Cakes & Bakes: Muscovado shortbread

Home-made mMscovado shortbread petticoat tails with cup of tea

We’ve had a full on week, so I wanted a Cakes & Bakes recipe that was quick to make. I need to get my nose back to the grindstone ASAP! Biscuits & cookies are always a good choice at times like this, so I rustled up a batch of Muscovado shortbread petticoat tails.

Vintage round wooden shortbread mould with bag of rice flour | H is for Home

When making shortbread, I usually shape it in my vintage wooden shortbread mould. However, you can always use any square or circular cake tin – just make sure the shortbread mixture is evenly distributed and the top flattened. Using the back of a spoon works really well.

Muscovado shortbread mixture | H is for Home

Using Muscovado instead of the traditional caster sugar gives a lovely depth of flavour, aroma and darker brown colour. The addition of a teaspoon of vanilla paste adds extra sweetness & flavour.

Muscovado shortbread mixture in vintage wooden mould | H is for Home

A light sprinkling of Demerara sugar gives an attractive, crunchy top.

Muscovado shortbread sliced into petticoat tails | H is for Home

Click here to save the recipe to Pinterest

Muscovado shortbread
Ingredients
  1. 110g/4oz butter, softened
  2. 50g/2oz Muscovado sugar
  3. 1tsp vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
  4. 175g/6oz plain flour
  5. 1tbsp Demerara sugarHome-made muscovado shortbread ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas mark 2
  2. Line a baking tray with parchment paper
  3. Flour a shortbread mould with rice flour or semolina making sure the crevices have a good sprinkling
  4. Cream the softened butter, Muscovado sugar and vanilla until the sugar is fully dissolved and there are no lumps
  5. Mix in the flour until just combined, trying not to over-work
  6. Turn out the mixture on to a work surface and form into a ball
  7. put the mixture in the mould and push evenly into all the corners and grooves. Roll a rolling pin over the top a few times to flatten
  8. Turn the mixture out of the mould on to the baking tray
  9. Sprinkle the top evenly with the Demerara sugar
  10. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is nicely browned
  11. Gently score the top to mark the fingers/petticoat tails
  12. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack
  13. Once cool, cut into pieces
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H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Sponsored: Garden trends mood boards

We’re happy to be working with Wayfair again, this time on garden trends that are fast becoming popular. As we’re very visual people, we’ve produced mood boards with two of our favourite garden trends; eco-friendly gardens and vintage industrial gardens.

If you see any garden products that you’d like – they’re all available from Wayfair – simply click on the item image on the slider at the bottom of each collection. Now, scroll down to our selections and why we chose them!

Eco-friendly garden mood board in collaboration with Wayfair | H is for Home

Over the past few years, most of us have been trying to live more eco-friendly lives – attempting to minimise our on impact on the planet. Producing less waste and doing more recycling are simple ways of doing our bit.

Creating an environmentally-aware garden begins with thinking about the wildlife; we want to encourage insects, birds and other creatures to visit. Certain plants and flowers act as magnets for bees, butterflies, ladybirds and other beneficial pollinators and natural pest controllers including:

  • Lavender
  • Buddleia (it’s nickname is ‘butterfly bush’)
  • Sunflower
  • Foxglove
  • Honeysuckle
  • Ivy

To further tempt insects, why not erect an ‘insect hotel’? With a range of holes and crevices, it acts as a safe, dry and comfortable environment to many to live and hibernate.

Many garden birds are seeing a sharp decrease in numbers. Give them a helping hand by providing feeding stations.

Instead of throwing food waste in the bin, items such as tea leaves, coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, salad and egg shells can be added to the garden compost bin. Other household waste such as cardboard, newspapers and junk mail can also be included.

The UK is famous for being cold & wet – use it to your advantage. Don’t use a garden hose attached to the water mains (especially if you’re on a water meter) to water your plants, harvest all that rain in a water butt and use that instead – many plants actually prefer drinking rain water!

