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Country kitchen style for just 50p

When is a cookbook more than a cook book? When, like this wonderful vintage edition of Farmhouse Fare: recipes from country housewives collected by Farmers Weekly, it adds to your kitchen's interior decor.

I spotted this 1973 edition of the ultimate country recipe book in a Hampshire charity shop, for just 50 pence. Couldn't resist that orange font, set against a rustic wooden backdrop, and there's just something about garish yet stolid-looking seventies food photography that just does it for me. It looks rather nice - I think - in my slightly seventies kitchen. As for the recipes... wow. As the jacket blurb says: "Compiled from the favourite recipes of country housewives, this book gathers together the very best of traditional British home-cooking and invites the housewife to experiment with a range of wines, meads, preserves and chutneys [such as] Grapefruit Champagne, Honey Beer and Date and Banana Chutney." Among the book's simple treats including jam slices (made with stale bread and dripping), glacé grapes (surely should have been one of the canapes in Abigail's Party) and hearty onion cake, recipes such as hatted kit, "a very old Highland dish", show the book's heritage. "Warm slightly over the fire two pints of buttermilk," it begins. Then, "pour it into a dish and carry it to the side of a cow. Milk into it about one pint of milk..." Amazing.

Buy the book on Amazon, but - sadly - without the lush cover. Shop around and you'll eventually find the 1973 edition - for inspiration about where to look, check out this great Guardian blog about the charm of vintage cookbooks.

Handy hint: you could display books like this on this special new shelving from Ikea.

My big bro's cool home

A corner of one of the Sydney siblings' homes

While on the topic of the far-flung relatives with style - thought I'd finally post up a couple of snaps I wrestled out of one of my (two) brothers who live in Sydney. 

I think that Anglepoise came from the house we grew up in in south London. Aw. Nice things. Hoarding and compulsive arranging of piles of stuff, also passed down from mother.

The kitchen/diner. Nice.

Ebay gift shopping for relatives in Australia

The pretty vintage tin I bought for my Sydney-dwelling sister-in-law on Ebay
If you've got friends or relatives abroad - especially in Australia, as I have - you'll relate to the pain I have finding presents for them. Amazon doesn't generally reach that far and - surprisingly - while some of the city's best shops have great websites, loads have no online shopping facility. What a wasted opportunity - don't they realise how many ex-pat Poms need presents?

You can of course buy stuff here and post it - but it's limiting: I have often wound up spending more on postage than giftage. Fortunately, my Aussie sisters-in-law have good taste in the interiors department and I hope (though perhaps they're just being polite) like a nice homey present. But after trawling vintage stores, design boutiques and kitchenalia emporiums in Sydney - and being thwarted by their semi-active web presences, I remembered Ebay Australia. Eureka!

So far I've bought new-old French linen tea-towels for one birthday, though due to minimal package documentation it caused great confusion, arriving, so it seemed, from a mystery gifter. So yesterday I was delighted to chance upon Adeline Country Cottage, run by a Melbournite called Kirstie, who sells pretty, pre-loved vintage homey bits and pieces (I bought a sweet rose-printed storage tin, above top). But the best bit? Stylish gift-wrapping (including a label, see above) is included. What a service! If only everyone else in the business would catch on... even without the lovely wrapping. Until then I'll probably keep Adeline well bookmarked. Thanks Kirstie!

Fantastic vintage fabric

Who knew this stylish fabric store existed? may have a rather odd name, but its selection of fabrics, both vintage and new, is lovely. I stumbled across this vintage 'Carribbean Vignette' design while looking for cushions/covers for my kitchen bench. It's totally not right, but I love it... and will now try to find somewhere else it might fit. I also don't need the 'Cowboy Vignette' fabric (£10.99 per metre), which is in the same vein as the Wild West-themed Cath Kidston print... but I'm working hard to find a reason to.

Vintage kitchen clock from Ebay

Ebay has a dazzling array of vintage clocks. I've been window shopping for ages but finally took the plunge today and bought this 1970s Russian wall clock for just £19.95. Bargain!

Browsing around, I also loved this
not-so-cheap industrial Smiths clock,
on a buy-it-now sale for £400.

There's also this classic, small Smiths
for just £40, also on a buy-it-now basis.

Or this rather unusual Kienzle automatic
ceramic kitchen clock, going for £69.