Another pause

2013-06-26 19.59.44This time last year I wrote a post that broke my heart – in short, we lost my beloved, brilliant Daddy with the shortest of periods to say goodbye.

Fast forward just 12 short months and with senseless symmetry we are faced with the same Big C battle once again. This time with my elegant, loving mummy. Same disease, same shitty prospects.

So, forgive my silence – our lives are a whirlwind of airless consultation rooms, chemo schedules, medication juggling and most importantly TIME with our mummy. While my faith in ‘fairness, justice and LIFE’ is at an all-time low, my wonderment at the BRILLIANCE of the chemo nurses and hospice team is renewed. Being looked after by them once in a lifetime had me convinced that they are saints, twice and I know they are angels.

I will be back, I promise. Needless to say with another mark upon my heart, but back.

Bear with me,

CF x

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February Challenge: Go supermarket free all month

So, I’ve been toying with this idea for a while. Since moving to the country we have been buying more and more of our food from independent shops – bread from the bakery, meat from the butchers, fish from the fishmongers, cheese from the erm… cheese shop… not out of some token, on-trend nod to ‘live local’ but because we’ve come to appreciate the fact that we can happily (and affordably!) live off food that is grown and reared around us in Devon.

When we lived in London we would shop at our local farmer’s market at the weekends, but not as a viable ‘weekly shop’ – but in the country it’s just the norm to buy direct from the producer. You buy your fish from the fisherman, 100 yards from the boat he caught it in; the butcher will have blood under his nails and a great little recipe idea for that shin of beef… I love it and it’s what I want for Country Bebe. He adores going to the bakery and watching the baker put the bread in the oven. I want him to know that is where bread comes from – not off the shelves at Waitrose, wrapped in plastic.

So, this month, the plan is to not step foot inside a major supermarket once. It’s not going to be that hard as we are 15 minutes from the AMAZING Greendale Farm Shop, which has a butchers, fishmongers, cheese/deli counter and fully stocked grocers, all under one roof. Oh, and there are also tractors to ride on, which pleases one particular member of the Countryfille team A LOT.

2014-01-19 12.22.44I did a ‘dummy run’ last week, and so far so good. Between there and the amazing independent health food store we have in town, I’m all set.

2014-01-21 11.22.32

2014-01-13 17.18.11I’m hoping it will make us much more aware of the food we ‘need’, as opposed to simply grazing up and down the supermarket aisles, flinging yummy looking things into the basket with gay abandon. It also means there is no danger of being sucked into the marketing evils of ‘buy one, get one free’ – why are those offers always on chocolate bars, never on bags of kale?

We do already get a weekly order of fruit and veg from Abel & Cole, and have done for the last 8 years; I order our Ecover cleaning products through them too.

There will inevitably be the odd Boots trip for nappies etc, but I’m hoping that will be it!

I’ll be posting throughout the month on Instagram, with shopping hauls, recipes and new brands I’ve discover under the hashtag #supermarketfree – wish me luck!

 

 

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CF Beauty: Lipstick Queen Velvet Rope lipstick in Private Party

2014-01-18 16.37.572014-01-18 16.41.27I walked into Space NK in Bristol on Saturday for a quick nose around and walked out 10 minutes later with this glorious new velvety matte lippie from the Lipstick Queen. It comes in a midnight blue velvet box, then a rather glamorous gold casing. The bullet itself has a really silky, mousse-y texture, it’s really lightweight and although it is matte, it goes on smoothly and doesn’t dry out (it does have a rather off-putting minty, tingly smell/feel that I’m not that fond of, would have rathered a rose/floral scent to go with the old-school Hollywood glamour feel). When I swatched it on my hand in the shop it left pigment on my hand for the rest of the day and I’ve been wearing it since 8am this morning and it’s nearly lunch and it’s stayed pretty well I think:

2014-01-19 11.50.31Because of the texture it does have a tendency to bleed slightly (Lipstick Queen does a great invisible lip liner to fix this) and I have found the best way to apply is either with my finger, just blotting it into my lips for more of a ‘wash’, or in a dabbing motion to build up the colour gradually.

It is a classic pretty raspberry, but not too cold. I have been wearing Tom Ford’s corally ‘Ginger Fawn’ and pillar box ‘Smoke Red’ pretty consistently this winter, along with my beloved Laura Mercier palette but I think this is going to be my staple spring lippie this year.

Lipstick Queen Velvet Rope lipstick in Private Party, £35

 

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On… joining a bookclub

2014-01-14 17.34.34So, tonight I am off to my first book club. I’ve always wanted to join one and as the OH bought me the Kobo above for Christmas (I had one to review over the summer and LOVED it), I thought the two would go hand-in-hand. It is a childhood friend’s group, basically her and a gaggle of friends, school mums, friends of friends etc. She assures me it’s less A-Level English Lit exam and more a ratio of 10% book chat, 90% husband/children gossip. Perfect.

There is still that mild anxiety of finding something intelligent to say and of course, finding the time to read it. As I’ve only had a week I’ve been let off this month’s tome, but I’ll let you know which book we pick next!

