A Halloween Lush Collection

You just can’t beat a seasonal Lush collection, and they’ve really gone for it on Halloween this year. There are little ghost jelly bombs, black lip scrubs and gift collections covered in cat faces. It was just enough to distract me from the fact that the Christmas collection is already in… I didn’t go too crazy as all bath bomb related bank balance damage needs to be reserved for Christmas, but here is what I did pick up…

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*Sparkly Pumpkin: It’s a classic. It’s also covered in glitter – but that’s part of the fun with Lush, right? It’s the bubble bar everyone expects in the Halloween collection – with juniperberry oil which is great for your skin, and lime oil and grapefruit oil, which are both very uplifting and I can never say no to a fruity scent. This year they’ve brought it out in pink is as well – though I’m a traditionalist so stuck with the classic.

*Bewitched: This black cat bubble bar will, I suspect, leave the bath water a very alarming black colour – but surely that’s acceptable at Halloween. It smells overwhelmingly of blackberry and includes woody olibanum oil and bergamot oil. The soft, big bubbles and spicy scent will be worth the black water…

*Monsters’ Ball: Now for the bath bombs, this one is enormous. I’m not quite sure of the obsession with pink for the Halloween collection (I guess it’s better than black), but this is a cute little Cyclops. It has lots of the same oils as the bubble bars, so would go really well with both. The olibanum oil in particular is meant to be very relaxing – even if you are left with one eye staring at you as the bath bomb fizzes away…!

*Pumpkin: Finally, how could I say no to a pumpkin bath bomb? This is essentially like bathing in pumpkin pie. With the sweet vanilla absolute and spicy cinnamon bark oil, it smells exactly like home baking and all things sweet and spicy. Maybe a bit sickly for some, but it’s not too strong or overwhelming. Ideal for a chilly, Halloween night.

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My Autumn To Do List

This is mainly made up of ideas to tide you over until Christmas. We’re still just a smidge too far away to get excited – but Winter Wonderland ads are starting to pop up around London, as are the ice rinks and the lights…

But not yet. I love this time of year too, it’s feeling crisp in the mornings and the days are getting forever shorter. The darkness is a little depressing – so all the more reason for a list of fun things to do. With Halloween just around the corner and Bonfire Night next weekend, there are plenty of things on to keep you preoccupied until it’s acceptable to chat all things Christmas…

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*Go pumpkin picking: I have just got back from pumpkin picking and it’s still one of my very favourite things to do at this time of year. I imagine you can’t move for pumpkin patches in America, but here in the less-Halloween-obsessed UK it’s becoming more of a thing now. At our local one you pile on the back of a tractor, rumble down to the pumpkin field, pick as many as you carry and then get back on the tractor for pumpkin curry, pumpkin cake and hot dogs. The perfect Sunday.

*Have a Halloween film night: By this I do not mean scary films. I hate scary films. I get completely worked up by them and convince myself I am living in it for months afterwards – no thank you. There are actually hundreds of Halloween films that aren’t scary at all – I’ve got a nice pile of Tim Burton animated films (hello The Nightmare Before Christmas) as well as a few others, admittedly kiddy, films – and I’m looking forward to settling down and getting through them. There’s not that long until Halloween, so definitely need to get going…

*Go winter wardrobe shopping: Autumnal clothes have been in the shops for a while, but we’re actually in need of them now. I love a new jumper (who doesn’t?) but plan a big shopping trip to fill your wardrobe with autumnal colours – think all the browns, burgundys and even mustard if you’re feeling brave. I’m trying really hard to avoid black at the moment. It’s just so boring, and actually very easy to replace when you put your mind to it.

*Plan a cosy, pamper night: I read somewhere recently that summer is the time to charge around, and autumn is when we hunker down. It’s so true. As the evenings get darker, I’m filling my house with candles, fairy lights and blankets to make it really cosy and the only place to be in the evenings. Add a face mask and anything else you like to pamper yourself with and you’ve got the perfect night in.

