Things that other people do: DIY beauty

So, I’m not ashamed to say it. I used the last of my Bamford Geranium body oil this morning and almost shed a tear; the added lavender and peppermint make it the perfect balance – herby, floral but modern and light. None of this sweet, flowery nonsense. And it’s thick, treacle thick, so none of this splashing oil all over the wallpaper. Sigh.

Even the grassy green glass bottle is a thing of beauty on my bathroom shelf. Alas no more.

My now empty bottle was a much loved press gift, one that at £38 I shan’t be replacing anytime soon thanks to the Maternity Leave Budget, but it got me a thinking about my high-end (and rather spoilt after six years as a beauty ed) standards when it comes to bathroom lotions and potions.

Why not make my own? The brands I love, the aforementioned Bamford, Trilogy, Nude et al, are all about pared down, simple, natural ingredients. Shouldn’t be too hard to create my own inspired range, non?

Well, we shall see. A huge helping hand when it comes to considering a foray into the cosmetics industry (just call be Estee) is SE17-based G Baldwins & Co and online here. They’re like something out a Harry Potter novel.

Not only do they do every essential oil, tinture and extract under the sun but a fantastic range of glass bottles and jars to put your new unguents in. If I can’t afford Bamford at least I can afford a beautiful container for my DIY alternative.

My first order is currently en route, the ingredients for a Bergamot and Lime shampoo… watch this space.

A day by the seaside

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside… after a lifetime by the sea, one quick peek never fails to salve the soul. Especially on days like this:

After a few fraught weeks I decided a self-imposed day by the sea was in order, so frog-marched the OH off for breakfast this morning, here at The Clocktower overlooking Jacob’s Ladder, my childhood beach of choice for a spot of rockpooling

We opted for two of the fresh, home-cooked fry-ups packed with locally sourced produce (don’t get me started on the sausages), all served up alongside this view – beats a greasy spoon huh?

With full bellies and pink noses we hopped back in the car and whizzed up and over Peak Hill through Otterton to Budleigh Salterton, the next seaside town along, with wild garlic and poppies tickling our wing mirrors all the way. We were lured along the bay by the promise of an antiques/flea market which didn’t turn up any gems, but did afford us the excuse for a wander along the beach with an ice cream, like proper tourists.

We didn’t return home empty handed after all,  stumbling across a newly opened ‘curiosity’ shop at the top of the high street. We came away with: a 60s water carafe, vintage Italian photography book and this brilliantly apt tome for my NW1-born and bred father-in-law with a house in Somerset.

The happy memory bank and tan are both suitably topped up.

SALE: Cox & Cox

copyright coxandcox.co.uk

Quick! Pick up your mouse and get to Cox & Cox – they’ve got an up to 60% sale on. I don’t usually need an excuse to visit this brilliant online store but if I did, this would be it.Pick from beautiful, practical things for the house and garden (think Brissi, Graham & Green, Pedlars et al); proper old fashioned toys (I refuse to buy the little people in my life plastic tat) and a great section of wedding stationery/accessories (chic place names, signs, lanterns etc).

I’ll be snapping up these bargain-ous hanging pumpkin votives (£13.20 for two) and stringing them from the apple tree in my garden for late evening swings in my hammock.

coxandcox.co.uk

New trinkets: the Toronto flea market haul

My parents have just hopped off the plane from their hols in Toronto with the following gifts they picked up at a local flea market, and I’m as pleased as punch

First up is beautiful, jade green, soft as butter, leather vanity case. My mother knows I never travel light where my beauty haul is concerned and thought this would be chicer than 6 x transparent airport security bags.

I love the envelope detailing on top; when I’m not traveling I think I’ll keep it on my dresser with good old-fashioned correspondence in it.

Inside is quilted with elasticated sections to keep my various bottles and jars secured

Next is, at first appearances, rather pointless. A calendar for 1945. But knowing what a sentimental schmuck their daughter is, my parents thought I’d love the hand-written note inside to the recipients from the gift-givers: Stella and Walter. They go on to describe in almost illegible spidery handwriting their Christmas adventures, including being stranded at friends due to the snow drifts.

Finally, and you’ll soon learn, comes my kryptonite. Fifties kitchenalia. This tomato slicer is a perfect addition to my growing (and groaning) shelves, and is surprisingly functional, if perfectly sliced tomato salad is your thing.

