that disappeared far to quickly from my plate in a whirlwind of amazing courses. 

To sample the cooking of our chefs during the rest of the year you can find them here ; 

Christophe Dupuy - http://www.lesjardinsdebrantome.com/en/rooms/ for food and accommodation in Brantome. (Also check out his art exhibition).

Abigail Hitchcock - not far from Greenwich Village at https://www.camaje.com/visit/

Justin Wright will be working from a new venue soon, find him at The Almanac Beer Company in San Francisco.

Janet DeHart - Yoga and Bodywork http://www.dehartbodywork.com
San Francisco

To secure a place for next year hop over to https://www.lush-getaways.com

On my next post I will be looking at the Manor house interior as a template for creating the French look.


Monday, 11 September 2017

LUSH Getaways to France - part one

If you love food, and you love cooking and travel then I've found the getaway for you that's both relaxing and exciting, educational and naughty. Get your diary out now and book yourself in for next year before all the places get snapped up, hit this link and make sure you secure the boutique room that suits your personality just perfectly https://www.lush-getaways.com/bookings-1  every room has an en-suite bathroom which is also decorated in a unique way.

this was my room in the eaves, I slept like a log every night and a few afternoons  

the decorative wall finishes were one of the many  inspirational design features.
The mother and daughter partnership that have formed LUSH Getaways (Kim and Johnelle) have put together a package of events featuring all the things they love.  Firstly the venue, a gorgeous manor house in the prettiest little town of Brantome France, (where Kim also has her shop called The Bohemians). Surroundings are so important to me as a fan of all things interior, and this house is really gorgeous, a big old stone Manor with shutters, a salt water pool and three floors of great antique and vintage items decorating the individual rooms. It has gorgeous floors of tiles and wood, and many great ideas like the downstairs loo which is wallpapered in old magazine pages. 

Bring to this the culinary skills of several top chefs, like Abigail Hitchcock from New York restaurant Camaje (85 MacDougal Street) and Justin Wright from San Francisco (about to start work with a new eatery) with a little help from their friend and local hotelier/artist Christophe Dupuy (Les Jarden de Brantome).

so many decorating ideas here

the sun setting over the square as the musicians strike up

every Monday they meet in this square  in  Bordeilles for food, dancing and music

Christophe and Aby chatting at the local farmers market

evening music played live outside a cute cafe

Garnish with local trips to the wine region and wine makers, some canoeing down the river Dronne and some thrift shop rummaging, add a sprig of al fresco evening food with music and a drizzle of yoga and massage and you are coming somewhere close to imagining the wonders of a Lush Getaway.

Californian Kim now lives in Brantome and during visits from her beautiful and stylish daughter, Johnelle, they cooked up this recipe for a beautiful gourmet retreat in the prettiest region of South West France. Ok, excuse all the culinary references but I can't resist it as I'm in chef mode!

every evening Brian prepared us the most mouth watering cocktails, he really came up with some great concoctions

fresh herbs picked from the garden of Christophe

Christophe guides Justin around his garden before cooking us a  delicious lunch  at his garden  restaurant and hotel.
At the 17th century Lush Manor we started the day with melt-in-the-mouth pastries from the local bakers and an individual dish prepared by Justin. I didn't know you could have such variety for breakfast, we tried pancakes, waffles, eggs and fruit, based (like every meal) on the choice of produce found in the local market. 

We shopped in town at the local butchers, market stalls and supermarket, took in the beautiful architecture, stopped for coffee and a snack while being guided around to see the local specialities.

I loved this butchers shop with its gingham bags of cured meat hanging from the ceiling. 

our relaxing lounge back at the manor

Merlot grapes ready to be picked
decorating ideas at the Manor

Every evening Johnelle's husband Brian mixed up some cocktails, every one a new masterpiece in it's own right. We often had canapes while we socialised in the lovely garden before going in to the dining room.  The talented team of designers from Johnelle's store (Mignonne Decor in San Francisco) had added pretty touches of greenery in cut glass and candles, the attention to detail was beyond exceptional and just the kind of thing that makes a holiday perfect. 

Next week I will run you through a rough diary of events on the Lush Getaways holiday for food lovers. Until then ... Bon Apetite


Friday, 25 August 2017

Hand Made with Love

Many years ago I had a stall at Camden Market where I sold things that I made by hand (glass products), and since that time I've tried my hardest to support anyone who is creating marvellous useable items on their kitchen table, just as I did back then.

