How to beat the winter blues

The start of September brings with it a mixed bag of emotions for many of us. The holidays are over, summer is drawing (somewhat sharply) to a close, days are getting shorter and the weather has taken a very decided turn for the worst.  Throw in the childhood association of early September with the dreaded return to school and the knowledge we could be in for 6 months of lousy weather and it can be hard to adopt a positive outlook when you open the curtains to yet another downpour and must don wellies, waterproofs and wet weather gear before leaving the house, brolly in tow.

But, mindful of that old adage “pick your attitude”, I decided to compile a list of quick fix ways to make September – and the summer’s departure – a time you relish rather than resent.

Invest in practical but pretty pieces

Who wants to arrive at work wet, cold and bedraggled? Absolutely nobody, which is why investing in clothing that will keep you warm and dry is a must. But if you are going to have to don practical clothing then keep it pretty – and the brighter the better. I genuinely look forward to a downpour; it’s an excuse to put on my bright yellow waterproof mac which always attracts admirers. The same is true of my ankle wellington boots which are black (practical) but with a cute gold bow (pretty). My walk to the work is bearable and I arrive warm, dry and not resembling a drowned rat.

Indulge in guilt free duvet days

One of the greatest joys of a wet weekend is feeling a total lack of guilt about spending the day tucked up in bed, chocolate on lap, tea in hand and Come Dine With Me on loop.  Of course this can be done any time of year, but during the summer it comes with a sense of panic about wasting the last days of summer. In Autumn/Winter you can lounge in your pajamas all day long without an ounce of guilt. Bliss.

Which leads us neatly on to…

Bask in the glow of great TV

Those clever telly people know that dark, drizzly nights mean a captive audience of couch potatoes who cant face leaving the lounge for longer than it takes to grab a second glass of wine.  Which means the return of some of televisions best. We’re particularly looking forward to a dose of scandal amid the scullery maids when Downton Abbey returns on SEptember 18th, a fix of bitchiness and bling with Essex’s finest when TOWIE airs at the end of September and with X-factor back in its regular slot and keeping us company until Christmas the prospect of a night in with the remote doesn’t seem quite so gloomy.

Leave your desk every day

There is nothing more soul destroying than leaving home in the morning to be met by darkness and then departing the office at the end of the day to find the sun has departed. If you have followed tip 1 then you will be fully kitted out to leave the office whatever the weather, now all you need is somewhere to escape too and maybe some friends to join you!  Find yourself a little haven which will ensure you escape the office and get some daylight – it could be a local deli that serves a mean chilli con carne or a book shop with a café inside – we promise you will feel all the better for it

Celebrate the end of bikini tyranny

Farewell to a semi naked Kate Moss jumping into the Med. Ta-ra to the voluptuous Kelly Brook bouncing down a Barbadian beach. And so long to bikini clad Halle Berry driving us to the brink of tears with her perfect abs. You will absolutely not be missed. Hoorah we cheer, lifting our Haagen Daazs tubs to the sky, for September marks an end of the daily slideshow of celebrities and their heavenly figures and with it our desperate attempts to sculpt the perfect bikini body. And we have a good 8 months until the cycle starts again; 8 months in which to embark on a gentle fitness programme with no pressure and a realistic amount of time to achieve results.  Or 8 months we can spend in blissful awareness we will be covered up in chunky knits, full-length macs and slankets for the foreseeable future. Your choice!

Finally…

Embark on one final resolution

With just over 3 months until Christmas, now is the time to re-visit that crumpled and oft-ignored New Year resolution list and pick just one achievable goal to accomplish before Christmas. Whether it be growing your nails, learning French or putting more money aside – with 14 weeks to go you have enough time to make great strides towards a goal you may otherwise have ignored and will be able to give yourself a bit pat on the back come Christmas.

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This and that

A quick look at what the last few weeks have entailed, little snapshots of some of my favourite things.

Making sausage sandwiches for a crowd of hungover friends (always on soft white bread with salted butter), the evening sunlight on the wall of a friend’s kitchen, my favourite dessert from Cafe Pacifico in Covent Garden – deep fried flour tortilla wedges covered in honey, cinnamon and vanilla ice cream, some solace from the Central London heat in the gardens at the British Museum, the view from the train to my spiritual home, Devon.

