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Today marks the official beginning of autumn - the autumnal equinox.

Not that you're in any danger of missing it - Instagram, blogs and Twitter seem to be covered with the requisite 'hygge', wooly jumpers and mugs of tea posts - and look at me doing all three today. I'm a real blogger now!

Still, jokes aside, this is my favourite season. I love the slight chill in the air - the still bright mornings and cosier evenings, the indulgence of choosing to stay in and snuggle rather than feeling like you should spend every waking moment outside. I'm a home comforts kinda gal, and this season plays into that tendency. More than that, it's the time of year I find myself productive, inspired and recharged, ready to work. So I thought I'd combine that energy with another favourite of mine - list-making - and jot down a 'could do' list for this beautiful time of year.

- Host a movie night, ideally with baked goods: I don't know if it's GBBO, or the whole 'nesting' thing, or just sugar and carbs, but damn do I want to bake some deliciousness right now! I'd love to rustle up a crumble or cherry pie - I made this banana and cinnamon loaf from Madeleine Shaw's recipe book last week and it was super delish!

- Go on a long walk in Scorton, or Beacon Fell: One I hope to get done this weekend! We're up north in Poulton visiting James' family, and the area they live in, being so close to the Lake District, is just beautiful for long walks and exploring. It's so idyllic and calm, it always makes me feel better and so much more relaxed.

- Get back into a proper reading habit: Summer always seems to break all the good habits I try to form in the winter and spring, and reading (and my book club!) has fallen prey to the usual 'plans every weekend' problem. Now that we'll be spending more time indoors and slowing down for the colder months, it'll be a good time to dive into my 'to read' pile.

- ... And get back into good habits: Rome happened, summer plans happened, and the gym and home cooked meals sort of fell off the wagon a little. So it's time to fix up look sharp, find a routine that works for me and get back in the kitchen. I'm feeling much more inspired to give cooking a go and dust off the ol' slow cooker so I can leave things bubbling away while we're at work. I'm also really intrigued by The Roasting Tin - one pan meals are A-OK with me - no brainers! As for working out, I'm determined to give this pilates class right next to where I live a go... if only I could rope a willing pal into going with me...

- Have an all-out girls shopping day with my mum, followed by whiskey cocktails: This one's pretty specific, but I'm actually going to get to see my mum fairly near to the festive season this year, and how often does that happen?! Erm, never. So I'm planning a special day for the two of us to shop 'til we drop, have a special lunch and cocktails a-plenty at the new The Alchemist opening in town. So. Bloody. Excited.

- Get back to writing every night: I had such a great habit going last autumn and winter, and I'm excited to get back to what I love the most - writing, creating, storytelling, and working on content. I'm so jazzed that I'm feeling inspired again!

- Treat myself: Work is stepping up a gear, I have a lot of personal projects to tend to, and taking time to rest and repair is really important when you're firing on that many cylinders. I don't want to get burnt out or sick, so building in some regular chill out time and creating rituals around finishing work and starting rest will be really important for me.

- Invest in bedding: To that end - time to get honest: my bed frame, mattress and pillows absolutely blow. I don't remember the last time I had a really restful night's sleep. Every time I stay at my grandma's house it's like sleeping on a cloud made of marshmallows, and I need to get me some of that. So, whilst it'll be a slow process, I want to buy us at least pillows, a mattress topper, and high quality bedding that will really give us good nights' sleeps in it!

- Stock up on all the tea: No, not THAT tea, hunty... cups of tea! I love a good cuppa and flavours like Spiced Pumpkin Pie are just too good to resist, no?

What have you all got planned for autumn? 

It's Autumn! Or, at least, my clothes say so.

I've filmed another sit down video (at LONG last) for you guys today, and this one is a collective haul talking about a couple of pieces I picked up both ahead of our trip to Rome and also in preparation for chillier weather in September and October - think lots of leaf-y colours, and the intro of boots and a cheeky bit of knitwear. It's almost Autumn, I can feel it!

