• Archive for December, 2012

    Snowflake wallpaper

    by  • 27/12/2012 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments

    There are few things in nature more visually stunning than the humble snowflake. This beautifully hand drawn wallpaper by Abigail Edwards captures its simple, yet mesmerising beauty.

    Inspired by the work of Wilson Bentley, who studied and photographed more than five thousand and in doing so discovered that no two are alike, this charming design with it’s delicate frosty grey colour palette adds understated elegance to your country home. Best hung in the dining room to create a talking point over dinner.

    Wilson's Crystals wallpaper, £60 a roll, Abigail Edwards.

    Wilson’s Crystals wallpaper, £60 a roll, Abigail Edwards.

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    Make Liberty print curtains

    by  • 26/12/2012 • Country craft • 0 Comments

    We love this Liberty print Tana Lawn fabric from Donna Flower that features in our new February issue (on sale 3rd January). It’s perfect for bringing a country feel to a plain bathroom.

    The curtains are decorative in that they stay in a fixed position, tied back neatly with lovely Liberty print bias bindings from Clothkits, which you can also use to trim the top edges of the curtains. Why not have a go at making them – and bring a touch of spring to your windows?

    Our country curtains make a great alternative to nets and frosted windows

    If you like this idea we have lots more easy craft projects for you to try. And for more country recipes, crafts and room ideas, why not buy our new Country Home Ideas app?

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    Get in the Mood for Christmas day

    by  • 21/12/2012 • Country style • 0 Comments

    With Christmas celebrations very nearly upon us, don’t forget those last minute necessities! With a little help from my personally designed moodboard get inspired and create your very own stylish Christmas look for your home to impress friends and family on Christmas Day.
    Attention to detail is important so don’t forget enough crackers for everyone, stockings full of gifts and fun decorations (see my little spiky owl!) to put a smile on any little persons face.
    Merry Christmas to you all and don’t forget this time of year is a great excuse to get creative and show off your home in a festive, inviting way!
    Get in the mood for Christmas celebrations

    Get in the mood for Christmas celebrations

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    Pass these round with the drinks

    by  • 20/12/2012 • Country food • 0 Comments

    Mixed savoury tartlets, the perfect appetizer with a glass of mulled wine

    Making decent pastry is not up there at the top of my skill set but this method seems to be idiot proof and I turned out a decent batch of mini tarts recently after following it to the letter. It was a trial run for the Christmas entertaining season – you can’t beat the combo of a tray of savoury pastries being passed round with the mulled wine. To make 24 tartlets you will need…

    250g flour
    1 tsp salt
    125g butter, straight from the fridge
    1 egg
    cold water

    Put the flour and salt into a bowl. Take the butter from the fridge, sandwich it between 2 pieces of greaseproof paper and bash firmly with a rolling pin until it is about 1cm thick and pliable. Put the butter into the bowl with the flour and tear it into pieces. Try and keep the butter completely coated with flour at all times so it doesn’t stick. Gently flake the butter into the flour as if you are dealing a pack of cards. Stop flaking when the pieces of butter are the size of your little fingernail. Tip the egg into the flour, add a dash of  water, and mix everything together. Work the dough in the bowl by pressing down with both thumbs, turning the bowl a quarter turn and repeating a few times. Turn the dough out and work and turn it a few more times. Fold the dough over on to itself and press it down with your fingertips. Repeat this process until the dough is like plasticine. Shape the dough into a square by tapping the edges on the work surface so you start with a neat shape.

    You are now ready to make your tartlets. The big hit when I made these was the onion version (I also made mushroom and spinach, leek and bacon, and broccoli and tomato)…

    Preheat the oven to 190*C/Gas 5. Melt 25g butter in a pan with a large pinch each of sea salt and sugar. Add 6 finely sliced onions, 1 crushed garlic clove and a bay leaf and cook slowly until the onions are softened. Remove the bay leaf. Lightly grease two 12-hole tart tins. Skim a fine film of flour over the work surface, roll out the pastry 2-3mm thick and use to line the tins. Transfer to the fridge to rest for atleast 30 minutes. Fill the chilled cases with the onion mixture, top with a little grated Gruyere and a sprig of thyme. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the pastry and cheese are nicely browned. Arrange on a platter with some fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes.

