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!

IMG_7599 (2)Picture15

*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!)

Advertisements

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…

IMG_6708 (2)

*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.

Picture12.png

*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:  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…

How to Spend: December

December: my absolute favourite time of year. The Christmas tunes are playing as I type (a bit distracting, but excellent for the general Christmas cheer). I’m full of festive spirit, present plans and mince pies. I’ve been spending every spare minute online shopping (mainly for myself…), I’ve put up the tree and I’m sporting my hopelessly tasteful Christmas jumper at every opportunity. Merry Christmas everyone!!

untitled-2

*Go ice skating: One of my very favourite Christmas traditions. There’s nothing more festive than seeing the ice rinks start to pop up with skaters spiraling around and onlookers cheering them on (while searching out the person most likely to take a tumble…) Tiarnan and I always visit Somerset House, but there are so many in London – the ice rink at the Natural History Museum is looking particularly stunning this year. Somerset House has the Fortnum’s Lodge though where you can sit by the fire and have champagne, fondue or the Chocolossus – the most ridiculous (but amazing) hot chocolate I’ve ever seen.

*Book in to a festive class: Is it just me, or has wreath making suddenly become a thing? Instagram is bursting with festive creations, but sometimes the DIY approach just doesn’t work out. Round up your friends or bully your boyfriend into coming with you – there’s gingerbread house making, Christmas baking, wreath decorating… The choices are endless! I’m going to Christmas cupcake decorating with my Mum and sister and can’t wait.

*Stay in for movie night: Christmas parties are all good and fun, but this time of year is as much about staying in as going out. There are so many festive films to work through this month that multiple movie nights are absolutely essential. All you need is a roaring fire (or at least an exceptionally large and warm blanket) and an industrial size vat of popcorn and you’re all set.

How to Spend… November

October felt like a gentle introduction to autumn. Now the typical crisp mornings are here and carrying around an emergency pair of gloves (just in case) is absolute necessity. The leaves are still falling so we’re trotting around on golden carpets but now that the clocks have gone back and the days are getting shorter, winter is definitely on its way.

I am December’s biggest fan, but I’m also very much on board with November. Even though the dark evenings feel hugely depressing when its a Wednesday and raining, there is nothing better than seeing the newly black sky fill with fireworks for Bonfire Night. And when it is a Wednesday and raining, I’ve been trying to curl up with a book and enjoy the cosiness. At home we have an open fire, but here in London I’m making do with an electric blanket and it’s pretty fantastic. And let’s be honest, it’s not that cold yet (we’ve got the treat that is January and February for the real temperature drop).

But anyway, November. Time to bundle up and head out for hot dogs and fireworks on the 5th, wear our poppies in remembrance on the 11th and stir the Christmas pudding to make a wish on Stir Up Sunday. Have a happy November, everyone!

p1040296-4Picture4 (2).png

*Go to a firework display: Halloween was all well and good, but Bonfire Night is still my favourite. Fireworks beat scares any day, in my book. We’re coming to the end of the Bonfire Night weekend, so I hope you all headed out to big displays or at least set some sparklers off. And then, of course, warmed up with hot dogs and big cups of steaming tea afterwards. If not, there’s still time tonight…

*Explore a place you have always meant to go: Isn’t it always the way that if somewhere is close to you, no matter how pretty/historic/amazing, you never end up visiting? Well, become a tourist at home for the day. Although it’s getting chillier, everywhere still looks beautiful in its autumnal get up. And pretty soon we’ll want to hibernate until spring, so now is the time for day trips. For me, that place was Richmond Park and we finally got round to exploring it on Saturday afternoon and, of course, it looks beautiful at this time of year. Blog post coming soon…

*Make homemade warming drinks: Autumn is the time for warming drinks. Mulled apple cider, Winter Pimm’s, mulled wine or hot chocolate – take your pick and become your own mixologist. There are so many simple recipes online, and I’ve been surfing around for the best homemade hot chocolate which I’ll share soon. And a spicy, appley hot brew is practically autumn in a cup.

*Book ahead for Christmas:  I feel a bit guilty talking about Christmas (is it still too early?) but here in London there are Christmas activities that simply have to be done and they book up fast. I’m compiling a mental list of everything I want to do in December, and thinking about booking the tickets so there’ll be no disappointments (because no one wants disappointments at Christmas). We always go ice skating so I’m starting to decide whether we’ll book somewhere new or, more likely, head back to Somerset House which we love. And I’m desperate to go to the ballet. I’m hoping that with just a little bit of organisation, we can fit everything in…

A Few Favourites: October

The clocks have turned back and we’ve shared our sweets with the trick or treaters. I have actually really enjoyed October this time round. Usually autumnal celebrations are reserved for Bonfire Night so Halloween passes me by, as do the beautiful autumnal colours as I spend my days wrapped up in city life.

