8 lovely, simple ways to embrace autumn this year

I don’t know about you but I love autumn. Knitwear, hot chocolate, an excuse to fill my flat with candles and spend evenings reading under a pile of blankets… But more than this, it’s the natural, seasonal changes that I love the most. Darker evenings, crisp mornings, the turning leaves, seasonal vegetables (especially apples, I love in-season apples). There’s a huge trend on Instagram at the moment about embracing seasonality, and I really think it’s wonderful – it inspires people to get out and enjoy nature in different ways, depending on the time of year. Spending time in nature is phenomenally good for our wellbeing, so I thought I would share some of my favourite ways to embrace autumn, but not just outdoors: indoors too (because let’s face it, those cosy evenings inside are THE BEST).

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Get crafty with a cosy homemade project

Recently I’ve spent a few evenings upcycling a rarely-worn jumper into two cuddly hot water bottle covers, and I’ve also made several vanilla and cinnamon soy candles – I used vanilla extract and cinnamon powder, which smells UNREAL. It’s not that much cheaper to make your own candles really, especially if you use baking ingredients for the scent. But it’s incredibly satisfying and there’s less waste when you’re reusing using old candle glasses. There are so many other things you could try as well – did you know that Flying Tiger (or Tiger? Not sure what they’re called now) sell watercolour colouring books? So you don’t have to be able to draw to use watercolours! And there are dozens of embroidery kits out there too, which is something I’ve got my eye on right now. Whatever crafts you choose, it’s really good to spend a little bit of time focused on creating something. And if you’re feeling daring you could always make a coffee table like I did last month 😉

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Seek out seasonal foods…

…and cook with them, of course! Supermarkets make it easy nowadays, there’s always a union flag on products that have been produced in the UK. Plus, here’s a great website to help you find seasonal foods. Apples are in season now in the UK, I really have a soft spot for seasonal apples because my family used to grow and sell them. But butternut squash, leeks, kale, shallots, beetroots and more are also all in season in autumn too so get cooking!

Try baking something cosy too

Gingerbread loaf, apple pie, pumpkin tart, carrot cake, cinnamon apple cake, honey cakes… are you salivating yet? I certainly am. It’s not just the joy of eating baked goods of course, it’s also the process of baking that gets you into the autumnal spirit. The spices, chopping and stirring, the oven making everything warm, the smell of a cake as it cooks… it’s all so homely! I love it.

Find a cosy book to curl up with 

There’s the obvious, but still lovely choice of Autumn by Ali Smith, or a modern classic like The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. An exciting new release like Melmoth by Sarah Perry or a brilliant work that’s stood the test of time like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley or Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (one of my all time faves). I mean, let’s face it, autumn is the perfect time to spend a rainy day reading that book you’ve always meant to read, with rain hammering against the windows and a hot chocolate in your hand. Here’s another blog post I wrote about brilliant books everyone should read, to get you even more inspired!

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Make more plans 

A tried and true method that Norwegians use to get through the dark (and in Norway it gets reeeeally dark) months of autumn and winter is to make plenty of plans. You don’t need to have a buzzing social life or huge friendship group to do this so if you’re socially anxious don’t panic! Just make plans to do specific things with people you like, with your partner, and even with yourself. It will get you out of the house, and make you feel like you’re making the most of your time.

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Make your home a nice place to be

Making your home a nice place to be is essential during autumn and winter, so that you can really feel relaxed and at ease when the weather is raging outside. There’s a reason that Scandinavians take their homes seriously, and this is it – you need a good base camp to cope with cold, stormy weather. When you’re out on a cold walk, or your feet are soaking from the rain, or you’re at work with a winder cold, you need to know that you have a cosy space to come back to. The first step is to make sure your home is actually warm. Even if you’re renting and can’t really control the insulation or heating system, there are things you can do such as using blackout curtains, which will keep the heat in at night, and picking up some insulating strips to use on doors and windows. Next, get yourself some candles. Nothing makes a home cosier than candles! Wilko do a great selection of affordable ones, or if you live near an Ikea, go wild in their candle section too! Lastly: blankets. Don’t skimp on the blankets. And some soft, brushed cotton bedding, too! James and I have just bought this set, because we live right next to one of London’s deer parks and we can watch the deer grazing from our living room window, so it seems appropriate! Wilko, again, have a fantastic selection of cosy blankets and bedding, and they’re great quality for the price, too. You don’t have to spend a fortune on making your home a cosy, calm space. Even just tidying up can do wonders for that ‘hygge’ feeling!

