Accessible Autumn Activities

We are nearing the end of October and Autumn has well and truly arrived. Many of us are feeling the uncertainty ahead with local restrictions and changing news reports. The change in season can mean changes in our bodies too, especially to those whose bodies are sensitive. Many of us find that symptoms like joint and muscle pain or low mood get worse. Maybe a sense of melancholy or sluggishness sets in. Last year I wrote about the change from Summer to Autumn, and how it can cause flare-ups. You can read about it here and here.

Canterbury

On the plus side symptoms such as heat fatigue, photosensitivity and dizziness can ease. And most of all, feelings of being inside and cosy can alleviate the guilt of resting and missing out outdoors. We finally allow ourselves to nest a little, to sit by a fire, enjoy hot baths, eat nourishing food and hunker down.

I thought I would share some things we have been doing this month to celebrate the new season in a slow, gentle and accessible way. Over on Instagram we are chatting about our favourite Autumn activities so come and get involved and add what you like to do by sending me a message.

With your help so far I’ve compiled 7 accessible things to do this Autumn

Click on each activity to take you to a more detailed description

  1. Take in the changes in your local area by slowing down and using your senses
  2. Visit an accessible gardens to experience the dramatic autumn displays
  3. Get Crafty and bring the outside in by making an autumnal display of dried flowers, seed heads and collected items
  4. Start a new hobby or project that you can keep your hands and mind busy with indoors
  5. Learn about the moon cycles and practice some simple activities that go along with the lunar phases
  6. Swap out your Summer wardrobe for your autumn winter one.
  7. Get busy in the kitchen and batch cook yourself some warming food. For subscribers of the blog I have included my apple crumble recipe.

Out and About

For me its easier to move without fatigue on sunny autumnal days than it is on hot days (although the cold and damp causes joint pain). I don’t react to the sun or the heat and wrapped up warm I can walk further and move more. I love a walk to see the changing landscapes. And often my pockets fill up with pine cones, conkers and found objects. If you want to bring in a little magic, folklore says that putting an acorn in your pocket keeps you young. I think I need my fill my pockets to the brim!

Image Description: A cluster of mushrooms growing in the leaves caught in the bow a tree in my local park gardens

Keep it simple by going on a local outing. Even if its a stroll or roll around your block. I love noticing how the trees and plants I see every day are changing, or absorbing how the world smells and feels different. Noticing the small is magical even if its the same route you always take or simply your garden or looking out the window. Try something different explore with your senses. For example the five senses grounding exercise could be used (or a variant where accessible).

image description: a graphic titled 54321 grounding exercise. There are boxes for 5 things you see, 4 things you feel or touch, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, 1 thing you taste. Image by @Growtherapy

If you fancy an adventure further afield then head to a botanical garden to take in some of the spectacular autumnal trees. Public gardens are great as they often have accessible walkways and routes. I can highly recommend the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. They welcome assistance dogs and have mobility scooters and wheelchairs available to hire. The gardens are free to enter, be aware that COVID safety measures mean you will need to book your time slot in advance.

Walking in my winter boots with my lilac walking stick in the Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh. I am standing on the edge of the path which is lined with moss. A vine of ivy is growing across the bed.

At the opposite end of the UK is Westonbirt, The National Arboretum in the Cotswolds. They offer one of the most spectacular and dramatic autumn displays. They They are also operating a time-slot system and have mobility scooter hire. They allow dogs and there is even a Gruffalo trail for children including an Autumn trail with activities. And a spectacular tree top walk accessed by a series of accessible walkways and bridges..

Image description: The twisted dark trunk of a tree in the Westornbirt Arboretum is on fire with oranges and yellows that surround it. Underneath are the yellow and brown leaves already fallen and rotting.

Get Crafty

Getting crafty can be as simple as displaying some seeds and dried flowers and branches in your home. A collection of dried seedbeds and flowers in a simple pot or bottle or tied in a bundle can look stunning. Or press some leaves then make a garland on a string. Or go the whole way and make an autumnal ‘altar’ with seed heads, pine cones, acorns, orange or brown candles, leaves, and seasonal fruit and vegetables (apples, pumpkins squash). Add to the whole effect by using spices or incense like cinnamon and clove. If you are celebrating Samhain change the candles to black and introduce black feathers and images of black birds, spiders or cats. Use stones such as onyx, obsidian or moonstone. Light incense or introduce herbs such as sandalwood, sage and rosemary. You don’t have to be a witch to enjoy bringing in the natural world.

Cosy days are an ideal time to start a new project. If there’s something you have been wanting to try like knitting, embroidery or sewing now is the time to begin. More time indoors means more time to indulge in something creative and crafty. I like things that keep my hands busy so, I have just started to make a dress (something I began learning a couple of years ago). I have also ordered some knitting supplies (to try something brand new).