*Go to a firework display: I’ve been quite enjoying getting into the spirit of Halloween over the past couple of years, but Bonfire Night will always be my favourite. I have already been to my local firework display at home this weekend, and can’t wait to see London light up next week. It’s the perfect excuse to get a big group together, eat hot dogs and toffee apples, get as close to the bonfire as you can stand and, of course, marvel at the incredible fireworks.

*Get outside and go walking: It’s getting colder and darker (I know I keep saying it but it is), but the beautiful autumnal colours are still clinging on and will do for another few weeks. So get outside and enjoy them. Find conkers, kick through enormous piles of leaves and enjoy the fresh air. We spend far too much time inside and that needs to be changed…

The Perfect Homemade Hot Chocolate

It hasn’t actually got that cold yet. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it meant to be a lot chillier by now? I haven’t got my big scarfs out. I’m in no need of gloves and I haven’t even swung my full coat collection into action. My real, big, winter coats are still safely in storage and I haven’t come anywhere near close to pulling them out yet.

That said, it is getting much, much darker (sob) and so cosying up in the evenings is still entirely necessary. Warm drinks are essential for this. I’m being slightly contradictory here though, as I’m not much a warm-drinks-drinker. I don’t like coffee and I’d say I am a ‘social tea drinker’ – I will if you will, but never on my own. So standing in line at a coffee shop with my coffee-obsessed boyfriend the other day, I had my usual tussle over what I wanted (the real answer – nothing). Then I noticed they had hot chocolate…

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I’m finding myself craving hot chocolate more and more these days. I love chocolate (who doesn’t…) – I’d happily give up sweets, crisps, cake etc etc but I could never let go of chocolate. So hot chocolates feel like the ultimate treat, especially as the days are getting darker (if not colder).

It turns out that making your own is ridiculously easy and it tastes so much better. Yes, stirring powder into hot milk is hardly strenuous in the first place, but just put in a little extra effort and it’s entirely worth it. Melted chocolate is better than powder any day.

I got the original recipe from here, but really you can add or take away anything you want (that’s part of the fun!) and the measurements don’t need to be precise. And the method is essentially chuck it in a saucepan and stir.

You will need – 100g of your favourite chocolate (I mixed milk and dark), 2 cups of water, 2 cups of milk and 2 cinnamon sticks. Put everything but the milk in the saucepan. When the chocolate has entirely melted, add the milk and keep stirring until it’s warm and ready to drink (this takes a little longer than you’d expect). Add whipped cream, cocoa powder, marshmallows, an extra cinnamon stick and whatever else takes your fancy and enjoy! Easy.

The Pom Pom Jumper

I once had a News Year’s resolution to buy clothes out of my comfort zone. Things that scared me and that I would never normally have the confidence to buy, but that I always loved seeing on other people. While it did lead to the odd dodgy outfit and some items bought with enthusiasm and never worn, it was a really fun resolution and I would highly recommend it.

This purchase manages to combine that resolution with perhaps the most standard thing in my wardrobe. I love a grey jumper. I have to actively avoid them at this time of year, as I really don’t need any more to my already vast collection. But this one was just different enough to justify it…

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This pom pom jumper from Zara is possibly the most fun thing I have ever seen. It looks a lot more expensive than it actually is, it’s warm, comfortable and, well, covered in pom poms. So while it fits into every outfit the way any grey jumper would, it’s much more out there than the typical, and definitely a tick for that resolution. And if you don’t feel quite so bold, the navy and mustard versions still have the poms, but are just a little more subtle about it.

It’s probably a love/hate thing and I’m still not entirely decided on how I feel about it. On the one hand I think it looks really cool and fun, on the other I feel like a children’s entertainer – and it does get you a few odd looks. It’s also a little difficult to wear as it’s nearly impossible to fit under a jacket. My guns looked a cartoon character’s.

That said, when you are going to wear a grey jumper, why not have it covered in pom poms? It feels like the most perfect weekend jumper, ideal for roaming the parks looking for large piles of leaves and hot chocolates. And for the crafty out there, I’m sure this would be a very easy DIY…

London Secret Spots: Battersea Flower Station

I often feel overwhelmed by the Insta suggestions of London hotspots. There’s always a new cake shop with gorgeous interiors, or a fun market with foodie treats and vintage goodies, or parks in full, autumnal bloom or the latest brunch spot with the perfect avo toast… The list is endless. The trick is to find the places that aren’t being raved about, but certainly deserve to be.

