• Give gifts in hand-stitched parcels

    by  • 11/12/2016 • 0 Comments

    craft

    Make the wrapping just as exciting as the present itself with a cute hand-stitched parcel. We show you how…

    Begin by wrapping your gift in bubble wrap or tissue paper to prevent sharp edges tearing the wrapping paper. Place your wrapping paper face down and put the gift on top. Draw the desired shape around, allowing enough extra space to fit around the gift and for the stitches. Cut out an and use as a template to cut another shape to match.

    Using a bodkin, thread with string or twine and begin to stitch the shapes together, around 2cm in from the edge, leaving a long thread end at the start. When halfway around, insert the gift then continue to stitch. When complete, tie off the ends in a knot or bow and add a hand-stamped label. For extra detail, insert a layer of decorative paper cut just larger than the template.

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    The Country Decorator’s shopping shortlist – Christmas tableware must-haves

    by  • 10/12/2016 • 0 Comments

    sophieThis Christmas Day serve up the ultimate feast on the most fabulously festive of tables! We’ve hand-picked a gorgeous edit of this season’s most magical tableware buys to add the finishing sparkle and make guests ooh and aah in sheer delight – why should Santa take all the glory?!

    Decorate your tabletop with sleigh loads of merry charm with Sophie Allport’s enchanting Starry Night Christmas Collection of fine bone china serveware and linens. Featuring a magical narrative of Father Christmas racing across a dusky blue night sky, each china piece is hand decorated and finished on British soil – it’s the top choice range to set the most whimsical of scenes and spread seasonal smiles! Shown above: Starry Night Table Runner, £19; Fabric Placemat, £6; Napkin, £13 for set of 4; Nibbles Bowl, £9.

    noths

    Ensure the party goes off with a bang with a favourite crowd pleaser… These fabulous Winter Robin Christmas Crackers (above), £18 for a box of 6, by The Handmade Cracker Company at Notonthehighstreet.com, make an extra fun addition for adults and kiddie winkles alike. Available in satin and organza ribbons in 12 different colours, there’s a variety of gifts to choose from to fit any colour scheme and amuse every guest. Each cracker contains a snap, joke and gift.

    tchIntroduce an adorable winter garden character to dining delights with this oh-so-cute Robin Salt & Pepper Set (above), £9, by Gisela Graham at The Contemporary Home. In a shiny glazed design, this proud berry duo can be easily refilled ensuring that your festive dishes are always seasoned to tasty perfection!

    With all the trimmings (edible and decorative) galore – let the turkey battles commence!

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    Our favourite place: Witney

    by  • 09/12/2016 • 0 Comments

    Visit WitneyThis pretty Oxfordshire market town on the River Windrush has prospered and grown from its 300 year history in the blanket industry. We love it for its…

    Wool history Follow the Witney Wool & Blanket Trail and discover the town’s landmarks. Trail leaflets are available online or at the Witney Visitor Information centre on Welch Way.

    Architecture Admire the Georgian buildings along the High Street. There’s also the 17th century Buttercross and 13th century church with a 156-foot spire which can be seen from afar. The Corn Exchange, Blanket Hall and the towns three almshouses also carry a fascinating history.

    Open spaces Witney Lake & Country Park is a haven for wildlife and leads to the Lower Windrush valley walking trails while Standlake Common Nature Reserve (developed in the 1990’s) offers an easy way to watch wildlife with bird hides and leisurely pathways. In the town centre, Church Green is a lovely open space to sit and watch the world go by or to enjoy a good book.

    Museums Explore the town’s history further at The Witney & District Museum in Gloucester Court Mews, or, experience Victorian country life at Cogges Manor Farm Museum,  which may ring a bell as the setting of Yew Tree Farm in TV series Downton Abbey.