Cutting down on our use of, and reliance on, plastic is another hot topic. We can all do our bit to to reduce the amount of plastic littering our land and oceans. Firstly, if you already have plastic items in the garden, get the most possible use out of them – extending their life through re-use and up-cycling before throwing them away. If you’re going to buy plastic items in the future, strongly consider those manufactured from recycled plastic. And finally, source alternative, natural, biodegradable materials such as wood, bamboo, cork and coir for pots, storage, packaging and so on.

shop the eco-friendly garden trend

Insect, butterfly, bee cottage hanging bird house
Insect, butterfly, bee cottage hanging bird house
Bottle bird feeder
Bottle bird feeder
Bio-fireplace barbecue
Bio-fireplace barbecue
Recycled plastic armless bench
Recycled plastic armless bench
540L compost bin
540L compost bin
Osborn accent stool made from recycled teak
Osborn accent stool made from recycled teak
Garden 120L rain barrel
Garden 120L rain barrel
8 x 8ft corner summer house
8 x 8ft corner summer house
Insect, butterfly, bee cottage hanging bird house
Insect, butterfly, bee cottage hanging bird house
Bottle bird feeder
Bottle bird feeder
Bio-fireplace barbecue
Bio-fireplace barbecue
Recycled plastic armless bench
Recycled plastic armless bench
540L compost bin
540L compost bin
Osborn accent stool made from recycled teak
Osborn accent stool made from recycled teak
Garden 120L rain barrel
Garden 120L rain barrel
8 x 8ft corner summer house
8 x 8ft corner summer house

Olive green dotted horizontal line

Vintage industrial garden mood board in collaboration with Wayfair | H is for Home

We blog about vintage industrial styling in interior décor on a regular basis. You can successfully transfer many of these ideas to the outdoors.

We’ve definitely noticed a traditional, functional look creeping into garden design – ‘allotment chic’ we call it! Vintage industrial pieces certainly compliment – or are perhaps essential – to creating this look. In addition to working well in this traditional ‘yesteryear’ style, strong industrial elements are also perfect for an ultra modern, very contemporary urban style space.

Gabions were once the domain of motorway sidings and other civil engineering projects. Now, they’re a fashionable thing in modern garden design. They add strong, structural shape to gardens – the form & colour of the pebbles held within them adding a further layer of interest. Cast concrete is another industrial material that has a multitude of potential uses in the garden – planters, walls and seating are all made possible with this flexible, mouldable material.

Galvanised metal is also very on trend. It all started with the incorporation of genuine vintage pieces such as dolly tubs, buckets, wash basins and watering cans into garden designs. So popular has this look now become, that we’ve noticed lots of modern versions of these traditional old items on the market. As demand for the antique pieces increased, so did the prices. The recently produced items can be more affordable. Also, they allow modern tweaks with specific functions for the containers – or additions such as personalised or bespoke lettering.

We’re using our gardens more and more as outdoor eating spaces. Sales of garden furniture, barbecues and pizza ovens have seen a steady rise in sales over the years. And if you’re wanting to use the garden on a chilly evening, what better than a real fire? In addition to providing heat, chimineas & braziers – and log storage racks too – have the perfect look for this type of garden.

Industrial style lighting is another interiors trend moving outdoors – bulk head lights, hanging task lights, strings of lights on wire. They all have the right style and functional simplicity.

Architectural plants with big, structural leaves and blooms complement a vintage industrial garden. Think ferns, cacti, cordyline, gunnera manicata, rheums, alliums (elephant garlic flowers are very impressive – and the enormus bulbs are edible too!) and tall grasses. They have strong forms, however this doesn’t stop them softening the harder materials incorporated within the garden design.

What garden trends do you find attractive or plan to implement in your own plot?

shop the vintage industrial garden trend

Industrial Heritage thermomter
Industrial Heritage thermomter
Firewood log rack
Firewood log rack
Outdoor scatter cushion
Outdoor scatter cushion
Emilie 4-seater dining set
Emilie 4-seater dining set
Lyndon 1 light hanging lantern
Lyndon 1 light hanging lantern
Kaska cast iron wood/charcoal chiminea
Kaska cast iron wood/charcoal chiminea
Wootton vintage plant pot
Wootton vintage plant pot
Galvanised hanging basket
Galvanised hanging basket
Retha planter box with trellis
Retha planter box with trellis
Industrial Heritage thermomter
Industrial Heritage thermomter
Firewood log rack
Firewood log rack
Outdoor scatter cushion
Outdoor scatter cushion
Emilie 4-seater dining set
Emilie 4-seater dining set
Lyndon 1 light hanging lantern
Lyndon 1 light hanging lantern
Kaska cast iron wood/charcoal chiminea
Kaska cast iron wood/charcoal chiminea
Wootton vintage plant pot
Wootton vintage plant pot
Galvanised hanging basket
Galvanised hanging basket
Retha planter box with trellis
Retha planter box with trellis

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11 key tips to creating good blog content

10 key tips to creating good blog content

Once upon a time, blogging was the domain of a few internet-savvy people, journalling their daily lives. Fast-forward to 2018, and the blogosphere is a very crowded place. How do you make yourself and your content stand out? How can you get people to visit your blog, interact and return again and again?