Crafts don’t have to be challenging, there are so many crafts to try. If you would like to try some seasonal crafts out, Jen (Mum in The Mad House) has some brilliant tutorials on her blog. They are aimed at children and families but there are some crafts that this big kid will be trying too. I love the look of the Autumn Sun Catchers, Clay Ghost Tea-lights and Aunty Chris’ Yorkshire Parkin!

Find your thing and don’t get put off by failing at first, it’s also ok to try something and say its not for you. I tried to make a crocheted fox a few years ago, it was so mangled and disproportioned I gave it to the dog!

My top tip would be don’t try to do it all at once. Break down the project into tiny stages and do one or two at a time. For example, just finding a pattern is one stage, ordering materials can be another. The project is for you to enjoy and can take as long as you want. I would love for you to share links in the comments to what you are making at the moment or where you have found free craft making resources.

Celebrating Slow and Seasonal

In October we have two full-moons in the calendar month. The second full moon is known as a blue moon (read more about it here). The first full moon is on the Oct 1st and the rare Blue Hunter Moon is Oct 31st meaning the entire of October is surrounded in the full moon energy.

The moon moves in cycles starting with a new moon when we see nothing in the sky, peaking at the full moon then waning until the next new moon. One theory is energy patterns can follow the moon’s phases and we can use this to guide and frame our own energy and activity. If nothing else I like to be able to see the passing time as a physical entity and planning guide. It’s also a great energy pacing tool as a lunar month is a slow but achievable timeframe. Here’s how I plan:

  • The New Moon: Time to plan new projects and set into motion ideas and goals.
  • First Quarter: Put into place resources and move into activity.
  • Second Quarter: Increasing action and activity.
  • Full moon: Reaching peak energy and completion until it’s time to celebrate achievements.
  • Waning Moon: As the moon wanes close and reflect on projects and tie up loose ends. A useful time to see what still needs to be worked on and carried into the next cycle.
  • During the last quarter when energy is at its lowest take some down time to restore energy for the next cycle. Try to stay present and in the moment.

This Autumn’s moons:

  • 1st October Full Moon
  • 16th October New Moon
  • 31st October Full Moon
  • 15th November New Moon
  • 30th November Full Moon
  • 14th December New Moon

Life Hacks

If you only do one thing this October, I recommend having a wardrobe switch around. Put away any summer clothes away you know you won’t wear and go through your winter stuff. Get some help doing this if you need it. Why bother?

  • Its easier to see or access fewer clothesr wardrobe
  • You can plan outfits by seeing or grouping together what you have.
  • You can get rid of anything you know you won’t wear it because it doesn’t fit or is uncomfortable.
  • Any items that need care such as woollens needing a wash, de-pilling clothes to refresh them or mending holes can be done so your clothes are wearable.
  • It saves you money as you don’t buy items you already have because you’ve have forgotten about.

One of my fave TikTokers Lucy Edwards explains why it helps her here

Lucy Edwards’ winter wardrobe

In the Kitchen

Who else is excited about cold, cosy weather foods? Pies and puddings are back. Soups and stews are simmering. It’s time to get that slow cooker out of the cupboard to begin batch cook your fave recipes. I love a good bean chilli infused with spices, that’s been bubbling all day in the slow cooker cauldron. 

The Great British Bake Off is back too and its the perfect escapism and Neve have we needed it more than this year. The 21st of October is National Apple Day in the UK, why not celebrate it with a home-baked apple crumble?

My recipe for Apple Crumble is below for free to those who subscribe of this blog.

Image description: a square dish of apple, pear and cherry crumble sits with a jug of cream. the crumble is golden and the red fruit has bubbled up around the edges. There are handpicked Chrysanthemums from the garden in autumnal colours in a jar and on the table.

I hope you stop by to say hello and share what you are doing this season by leaving a comment. If you have enjoyed reading this post please drop by my Patreon and buy me a coffee. It helps towards the running costs of this blog and fuels my writing.

Weather Changes and Autumn as a Spoonie

Welcome Autumn and my favourite time of the year. I adore September and October with their golden afternoons, the abundance of foods, and the cosier evenings. I don’t know about you but I don’t fair well in the heat, it exhausts me and the sun irritates my skin. Neither do I do well in the cold and damp, it makes my joints ache and my mood dip. Autumn, however, seems perfect. I love a crisp but sunny morning, or an afternoon wrapped up warm for a gentle walk.  But something else happens in Autumn that leaves us spoonies floored and I’m not sure quite what it is. I’ve thought through a few of my theories here to try and come up with a Spoonie’s Guide to Autumn.

