30 second review: Aveeno daily moisturising after-shower mist

aveeno sprayIn the mornings I don’t have time to slather myself with moisturiser in ‘circular, upward strokes’, then hop about naked whilst it dries. As a great woman once said: ‘ain’t nobody got time for that.’ Especially mothers being harassed by a toddler demanding ‘WEEETTAAABIXXXX’ and a 5yo quizzing them on ‘pyroclastic flow’ as they shower (just me?).

It’s not a sexy, glamorous beauty find, but I was immediately sold on this ‘quick fix’ from Aveeno on my weekly Boots sweep. Call me a lazy beauty junkie, but I like easy, quick, hard-working, effective products. If they’re a faff, chances are I won’t use them, no matter how effective they are.

This fine, light-weight formula comes out in a wide aerosol mist and works upside down, making it swift and a doddle to use – I jump out the shower, roughly towel myself dry but while my skin is still damp I hosed myself down, head to toe (well not face, neck to toe). Then rub it in. Done. No dry time, not tacky or greasy.

The oat extract means it’s really softening and soothing, without any overpowering fragrance (great if you want something that doesn’t compete with your perfume).

I’ve used it post shaving without irritation, and it’s a great prep step before applying fake tan, too.

You are most welcome.

Aveeno Daily Moisturising After Shower Mist, £7.50, 200ml

*If your skin is properly reptilian, La Roche Posay’s Lipikar Baume AP+ is the serious business. I use it once or twice a week before bed when my skin is sun/sea/chlorine battered.

NEW: The Countryfille guide to South West France

So, after two years living between Devon and France there is so much I want to share with you about this little corner of the Charente region that we now call home. To be honest, my heart has always called France home, ever since I was a small child spending endless summers running wild in the Dordogne. Memories of swimming naked in rivers; going to sleep at dusk listening to crickets and the smell of the sun-baked earth through the bedroom window; early morning trips to the boulangerie with my sister, arguing all the way as to who was going to say ‘deux grands pains s’il vous plaît’ and the never-ending lunches, the table heaving with food and friends… as a country, it just makes me properly happy.

Copyright Countryfille 2017
Copyright Countryfille 2017

I love that we have put down our own roots here and now have a proper home – and what a home she is! Living somewhere, even if it is part-time, is so very different to holidaying there. We have made real friends, not just with other expats but with our neighbours, the stall-holders at the local market, the lady in the pharmacy who is as skincare obsessed as I am…

La Retraite
La Retraite

So, I thought I’d create a dedicated section of Countryfille for all things French. Reviews, recommendations, great places to visit, city guides, interiors inspo and my favourite flea markets to visit… the works. I’ll also be interviewing interesting women who have also made the move across the channel and carved a new life for themselves in the South West of France.

2016-11-01 09.55.00-1

Stay tuned!

CF x

CF Family: How often do you read to your kids?

FullSizeRenderAs a mother of two boys, some stats that pinged into my inbox today really struck a chord. In the UK, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) the largest disparity in gender performance in schools is reading. 29% of parents admitted to reading more to their daughters than their sons and 39% of fathers ‘never or rarely’ read to their children. Reasons given in the 900-strong survey of parents with children age 4-12 were that boys favoured screen-time over reading – yet the Department for Education and Skills scholastic report asserted that 83% of children love being read aloud to. Does this ring true in your house?

We have always done the bath, book, bed routine with both boys – or the ‘power hour’ as it’s known in our house. The 20mo, until a few months ago, had never been that interested in books, or being read to. He simply couldn’t stay still long enough for even the shortest of tales. However, I’ve noticed he’s started bringing me books during the day and curling up next to me expectedly which is pretty much the Cutest. Thing. Ever. We are reading A LOT of ‘Dear Zoo’ (so much so we have a ‘travel version’ too). Anything Thomas the Tank Engine related and of course, the universally loved by toddlers – ‘That’s not my…’ series.

The 5 year old on the other hand has ALWAYS been a bookworm. He is at his happiest curled up in bed with a book (ME TOO!). Fact books are a MASSIVE winner at the moment – sharks, volcanoes, space – he literally cannot read enough. This Usborne ‘General Knowledge’ flap-book is a-mazing. We still read aloud to him, but more and more, he is wanting to read by himself. He is rediscovering all the 100s of Julia Donaldson and Giles Andreae picture books under his own steam. As well as his current favourite: ‘Supertato’ (if you haven’t read them, do).

Watching him read for pleasure, off his own back and often to his brother (SWEET!) is so, so rewarding. Like all the hours spent at the library and reading aloud to him over the years have paid off.

That said, we are struggling at the moment to find bedtime stories for that 5-7 age range. I think he’s too young (and sensitive) for most Roald Dahl (we have done Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda) and Harry Potter, but too old for his well-thumbed library of picture books. Horrid Henry and Dirty Bertie have been winners and we’re just discovering Dick King Smith and a few Enid Blyton. Any other suggestions?