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Go for an autumn walk

Not to get too simplistic on you here, but if you haven’t yet then get to your nearest botanical garden, nature reserve or park and enjoy the changing leaves, look for squirrels and breathe in that autumnal air. An autumn walk is a magical thing, just make sure you dress appropriately – bring a bag that will fit your coat in if you get too warm, but also bring along a waterproof, gloves and extra socks, because autumn gets cold, it gets wet, and it gets unexpectedly warm too. If you’re well prepared, you’ll be able to enjoy it no matter what. Also – here is a directory of accessible walks across the UK, for people who are disabled.

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Get in the bath

Of course, it wouldn’t be autumn without a hot, candlelit bath, and it wouldn’t be my blog without me recommending one, would it?! Check out this other post I wrote about the best bath products I’ve ever used (out of like, hundreds of products guys, when it comes to baths I do not mess around).

Happy autumn everyone!

 

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Lush Oxford Street Exclusives – Rosy Cheeks Mask and Deo My B.O. Deodorant

When you walk into Lush Oxford Street and are immediately greeted by that trademark scent, combined with the scent of 200 new products you can’t get anywhere else, it’s quite an experience for anyone. Let alone someone like me who’s basically been obsessed with Lush from the get-go. I couldn’t wait to track down these exciting products and see what treats the Lush Kitchen had come up with.

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I bought loads, so I decided to break it down into easily manageable chunks (I could hardly try everything at once, could I? Well, I could, but my flatmates wouldn’t appreciate me taking over the bathroom for 12 hours). This first one is a deodorant bar called Deo My BO. I don’t like antiperspirant, having struggled with the skin under my arms for years I’ve taken the all natural, all gentle approach. Antiperspirants are boring anyway, they all smell like chemicals and fake fragrances. When you open yourself up to natural deodorants, things get interesting, and this deodorant bar is no exception.

IMG_6384 The base of this deo bar is bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and lycopodium powder (do you know what that is? It’s the lube powder you get on latex gloves and condoms! So I guess this must be what helps the deodorant spread over the skin without leaving it feeling weird and powdery). The scent is amaaaaaazing – lemon oil, bergamot, juniperberry and neroli oil make it sharp and refreshing, which is just what you need to combat BO as well as give you nice treat every time you lift your arms up.

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This is the base – they cover it in green wax to give you something to hold on to. So, if you’re still reading, I’m guessing it’s because you want an answer to the question DOES IT WORK?! And I am delighted to inform you that gawd yes, it works. I honestly wasn’t expecting it to, but it really does, and I’ve had a BUSY few weeks. I have run for at least three trains since I started using it and every time my underarms get to the end of the day as happy and decent smelling as they were in the morning. Nice one, Lush!

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The second product I want to talk to you about is the Rosy Cheeks Mask. We tried four different masks in Lush, and it was really hard to choose just one. I chose Rosy Cheeks because even after a different mask had been applied and washed off my hand, I could still smell the gorgeous light rose scent. With calamine to calm the skin, and kaolin to gently exfoliate I thought this would be great for my consistently grumpy skin. There’s rose oil in there too, which just like it’s famous sister, rosehip seed oil, is great for the skin. It helps to even out the colour of the skin, and obviously smells beautiful.

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Its gorgeously thick, and instantly soothes the skin when you put it on because it’s cold – then as it warms up the calamine continues to calm the skin down, while the rose fragrance calms the senses. This is an all around gorgeous experience, and my skin was so soft, soothes and lightly scented after I washed it off. I have a couple of angry spots at the moment and they were immediately diminished! Once again, Lush, very well done.

IMG_6390My boyfriend made me take this picture. It’s a rose comet! Anyway…Lush have truly exceeded all my expectations with their new products, and I really, really hope they absorb some into their main product range so that more people can enjoy them! These innovative products have filled holes in my beauty routine that I didn’t even realise existed. Get yourself to Oxford Street if you possibly can!

Want to read about more of Lush Oxford Street’s amazing products? Click here or here, and stay tuned for a tonne more! 