We’ll share with you 11 of the key tips that we’ve learned about creating good blog content during our decade of writing and publishing.

Research your subject

Even though you may know a lot about your chosen niche, you can’t know everything. That’s what the internet’s there for! Stuck for ideas? Find inspiration for your content creation. Most importantly, visit other blogs that publish content in a similar vein. Every blogger worth their salt needs to size up the competition! Spend a few minutes or more browsing sites like Pinterest and StumbleUpon; flick through books & magazines. Lastly, attend events in person – blogger meet-ups, press days and launches are fab ways to get ideas, network and meet new people.

Travel bloggers

Know yourself

What are you good at? What do you know about? What are you interested in? Do you suffer from wanderlust? A travel blog is a perfect way for you to share your recommendations for stay-cations and trips abroad. A parenting blog can be a useful tool for stay-at-home mums & dads to connect with like-minded folks. Have you just got engaged? Then, it’s a good time to make and share your plans via a wedding blog. A general lifestyle blog can incorporate all these different segments as your life takes its different twists and turns.

Know your audience

Getting to know your audience helps you develop your niche. Find out who your readers are; investigate your visitor numbers and how many pages they visit. Demographic information including their age range, gender, location, whether they’re likely to have children and the type of device they use to visit your blog is all available from sites such as Google Analytics, Quantcast and Alexa.

'Add new post' page in WordPress

Content is king

Perfect use of grammar, punctuation, vocabulary and spelling should go without saying. Check, recheck and recheck again your content before hitting that ‘publish’ button. Use a catchy subject line. Pitch it right – don’t use too much jargon, cliché or acronyms. Make it interesting; use humour and find your ‘voice’.

There are a number of tools you should be using to ensure your copy is in tip-top shape. There’s a free version of Grammarly which helps you improve your sentence structure, punctuation and check your spelling. Activate the built-in spell check if you’re using a CMS such as WordPress or Blogger. Make sure your settings are set to your mother language – in our case, UK English as opposed to US, CAN, or AUS. Save thesaurus.com in your browser for when you encounter that ‘tip-of-the-tongue’ moment. Ditto, dictionary.com – sometimes you need to check if a word actually means what you’re trying to say, or find out that the adjective form of the noun ‘adjective’ is… ‘adjectival’!

In your own words

Under no circumstances plagiarise other people’s content. Firstly, it’s just rude. Also, you (and they) may be penalised by Google. Lastly, your credibility will be seriously damaged. If you must use other people’s words, enclose them in quotation marks and credit them using a link, if appropriate. For example:

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe. Albert Einstein

If you want to use someone else’s image, contact them for permission first. If you don’t receive a response and you still want to use the image, credit the source and include a link back to the website or web page where you found it.

Pen sketch of a blog page layout

Consider the layout

Make use of headings, paragraphs, bullet points, numbered lists, bold fonts & italics; but don’t go overboard. Make it easy to read, otherwise, visitors will click away somewhere else.

Ensure your content is accessible to disabled people. Think about your visitors who may be visually impaired. Include alt tags for all your images for those that use a screen reader. Set your font size large enough to make the text easy to read. Make certain the contrast between text and the background is easy on the eye. Dark grey, sans-serif text on an off-white background, is ideal.

Unsplash stock photos

Include media

Break up text-heavy posts with photos, diagrams and illustrations. There are a number of websites where you can download copyright-free stock images for use in blog posts. Two of our favourites that offer high-quality, eye-catching photos are Pexels and Unsplash.

Make short, informative, relevant videos. Upload them to YouTube or Vimeo and embed them into your posts to save on your precious hosting space. Being stored on YouTube/Vimeo also makes them available to a global audience.

Don’t play hard to get

Be SEO-friendly – If your blog is on the WordPress platform, Yoast is one of the first plugins you should install. There is a free and a premium version (currently £69). It makes light work of inserting SEO title, focus keyword(s), meta description and so much more!

Go international – Do you have a fairly large foreign readership? Use tools/plugins to make your blog multi-lingual.

Smart phone screen showing social media app icons

Share your hard work

It can be time-consuming, however, cross-posting your content across social media is essential. Luckily, there are a number of free scheduling tools at your disposal. We like Postcron, which allows you to share and schedule posts (with images) on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn and others… all in one go!

Engagement goes both ways

Regularly leave relevant comments on other blogs and Instagram posts. Pin/repin other people’s Pinterest images. Join groups in your niche on Facebook, comment on posts and engage with other members. Doing these things often results in people going to check out your blog.