TESTED: Tinted moisturisers – the face of summer

As a paid beauty junkie, writing about the virtues of a cabinet full of lotions and potions for six years at various magazines, I’m often asked what makes it into my own make-up bag (read various overstuffed trunks).

Well, my answer varies vastly depending on a/ the time of year and b/ my mood (AW10 shall herein be known as the ‘purple eye’ period). My current summer, daytime routine is light, natural and minimum-fuss (impending motherhood will do that do a gal), with the options of a strong lip (always Tom Ford) if I want to ramp things up a bit come dusk.

The foundation of my kit (forgive the pun) for summer is a hard-working tinted moisturiser. Come June I always switch for something lighter; not only because I hate the feeling of something heavy on my pores in the heat, but because frankly, I like summer’s sun-dappled skin and hiding it under a mask of foundation seems like a waste.
This post was prompted by a trip to Boots and the nostalgic rediscovery of my first tinted moisturiser – Nivea tinted moisturiser day cream.

The school-girl friendly price of £4 was probably the deciding factor for my first foray age 15, but now I can appreciate its other virtues. It’s got Vitamin E and UVA/UVB – big ticks for summer hydration and protection, and although it promises ‘light reflective pigments’ I like the fact it has a matt texture, not chalky, but by no means a shimmery finish. Freckles shine through and because it’s a Nivea moisturiser at the end of the day, it sinks in perfectly and gives really even, blemish-blurring coverage. Not bad for £4 huh?

I’ve also used all of the below for 2-3 year stints at some point or another, and all have their virtues, it just depends on your wallet:


Watermelon lightweight tinted moisturiser, Korres (£19) – I’m easily pleased on the olfactory front and the watermelon scent had me at the first squeeze of the tube. It comes in three shades, with a medium level of colour coverage. The  mineral-oil free/paraben-free formula leaves pores to breathe naturally and besides the summery scent, the watermelon extract naturally embues vitamins and amino acids galore to give parched summer skin a bit of TLC.

Moonflower tinting fluid, Madara ecocosmetics
(£20.99). I love this niche Latvian brand, the tinted fluid comes in two shades and smells of cut grass with half a herb garden thrown in for good measure. The sheer, super-light formula disappears instantly into skin, is organic, paraben-free and feels like it’s doing nothing but good for my skin.

You Rebel, Benefit (£23.50)– I started using this at 21. I’m not sure how they do it but the colour seems to work on any skin tone and just ‘adapts’ to fit. It’s got vitamins A and E, Aloe and an added SPF 15 to boot.

The ultimate Sunday roast: Lord Poulett Arms, Somerset

Copyright: lordpoulettarms.com

I was almost bored of the Lord Poulett Arms in Hinton St. George before I’d even stepped over the 17th century threshold.
My parents-in-law discovered this Somerset pub a few years ago and since then have resolutely eaten their Sunday lunch there whenever they’re in the shire. After each visit the father in law is so moved by the perfection of their roasts that he feels the urge to call and dissect the meal, roast potato by roast potato. “I get it,” I thought, “it’s good.” Oh how wrong I was.
Our inaugural LP roast took place a few weekends ago now, and yet I am still grasping friends/relatives/strangers and extolling the virtues of just How. Good. It. Was.
The Lord Poulett Arms is slap bang in the middle of the honeyed, thatched village of Hinton St. George, between Crewkerne and the A303 (if you’re heading down to the South West make the detour, I urge you). This village local is still very much that (although it looks like a photoshoot from House & Garden I grant you); and on our Sunday visit we found a reassuring number of ruddy faced farmer types propping up the bar with a flagon of local ale (Otter Ale being my local in Devon and definitely worth a tipple).

Copyright: lordpoulettarms.com

Worn flagstones under foot, vast open fires, Farrow & Ball hues and antique mismatched furniture are the order of the day, with every table taken by eager faced portly Grandpas in salmon-coloured cords, hungry toddlers slurping on Luscombe juices and us. The newbies.
After hearing about The Roast for what seems like an eternity it was the only option when ordering and as mile-high stacks of saucer-like Yorkshire puds and slabs of rare beef sail passed our table, we knew we’re onto a good thing.
Our portions soon arrived and alas, although I have no photographic proof, you’ll have to believe me when I say: it was a beautiful thing. Stacked high with a bed of root vegetables, then roast potatoes (I am a stickler for a good roastie and these passed with flying colours: golden, crunchy, fluffy but firm interior), a generous heap of the aforementioned rare beef, topped with the Yorkshire pud crown and, a genius touch, an onion ring. Each layer was done perfectly, I feel like I’m committing the ultimate betrayal here, but it even surpassed my mum’s efforts. And believe me I don’t say that lightly.
We opted for the mains/pud option (you’ll need a serious appetite to attempt all three but if you do I have it on good authority that the seafood plate to start is top-notch).
The Valrhona molten chocolate pud, lemon tart and Eton Mess were all brilliant. Plate-scrapingly so.
I’ve already booked in our next visit to try out the boule piste amongst the herb garden and after a quick peek at the rooms upstairs (£85-95 double room per night inc. breakfast) on the website, I am plotting my return for more than just the perfect roast.

