• The Country Decorator’s shopping shortlist – flip-happy Pancake Day buys

    by  • 06/02/2016 • 0 Comments

    Ready_Sophie

    Porcelain Cake Plate, from £24, Sophie Conran.

    Tummy-tastic news folks! The syrupy silver lining of February is just around the corner… It’s Pancake Day on Tuesday 9th so to celebrate this national favourite, we’ve rounded-up a scrumptious edit of best-buys to help you fry, flip and serve-up in perfect fashion.

    ready_M&SFresh-from-the-farm eggs at the ready – whisk-up the ultimate batter with essential equipment to hand. This Loft Mixing Bowl, £15 for a set of 3, from Marks & Spencer, comes in a pretty pastel mix and is dishwasher safe – the perfect modern pick-me-up for cookery of all kinds. (Also shown): Loft Whisk and Solid Spoon, £6 each.

    Ready_HouseologyCreate deliciously golden circles of mouth-watering loveliness with the most helpful of pans. This Toughened Non-Stick Crepe Pan, £75, by Le Creuset at Houseology, is the ideal shape, ensuring even colouring and effortless pan-to-plate action. Durable and long-lasting, this kitchen saviour can be used on any heat source.

    Ready_CoxA zingy lemon juice hit accompanied by sprinklings of sugary sweetness is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser when it comes to favourite flat-cake toppings. Get the zestiness flowing with this new Elmwood Juicer, £10.50, from Cox & Cox. Hand-made by skilled artisans from responsibly sourced elm – each juicer is unstained and untreated to emphasis the natural colour and grain, making it almost too good to use!

    Thin or thick, sweet or savoury or best of both – whatever your preference, keep the pile stacked from breakfast until supper with these Shrove Tuesday must-haves!

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    Spinach and ricotta pancakes

    by  • 04/02/2016 • 0 Comments

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    Don’t forget that next Tuesday is pancake day! If you fancy something a bit more substantial than the traditional lemon and sugar pancake, why not try this mouthwatering spinach and ricotta recipe – it tastes great and is packed full of calcium, magnesium and vitamin K, too.

    Serves 4

    100g (4oz) plain flour
    2 eggs
    300ml (1⁄2pt) milk
    sunflower oil for frying
    500g bag frozen spinach
    1 garlic clove, crushed
    250g (9oz) ricotta cheese
    pinch nutmeg
    4tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
    4 small bunches cherry tomatoes, on the vine

    1 Put the flour, eggs and milk in a bowl. Whisk together until smooth. Heat 1tsp oil in a non-stick pan, then pour in just enough mixture to cover the base of the pan, and tilt to cover. Cook for 30 seconds until the pancake batter is firm on the base. Use a palette knife to flip over the pancakes. Cook for about 30 seconds more until the underside is firm. Put on to a plate and repeat with the remaining mixture to make 8 pancakes.

    2 Heat the oven to 220c, 200c fan, 425f, gas 7. Put the spinach into a bowl with the garlic and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Press in a metal sieve to squeeze and tip away the liquid.

    3 Return the spinach to the bowl and season generously. Stir in the ricotta and nutmeg. Spoon the spinach mixture down the centre of each pancake and fold in the other 2 sides. Put the pancakes on to the baking sheet with the cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the pancakes and bake for 15 minutes, until the filling is piping hot and the pancakes are golden.

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    Meet Hannah Stoney

    by  • 03/02/2016 • 0 Comments

    Ready_groupHannah Stoney is a Staffordshire based designer with a love for watercolour, type and cute little sayings! In 2011 she founded Yellowstone Art Boutique, enviably situated on the scenic Trentham Estate. As well as her own ceramics, prints, cards and fabrics, she stocks beautiful products designed by up-and-coming British artists and makers, offering them a platform to showcase their work.

    How did you get into design?
    I come from a creative family so design was always a big part of life growing up. I was encouraged to follow a path that made me happiest and turn my hobbies into a career – so I did! I dreamt of setting up my own gallery even before I started University.

    Why did you decide to start Yellowstone Art Boutique?
    I wanted to create a gallery space for new designers and makers who don’t have a reputation to profit from. Paying for a degree and a studio space is so expensive and lots of artists don’t have the time to promote their work effectively, so I wanted to help bring handmade products to the high street. I also wanted to carry on designing myself and this seemed like the perfect place to sell my work.