But this time I have made a real effort to enjoy the changing season and celebrate Halloween. And I’m so glad I did, it’s been a great month. We started in Amsterdam for Tiarnan’s marathon, exploring the canals and the cafes, I’ve made the flat a cosy haven for the ever darkening evenings and we celebrated Halloween by picking pumpkins and baking sugary, spooky treats.

But before we welcome November and the skies fill with fireworks, here are some of the things I have been loving this month.

img_3645-2

*Pluk, Amsterdam: I have written an entire post on Pluk so I promise not to bore you, but spending the weekend in Amsterdam was a real treat this month. It’s a place that I’ve had half-heartedly on my ‘to visit’ list for far too long, but the lure of other European cities has always been stronger. After a quick Google search I stumbled across Pluk and set my heart on visiting, so it was the first thing we did on Saturday morning. It’s unlike anywhere else I have ever found – a gorgeous café attached to an interiors, gifts and stationary shop. If only they were here in London…

*Orange Grove candle, by The White Company: It has started to get so dark so early in the evenings now the clocks have gone back. Hugely depressing – but I’m trying to look past the darkness and instead use it as an excuse to enjoy cosy evenings at home. Home cooked dinners, good TV and plenty of candles has been the way of October and that’s set to continue for the foreseeable. I’ve bought more candles than I’d care to admit this month, but my favourite has to be Orange Grove by The White Company. I love the look of their pillar candles and even though I love all citrus scents, this one just feels so autumnal.

picture1

*A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman: October has been a bit of a poor month on the reading front. Everything has just been distinctly average. Fortunately there was one exception though – A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman was brilliant. I picked this up when I had half an hour to kill and ended up in Waterstones. It is about a grumpy old man called Ove, as he struggles through daily life suffering ridiculous situations and idiotic people. It is funny and moving in equal measure and after I turned the final page my commute felt a little bleaker without Ove for company.

*Halloween: This is the first year that I have taken Halloween even slightly seriously and it has absolutely exploded over here in the UK. I went to my first ever fright night, which was hugely fun if slightly terrifying. And while I used to do pick your own strawberries when I was little, I had never even seen a pumpkin field before this month. But we got went down to one on the back of a tractor and returned with a pumpkin harvest fit for homemade soup. It’s been a great month, but now it’s time for fireworks, early Christmas preparations and much shorter days…

Pick Your Own Pumpkins

Halloween has never been my thing. I don’t like things jumping out at me. I don’t like creepy clowns, lunatics escaped from the asylum, vampires in their coffins or skeletons fresh from the grave. Cats are the tamest (literally) part of the whole thing and I don’t like them either (I’m very allergic).

But I love anything festive, all year round. Waiting for midnight on New Years Eve, hunting out chocolate eggs at Easter, watching fireworks fill the sky on Bonfire Night and the complete delight that is Christmas, I love them all. So I can’t skip Halloween, but it needs to be adapted. Which brings me to this Sunday’s blog post – pumpkin picking. Entirely Halloween and not remotely scary.

1.JPG2 (2).png

Every Halloween, Secretts throw open their farm gates for Pumpkin Week. The Pick Your Own farm becomes dedicated to pumpkins and for just £1 you can jump on a tractor down to the pumpkin fields. You ramble around the field for as long as you wish, selecting the biggest, smallest, prettiest or most misshapen pumpkin you can find, before seeing which hole it fits through (each hole is a price), paying what you owe and then hopping back in the tractor to the farm.

In the run up to Halloween weekend I did my fair share of research into pick your own pumpkins, and the distinction between pumpkin field and pumpkin patch is not one to be overlooked. At pumpkin patches the pumpkins have already been picked, and are then displayed so you can pick the prettiest to take home. Pumpkin fields are the real deal, leaving you to roam around in the mud carrying as many pumpkins as you can manage. There aren’t many farms that let you lose in their pumpkins fields, but Secretts is one of them and it is definitely the only way to do it.

3.JPG4.png

Back at base, Secretts have all kinds of pumpkin treats to greet you (think tiny gourds with warm pumpkin soup inside). Or you can venture into the farm shop where they have an enormous selection of home grown fruit and veg, freshly baked breads and cakes, preserves and sauces, chocolate and confectionary, a delicatessen stocked by the in house butcher and a cheese counter with an impressive listing of over 300 cheeses. If you couldn’t find what you were after in the pick your own fields, you’ll definitely find it in the farm shop and you can rest assured that it’ll be just as fresh.

