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 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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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…

The Oversized Denim Jacket

I am a jeans person without being a denim person. For years now my uniform has been dark skinny jeans, blue denim makes me want to run a mile. But (and it pains me to admit this) it’s starting to feel like the dark skinnies have had their time. Blue denim is making a comeback and I’ve finally felt pushed to do something about it.

I have actually bought two pairs of blue jeans (I know, crazy). I’ve even been wearing them! FYI they are both from Zara and great, but that is not why we are gathered here today. For those, like me, who are a bit afraid of blue denim because – let’s be honest – it’s not as flattering as trusty black, jeans are not the place to start. Enter, the denim jacket.

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Didn’t everyone have a denim jacket as a child? There are some great pictures of me in true blue double denim like the 90’s baby I was. But this time around it’s all about the oversizing, and this Topshop denim jacket is what finally convinced me. A big oversized jacket acts like a coat, keeps you nice and snug – and when your outfits are already built around dark skinny jeans, turns out a splash of blue goes with everything.

Admittedly, I bought this denim jacket months ago and haven’t worn it. But now the seasons are changing I’ve discovered that this is the time of year it’s made for. Slightly chilly? Layer it up. A bit warmer? Just chuck it on over a t-shirt. It’s perfect for everything – apart from rain. As I discovered when taking these very pictures, denim jackets are terrible in rain.

So there’s no need to ditch your trusty dark skinnies in favour of the blue denim trend. Pair them up while it is still (kind of) warm out. It won’t be long until we start pulling our proper winter coats out again…

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.

The Sunday Outfit: Dungarees

Sundays should really be spent in pyjamas. But, sometimes, brunch just won’t come to you. Therefore something warm, comfortable and, crucially, able to hide a food baby, is required.

At the beginning of the year, I shared my loved for The Pinafore Dress. But dungarees are even better. I was always put off because they can be quite pricey – and finding the perfect shade of denim is impossible (especially if you are like me and don’t like wearing blue jeans anyway…)

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But this skinny black pair from New Look completely changed my mind. Very cheap and so comfortable. And I totally bypassed the blue denim situation by opting for black. For a first time dungarees-buyer, try to find your favourite pair of jeans in dungaree form. I wear black skinny jeans almost everyday, so black skinny dungarees were an obvious choice (though it took me a while to work that out).

Dungarees are also one of those brilliant outfits that make it seem like you have made an effort – when really that couldn’t be further from the truth. Ideal for rolling out of bed on a Sunday morning with just ten minutes to spare before brunch.

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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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…