Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Autumnal Air

Let me paint the scene for you.

The leaves are falling.
The cosy jumpers are coming out.
Night time is getting earlier.
And... the fire has been lit.

Yes, that's right. My favourite season has arrived.
I know that a lot of people dread this time of year. The weather begins to turn cold and the nights get longer, but for reasons which I shall bestow upon you, this really is the time of year that I most look forward to and when I'm extremely happy. So I thought, why not share the reasons why autumn makes me and others feel happy too. You never know... it may just turn the frown upside down and allow you to embrace the wonderfulness that is autumn. Starting alphabetically...

I love autumn for the reason that it's Ryan's and my birthday in October. Even though my 25th was a pretty simple affair this year, I had a wonderful weekend celebrating with friends and family. We also went on an autumnal walk in Prior Park in Bath for Ryan's birthday and for anyone who hasn't been before, the views of Bath are spectacular. The staff are particularly friendly as well and really knew their history on the grounds. For instance, the Palladian Bridge is 1 of only 4 in the world and you can find graffiti dating back to the 18th century! Prior Park is a National Trust site, so all the more reason to become a member and take advantage of these beautiful places!

Halloween was spent at a dead celebrity party with friends of Ryan's. I won't lie... I was slightly confused by the theme. Do I go as a celebrity that has passed away? Do I go as a living celebrity but whack on some pale foundation to make them appear zombie-like? Needless to say, Ryan settled on Nicholas Hoult from the film Warm Bodies and I went as Helena Bonham-Carter with a Sweeney Todd look. Washing my hair after being back-combed was fun and Ryan was certainly pleased with having black glitter still on his eyes the following day... HA!

No doubt the sparklers will be making an appearance in the next couple of days too!

Comfort dishes
When it's cold, it's only natural to fancy something a bit warm for lunch or dinner. My favourite recipes and things to go for when eating out are all about creating comfort in my meals this autumn.

I visited The Swan in Swineford on my birthday and had one of the best steak pies I've tasted in a long while. It was a slice of a proper pie with pastry all around. none of this puff stuff just on top. No, no, no. This was a proper pie! I thoroughly recommend this classic dish if you happen to visit this fantastic country pub!

An unusual comfort craving for me this autumn is lentils. It probably harks back to my Nepal days but I made a really yummy dish with lentils, onions and sausages in a gravy. Here's a great recipe from the BBC Good Food website.

There's also nothing better than a warm soup with some crusty bread to warm those bellies on a chilly day. Great for either lunch or dinner, soup can really pack a punch with lots of nutritious ingredients and easy to make recipes. I made a soup with lots of veggies and even my 22 month old nephew woofed it down!
Here's the ingredients that I just cooked and blended together.
  • Onion
  • Shallot
  • Leek
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Potato
  • Carrot
  • Seasoning: Bay leaf, thyme salt & pepper
Start off by cooking the onion, shallot, leek and carrot until the onion is clear. Add the sweet potato, bay leaf and thyme with enough water to cover the sweet potato. Cook until the veggies are tender and then remove the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and add the kale and spinach. When they are cooked, use a vertical blender to mix it all together. Make sure you blend the hard bits of kale out too. Ta dah... your own nutritious homemade soup. Another recipe to try is butternut squash, chilli and creme fraiche. My brother made this a couple of months ago and it became a firm favourite in our family. The chilli will also certainly warm you up!

Lastly, you cannot go wrong with the epitome of a classic British comfort food. A roast dinner. Ryan and I will be slow cooking a chicken this week with some cayenne pepper and paprika to give it a spicy twist. Might even try my hand at making an avocado salsa to go with it. YUM!

Cosy jumpers
I'm like any rational human being and find it highly frustrating when the weather is in that transitional zone where it's too hot to wear a coat and too cold to wear just a long sleeved top. Cue a cosy jumper! There's nothing better than having a soft jumper to keep you warm on a chilly day.

My shop of choice for cosy, comfortable jumpers has been and will continue to be GAP. I honestly feel like they don't get enough credit, but I bought two amazing jumpers from there last winter and they are my go to's. Here's a couple of my favourites from their latest collection.

Ooo... I love this one! Has a Scandinavian feel about it. I'm already outfit planning with the cream one... It's £39.95 and comes in black, navy (as shown) and cream -

You can't go wrong with a cable knit. I have a couple of jumpers and cardigans in my wardrobe that have lasted me for a couple of years. They are the epitome of autumn and winter. This one costs £39.95 and also come in aubergine'y', white, navy, dark grey and light grey -

This is a bit of a splurge but boy oh boy, wouldn't a cashmere turtleneck jumper be a LOVELY addition to the wardrobe this autumn. This beauty costs £109.95 but think of it more as an investment that will remain a classic for years to come. It also comes in grey and navy -

Gap always have great sales and discount offers on, so sign up to their email mailing list and you could get a great offer soon to buy these wonderful jumpers!

