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 Travels: Tips for long journeys with under 5s

So, we’re off back over the channel to France this week to meet the builders and get some more renovation plans scheduled for the summer (namely some more bathrooms, the house currently has an 11 bedroom: 1 bathroom ratio!). We are flitting back and forward every six weeks at the moment, which means we are become quite adept at 15-hour journeys with a new baby and a fidgety 4-year old.

Whilst my friends think I am nuts, this will be our 12th trip in 18 months, and my second solo one with the boys, so we have pretty much got the schedule down pat. It’s an early start (5.30am), but we are tucked up in our French beds by 9pm.

COPYRIGHT COUNTRYFILLE 2016
COPYRIGHT COUNTRYFILLE 2016

Which isn’t much of a hardship when we wake up to this:

COPYRIGHT COUNTRYFILLE 2016
COPYRIGHT COUNTRYFILLE 2016

The four-year old is hardened to it now, he’s been making the trek since he was 2. The excitement of being at the docks and then on the ferry still doesn’t grow old (the cranes! the smell of diesel! cargo!).Neither does the 12-hour window when all good parenting skills go out the window and he gets to play on the iPad for hours and eat more chocolate than he does in a month. Here he is at a pit-stop 10 hours in, slightly crazed on Mikados.

COPYRIGHT COUNTRYFILLE 2016
COPYRIGHT COUNTRYFILLE 2016

So, what are my top tips for travelling long distances with under 5s?

  1. Make life easy

Travelling with small people is exhausting for all concerned, so if it makes life that little bit easier to spend an extra £5 on a closer car park to the airport, to get the ready-made formula or say yes to ANOTHER ice cream – do it. You won’t ruin them, my mantra is ‘when in transit, all parenting bets are off’.

2. Plan, plan, plan

I am pretty confident that with a bit of forward planning I can pre-empt most scenarios on the journey now after a dozen trips. Before we leave I ensure we have plenty of blankets, water, snacks, batteries, toys, WIPES, a thermos of hot water (I had to give the 7mo a strip wash in a layby after a rather explosive bowel movement once), Calpol, first aid kit, audio books (hands down the best thing for car travel), spare clothing for everyone and chargers. Although I know the route in my sleep, we have often had to be diverted, or I simply want to know our ETA, so I use the Waze app to track our journey. I also have a travel wallet by my side that contains all our documents, passports, health cards etc, plus bank cards for tolls, spare Euros and driving licenses for when I get stopped for speeding. Ahem.

3. Make the journey fun

It might sound simple, but from the moment you close your front door, you are on holiday. Once I got into this mind-set, rather than having to ‘endure’ the journey to our destination, it made things easier. If you’re children are old enough, make the journey an adventure. We play stupid car games, discuss the sights we see from the car window, have frequently stops for a swing at the playpark or ice cream and sing, LOUDLY. Yes it makes the overall journey that little bit longer, but if we’re going to be stuck in a small metal box, hurtling down the motorway together for 15 hours, we might as well make it fun.

4. Pack light

Unless you are going to outer Mongolia, pack light. Ironically, having two small children has made me a much more efficient and frugal packer. Especially if you are travelling to the developed world, you can buy nappies anywhere people. Ditto wipes, toiletries, even a few cheap clothes. Obviously specific things like formula or medicines will need packing, but we now only take minimal clothes for the boys and do a big supermarket shop the day after we get there for the rest. I am also unabashed about siding up to another French mum in the supermarket and asking her advice on the best brands. I’m sure they think I’m nuts, but it’s great to get some insider advice when faced with a wall of jarred baby food.

5. Finally, aim low

I was a travel writer in a previous life, flitting off to the most incredible destinations as part of my day job. I remember fondly the days when I used to relax with a glass of fizz, waiting to be called for my flight, then don my eye mask and get in a good solid sleep on board…. Once you’re a parent you need to aim A LOT lower. As long as you don’t lose anyone, you avert most major tantrums and everyone remains on speaking terms you’ve won, and you’re on holiday!

If anyone is travelling to France this summer and wants any specific tips/advice then just ask!

 

 

How to lay the perfect fire in a woodburner – with Charnwood

We installed Charnwood’s C4 woodburner almost a year ago now and it is the single most brilliant thing we’ve done since moving to the country. While planning our escape, holed up in our tiny London flat, we were fuelled by the romantic dream of cliff-top walks, rosy cheeks and coming home to a roaring woodburning stove… Three years on and… ta dah!

