30 second review: L’Oreal Hydra Genius Aloe Water

L'Oreal Hydraphase Aloe Water
L’Oreal Hydraphase Aloe Water

Well this really is a little bit genius if you are currently sweltering in the British heatwave, or heading off to sunny climes this summer.

Don’t get me wrong, I *love* heat – humid, tropical climates are my jam, but when it comes to skincare I don’t want cloying, sticky creams and balms. I want cooling, quenchy gels that really hydrate and don’t irritate my skin (I still stand by this review of Astalift that ticks all these boxes and more).

I’ve used Hydraphase range from La Roche Posay in France for the last few summers. It’s fab, really hydrating, light and non-irritating. I particularly like the light daily moisturiser with broad spectrum SPF20 and the intense serum for a serious of hydration.

But I’m in the UK at the mo and this was on offer in Boots; plus in the heat-haze I was sucked in by the ‘Aloe Water’ quenchy tagline.

The Aloe sap and Hyaluronic Acid are its top billing ingredients. The ‘liquid care’ texture is a hybrid gel/cream that’s a super light-weight water-based formula. I cleanse as normal then when my skin is still damp I slather a pump or two of this on. It’s sucked in super quick, doesn’t leave the skin tacky and I know it’s a skincare cliche, but it does feel like your skin’s had a drink. It smells really good too – a summery, marine fragrance. I then apply my sunscreen over the top (Ultrasun SPF 30) and I’m good to go. I use more targeted skincare in the evening (wrinkles, pigmentation etc), this isn’t going to do much on that front, but for keeping your skin hydrated and peachy during the day – it’s a winner.

There are versions for dry/normal and normal/combination skin. L’Oreal Hydra Genius Aloe Water, Boots.com – currently £6.66 – normal price £9.99

Fusion Paint review: the house that mineral paint built

So, there is a running joke since we started renovating our 11-bedder manoir in the Charente, France. Even our local antiques dealer is in on it. Basically if it’s not nailed down, I’ll paint it. Namely with Fusion mineral paint.

cropped.fusion.mineral.paint.chart.classic.collection.ash.buy.shop.online.retailer.dear.olympia_1024x1024My unlikely obsession with this niche Canadian paint brand came about thanks to a 10€ buggy. I know right? Total steal. I saw it advertised on a local Facebook selling site and snapped it up. So off I toddled with my trusty sat nav into deepest darkest Charente in search of Sue and her bargain buggy. Not only did I get a fab 3-wheeler, it turns out Sue is the French retailer for both Annie Sloan chalk paint from the UK and Fusion mineral paint in her converted stable block near Poitiers. And so the obsession was born.

I had dabbled with chalk paint in the UK, but I find it hard to apply, the waxing is laborious and we’re not really going for that ‘shabby chic’ look that chalk paint is so good for.

Enter stage left, Fusion. I was immediately drawn to their sludgy earthy tones and, I’ll be honest, by the fact that it paints onto pretty much any surface without need for primer, or top coat. It’s a one-stop shop. Varnished wood, metal, even fabric. It’s quite a thin consistency but covers a-mazingly and is ‘self levelling’, which in reality means if you’re a slap-dash painter like me you can slosh it on (it doesn’t drag like chalk paint), and voila – no brush marks. Drips can be a problem but you really need less paint on your brush than you think. They sell special brushes designed to be used with their paints, which I thought was a load of rubbish to begin with but after roadtesting them they really do help minimise paint wastage and get a better finish.

Here’s a couple of junk-shop pieces that I’ve painted in their ‘Sterling’ grey (my favourite hue):

2017-02-13 12.05.052017-02-12 16.45.01I painted the hideous yellow bathroom cabinets in their amazing putty coloured ‘Algonquin’ for a quick fix till we renovate the bathrooms, and this bargain 10€ mirror for my dressing table:

2017-02-15 11.07.24They do have waxes and ‘finishers’, so you can create different effects with them but I love the low sheen, high pigment finish it gives straight from the pot.

The formula is perfect for a family home as it is zero VOC (they even do a special nursery range which is beautiful). It ‘cures’ in daylight leaving a rock-hard, chip (aka child) resistant, washable finish. What’s not to love?!

