• Archive for April, 2016

    The Country Decorator’s shopping shortlist – pretty stationery essentials

    by  • 30/04/2016 • Country style • 0 Comments

    Ready_Caroline GardnerIt’s National Stationery Week so what better excuse than to celebrate with a lovely new writing set?! We’ve rounded-up a gorgeous trio of paper-friendly buys to encourage you to give the keyboard a rest and put pen to paper the good-old fashioned way.

    Keep snail mail in business and post a sweet card to a nearest and dearest to perk up their day. We adore this cute-as-a-button Ditsy Notecard & Pen Set (above), £16, from Caroline Gardner. This beautifully boxed set of 10 notecards includes two different floral designs and is supplied with elegant envelopes, and a matching black ink ball point pen – it’s true that great things come in small packages!

    normal_rabbit-letter-writing-setIf you’re animal lovers like we are, you’ll be smitten with this adorable Rabbit Letter Writing Set (above), £9.95, by Sirocco Design at Not On The High Street. With each set containing 10 sheets of A5 illustrated paper, matching envelopes and address labels, you’ll have everything you need to make someone’s day with a lovely letter.

    Ready_notelets-set-1-the-lovely-drawer-900x900Let the words do the talking with this beautifully simple Brush Lettered Notecard Set (above), £12, from The Lovely Drawer. This hand lettered set of postcards with corresponding textured envelopes has three designs and is the spot-on choice for writing your messages on, whether that’s a thoughtful thank you or a jolly ‘hello’.

    Banish the writer’s block and let the handwriting flow…



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    Meet Country Homes & Interiors at the Weald of Kent Craft & Design Show!

    by  • 29/04/2016 • Country business, Country food, Country moment • 0 Comments

    Penshurst Place FairThe Weald of Kent Craft & Design Show returns to Penshurst Place, near Tonbridge, this bank holiday weekend (30 April to 2 May 2016) , showcasing British handmade and artisan crafts at more than 250 stands! Pick up furniture, glassware, jewellery, beauty products and leather goods. With workshops and demonstrations, plus luxury food and drink stands, it’s the perfect family day out. Pop by and see us on the Country Homes & Interiors stand and save 51% on a subscription!

    Here are three of our favourite show highlights this year…

    Cookery time
    Join a lively lesson with Masterchef of Great Britain, Paul Da Costa Greaves and learn how to make Paul’s favourite summer recipes. If you’re still feeling peckish, head in to the Good Food Live area where you can stock up on delicious produce, including farmhouse cheese, handmade chutneys, sauces, seeds, chocolates and wine.

    Artisan makes
    Visit a rural crafts demonstration workshop and have a go at traditional, heritage and contemporary craft-making. There are workshops tailored for children too.

    Show garden
    Visit The Tempus Fugit Garden, created by How Green Nursery and Chilstone, which features inspiring planting, stone sundials and armillary spheres. And look out for stonemason Nigel Hartfield, who demonstrates the art of stone engraving alongside the garden.


    Will you be visiting the Craft & Design show? We would love hear about your experience…

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




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    Squidgy chocolate, almond & prune torte

    by  • 28/04/2016 • Country food • 1 Comment

    Ready_Genius Chocolate Torte

    We found this rich and fruity torte in the Genius Gluten Free Cookbook by Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne (Vermilion, £14.99) – a must-have for anyone with a gluten intolerance. It tasted so good, we just had to share – serve with double cream or crème fraîche.

    SERVES 8–10

    55g ready-to-eat pitted prunes, roughly chopped
    50ml brandy or Amaretto
    3 medium eggs, separated
    140g caster sugar
    200g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids, roughly chopped
    110g unsalted butter or dairy-free baking margarine, diced
    100g ground almonds
    40g cornflour
    oil, for greasing

    1. Soak the prunes in the brandy for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 20cm springform tin with butter and line the base with greased greaseproof paper.
    2. Beat the egg yolks with the caster sugar on high speed until thick and creamy.
    3. Place the chocolate and 2 tablespoons of water in an ovenproof bowl, sitting on the rim of a small pan of simmering water. Stir the melting chocolate and water together until smooth. Slowly incorporate the butter, a few pieces at a time, to form a smooth, shiny liquid.
    4. Pour the melted chocolate mixture over the whisked egg yolks, and gently fold together using a large metal spoon.
    5. Sift the ground almonds and cornflour over the chocolate mixture, add the soaked prunes and brandy, and gently fold through.
    6. In a clean, dry bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form firm peaks that do not wobble when the bowl is shaken. Stir a large spoonful into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
    7. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, and bake in the centre of the oven for 35–40 minutes until the centre of the torte is just set. Leave to get cool in the tin on a wire rack.
    8. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the torte, remove the tin and lining paper, and transfer the torte to a serving dish.
    9. Serve in narrow slices with double cream or a dollop of crème fraîche on the side. Your guests can always come back for more.

    Photograph by Joff Lee.