2013-06-29 17.16.12I wrote about the stove when we first installed it, but after a year’s use I can honestly say it is the simplest, most efficient stove I’ve come across. We don’t live in a period, cosy cottage so wanted a burner that was modern and simple in design that would fit in with our 20th Century aesthetic. Charnwood do a range of wood burners, from the traditional to the contemporary, they’re based on the Isle of Wight and I really can’t fault the design, quality or efficiency of these British stoves.

We were so chuffed with the stove that I contacted Charnwood with the idea for this post, I wanted to get their top tips for novice woodburner owners – how to light the perfect fire, what logs to buy etc. Happily one of their team, Cedric Wells, got back to me and was more than happy to share some of their knowledge and gave me this great advice:

CF: When I’m buying wood what should I be looking for?

2013-11-09 13.59.58CW: It’s always important to use well seasoned wood (ideally cut, split and stored for a minimum of 1-2 years.) Stack your logs outside and undercover but ensure that air can circulate to allow the logs to season correctly. Bring in basketfuls as and when you need them.
Wood that is properly seasoned burns efficiently and cleanly and should have a moisture content of less than 20%. The bark will be cracking, the wood will be lighter and the log will sound hollow when knocked on another piece of wood.
In terms of the best woods to burn – hard woods such as oak are the best value for money as they are dense and will burn for longer. We at Charnwood rather like this old poem published in Punch during the 1926 coal strike:

Logs to burn; logs to burn;
Logs to save the coal a turn.

Here’s a word to make you wise
when you hear the woodman’s cries;
Never heed his usual tale
That he’s splendid logs for sale
But read these lines & really learn
The proper kind of logs to burn.

Oak logs will warm you well,
If they’re old and dry.
Larch logs of pinewoods smell
But the sparks will fly.
Beech logs for Christmas time;
Yew logs heat well;
‘Scotch’ logs it is a crime
For anyone to sell.
Birch logs will burn too fast;
Chestnut scarce at all;
Hawthorn logs are good to last
If cut in the fall.
Holly logs will burn like wax,
You should burn them green;
Elm logs like smouldering flax,
No flame to be seen.
Pear logs and apple logs,
They will scent your room;
Cherry logs across the dogs
Smell like flowers in bloom,
But ash logs all smooth and grey
Burn them green or old,
Buy up all that come your way
They’re worth their weight in gold.

Honor Goodhart, 1926
 
 www.nef.org.uk/logpile is a very useful site for wood burning and also gives details of local wood suppliers.

CF: What are the essential bits of kit that I need to get going?

CW: Newspaper, dry kindling, firelighters and matches are all essential basics to get the fire going. A flue pipe thermometer is also a very useful and simple device that attaches to the flue pipe of your stove. By telling whether you are over-firing or under-firing your stove you can adjust the burning rate accordingly. If you over fire your stove you can damage the glass, bricks and internal parts over time. By under firing your stove you can cause damage to the chimney and stove body through excess condensation.

2013-11-09 14.01.41
A moisture meter is also helpful to ensure you burn properly seasoned wood on your stove. By inserting the prongs into the grain of the wood it gives a moisture content reading of the log. By burning properly seasoned wood you can achieve optimum clean burning efficiency and prevent the problems associated with burning wet wood.

In terms of tools we’d recommend a poker and tongs and a decent fire proof dustpan and brush.

CF: Talk me through a step by step fire lighting method

2013-05-17 19.32.36CW: Light the stove using dry kindling wood and newspaper or fire lighters. Put the paper, or fire lighters, and kindling in the firebox and cover with a few small dry logs. Open the air controls fully and then light the paper or fire lighters. The door may be left cracked open for a few minutes to assist the combustion and heat up the firebox more quickly. When the kindling wood is well alight add a few more small logs, close the door but leave the air control fully open. When the flames are established around these logs, load the stove with more fuel. Maintain the air control at maximum at this stage. Once the fire is up to temperature the airwash system will begin to work, so allow the fire to become hot before adjusting the air control – push the control half way in once the fire is hot and you will find it burns your logs slower but very efficiently. You can then add logs as and when necessary (every 45 mins -1.5 hours).

2013-05-21 20.44.43CF: Finally, Any clever uses for the ashes?
CW: Wood ash is rich in potash so perfect for the garden and especially for roses!

There you have it! I hope you’ve found this post useful. Thank you Cedric, your tips have certainly improved our fire-lighting techniques.