The fantastic team at Tobi got in touch and asked if I'd like to try some pieces from their line, which I was delighted to do, so parts of this video do feature items I was kindly gifted. However as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and in the try-on segments of the videos you can see the quality, fit and style of the pieces, which I was really impressed by! For saying that the clothes are competitively priced, I wasn't expecting such good quality when I received them. The fabrics they use are really lovely, and I think the styles are also a lot of fun. One to bookmark!

I hope you enjoy this slightly different style of video from me - I am by NO stretch of the imagination a fashion blogger or vlogger, but it was definitely fun to try on the clothes and give you my honest feedback on camera! Would you be interested in seeing more of this type of video?




TIPS:

If you're planning on getting a cab, only use the Roma Capitale approved city cabs with meters. Opportunistic hawkers wait for confused tourists getting off the Leonardo express at Termini and they will charge you literally triple the standard fare. I speak as someone who has been burned, trust.

Book ahead. Book ahead, book ahead, book ahead. Book your Colosseum tickets, book your Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museum tickets, book everything you can. I wouldn't say having a guide is super necessary in every case, but if you'd like to do the hypogeum tour and 3rd tier of the Colosseum, make sure you book the guided tour waaaay in advance. We couldn't get our tickets in time and it's my ONE regret!

Wake up early. We were up every day by 8am and the hours of 8-11 were SO amazing for walking around town. The cruise ships and tourist shuttles haven't arrived yet, and you get free run of the piazzas without 500 people trying to sell something to you. It was through doing this that we rounded a corner and 'stumbled on' the Pantheon for the first time - it made me cry! I wasn't expecting it and it was just so magical.

Never buy water. Rome has so many free, fresh drinking water fountains, so take a reusable bottle and fill up as you walk around. There's even freshwater fountains at tourist attractions! If you ever need a hand finding one, there's this super fantastic app to point out your nearest one.

Learn some basic Italian. Rome is full of a lot of tourists, so being able to say a polite 'per favore', 'grazie mille' or 'prego' makes a lot of difference. Before we left I read so much about how 'rude' Romans were, and I never once encountered that. They were patient with my beginner's Italian, very encouraging, gracious and familial. It reminded me so much of Arabic culture, I felt so at home.

Visit midweek. Our days Wednesday through Friday were so much more enjoyable (read: less insanely crowded) than the weekend days. Just our POV obviously, but for us when we next visit it'll be during the weekdays.


PACK:

Trainers and/or blister plasters. Rome is really walkable, and should be walked. The city basically cries out for footfall. Getting lost in the backstreets, meandering around of an afternoon - that's what will make up some of your most memorable moments in the Eternal City. And if you're about to walk around in anything other than your comfiest shoes (we averaged 30,000 steps a day!), you're gonna need Compeed!

Your camera. Outside of New York, this is one of the most photogenic cities I've ever visited, no matter the time of day. Any light makes Rome look good, and if you're a bit of a photography buff, there's so much you're going to want to capture here.

No make up. I barely wore a stitch while I was there - I think the most 'made up' I went out was a black cat eye, some mascara, concealer and a red lip. Italian women (and men!) are effortlessly glam and going out in a fully bronzed, contoured and baked face of slap is going to look totally bizarre here.

A suitcase. One of my real regrets is having stupid hand luggage restrictions because I so desperately wanted to carry back some wine, some of the delicious spek we ate whilst there, maybe some cheese. You're basically going to want to transport Italy home with you, so consider it if you can.

Headwear. If you're travelling in summer right through to late September, you're going to need a hat or head scarf for the days you're exposed to a lot of sun (I'm looking at you, Colosseum and Palatine Hill).


STAY:


Prepare for a little freakout over our amazing AirBNB hostess Margherita, because this lady was just the sweetest, kindest, loveliest host. Our flight was delayed and we were quite some time getting into the city, then we had a little freakout over the doors in the apartment building, but she was calm, glamorous (of course) and so accommodating to our every need. She bought a bottle of red to help us celebrate James' 30th, breakfast and coffee and tea for the morning, and water and OJ. Everything had been considered, down to circling our nearest supermarkets (and pizza spots!) on a map.

