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 Eats: Leon’s ‘Happy Salads’ cookbook review

This new cookbook from Leon has seriously upped my salad game in time for summer in France

Is anyone else completely uninspired by the prospect of ‘salad’ this summer? We arrived in France on Sunday and on a whim I grabbed this new book from Leon in Waitrose before I left, in the hope that it may be my salvation over the next two months and help steer me out of the cheese aisle.

Copyright Countryfille 2016
Copyright Countryfille 2016

I have no excuse not to eat well here, our nearest market town has the most incredible bi-weekly street market – yes there are cheese and cured meats aplenty to indulge in but also tons of fresh, local fruit and veg – 101 different types of lettuce leaves and tomatoes (why do European tomatoes taste SOOOOO good?!)… but what else do I need for a killer salad? I can make a mean Niçoise and a half-decent Caesar, but that’s about it.

I’m only 4-5 recipes in but it has been a total game-changer. And a bit of a ‘duh’ moment. It’s full of really simple ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ combos. I really like that I can find all of the ingredients easily and inexpensively at the supermarket (capers, gherkins, avocados, sun-dried tomatoes, herbs, oils, vinegars etc), and lots of them double up. There’s nothing worse then having to buy a dozen ingredients that you only use a teaspoon’s worth off before letting them fester on the top-shelf of the fridge for all eternity.

Copyright Countryfille 2016
Copyright Countryfille 2016

My winner so far is the ‘chargrilled chicken and chorizo club classic’ a meaty, garlicky, finger-lickin’ salad. It was so good I FaceTimed my husband back in the UK to share the a-mazingness. I’m good like that.

Plenty of veggie, fish and meat options – all divided into ‘Classics, Naturally Fast (great for speedy lunches), Lunchbox (ditto picnics), Food for Friends, Food for Family – then a great section at the back for ‘crunchy things’ (who doesn’t love a crouton?!) and dressings.

Copyright Countryfille 2016
Copyright Countryfille 2016

It’s just a fab little book. If you need some oomph for your summer lunches, or ideas to pimp your BBQs, look no further. It’s rare that I find a cookbook where I know it is going to be my ‘go-to’ foodie inspiration week after week – this summer, this is it.

Copyright Countryfille 2016
Copyright Countryfille 2016

Leon ‘Happy Salads’, Octopus Books, £15.99

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?


CF Reads: The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin

So, after being enthusiastically recommended to me by a friend, I have just picked up The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It’s not a newly released title (in fact it’s been in the bestseller lists for two years!) but, if like me, ‘self-helpy’ type books are not really on your radar (or frankly, appeal that much), then this might just be The Book for you.

The premise, and what inspired Rubin to write the book on a wet and miserable commute to work one morning, is her realization that ‘the days are long, but the years are short’. We give over so much of our energy reserves to just ‘maintaining’ our lives – commuting, working, housework, children – that we always feel that ‘happiness’ (whatever that magic word might mean) is to be found in all those big ‘to-do’ lists – the bigger house, the far-flung holiday, the better job… WRONG.

Rubin’s ‘Happiness Project’ is all about harnessing happiness on a daily basis. Within your daily routine will inevitably be little opportunities and moments that can be maximised to increase your overall happiness levels. I love this idea and the feel of the book already (I’m only on Chapter Two!). I like that it’s not self-centred and full of psycho-babble. While trying to tackle your happiness levels could quite easily become a selfish pursuit, Rubin has found from studying years worth of scientific research that actually, the fastest track to increasing your happiness is to make others happy. The after glow you feel from increasing someone else’s happiness levels, in turn, makes you happier too. How great is that?

In her 12-month long quest to become happier she looks at a myriad of ways to boost happiness, from your relationship with your partner and children, to your home, friends, hobbies, money… it’s a full life MOT, but crucially, not an overhaul. It’s about tinkering with your life AS IT IS, not as Elizabeth Gilbert would have us, throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater and buggering off to Rome/India/Bali, which will please my husband and toddler son immensely.

So, as I say, it’s early days but I love the concept and I’ll report back on my own ‘Happiness Project’ shortly.

Gretchin’s website is a great resource and there is more info about her books there too.


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