    Shops Everyday goods and high street brands can be found at shopping centres Marriotts Walk and Woolgate; or amble the High Street and its smaller side lanes for bespoke gifts and finds. Dove White, on the High Street, has the prettiest accessories to make a house a home while sister shop Decorus  displays room sets and sells larger pieces of furniture plus mirrors in a modern country style. The Old Pill Factory is a treasure trove of decorative antiques, while Wesley Barrell  is the place to source that perfect sofa. Redecorating? Then Relics of Witney is made for grand plans – source paints (Earthborn, Farrow & Ball, Little Greene), bespoke hardware and accessories. Bookworms will love the antiquarian selection at Church Green books, and third generation clock maker Steven Fletcher offers clock restoration and watch repairs at the Clock Workshop.

    Witney Sewing and Knitting Centre is packed with a huge variety of sewing machines plus fabrics, haberdashery, wool and threads and craft ideas.

    If you’re looking for gifts, teddies new and preloved, source Steiff, Merrythought and Dean’s brands at Teddy Bears of Witney. Or step in to the Sota Gallery for contemporary artworks and exhibitions including ceramics, glass, photography and textiles.

     Food Delicious local produce is easy to source in this ancient market town’s shops with additional variety to source at regular markets. Family business and traditional Densham’s butchers sells locally farmed meats and game from Cornbury Park estate in nearby Charlbury, weekend roasting joints and award-wining British pork and green goblin cider sausages – all prepared in the shop. For hampers or picnics, pick up a Best of British basket at The Solan Goose sandwich deli, which includes everything from carved Wiltshire ham, tangy Stilton and handmade piccalilli to summer berry trifle and gingerbeer. And visit the twice weekly charter market on Thursdays and Saturdays (the Thursday market dates to the Middle Ages)  Or try the monthly farmers market.

    Do you have a favourite market town to visit? We would love to hear more about it…

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    Dreaming of a white Christmas?

    by  • 08/12/2016 • 0 Comments

    White Company country bedroom

    Guests coming to stay over the holidays? Then treat them to a festive country bedroom that’s the height of rustic hotel luxe. Here, understated glamour meets cottage chic with this under-the-eaves scheme in a soothing palette of snowy whites and gorgeous greys.

    The hero piece is the stunning Ardleigh bed with its weathered grey-wood finish and linen headboard. Layer it with beautiful bedding for a sumptuous look. Here, texture is the order of the day with knitted cushions, furry throws and sheepskin rugs adding to the cosy feel. Even the crisp white Petersham bedlinen has a modern waffle-like texture weave.

    Big up the festive ambience with a wreath on the door, a sparkle bud garland above the bed and star fairy lights decorating a miniature Christmas tree placed on a rustic wooden stool that doubles as a side table. Finish off with a timeworn wooden bench at the foot of the bed to provide extra storage.

    (Ardleigh bed, Petersham bedlinen, stool, Original BTC Hector table lamp, sheepskin rug and sparkle bud garland and star fairy lights all from The White Company)

     

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    Snuggle up under a cosy throw

    by  • 07/12/2016 • 0 Comments

    blanket

    Creative couple Rimsky and Vilija are the founders of So Cosy, a designer-created range of bespoke blankets, throws and cushions, made from the finest alpaca, merino and sheep wools – the name says it all!

    How did So Cosy come about?
    Our company began with no name, on a market stall in Spitalfields market. With a very enthusiastic reaction to our first ranges, it soon became obvious that we had an amazing product. The passion within us just grew and grew, and eventually we decided to leave our day jobs and focus solely on the business. As well as our online shop, we also have a regular stall at St Albans market in Hertfordshire, where we’re based.

    What inspires you?
    British country life and interiors. We strive not to be fashionable, but timeless in our designs: a balance between traditional and modern.

    What makes your brand special?
    We have, and always will be, an ethical brand. We believe in keeping the manufacture of our pure alpaca throws within Peru to help the local economy and we only use natural dyes to colour our products.