Admittedly, my London finds always revolve around food. I love trawling the Internet for where I need to be eating brunch on Saturday, or where my next photogenic cup of tea and slice of cake will be coming from. So, I’m not quite sure when I became the sort of person that thinks whiling away the weekend at a garden centre is the sign of a good time – but apparently I have.

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Battersea Flower Station is a quirky alleyway come garden centre, hidden between Winders Road and Battersea Park Road. It’s not big (though remarkably long!) but they have everything – the ‘pot shop’, seeds, herbs, window boxes, garden plants, house plants and a gorgeous florist hidden at the very end.

It is like an Aladdin’s cave, complete with bunting strung up overhead and illuminated by fairy lights. As I said, I am not really one to be enthused by a garden center, but you just don’t know what you will next stumble across – and surely everyone loves a good bouquet of flowers? If I am honest, I thought it would be a lesser-known alternative to Petersham Nurseries (the garden center meets cafe meets restaurant meets celeb hang out that I wrote all about here). It’s not. I was misled by the cake on their Instagram page (they’d recently held a Macmillan Cake Morning), but it’s not like Battersea won’t provide some cake – so no need to go without. And as for the prentending to be green-fingered plant shopping part of Petersham, I reckon this is even better. A bit more rustic (though not too much – we are still in London), and a lot more fun.

So if you are after something a little different, pop down to Battersea Flower Station. It feels like a long, very thin slice of calm in the middle of mad Battersea – completely bizarre, but also wonderful. Just don’t tell too many people. This place is worth keeping a secret.

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How to Spend: October

It never fails to amaze me just how much everyone loves October. I’ve always been more of a summer person, and surely everyone loves Christmas, but it turns out that for most – autumn rates pretty highly.

And I can see why. The world looks stunning in its autumnal get-up, I love pulling out all of my jumpers and coats again and the slight nip in the air is a reminder that Christmas is on its way… But there is the other side to the change of seasons as well. It’s getting dark and cold, everyone is coming down with some sort of illness and the disappearance of the sun is just a bit, well, miserable.

We don’t spend nearly enough time looking after ourselves, so this month remember to schedule in some time for just that. Buy all the bath bombs, put on a face mask, read a book, catch up on Bake Off… The summer was so busy for me and I feel like I’ve been running around without ever stopping. Use October to finally catch up with yourself, because Christmas is on it’s way and it’s all going to get really busy again before we know it… But until then enjoy the changing leaves, don’t forget that the clocks turn back on the 29th and prepare to scare yourself silly on the 31st!

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*Have a pamper night: Even if you can’t spend the entire month looking after yourself, one night isn’t too much to ask. Say no to going out and put yourself first for once – the world won’t end! You can’t go wrong with a Lush bath bomb, a face mask (Glamglow is my personal favourite) and a good book. Use the time to catch up on Bake Off, watch a film and get a really early night. They say that no good stories start with an early bedtime, but it’s OK to opt out of that for once and just look after yourself.

*Explore somewhere close to home: Part of taking things a bit more gently this month for me has been using the weekends to explore what’s on my doorstep. The summer is the time for jet-setting, and my head has been filled with plans for far-flung places for months now, but with the arrival of autumn something has just switched. Suddenly I don’t want to be up all hours, boarding flights and living out of a suitcase anymore. But that doesn’t mean staying at home and doing nothing – I’m never one for that. There is so much to explore just outside your front door when you open your eyes. Things as simple as breakfast in the nice cafe you spotted to a walk in the park are just as wonderful as Instagrammable holiday destinations (and maybe even better…)

*Go pumpkin picking: Finally, my favourite suggestion for this month, there is nothing more fitting for Halloween than to go pumpkin picking. This is really taking off in the UK (or maybe I’m just really slow to the party), so a quick Google should bring up something local to you. At our local one you get to pile onto a tractor down to the pumpkin fields, pick as many pumpkins as you can carry and feast on pumpkin soup served in tiny gourds. And then of course, back home, you get to carve them… Don’t forget to put your finished creations out to encourage the trick or treaters to come knocking (but don’t forget to buy sweets!)

