• Archive for December, 2009

    Have a very happy Christmas

    by  • 18/12/2009 • Country style • 3 Comments

    Today is my last day in the office so I just thought I would wish you all a very happy Christmas. Country Homes & Interiors has had a brilliant year!. Despite the backdrop of recession, our readership has grown by over 20% and myself and the team have enjoyed bringing you the best-possible inspiration and ideas for home and country. Thank you for reading and supporting us!

    I’ll be back on the 4th January and am  looking forward to briging you even more new and exciting country-style ideas for the start of a new decade. If you click here, you will receive our exclusive Christmas card

    I'll be hanging this stocking this Christmas!

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    Nativity at Winchelsea

    by  • 17/12/2009 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    It’s that time of year when mums and dads sit through the annual nativity play. For the last month or so at my son Will’s school in East Sussex, the children have been making enormous ‘Christmas story’ lanterns under the watchful eye of a local paper artist. And last night we were treated to a fabulous nativity procession through the ancient streets of Winchelsea to the church.

    Following an enormous star of Bethlehem, a gaggle of smaller stars, sheep and shepherds, Christmas trees and kings with their gifts snaked through this usually sleepy town to the church. It was magical… and the kind of occasion that is so unique to the small, character-filled communities that make up rural Britain. Here are some pics…

    Follow that star


    Here come the kings


    Wait for me!


    Inside the church with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus

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    Do you mind if I knit?

    by  • 16/12/2009 • Country craft • 6 Comments

    Snow on the way! With this cold weather snap, a great way to while away winter evenings is to learn a new craft and create something lovely. You’ll find plenty of inspiration at Do you mind if I knit? the blog of talented artist and illustrator Vanessa Cabban, who loves to knit, crochet and bake in her spare time. She also has an Etsy shop where she sells lovely paintings. Check out her guide to crochet stitches – blogs such as Vanessa’s are great for hints and tips, or you might like to try a beginners’ crochet workshop, like those over at Loop. I’m tempted to try it myself… 

    Gorgeous crochet at Do you mind if I Knit?

    Gorgeous crochet at Do you mind if I knit?

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    The smell of pine

    by  • 15/12/2009 • Country style • 0 Comments

    Above all else, I just love the smell of pine in the house now that we have the tree up. There is something about the fragrance that is clean, crisp and pure. So I was excited to discover that this year Jo Malone, the queen of delicious perfumes, has produced a limited edition fragrance for the home called Pine and Eucalpyptus Living Cologne. ‘It’s the embodiment of Christmas cheer and the very essence of the festive season,’ she says. I think she may well be right!

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    Stuck for a prezzie?

    by  • 10/12/2009 • Country style • 2 Comments

    if you love to give unique crafy presents like me, take a look at Blueberry Park. Its online store is dedicated to bringing you original gifts and treats, all handmade by talented British Artists. I thought this Family Tree picture was a great prezzie for the ‘person who has everything’ – I know my mum would love it!

    Family Tree Picture

    Family Tree Picture

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    Crafty Sarah

    by  • 09/12/2009 • Country craft • 4 Comments

    As we have three Sara/Sarahs on the staff, when I found Sarah London’s blog I had to have a look. She loves her fabrics and patchwork, and also finds some inspirational Christmas ideas – following the paper snowflake I mentioned last week, check out this beautiful cut-out snowflake curtain:

    Sarah London's paper snowflake curtain


    Follow the link on her blog to find out how to make it.

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    Lunch at The Garrison

    by  • 08/12/2009 • Country food, Country moment • 1 Comment

    The festivities started yesterday for the Country Homes & Interiors team with our annual Christmas lunch. Early, I know, but Columba – our amazing Editorial Assistant – and Claire -our super-talented Assistant Editor – are both flying off to sunny climes (South Africa and Malaysia) this week  for end-of-year adventures. So an early celebration was called for!

    The Garrison,  a busy, friendly, neighbourhood gastropub (Michelin recommended) on Bermondsey Street, SE1, close to Tower Bridge was our destination. We were all in seventh heaven when we discovered it was like the set of a Country Homes & Interiors decorating shoot – clapboard walls, big chunky rustic tables, pretty mirrors and masses of twinkilng white lights. We all felt thoroughly at home and enjoyed the food enormously. Here are a few pics…


    From left: Viv, Julie, Marian, Alice, Sara, Meredith, Sarah, Petra, Sarah


    The Garrison

    We loved the private room at The Garrison


    Sarah and Sara

    Sarah and Sara

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    Ceramic decorations

    by  • 07/12/2009 • Country craft, Country style • 2 Comments

    I am loving this little ceramic decoration from Gallery Thea, which I think would also look good as a gift tag or napkin tie. Designer Thea Cutting, who is based in Southwold, Norfolk, can also customise individual pieces with a name or message. Just call her on 01502 722 433 to discuss your commission.

    Gallery Thea ceramic decoration

    Gallery Thea Christmas tree, £17

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    Slow-cooked venison ragout

    by  • 03/12/2009 • Country food • 7 Comments

    The people at jam makers, Bonne Maman, sent me this delicious slow-cooked venison ragout recipe. It has a special secret ingredient – blackcurrant conserve. It looks delicious and, as temperatures dip, is the perfect cold-weather food…


    Slow-cooked venison ragout

    Slow-cooked venison ragout - yum!


    Serves 6 

    3 tbsp olive oil

    750g (1½lbs) shoulder venison, cut into larger than bite-size pieces

    225g (8oz) shallots, peeled

    2 garlic cloves, crushed

    160g pack cubed pancetta or chopped streaky bacon

    125g (4oz) small shitake mushrooms

    2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

    2 tbsp plain flour

    4 tbsp Bonne Maman Blackcurrant Conserve

    300ml (½pint) ale

    400g can chopped tomatoes

    300ml (½pint) stock

    2 tbsp Soya sauce

    2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

     1.     Preheat the oven to 170C (gas mark 3). Heat the olive oil in a large, ovenproof casserole and brown the venison, a few pieces at a time. Remove from the pan and set aside.

    2.     Put the shallots, garlic, pancetta and mushrooms in the pan and fry, stirring, until golden brown. Stir in the thyme and flour.

    3.     Return the venison with all the remaining ingredients and bring slowly to the boil. Cover and simmer very gently for 2½ -3hrs or until meltingly tender.

    4.     Serve with creamy mash, braised carrots and some steamed tender-stem broccoli.

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    Make a paper snowflake decoration

    by  • 02/12/2009 • Country craft • 6 Comments

    This lovely decoration is made by just folding and cutting paper. I found it on a wonderful website called Cut Out and Keep. The site began as the personal craft blog of journalist Cat Morley who wanted to share craft tutorials with other enthusiasts. Now this online craft community has over 30,000 members so you’ll be sure to find all you need to know no matter what you fancy making this Christmas. Look out for the red ‘How-to’ tags for easy step-by-step instructions and photographs. Click on the link above for the snowflake project.

    Get the kids to help make this easy snowflake decoration.

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