The flat was gorgeous - right in the middle of everything - if I had one recommendation of where to stay in Rome it'd be this - stay as close to the Piazza Navona as you can. The Vatican and Colosseum were barely 20 minute walks from us, and everywhere else was between 5 and 10 minutes. It was the handiest for getting around, and as we had an apartment of our own it meant we could come back for a quick afternoon nap and perk-up before heading out for aperitivo and dinner!

Unlike other European cities, Rome doesn't really have a 'lull' after like 11.30 AM - it gets busy and stays that busy. So yes, restaurants will fill up from around 8 - 8.30 PM, and you'll probably be crowd-fighting to get wherever your going. That'd be why I'd recommend putting yourself somewhere as central as possible - it gives you the very early morning and later evening to really enjoy the city without the chaos!


SEE:


Obviously, the Colosseum. Go early, ideally as close to its 8.30 opening time as possible. Watching the sun rise as we walked around this incredible ancient ruin was something that I'll remember always. Included in your entry ticket for 48 hours you can also get into Palatine Hill, where the Forum is. If possible, I'd book a guide for this part, or just try and subtly follow around an English speaking tour group. You'll get a lot more out of your visit if you know what you're looking at.

I'm biased, but I do think the Piazza Navona is one of the most beautiful piazzas in Rome. The back streets around here have the BEST restaurants and cafes too, and it's just a beautiful area in general to wander around. They used to flood this place and have war games with ships in the square. It's unreal. And one of the most beautiful examples of Italian sculpture and architecture in the fountains and buildings surrounding. 

It goes without saying that the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Pantheon are all musts, but one place I really regret not getting to (we had a pretty bad storm on our last day) were the Borghese Gardens. Next time! A friend recommended that we visit GiNa's and get a picnic hamper on our way up to the gardens, and that does sound like a pretty dreamy way to spend an afternoon the next time we visit. 

The Vatican, St. Peter's and the Sistine Chapel are another absolute must-do, but a word to the wise - obviously pre-book your Vatican Museum tickets, but don't go in for the full guided tour option. So many touts will try and talk you into this on your walk up - we didn't take a guide, and we didn't spend two and a half hours queuing for the Basilica either. It's a little cheeky, but once you finish your Vatican Museums tour in the Sistine Chapel, head for the back right corner of the room. If it's a busy enough day, the door that tour groups take straight through to the Basilica will be so crowded that no one will be checking who is with who. Follow the masses and head straight through to St. Peter's unburdened by queues! Just act like you belong. We got straight in with no trouble at all, but I hear this is pot luck as to whether guards are being particularly vigilant that day. Use your best judgement!

SHOP:

This is the only category I genuinely don't feel qualified to advise you on! We were really disappointed in how tourist-y the selection of souvenir shopping on offer in Rome was. We usually like to visit an independent shop or two from the area we've stayed in, and we couldn't find anywhere that looked vaguely authentic or like we would've been supporting a small business. I'm guessing because city rents are so high and the souvenir stalls and shops are sort of like a mafia, that kind of thing just doesn't exist in the Centro Storico (historical centre) of Roma. But please, if any of you know of any good places to pick up artisanal craft bits in Rome, leave a comment! We were really hoping to get a sketch drawing or maybe even a bit of soft furniture for the house from our amazing trip, but no luck! We brought home a cute fridge magnet instead.

That being said, if you're looking to *shop*, the roads around Piazza di Spagna are where you want to be. I peeped at least one COS, & Other Stories, a Sephora and several Zaras around there, so if I had a bigger case, I would've gone hard. 



EAT:


La Montecarlo: To the waiters that worked here and entertained my efforts in Italian - vi amo tutti. This was the best pizza we had and the house red here made me start looking into emmigration. I'm serious - it was our first meal, and arguably one of our best (we revisited). It was an authentic experience - loud, family-run, chaotic and totally running on the charm/flirtatious energy of the guys that worked there, but I felt so welcome and happy every time we ate here. The food was amazing - get the suppli to start, and then go crazy - for pizza, the fiori de zucca comes highly recommended, as does the prosciutto. 