We haven’t just used it for renovating furniture, we’ve done a lot of our woodwork in it too as it’s so hard-wearing. I love the original door furniture next to ‘Bedford’:

FullSizeRenderI will keep you posted over the summer months as I will be back in France smothering any solid surface in more beautiful hues – the house has its own instagram page: @laretraite_fr if you want to see more shots of how it’s coming along.

CF x

 

 

 

 

CF Picks: Summer lingerie

intimissimi.com
intimissimi.com

I think I’ve reached the age, and stage in my marriage, where lingerie is not all about push-up bras, chaffing undercarriages and bells and whistles (was it ever?!). Whilst I’m not ready to give in to the sensible belly button warmers quite yet, I now yearn for comfy, everyday staples offering enough support for my post-baby bazookers, with just a hint of sexy mama.

Especially for summer, I like soft, sheer fabrics in pastel shades from the likes of…

Intimissimi
When in Italy, I can’t resist buying Intimissimi lingerie. I love their lacy bralettes, peeping out from a linen or chambray shirt. I think this set from their ‘Summer in Sicily’ collection (above) is so, so pretty. Their swimwear is fab, too.
Floral embroidery triangle bra, £47, Intimissimi

Bodas

Bodas.co.uk
Bodas.co.uk

I’ve been writing about Bodas for over a decade – in fact my first ever shopping feature was for Grove magazine, a luxury lifestyle magazine for Notting Hill, home to Bodas’ flagship store. I extolled the virtues of their cashmere soft, comfy, pretty lingerie then – and my opinion hasn’t changed. I love this blush pink for summer. I know it doesn’t look that ‘wow’, but trust me – it has underwiring but no padding, giving a really flattering, natural shape. It’s beautifully made and oh-so soft. A proper underwear staple that still feels special.
Smooth Tactel Underwire Bra, £45, Bodas

La Perla
712R5pkSGnKBwkk80mQdMbdf9fTUADjX5viQckt7ImRzIjoiaW1hZ2UiLCJmIjoiXC9DXC9GXC9JXC9MXC9QXC9EXC85XC8wXC82XC83XC81XC8yXC9DRklMUEQ5MDY3NTJfVkwwMDUxXzEuanBnIiwiZmEiOjEsImZxIjo5MCwiZnQiOjEsImZ3IjoxMjgwfQ~~
Okay, how beautiful is La Perla lingerie? Sigh. It’s like candyfloss, frothy and sweet… shame it’s ruinously expensive. Maybe I need to find a Parisian lover who will keep me in luxury lingerie…. Or, perhaps more practically….

How about this £12.99 H&M bralette instead?

hmprodCos

cosstores.com
cosstores.com

I’ve championed Cos for their undies before and this season’s are fab. They’re not great for big boobs, but they are soooooo comfy in jersey and sheer fabrics. Proper grown-up, sexy under crackers.

Sheer lace bra, £25, knickers, £12, Cos

I *love* underwear shopping but loathe swimwear shopping… which is my next task, any recommendations?

How I outran my anxiety – part 1

2017-05-20 15.10.26It struck me recently, after the topic came up on several coffee dates, school pick ups and Facetime chats that 2/3rds of my girlfriends do, or have at some time, suffered with mental health issues. That coupled with the current media storm around ‘Mental Health’, driven by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry with their ‘Heads Together’ campaign, it seemed like a good enough time to share my story… it’s not about grabbing a slice of the zeitgeist, but when something is so part of your day-to-day life, when it becomes a common talking point, it feels ‘okay’ to share your experiences too, so here goes…

Having sailed through my teens and early 20s without any major mental health issues (the usual exam stress and puberty body image hang-ups and heartbreaks aside), I was knocked sideways after a car crash aged 26. Whilst my physical injuries healed over 18 months of treatment, my newly acquired anxiety, crushing exhaustion, insomnia, panic attacks and low-level constant fear didn’t want to budge. I got some amazing CBT help, and meds, and slowly I learnt enough coping strategies to get back to ‘normal’. That said, it was definitely something I had to work at and ‘manage’, to stay functioning in my life and career (I was a magazine editor in London at the time).

Fast-forward 3 years and my Dad’s sudden death, followed by my mum’s terminal cancer diagnosis and I was back at square one. There was no ‘coping’. This time round I didn’t want to go down the meds route to manage my overwhelming grief and anxiety, I didn’t want to mute it, I wanted to face it head on. So, on a whim I downloaded a ‘Couch to 5k’ app and bought some cheap trainers, grabbed one of my hubby’s t shirts and started running. Forrest Gump style.