Google Analytics reports

Analyse your stats

Which of your posts get the most hits? What subjects are the most popular? What gets commented on and shared the most? What time of day is the best time to post? Conversely, which of your posts get no attention? Can you go back and improve them?

Continuously tweak and work on your content. Over time, and with experience, your blogging will steadily develop and improve. Do you have any other ideas for creating good blog content? Share your content marketing tips below!

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Get their look: Curvaceous living space

Curvaceous living spacecredit

So much about this curvaceous living space is shapely, inviting and enveloping. I’m craving an indoor hammock!

The bright yellow Corian wraps around the room – twisting & turning – encompassing a kitchen counter, breakfast bar, desktop, shelving and window sill. This bright yellow scheme is picked up in the Bolon tiled floor.

The ceiling lighting is very sensuous and sci-fi – very reminiscent of the set of Space 1999!

  1. KAPPROFILE ceiling-mounted Linear lighting profile
  2. Miura stool designed by Konstantin Grcic for Plank
  3. Pecora wooden sheep magazine rack
  4. Imperial Yellow Corian worktops
  5. Cable knit throw
  6. Luis sofa designed by Antonio Citterio for B&B Italia
  7. Vitra Noguchi coffee table, black ash
  8. Bolon flooring

Get their look: Curvaceous living space | H is for Home

Get their look

Cable knit throw
Cable knit throw
Vitra Noguchi coffee table, black ash
Vitra Noguchi coffee table, black ash
Miura stool designed by Konstantin Grcic for Plank
Miura stool designed by Konstantin Grcic for Plank
Pecora wooden sheep magazine rack
Pecora wooden sheep magazine rack
Luis sofa designed by Antonio Citterio for B&B Italia
Luis sofa designed by Antonio Citterio for B&B Italia
KAPPROFILE Ceiling mounted Linear lighting profile
KAPPROFILE Ceiling mounted Linear lighting profile
Bolon flooring
Bolon flooring
Imperial Yellow Corian worktops
Imperial Yellow Corian worktops
Cable knit throw
Cable knit throw
Vitra Noguchi coffee table, black ash
Vitra Noguchi coffee table, black ash
Miura stool designed by Konstantin Grcic for Plank
Miura stool designed by Konstantin Grcic for Plank
Pecora wooden sheep magazine rack
Pecora wooden sheep magazine rack
Luis sofa designed by Antonio Citterio for B&B Italia
Luis sofa designed by Antonio Citterio for B&B Italia
KAPPROFILE Ceiling mounted Linear lighting profile
KAPPROFILE Ceiling mounted Linear lighting profile
Bolon flooring
Bolon flooring
Imperial Yellow Corian worktops
Imperial Yellow Corian worktops

Cheers to having a bar at home

Bar at home with grey cupboard doors & drawers and 3 long wooden inset shelvescredit

Are you the social type that likes to unwind with a beer, glass of wine or a cocktail at the end of a long week? You can either hit the local watering hole or enjoy a drink in the comfort of your own home.

At-home bars have been around for decades. Architectural aficionados may remember the wet-bar movements of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Usually, it was just a small nook in the dining room or living room with a mirrored wall, small sink and storage underneath for glasses and bottles.

Today, wet bars have fallen out of favour, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t intrigued by the idea of having somewhere to relax with an adult beverage at home. Rather than a nook in the corner, home-owners are installing true bars.

Some people are even creating backyard bar sheds that are separate from the house. It’s a great idea if you don’t have the extra space inside or your significant other isn’t keen on the idea of an indoor pub.

All it takes is a small amount of space, a few key features, and the right supplies to whip up your favourite cocktail recipes. Here are just a few reasons why more home-owners are choosing to be their own bartenders.

Cupboard home bar painted grey with integral bar fridge and wine rackcredit

The investment will pay for itself

Drinking at home is always going to be much cheaper than going to a bar. Even during happy hour, bars mark up drink prices to turn a profit. Plus, many patrons tip the bartender for each drink. In some cities, it’s easy to spend £7/$10 on one cocktail before tipping.

People who frequent bars just once a week can easily spend £70/$100+ a month. Instead of putting money in the pockets of a bar owner you can put that cash towards a bar of your own.

If you do most of the work yourself and have an existing space you can build a bar for a couple hundred pounds/dollars. According to an article in Forbes, a custom bar build can set you back £2,800/$4,000+. That’s a huge price range, but ultimately the total cost comes down to the materials used and the features you include. For instance, including a wine cooler or mini fridge will add £140/$200+ to the cost.

Rustic, minimalist home barcredit

Your bar, your décor

Another benefit of building your own bar at home is getting to decorate it exactly how you want. Adding those personal touches is what truly makes a bar your own, and it’s a fun part of the process.

