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!)

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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!!

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*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!

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*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…

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!

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*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…

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*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.

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!

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*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!

How to Spend… March

February really dragged, didn’t it? The tail end of winter is always my least favourite time. Everything is grey and bleak, and it feels like a lifetime ago when we last saw some sun. But with Easter arriving early I feel as though we are suddenly fast forwarding into spring. The weather needs to get the memo (where did all this rain come from?) but there are chocolate eggs and bunnies everywhere and you can buy tulips and daffodils on every street corner.

So from celebrating Mothering Sunday right through to eating all the chocolate over the Easter bank holiday weekend, I hope you enjoy the start of spring as much as I will!

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*Spoil your mum on Mother’s Day: This year, skip the standard flowers and a card. Actually spending some time with your mum is what really counts, so take the day out especially for her this weekend. Take her out for lunch, go shopping or just stay at home and bake a cake, play board games or do a puzzle. And this doesn’t have to be exclusive for the two of you – get the whole family involved for a fun day together. Even if it isn’t Mothering Sunday where you live, no excuses… Our mums always deserve more of our time, right?

*Try yoga: As my job has got busier, my time in the gym has significantly decreased – something I’m not overly thrilled about. Now we’re past the “new year, new me” health kick, some extra motivation is needed. The secret lies in doing things that can fit easily into your routine. I’m not really one to get a sweat on before work (how many of us really are?) but yoga is such a gentle introduction to the day whilst also doing great things for your body. While it won’t burn major calories, it’ll help you feel energized and focused for the rest of the day – definitely worth hopping out of bed a little early for.

*Spend a Sunday at the farmers market: You always hear about the joys of farmers and fresh food markets, but the winter wind and rain hardly makes for an enjoyable Sunday outdoors. Now the weather is improving (supposedly), now is a great time to get down to your local one and bag some bargains. The buzzy atmosphere of a market will put the weekly supermarket run to shame, and discovering the best local honey, jam and breads (or whatever takes your fancy) will leave you desperate to return for more!

*Set up an Easter egg hunt: With the long Easter bank holiday weekend to look forward to, now’s the time to start planning with your family and friends. And you don’t need little ones to make an Easter egg hunt fun. Buy one of those cute kits with the little signs, split up into teams and get competitive! And don’t forget the obligatory rabbit ears for a ridiculous group photo…

How to Spend… February

Can anyone else feel that sense of spring in the air? Temperatures are still pretty low, but the days are getting longer, brighter clothes are starting to pop up in the shops and there are even some daffodils blooming. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to wear something other than a jumper and jeans. And there’s plenty to be getting on with until spring fully arrives. With pancakes to be eaten on Shrove Tuesday, cards to be sent on Valentine’s Day and a whole extra day on the 29th – have a great month!

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*Buy yourself freshly cut flowers: You don’t need a Valentine to have flowers in your house this month. Treat yourself! There’s just something so uplifting about having flowers around, they give a sense of life when the weather is still bleak outside. And, when you’re buying flowers for yourself, you can pick your favourites. Skip the clichéd (and extortionate) red roses for some daffodils to remind you that spring is on it’s way.

*Rethink your resolutions: Now is about the time that the New Year’s resolutions become a distant memory. If they are too hard don’t admit defeat, just alter them. Perhaps going to the gym every day was unrealistic, so change it to every other day. If that is what it takes to keep you on track and doing something positive then it’s a good thing, not a failure. Or, perhaps they are a little too easy, so with that confidence the first month has given you – amp them up!

*Create a new bedtime routine: January tends to be a bit crazy, adjusting back into work after the Christmas break, but we’re firmly back in those routines now. With the peace of Christmas (and the large food babies) it was easy to drift off to sleep, but with the worries of work, emails buzzing around our heads and plans forming for the following day, it can be harder to get some proper sleep. Spend some time creating a new bedtime routine to make sure you get to sleep when you need to. Turn off all those electrical devices (resist the temptation to check Instagram before bed!) and have a bath, read a book or make a cup of tea. A proper night’s sleep makes the world of difference the following day.

*Take something up for Lent: Ah, Lent. Just as we’re halfheartedly trying to keep our resolutions on track, we throw Lent into the mix. I always find that giving something up is quite a negative attitude. Telling yourself you can’t have something is guaranteed to make you want that one thing. So, rather than giving up chocolate, take up having fruit instead. You can still have chocolate when you really want it, but you’ll probably find yourself eating a lot less of it. Instead of giving up alcohol, take up making mocktails. Take up running, cooking or even an earlier bedtime. This kind of positive attitude to achieving something will make those 40 days and 40 nights fly past!