Are you in a book club? How do your meetings usually pan out and how do you choose your books?

 

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How to lay the perfect fire in a woodburner – with Charnwood

We installed Charnwood’s C4 woodburner almost a year ago now and it is the single most brilliant thing we’ve done since moving to the country. While planning our escape, holed up in our tiny London flat, we were fuelled by the romantic dream of cliff-top walks, rosy cheeks and coming home to a roaring woodburning stove… Three years on and… ta dah!

2013-06-29 17.16.12I wrote about the stove when we first installed it, but after a year’s use I can honestly say it is the simplest, most efficient stove I’ve come across. We don’t live in a period, cosy cottage so wanted a burner that was modern and simple in design that would fit in with our 20th Century aesthetic. Charnwood do a range of wood burners, from the traditional to the contemporary, they’re based on the Isle of Wight and I really can’t fault the design, quality or efficiency of these British stoves.

We were so chuffed with the stove that I contacted Charnwood with the idea for this post, I wanted to get their top tips for novice woodburner owners – how to light the perfect fire, what logs to buy etc. Happily one of their team, Cedric Wells, got back to me and was more than happy to share some of their knowledge and gave me this great advice:

CF: When I’m buying wood what should I be looking for?

2013-11-09 13.59.58CW: It’s always important to use well seasoned wood (ideally cut, split and stored for a minimum of 1-2 years.) Stack your logs outside and undercover but ensure that air can circulate to allow the logs to season correctly. Bring in basketfuls as and when you need them.
Wood that is properly seasoned burns efficiently and cleanly and should have a moisture content of less than 20%. The bark will be cracking, the wood will be lighter and the log will sound hollow when knocked on another piece of wood.
In terms of the best woods to burn – hard woods such as oak are the best value for money as they are dense and will burn for longer. We at Charnwood rather like this old poem published in Punch during the 1926 coal strike:

Logs to burn; logs to burn;
Logs to save the coal a turn.

Here’s a word to make you wise
when you hear the woodman’s cries;
Never heed his usual tale
That he’s splendid logs for sale
But read these lines & really learn
The proper kind of logs to burn.

Oak logs will warm you well,
If they’re old and dry.
Larch logs of pinewoods smell
But the sparks will fly.
Beech logs for Christmas time;
Yew logs heat well;
‘Scotch’ logs it is a crime
For anyone to sell.
Birch logs will burn too fast;
Chestnut scarce at all;
Hawthorn logs are good to last
If cut in the fall.
Holly logs will burn like wax,
You should burn them green;
Elm logs like smouldering flax,
No flame to be seen.
Pear logs and apple logs,
They will scent your room;
Cherry logs across the dogs
Smell like flowers in bloom,
But ash logs all smooth and grey
Burn them green or old,
Buy up all that come your way
They’re worth their weight in gold.

Honor Goodhart, 1926
 
 www.nef.org.uk/logpile is a very useful site for wood burning and also gives details of local wood suppliers.

CF: What are the essential bits of kit that I need to get going?

CW: Newspaper, dry kindling, firelighters and matches are all essential basics to get the fire going. A flue pipe thermometer is also a very useful and simple device that attaches to the flue pipe of your stove. By telling whether you are over-firing or under-firing your stove you can adjust the burning rate accordingly. If you over fire your stove you can damage the glass, bricks and internal parts over time. By under firing your stove you can cause damage to the chimney and stove body through excess condensation.

2013-11-09 14.01.41
A moisture meter is also helpful to ensure you burn properly seasoned wood on your stove. By inserting the prongs into the grain of the wood it gives a moisture content reading of the log. By burning properly seasoned wood you can achieve optimum clean burning efficiency and prevent the problems associated with burning wet wood.

In terms of tools we’d recommend a poker and tongs and a decent fire proof dustpan and brush.

CF: Talk me through a step by step fire lighting method

2013-05-17 19.32.36CW: Light the stove using dry kindling wood and newspaper or fire lighters. Put the paper, or fire lighters, and kindling in the firebox and cover with a few small dry logs. Open the air controls fully and then light the paper or fire lighters. The door may be left cracked open for a few minutes to assist the combustion and heat up the firebox more quickly. When the kindling wood is well alight add a few more small logs, close the door but leave the air control fully open. When the flames are established around these logs, load the stove with more fuel. Maintain the air control at maximum at this stage. Once the fire is up to temperature the airwash system will begin to work, so allow the fire to become hot before adjusting the air control – push the control half way in once the fire is hot and you will find it burns your logs slower but very efficiently. You can then add logs as and when necessary (every 45 mins -1.5 hours).

2013-05-21 20.44.43CF: Finally, Any clever uses for the ashes?
CW: Wood ash is rich in potash so perfect for the garden and especially for roses!

There you have it! I hope you’ve found this post useful. Thank you Cedric, your tips have certainly improved our fire-lighting techniques.

I’d love to see snaps of your fires – why not tag me over on Instagram (I’m countryfille), or tweet me @countryfille?