Beer and Salt: I do not have words to tell you how good the paninis are here. This place was a haven to us after a lot, hot morning exploring the Colosseum and Palatine Hill - we arrived starving and thirsty, and two ice cold beers along with perfect sandwiches on fresh ciabatta and focaccia was the stuff of little angel dreams. If I could give you one recommendation, it'd be get the pear, blue cheese, gorgonzola and spek on ciabatta. One of the best things I have put into my mouth in my entire life. RUN, DON'T WALK.

Il Gelato Di San Crispino: I present to you the best gelato in Rome, ladies and gents. And after 7 trips to gelaterias in the space of 4 and a half days, I should know. I kept coming back to this place because the texture was so smooth and perfect, the flavours were incredible and every time I went I could try something different and love it as much as I did the first time. A lady who served me in Waterstones insisted I go here, to the point where she wrote it down on a Post It for me and made sure I put it in my wallet - and now, I get it. Thank you, lady in Waterstones. You did me a solid that I will never be able to repay you fully for.

Get cacio e pepe because it will redefine what you think you know about 'good' pasta. Literally cheese and black pepper, but this tastes like a festival of yes in your mouth. And get Carbonara because when in Rome, right? (Be prepared to say 'when in Rome' a hell of a lot when it comes to your eating habits)



Don't eat at the squares or piazzas. Controversial, but hear me out. If you sit on a square, you're going to get charged at least 10-20% extra 'a tavolo' (table charge), and for the scenic view. You're also going to get hawked by buskers who will sing to you at your table (nice for about 30 seconds, and then awkward) and then demand payment, and harass you if they don't get it/don't get a fee they like. You also probably won't get the best food at these places. It's a gross generalisation but I found following the 'no tourist traps' and 'no pictures of food on the menu' rule to be quite helpful in Rome.

Gratuity is often included so don't tip unless service was really outstanding, and even then, one or two euros/whatever is coin change is considered recognition enough. 

Eat and walk, walk and eat. One of the best ways to 'see' rome is to eat your way around it - one of my favourite meals was a cannoli picked up at Pasticceria La Deliziosa (oh man, what I wouldn't do for that cannoli right now) for 2 euro. Also, Italian 'supermarket sandwiches' (i.e. ones you pick up at Co Op) are nicer than ones you'd get at most restaurants in London. If you're ever fancying a 'cheap' meal go for aperitivo in Trastavere at somewhere like Freniefrizoni and pay for your drinks, but get a whole buffet of deliciousness included. IKR, where is this part of English culture?

There'll be a vlog coming very soon documenting everything we got up to, but I hope this guide was helpful for now! There really is no place like Rome in the entire world, and we're already dreaming about when we get to go back there - I can't recommend it highly enough. It was the perfect way to surprise J for his 30th birthday!

I 👏 AM 👏 OBSESSED 👏 WITH 👏 THESE 👏 ACCOUNTS.

And I won't apologise for it. Instagram is the visual equivalent of a blog these days and to be honest, very often it's the platform I spend most of my time browsing through, just admiring peoples' aesthetics and all of the beautifully curated points of view on there. It's a peculiar kind of vice.

I've gathered together some of my absolute fav accounts of late, because who doesn't need more fodder for their feed? There's a little description about what to expect next to each, but really the photographs speak for themselves I think. Check them out!

@emmatheyellow: I think I stumbled across Emma through Glossier and man, am I glad I did. Homegirl has one of my favourite Instastory feeds, her photographs are always beautifully and thoughtfully composed, and she's a bookworm, just like me. And a Cancer, just like me. Her style is also impeccable. Basically, new crush.

@sortofobsessed: If you haven't heard of this account and you love your skincare - YOU'RE WELCOME. Adri has, bar none, one of the best Instas I've seen for skincare and beauty product flatlays and styling ever. I could spend hours going through all of her mini-reviews and morning and evening routines. Her use of light and shadow gives me serious heart eyes all over the place.

@gelcream: Along similar lines is mini-blog Gelcream. The standard of writing and photography on this account is just phenomenal and each post is a mini blog article in itself. When I think about the direction the platform is going in and where blogging could get to in the future, this is the account I reference.