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Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century

During my short stint at University (I left after a year to work as a runner at a television production company) I studied American Literature and fell in love.

The object of my affections was not a greasy haired, pot smoking Philosophy student…rather a glamorous film star with whom I still hold an unhealthy infatuation. May I introduce to you, my first love, the exquisite Miss Elizabeth Taylor.

One of my all time favourite plays, A Streetcar Named Desire, was masterfully adapted to the screen in 1966 and starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as the warring George and Martha in a heartbreaking tale of the ravaging effects of age, ego, alcohol and love on two human beings.

Of course Elizabeth and Richard acted out an even more tragic love story of their own off screen, and that fascinating story is being examined in all its gory detail in a book out this month: Furious Love by authors Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger. I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy and pore over the details of the ultimate Hollywood coupling. Forget about Brangelina or TomKat, these two had more passion, glamour and intrigue in their sparring little fists!

Below, my favourite Liz picture (also featuring the legend that is David Bowie)

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Dove 2 in 1 Daily Therapy

One of the perks of living with my flatmates, who I concede are unusually groomed for two young men, is discovering a world of cosmetics that may  otherwise have remained undiscovered to me. Two in one shampoo/conditioner is one such product which I never would have considered using had it not been for a last minute realisation I’d forgotten to take my  products down to the boys’ bathroom one day (I have my own shower but it was broken).

Dove 2 in 1 Daily Therapy left my hair soft, shiny, clean and smelling completely fragrant. It didn’t compromise by containing the properties of shampoo but not conditioner, or vice versa. I may not use this every day, although this is probably more habit than anything else, but it is great for the gym (taking up half the space and half the time in the shower) and I would have no qualms in using this as an everyday part of my grooming routine. Also it is ludicrously cheap at £2.50 – leaving plenty of money to splash out on a deep conditioning treatment for special occasions.

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Meal for one

I eat out as much as I can, whether it be at a pub, restaurant, canape fuelled party or at the homes of my generous friends. It is one of my great pleasures – I’d far rather sit whiling away an evening over a 3 course meal than at a busy bar or club. But when I made the decision to enter journalism and leave my well paid third sector job I also knew I’d be waving goodbye to the regular habit of dining out.

So it is that I now often find myself heading home and deciding between two options that anyone eating alone must deal with – do I slob it out or step up?

My flatmates often eat late and regularly cook pre-packaged meals from M&S and Sainsburys and as I try not to eat past 8 and don’t especially like pre-prepared food I often opt out of eating together. But I am so drawn to the idea of a lazy supper taken straight from the freezer (last night I ate wedges, scampi and peas!) despite the fact I love to cook.

It just feels like cooking anything fancy, and the inevitable pile of washing up it creates, is so much effort when its just me eating. I know I should spoil myself, just as I would a friend or boyfriend, but sometimes I cannot be arsed!

As such I do have a series of recipes I have perfected which involve just one dish, one pan and one plate. The picture above is of a particular favourite, bulgur wheat topped with roasted tomatoes, olive oil, griled chicken and feta. I ate it a few nights ago, as the evening sun streamed through my kitchen window and I enjoyed a well earned glass of chilled white wine, and remembered that giving myself a bit of TLC is no bad thing!

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Sweet treats

The white chocolate Mikado stick is fast becoming a very hard core addiction of mine. During my first week of being a non-smoker I have been feasting as if there were no tomorrow and these crispy, thin biscuits covered in sweet white chocolate have been keeping my nictoine cravings at bay. At only 11 calories a stick they are not too naughty either – unless of course you consume 40 in one sitting like I may have done earlier today.

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Photogenic food

The photography of food is a craft I would love to master. I have a small Panasonic Lumix digital camera, with a leica lens, which has a high spec and takes beautiful pictures considering its reasonable price tag. But I have a lot to learn when it comes to photography, having never taken a course and being entirely self-taught. I actually live with a photographer and he does his best to teach his impatient student, who wants to KNOW IT ALL NOW.

I mainly learn through scouring blogs, Flickr, websites and FFFFOUND and bookmarking the images which appeal to me before studying them for hours to work out why I love them. For now I am happy to learn as I go, snapping pictures of almost every meal I consume. Here are a few of my favourites from my collection, more to come as I go.

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