Lush Oxford Street

After the election results on Friday my boyfriend and I were in desperate need of some hippy green retail therapy. Lush’s newly opened, 3 storey flagship in the heart of Oxford Street seemed like the perfect place. I thought I’d share some of their 200 exclusive products, as well as our amazing experience. IMG_6300Despite it being a busy Saturday, we spent almost three hours wandering around this incredible shop, checking out loads of the new products and testing them, playing with their new bath bombs, smelling everything and wishing we had a bit more disposable income (not that that’ll be happening any time soon, thanks to the UK electorate) IMG_6279 They have so many new soaps. SO MANY. Unfortunately I don’t have anywhere to put solid soap in my bathroom so I didn’t get any, but hopefully one day… IMG_6291 That grapefruit one is incredible. And the hairy one is the perfect smell for anyone who loves the outdoors – it smells like nice dirt. IMG_6306 This Guardians of the Forest bath bomb has a very subtle scent and I couldn’t smell it at first. Then one of the lovely staff members (and I mean lovely – I know Lush employees work hard but these people knew everything, and were so nice!) told us to sniff ourselves before sniffing the products to get the scent. This one really does smell like a forest, it’s beautiful. The one above it smells of parma violets but not quite so sweet. Yum. IMG_6307 It’s impossible to walk around this shop and not feel happy. With the famous lush scent, lovely employees, fascinating products and wonderful atmosphere, we didn’t want to leave. IMG_6283 Here’s the shaving corner. Everything in Lush Oxford Street is so beautifully presented, and after 10 minutes in this part I ended up a with tub of shaving cream (for my legs) and beard wash (an early birthday present for my boyfriend). IMG_6287The only part I didn’t spend much time looking at was the facial skincare – I’ve haven’t tried much Lush skincare, apart from Ocean Salt which I liked, but was probably not the best product to use 10 years ago on my sensitive teenage skin. IMG_6285 However, they have so many more products now, and the staff here are so good, that I’m definitely going to come back and look at the facial skincare soon. I bet there’s something there that my combination, self destructing skin will love. IMG_6308 I loved the look of this striking Coalface facial soap, with charcoal to help absorb oil and liquorice root to soften the skin. This would be something my boyfriend, who has very oily skin, could use daily, while I could it from time to time when my skin gets shiny or spotty. IMG_6290One of the best parts of Lush Oxford Street is that there are chairs surrounding their fresh mask area, where the staff can show you all their amazing masks while you sit down. Perfect for all the tired shoppers who pass through Oxford Street every day. IMG_6289 This also gives them a really good opportunity to talk to you, which is where the amazingly knowledgable, lovely and interesting staff come into their own. It was a pleasure to talk to the lady who was applying testers of their gorgeous masks to our hands. IMG_6312 We tried four, the ones you see here are an Oxford Street exclusive ironically named Don’t Look at Me, and The Sacred Truth, a mask with papaya to brighten and exfoliate. We also tried brightening and refreshing Cup of Coffee and soothing, calming Rosy Cheeks. IMG_6309I ended up buying Rosy Cheeks, because I have lots of exfoliating, cleansing, polishing and brightening products, but nothing particularly calming. This smells beautiful and my hand was wonderfully soft afterwards. Obviously I’ll review it when I actually try it on my face! IMG_6294As you go down into the basement area, there’s a whole corner given over to feet. I can see this being popular as the weather gets warmer (popular with me at least, I hate having sweaty feet) IMG_6296Then you’re downstairs, in the headily scented massage bar and perfume section. There’s a sensory exhibit here about their Gorilla perfumes, but we didn’t end up checking it out (there’s always next time). My boyfriend had a look at the perfumes and fell in love with a smoky, whisky inspired scent that he’s already saving up for… IMG_6297 …while I cooed over the massage bars. Lush massage bars are some of their best products – Each Peach, Pearl, Dirty, Tender is the Night and Soft Coeur are all joint favourites for me. IMG_6300 Then we headed over to the deodorant/dusting powder section. Again, everything was so gorgeously laid out. I think the shopping experience here is on a par with Liberty’s for excitement, beauty and all around enjoyability. IMG_6303I picked up one of these gorgeous deodorants, a Lush Oxford Street exclusive called Deo my BO (hahaha) that smells stunning. It’s really fresh and lively. I’ll be trying it out this weke and will review asap! IMG_6304 Elbow Grease is one of many exclusive products that I of wish I’d picked up. It’s a really melty balm, intended, I think, for making tattoos shine really nicely, but also for soothing rough skin. I have a few dry patches that I think this would be perfect for. It melts away in your hand and smells gorgeous. IMG_6336 So…if you’ve made it all the way through this marathon post, you’re probably wondering what I actually bought. There’s Deo My BO deodorant, a sample of Roots scalp treatment, Flowering Tea reusable bubble bar, I Am A Radiant Being solid bath oil, Five O’Clock Whistle shaving smoothie, a sample of Giant’s Gel hair gel, Rosy Cheeks face mask, a sample of Curly Wurly shampoo, You’ve Been Mangoed solid bath oil, Damaged hot oil hair treatment and Kalamazoo beard and face wash. Lush Oxford Street is a stunning place to get lost in, their exclusive products are incredible, and they have done something I didn’t think anyone could ever do: make Oxford Street smell nice.

Kew in the Summer

I think by now my love for Kew Gardens is pretty well documented. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I went again recently!

