Scents of Autumn

What I love about perfume is the variety you can give yourself. One day I can smell like a flower garden and the next I can be a spice garden. Despite spending my teenage years with a bright pink bottle from the market of ‘like’ YSL Baby Doll, I have always had a delight for the woody and spice colognes and autumn and winter is a perfect time for these.

It was my mum who, when i was little, taught me to look at the ‘mens’ perfumes as she had done. In the 70’s there was probably much more distinction between what was women’s perfume and mens aftershave, whereas these days it’s often just down to the marketing and scents are much more interchangeable (I remember buying my first bottle of unisex CK One and feeling very grown up). Anything with the following words will always catch my eye, sandalwood, pachouli, oud, wood etc.

Here are a few utterly gorgeous woody spicy incensey scents

Tom Ford – Sahara Noir

Top Notes: Bergamot, Mandarin, Violet, Ginger, Basil. Heart Notes: Grapefruit blossom, Orange blossom, Tobacco, Black pepper. Base notes: Amber, Cedarwood, Patchouli, Oak moss, Leather (source)

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Floris – Mahon Leather

Top notes: citrus, jasmine. Heart notes: iris, leather, saffron, vetiver. Base notes: amber, labdanum, musk, patchouli, sandalwood, tonka bean

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Creed – Original Santal and Royal Oud

Santal – Top notes: Orange tree absolute, Jamaican ginger. Heart notes: Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary, Juniper berry. Base notes: Absolute vanilla, Sandal wood from Mysore, Virginian cedar, Benzoin from Thailand, Ambergris, Tonkin musk

Royal Oud (eek I saw the price only after smelling this one) – Top notes: Lemon, Pink pepper, Bergamot. Heart notes: Angelica, Bitter green galbanum, Lebanese cedar. Base notes: Sandalwood, Oud, Musk

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Crabtree & Evelyn – Indian Sandalwood

Top Notes: bergamot, cypress, elemi. Heart Notes: lavender, ylang ylang, cinnamon. Base Notes: vetiver, sandalwood, cedarwood

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There are some new ones ‘Persian The’ and ‘Oud Assam’ but alas my local shop closed and so I haven’t been able to sample them (bigger problem – where will i get the worlds greatest lipbalm!)

Unfortunately I do have rather expensive tastes in perfume. However in the case of Tom Ford, a little really does go a long way; you only need one squirt of Black Orchid (i’ve had this for years and it only comes out on occasions) and it lasts all day (and if you get it on your clothes all week!). This is one of the reasons I will always go for eau de cologne or parfum as you really are investing in quality (although I do have some everyday Yardley EDT)

Making Beans Better

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I am probably right when I guess that almost everyone probably has a tin of beans in their pantry. I mean they are a store cupboard staple and beans on toast is such an easy win when you cant be bothered to cook.

But, they can be a little bland and I find some brands can be very sweet (my tin has 21g sugar in!) so here are a few ideas to make your beans the best they can possibly be. (use whatever ingredients you fancy but this is what i’m having tonight). Bonus! only needs one pan

Finely chop half a red onion and fry in a saucepan in a little olive oil. Chop and add some chorizo and one clove of garlic. Once the onion is softened to your taste add 1/4 tsp chilli powder (or whatever your spicy taste), 1tsp paprika, splash of balsamic vinegar and stir. Add in the tin of beans, mix and heat till done. You can also add a little tomato puree if you like.

I had a jacket sweet potato rather than toast (super yum, seasonal and only 10 ish mins to microwave). Top with grated cheese, pepper and a sliced spring onion. I would usually make a salad with a jacket but this time its broccoli

Olive bread in a thunderstorm

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A couple of weekends ago I really fancied baking something a little different for lunch (not the usual while loaf I make for breakfasts). I rather had the idea for something with olives in. I had recently finished ‘Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery’ by Jenny Colgan (Mt Polbearne no.2) and remembered that this was one of the recipes in the back.

I had woken up at 7am on a Sunday morning, bounced out of bed, put on my ‘happy’ playlist and set to work with the mixer. The first thing that puzzled me was that it said 1tbsp of salt. Really? tbsp not tsp, but yes I made sure that I read the recipe several times and followed it to the letter. One minor oversight may have been not rinsing the olives before adding them to the mixture (they were in brine). It took longer than I thought for the kneading, staying sticky for a long time.

Anyway the dough was proving and despite it being morning it had been getting darker and darker and the rain started pouring down. I was in the middle of the washing up and ‘holding out for a hero’ was blearing out of the speakers, when suddenly the thunder rolled (quite appropriate dramatic timing really).