    What’s coming up in 2017?
    We’re very excited about our new outdoor blanket range. New Liberty print fabric combined with 100% alpaca wool shawls and scarves have been introduced to great acclaim and we’ll be developing this range further.

    Sum up your creative style in three words.
    Classic modern twist!

    What do you love about Christmas in the country?
    Snuggly cuddles in front of the fire under one of our blankets… what could be better?

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    Herby Scotch eggs with sage & lemon

    by  • 06/12/2016 • 0 Comments

    scotch-eggs

    For the ultimate winter warmer snack or starter, we’re going with these delicious Scotch Eggs we found in Yeo Valley Family Farm’s ‘The Great British Farmhouse Cookbook’ (Quadrille £20) written by Sarah Mayor. With their crispy breadcrumbs and runny yolks, these are already a Country Homes firm favourite.

     

    Makes 8

     

    8 large free-range eggs

    30g butter

    100g finely chopped shallot or onion

    Finely grated zest of 2 small lemons

    ½ tsp ground mace

    2 tbsp chopped fresh sage

    700g good pork sausage meat

    Sunflower oil, for deep-frying

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

     

    For the breadcrumb coating:

    50g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

    3 large free-range eggs, beaten

    150g fresh white breadcrumbs or Japanese panko crumbs

     

    1. Lower the eggs into a pan of boiling water and cook for exactly 7 minutes. Remove from the pan and plunge into cold water to stop them cooking, then peel.
    2. Melt the butter in a medium-sized frying pan, add the shallot or onion and fry gently for 5-6 minutes until soft but not browned. Tip into a bowl and leave to cool. Add the lemon zest, mace, sage, sausage meat and some salt and pepper and mix together well. Divide into 8 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball, using lightly floured hands.
    3. Lay a large sheet of clingfilm on the work surface and lightly dust it with flour. Lay a ball of the sausage meat on top, lightly dust with flour then cover with more clingfilm and roll out into approximately a 14cm disc. Wrap the sausage meat around the egg and press the edges together to seal, making sure there are no gaps and cracks. Chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
    4. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a deep-fat fryer or large saucepan to 180ºC. Roll the Scotch eggs in the flour, knock off the excess then coat in the beaten egg and finally the breadcrumbs, pressing them on to give a good coating. Deep-fry for 8-9 minutes until crisp, richly golden and cooked through. Drain briefly on kitchen paper and serve with a crisp mixed salad.

     

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    Craft a pinecone kissing ball

    by  • 04/12/2016 • 0 Comments

    kissing-balls

    Originating from days gone by when festive foliage was hung above a door to welcome guests, kissing balls are easy to make with a little patience. Here’s how…

    Begin with a large polystyrene ball. Push a piece of thick wire through the centre (a similar gauge to coat-hanger wire is suitable), then been and trim off the ends with some wire cutters to create a loop at either end. Thread one end with a loop of string. Take the pine cones and begin to attach to the ball with a glue gun, spreading the glue so the cones attach to each other as well as to the ball for stability. Cover any gaps with berries or foliage, such as holly, gluing in place as before. Finally, attach a ribbon bow to the top before hanging up.

    Hang in the porch for a rustic statement. To make it extra special, you could add miniature bells to bring the sound of Christmas into the garden as the ball sways in the wind.

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    The Country Decorator’s shopping shortlist – Christmas tree toppers

    by  • 03/12/2016 • 0 Comments

    tree-toppers-blog-3Joyful greetings all! This weekend we’re all in a feisty flurry to hunt down, claim and bah-humbug back the PERFECT Christmas spruce to stand proud and transfix us through the merry weeks..! After dressing you’re festive addition to the nines, it’s only right that show stopper efforts should be crowned with the ultimate finishing touch… We’ve rounded-up a treat of tree toppers to help you top the alpine decorating trumps!