    This recipe is taken from Pastry by Richard Bertinet (Ebury Press, £20). Photograph by Jean Cazals

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    It’s party season!

    by  • 19/12/2012 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments

    I had some idea that the shed would be a great place to wrap Christmas presents in secret- and use as a bolt hole over the Christmas period for a little ‘me’ time, especially when the house is full of guests. This poses the question- how to make it comfortable? We used strings of stylish designer light bulbs thrown over a beam connected to an extension cable from the house. Glowing lanterns are great for traipsing across the garden in the dark as well as casting magical candlelight. A comfy chair with a fleecy  throw provides a place to sit and a bottle of brandy and a few mince pies hidden in a basket makes for a festive snack and naughty winter warming tipple!

    For other relaxed and decadent decorating ideas turn to page 56-63 Jan issue (out now) to see our ‘It’s party season’ feature.

    Vintage ski's, ice skates, Manfred Schotten. Socks, Toft Alpaca. Crystal bulb lamps, Lee Broom. Barbour bag, House of Fraser. Chair, Ikea. Throw, Toast. Boots, Joules. Lanterns, Bloomingville

    Vintage ski’s, ice skates, Manfred Schotten. Socks, Toft Alpaca. Crystal bulb lamps, Lee Broom. Barbour bag, House of Fraser. Chair, Ikea. Throw, Toast. Boots, Joules. Lanterns, Bloomingville

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    Festive living room

    by  • 18/12/2012 • Country style • 3 Comments

    When all the excitement of the present opening is over and the cooking and eating of Christmas Dinner done, here’s a festive cosy corner that would be perfect to sink into and enjoy a mince pie and a well-earned rest!

    It’s part of reader Adrienne Michaelide’s house and you can see it in the January issue of Country Homes & Interiors, or you can take a tour around this lovely country cottage.

    The neutral palette is ever popular in country homes and this is a great example of bringing in cosy colour with bright red accessories  for an instant festive update.

    Seasonal red and themed accessories create a cosy corner in a country cottage

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    The perfect Christmas tree

    by  • 17/12/2012 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    There’s nothing like choosing your own tree and we did just that this weekend from our local farm. My two boys had great fun just running through the firs, hiding and then jumping out!

    It always surprises me how tricky choosing the Christmas tree is – is it the right height?, the right shape?, does it have enough trunk? is there room for the star on top? Four heated opinions later… and this is the one we chose. Not too big, not too small and not too wide. In fact, absolutely, perfect!

    The chosen one!

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    Craft a Christmas stocking

    by  • 14/12/2012 • Country craft • 0 Comments

    ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’… it’s also one of the busiest! If you’re looking to retain your crafty side but time is of the essence, we’ve found the perfect thing with Friday’s Child stocking kits. The no cutting, no sewing and no pinning kits are ideal for achieving a homemade, unique stocking to treasure and hang on the mantelpiece year after year.

    Available in two designs – Reindeer and Tree, each kit comes complete with a plain pre-made stocking, pre-cut fabric motifs and simple instructions so all you need is an iron and a quiet half hour to create your stocking in time for Christmas.

    Friday’s Child was set up by Eileen and Wendy, two mums with a determination to spread the joy of crafting – the kits are a great way to get the children involved by helping to design their own stockings.

    Reindeer & Tree Christmas stocking kits, £15 each, Friday's Child.

    Reindeer & Tree Christmas stocking kits, £15 each, Friday’s Child.

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    Christmas isn’t Christmas without a chocolate log…

    by  • 13/12/2012 • Country food • 0 Comments

    Triple Chocolate Log

    This rich and spectacular dessert will win you many friends this holiday season. A light sponge rolled around dark and white chocolate mousse layers, it’s topped with stunning chocolate and gold leaves. Set aside an afternoon of leisurely baking to rustle this up and prink away with those chocolate leaves to your heart’s delight…

    6 large free-range eggs, at room temperature
    good pinch of cream of tartar
    140g caster sugar
    50g cocoa powder
    1–2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)

    200g dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids), chopped
    4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
    1–2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
    1 tablespoon caster sugar

    200ml whipping cream, well chilled
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    75g best-quality white chocolate, well chilled, finely grated

    75g dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids), broken up
    edible gold lustre
    cocoa powder, for sprinkling
    1 swiss roll tin, baking tray or roasting tin, 25 x 30.5cm (see recipe); parchment-lined foil or baking paper

    1 Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Line the tin or tray with the parchment-lined foil or baking paper, folding it so it makes a 25-30.5cm rectangular container with 2cm sides (it doesn’t matter if your tin or tray is larger than this; just make sure the ‘liner’ is the right size).