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It was beautifully hot, and absolutely magical. They have a patch of eucalyptus trees which we walked through, and I’ve never smelt anything so wonderful in my life – they don’t smell the way you’d expect, its spicy, dry and wonderful. I didn’t get a photo of them because they just looked like dry leaves but next time you go, look out for them. But I thought this flower was rather lovely too.

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I explored lots of different places this time, and this bridge over a lake was one of my favourite parts. It was so serene, with ducks and dragonflies everywhere. It’s easy to forget as you walk around this idyllic place, that Kew is still in trouble, that below the surface they’re having to cut jobs. Parliament isn’t in session at the moment, and with the recent changes to the cabinet it’s difficult to tell what will happen. But the Early Day Motion MPs were asked to sign did really well, so that means Parliament supports preserving this wonderful place!

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We went up the brilliant Treetop Walkway, an 18 metre high, 200 metre long platform that you walk around, and gives you absolutely stunning views, as well as the rare chance to see trees from canopy level. I’ve recently learned that I’m funny with heights (why this didn’t occur to me before I don’t know, as I’ve had MASSIVE freak outs on both the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, and when climbing an emergent tree in the rainforest). Anyway, this was taken near the end, when I actually managed to slow down from dragging my friend round at the speed of light. It was really cool though, you should definitely try it!

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And of course, no visit to Kew would be complete without a visit to the Palm House. Check out this awesome plant! I don’t know what it is but it looks like a lily?

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Did you know that Kew is a finalist in the Google Impact Challenge Award? They’re developing a device that will allow them to map disease carrying mosquitoes – a device that would be worn as a wristband or downloaded as a phone app! So cool. It’s this kind of innovation that I love about Kew, yes they do lots of quietly sensible research, but at the same time they’re so creative.

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Here’s a wonderful video about Kew’s archives and the development of our understanding of the plant world. I can’t work out how to embed it, but you must watch it because it’s beautiful, and fascinating.

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If you’re in London this summer, make a point of visiting Kew. They have so many incredible things going on at the moment, and the whole place looks great. Both times I’ve been I’ve discovered something new and fascinating, this time I think my favourite was the Marianne North Gallery. North was an artist in the 19th century, who travelled the world painting the most incredibly vivid nature scenes. Most were tropical scenes that will transport you to a warmer place when you look at them, or if you’ve already been, bring back memories of the sights and sounds you experienced. It’s amazing to look at these small colourful paintings in their dark air conditioned gallery and feel as though you’re back in the jungle (Speaking of feeling like you’re back in the jungle…look at those leaves!)

Kew Gardens – my favourite place in London?

Last week I visited the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and I spent most of the day completely enchanted with the stunning plants. It’s a truly wonderful place.

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They’re dedicated to conservation and saving the environment, and have a research facility, where they investigate the relationship between humans and nature, helping us to live a more sustainable life.

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Plus, my friend told me that Kew has the largest collection of plants in the world!

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I had certainly never seen most of them before, and I know my plants. The insect life was wonderful too, its always reassuring to see bees buzzing around.

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I was completely blown away by this area. These are California Poppies, which are in my top ten favourite flowers. They’re so vibrant and beautiful. Everywhere you walk, there are sections like this that showcase different kinds of plant life, whether in glasshouses or outside.

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You can spend an entire day walking around looking at flowers, but they make sure you learn about them too. They have a Summer Festival, which this year is called Plantasia, and is educating people about the way medicine and health is rooted in plants – which I hope will make people think more seriously about the environment.

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My mind was blown the first time I learned how pineapples grow. They’re little shrubs that sit close to the ground – I just find that adorable for some reason. No wonder they’re so spiky.

If you’re looking for something to do this summer, the Royal Botanic Gardens should be at the top of your list, no question. It has got to be the most beautiful place in London, its inspiring, interesting, and it’ll get you out of the London air for a little while too! I (unsurprisingly) spent a long time in the Palm House, which houses all the rainforest plants. I took so many photos I need a separate post for them, but it’ll be worth it! Anyway, visit Kew’s website for details.

London Fun

Thought I would post a little update on what I’ve been up to since the sun started coming out…

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I took a trip to a garden centre, where I bought a friend called Bitey.

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I made frequent visits to Regent’s Park, and on one found a perfect patch of bluebells hiding behind some shrubs.

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On another visit I was able to indulge on of my biggest plant based obsessions – blossoms.

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I found this moth in Camden – and was convinced for ages that it must have been an invasive species from some tropical paradise. Continue reading

A walk in spring rain on Easter Sunday

I’m not religious in the slightest – but here, Easter is relevant. Today I got to walk through an almost deserted central London, take photos at my leisure and enjoy the sound of rain clattering on my umbrella, and cleansing the air.

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Continue reading