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    Love a country lantern

    by  • 27/04/2016 • Country business • 0 Comments

    Ready_groupMake a statement in your home with a beautiful fabric lantern from Inspired Lanterns. There’s a range of country-inspired designs to choose from, all drawn by local artists. Poppy Seed (above) is one of our favourites for adding drama to a country bedroom. Good friends and joint owners of the business, Annette and Izzy, tell us more…

    How did Inspired Lanterns come about?
    The inspiration for our lanterns was first discovered on a little back street in Laos, Greece, where some fabric and fairy lights were used to decorate a little café. The idea blossomed and evolved into the enchanting products we make today. When it came to naming the company the word Inspired sprang to mind, because it sums us up. We’re inspired every day by each other, our family, friends and the beauty of the world around us.

    What’s your workspace like?
    Ever changing! Whether it’s a photo-shoot in Annette’s living room or a road trip round England to source local materials and meet artists and designers, we go wherever the work takes us.

    What inspires your designs?
    Britain in all its glory! From enchanting countryside scenes to historic cityscapes, our designs aim to capture all the things we love about it.

    Talk us through the design and making process.
    Our prints are sourced from local artists and designers, chosen or commissioned to fit with our brand. We strive to keep our lanterns as natural and local as possible and digitally print onto 100% unbleached cotton sourced in England.

    What do you love about what you do?
    From the moment we decided to embark on this venture together, it’s been an exciting roller-coaster of a journey. We started out with a rather limited understanding of fabric, printing and product design, but it never stopped us pushing forward. Every day we’ve faced new and exciting challenges and learnt so much.

    Sum up your creative style in three words.
    Contemporary, country and quintessential.

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    Sweet dreams!

    by  • 26/04/2016 • Country style • 0 Comments

    floral country bedroom

    This time of year is all about throwing open the doors and bringing the outside in, and it’s a look that’s perfect for a country bedroom.

    Here, a classically elegant bedframe (Lily by Button & Sprung), evokes chic style with its understated scroll detail and row of handstitched buttons on the headboard, plus turned wooden legs.  Choosing a bed that’s upholstered in a neutral colourway, such as this silver grey shade, is guaranteed to go with any scheme and also creates a hint of hotel luxe.

    Partner with pretty summer-meadow inspired bedlinen (this one is Butterfly print by Zara Home) for a seasonal edge and layer with a fringed woollen throw for chillier evenings.

    Big up the country feel with a distressed, rustic bedside table and keep the flooring understated by teaming bare floorboards with a natural fibre rug.


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    Meet Sarah Hughes, the winner of the 2015 My Country Business Awards

    by  • 25/04/2016 • Country business • 0 Comments

    Ready_Sarah Hughes

    Enter the 2016 My Country Business Awards in association with Notonthehighstreet.com now and you could be like Sarah Hughes of Eat My Flowers, the winner of last year’s Food Award.

    Working from the family farm in North Wales, Sarah grows edible flowers and creates crystallised flowers and lollipops with flowers in them. The judges loved the fact that Sarah grows the flowers herself.

    What did winning mean to you? It was such an honour and gave us all such a morale boost. We also saw an increase in sales from coverage in Country Homes & Interiors.

    How have you developed the brand? We’ve increased our wedding customers and developed our events catering and hotel customers. After exhibiting at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2015, we’ve also increased our export business.

    What’s your long-term goal? To continue to increase our exports, especially with international weddings.

    How helpful was the support you got from winning? It was a real bonus to be mentored by the marketing team at Yeo Valley. They were really helpful in offering advice and this made winning the award even more valuable to us.

    Why don’t you enter the My Country Business awards now at housetohome.co.uk/business?

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    Create cake bunting

    by  • 24/04/2016 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments

    Ready_RT_IPCIMMGLPICT000005140956Whether it’s for a garden party, summer wedding or birthday bash, transform a home bake into a party showstopper with this adorable cake bunting, made using candy-stripe straws and colourful washi tape.

    Cut strips of patterned washi tape into diamond shapes – we left ours plain, but you could spell out a greeting by writing a letter onto the bottom half of each diamond. Take two straws and tie a length of string between them (be sure to check all your letters fit if you’re spelling out words). Position each diamond so the string lies down the middle, then fold over and press together to create a flag shape, as shown. Keep going until the string is full, you can add as many rows as you like! Carefully press each straw into either side of the cake and display on a colourful vintage-style cake stand.

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    30 Country Style Icons: the eiderdown

    by  • 24/04/2016 • Country style • 1 Comment

    28Country Homes & Interiors is 30 this year! In celebration, we’ve picked 30 of our all-time favourite design classics that have stood the test of time, thanks to their real sense of history, craftsmanship and purpose, to share with you over the coming weeks.

    8. The eiderdown
    Today, feather-filled quilts or eiderdowns are valued more for their good looks but, traditionally, would have been lifesavers on chilly nights, as well as family heirlooms. The craftsmanship involved in making them has stayed with us and more people than ever are taking to quilting as a hobby. If you’re not handy with a needle and thread (or lack the necessary patience!) there are plenty of readymade designs available, including this cheery Antique Rose Bouquet bedcover, £145, Cath Kidston.