    2 Make the sponge first. Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a large free-standing electric mixer, and the yolks in another. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking until the whites stand in stiff peaks. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of the measured caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, to make a stiff, glossy meringue. Set aside until needed.

    3 Add the remaining caster sugar to the egg yolks and whisk with the same beaters (no need to wash) until the mixture is very thick and mousse-like and forms a thick ribbonlike trail when the beaters are lifted from the bowl. Sift the cocoa powder into the bowl and gently fold in with a large metal spoon. Fold the whisked egg whites into the yolk mixture in 3 batches.

    4 Transfer the mixture to the prepared ‘liner’ and spread evenly. Bake for 15–18 minutes until the sponge is springy when gently pressed. Meanwhile, cover a wire rack with a clean, dry tea towel topped with a sheet of baking paper.

    5 Tip the baked sponge out onto the lined rack and peel off the paper ‘liner’. Sprinkle the rum over the sponge, if using, then leave to cool completely.

    6 Meanwhile, make the dark mousse. Melt the chocolate with 100ml water in a large bowl. Off the heat, gently stir in the egg yolks, one at a time, followed by the rum, if using. Whisk the egg whites until stiff as before, then whisk in the sugar. Very gently fold the whites into the chocolate mixture in 3 batches. Cover and chill for 30 minutes until starting to set.

    7 To make the white mousse, whip the cream with the vanilla until it thickens and stands in stiff peaks. Fold in the white chocolate. Cover and keep in the fridge until needed.

    8 To assemble the log, make a deep cut across the sponge about 1.5cm away from one short end. Spread the dark chocolate mousse over the sponge, leaving a 2cm border clear all around. Cover the dark mousse with the white mousse. Roll up from the short end with the cut, using the baking paper to help you pull and mould the roll into a neat shape. Wrap the roll in the paper to give it a neat shape, then chill for at least 2 hours until firm (or up to a day if the roll is well covered).

    9 When ready to finish, remove the paper and transfer the log to a serving platter. Trim off the ends, if you like. Temper the chocolate, then use to make leaf decorations. Use leaves from the garden such as rose, bay or camellia that are free from pesticides and have visible veining. Put a sheet of baking paper on a tray and using a small paintbrush paint a thin layer of the tempered chocolate onto each leaf. Leave to set then paint on another thin layer. Then coat half of the leaves with edible gold lustre. Leave to set. Arrange the chocolate leaves down the length of the cake, then sprinkle with sifted cocoa powder. Any leftover cake (fat chance) can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

    Recipe from The Great British Bake Off: How to turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers by Linda Collister (BBC Books, £20).
    For more country style recipes, download our new Country Home Ideas app


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    A room full of scent

    by  • 12/12/2012 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    As freezing weather takes hold and your country garden’s tucked up in bed for the winter, the only sensible way to get a gardening fix at this time of year, I find, is to fill the house with scented bulbs. Bowls of cheery white and golden narcissi or stately blue, white or deep pink hyacinths add natural beauty to the Christmas decorations, while filling the room with their heady fragrance.

    Organised gardeners will have planted their own bulbs at the beginning of autumn – the rest of us will have a visit to the local garden centre or nursery at the top of our To Do lists, to shop for containers filled with bulbs that have been specially forced to flower just in time for Christmas. I’ll be looking out for Paper White narcissi. I love their pretty, snowy blooms and their gorgeous sweet perfume.

    Treat bulbs grown indoors as houseplants. Keep them cool and moist, support with a few twigs from the garden if they start to get top heavy, and they’ll put on a show long after the festivities are over.

    Pretty, scented Paper White narcissi. Photograph: iBulb

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