    Put the Christmas cherry on top and turn up the cheer with a quirky and festively fun finishing touch! We love this Knitted Santa Hat Tree Topper (above), £18, by Lauren Aston at Notonthehighstreet.com. Handknit on giant needles, this chunky charmer features a fluffy white pompom and is made from 100% Merino wool – it’s the must-have item that doubles up as a novelty bottle cosy to conceal cheeky tipples!

    tree-toppers-blog-2Keep things rural and rustic with a Scandinavian inspired tree stopper that will add a touch of understated beauty to your visiting evergreen. This Zinc Star Tree Topper (above), is a bargain £6, from Rowen & Wren. Modern Nordic in nature with a timeless appeal – it’s the perfect pick to crown your proud pine with stylish simplicity.

    tree-toppers-blog-1Top off your tree decorating efforts with a bespoke British wonder! This fabulous Custom Word Wire Christmas Tree Topper (above), £22, from The Letter Loft, is lovingly hand-bent and welded with stainless steel by a devoted father and daughter team. Available in a gorgeous selection of powder-coated colours and on-trend metallics – it’s the typography with a difference that will give your traditional fairy a run for her money!

    Happy decorating all – here’s hoping for not too many broken baubles!

     

     

     

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    The Place to Eat…

    by  • 02/12/2016 • 0 Comments

    The Place to EatIt’s time to visit a stylish and cosy winter pub… We love The Plough at Kelmscott which has been beautifully refurbished by owners Sebastian and Lana Snow – it’s the perfect place for friends and foodies to enjoy delicious food and fireside drinks this season.

    Location The Plough is set in a Grade II listed Cotswold stone house in the pretty village of Kelmscott in West Oxfordshire.

    Style It’s cool and rustic. Enjoy drinks at The Hideaway Bar, housed in a refurbished stable block, overlooking the beer garden. Love the quirky, vintage and antique finds which harmonise beautifully with recycled timbers, muted paint shades of sage, olive, grey and white, and original period features, to give a relaxed style and character.

    Rooms Stay over in one of 7 individually-styled rooms with king size beds from £90 a night B&B.

    Food Savour the delicious daily changing à la carte menu of modern British comfort cooking showcasing the best locally sourced Cotswolds produce available, including pork from Kelmscott, vegetables from Evesham and game from local estates. Seasonal dishes range from starters of crayfish, avocado and cucumber cocktail with melba toast, to ham hock and artichoke terrine with piccalilli and mains include leg of lamb hotpot, a mixed grill, skillet roast whole plaice, with desserts such as steamed marmalade pudding and custard. There’s an all-day bar menu too featuring hog’s pudding scotch egg, devilled whitebait, potted crab, buck rarebit, scampi in a basket and spam fritters with pineapple relish,

    Drinks There’s a selection of craft ales, lagers, ciders and juices, plus a wine list with French classics and the best of the New World.

    Nearby Enjoy easy walks from the doorstep as Kelmscott is along a stretch of the Thames path with countryside views all around. Or  take the short stroll to Kelmscott Manor, the former home of designer, William Morris.

    Where is your favourite foodie inn? We would love to hear more about it…

    Want more inspiration for weekends in the country? Sign up for your weekly Country Post!

     

     

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    Gingerbread Flapjacks

    by  • 01/12/2016 • 0 Comments

    ready_ginger

    What better way could there be to celebrate the beginning of the festive season than with some warming ginger and comforting oats?! Nibble these treats with a freshly brewed pot of tea for the ultimate winter afternoon snack.

