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.

A May Reading List

This month’s reading list is quite a mixed bag. What with all the commuting I’m doing, I’m getting through roughly a book a week (it’s becoming a very expensive pastime!) With the amount of time I now have for reading, I’ve been making myself pick up books that I would never usually consider. It’s such a great way to discover new favourites and the variety means you can never get bored. Here are my latest discoveries.

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*For a read that feels like a chat: Wildflower, Drew Barrymore. I never, ever read memoirs. But Drew Barrymore’s Wildflower did the rounds on Instagram (with that gorgeous cover) and my attention was caught. This is not a tell-all autobiography, but that’s why I loved it so much. Each chapter tells a different anecdote, fronted by a relevant snap. Some are funny, such as her skydiving experience with Cameron Diaz, some are touching, such as the chapters dedicated to her two daughters and some are quite tragic, such as the stories from her childhood. I’m not a particular Drew Barrymore fan, but you don’t need to be to enjoy her memoir. Curling up with this book feels like catching up with an old friend.

*For a real surprise: We Were Liars, E. Lockhart. This is a Young Adult read, another genre I rarely dip into. I didn’t expect much from this (unfortunately, I’m always a little snobby about YA)  and was proven completely and entirely wrong. I loved it. We Were Liars centers around the beautiful, blonde and very rich Sinclair family. They put up a perfect front but as the narrator, eldest Sinclair grandchild Cady, tries to piece together an accident that she cannot remember and her family refuses to discuss, the cracks start to form. The general confusion builds into an explosive twist which will have you immediately flip back to the beginning to work out how the author had you so fooled.

*For a much needed sweet fix: Life is Sweet, The Hummingbird Bakery. If you’re ever in London, don’t miss The Hummingbird Bakery. Famed for their red velvet cupcakes and rainbow layer slices, this American-style bakery always hits the spot. My sister and I always turn to their original cookbook when we want to whip up something sweet, but Life is Sweet is the newest addition to our collection. With red velvet brownies and pancakes (!), a tunnel of fudge cake and pink champagne cupcakes, it’ll be keeping us very busy over the May bank holiday weekends.

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.

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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…

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*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!

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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!

An April Reading List

This month’s reading list is filled with adventure stories and beautiful editions. They say “never judge a book by its cover” – but sometimes you just have to have that beautiful book. And they make amazing gifts. I have had more than my fair share of stunning books as presents, they sit proudly on my shelf and I love them. All hail beautiful covers, we need more of them around.

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*For a timeless story: The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame. I rarely write about a book that I haven’t actually read here on the blog, but I feel pretty safe to do so with this one. One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read the classics I’ve never got round to picking up. It’s not going that well, to be honest. The Wind in the Willows seemed like a safe one to start with – I’m excited to follow the adventures of Mole, Rat, Mr Toad and Mr Badger! Also, quick note on just how beautiful this edition is. The Penguin Threads covers are made to look like a work of embroidery, with the threads running through the inside cover. There are loads of classics in the collection, so take your pick and treasure it.

*For a dark, nineteenth century New York: Church of Marvels, Leslie Parry. I have just finished this book and it is such a unique story. I picked it up thinking it would be like The Night Circus but it ended up reminding me more of Les Miserables. It follows three separate narrators – Sylvan Threadgill, a night soiler who discovers an abandoned newborn baby, Odile Church, who’s twin sister Belle has disappeared following a devastating fire and Alphie, who wakes up groggy and confused in Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum. These three lives become entwined through the events of one night, and the story gradually unravels the secrets that bring the narrators together. The plot twists and turns and keeps back the biggest surprises right until the very end. Definitely worth a read.

*For the original greats: The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm and The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Everyone should read the original fairy tales. We all know and love the Disney versions, but did you ever realise the liberties they took with the original stories? Ariel didn’t just lose her voice, she had her tongue cut out. In Snow White, the Queen is forced to dance to death in red hot iron shoes. Sleeping Beauty is raped! You can understand why Disney had to exclude these elements from children’s films, but now it’s time to grow up and find out what really happened. We’re always on the search for a horrifying thriller, but really we need look no further than the original fairy tales.