A Few Favourites: September

Autumn has become such a social media thing. Everyone just gets so excited. And, admittedly, it is my favourite time of year to blog (hence my sudden burst back onto the scene…) But summer has always been my favourite time of year – I love the long days, the holidays and, of course, my birthday. As I’ve got older, I’ve come to appreciate autumn more – I love seeing the leaves turn, feel the evenings draw in and pull out all of my favourite jumpers and coats again.

That said, it makes me sad that we wish away September. Everyone is desperate for autumn to arrive but really I’m just hoping for an Indian summer. We aren’t going to see the sun for another year – why are we so pleased to see the back of it? There was no Indian summer to be had this September, but I still had a great month. Tiarnan and I spent a weekend in Cornwall, I’ve found a new London hotspot and now I’m excited for autumn to begin properly…

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*Cornwall: Without a doubt, the highlight of this month was my and Tiarnan’s trip to Cornwall. It is quite a trek from London, but I love the countryside, the coast and the peace and quiet. We found a cute little Air BnB barn conversion, with a huge bed hidden in the eaves and a wood burner for the chilly nights. We stayed on the north coast, near Padstow and Rock and spent the majority of the time exploring the different beachs – exploring the rock pools in Polzeath, trekking to the lighthouse at Trevose and retreating to a beach cafe in Perranporth with a fire and enormous hot chocolates (complete with whipped cream and marshmallows). If you’re looking for a British staycation then I couldn’t recommend Cornwall enough – and September is the best time to go as the summer crowds have left but the sunshine, if you’re lucky, is still there to enjoy.

*1 Second Everyday: I am so uninterested by apps. I know there are thousands out there, and many could make my life a whole lot easier, but my loves are limited to Instagram and the Nike Running app – until now. 1 Second Everyday lets you film a one second clip of your life everyday, and puts them all together into a huge montage. I thought it would get boring, but if you’re creative and put some effort into finding different things to film each day it’s so much fun to do and so satisfying to look back on.

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*Dominique Ansel Bakery: Creator of the cronut and owner of New York’s legendary bakeries, Dominique Ansel hopped over the pond last year but it has taken me this long to finally get there. While I was hoping it would be good, I didn’t quite expect the autumnal wonderland that it is. They have a covered outdoor garden with pumpkins hanging from the ceiling, an entire wall covered in autumn leaves and free plum cake to celebrate their first London birthday. And then there’s the food – mini Madeleines baked to order, frozen s’mores, chocolate chip cookie shots, an entire counter of patisseries and, of course, the half-croissant, half-donut they are famous for. Get there early for a cronut, they had sold out by the time we got there, but the choice is so enormous we barely noticed.

*The Neapolitan Novels, Elena Ferrante:Β  Finally, everyone is talking about Elena Ferrante and has been for while – it is total madness if you haven’t picked up The Neapolitan Novels yet. I’m usually skeptical of such hype, but this is truly deserved. There are four books in the series and I’ve, sadly, reached the final one. They follow the lives of two girls, Elena Greco, the narrator, and Lila Cerullo, her best friend. The first novel begins with them as children, living in a very poor and rough neighbourhood outside Naples. The books follow them through adulthood, marriage and motherhood, and essentially tell the tale of what happened to them amidst extraordinary social and political change in Italy. I’ve taken a while to get through them, but it’ll be very sad to finish the last one and not have another waiting for me…

An October Reading List

If I am honest, I haven’t been overwhelmed by my recent reading. I haven’t found anything new and exciting for a while (apart from one book which I’ll share with you today…) So I’ve used this as an excuse to return to some old favourites. As some of my very favourite authors have written a ridiculous number of books, it felt time to pick up yet another one – which is a good test of a favourite author. If they really are your favourite, you won’t ever get bored…

So with this in mind, I have a fairly mixed bag for you this month but also quite predictable of me. I have a brand new, brilliant book with a character you will fall completely in love with, a historical fiction yomp of a read exploring some fascinating, but all too often forgotten, women, and finally a classic thriller you won’t be able to put down.