@emmahill: Totally in love with Emma Hill. Her blog, her YouTube channel, her Insta - I don't care, it's all flippin' fantastic, expertly styled and her YT is funny as balls. Her and her husband just seem like the type of people you want to invite round. Coming from Essex, her accent is a total comfort to me (I don't think she's from Essex but she has a strong London accent like a lot of my family). Seriously, I don't know where I was hiding but I couldn't recommend this lady's content more.

@stylememos: What an absolute babe of a human Alexis is. This account is still very new to me but I love the professional, clean look of her feed and how she styles her outfits. She's also absolutely BEAUT.

@being_little: I've been a fan of Lyzi's blog for a long time, but she's really been killing it on Instagram lately. Her stories are fab and often full of fun things to do in Bristol (which you know is a fav of mine), and whilst not 'themed' (I don't think?) her pictures look like a gallery - she has a really cohesive point of view. Definitely one of my favs to just scroll and scroll.

@allthatisshe: Dominique has the most beautiful feed. She takes incredible photographs, has the most amazing series with her daughters (#allthatisthree) and really pushes the boundaries of the medium and the platform. Cannot get enough of her style and I always look forward to seeing what she does next!

Autumn is about the time that my reading list really takes off.

And by takes off, I mean gets ticked off. Summer brings with it non stop plans, family time and holidays, but Autumn lends itself to cosying up with a blanket, a big mug of tea and a good book - ideal for someone who has a lot of titles to get through this season. Not only am I a month behind on my book club (for shame), but I've also got quite a few picks of my own that I want to wing through. Still, here are the special few I did get through this summer.

WHAT I'VE READ:
YOU ARE A BADASS
Jen Sincero

I wasn't sold on this at first glance, but once you get adjusted to Jen's voice (and there is an adjustment!), this book is so valuable if you're looking for career and financial success. You can really tell that Jen is a woman that works hard, works smart, and whose enthusiasm for the life she's made for herself transmits through the pages. I'm really interested to pick up her next book, You Are A Badass At Making Money. There's a lot of wisdom in this book and I'm particularly interested in her ideas around wealth and the guilt we all associate with making money. It really resonated with me!

AUTUMN
Ali Smith

I don't have words enthusiastic enough to talk articulately about how I felt about this book. It was the first book of Ali's I've read and suffice it to say two more now reside on my bookshelf. Her command of language is masterful, her characters are real - they breathe life into every page. I feel as though I know everyone she speaks about. And yet, the work is artistic - it is art - poetic in form and nature, sprawlingly ambitious, but equally cosy, familiar, homely. Perhaps because of its subject matter, this novel is so very close to home at times it is suffocating and anxiety-inducing. But like all of my favourite writing, the story Ali tells just engulfs you - you can't help but want to keep turning page after page. I devoured this book and I'm sure I will with any books of hers I read next. I'm so, so excited to have found an author I love so much, so instantaneously!

SWING TIME
Zadie Smith

Let's preface this with a fact - Zadie Smith has an incredible command of storytelling. She's so well-read and curious, and it comes across in every word she writes. Her novels are powerful - they deal with social, political and economic injustices and observations, as well as playfully weaving in pop culture and Zadie's own view of the world. This novel in particular does a wonderful job of enveloping old Hollywood glamour - Fred and Ginger, black and white movies, soft shoe and tap, jazz to swing to vaudeville colour this whirlwind of a journey through one woman's life - her dreams, her hopes, her ambitions, her suffering. Zadie knows how to write about what it is to be a woman, in a moment in time. However, I did find this novel to deal with the same kind of themes as On Beauty before it. It didn't hit me as compellingly as On Beauty, as I found the narrative voice to be a little detached. This might have been a character choice (I'm sure it was), but it did slow the pace and intent of the novel for me. However, I'm still a big fan of Zadie's, and always will be.

WHAT I'LL BE READING NEXT:

FRIEND REQUEST
Laura Marshall

HOW TO BE BOTH
Ali Smith

ARTFUL
Ali Smith

LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Otegha Uwagba
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