There are also cafes onsite for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. Having worked up an appetite in the pumpkin fields, we opted for Eliza’s Teashop and warmed up over baked potatoes and homemade quiche. The perfect setting for the post-picking discussion of what exactly to do with the pumpkins (pie, soup or lantern?)

We took our pumpkins home and Tiarnan’s mum kindly whipped up a pumpkin soup, which we will be lunching on all week. Who says that Halloween needs to be scary to be fun? Certainly not me.

567

How to Spend… October

Is it just me, or does everyone seem obsessed by autumn? My social media feeds have been playing fancy dress in anything red, orange or yellow and I’ve seen more pumpkin pictures than I could have ever fathomed, accompanied by an endless stream of excitement for the change in season.

Now, I am not autumn’s answer to Scrooge. I bought a teeny, tiny pumpkin entirely for decorative purposes this weekend (yes, I know it was a completely bonkers purchase and no, I do not care). But all that excitement in September felt like the world was furiously over-egging the pudding. It was definitely still summer in September. My legs were without tights and my face was with sunglasses. We hit over 30C. Records were broken.

But now it’s October (and I appreciate that I am no authority on this), autumn is actually here. I’ve bought a coat. I can see my breath in the mornings. I’ve remembered why I love jumpers, and my electric blanket, and chai lattes. So from kicking your way through piles of leaves to scaring yourself silly on the 31st to starting the silent panic of how on earth you are going to fund Christmas… Happy October everyone!

img_3935-3

*Invest in an enormous scarf: October is a really awkward time of year. First thing in the morning you are a frostbitten, sorry soul. By lunchtime you are a hot, flustered mess furiously ditching the layers. The solution is a blanket scarf – possibly the world’s greatest invention. You look cool and you are essentially wearing a blanket. So you can plod along to the station all swaddled up like a baby in the morning and, when the sun puts in an appearance, you can hide it away in your bag. And it will cooperate with this in a way that no coat ever will. Zara do the best, biggest, softest scarfs, but the H&M ones are also amazing and not quite such a hit to the bank balance.

*Stay in and cook: It’s getting cold outside and we have to be sensible and start thinking about the monstrosity that is Christmas spending. I gave up cooking for a year (it became a “boy job”) but I am back on that bandwagon and really loving it. In the summer it is far too hot to be slaving away over the oven. But now it’s getting cold, that’s the only place I want to be (as it’s not acceptable to spend all evening, every evening, in bed). Find some fun new recipes and spend your time cooking rather than your money eating. Then eat in front of the TV. Bliss.

*Make your home a cosy, autumnal den: Other than new recipes, the thing I am obsessing over is interiors. In summer, who wants to be surrounded by blankets and candles and fairy lights? But now it’s autumn, who doesn’t?! We’ve just moved into a new place and the bare whiteness of it was depressing me. So, seeing as I can’t nail anything into the walls, move anything around or spend much money, I’ve been finding other ways to make it cosy and homely. The aforementioned tiny pumpkin is one of my exciting autumnal touches. And  I’ve bought a crazy number of candles (you can never have too many), fairy lights and new bedding – which was from ASDA and it is so soft and was so cheap! I’ve also got some fake plants because I cannot be trusted to look after anything living. The ones from Oliver Bonas are cheap, realistic and (being fake) don’t require any maternal attention.

*Go pumpkin picking: Pumpkin picking seems to have suddenly become a thing here in the UK. And it makes sense. We harp on about picking strawberries in the summer, so why not pumpkins in autumn? Lots of the Pick Your Own farms are now offering pumpkins and squashes and there couldn’t be a more autumnal activity. Admittedly, picking and shifting pumpkins is slightly more back-breaking than strawberries, but cart them home and cook up an American pumpkin pie. Or just carve a ridiculous face out of it.

How to Spend… May

We’ve had our first sunny snap – summer is finally on it’s way!

I love how the sun instantly lifts everyone’s mood. Suddenly we’re planning BBQ evenings, sharing round the Pimm’s and remembering what it feels like to sunbathe. Of course it won’t last, but the promise that summer is coming is more than enough to keep me smiling throughout May. And I’ve got plenty of suggestions for when the rain inevitably returns and we have to put away the sunglasses again…

FullSizeRender (3)

*Go for a bike ride: When it’s nice out, it’s really nice out. There are still some lambs frolicking in the fields, but otherwise there’s a real sense of summer. The parks are filled with picnickers, flower beds are blooming and the unmistakable scent of BBQs fill the evening air. Now is such a lovely time to go for a bike ride. You can explore so much with relatively little effort, and always stop off for a sunbathe halfway round. If you’re in London definitely set a date to explore the parks on the Santander bikes – there’s no better way to spend a sunny May day.