FullSizeRenderAs tactics go, for someone who used to fake sick notes to get out of cross country, it wasn’t the obvious solution. But it worked, primarily because for every second I was running, my mind was occupied. It couldn’t overthink, worry or grieve. I gradually progressed from couch to 5k, running a 5k race in my dad’s memory three months later. Those few months sowed the seed. I found I was sleeping better, felt calmer and was having fewer panic attacks.

I always ran by myself, not confident enough in my body or my ability to seek other ‘real runners’. I would plug in my loudest, happiest music and head out… some runs I’d pound the tarmac hard, channelling my anger into every stride. Others I would end a lung-bursting sprint and scream into the wind and rain at the sheer horror of the grief I felt. It was cathartic and exactly what I needed.

One of my favourite running spots, Salcombe Hill, Devon
One of my favourite running spots, Salcombe Hill, Devon

When I got pregnant again I worried I wouldn’t be able to turn to running to manage my anxiety, and then my mum died of the terminal cancer she had been fighting, and before I noticed a year past by without my tying my trainers once. I was too plain exhausted.

18 months on, and as per my post last week on grief, I felt like I’d been spat out the other side and something clicked. I wanted to run. But with over a year off the track, I was pretty much back to square one.

Rather than panic about it, I just started again slowly and within 3 months I was back to comfortably clocking up 5k, 2-3 times a week. It was time alone, away from being a mummy, wife and grieving daughter. It gave me that kick of endorphins that runners rave about, it melted away the baby weight and gave me something that was ‘just mine’. Soon I began chasing bigger highs and the next challenge. The 10k. So I decided to join a running club. With real runners. EEK.

To Be Continued…

 

 

Chickenpox 101 – tips for surviving chickenpox in children

chickenpox
chickenpox

So the pox is upon us. What’s weird is we thought we’d escaped it. There was an outbreak at school before half term, but it took the 5yo a full 10 days to break out. And break out he did (sorry for the generic pic but taking snaps of him when he’s ill for blogging purposes didn’t feel right). He went from one tiny armpit pimple (that we put down to a mozzie bite from Naples last weekend), to smothered in 5 hours – in his ears, hair, mouth…. every nook and cranny.

I have learnt a lot of pox-related dos and don’ts in the last week, so thought it was worth sharing a quick list*:

  • DO NOT give ibuprofen of any sort. It can make those carrying the chickenpox vaccine seriously ill. Stick to Calpol/paracetamol if they’ve got a fever.
  • Do keep them cool. It really reduces the itch factor.
  • Calamine lotion is fab for dabbing topically on the spots. It really helps with the scratching. The Aqueous version is better as it’s not so drying for their skin.
  • Try and teach them to pat rather than scratch if they’re itchy. Easier when they’re older, hard for littlies.
  • Piriton liquid has worked wonders at night to stop him scratching like a flea-riddled dog. However it knocks him straight out! So we’ve been keeping that for nighttime.
  • We have been popping the 5yo in a lukewarm bath a couple of times a day. We’ve been recommended to add the following by a homeopath and we’ve seen a MASSIVE difference in his comfort levels:

1/ Fill a cotton sock with oats (standard porridge type is fine) and hang it off the tap under warm running water. The oats are really soothing to the inflammed skin.

2/ Add a tablespoon of Sodium Bicarbonate and dissolve in the water. This is good for drying up the spots and keeping them clean and clear from infection.

3/ We’ve added 2 drops of tea tree and 2 drops of lavender essential oils to the bath for their antiseptic, healing and soothing qualities.

Now we just need to wait for the 2yo to start breaking out…

* It may seem a ridiculous disclaimer to have to point out, but I’m not a doctor. If you’re worried about your own child’s symptoms, that’s what the glorious NHS is for. Give your doc a call. These tips are working for us and our 5yo. They may do naff all for yours, or they may just save your sanity. Let me know!

 

 

CF Review: Quinny Zapp travel buggy

I put a little shout out on Instagram last month for this buggy as my first impressions were pretty good. I picked it up on a pre-loved site because while our day-to-day buggy, the Britax B-Motion 3, is completely brilliant, sturdy and a total workhorse (I honestly can’t recommend this buggy enough) – it is a behemoth, super heavy and not great for travelling.