Before you start the build, come up with a design scheme as it will influence the layout and materials you use. You can choose a cool, personalised theme like this vintage industrial home bar. But it’s fine if you want to stick to something simple that blends with the other décor in your home.

Home bar with brass bar tools and bottle of gin and cut glass tumblerscredit

Fully stocked with your favourites

There’s nothing more disappointing than visiting a bar only to realise they don’t have the ingredients for your favourite libation, or worse, the bartender doesn’t know how to make it. When you have a bar at home that’s never a problem.

Once it’s built, it’s time to stock the bar. A few things you may want to stock in addition to alcohol and mixers include:

  • Glassware (choose the right glass for the type of drinks you plan to make regularly)
  • Bottle opener
  • Corkscrew
  • Napkins
  • Shakers
  • Muddler
  • Flow pourers
  • Jigger
  • Strainer

Next time you visit your local hostelry, pay attention to the accessories and equipment that the bartender uses. It will give you a good idea of what you need to stock up on at home.

Country home bar with beamed ceilingcredit

Safer than drinking away from home

There are a few downsides to indulging in alcoholic beverages. One of those is the risk of drinking and driving. All it takes is a couple of drinks to reach the legal blood alcohol limit. And unfortunately, the first thing to go when you’re drinking is sound judgement.

A DUI can be financially and professionally devastating, not to mention deadly. When the bar is at home there’s no cause for concern over drinking and driving. You’ll stay safe and can avoid getting stopped by the police.

Cheers!

[disclosure*]

Designer Desire: Percy Kelly

Mosaic of Percy Kelly artworks | H is for Home

We were reminded of the work of Cumbrian artist, Percy Kelly when he was featured on BBC’s Countryfile last weekend.

His illustrated letters (and their envelopes) are especially exquisite – some of which we’ve included in our montage above. Apparently, he carried on decades-long correspondence with over a dozen different people; Joan David, Norman Nicholson and Mary Burkett. When the latter’s estate came up for sale in 2015, the auctioneers reported:

One of the main highlights of the sale was a unique collection of letters illustrated by the artist Percy Kelly (1918-1993) and sent to Mary, his friend and mentor, over a period of 25 years from 1968 until his death in 1993.  The correspondence sold for a total of £84,680 to a variety of mainly local bidders with the highest value letters one featuring an illustration of a painter and decorator’s workshop sold for £2,500 and another ‘Maryport from the Settlement’ sold for £2,200.

As Percy Kelly had predicted:

One day my letters will be seen as the most unique ever written.

A number of books and catalogues have been published about his paintings and letters available on Amazon and Abe Books.

From what we’ve read up about him, he lived a very colourful, artistically prolific and tragic life. There are articles in the Spectator, Independent and the Guardian that go into further details about his personal history, if you’re interested in finding out more.

Portrait of Percy Kellycredit

Additional image credits:

Art Rabbit | Castlegate House Gallery | Pinterest

Price Points: Double hammocks

Selection of double hammocks | H is for Home

These three stripy, double hammocks look almost identical, however, there’s around a £60 difference in price between the cheapest and most expensive.

We have two mature trees in our garden; an ornamental cherry and a silver birch. They’re about 10 foot apart – a nice distance to sling a hammock between. It’s a shady, private part of the garden – a perfect place to have a summer afternoon snooze!

  1. VonHaus double hammock: £9.99, DOMU
  2. Easy Eagle Hammocks anti-rollover canvas hammock + bag: £27.99, Amazon
  3. Brazilian-style hammock, tropical, double: £69.59, Houzz

shop double hammocks

Brazilian-style hammock, tropical, double
Brazilian-style hammock, tropical, double
£69.59
Easy Eagle Hammocks anti-rollover canvas hammock + bag
Easy Eagle Hammocks anti-rollover canvas hammock + bag
£27.99
VonHaus double hammock
VonHaus double hammock
£9.99
Brazilian-style hammock, tropical, double
Brazilian-style hammock, tropical, double
£69.59
Easy Eagle Hammocks anti-rollover canvas hammock + bag
Easy Eagle Hammocks anti-rollover canvas hammock + bag
£27.99
VonHaus double hammock
VonHaus double hammock
£9.99
Brazilian-style hammock, tropical, double
Brazilian-style hammock, tropical, double
£69.59
Easy Eagle Hammocks anti-rollover canvas hammock + bag
Easy Eagle Hammocks anti-rollover canvas hammock + bag
£27.99
VonHaus double hammock
VonHaus double hammock
£9.99