    Describe a typical day.
    I’m a jack-of-all-trades! Being a designer and running a shop means I complete a huge range of tasks in any given week, from paying invoices and serving customers to designing commissions. I’m normally working on 5 tasks at once so I must drive the people around me mad!

    What inspires your work?
    All of my designs are painted in watercolour. I want them to be light-hearted, cheerful and generally full of colour! It sounds strange but customers inspire my work. I have an unusual advantage of being in the shop when people are browsing, and their feedback sparks so many ideas.

    What’s your favourite country view?
    The grounds on the Trentham Estate are just stunning. I love being able to close up the shop for the day, walk a few feet and be next to a stunning forest and lake. Seeing the deer as I drive to work still makes me pinch myself. I’m definitely a small town girl at heart, as much as I love city skylines!

    Sum up your creative style in three words.
    Colourful, lighthearted and romantic (in a contemporary way!)

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    Passion for pared-back style

    by  • 02/02/2016 • 0 Comments

    Country dining room

    If you can’t abide clutter and like to keep your schemes simple, take your inspiration from this relaxed country dining room where East Coast meets retro for a pretty yet pared-back look. This laid-back interior will certainly get you set for summer with its beach-house feel.

    Perfect for entertaining, the white farmhouse dining table is a true country classic and has a warm timber top that extends. Team it with spindle-back chairs with a mid-century modern twist – vary the look by mixing chairs in calming white and stone shades with coral for added punch. Finish off with wow-factor pendants hung low over the table to create mood lighting with style.

    Continue the retro theme with a neat idea – use a crafted bookcase to display tableware, glassware and knick knacks.

    Finally, arrange a display of mismatched frames for an eyecatching feature on the wall. Combine photos, treasured letters and even fabric samples with empty vintage frames for an eclectic vibe.

    (Dining table, dining chairs, bookcase, pendant lights and frames, all Marks & Spencer)

     

     

     

     

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    New issue on sale Thursday

    by  • 01/02/2016 • 0 Comments

    Country Homes March 2016

    We felt the zing of Spring here at Country Days as the latest issue of Country Homes & Interiors arrived hot off the press. On sale this Thursday 4 February, it’s filled with bright and beautiful new-season decorating trends. We’ve taken the hard work out of your decorating dilemmas and shortlisted five key country styles we know you’ll love. From Gypsy Florals (as featured on the cover) and Utility Chic to Organic Geometrics, and Artisan Neutrals to Subtle Indiennes – there’s a look here that’ll inspire you to reach for the paintbrush or fabric swatches and get DIYing!

     

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    Make a coconut bird feeder

    by  • 31/01/2016 • 0 Comments

    Ready_150902_CHI_BIRDFEEDING_SHOT02_016We’re rounding off our selection of decorative bird-feeding craft ideas with these cute coconut hangers. They look great in the garden and can be refilled with seed mix and berries as the birds peck away.

    Drain and halve the coconut and remove the flesh (or buy halved shells). Drill 2 holes through the top of the shell and thread with twine, leaving long lengths for tying later. Make up the food mix with 1 part dry bird food to 2 parts melted lard or suet. Mix well and, when cool enough to handle, pack into the shells, pressing down firmly. Cool completely. Taking some wreath wire, tie around filled shell, criss-cross at the bottom and tie off. Thread berries on leftover wire ends by using a darning needle on the end of the wire to pierce and push through the berries and tie off. Hang with more berries, if desired!

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    The Country Decorator’s shopping shortlist – cosy blanket buys

    by  • 30/01/2016 • 0 Comments

    Ready_The British Blanket Company With the winter wind blowing a hoolie, take refuge this weekend and wrap yourself up with the perfect antidote to seasonal chills. In this week’s shortlist we’ve rounded up a trio of never-want-to-be-without blankets to provide the ultimate snug-as-a-bug hug.

    Wrap yourself in colour with a lovely woollen-wonder throw and add an accent burst of bright to your living room in the process… These Recycled Wool Blankets, £24 each, from The British Blanket Company (above), are re-spun from remnant yarns so that nothing goes to waste. Visit the website to discover a beautiful collection of luxurious woollen throws and blankets in a wide range of shades, showcasing the very best in home-grown design.