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A glorious early morning walk in Devon

As per my previous post, I am trying to squeeze a 20-30min walk into my daily routine. To have any chance of making it a part of my schedule past February I need to find that window in my day where it’s do-able, not a chore. I know that once I’m home after a day at work there is no chance of extracting me from the sofa, so evenings are out (for the winter at least), so I’ve plumped for first thing. Between dropping Country Bebe off at nursery and starting work I have a magic 45 minute window. Yesterday I spent it here:

2014-01-10 08.41.392014-01-10 08.44.37There was a really hard frost here over night but by 8.30am the low winter sun was beginning to thaw it. Those woods in the distance are the ones I wrote about back in the autumn. They hold my favourite ‘daddy memory’ of long Sunday walks together, so will forever be a very special place for me.

I’m all about integrated fitness – I find it truly bizarre that I used to get the bus everywhere in London, then pay a fortune to spend an hour in a sweaty gym, fighting it out for the last treadmill. Half an hour wading through the mud up this hill was the best leg/glute workout I’ve had in quite a while.

2014-01-10 08.46.14You don’t get this view from the rowing machine either:

2014-01-10 08.47.24Across the frosty fields down to the sea. With only the honk of the odd pheasant for company:

2014-01-10 08.49.15Then there was just enough time for a stop off at the welly wash:

2014-01-10 08.58.19Before heading home for a BUCKET of porridge, and settling down at my desk for 9am. *That* is why we moved to the sticks.

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CF Gadget: Fitbit Flex

2013-12-20 09.51.02I wanted to wait a month before I posted about my latest gadget, as I really wanted to put it through its paces. In Mid December I was kindly given a Fitbit Flex by my boss, after coveting hers all year. In my role as Creative Director for a new health and wellness brand, a lot of self tracking devices have crossed my desk in the last 12 months and I do think this is the best of the crop.

Okay, so it’s not the most attractive of bangles, but it’s pretty inconspicuous. You wear it day and night (you can even shower in it, but not bathe) and it tracks the steps you take, calories you burn and distance travelled. It also monitors your sleep patterns and tells you how ‘efficiently’ you’ve slept (determined by your restless and awake periods).

Perhaps a bit ‘Big Brother’ for some, but studies have proved that by measuring your activity levels not only gives you finite goals (you can set yourself challenges to walk X number of steps a day, or so many miles) to work towards, but simply by wearing it and being aware of how active you are in itself increases your fitness and interestingly, keeps you motivated.

I can agree with this, I am now fanatical about hitting my ’10,000 steps a day’, making sure I factor in one 20-30 minute walk each day to ensure I reach my goal. By tapping the display on the Flex 5 flashing dots denote your progress in 20% increments. 5 dots and you’ve reach 100% of your target. You then simply sync the wireless Flex with your laptop or phone to see the facts and figures (for geeks like me there are lots of comparable charts and graphs which is very pleasing). The dashboard also has the facility for you to track your food intake and water consumption, too. However, I already use My FitnessPal app on my phone to track my food as I’ve found it has the most comprehensive database of food brands/items, so makes for accurate calculations.

So, faddy or useful for a health kick? Because it is so effortless to capture the data (you really do forget you’re wearing it) and the quantitative goal-setting really means you have something tangible to work towards, I think it’s a really clever bit of kit that goes beyond the ‘novelty’ factor to actually be a really useful motivation tool. I’m not looking to run a marathon, but simply increase my day-to-day activity levels to become healthier and fitter and the Fitbit Flex is keeping me on track!

fitbit.com, the Fitbit Flex is £79.99

 

 

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30 second review – Chi coconut water

2014-01-08 09.22.43I added this coconut water brand to my weekly shop, I’m not ashamed to admit, purely on the basis of its beautiful packaging. Isn’t it stunning? We are usually a Vita Coco household but what can I say – new year, new coconut water (isn’t that how the saying goes?!) and 3 litres in, I’m a convert.

Country Bebe has a real addiction to coconut water (you can take the boy out of West London…) – it all started when he was really poorly with croup before Christmas and not eating at all, it was the only thing we could coax him into drinking and as it’s great for rehydration and is full of electrolytes we were happy for him to keep swigging. That and a Nakd bar and he’s all set on the snack front.

Now, without sounding like a complete ponce about it, the difference between Chi and other coconut waters is that it really does taste as close to ‘hacking the top off a green coconut and sticking a straw in it’ as you can get. A lot of other brands have added sugar or are messed around with to get a sweeter flavour but this is as raw and pure as it comes. Because of that, I’d say it was a tad more ‘savoury’ than other brands but FULL of flavour that is much more nuanced than other sweeter brands. The one with added pineapple was great too, tropical and slightly sweeter, without being tooth-achingly so. They do a chocolate coconut milk and an espresso version too that I’m intrigued to try, as well as an organic cold-pressed coconut oil, too.

You can buy Chi Coconut Water at Planet Organic, Wholefoods, Nutricentre and online at the brilliant Nature’s Healthbox – it is around £3.49 a litre.

 

 

 

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