A Halloween Lush Collection

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

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

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

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

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

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My Autumn To Do List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Perfect Homemade Hot Chocolate

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pom Pom Jumper

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

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

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

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

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

London Secret Spots: Battersea Flower Station

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Spend: October

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Few Favourites: September

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

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

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

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

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

*The Neapolitan Novels, Elena Ferrante:  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…

Sundays by the sea: Whitstable

I’ve heard much chat of late that there is nothing better than a free weekend. A weekend with no plans is bliss. I could not disagree more strongly if I tried.

Some live for the weekend. I live for my weekend plans – carefully constructed at my desk throughout the week, ready to over-enthusiastically consult with my long-suffering boyfriend in the evenings. The majority of my favourite plans are decidedly London-based and follow the standard formula of brunch plus something fun. This weekend though, I thought we would try something a little different.

As the sun was shining (on a side note – how awful has the weather been?!) I suddenly felt the need to calculate just how quickly I could get out of London to the seaside. Now, I love a day trip to Brighton as much as the next person, but it felt time to try something a little different. Southeastern High Speed came to the rescue and we whipped off to Whitstable, arriving to bright sunshine and a salty sea breeze in just over an hour.

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Whitstable is a cute little fishing and harbour town in north Kent. Some had described it as “undiscovered” in my online research but there was a fairly healthy load of Londoners disembarking the train alongside us – so that was definitely an exaggeration. That said, you certainly aren’t fighting crowds and there’s more than enough room on the beach for everyone.

Whitstable is the perfect place for a day trip (or even for a lazy Sunday afternoon – we weren’t overly strict on setting our alarms). There’s enough to see to keep you occupied but you still don’t leave feeling as though you’ve missed the majority. Whitstable is still a working fishing village, so everywhere you go you are tripping over fresh oyster stands and endless seafood. We weren’t quite so authentic and instead opted for a classic fish and chip lunch, and highly recommend Ossie’s Fish Bar on the High Street. It looks like a very standard chippy from the outside, but the people were lovely and the food was delicious. We were even given extra chips while we were waiting (winning them all the brownie points).

Don’t over-plan your day and just go for a wander. You can take a fairly long walk along the sea-front, choose your perfect beach house and don’t miss Tankerton Beach. Perching just beneath the castle this stretch of beach has huge grassy slopes ideal for picnics and hundreds of beach huts – it could take you all day just to pick your favourite! If you are feeling a bit trapped in London and especially if the sun is shining, Whitstable really is the perfect way to spend a Sunday.

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Exploring Richmond Park

The temperature has seriously dropped here in London over the past few days. Out of nowhere, winter has arrived. It’s raining, it’s freezing and the Christmas lights haven’t even been turned on yet to cheer the whole situation up.

It’s so much easier to be enthusiastic about being outside in autumn. It’s chilly but only a little (enough to make you think ‘ooh it’s a bit nippy’ but then move on) and the world looks stunning in its autumnal colours. Winter though, it’s almost not even worth leaving the house. Only for minimal amounts of time when you absolutely have to.

But I’m trying to hold on to that autumnal spirit of adventure rather than give in to the temptation to hibernate. So Tiarnan and I set off to Richmond last weekend for breakfast and to explore Richmond Park. Because even though we live so nearby, I’ve never properly walked around, admired the deer and enjoyed it before.

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We started with breakfast at Muriel’s Kitchen, which is quickly becoming one of my favourite London breakfast spots. They have branches in South Kensington, Soho and Richmond which recreate the warmth and cosiness of a family kitchen. All of their restaurants are beautiful and entirely unique, and the food is fresh and beyond delicious. Highly recommend!

We had a quick look around the shops because I can’t bear to see a high street of shops and not venture in to at least one (or maybe several). And Richmond has a wonderful higgledy-piggledy high street that seems like it should belong to a village rather than London. I was a little caught off guard that all of the shops have already cracked out the Christmas decorations, but I guess that Bonfire Night is over so it’s time to eat mince pies and deck the halls. But still, I admired everything (and made mental lists of what I want to buy for others, and myself…) but it still felt a little too early to commit to any purchases.

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But anyway, the main attraction – Richmond Park. It really is an incredibly sight, one minute you are walking through the residential streets of London and the next you are in an enormous, sprawling deer park. It’s hard to miss the deer, but if you don’t want to get too close you don’t have to. But they are the most amazing, calming presence, just minding their own business as you mind yours.

The red deer in particular really are a sight to behold. Red deer are the fourth largest deer species and the stags are enormous. But again, they are so peaceful and calm. You can get relatively close, stop and take pictures and they will just gaze back at you. Amazing. And they are as much a resident of London as I am…!

So if you are visiting London, take a trip out of central to Richmond Park. Or if you are a Londoner, there’s nowhere better for some fresh air and a walk. It’s getting cold, but Richmond Park is definitely worth it.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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