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…

CF Travel Guide: Naples with kids

2016-07-04 08.19.09Sometimes the simplest laid plans turn out to be the most stressful don’t they? In the midst of end of term mayhem, organising our 2-month trip to France for the next phase of Chateau renovations and a teething 10 month old, we decided to just nip to Naples for a brief weekend to eat pizza, look at volcanoes and hang out with the OH’s family. No biggie.

Only Easyjet had other plans.

Our first attempt ended in an 8-hour stand-off at Bristol airport, an overtired baby and a gutted 4yo. So back home we came, disappointed but not defeated. Some diary-wrangling and a week later we were soaring through the skies, Napoli bound. This time minus the OH (god love self-employment), but with pizza firmly in our sights…

2016-07-03 15.40.27We were staying with family in a gorgeous converted Palazzo in the centre of Naples and arrived (late again) at the stroke of midnight, to 30 degree heat and a baptism of fire for the 4yo. I forget what a total country bumpkin he is and how mind-blowing a city like Naples is for the uninitiated. It was hot, noisy and beguiling. His little nose was pressed against the taxi window drinking in the cobbled alleys, moped horns and asking in a tiny voice ‘why are all these people not asleep?’

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Copyright Countryfille 2016

We awoke next morning a little travel-weary but determined to explore. With no set plans and the mercury hovering around 32 degrees by mid-morning we aimed low and settled for a day down by the water at the castello, eating fennel sausage pizza, looking for the fabled crocodiles in the moat and taking the train-obsessed 4yo on his first tube ride… to a station named after him. Mind. Blown.

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Copyright Countryfille 2016

2016-07-04 09.16.52Toledo station routinely tops the list of ‘world’s most impressive metro stations’ – it’s like an underwater cave/gallactic mash-up, crammed full of artwork.

Copyright Countryfille 2016
Copyright Countryfille 2016

In the decade I’ve been with my Italian OH I’ve been to Naples and the Amalfi Coast countless times (you can read my pre-children full city guide to Naples here), but this was my first with kids and I hadn’t appreciated what a child-friendly city it is. The underground was a breeze with the buggy, clean and with lift access at every station. The 10mo was not such a great fan of the noisy, jolting journeys but we found our fellow commuters more than willing to play, sing and cajol him into a smile. It’s a cliché but Italians really do adore babies. We saw photos of beloved grandchildren proudly whipped out of wallets and a great deal of doe-y eyed smiles and cooing in shops, queues and restaurants – our sons have particularly Neapolitan names, which went down a storm with their new found fans.

Copyright Countryfille 2016
Copyright Countryfille 2016

Eating out is a breeze; pizza and pasta are the staple diet of most under 5s (ours more than most) and the waiters entertained our two without the blink of an eye, even medicating the grouchy teething 10mo with some lemon granita for his gums.

Copyright Countryfille 2016
Copyright Countryfille 2016

Day 2 was spent shopping on Via Roma for a/ sfogliatelli for moi (my all-time favourite Neapolitan pastry) and b/ the 4yo’s first Swatch watch. Such a Euro kid tradition that the OH and I remember well. We finished the day travelling up to the hills overlooking Naples on the finicular railway to the Vomero. Quieter, wider pavements and cooler. A good shout when Naples reaches boiling point.

Copyright Countryfille 2016
Copyright Countryfille 2016

If we’d had longer I’d have loved to take them for a boat ride to Ischia, or perhaps when they’re older out to Pompeii, or for a peer into the crate of Vesuvio… next time, we’ll be back – my love affair with Naples has just begun a new chapter.

Copyright Countryfille 2016
Copyright Countryfille 2016

Tomorrow: My Top 5 bits of travel kit for travelling with under 5s.

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.

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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!



CF Christmas: Jour pour Femme by Hugo Boss

I have had to delay my post on this fragrance, as for the last two weeks I haven’t been able to smell a thing! GREAT on the nappy changing front, not so good when you want to review a new perfume!

As a teen I was OBSESSED with Hugo Boss Deep Red, so was intrigued when I received a sample of Hugo Boss’ new fragrance, Jour Pour Femme to try. The reason I’ve included it in my CF Christmas series is because I think it would be perfect as a fragrance to gift. Normally I would steer clear of suggesting buying perfume as a present, unless you are told specifically what they like to wear, as it is such a personal thing. However, this would be perfect for a new partner, or perhaps someone you don’t know so well (a mother in law, boss, friend’s partner etc) as it is a great, easy, everyday fragrance.

I am all for the big ballsy fragrances; my dressing table is covered with Tom Ford Black Orchid, Mary Greenwell Lemon and Diptyque Volutes – all punchy, ‘HELLO! SMELL ME’ scents, which I truly adore. But sometimes its nice to have a fragrance to hand that you wear, rather than wears you. You know?

Jour Pour Femme is really light and clean and feminine. All white florals (honeysuckle, freesia, lily of the valley) and citrus bursts (grapefruit and lime). It’s not cloying and very modern in its floral profile and the zestiness keeps it light. To me, it just made me feel like I smelt good, rather than I smelt specifically of ‘something’ and I’ve had loads of ‘oooh, you smell nice’ comments this week to prove it.

The 50ml EDP is current on sale at The Perfume Shop at £39.99 (£10 off)


CF Christmas: Luxury candles

As per my rant in the first of my ‘Christmas gift’ themed posts, I am of the school of thought that presents, whether Birthday or Christmas, should be highly indulgent and absolutely something that the recipient wouldn’t buy for themselves, but is either a pimped version of an everyday item or something with no practical use whatsoever but is solely designed for JOY – think bath oil, amazingly bound books, art, handmade chocolates, cashmere in any guise… There is a member of my family who shall remain anonymous, who bought his wife a new grill for her car one Christmas… suffice to say he has been making it up with expensive jewellery every since.