I’d love to see snaps of your fires – why not tag me over on Instagram (I’m countryfille), or tweet me @countryfille?

CF Review: Patch-it reflexology sleep aid patches

A solid 8-hours slumber is still alluding me. Bodyism’s Serenity supplement has made a HUGE difference to my ability to drop off, but it’s the 3am, bolt-upright in bed, wake-up that is proving difficult to shift.

I’ve spoken to a number of docs and sleep specialists about my predicament and the general consensus is that grief-related insomnia is a natural response to your body working through the grieving process. Quite literally, as the grief (stress hormones, chemicals etc) leave your body, it can wake you up. BAM, hello insomnia.

So, in a bid to gently try and coax my body back into some form of regular sleep pattern after almost six months off kilter, I’m gradually working my way through a stack of sleep aids I’ve kindly been sent.

First up this week is the Patch it, reflexology sleep patch.

Knowing how blissful I find reflexology and how effective it has been in the past as a stress-buster and snooze-inducer, I was intrigued by these patches. They’re basically a big dressing that you stick to the sole of your foot.

Inside is a tea bag style pouch filled with relaxing organic oils: lavender, sage, basil, ylang ylang, bergamot and bitter orange. The secret ingredient however is the Mandarin Wood Vinegar. Used commonly in Traditional Chinese Medicine, this magic ingredient emits Far Infrared energy (bear with me here), the sun emits this light spectrum too, it’s just not visible to the human eye. It’s not warming your toes in a ‘heat’ sense, but the energy created is enough to stimulate your reflexology points, then the essential oils do their business. Does that make sense? So, no perceivable ‘heating’ sensation, just nice smelling plasters that you stick on the soles of your feet just before you get into bed.

Did they work? Well, I tried them every night for a week (TIP: I’m a wriggler in bed so had to wear socks to keep me from rubbing them off) after which time I was still waking in the night, but my ability to drop back off was definitely improved.

More extensive studies over prolonged periods have proven that they have reduced the time it takes for users to fall asleep and their quality of sleep has improved, too.

They’re not cheap (£29.99 for a 10 day supply) but the idea is that you use them for between 10-21 consecutive nights to re-set your sleeping pattern.

They’re available at Holland & Barrett and on the Patch It website.

P.s. Did I mention lately just how much I love this bedlinen brand? Crumpled, chic linens at their best. Plus if you’re looking for a winter weight duvet, I can’t recommend this online brand enough.

CF Review: The Purifyne 3-day Green Cleanse

Last Friday morning, just in time for breakfast, I took delivery of a cool bag, stuffed full of fresh, organic, cold-pressed green juices from Purifyne, ready to start my 3-day green cleanse.

I was offered the chance to roadtest one of their nationwide juice cleanses and as their ‘green cleanse’ plan is designed to create an alkaline enviroment within the body (it is well researched that many diseases, including cancer, cannot thrive in an alkaline environment) and boost the immune system, I signed up immediately. Hoping to rebalance the last two months of stress, glandular fever and general run-downness.

A quick word about juice detox delivery companies. Working as an editor in West London in the Noughties, it seemed that in-between the Fro-Yo bars and Cupcake Bakeries springing up by the dozen, the other booming business was juice/raw food delivery brands. In the name of research, I tried them all. From the good (Raw Fairies raw food detox is sublime and utterly delicious) to the ridiculous (namely the ‘one colonic a day for a week and barely enough nutrition to sustain a hamster’ approach). That said, my thrice yearly cleanses always did reboot my sugar/caffeine dependent, sluggish system and give me a whoosh of energy. Not to mention that rather welcome flatter tummy and 3-5lb weight-loss.

By moving to the country I begrudgingly accepted that, like a good Lebanese restaurant or haircut, juice cleanses just weren’t going to be at my beckon-call in the Shires. Until the email from Purifyne popped up and, after an email consultation, day one of my juice cleanse arrived.

For the uninitiated into the world of the juice cleanse, a green juice plan may be a little hardcore – each of the three 500ml daily juices contains a potent mix of lettuce, spinach, cucumber, celery, broccoli, green pepper, parsley… you get the jist. If it’s green and good for you. It’s in. So, if you’re expecting a fructose-heavy, fruity number – forget it. Purifyne are on a mission to rebalance your pH levels in 3 days, and they give you pH strips to wee on each night to chart your progress. Besides the juices (which I actually loved: fresh, clean and green), there is the daily ‘raw alkalising soup’. A thicker ‘smoothie’ consistency, it has added avocado (high in good fats) and a good hit of cucumber (known for it’s cleansing properties) as well as a rather potent kick of garlic, spring onion and lemon. When you get to that stage in a cleanse where you are desperate to actually chew something (usually about day 2 for me), this savoury, more filling recipe really hit the spot.