Now the point of this story is that by mid afternoon the dough had still not risen and so my question is “can bread rise in a thunderstorm?”. I know that atmospheric pressure will affect the proving process but the exact physics I am unclear of. My first fear was that all the salt had killed the yeast, but my failsafe of heating the oven to 50c then turning it off and putting the bread inside did make it rise enough to bake on the second prove.

The bread was really nice, but really really salty and i recommend it best dipped in tomato soup. It had quite a dense spongey texture and I don’t know if its supposed to be like that but I can see next time I make it.

Owning a pink kettle

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My kettle is pink, and i mean bright fuchsia pink. As much as I adore the colour pink i am not usually a fan of any sort on technology being pink (for a start it can often look really tacky), however one day I decided I wanted a pink kettle so I bought this one from Amazon. Being plastic it was reasonably cheap (under £20) and it does tend to spill a bit if you arent pouring very slowly but I really think it was worth it. It makes me happy every time I boil it. Here are a couple of other options. My favourite is the Smeg one, its a lovely shade of light pink and very classy.

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Kenwood also do pink, its very vibrant (and personally i prefer the yellow)

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There are some things in life that you use every day and if possible make it something you really love. My toaster is the most epic toaster ever, its sage green and looks like it came out of the Jetsons kitchen.

Your tisane, Monsieur Poirot

                    Miss Lemon: Your tisane, Monsieur Poirot
                    Hercule Poirot: Thank you, Miss Lemon. This is what you need, Hastings.
                    Captain Hastings: No fear; I’ve tasted it.

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Monsiour Poirot is always calling for his tisane and waving away the traditional tea and coffee of the British. Tisane, is just the name for what we usually call herbal teas (the word tea having been widened in its definition to include infusions not just using the leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis)

Herbal teas are like a lucky dip, you can either love or hate the results and often looking at the packets you cant even begin to imagine what they taste like, especially the ones with a variety of ingredients. I have been drinking herbal teas for many years now, some because of the health benefits and others because I just enjoy them. From experience I have never found a fruit tea that I like, I find the idea of hot fruit offputting (unless its in crumble). Here is what I have been drinking recently

Yogi Classic Chai (cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, pepper, cloves): I love chai tea (which I only ever drink without milk – although I may try it infused into hot milk or hot chocolate). Another spice one is Pukka After Dinner which includes chicory, fennel and cardamon. The spice infustions are definately my favourite and a staple for the autumn and winter months. There are so many different variations in the ingredients and their ratios that I want to try them all such as Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice and Yogi Himalaya.

Pukka Love (rose, lavender and chamomile): From the ingredients on the front of the box I dont think I would ever have picked this up (although I do like rose petal tea) however my friend gave me a box as a present once and i really loved it. It is a really relaxing tea and can be perfect for any time of the day.

Echinacea (immune system): I am about to start drinking a cup of this every morning in the run up to winter. As a teenager my mum got the the tablets but once I discovered how nice the tea tasted I switched to that. I only ever have the pure echicacea however I am tempted by the one with lavender

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I always check the ingredients on the back of the boxes. They are usually listed in order of quantity so i watch out for ones with vanilla or liquorice root near the top as these are often used to sweeten the tea, something which I am not at all keen on

Here are a few more I drink from time to time and their health properties:

Fennel (digestion): Rather than bothering with tea bags I just take a pinch of seeds from my spice jar and since they mostly sink this works really well

Mint (digestion): This is one which I never go for the tea bags (which seem to taste vile if you brew them for longer than 2 seconds) I only ever drink fresh. Its a good idea to keep a mint plant in a pot to just snip off a couple of leaves into your cup.

Nettle (catarrh): I really try not to think about the smell or taste of this and concentrate on how good it is supposed to be for me. Its not that it tastes bad, its just that it tastes ‘healthy’ if you know what I mean.

A seasonal healthy boost

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When the seasons start to change, its a natural transition and makes me feel inspired to make changes too in my life. I know its still technically summer, and it is generally warm but hey have you seen outside recently. If summer wants one last fling I’m all for it but I know a lot of people are already starting to feel autumnal.

My focus at the moment is to be more healthy in these areas

  • Take greater care of my teeth
  • Start a proper skincare regime for my face
  • Eat more fruit
  • Go to the gym more
  • Take vitamin supplements

You may have seen some of this in my instagram posts but I will be focusing much more on each of them here. What’s great is that doing this has made me feel a lot more positive about things and checking things off in my planner makes me feel I have achieved something (even if it’s small)