So, something that fits that remit rather nicely is the luxury candle. Decadent and cosy – they are as gorgeous on the Christmas table as they are on those long January nights flickering on the mantle.

Here’s my favourite trio this year:

Neom Organics Comforting Candle – £42

Cedarwood, Vetiver and Star Anise – if you hate all those cloying ‘Christmas Spice’ scents around at this time of year – this is the candle for you. I love the bronzed glass finish.

Mary Katrantzou for Rodial, £35


In Mary’s Babelle print, this citrusy number is one to put pride of place on the mantle. When the candle is finished it would make a great container for make-up brushes.

Liberty for Diptyque’s Insolite candle, £45

A luxury candle gift guide wouldn’t be complete without something from Diptyque. In winter I love feu de bois, pomander and cannelle. This Insolite scent is another citrusy one – with orange and lime, then spicy clove, cardamon and ginger and lingering cypress and white thyme.


Current obsession: Whitworths shots – healthy snacks on the go

Regular readers will be more than aware of exactly how much I love Nakd bars, as an on-the-go gluten-free snack that I know isn’t going to deliver me one enormous sugar high and then subsequent slump.

However, as a bit of a change, my coat pockets/bike basket/desk top have been littered with these little ‘shots’ from Whitworth recently. I picked a handful up in Waitrose a couple of weeks ago and I think they’re such a great idea.

Sensibly portioned, all under 100kcal a pop and 49p each – I think they’re a brilliant snacking option when on the go – the raisin and chocolate is my favourite (mini milk chocolate drops with flame and golden raisins), while Country Bebe is partial to the blueberry and seed one.

The ‘Morning Munch’ breakfast range looks good too; a range of fruits, nuts, seeds and spices to pimp your porridge with with flavours like apple and cinnamon, maple pecan and honey nuts.




CF Eats: a working lunch and gluten free bread baking

Since my foraging course at Vale House Kitchen last week, I have become *slightly* obsessed with Nettle soup. No, not a confession I thought I’d be making either but imagine a cross between rocket and spinach made into a creamy emulsion with double cream, potato, garlic and stock… it’s amazing. I’ll post the recipe when I make my next batch.

But, when ‘knocking up a batch of homemade soup’ just isn’t feasible, namely Monday-Friday when I am working, I have discovered the brilliant Amy’s Kitchen as a pretty close to homemade substitute that is gloriously gluten-free.

I was sent this tin, the chunky tomato, to try last week. And have since whipped up to Waitrose and filled my trolley with lentil, lentil and vegetable and more chunky tomato – and they’re all organic, too. The chunky tomato is made with cream, so imagine a less synthetic and much less sweet Heinz cream of tomato, that actually has texture and chunks of real tomato in it. Yum.

Amy’s Kitchen is a 25 year old US brand, so hardly ‘new to the market’, but weirdly just hadn’t made it on to my ‘gluten free’ radar. It was founded by a couple in Chicago and sweetly named after their daughter. I like the ‘homely’ ethos as well as the ‘free from’ credentials. Everything is made ‘with ingredients you’d find in your own kitchen’; I love their benchmark that ‘if a child can’t pronounce it, it’s not going in’. Brilliant.

Everything is vegetarian and gluten free, and they also do lactose free ranges. It’s not just soups, there are ready meals, curries and pies, too.

I have begun, just like my mum did when I was little, making batches of bread on a Saturday morning for the week. Just straightforward 400g loaves for now, that slot neatly into the freezer. With my trusty Kenwood Chef mixer and dough hook attachment it is super super simple. Plus, using Doves Farm’s brown bread gluten free flour, and simply following the recipe on the reverse, it is just a one hour prove then straight in the oven for one hour. No ‘proving, knocking back, then second proving’ palaver.

I’ll wait till I’ve perfected the recipe before I do a full post (it’s getting better with each batch!), it’s made with milk and olive oil so has a dense but moist crumb and a great crunchy crust. It’s delicious with cashew nut butter for breakfast, or here with houmous and soup for lunch. I’m so glad I’ve got a reliable bread recipe under my belt, it was one of my real bug bears about being gluten free, not being able to quickly knock up a sandwich, and now I can!



Jobs for the weekend: a busy Autumn ‘to-do list’

Blimey, I’ve got my work cut out for me this weekend:

Outside, I will be:

Planting daffs and bulbs various – as well as tidying up the beds, ditching the annuals and dividing and re-homing some of the herbacious perennials.

Planting up various bowls and planters with hyacinths and paper-white daffs ready to bring in for the festive season to decorate the house.

Scooping up windfall apples and pears from my mum’s garden to stew, bake and crumble-ify (it’s a word).

Hunt down some elderberries (see below).

Inside, I’m planning on:

Bottling up my sloe and blackberry and apple gins. All the fruit is in the freezer, ready to go and I’ve just bought some stoppered glass bottles – they’ll make great Christmas presents for foodies.

Making up some elderberry cordial to bottle for winter (it’s packed with vitamin c and a great soothing warm drink during cold season).

Feeding my cake! My first Christmas cake baked perfectly and is now carefully stowed, ready for the festive season. I plan to feed it once a month between now and Christmas with a slosh of brandy. I will be scouring Pinterest for decorating ideas…

Finally deciding on and ordering the new curtain fabric for our open-plan living/dining space – which do you think?

Then there is just the small task of starting to potty train Country Bebe… but that is a WHOLE other post…

Hope you have a good weekend!

CF x





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