Purifyne have also devised a supplement plan to support the cleanse. Unlike a lot of programmes I’ve tried where you have to soak this or measure out that, Purifyne deliver everything pre-portioned and with your itinerary clearly laid out on a laminated side of A4. Idiot-proof. There is simply an alkalising mineral supplement and a colon cleansing powder that you mix with some juice in the morning. It is, frankly, a kinder and more gentle alternative to a colonic. Releasing oxygen through your digestive track to aid cleansing of ‘stagnant matter’. I’ll leave it there I think.

On the pampering front, there is a bag of Epsom Salts which they encourage you to bathe in each night to help release toxins; plus a sisal mitt for dry brushing each morning, to kick start a slugging lymphatic system, ergo helping the body to flush out those toxins.

With a fridge load of juices, some alkaline tea to sip in between and the box of Miso soup and cartons of coconut water that I stocked up on, I can honestly say I never, not once, got a hunger pang. Purifyne advise that rather than necking the juices at each ‘traditional mealtime’, you sip one slowly over 30-40mins, every 3-4 hours. Finishing your last juice 2-3 hours before bedtime to give your digestive system a good rest. Rather than missing food it it amazing how much time is frees up in your day when you’re not food shopping, preparing or cooking. I felt liberated and, which is very common, astounded at how much food I eat on a daily basis that my body, clearly, doesn’t need.

Those under-skin bumps on my arms (which are apparently a mild wheat intolerance) vanished, my tummy lost 5cms in bloating and that heavy fog of fatigue that has been hanging around since my glandular fever diagnosis, lifted gradually. Yes, a common goal for juice cleansers is weight-loss, and while I don’t really feel this kind of ‘quick fix’ is a healthy or particularly long-term weight loss tool, I did lose 4lbs.

A week post-cleanse and I still feel energised and my diet feels rebalanced. I have started juicing my own green juices for breakfast and lunch (more posts on this to follow), with plenty of raw salads and recipes from my favourite cookbook du jour, Honestly Healthy.

If you’re feeling rundown, need to fortify your immune system, or simply want to give your digestive system a bit of an overhaul after a period of over indulgence, give Purifyne a go.

Cheers!

3-day cleanse, £235*, www.purifyne.com

*PR Sample

The Sunday Overhaul: Week One – Tanning

So, here’s the idea. Us working women all get into a flap on a Sunday night about our Beauty Maintenance – right? It’s the only day of the week we get a second to think about frivolous things like hair masks, manicures, defuzzing or, heaven forbid, a DIY facial (30 mins? To myself? In the bathroom? Pah).

So, I’m going to post each week, on a Sunday afternoon, some super easy DIY maintenance ideas that are foolproof, quick and have a high results:effort ratio. This week: Tanning.

These last few days of sunshine have thrown into stark relief the lack of fake tanning in my beauty regime. Exposing my pallid Celtic limbs was not a pretty sight so, after a quick seasonal restock I present to you the foolproof tanning duo:

This can of self-tan from Aussie brand, Invisible Zinc was my firm favourite last year and I still can’t beat it. After the necessary scrub and moisturise I simply start at my toes and give myself a light mist all over (it is an aerosol application so best to apply standing in the shower cubicle so you don’t inadvertently spray the walls/carpet/bedlinen). Then I whip out my £3 self-tan secret weapon that I wrote about last summer and still swear by. The St. Tropez buffing mitt. Starting at my feet again I buff in big circles to avoid any runs/drips. By which point, it’s dry and I can dress. Under 5 mins flat. It has zero smell. Seriously, zero. The tan develops in 4-5 hours and after a couple of consecutive days application I have achieved a natural, sunkissed shade. If you hanker after a darker hue this probably isn’t going to float your boat but if you’re just looking for a healthy hint of colour, you can’t beat it.

For the face I have rediscovered Clarins this year. I used it in my early Twenties and had forgotten quite how good it is. This formula is a very light gel/cream consistency with a sunshiny smell and hydrating texture. I was extolling its virtues to a friend via email and described it as ‘posh tan – you know, like a weekend in Cannes rather than a run-in with David Dickinson’. And that’s exactly what it is, an orange-free, almost olive-skinned result. I’m applying it every other day and thus far it hasn’t caused any breakouts which I find is a common complaint with a lot of facial fake tans.

