September has arrived, and with it bright sunshine and 23 degree heat (which is not insignificant in Belfast). The trees have yet to turn and our tomato plants are still producing a good number of cherry tomatoes each day. Thankfully, the raspberry canes have started giving us autumn raspberries so we have the best of both worlds right now!
As seasons begin to shift and meteorological autumn is here (this happens on the 1st September, whereas astronomical autumn happens on the equinox when the daylight hours are exactly as long as the dark hours), I thought I’d share 6 of my favourite things about Autumn. I’ll confess that my favourite season is Spring, when there hope of longer and warmer days finally shows its face and I get the pleasant surprise when I go out one evening to find it is still light, but over the last couple of years I have worked hard to focus on the good of each season and come up with some ways to survive and even enjoy the long dark months. My toppest top tip for Winter at the bottom of this blog!
1. Scented candles.
I love candles. The warm cosy feel they disperse with a single flame, and my favourite candles are scented candles. I don’t like anything too flowery or powdery, something elegant and refined, with a little sweetness is where I find myself swooning.
While the garden is winding down it’s produce and the amount of time I spend there is also reduced, I find myself reminiscing about hours listening to the air so still that I can hear every bee and slight rustle of leaves and smell the freshly cut grass and rhubarb. It is this smell that inspired the first candle I made. I will only make candles that I would happily burn in my own home all day long, and this fits the bill. Still is what I named my Rhubarb and Fresh Mint candle, because I love the reminder to be still. It also brings back those garden memories with nothing my bees and a few birds chirping. This candle is perfect for the beginning of autumn - that in between stage when you’re lining for summer but also being drawn to get those cosy vibes from the candle flame.
Scented candles for me this year are an even bigger thing since I’ve been making my own (I was inspired by a woman called Orlaith on Instagram - @orlaithdonlon who was making her own candles to give as gifts last Christmas) and the smell of those fragrance oils and the heat as the wax melts make it an even bigger and better autumn experience. I have two new candle scents coming, a Christmas spice one, perfect for when we come to winter and a warm apple pie one which I have called Comfort, because it is all kinds of comforting!
2. Thick jumpers & awesome sweatshirts.
When I was a teenager, I has the most gorgeous thick knitted jumper I got for H&M - it was a lovely light pink, had a turtleneck collar and turned back cuffs at the end of the sleeves. It was delightful for those Edinburgh winters and even though I was an awkward teenager with little idea of what my style actually was, this one piece in my wardrobe was my favourite.
I have grown my collection of sweatshirts this past year, with my favourites being an autumnal burgundy coloured one by Six for Five with the words “because he lives” embroidered on the left breast, a faded red one from FatFace with the word “joyeux” needle punched in capitals on the front (a nod to my French life) and my newest addition, a mint sweatshirt by Outside In with the words “Hope sweet hope” embroidered on the front (this is completely on brand from the colour to the words and the company who makes it is based in Northern Ireland, ethical, sustainable, and are fighting homelessness).
3. Going out for crisp Autumn walks
I find it so important for my mental health to get some fresh air (and the air certainly is fresh in Autumn!) each day. November is a particularly tricky month for me, so I set myself a challenge to do 12,000 steps each day - that’s a target I can’t hit by accident. I have to be intentional and go out each day. I get a good audiobook (last November, I listened to Where the Crawdads Sing, The Hiding Place (I love Corrie Ten Boom!) and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I go out for a walk each day and it really helps with my frame of mind and generally feeling more alive through the cold dark months.
Walk through the crunchy leaves, admire the colours on the trees, make a beeline for the brambles, pick a few blackberries, and look for conkers, orangey-red leaves and acorns to make a lovely collection of autumnal treasure.
4. Baking autumnal fruit pies.
Here, you’re killing three birds with one stone. Autumn is great for fruit picking - make the most of those autumnal walks and bring a box to fill with blackberries, plant some autumn fruiting raspberry canes in your garden and find some cooking apples or pears to add to include in your fruit pies. Pies are a wonderful comfort food, perfect for dark cold evenings, and maybe as a reward for going out on that walk you really didn’t want to go on. Crumbles are also a wonderful comfort food to bake with the fruit of your foraging (pun completely intended) and you can alternate between pies and crumbles using the same fruits you have found or bought. The third bird you’re killing with the stone is adding heat both to your home with the oven in use and to your body as you eat warm apple pie!
5. Hot drinks in my favourite mug
I drink tea year-round. I am British after all! But when the weather gets cooler, I also enjoy drinking a mug of hot water (my 25-year-old self would screw up her nose in disgust at this, but it has grown on me) and hot chocolate. Hot chocolate will always remind me of my first date with my now husband - we met in a coffee shop in February 2010 and had luxury hot chocolate (which includes whipped cream, marshmallows and a flake!!) and chatted for hours, eventually sharing a bowl of nachos too. These days, I love the caramel hot chocolate and the white hot chocolate from hotel chocolat (I usually find stuff in their sales), and the cool mint hot chocolate and the s’mores hot chocolate from a local brand called Hotties. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I’m sure you can get all the warm fuzzy feelings hot drinks sat cross cross applesauce in my favourite comfy chair give me with a flat white as well.
6. Good, thick socks and a great pair of slippers
Here come some more recommendations. I have found the perfect socks and two sets of slippers which I have loved. The socks I love are from Next - they are wellie socks, super thick, super long and last ages. I am not exaggerating when I say I wore the same two pairs of socks (they come in a set of 2) for 6 months of the year for 3 years. They eventually got holes in them and my husband got me a new set of 2 pairs for Christmas. I am wearing them right now and will do until March or April. They change the design on the socks, as the first set were navy blue and yellow, while this new set I have are navy, mint and pink. Still as comfy and durable though!
Slippers. I had a pair of Gumbies which lasted me 4 years. They were great, and I would get them again. Someone recommended Mahabis when my Gumbies finally gave up the ghost, so I have Mahabis now. They are good too, I love the sole and how soft and cosy they are, but I prefer the width of the Gumbies. I love that both these slippers are soft and cosy but also suitable to wear to pop in the car to get a pint of milk or walk down the garden to take the bin out,
My toppest top tips for getting through the darker months.
Before I leave you with this lovely list of autumn goodness, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share my top two tips for getting through the darker month (on top of availing of all the goodness autumn has to offer.
The first one is to put fairy lights up in the living room and our bedroom and keep them up all year round. I light them daily and make a conscious effort to have them on as much as possible when the days get darker. The sparkly brings joy and hope, and the lovely feeling of Christmas stays with you throughout autumn and winter. I noticed people kept their lights up much longer after Christmas 2020 and I think it’s because they needed some joy and light in a turbulent world with no end to the dark in sight. I’m taking this and running with it, making every January and February fairy light sparkly.
For the last 2 winters (and autumn), we have had a routine or even tradition of choosing a good box set and working our way through it. The way we’ve done this is watching one episode each evening after dinner under a duvet with a homemade pick n mix - turn the fairy lights on for added happiness. In 2020/21, we watched Line of Duty, and last year, we went through This is Us (happy sigh) and this year, we are finally watching the West Wing. Any good box set recommendations for when we get done with 8 whole wonderful seasons, hit me up!