Over the last few years some great hand made items have made their way into my home, via social media mostly. I have found some amazing and talented ladies who are producing small batches of high quality items which I can thoroughly recommend. But while I can tell you about them here, this is really just a message to say, do your best to support the small companies, the 'one man band's' who are following their hearts and making what they love, your support is essential and I guarantee you will get a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

One of my all time favourites, and a name I support over and over again with purchases, is The Botanical Candle Company.  Set up by Amalia, I am watching her dream grow gradually and steadily, due to the high quality of the product, once you have tried you will be a regular customer.  Amalia, produces candles, hand poured in soy wax, from tea lights to much larger containers and has a range where she uses old reclaimed pots, jars and enamel tins, every one unique.

On the 1st September, The Botanical Candle Company will be launching their winter scents, so I snapped up my usual favourite 'Greenhouse' before they change to a new range.  I expect there will be some lovely warm seasonal spicey aromas to perfume your home.

Recently I've been trying out some hand made goats milk soap from Salt and Spoon, who after their trial run, hope to selling small batches by the end of the year.  I spoke to Suki about her new lifestyle and why she has started to make her own soap, and she explained about how they have bought a small-holding in West Wales and will be doing their best to be self sufficient in many ways.

In the search for natural soap which is kind to sensitive skin, Suki decided to try goats milk cold pressed soap using just basic natural ingredients like locally sourced rapeseed oil instead of olive oil. Whilst her own goats aren't yet old enough to produce the milk, Suki is using the milk taken from her friends goats and by adding the ancient ingredient of Lye, in a very expert manner, she has found a formula which, when set and cured, is a creamy foamy kind and gently soap.  Keep a look out on the Salt and Spoon facebook and Instagram feeds for details of the first batches of her soap. 

This summer my skin has been saved (in many ways) by A.S Apothecary's 'First Aid Kit' number 10. If you check the website at http://www.asapoth.com  there is a beautiful story of 'seed to serum'. You can shop online or visit their flagship store in Lewes, where the process of smelling and touching their range will help you find the right product for your needs, first hand. 

Cheers to the ladies who are experimenting on their table, taking over the house with ingredients and producing carefully made, lovingly packaged, little treats for us, I salute you.

While I'm here, also just a reminder that if you would like to vote for this blog please do so at this link ; http://www.interiorblogawards.com/vote/janice-issitt-life-style/


Friday, 18 August 2017

Counting Sheep and Wool Bedding.

Until last Christmas, I didn't even know there was such a thing as bedding filled with pure natural wool and now I can't get enough of it. Ladies who have started to get hot flushes at night will welcome as many natural bedding products as possible and the combination of the wool duvets and pillows, with linen covers is a dream.

I think the people at Woolroom must have read my mind, as I've been driving myself crazy trying to find good pillows. I find it so hard to get comfortable at night and my current pillows simply aren't helping.  So when they asked me to try out their range of pillows, duvets and mattress topper, I was completely over the moon.

There are so many reasons why wool filled bedding is better than synthetic or down, let alone the dubious way in which goose feathers are collected and from where!! 

Wool duvets don't have a tog rating, this was invented to explain the warmth of synthetic bedding, but as wool doesn't work in the same way as synthetic, then this is replaced with a simple, light, medium, warm rating. As we already know, wool works more naturally as a temperature regulator, even when on the sheep it keeps them cool when it's hot and warm when it's not. It also has the ability to draw moisture away from a warm perspiration, unlike synthetic which will just trap and exacerbate the situation.

At Woolroom they have also been perfecting their wool so that it can be machine washed without it felting or shrinking, just be sure to follow the instructions and use a wool setting at 30 degrees.  

All these factors also add up to the fact that sheep wool is also good for anyone with allergies, so if you have problems in this area then please have a read on their website as they explain a lot of interesting new facts about wool and allergies.

I really love the way Woolroom send out their bedding, no horrible plastic waste, but lovely natural cotton bags. When you take out your pillows you can unzip the side and reach straight into the wool to fluff it up, and you can also order an extra bag of filling to adjust the firmness of your pillow exactly.