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*For an entirely unique character: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman. I am too cheap to buy hardbacks. But I spotted this one in Waterstones and my Mum, having heard excellent reviews (which I coincidentally hadn’t!), picked it up for me for my birthday. Gail Honeyman’s debut novel centers on Eleanor Oliphant, who leads a simple life and is terrible at social interactions. I loved this book and, above all, I loved Eleanor. Everything is told from her entirely unique point of view, and there are plenty of funny parts as she despairs of the people she works with and comes across in everyday life. What I didn’t expect though, was how touching this book also is – with a final twist that you absolutely weren’t expecting.

*For some historical girl power: Three Sisters, Three Queens, Philippa Gregory. I love a good historical fiction novel and for this, Phillipa Gregory is queen. I actually went into Waterstones to look for her brand new book and, even though I did find it, I was sidetracked by Three Sisters, Three Queens. This follows (unsurprisingly) three queens – Katherine of Aragon, Queen of England, Margaret, Queen of Scotland and elder sister to Henry VIII and Mary, Queen of France and younger sister to Henry VIII. Both Margaret and Mary are placed in powerful arranged marriages and then, incredibly, marry again for love – and Margaret’s boy becomes heir to the Tudor throne as Katherine fails to have a son. Most of the story follows Margaret, who spends the majority of her time cast out from the English court in the wilds of Scotland. It is an incredible, unknown story that follows the much more famous rise of Anne Boleyn.

*For a classic thriller: Reflex, Dick Francis. I love a good thriller, and all too often find myself disappointed by the novels that claim to be the next Gone Girl. But nothing can beat the classics, and Dick Francis is one of my all time favourites. He has written a million books and all of them are, in some way, based around horse racing. This time the central character was a jockey/photographer, but every book is different. In this one an unpopular photographer dies in a car accident – but then his widow is attacked and his house burnt down. Suspicions arise that his death wasn’t an accident, and it becomes a race against time to work out what he knew, and what his killer wants… As is only to be expected of a Dick Francis novel, it’s a brilliant story and guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Oversized Denim Jacket

I am a jeans person without being a denim person. For years now my uniform has been dark skinny jeans, blue denim makes me want to run a mile. But (and it pains me to admit this) it’s starting to feel like the dark skinnies have had their time. Blue denim is making a comeback and I’ve finally felt pushed to do something about it.

I have actually bought two pairs of blue jeans (I know, crazy). I’ve even been wearing them! FYI they are both from Zara and great, but that is not why we are gathered here today. For those, like me, who are a bit afraid of blue denim because – let’s be honest – it’s not as flattering as trusty black, jeans are not the place to start. Enter, the denim jacket.

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Didn’t everyone have a denim jacket as a child? There are some great pictures of me in true blue double denim like the 90’s baby I was. But this time around it’s all about the oversizing, and this Topshop denim jacket is what finally convinced me. A big oversized jacket acts like a coat, keeps you nice and snug – and when your outfits are already built around dark skinny jeans, turns out a splash of blue goes with everything.

Admittedly, I bought this denim jacket months ago and haven’t worn it. But now the seasons are changing I’ve discovered that this is the time of year it’s made for. Slightly chilly? Layer it up. A bit warmer? Just chuck it on over a t-shirt. It’s perfect for everything – apart from rain. As I discovered when taking these very pictures, denim jackets are terrible in rain.

So there’s no need to ditch your trusty dark skinnies in favour of the blue denim trend. Pair them up while it is still (kind of) warm out. It won’t be long until we start pulling our proper winter coats out again…

Where to Eat in Edinburgh

August turned into a bit of a miserable month. The weather was awful and I hate the feeling that everything is at a standstill, while the rest of the world holidays. So to remedy that, Tiarnan and I booked a last minute Air BnB and hopped on the train to Edinburgh – a city that is most certainly not at a standstill.