    Ready_UggSupersize statement-making style and yarny warmth with chunky needlework. We’ve fallen in love with this Oversized Knit Blanket, £275, from Ugg Australia (above). This handcrafted beauty, is available in natural or grey colourways and contains real sheep fur for extra toasty appeal. Measures 51 x 178cm.

    Ready_NordicThrow in (pun intended) a soft, tactile and utterly gorgeous addition to sofa lounging with a true comfort blanket. This Mohair Throw (above), £149.95, from Nordic House, is finished with lovely fur pom poms – one of this season’s key limited edition pieces. Measures 136 x 160cm. Matching cushion available.

    The weekend agenda calls for lazing and layering. Cup of tea in hand, it’s time to kick back and curl up… On that note – let’s call it a wrap!

     

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    Our favourite place to visit: Stow-on-the-Wold

    by  • 29/01/2016 • 0 Comments

    Shop in Stowe-on-the-Wold

    Steeped in history and surrounded by picturesque countryside, this ancient market town is the perfect place to amble and shop. We love it for its…

    Medieval market square
    The Market Cross and the Stocks have stood in the town centre since the fifteenth century.

    Scenic Walks
    Find a route map at and follow one of the many scenic trails through the Stow countryside.

    Shopping
    Stow-on-the-Wold is dotted with independent boutiques and charming shops tucked behind historic Cotswold limestone facades. Visit Rosie B Home & Interiors, 3 Digbeth Court, for painted furniture, country-style crockery, vintage home-wares and pretty accessories. At Scotts of Stow, The Square, you’ll have the chance to browse items from well-priced kitchen ceramics and cookware to furniture and garden ornaments. Around at Bloom, The Square, pick up beautiful bouquets, posies or single stem silk flowers, that closely resemble the real thing. Or book a workshop at Vintage & Paint, where you can learn découpage, gilding or crackle-glazing; there is also a good selection of unusual industrial lighting and vintage furniture to choose. And don’t miss Fosse Gallery, The Square, which specialises in contemporary British art; representing many prestigious artists and hosting regular exhibitions in partnership with the Royal Academy.

    Foodie places
    This area is brimming with artisan food producers, so it’s well worth picking up local cheeses, free-range meat and other gourmet treats whilst here. We like Hamptons Fine Foods, 1 Digbeth Street, for Cotswold Brie, Single Gloucester and accompanying local honeys, handmade chutneys and more. Sweet tooths can indulge in handmade artisan chocolate, made with Cotswolds cream at The Cotswold Chocolate Company on Digbeth Street. Or stop for a warming bowl of homemade soup, or a freshly baked ‘Special Stow Cream Tea’ by the fireplace at Lucy’s Tearoom, located in a charming oak-beamed cottage.

    Where is your favourite town to shop this season? 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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    Lovely lemon curd cake

    by  • 28/01/2016 • 0 Comments

    Ready_29 JAN

    Nothing beats homemade lemon curd. It only lasts for two weeks in the fridge, so use it up quickly in this teatime treat.

    Cuts into 10 slices

    175g lightly salted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
    175g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
    175g caster sugar
    Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
    3 medium organic eggs, beaten
    2 tbsps whole milk

    TO FINISH
    200ml double cream
    6 tbsps good quality bought or homemade lemon curd (see Cook’s tip, below)
    150g icing sugar
    Juice of 1 lemon

    1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Grease and base line two 18cm round sandwich tins. Dust the sides with a little flour, shaking out the excess.

    2 Beat together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour if the mixture starts to separate. Sift the flour into the bowl and gently stir the ingredients together, adding the milk once the mixture is almost combined.

    3 Turn into the tins and level the surface. Bake for about 25 minutes until just firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

    4 Whip the cream until just peaking and spread over one cake. Spread the other cake with lemon curd. Sandwich the cakes together and put on to a serving plate.

    5 Beat the icing sugar with enough of the lemon juice to give a thick consistency that doesn’t quite hold its shape. Spread the icing over the top of the cake and serve.