How to Spend… January

January, the month that sees gyms full and bank accounts empty. I always find January a bit of an odd time, a strange mix of misery that Christmas is over and excitement for the year ahead. If only the weather would perk up it could all be very merry. Here are my suggestions to see you through to spring (or at least February).

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*Set yourself a tough resolution for January: New year resolutions tend to spark mixed opinion. Are they (like rules) only something to break or are they a worthwhile challenge? Personally, I quite enjoy them. They’ve seen me stick to a proper skincare routine, drink more water and actually run in the past, so I’m not going to knock them. But this year, I’m trying something new – a tough resolution just for January. Dry January is the classic example of this, but mine is all healthy work lunches. Chocolate gets passed around like oxygen in my office and PRs send us all kinds of delicious treats, which is all good and fun, but it’s time to make some healthier choices. We’ll see how I go! Rather than setting yourself a huge challenge for the whole year, try it in a bite-sized chunk just for this month. You get the feel good moment of achievement sooner, and it just might push you on for the rest of the year.

*Get creative with your workouts: Skip the gym this January. The novelty wears off, it gets boring and you’ll be done with it by spring. Or, join the gym like the rest of the world but don’t stop there. Have a go at running outside. Try yoga. Do the 30 day abs challenge. Join an exercise class. It is so difficult to sustain repetitive exercise, so mix it up! There are so many apps, YouTube videos and classes out there to help you, and it is the best way to really enjoy exercising. I’m currently in love with the Nike Running app, which tracks your runs so you have something to analyse proudly at the end. I also love Cassey Ho’s Blogilates workout videos on YouTube. There are so many, they are really creative and entirely free!

*Get planning: The best way to be productive is by planning your day properly. So treat yourself to a new diary/planner and go to town. This doesn’t just have to be boring, worky things though. I’m busy planning as many fun things for January as possible at the moment. It can seem a bit miserable with the festivities over, so gather up your friends and go to all of those places you meant to visit in 2015. Shop the sales, eat out and have fun.

*Finally, go easy on yourself: New Year’s resolutions are all well and good, but they shouldn’t make you miserable. You don’t have to be productive 24/7, go to the gym everyday and just eat leaves. Down days exist for a reason, use yours to recharge and your productivity, exercise regime and general health will really benefit. So spend an afternoon watching films, have a bath and eat a slice of chocolate cake. Everyone deserves a break – use yours well!

How to spend… December

The first advent doors have been opened, Christmas shopping is fully underway and the streets are aglow with twinkling lights overhead – it’s finally December!

This is hands down my favourite time of the year. I love the feeling of anticipation as Christmas approaches, the mad rush in the shops fulfilling wish lists, the sing-song exchanges of ‘merry Christmas!’ and, of course, the food. Here are my suggestions for the festive season…

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*Have a go at handmade gifts: Rather than fighting the crowds and spending your every last penny, have a go at making some gifts this year. They will always be hugely appreciated and it’s a fun, festive activity! For the most loved person on your ‘to buy’ list, a scrapbook is an amazing keepsake. And, in a world where all of our pictures are digital, printing out and presenting photos has something special about it. Festive baking is a great way to give in bulk, and you can make your handmade goodies look beautiful with packaging, ribbon and gift tags (try Lakeland for supplies!). Or, spend a Sunday afternoon making paperchains and Christmas cards by the fire.

*Go ice skating: My all time favourite festive activity! Even if you’re a bit wobbly on the ice, you won’t be alone and its surprising how quickly you can gain your balance and start whizzing around. If it’s really not your thing, it’s also fun to watch the crowds gliding along (with the occasional fall…) and the stewards always put on an impressive display. Grab a hot chocolate or mulled wine, enjoy the festive music and watch them go round until you feel dizzy.

*Cosy down with your favourite book: … or read the next installment of your favourite series! With the holidays coming, everyone having a little more time on their hands and the temperatures forever dropping outside, now is the perfect time to revisit an old favourite or finally getting around the reading the next part of a series. Grab a blanket and cuppa and position yourself by the fire with the intention of not moving for a few hours…

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*Take time out in a coffee shop: Immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle but without the stress. Christmas is the time of year for the coffee chains. With the fun, flavoured drinks, the festive cups and everyone rejoicing that their seasonal favourites are back, they are a great place to catch up with that friend you haven’t seen in ages, or simply people watch. Take a book or start making your to buy list, and just take an hour out from the craziness.

*Finally, eat all the mince pies!: Last of all my favourite suggestion, relax about what you’re eating. Of course, everything in moderation, but if you want the extra mince pie, or cake as well as pudding, I say go for it. This delicious, festive food will be gone before we know it. See you in the gym in January…

Merry Christmas, everyone – have a great month!