So, there you have it. The first week’s Sunday Overhaul – go forth and tan ladies and for those inevitable self tan disasters (orange palms anyone?) St Tropez’s self tan remover is a lifesaver.

Beautybay.com have the Invisible Zinc Jet Set Tan on sale at £17.85 at the moment and I bought the Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow through Escentual.com who have it at the special price of £22.80 at the mo.

CF Weekend: a tale of two weather fronts

I was secretly chuffed to bits that it was freezing cold on Friday night as it gave us the excuse to fire up our new woodburner for the first time. Here is the OH, channeling his inner caveman (what is it with men and fire building?!). The stove itself is the C4 from Charnwood. A English stove-makers based on the Isle of Wight. If, like us, you don’t live in an oldy worldy cottage but still hanker after a ‘real fire’ these modern, sleek and, most importantly, foolproof, super efficient stoves are brilliant.

So, we went to bed shivering and woke up to this:

Country Bebe has rather alarmingly, morphed into an avid nudist. Straight after breakfast he is rattling the back door, ripping his clothes off, trying to get out in the garden. He has spent the last two days naked, digging up weeds with his trowel and weeing in the flowerbeds. I have the sneaking suspicion by the end of the summer he will be semi-feral which, of course, was the EXACT reason for the big move to the country.

In other news: I have developed a mild addiction to Kallo dark chocolate rice cakes (gluten free and 55kcal each) and have finally plucked up the courage to invest in a juicer which arrives this week. Until then, I’m off to extract my son from the vegetable patch.

 

How often do you wash your hair?

Not quite a L’Oreal moment – last weekend on a wind-swept beach

So, I’ve been conducting a little hair experiment. Namely I haven’t been washing it. The reasons behind going a bit ‘hippie’ in the hair hygiene stakes are two-fold. 1/ I’ve got a new exciting, rather time consuming project that I’m working on, which means 6am starts with no time for long-winded ablutions 2/ I am about 2 inches off my dream ‘just past the nipple, mermaid worthy’ hair length and my stylist promises that the only way I’ll get there is by washing/styling it less.

I swear to God, the day I hit 13 and my hormones raged into life so did the glands on my scalp, it was an oil-slick up there, everyday. Of course my solution was to wash it daily, sometimes twice a day if I was going out in the evening which, as I know now (*old person sigh*) was making the situation a whole heap worse by over-stimulating my oil production levels. You see, hair (ergo oil levels) really can be trained.

In the space of a month I’ve gone from daily shampooing to Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Yep, I’ve cut out four-whole washes. Yes I’m going through dry shampoo like there is no tomorrow but hey, it’s progress. Here’s my hair this Saturday afternoon, a whole three days after I had last washed it – passable right?

Here are my hair training tips and products I swear by:

* Batiste dry shampoo in brunette/blonde/redhead – it’s worth the extra £1 or so to get a dry shampoo that matches your hair colour (and doesn’t smell like cheap air freshener) to save the tell-tale grey pallor to your locks.

* Washing your hair less means you can’t get away with a quick shampoo when you do lather up. Invest in a good pre-shampoo treatment (I love L’Oreal’s new Elvive Extraordinary Oil through my lengths for 10 mins prior to showering or Philip Kingsley’s Stimulating Scalp Treatment is a tingly, menthol ‘face pack’ for the scalp); a good cleansing but not stripping shampoo (I buy Aveda Shampure by the litre it is so brilliant); then a good mask/deep conditioner (I switch between John Frieda’s Full Repair Deep Conditioner Mask and Aussie’s 3-Minute Miracle Reconstructor). Once I’m out the shower I add Gielly Green’s Argan Rescue to soaking wet hair – just a drop and just to the ends – but I find it really does prevent split ends and softens my frazzled, bleached lengths. Oh, and once a week I do an overnight hair treatment with ESPA’s pink clay hair masque that I’m always raving about in any hair post.

Results? Other than the time saved, my hair has definitely calmed down in the oil production stakes and feels glossier and stronger (there is MUCH less hair in the bath plug which pleases my husband no end). Once I can get down to a bi-weekly wash I’m thinking of switching to salon blow-outs – or is that just too indulgently ridiculously Park Avenue Princess? My salon offers a blow-out with a junior for £7 during the week, I figure I spend more than £55 a month on hair products… *smells faint whiff of credit card burning*

 

 

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