CF Family: 5 tips for surviving the first year of school

This mothering lark is hard. Who knew? Obviously the newborn stage is tough, I grant you. However, even when you’re getting 10-hours sleep a night and your offspring can wipe their own arses, I wasn’t quite prepared for how hard the ‘starting school’ stage would be, for both of us.

me and Dante June 2017This might be a timely post for readers waving their littlies off to school in September. Gird your loins, people. The eldest, Dante, had been at nursery for 3 years, so I presumed moving next door into the big school with all his friends wouldn’t be too much of a biggie. Wrong. It has been a MASSIVE learning curve, both for his little brain (he can read! he can write!), but more than that, he is now learning about the big. wide. world, he is part of the school community and working out his place in the pecking order of playground politics (don’t get me started on Pokemon cards…). It’s hard.

Don’t get me wrong, he is at an AMAZING school where he is truely thriving and he adores both his class mates and his teacher – I just think they are learning SO much amazing stuff and they are constantly being stimulated and inspired that their brains are constantly firing and it’s hard to switch off. We had a bit of burn-out in the first term where he got sick a lot and in hindsight I don’t think he was getting enough down-time to let his brain switch off. So, we are now trying these little tweaks to our home life to help him navigate his school life better:

1/ We have a few mantras, mini pep-talks in the car on the way to school to set a positive tone for his day. Some my mum used to say to me and some are our own. ‘Be honest and kind’. These are the only two things we ask Dante to be. I think for a 5 year old, simplicity is best. He knows that as long as he tells the truth he will never get into trouble and being kind is fundamental to everything else he will learn to be at school. Kind to his classmates, friends, teachers and to himself. ‘If something is hard, try harder’ – this is a BIG one for him, maybe it’s his nature, or maybe it’s his age, but if he feels he’s not very good at something, or is finding something a challenge, he tends to get frustrated and give up quickly. Trying to instil in him the fact that we all have to do things in life we find a challenge I think is important, but also showing him that succeeding in something we find hard is actually all the more rewarding.

2/ Making our home a sanctuary. This is something I read about on Cup of Jo aaaaages ago and it stuck with me. The idea of when they walk through the front door and kick off their shoes they can unwind and feel revived is so simple but so key to balancing out the pace of school life. Whether it’s hot chocolates, onesies and a bit of trash telly in the winter, or ice lollies and the paddling pool with his brother for an hour in the summer. Before we get into the dinner, bath, bed routine I always make sure he has some down-time to unwind.

3/ Make the most of the weekends. Before he started school I feel like we had all the time in the world, now in those 48-hours we have at the end of the week, I try to make sure we are focused on being together as a family. It’s so easy as working parents to spend the weekends catching up with jobs at home, getting the chores done ready for the week ahead, but we are trying to carve out time to actually just BE. Whether it’s just a leisurely pancake breakfast (Dante’s favourite), a bike ride, beach trip or even hopping over to Italy for the weekend to see his beloved Zia Maria, I want him to feel like life isn’t just about school, he has a ‘home life’, too.

4/ Do a bedtime brain dump. When you’ve spent the whole day learning about how rubbish and plastics are killing the ocean’s wildlife, that can kind of stick with you if you’re a sensitive 5 year old. Bathtime seems to be the key time, once he’s unravelled from his day, where he wants to process the stuff he’s learnt or has stuck with him through the day (how do snail’s shells stick on? Why do whales have noses on their heads? Why didn’t X want to play with me at lunchtime today? I’m worried I’m going to come last on Sports Day…). Just like I try and write down any ‘to-do lists’ or worries from the day before I sleep, it’s a bit of time for him to off-load and I think he’s sleeping all the more soundly for it.

5/ The great mystery of what they had for lunch. So, I’ve polled approx. 30 parents and not ONE of their offspring can answer the question: ‘So, what did you have for lunch at school today?’. Similarly, if I ask Dante what he’s been doing at school he will usually reply: ‘I can’t remember’. Which at the start of the year INFURIATED ME. I’d look at his timetable and he’d have had a day packed with science, PE, art, Spanish…. and NADA had sunk in. It wasn’t even so much that I was worrying that he wasn’t learning anything but more that I had missed him for the previous 8 hours and wanted to know what he’d been up to! Over dinner, we now try and ask him more leading questions to spark his memory:

‘Tell me something amazing you did today’
‘Who did you play with at break time today’
‘Did anything funny happen in class today?’
‘What book is Miss H reading to you at the moment?’
‘What was your least favourite part of your day?’
‘Tell me something that you bet I don’t know?’ (this is always a winner, he is such a fact-lover!)
‘What are you looking forward to about tomorrow?’

Obviously we don’t bombard him with questions! Usually it only takes one or two to get the ball rolling and he’s off on a tangent.

Trust me, we do NOT have this parenting thing sussed, by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve seen all of these things really help Dante settle and grow in his first year at school… let me know how you get on!

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 hit 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
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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…

 

 

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