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    The Country Decorator’s shopping shortlist – wildlife hotels

    by  • 23/04/2016 • Country style • 0 Comments

    Ready_John Lewis Insect HabitatsWith flowers blooming, birds chirping and butterflies beginning to flutter, the countryside has burst into life in a flourish and flurry of colour and activity. Welcome bugs and beasties to share your beautiful garden with our delightful edit of charming wildlife hotels that will offer shelter and protection to a variety of native springtime visitors.

    We love this Kew Gardens’ Mini Buzz Bug Cottage, £9.95; and Kew Gardens’ Portland Nest Box, £17.95 (shown above), both from John Lewis – they’re the perfect picks to encourage new residents to set up home! Visit the John Lewis website to discover their full range of insect, butterfly, hedgehog, bee and bug houses.

    Ready_garden trading

    Why should humans hog all of the style? Provide your creature friends with smart dwellings and encourage a thriving ecosystem with these lovelies from Garden Trading (above). With a chic charcoal exterior in spruce wood and filled with bamboo shoots and pine, this Orkney Insect House, £22, is a lifesaver for bees, ladybirds and butterflies to lay and hide their eggs in. This Wooden Hedgehog House, £38, is the perfectly designed shelter for female hedgehogs to nest young inside, and features a small opening to prevent cheeky cats, dogs and foxes from entering.

    Ready_OrchardRise and shine! Early birds deserve a rustic retreat to rest in between dawn chorus exertions. This charming Nostalgia Birdhouse, £9, from The Orchard, features an attractive duck egg-painted wood and zinc exterior, and is practical for a range of garden birds – the more the merrier, it certainly won’t ruffle any feathers!

    Now that you’re equipped to be the best landlady and warden (ever) of your very own nature reserve – prepare for all creatures great and small to come flocking in two by two… To learn more about how you can do your bit to protect and conserve our beloved native species and bring wildlife back to life, visit the People’s Trust For Endangered Species website.





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    Visit a Shakespearean garden

    by  • 22/04/2016 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    Shakespeare's Garden at Hall's CroftWith Shakespeare’s 400-year anniversary tomorrow (23 April), we’re enjoying looking back at his incredible life through the eyes of garden writer Jackie Bennett and photographer Andrew Lawson in their new book Shakespeare’s Gardens (£25, Frances Lincoln). Shakespeare’s knowledge of gardens and plants was largely influenced by real gardens in his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon, from his birthplace at Henley Street where he learned about herbs, and his married life at Anne Hathaway’s home, now known for its cottage planting, to his exceptional knowledge of medicinal plants, gained through his son-in-law at Hall’s Croft.

    Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Henley Street
    ‘Here’s flowers for you: Hot lavender, mints, savoury, marjoram’ – The Winter’s Tale
    This is where the bard’s family lived and Shakespeare was born in 1564. He spent all of his childhood here where his father, a glovemaker and tanner, ran a workshop. Outdoors the family would have had space for small animals, pigs and geese plus room for veg, herbs and an orchard area. In the 19th century, the gardens were restored and gradually developed further with the Victorian era which favoured wide paths, yew hedges and heathers as the main garden layout Newer additions feature David Austen roses such as Rosa Falstaff and Gentle Hermione, designed to represent Shakespearian characters.

    Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Cottage Lane, Shottery
    And in the wood where often you and I. Upon faint primrose beds were wont to lie’ – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    Here Shakespeare celebrated courtship and marriage to Anne Hathaway who inherited the picturesque thatched farmhouse and gardens from her family. The gardens would have been much simpler in Tudor times with plots dedicated to rearing animals, and any extra space given to edible produce such as beans, cabbages and herbs. From the mid-nineteenth century, cottage garden style was emerging in the garden world with the addition of fragrant flowers and herbaceous plants. Further development was undertaken with advice from 1920’s garden designer Ellen Willmott to add topiary, shrubs and cottage-style flowers, which visitors enjoy today.

    Hall’s Croft, Old Town (pictured)
    ‘There’s fennel for you, and Columbines: there’s rue for you; and here’s some for me: we may call it herb-grace o’Sundays’ – Hamlet
    Shakespeare bought the land and orchards on this site, which he gave to his daughter Susanna on her marriage to physician John Hall; here they built Hall’s Croft. Shakespeare learned more about the medicinal properties of plants, their powers and dangers, which are evident in so many of his plays. In today’s garden, visitors can still see the historic layout, with the garden sitting in two halves, on the new and old sides of town and a 250-year-old Mulberry on the boundary line. The garden style now celebrates mid twentieth-century style from its restoration by Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust. Visitors can see crocus, scillas, double daisies and more, while along the pathways roses are underplanted with irises, delphiniums and herbaceous plants. There’s a nod to the Elizabethan era too, with the colourful combination of bulbs, hardy annuals and short-lived perennials, plus the more recent addition of a herb garden featuring plants listed in Dr Hall’s casebook, including comfrey, sage and thyme.


    Adapted extract from Shakespeare’s Gardens (Frances Lincoln).

    We love the illustrations and garden photography in this beautiful book – perfect for your coffee-table!

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