*Make rainy day plans: But, May is a bit unpredictable and sadly the sunny weather will not be a constant. Rather than mope around inside when it’s miserable, make plans specifically for a rainy day and save them for when the weather turns. There are so many good things on at the cinema (cannot wait to see The Jungle Book!), but you don’t even need to leave the house to have fun on a rainy day. Bake up a storm in the kitchen, soak in the bath with a good read or do some of that spring cleaning you meant to do in spring (if you feel really productive). Miserable days really don’t have to be miserable.

*Set a summer fitness goal: By this I do not mean to get bikini-body ready. But summer does mean clothing gets skimpier, so set yourself a fitness goal and start to dedicate some real time to it. It doesn’t have to be anything major. From signing up for a marathon to deciding to take the stairs, making a conscious effort to get moving will have you feeling so much more confident when summer rolls around.

A Few Favourites: April

April is a bit of a funny month. We’re so desperate for winter to be at an end that when spring comes along it’s very exciting and very pretty (all those pinks!) but, and let’s be honest here, it’s still so cold. We’ve had sunshine, we’ve had showers, we’ve even had snow.

Picture2

Despite the ever unpredictable temperatures, it’s been really fun in London this month. Tiarnan and I are on a mission to find our favourite rooftop bar, which has involved some great views and some great cocktails. We also spent last Sunday by the river cheering on the marathon runners, which was so much fun! I went home feeling so inspired I could have burst, and promptly signed up to a 10k in July. Training has started. Wish me luck…

P1030899 (2)

*Interiors magazines: I love a good flick through an interiors magazine. I live for the day I own my own house and can do whatever I wish to do with it. But until that day, I’ll just form detailed opinions on other people’s homes. LivingEtc is my favourite because it combines interiors with fashion, I love the style of their features and the whole design of the magazine is just beautiful.

*Origins Clear Improvement Mask: I’ve been loving face masks recently, and this is my favourite. There’s just something so indulgent about a face mask and no better way to pamper yourself. This one from Origins is a charcoal mask, which leaves my face feeling clean, glowing and just so soft.

*The White Company Pomegranate candle: This is a bit of a hangover from winter but I just can’t let go of it yet. It, admittedly, smells like Christmas but the scent isn’t overwhelming and even though I’ve burnt it a lot, it’s lasting amazingly. The White Company have an enormous range of scents and everything from tea lights to enormous pillar candles – there’s something for everyone.

*The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro: I’ve saved the best till last. I’m doing so much reading at the moment on my commute, but this is by far my favourite recent read. It is set in a declining Britain after the Romans have left, centering on an elderly married couple, Axl and Beatrice, as they set off across the country in search of a son they haven’t seen in years. It’s a thought-provoking, clever and ultimately heart-breaking story, which will stay in your thoughts long after you have turned the final page.

How to Spend… April

My Instagram feed is filled with blossom and blue skies, the showers are pouring, Starbucks have floral cups and it’s light past 5pm – it can only be April!

Easter came and went far too early this year. One minute we were taking down the Christmas decorations, and the next the clocks had gone forward and the Easter bunny had been. I normally don’t take too much notice of Easter, but I was a bit disappointed to not enjoy it more this year (although chocolate eggs and a long weekend will never go unappreciated). I’ll be spending this month consuming the vast quantities of chocolate the Easter bunny oh so kindly sent my way and dreaming of the May bank holiday weekends. Happy April everyone!

IMG_2205 (2)

*Have a ‘colour only’ rule: The shops are bringing out their summer clothes and the urge to spend gets greater every day. I have really noticed lately how stuck in a rut I can get with my clothing – black, grey or white (with a hint of navy for good measure) is about as exciting as it gets. Zara may be a beautiful masterclass in monochrome minimalism, but the sun is out and we need to leave those bleak colours behind. From now on, I’m only buying colour (I’ll also be buying white because I just can’t part with it…), and I think you should give it a go as well.

*Spring clean your desk: I’ve never been that enthused by spring cleaning. Cleaning is dull enough, why must we do more just because it’s spring? However, I’ve recently moved offices and was forced to clean out my desk. I’m now at a beautiful new desk with only the bare essentials cluttering it, and my goodness does it make you feel productive! Suddenly everything has a ‘place’, it’s a lovely place to be and just gleams. So rather than dusting, hoovering and scrubbing your house from top to bottom – just start with your desk. And if that’s all you get around to doing, then that’s more than enough.

*Make evening plans: Now it is actually light in the evenings, making plans is so much more fun. Start investigating roof top bars (perhaps preempting summer a little, but just wrap up warm), go for evening runs or just take a walk. We’re finally done with the winter hibernation, so round up the troops and have fun!