• Meet Milly & Pip

    by  • 14/12/2016 • 0 Comments

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    Milly & Pip was founded in 2008 by designer Ali Millard. From her studio in Derbyshire, she creates personalised gifts, cards and keepsakes using appliqué and recycled materials. These cute stockings (top, £37; bottom right, £19, both available from Not On The High Street) have a little pocket at the front to put letters to Santa, a lovely festive tradition for kids – and big kids, too!

    How did Milly & Pip come about?
    After 16 years working as a childrenswear designer I decided to take a career break, during which I began to make personalised gifts for friends. I was eventually approached by a local gift shop and also discovered Not On The High Street – an online ‘marketplace’ for creative small businesses. After a few months of selling, I realized I could really be successful.

    What’s your workspace like?
    I work in what was once an old wooden stable block. We knocked the original building down (before it fell down!) and built a workshop in its place, complete with stable doors as a nod to its past.

    What inspires you?
    I love the idea of tradition – our stockings are timeless and can be used year after year. I also take a lot of inspiration from life in the country.

    What makes your products special?
    Every single item is handmade to order using found and recycled materials, so no two products are the same. We’re also passionate about sourcing from the UK and as local as possible, mostly within 20 miles of our workshop!

    Sum up your creative style in three words.
    Classic, modern keepsakes.

    What do you love about Christmas in the country?
    Getting cozy in front of an open fire and sharing drinks with friends, family and neighbours.

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    Winter wonderland

    by  • 13/12/2016 • 0 Comments

    country living room

    With Christmas less than two weeks away, it’s time to go to town with decorating. We were inspired by this festive country living room with a Scandi edge that Father Christmas himself would feel right at home in!

    This beautiful space maximises the cosy cabin backdrop by using a soft palette of  greys and off-whites to create an easy-on-the-eye scheme. The cream coffee table is the epitome of country style with its woven baskets providing handy storage beneath, while the table top ensures plenty of space for mince pies and glasses of mulled wine!

    Enhance the Scandi feel by layering the sofa with a sheepskin rug and cushions in opulent fabrics for sumptuous texture.  Then add a pebble-effect rug to scrubbed wooden floorboards for comfort underfoot.

    The beautiful woodburner is the focal point of the room and perfect for adding a cosy glow. Enhance the magical feel with candlelight – add in an array beautiful metal lanterns and tealight holders. Then introduce garlands, foliage and a tree (this is a faux one, and we love its snow-dusted finish) for a festive flourish.

    (Christmas tree and decorations, Sidmouth cream coffee table, Walton large sofa, Pebble rug, sheepskin rug, Aspen cushion, checked cushion, metal lanterns and flock deer, all from Dunelm.)

     

     

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    Give gifts in hand-stitched parcels

    by  • 11/12/2016 • 0 Comments

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    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.

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    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…

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

     

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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

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    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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