Tis the Season, my favourite time of year

As the season changes, we get to see Mother Nature in all her wonder as the autumn leaves treat us to an array of magical colours from burnished orange to ruby red. I just love this time of year, there is nothing lovelier than going for a walk, collecting conkers, crunching leaves underfoot and returning to a house filled with the aroma of apples and cinnamon – my daughters, Isabella, and Scarlett, love to bake, and apple pie is a favourite. The first frost of the season glistens in the early morning light. Smoke fills the evening air as the nights draw in, flickering flames and the warmth of the fire becomes a constant companion. It is quite simply my favourite time of year, a time when my thoughts inevitably start to turn to twinkling lights, soft snuggly throws, alpaca of course, and spending cosy evenings indoors with my family.

Isabella, Scarlett and I love to go conker hunting. Peak conker season also coincides with all the spiders outside wanting to come inside, seeking warmth in our homes – which I admit is my least favourite aspect of the season! I have no proof that the superstition about keeping conkers in the corner of every room really wards off spiders, but it reassures me a little to try it. It is the first of many rituals that we have as a family, each one in turn helping to create not only a warm, cosy feeling but a real sense of what our home means to us. As the weeks pass, we make slight changes room by room, adding a cushion here, a throw there, really adding to the feeling of warmth and comfort as the nights draw in.

As we approach November, there is a little frisson of festive excitement in the air, our home becomes twinkling and fragrant, filled with the sound of Classic FM as they start to play Mr Christmas himself, John Rutter. This for me, is my happy place.

I hope you enjoy my family’s autumn/winter preparations, rituals, and tips.

It starts late September, early October:

I just love wrapping up and walking the dog, walking for hours enjoying being outside, listening to a podcast or audio book. I find inspiration in the autumnal colours, and the sky, it is quite fascinating to observe as the weather changes. I love the space it gives me space to think., I get my best ideas while walking.

Enjoy autumn walks.

Collect Conkers:

The story goes that spiders do not like the aroma of conkers. Whilst out with the dog, we collect as many conkers as possible so we can scatter them generously throughout the house.
I rinse them under cold water and leave them on the side to dry.
Place the conkers along windowsills, under curtains, sofas, beds, and darker corners.
It offers me hope that unwanted visitors will be kept at bay.

Autumnal Bloom – Hydrangeas:

This is the perfect time to potter in the garden, tidying up in preparation for winter – but don’t be too tidy, seedheads look so pretty in the morning frosts, while small piles of leaves and other natural debris provide important habitat and food for insects that help to keep your garden ecosystem healthy over winter.
Dried hydrangeas come into their own as the perfect floral arrangement now. They are so pretty, long-lasting, and an enjoyable way to get the most out of the last blooms from your own garden.

Drying out Hydrangeas:
Cut the flowers when their petals are dry.
Cut your stem about 25-30cm in length from beneath the petals.
Remove all the leaves from the stem.
Place the stems into a generous-sized vase of water.
Place in a cool area away from direct sunlight whilst the water disappears.
Once the water has fully evaporated, the flowers are ready to arrange.
Arranging:
You can arrange it as a bouquet.
Place one stem at a time in a posie vase.
Place two or three vases on the fire mantel place.
Place in your entrance hall, bedside tables, on a tray on your footstool.

Autumnal Apples:

We have apple trees in the garden, and I love to collect the apples to make apple sauce or bake pies. There can be so many of them, I cannot bear them going to waste.

Tips for storing apples from the garden:

  • Keep your apples in a dark, cool, and dry place.

I use a box or basket outside the back door.

Make sure they are dry.

Wrap in newspaper/parchment, and layer carefully.

  • Alternatively Freeze them.

Mary Berry and Nigella have terrific tips for preserves and chutneys.

  • Time to prepare the Lawn for Autumn.

*  Scarify.

*  Aerate.

* Mow.

* Top/Dressing soil.

* Feed.

See Sarah Halls’s top tips on her YouTube channel.

Tips for ringing the seasonal changes room by room:

I love to set time aside to go through the house room by room, do a thorough clean and change things around. Tis the season for making things a little cosier. This also helps keep on top of things, and later makes cleaning for guests and festive preparations a little easier.

It is also a good opportunity to declutter and rethink your furniture layout, accessories, soft furnishings, and the overall ambience of any room. I love to experiment with new colours, textures, and patterns. I begin one room at a time.

I always start by emptying each room of things that can be removed easily.

  • It allows you to step back, to really look at the space, rethink how the space is working.
  • It allows for easier movement around with a duster and a vacuum.
  • Remembering less is always more, you will end up with an aesthetically pleasing and energy-enhancing space without all the unnecessary clutter.

Front door and entrance hall tips:

This is a good place to start as this is where you usually welcome guests. 

  • Start by cleaning around the front door and entrance hall.
  • If you have a boot room or utility room that is perfect to help with the outdoor considerations for muddy boots and coats. 
  • A boot rack makes a suitable alternative to place outside the front or back door to stop muddy boots from coming inside.