Copyright: lordpoulettarms.com

2 courses are an astonishingly good £16 and three are £19. Don’t be lulled into thinking this is a quiet country pub, I’d say booking at weekends was essential. 01460 73149; lordpoulettarms.com

Laying out my stall…

New to this blog game, what I have come to understand from the good, bad and the ugly of the World Wide Web is simple. You need to get to know me, right? What is this Country Fille chick all about? What can she bring to the blog party (other than a killer Marmalade Gimlet)? Can she show me things that excite/interest/engage me? Should I care enough about what she has to say on the subject of ‘pick your own strawberries’ to give her another click? Well, gulp, I’ll try.

So, here’s my plan: chat away (not difficult), telling you about the things, places, people I think are worth shouting about – both urban and rural – and seeing if you agree. Simples, non? I appreciate to begin with I’m probably shouting this into a void (I know you’re there mum, but sorry, you don’t count), but I don’t mind, truly. The idea of a ‘scrapbook of loveliness’ came to mind when I decided to set up this website and whether I have 1 reader or a million, it’s not exactly a hard task is it?

Note: *If* you are reading my blog and give it the thumbs up please do leave a comment, I’m sat here hopefully pressing ‘refresh’ waiting to see if anyone is out there…

Introducing Country Fille…

Country Fille, Lydia Mansi, is a simple girl at heart. She left her seaside home of Sidmouth in Devon with salt in her hair and headed to Goldsmiths College, London. Here, she learnt her trade as a wordsmith, waitressed in a cocktail bar and had one too many a-symmetrical haircuts, truth be told.

At 21, via a brief job as a suited and booted finance bod in the city (it’s a mystery to her too), she ended up at the publishing house, Archant Life. Here, she cut her teeth in every department, all the while charming the pants off the editors and taking whatever commission she could; from sourcing 10 pairs of ice tongs at 9pm in Chelsea, to reviewing a vegetarian Indian restaurant in North Finchley. Finally it paid off and her first bonafide editorial role came as assistant on Grove magazine, the glossy local magazine for Notting Hill, which is where she lived in a basement studio flat, nicknamed The Hutch.

Through her journalistic endeavours around Westbourne Grove she soon discovered the joys of Portuguese custard tarts from Lisboa on Golborne Road, countered by a class at Beautcamp Pilates; nights out at Harlem (RIP) and mornings after sweating it out at The Porchester Spa… in short, she had fallen in love with inspiring readers to love where they lived.

Soon her wanderings took her south of Hyde Park, where she was immediately seduced by the glamour of the Royal Borough. An assistant editor’s role soon beckoned on The Resident, the publishing houses’ flagship title and, to those in the know, a ‘local Tatler’ for Kensington & Chelsea.

After three years of flits to exotic climes, champagne suppers in a constellation of Michelin-starred restaurants and the demise of more than a couple of credit cards on the King’s Road she upped sticks again, hotfooting it across Green Park to Mayfair, to help launch The Mayfair Resident.

Falling in love with Claridges, Heywood Hill bookshop, Burlington Arcade and Fortnum & Mason is easy for a girl to do. As is falling in love with a handsome Italian, which she did, and became his wife.

At the dawn of a new decade, editorship of NorthWest finally felt like coming home; and indeed, geographically it was, as she now lived in Kensal Rise with her very own husband and a trio of kittens. From here she could sate her country whims with stomps across Hampstead Heath and Sunday jaunts to farmers’ markets for muddy carrots.

Then, as the big 3-0 beckoned, her next challenge arrived via the cabbage patch, Country Bebe – the newest member of the Mansi brood. So, she put aside her editor’s hat (for now) and took up the mantel of motherhood – launching this website to keep the editorial cobwebs at bay and to celebrate her simple heart’s two loves: city living and country life.

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