Hand creams
When the cold starts to set in, I notice the difference in how my skin feels and looks. My hands were looking in a sorry state a few weeks ago, but since then I've been using a couple of creams to get my hands and nails looking healthy again. Here are some that I've been trying out.

For my birthday, my Aunt and Uncle got me the Burt's Bees Tips and Toes set and I've been using the Thoroughly Therapeutic Honey & Grapeseed Oil Hand Cream. I find it a brilliant everyday cream as it doesn't leave your hands with a greasy feeling. I will admit, some people might not like the smell as it can be an acquired scent, but it does work wonders. The kit also comes with a hand salve and an almond and milk hand cream which I'm yet to try.

Another hand cream that I would highly recommend is Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Concentrated. One year my hands were so bad that my knuckles were cracked and red raw. They were so severely dry that the Neutrogena, as well as E45 at night, were the only things able to relieve the soreness. Don't let your hands get into that state! For more everyday useage, their Fast Absorbing Hand Cream is great by being light and non-greasy.

For a more scenty hand cream, I become a bit of an old lady. That was my nickname in work anyway, but everyone wanted a bit of this hand cream! I absolutely LOVE the smell of lavender and Yardley do a hand cream that smells absolutely sublime. It dries quickly and leaves the hands feeling super soft and yes there may be a little more mature scents in their range, but the product is fantastic and actually works. That's what we want isn't it?

Hot water bottles
Whether you're ill, experiencing cold toes tucked up in bed or it's that time of month, a hot water bottle solves problems. On Christmas day last year, I started to feel pretty rough. Come Boxing Day, I had a full on ear infection with excruciating pain in my left ear. My sinuses were severely blocked and before I was able to get my hands on Sudafed, my Mum got me a hot water bottle and told me to rest my ear on it. It didn't instantly relieve the pain but it really did help to ease the pressure slightly. Don't underestimate the good a hot water bottle can do!

I love when the leaves start to turn. The explosion of rich colours that delicately fall to the ground and make a crisp sound as you walk through them.

I think I have such found memories of autumn as my parents would often take me on walks into woodlands or through parks, where I'd kick through the vast amount of fallen leaves. I also remember being at my grandparents flat picking up all the conkers in their garden from the HUGE horse chestnut tree. Subconsciously, this is probably why I love autumn so much as these happy memories are so vivid in my mind.
This year I decided commemorate my favourite season with my creative flair. I made a leaf collage using leaves I found in Leigh Woods and took inspiration from the affordable art fair I visited a few weeks ago. It conveys the transition of the leaves from the lush summer green to the rich burgundy red, which is something I always get excited seeing at this time of year. Just ask Ryan...

There's something particularly cheery about pumpkins. I saw some mini ones in the supermarket a few weeks ago and they were very cute!
But not only are they cute, they make some really great dishes too.
For a start, when you scrape the insides out, make sure to keep the seeds. These taste really great and are highly nutritious. All you need to do is bake them with a bit of sea salt, or if you're feeling a bit adventurous, add in some chilli flakes.
Jamie Oliver has a how-to guide to make sure you get them absolutely perfect!

Waitrose have a superb recipe for pumpkin which incorporates an Indian influence. Why not try this on a Saturday night instead of reaching for the takeaway menu. It's always good to know exactly what goes into your food, plus I find cooking really sociable too. Ryan and I have fun cooking together and it's good to experiment... most of the time. Flashback to extremely peppery pulled pork because the pepper lid fell off. Oops...

Warm drinks
How satisfying is it getting out of the cold to be welcomed with a hot beverage? The answer... VERY!
Whatever takes your fancy - a cup of tea, a mug of coffee or a pint of hot chocolate (I won't judge... promise!) - on a cold, bitter day, these drinks not only warm our insides but bring us together for cosy chats. Ryan and I visited the Bristol Coffee House on Whiteladies Road in Clifton and I had a scrumptious hot chocolate. They use dark chocolate shavings but I spiced mine up a bit with chilli chocolate shavings too.

So there's my list. I hope I've managed to remind you of the great things that autumn brings to our lives, not just the chilly weather or dark evenings. I think we're also very lucky to have the clear transitional seasons and all the beauty it brings. Finally, I'll leave you with this autumnal quote:

"Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree." - Emily Bronte

Now if that doesn't conjure up a beautiful image, I don't know what else will!

Alice x

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