Not on the High Street has something for everyone.

  • Place coat hooks nearby if possible so it allows a place for everything.
  • Baskets are always handy to pop things away.
  • It is nice to have a console table for a lamp, and a tray for keys, post, and flowers.
  • A bright door mat always fun. 
  • This is also a suitable time to hang curtains at front doors and pop down draft excluders. This can really be effective in keeping the heat in temperature but also add to the feeling of warmth which is important.
  •  Place an Autumn/winter wreath on the front door with battery-operated lights entwined within. It makes things cheerful as the nights draw in. You can buy one or make your own from garden foliage.

Have a look at Cox & Cox for their lovely outdoor lighting range.

  • I also place battery-operated candles in lanterns outside the front door, it looks lovely.
  • Plant up a couple of pots with seasonal flowers or plants. 
  • Place a pumpkin on either side of the door, it just adds a pop of colour, an enjoyable way to start enjoying the run-up to Halloween.

I like symmetry, when placing anything aesthetically pleasing, look at working with odd numbers and different heights.

  • My favourite addition this year is Gisela Graham Pumpkins; they are worth the investment. They will come out year after year.

Just one room at a time:

I enjoy this process, it is not something that should be overwhelming, I work through it methodically, one room at a time. Please see my routine below as I go through my drawing room, dining room and bedrooms.

My routine and tips:

  • Open the windows every morning for a while, to bring fresh air into your home every day.
  • Wash the windows. Good old-fashioned hot soapy water and old newspaper do the trick. With a bit of hard work, they will be sparkling.
  • Wipe down the skirting boards, picture rails, architraves, doors, and handles.

Picture frames and light fitting.

  • Polish furniture.

It is a suitable time to revive wood and bring it back to life with a little beeswax or coloured scratch polish.

  • Vacuum sofas, and chairs, get down the back of all the upholstery.

It freshens and revives the fabrics.

Plump your cushions by dropping them on the floor from a height, and turn your cushions, this helps keep them in good shape.

  • Vacuum under the furniture.

If you are rearranging furniture and have indentations in the carpets, dissolve an ice cube on the spot, then hoover. This will help revive the carpet pile.

  • Vacuum the curtains and Roman blinds, using a gentle setting on the hoover.

It helps remove dust particles, refreshing the fabric.

Make sure you get up behind tracks, poles, and pelmets.

  • Dress curtains, gently putting the folds back into shape, they will stay looking lovely. 

I would not recommend dry-cleaning curtains. They will not hang in the same way, especially hand finished.

Open your curtains during the day to ensure you make the most of the sunlight warmth.

Draw at dusk to keep the warmth in.

  • Move furniture away from radiators to allow the heat to flow around the room.
  • Top up baskets with kindling and logs.

Bedrooms:

This is a suitable time to go through the wardrobe, have a clear-out, send things to the dry cleaners, and conduct repairs to anything that needs a little tender loving care. It has become a natural part of managing my house over time.

  • Vacuum under the bed.
  • Vacuum the mattress and turn.
  • Wash the mattress protector.
  • Wash duvets.
  • Store summer duvets in airtight storage.
  • Exchange for winter or add an additional duvet.
  • Change the bedding from the crips cool cotton of summer for something brushed, softer for the winter warmth.

Helena Springfield does lovely cosy bedding.

  • Layer bedding with flat sheets, blankets, stunning counterpanes, bedspreads, and throws.
  • Boudoir cushions add the final addition.
  • Place a water carafe and glass, small posies vases for a little finishing touch on the bedside table.
  • Hot water bottles.

If you are having guests stay, it may be helpful to place a torch, a radio, and a couple of books or magazines, just to make them feel at home. 

  • Use a large basket to place additional pillows and blankets/throws.

HomeSense and Lakelands have a great selection.

Bedlinen:

If you do not have a Linen cupboard or armoire, set aside one draw for bed linen.

  • Place the fitted sheets, flat sheets and pillowcases folded just inside the folded duvet cover. It makes for neater storage and easy access in the middle of the night. 

Wardrobes:

It is a suitable time to change clothes and have a sort-through.

Wardrobes Draws and Easy Storage:

Freshen up your wardrobes, draws and shelves. Use baskets for additional storage.

Large storage containers are available from most supermarkets, they stack easily and make great storage for folding clothes neatly. 

  • Ensure everything is clean, ironed and folded well for easy packing.
  • Ensure everything is moth-free by cleaning out storage, draws, and wardrobes with hot soapy water with just half a cap of bleach or moth-repellent solution.
  • Lavender is a natural moth repellent in an oil spray or in a fabric bag.
  • Lakeland is a good shop to purchase natural moth-repellent hangers and draw bags.
  • Invest in good quality hangers -It really helps to keep all your clothes in lovely condition.
  • Invest in a good clothes brush.