Quite the opposite – August is Edinburgh’s moment. Being at university in Newcastle, I have visited the Scottish capital a few times but never during the Fringe. The streets were alive with actors determined to get every punter to their show, stuffing leaflets into your hands as you try to shuffle your way down the Royal Mile amidst the chaos. It was so much fun.

Before we headed north though, I tried to research the best eateries – something I always do before landing in a new city. To be honest, I didn’t find much on Edinburgh and we ended up making rushed decisions on where to eat by Googling ‘best lunch spot near me’, or similar. Surprisingly – it was a method that really worked. Here it what we found…

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*The Manna House Bakery:Β We had just stepped off the train and it started pouring with rain. It was too early to head for the Air BnB so we needed somewhere to stop and eat – The Manna House Bakery was Google’s recommendation and now it’s mine. This was a little out of the way for us and somewhere I would never have found alone, but it was a great lunch spot. Fresh loaves filled shelves around the bakery, to accompany salad dishes for lunch and sweet treats for afters. A great lunch spot if you are in the area.

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*Under the Stairs:Β Located just off Grassmarket, this bar is very easy to miss at street level. It literally is under the stairs. With mix-matched armchairs, an enormous fireplace and huge cocktail list to choose from, this is a unique pre-dinner drinks spot. The cocktails were a little strong for us (they nearly blew our heads off) but the food looked delicious and I imagine it would make a very cosy spot in autumn and winter.

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*Badger & Co: Badger & Co is an old favourite, we visited last year when it had just opened but enjoyed our second trip just as much. Centrally located on Castle Street, Badger & Co is the former home of Wind in the Willows’ author Kenneth Grahame, and the classic tale is the inspiration of the restaurant. The menu uses local and seasonal produce, and really is comfort food at its best. The pies are the stars of the menu, but they also have a creative drinks list and serve food all day. We have never tried the breakfast, but that will have to be one for next time…

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*Cuckoo’s Bakery: I tentatively headed to Cuckoo’s Bakery on Dundas Street late on Friday evening, telling Tiarnan they may have no cupcakes left – to which he replied “what sort of cupcake shop runs out of cupcakes?” But, indeed – they had. Cuckoo’s Bakery bake their cupcakes fresh each day using local ingredients and is becoming something of an institution. The owner told us to come back first thing the next morning, so we did and our efforts were rewarded. There’s a huge range of flavours, including raspberry and white chocolate – voted the best cake in Scotland for two years running – so we couldn’t help but go for the six-cake box to sample as many as possible…

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*Hula Juice Cafe: London has exploded with healthy brunch spots, but I haven’t found any I’m as keen to return to as Hula. Hula Juice Cafe & Gallery is like a healthy spot for normal people – no need to be vegan to fully enjoy the menu. There’s a juice and smoothie list longer than your arm and the breakfasts have a healthy twist but nothing too scary – porridge, yoghurt and granola, toast (with an avocado toast option, of course) etc and they are all delicious. There’s a no reservation policy so prepare to queue, but this cute little cafe, sunk to half-above, half-below ground level at the bottom of colourful Victoria Street is definitely worth the wait.

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*Fudge Kitchen: We first discovered Fudge Kitchen hidden in the Shambles when York was Tiarnan’s university town, so as soon as we knew they had a branch in Edinburgh, we had to visit. Fudge Kitchen is the best fudge out there. They have the most incredible flavours, from Vintage Vanilla to Lemon Drizzle, and they let you try everything. Everytime we have visited we end up rolling out, having filled up on so much fudge. Buy a six slab box and take it home – it’s a LOT of fudge but the only way to do it.

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*Artisan Roast: And finally, Artistan Roast was a final, spur of the moment Google suggestion when we found ourselves wandering around Stockbridge on a sleepy, Sunday morning – a really beautiful, residential part of Edinburgh. Artisan Roast is a cosy little cafe that takes great pride in their coffee. Dogs amble around beneath the tables, there’s an enormous sofa to while away the morning on, the counter top is filled with pastries and the sun streams through the huge glass frontage. The perfect Sunday morning breakfast spot.