Quinny Zapp
Quinny Zapp

We nipped over the Naples last weekend (read my guide to ‘Naples with kids’ from last year here) and I knew from taking the Britax last year I wanted something that would cope with the cobbled, uneven city streets, be easy to hop on and off public transport and super lightweight. The Quinny didn’t miss a beat.

Okay, in short:

Pros: It’s a simple 3-step umbrella style closure and it closes up REALLY small (27″ x 10″ x 11″) and weighs a featherweight 7.5kg (the Britax weighs a hefty 11kg). Great for small car boots, overhead lockers – or grandparents who don’t want a massive, whielding bit of kit to hump around.

Although the wheels are solid moulded ones, rather than proper air-filled tyres like the Britax, they took the nightmare Naples streets in their stride.

The 3-wheel formation was a breeze to steer.

Cons: We found it tipped back alarmingly easily. If the 2-year old (who only weighs 11kg) threw himself back hard in a strop it flung the buggy backwards. Not ideal. Obviously if your toddler is better behaved than mine (not hard), you can over-look this first point.

It’s quite short. I’m 5’10 and I found myself hunching a bit. I definitely wouldn’t recommend for over 6fters.

The shopping basket is tiny. And the sun visor too short to offer any real protection.

The back doesn’t have the option to lie-flat. So no chance of a quick nap. That said, in the middle of Naples, naps aren’t really likely, and the nosey 2-year old loved his upright vantage point. EDIT: The new generation Zapp Xtra 2 *does* have lie-back options, and you can switch the seat around from forward to rear facing.

Verdict: It’s not the perfect buggy and if I had to use it everyday it wouldn’t be practical (not sturdy enough, not enough storage, not good off-road), but if you’re looking for a super light-weight holiday/travel buggy, it’s a winner.

Quinny Zapp range from £195

Read my review of ‘Top 5 travel kit for kids’ here

If Harry Potter made loos…

This would be it…

Do you like what I did there?! I’m basically an architect. A bit of parcel tape and ta dah! One understairs loo, fit for this muggle family (I think our builder thinks I’m nuts).

Aaaaannyway, this is what I’m envisaging…

597aa2835dd448e68296f3ce0cc91c81Now all we have to agree* on is the wallpaper. I’ve always wanted the smallest room in the house to have AMAZING wacky, bold wallpaper (*when I say agree, I mean cajole my husband into agreeing with my choice).

Here are the options:

wallpaper moonstone wallpaper boats wallpaper cockatoos wallpaper booksI am totally team Cockatoo (Osborne & Little, Cockatoos by Quentin Blake) but Mr CF has deemed it too ‘Robin Williams Birdcage’, which frankly is a plus in my book… I’ll let you know if I break him…

Grief – what does it feel like?

Well, my plan to revive the blog went well didn’t it?! 12 months of nada. What can I say, life happened. I feel sporadically guilty that I should be sharing said life, but then well, life happens again. And I don’t.

Our hectic life is still happily nomadic; countrybebe is now a strapping 5yo, ensconced in school and his 21mo baby brother is a walking/talking whirlwind. We are still flitting back and forward to France every 6 weeks and plan to spend 2 months there this summer getting the next traunch of renovations done (I will update you – I promise!).

So, what’s prompted the reprive? Next week is 2 years since we lost my mummy and it’s got me thinking about the ever-shifting feeling, intensity and emotion that is grief. Then I read this and it summed it up so eloquently. Left simply as a comment on a bereavement post by ‘oldguy’:

what grief feels like

I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not.

I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents…

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. But I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it.

Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

How amazing is that? When my parents first died I used to want to scream when people would say ‘time’s a healer’, or ‘the pain will lessen with time’. Part of you never wants to feel ‘less’, because that lessening signals a letting go, or an exceptance of something that will never be ‘ok’. However, a few years down the line I get it. I am still routinely floored by their loss, but it *does* come in waves rather than a constant battering. I do live my life in between those waves and I am definitely learning to weather the storm.

I know grief is really hard to articulate and can feel so internal and private, but if you want to share any comments below, or any other passages that helped you come to terms with grief, I’d love to hear them.

she-stood-in-the-stormCF x

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