Draw liners:

  • Crabtree and Evelyn have several gorgeous draw liners, Summer Hill is my favourite.
  • Alternatively, I also use wallpaper cuttings and add a little drop of my favourite oil.

Please do ask me if you would like to try the wallpaper, I usually have a little spare.

Dressing for the season tips:

I love dressing my Drawing room, sitting room dining room and bedrooms.

Dining rooms are making a comeback, yeah….

The key to dressing each room is layering.

Start by looking at what you already have, the soft furnishings, cushions, and throws. Look at accessories in isolation, but then how they work as a collection. Pay attention to colour, composition, what has form and function. Adding a new cushion or throw is an inexpensive way of just adding a pop of colour and seasonal warmth. You can add things when you are ready.

  • Place throws over the back of a sofa or footstall, gently place over the arm of a chair, and fold over a basket.
  • Position cushions, and have fun with your colours, patterns, and compositions. The winter is a lovely time to think about heavier fabrics, rich velvets, velours, silks, and trimmings. There is such a nice range across all price points from antique shops and HomeSense to bespoke offerings.
  • Be bold and confident in your own sense of style, and passion for colour, think about what speaks to you, and ask what home feels like to you.
  • Use what you have, I guarantee following just these few steps will be effective. 
  • Start to place accessories around, stepping back to look from time to time to make sure you are happy with how things are coming together.
  • Remember it is not just how it looks, but also how it feels. 
  • Arrange flowers, garden foliage, and a bowl of pinecones for seasonal interest.
  • Place battery-operated lights in lanterns, set to twinkle for a little magic. 
  • Pop them over mirrors too, they help reflect light into the room.
  • I love real flame candles, I also love the Luminara flameless candles which operate by remote control or timer, they are an investment. 

Place them in a lantern, they look stunning, adding a warm ambient glow.

There are other brands that work on timers available for most garden centres.

  • Use baskets to help keep things tidy.
  • Use trays to place on footstalls or baskets for a solid surface to position books, 

candles, flowers, and drinks.

November:

As we approach the festive season, it starts from the beginning of November in our house. I start to bring the decorations out week by week. I spend a little time each weekend adding decorative pieces to start a gentle build-up to the festivities. This not only brings cheer, but it also makes things less stressful as the big day approaches.

  • I start with placing festive baubles on plates or in bowls.
  • I love the little fabric Christmas angels that just sit on the stairs or the sofa.
  • Place a Poinsettia in a basket, position in the hall or on a windowsill.
  • I increase the number of twinkling lights.
  • I start to think about how I am going to dress the stair garlands and fireplace surrounds.

I will dress them the first weekend in December.

  • I love just placing a simple sprig of holly above a picture frame.
  • Hang a decoration from a door handle. 
  • Nearing the end of the month, I introduce the Christmas cushions, just one or two placed on an occasional chair or centre of the sofa, it just makes me smile.

There is one more thing that really is important aesthetically, and effective at this time of year especially.

Lighting:

Lighting is important, especially in the colder seasons. It creates a warm ambiance but also helps with mood. The night’s drawing in can really be difficult, please do have a look at the seasonal lamps available to boost mood, and tips below to help.

  • Place lamps on timers, good for security and a warm welcome.
  • Think about changing your lightbulbs for a warmer glow, depending on which room you are in. 

You may want different lights in the drawing room and bedroom to be softer than the kitchen. 

There are a range of different bulbs on offer, they also help with longevity which is more economical and greener.

  • Change lampshades to ones with a different liner to reflect a different ambient glow. 

I like champagne-coloured liners, as a rule, they have a softer glow. 

Having a lampshade made is a wonderful way to update an interior look and add something special to your interiors. You can also buy kits and have a go at making them yourself. 

  • Just to reiterate, place battery-operated lights in glass lanterns or bowls to add a softer glow around the room. This is a nice alternative to candles too if you have little ones or pets.
  • Place them over mirrors to reflect light around the room.

I hope that you find my home rituals helpful to bring additional warmth and cheer this season.

Additional notes to keep things cosy and costs down as we go into this autumn/winter:

Going forward.

  • Schedule your boiler service for August.
  • Schedule chimneys to be swept in early September.

Energy saving tips and tips:

  • Which energy-saving tips.
https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/cutting-your-energy-bills/article/how-to-save-on-your-energy-bill/10-ways-to-save-on-energy-bills-aX2RS8b8llMR

Look at Money Saving Expert – Martin Lewis, he is updating the financial information every day.

My additional tips that we are doing in our house:

  • Hot water bottle
  • Purchase 2 x flasks.

One to keep boiling water in.

One to keep soup in.

  • Keep yourself warm with hot drinks, and soup, but also wrap up. 

Scarves are amazing to ward off the chill, layering comes into its own here too.

  • Slow cooker, or casseroles.
  • Jamie Oliver has a new one-pot book out.
  • Camping lights.
  • Candles.
  • Long matches.
  • Charcoal for the BBQ.
  • Set up a WhatsApp Group for the neighbours.