So other than all these lovely practical facts about why choose wool, well here's one that most importantly appeals to me, at the Woolroom they are totally supporting the British wool industry. Having been involved with all things wool since 1888, this family business was helped by the regeneration of the industry in 2008 and The Campaign For Wool started by Prince Charles. The British wool industry had become non-profitable and in total decline so the Campaign set out to re-educate about the benefits of this natural product and about how special it is to the UK. Here in Britain we have 35 million sheep and lambs, across 63 breeds. 

As any knitter will know, different sheep, produce different wool for different purposes and at the Woolroom they use specific British wool in their bedding, which has more bounce than say Merino wool which would not be suitable for duvets but is fine for clothing.  As an animal welfare supporter, it also assures me to know that by using British sheep from known farmers, they are only using wool that comes from sheep who are well kept, happy and healthy. Sheep are intelligent and fussy animals, their conditions are reflected in the quality of their wool, so it's in the farmers interest to look after them and in the sheep's interest that they get sheared every year. 

Did you spot my dreamcatchers in these photos? You could say I'm bed obsessed, and you would be right. Good sleep is vital for good mental health.  During the years around the menopause, a cool nights sleep becomes a thing of the past for most women. Sharing a bed can become a nightmare, so at least with wool duvets, the heat is regulated around the individual so while he is cool and you are having the hot flush from hell, the duvet should be able to cope with both of you at the same time.

My dreamcatchers have been featuring in a few photos and I love making them from old crochet table cloths and doilies, it's a great way to re-purpose and to add a cool and delicate decoration to your bedroom.

Hop over to the thewoolroom.com for some great discounts and more information about why choose wool, there really is no reason not to.

It may be time for me to have a little afternoon doze now, call it a power nap .... zzzzz


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Hill View Farm Creativity Festival

This weekend our dear friend, Natasha, took her 'Taking A Moment In Time Retreats' to a new level and built herself a mini festival site on the fields of her new farm.  Hill View Farm in Buckinghamshire is an exciting new venture which will be growing into a yarn related retreat experience, complete with sheep, highland cattle, home grown vegetables and flowers.

We all arrived on Friday afternoon to be greeted with a beautiful camp site of bell tents, marquees and a fire pit, all ready to start straight away on our first workshop of the weekend. I was lucky enough to be hosting a workshop making dreamcatchers and this was just one of the crafts that were on offer over the three days. 

Our knitting and crochet instructors even included Donna Smith all the way from Shetland, and lovely Donna was just one of the talented ladies who had travelled from far and wide to share their skills. 

I was particularly excited to finally have a go at macrame knotting with the expert guidance of Sam from 'Pretty Little Knots" who led us through quite a sizeable project that we all managed to finish with sheer determination.  I have to admit that Sam did have to finish mine for me as my back was playing up, and this really proved to me how much time and effort goes into making each piece.

Another of the workshops that I attended was with good friend Katie Robbins of 'Ceramic Magpie' who showed us how to cheat at making porcelain style decorations with an clay that can be baked in the oven.  Other crafters were also busy with different styles of knitting and crochet and after our small groups we all came back together for delicious meals cooked by Natasha and her team from the farm's home grown vegetables.  

Regular teacher at these retreats is the lovely Kristina from Written In Cloth who held a class in indigo dyeing, leaving many of the group with blue hands as a testament to their efforts, there was a beautiful display of their work drying on the fences showing the versatility of the shibori craft. 

The weather was kind of mad, but maybe we just noticed it more as we were outside with such expansive views, but the odd shower didn't dull our enthusiasm or spirits while we all concentrated on making wall decorations with Olga Prinku and Mobiles with Sarah Notes.  

It was such a treat to spend time with the other like minded crafters and instagrammers and meet up with some previous retreat buddies like Renee from East London Knit who designs beautiful and unique knitwear. 

Keep a look out for next years dates as this is going to be a regular event up at the farm and sure to get booked up quickly. The variety of workshops brought together a lovely group of what I hope will be a regular gang of makers. 

Apologies from me if this summer I am slightly sporadic with blog posts as I'm in the process of a big life changing venture.  In the meanwhile, a little vote for me in the Amara Awards would be very much appreciated, my voting page is 

Many thanks in advance, see you soon with more news. Janice 
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