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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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:  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…

A November Reading List

It’s been so long since I’ve written a reading list. As ever, I’m tearing through books at a horrifically expensive rate but if I’m honest, I’ve had a bit of a poor reading spell lately. Throughout October I picked up three (three!) books by authors that I love, to find them just a bit disappointing. And every time I have visited Waterstones I’ve just felt overwhelmed. There are so many books, how on earth are you meant to pick?

So here’s hoping that November is a better reading month. It’s a fairly mixed bag this month. I’m back on career reading, something I never thought I would enjoy but it is fascinating when you get the right book. I have a light hearted read all about dogs (what’s not to love?) and a family drama you won’t be able to put down. Happy reading everyone!

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*For a fascinating career read: Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year, Alexandra Shulman. If you have read my post on Magazine Career Must Reads, you will know that I love memoirs by magazine editors. As I work in magazine publishing myself, I just find it fascinating. With British Vogue celebrating their centenary this year, I was so excited to discover the BBC had done a two part documentary on the magazine. But, to be honest, it wasn’t that great. The memoir by editor in chief, Alexandra Shulman though, is fantastic. It is essentially a collection of her thoughts over the year the magazine celebrated its 100th birthday. You get a real insight into how the magazine works and it doesn’t get bogged down in the glamour of her job (which is hugely glamorous). No name dropping or obsession with big parties and budgets. In fact she is very honest about how much they have to reign in spending. If you watched the documentary and felt a little underwhelmed – read this.

*For a light-hearted doggy romp: Peggy and Me, Miranda Hart. If you don’t find Miranda Hart funny, I wouldn’t recommend this. And I completely understand why people don’t find her funny, but her sitcom always particularly tickled me. I read her first book, Is It Just Me?, a couple of summers ago and could not stop giggling away to myself like a loon. This book centres on her dog, a Shih-Tzu Bichon Frise cross called Peggy. It’s simply a hugely entertaining recounting of their adventures together and her thoughts on being a dog owner. The perfect light-hearted read for dog lovers as the evenings are getting longer and darker.

*For an addictive domestic drama: Three Wishes, Liane Moriarty. I love Liane Moriarty with her larger than life characters and completely addictive story lines and plot twists. I would say that Big Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret are her two absolute best books, but Three Wishes is also brilliant if you have already devoured those. It centres on the Kettle triplets, Lyn, Cat and Gemma, focusing on their relationship and the various ups and downs they have to deal with in their own lives. As with any Liane Moriarty book, there is plenty of drama to keep you reading furiously and the characters are so vibrant you feel almost like their fourth sister by the end.

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.

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*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.

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*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…

Recent Reads

I spent my summer either lounging in the sun reading, or crammed on a train reading. In short, I did a lot of reading.

I went through a sad phase where I couldn’t seem to pick a good book, but fortunately that has passed. I’ve been making a real habit of hitting 4 stars on Goodreads lately. Not quite 5, because 5 is a really big deal. But 4 is pretty good too. And today I’m going to share all of that reading love with you.

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*The Forgetting Time, Sharon Guskin: I picked this up because I saw adverts for it on the tube. Genuinely, I was that low on reading inspiration. And a good job too, because it was great. It’s about children remembering previous lives and ideas about reincarnation (quite heavy for the morning commute). 4 year old Noah can remember a previous life, and the story centres on what exactly happened to the previous personality. This book could be a thrilling page-turner, but strangely it isn’t. The author doesn’t throw you any red herrings and you don’t have to work for the answers, they simply get revealed as the story moves along. That said, it is hugely enjoyable and manages a big topic without getting too mind-boggling about it.

*I See You, Clare Mackintosh: Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go was one of my favourite books from last year, a page turner to wear the skin off your thumbs. This is her follow-up, based around women doing their daily commutes and how the predictability of their movements can allow men to stalk them, rape them, murder them…(which makes for slightly alarming reading when you are doing your own commute). It follows one woman at risk during her commute, and a police officer investigating the case. Mackintosh was a policewoman herself, so the insights into how the force works are some of the best bits of the story. I didn’t find this as believable as I Let You Go, and there are so many red herrings that I feel it stops being clever and just annoyingly masks what’s actually going on. That said, I still loved it. Even though I can’t quite relax on my commute anymore…

*Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling: I was so sceptical about this. I’d go as far as saying I was mildly appalled by the whole idea. There can be no eighth Harry Potter. It stopped at seven and we should leave it at that. Also I hate reading plays (just what is the point? You’re meant to see them, not read them, I mean honestly). But in the end I (predictably) got a bit curious and picked it up. And I’m so glad I did. No, it’s not the same as the books. But it’s still a great story line in itself and it’s fun to see our favourite witches and wizards all grown up. I’m desperate to see the play now but seeing as tickets are sold out up to December 2017, it’ll take a small miracle for that to happen…

*Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson: This summer I have fallen in love with Bill Bryson and his travel books. He is hilarious, and reading about his travels makes the morning commute that bit more exotic. I’ve read almost all of them, but I particularly enjoyed his jaunts to Australia. My mum is Australian and I had to keep relaying back to her all of the many ways you can die a horrible and painful death in Australia (as if she didn’t already know).

*Little Lies, Liane Moriarty: I loved this. Liane Moriaty has this incredible way of drawing characters. By the end of the story, I felt like they were all my friends and I was part of their small community. Little Lies is based around a primary school and three of the mothers. At the beginning of the story, you know that someone has died – but you don’t know who or anything about it. You just know it happened on the school charity night. The story builds and builds and the tension is increased as you know when you’ll find out what happened, but you have to keep waiting for that critical moment. Liane Moriarty also doesn’t have the annoying habit of throwing a million red herrings your way. Everything is relevant and it all comes together so cleverly.

*The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman: I was a bit disappointed by this one, mainly because I thought it would be like The Night Circus and it wasn’t. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is a sideshow of ‘natural wonders’ (or freaks) in Coney Island. It follows the daughter of the leading showman, as she becomes a mermaid for the show, and a photographer, who takes to New York’s underworld and records everything that goes on there. It was fine, but not extraordinary, as the name would have you hope. And, to be honest, I don’t remember much about it which I always think says a lot.

*The Bridget Jones Omnibus, Helen Fielding: I’m twenty years late to this bandwagon, but better late than never. Who doesn’t love Bridget Jones? I have seen the films a million times, but the books are far better and much, much funnier. I sat on my sun lounger giggling away at this, reading out the best bits until I annoyed everyone. If you haven’t read Bridget, read it. And go see the new film while you’re at it.

*Ctrl, Alt; Delete: How I Grew Up Online, Emma Gannon: This memoir is for all of us who grew up putting on cheap make-up just for webcam chatting, sharing the ‘luv’ on Bebo and having enormous fights over MSN. And making complete fools of ourselves while we were at it. Emma Gannon’s honest and completely hilarious stories from her time growing up online are so recognisable and relevant to all us nineties and early noughties babies. And after all of the horribly cringey moments, her insights into the role of the internet and social media today are really interesting and so well put. I don’t often read memoirs, but this is definitely one to add to your reading list.

Favourite Reads: Rebecca

When I first started this blog, I was sure that the reading part of it would be huge. Reading has always been such a massive part of my life but, for some reason, other content has been inspiring me more. Today I’m going to start putting that right!

As I suggested in my How to Spend December post, Christmas is the perfect time to revisit an old favourite. For most bookworms like me, choosing an all-time favourite is no easy feat. For me though, it’s easy. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is my favourite book.

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I actually first read Rebecca six years ago while I was spending Christmas in Devon. It was lying around the cottage so I picked it up, and I’ve never looked back! So I thought this was the perfect time of year to talk about it, as it always brings back memories of a cosy, family Christmas in Devon.

When I read a book, I like for there to be a good story. A few twists, some memorable characters and an incredible setting are key. Rebecca has all of those elements, which is why I love it so much. There’s a fast-paced plot with an air of mystery about the elusive first wife, Rebecca, and some brilliant characters: the charming Max de Winter, the mousey second Mrs de Winter, the ghoulish Mrs Danvers and, of course, Rebecca.

The story is narrated by the second Mrs de Winter, whose name we never discover (which we could discuss for hours in an English seminar, but I’ll spare you that…!) While working as a lady’s companion she meets a handsome widower, Max de Winter, who proposes to her out of the blue and whisks her off into a new life. But when they return to his country estate, Manderley (thought to be set in Cornwall), Max is a changed man. The memory of his first wife, Rebecca, starts to haunt everything the second Mrs de Winter does as she struggles to discover who Rebecca was, and what happened to her…

It’s just brilliant. If you’ve got some time over Christmas or are planning on making a new year’s resolution to read more, start with this one. An easy romp of a read that will get you thinking, what more could you ask for?!