    Makes 16

    300g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
    100g caster sugar
    200g golden syrup

    100g black treacle
    2 tsp ground ginger
    20g crystallised ginger, finely chopped, plus extra to decorate
    550g porridge oats
    100g raisins
    200g white chocolate, broken up
    soft gold edible pearls, to decorate

    1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Grease and line the base and sides of a shallow baking tin around 22cm square with a larger square of baking parchment, pressing it into the corners to fit.
    2.  Put the butter, sugar, syrup, treacle, ground ginger and crystallised ginger in a pan and heat gently to melt the butter. Remove from the heat and stir in the oats and raisins. Mix well and spoon into the tin, pressing down gently with the back of a damp spoon.
    3. Bake for about 30 minutes or until just beginning to look cooked around the edges. The flapjack will still look soft in the centre but will firm up on cooling. Leave in the tin to cool.
    4. Melt the chocolate, either in a heatproof bowl resting over (not in)
      a pan of hot water or in short bursts in the microwave. Remove the cold flapjack from the tin and spread with the chocolate. Sprinkle with extra crystallised ginger and gold pearls. Leave to set before cutting into squares.
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    Hang a beautiful handmade tree decoration

    by  • 30/11/2016 • 0 Comments

    tara-blog

    Its tree-decorating time! Treat yourself to an extra special decoration this year from Angel Ceramics (available to buy from the National Trust), founded in 2008 by husband and wife team Becky and Michael. From their Devonshire studio, they hand-make porcelain robins, angels, snowflakes and more, all beautifully finished with a festive red ribbon. Becky tells us more…

    How did your business come about?
    It started with a porcelain heart necklace I’d made and worn to my son’s school. I had multiple orders as a result, which gave me the confidence to expand and create other products.

    What makes your decorations unique?
    Each one is made from scratch. We roll, cut, decorate and glaze all by hand, giving all our attention to the detail. It may sound cheesy, but every piece is made with love. All our clay and glazes are sourced locally wherever possible, too.

    What inspires you?
    So many things! As well as our local surroundings, it would be the ceaseless support that I’ve had from my family. Setting up any business from scratch is hard and I know I couldn’t have achieved this without them.

    What’s coming up for you in 2017?
    It’ll be our most exciting year so far as we’re expanding our festive range with two exclusive new collections: Twelve Days of Christmas and Winter Wildlife. We are also developing our lighting, creating chandeliers and installations out of porcelain.

    What do you love about Christmas in the country?
    Where we live in the coastal town of Budleigh Salterton, Christmas is such a special time of year, with the late night shopping and the traditional Christmas morning swim. It has a charming un-spoilt character that is incredibly special.

    Sum up your creative style in three words.
    Detail, design and passion.

     

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    Festive flair

    by  • 29/11/2016 • 0 Comments

    Country Christmas table

    Christmas is coming… and we’re loving the chalet chic look of this gorgeous country dining room. All that’s needed is a white Christmas for a truly authentic finishing touch…

    Reclaimed timber walls are all the rage, but you can use a wood-effect wallpaper if you prefer – Rockett St George and Wallpaper Direct have great ranges – to set the scene for a cosy Christmas. This look demands bare wooden floorboards but you can warm them up with toasty sheepskin rugs, or layer the rugs on a rustic wooden bench (the Gray & Willow Gilmore bench, from House of Fraser) to create a comfy yet informal look.

    The hero piece of the scheme is the Gray & Willow Gilmore Grand Fixed dining table (available from House of Fraser), which epitomises clean-lined Scandi simplicity, and provides enough space to seat everyone for a champagne breakfast or festive feast. Vintage Windsor chairs in a distressed white finish keep the look casual.

    Decorate the table with flickering candles, gleaming glassware filled with pine cones, beautiful baubles and a garland of foliage – fresh is perfect for scenting the air – and hang up fairy lights decorated with mercury glass acorns for a country Christmas with a glam edge. (Carved wooden reindeer decoration, Gray & Willow glassware, Gray & Willow stone dinnerware, champagne sparkle napkins, metal lanterns, Gray & Willow marble cake stand, Gray & Willow Pebble dinnerware, sleeping bear decoration, polar bear cloche, Gray & Willow hammered tumbler, mouse with snowball decoration, gold frankincense and myrrh votive trio, cinnamon and ginger five wick botanical candle, sheepskin rugs, star lights  and mercury acorns; all House of Fraser.)

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