    Cook’s tip
    To make 500g of lemon curd, put the finely grated zest and juice of 4 unwaxed lemons (about 150ml), 125g unsalted butter (cut into pieces), 3 medium eggs and 225g caster sugar into a heatproof bowl. Rest the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Cook gently, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes or until it coats the back of a spoon. Press curd through a sieve and pour into sterilised jars.

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    Meet Charlotte Robinson

    by  • 27/01/2016 • 0 Comments

    Ready_groupTalented ceramic designer Charlotte Robinson, was one of four winners in last year’s Heal’s Discovers programme – an initiative offering the next generation of designers a platform to showcase their skills and creativity. Her stunning Pour collection consists of beautifully handmade earthenware jugs, bowls and spoons; she shares the inspiration behind her subtle surface design with us…

    How did you get into ceramics?
    A neighbour first introduced me to ceramics; they taught me the basics of working with clay. I was lucky enough to do a three-month project in my second year at Kingston University, specialising in ceramics. I enjoyed experimenting with different materials and not being too precious about the results!

    Describe the making process.
    I use slip casting to create the items in the Pour collection. It involves pouring liquid clay into a plaster mould. The plaster absorbs the moisture, forming a skin of clay inside the mould. Once hardened, it can be popped out, then sanded glazed and fired. It’s a lengthy process but the results at the end make the hard work worthwhile.

    What was the inspiration behind the Pour collection?
    The idea stemmed from working closely with earthenware slip. I became fascinated with how I could control a liquid and direct its movement into different forms. My aim was to capture this movement of the liquid in a solid object. The colours reflect the many shades of the sea. Each pattern is slightly different, highlighting the unpredictability of tides and showing the sea for what it is: an uncontrollable force that’s beautiful in appearance.

    What do you love about what you do?
    I love the tactile nature of ceramics. The different stages of working fascinate me, how it can be a liquid or a solid, leather hard or completely dry – it’s truly amazing. I love shutting the kiln lid on muted pieces of pottery and opening it the next day to find them completely transformed. It’s a magical process.

    What’s been your proudest career moment to date?
    It would have to be seeing my products sold in the Heal’s store on Tottenham Court Road and online too. The pride in having my work associated with such a reputable company is a feeling I’ll never forget. I was able to share this moment with my family who have continually supported me.

    Sum up your creative style in three words.
    Organic, minimalistic and practical.

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    In the pink?

    by  • 26/01/2016 • 0 Comments

    Country living room

    Ring the changes by giving a lift to a neutral scheme. Here at Country Days, we couldn’t resist this gorgeous country living room where a muted grey palette is transformed with just a few touches of palest pink and cosy copper so that it’s awash with the wow factor. Wouldn’t you just love to pull up a chair beside this fire?

    Soft and soothing blush pinks and the warm metal tones of rose gold and copper are huge this season, and pastels are perfect for paving the way for a spring scheme

    Texture plays a key role in this look with opulent fabrics introduced, such as velvet on the statement chair and the irresistible wool of the Mongolian cushion, to create a comfy mood with a luxe edge.  Combine with characterful woods like the reclaimed pine coffee table, washed lampbases and worn floorboards for a modern twist on vintage style.

    This is a large space that calls for dramatic furniture and a sumptuous oversized sofa, piled high with beautiful cushions, provides flexible seating when teamed with classic statement armchairs, while a chunky coffee table takes pride of place.

    A copper angled floor lamp adds a contemporary touch, as well as providing cool task lighting. (Sofa, chairs, coffee table, lamps, rug, mirror, round and Mongolian cushion,  all Barker and Stonehouse).

     

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    Learn the art of interior design

    by  • 25/01/2016 • 0 Comments

    Larn the art of interior designFancy learning the style secrets of the interior design world? Country Homes & Interiors is working with My Design School at KLC to offer a fun and innovative way to learn all the skills you need to create a beautiful country home!

    Focusing on your own home project, course tutors and guest experts will guide you through the creative process, giving you the know-how, confidence and inspiration to expand your ideas and develop your own design style.

    Presented entirely online, you can participate any time of the day or night, at home or on the move! Plus, the interactive online community allows you to chat with like-minded people, share sources and discuss trends.

    My Design School: Design your own home runs from 15 February-18 March 2016. To receive an EXCLUSIVE 50% DISCOUNT, enrol for just £199 at klc.co.uk/mds and quote BL0116.

    Happy styling!

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