Weather Changes

So every time a season changes we find ourselves having to adapt. I find at these changing points I’m forever saying ‘we’re just not used to this heat/ cold/ darker nights/ humidity/ damp’ (the list goes on). Yes us Brits like to talk/ moan incessantly about the weather, but I’m sure there’s more to it, especially for us hypersensitive beings. And it seems there is actually proof of this.

Auto Immune I remember my clinic lead, Professor Fortune, telling me that changes in season affect bodies on a cellular level and it seems there is some proof. The BBC has a couple of brilliant articles on this. The first looks at facts behind the myths such as:

  • Rain gives you rheumatism – the answer is maybe but theres no conclusive evidence, its more likely power of the mind.
  • Falling air pressure is a pain in the head – I’m migraine queen aka the human barometer so I swear this is true and one study from Japan seems to suggest its true

The second article is much more focused on an in depth study on how temperature change affects our genes and immunology. In brief an international team of researchers conducted a study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to look at how this happens. They “found genes involved with immunity – the body’s defence against infection – were more active in cold months. And while this helps fight off viruses such as flu, it may trigger or worsen conditions, such as arthritis, where the body attacks itself, they say.” 

The study examined how this happens on a genetic level and found that when looking at genes “a quarter showed clear signs of seasonal variation”. The genes that were of most interest included ones associated with immunity and inflammation. Interestingly it wasn’t the degree of cold that was initiating the changes but the temperature changes themselves as ‘During cold, winter months – December to February for people living north of the equator and June to August for those in the southern hemisphere – these genes were more active. When they studied people living close to the equator, where the temperatures are fairly high all year round, they noticed a different pattern. Immunity and inflammation was linked to the rainy season, when diseases such as malaria are more rife.” A change is temperature is all that is needed to trigger flare ups as it directly affect the cells and ‘that increase in inflammation could now be a risk factor for diseases of modern life’ Prof John Todd, Study author. Big stuff hey?

Viruses and other factors are also linked to an increase in symptoms and flare ups for Spoonies. Many reasons have been given to why this season is prime cold and flu season. Maybe it is because we stay indoors more, have more close contact with each other or beginning of university and schools terms mean more people mixing. One thing is for certain and thats for those, like me, who take immuno-suppressants the exposure to viruses, infection and bacteria is a headache all in itself. Immuno-suppresants mean that, surprise surprise, our immune systems are suppressed and do not work as well in fighting things off. So don’t be offended if you have a cold and I  instantly grab for the hand gel. Getting a cold or virus also can trigger a flare up, even if we don’t fully develop the original cold. I get far less colds than other people but my body knows if I’ve come into contact with one. Unfortunately my immune system just cannot tell the difference between the things its supposed to be attacking and my own body. At the recent Behçets Syndrome Society conference in Bristol, Professor Fortune said that she has a date in October circled on the calendar every year for when they have to open up loads of emergency appointment slots as so many of us flare.

So how can we deal with all of this? My answer is be prepared as you can and a little acceptance.

The Nature Communications study above concluded that as well as a genetic change “diseases and other factors, such as nutrition and stress, could affect how genes function.” So lets build some of these into the survival guide.

How to embrace and survive Autumn

Autumn Activities – Try some of these spoonie friendly adventures to help with wellbeing

  1. Get outdoors. Take a visit to somewhere you can take in all the beauty of nature and how dramatically its changing at this time of year. Do what you can, you don’t have to hike for miles across farmland and forests to appreciate the changing landscape. You could take a car ride, visit a city park or sit in the last of the warm sunny days in your garden. Boosting vitamin d levels at this time of year can really help with the impending winter blues too.
  2. Get crafty. There are so many things that are nice to make as we want to spend more time being cosy indoors.
    • This month I am making a wonderful leaf garland, inspired by Hannah at Seeds and Stitches
    • I am embroidering fabrics in preparation for Christmas presents. If you are like me and like to hand make your Christmas presents, start now so you don’t put pressure on yourself.
  3. Get Cosy and warm and hermit without guilt. Get out blankets and hot water bottles ready for colder evenings. Give them a wash and some care before they do into their full winter sofa bound days. Enjoy activities that are away from screens (save those Netflix binges for sick days). Non screen time is much better for you and there are things that can occupy you. I’ve just found a new love for jigsaw puzzles!
  4. An Autumn Feast – Wow there’s food aplenty at this time of year, especially after a long hot summer, heres how to make the most of it. Enjoy homegrown fruits and vegetables. If you’re like me and have a garden then at the moment you’re probably overrun by crops such as tomatoes. When I’ve had the energy I have been picking them in droves and jarring them as passata. A basic recipe can be found here and its easily adapted to include herbs and spices you’ve grown too.
    1. Get to a local food festival and treat yourself to something scrummy. Food festivals re great at finding a huge variety of foods and you’re more likely to come across diet friendly snacks too. Ive been to two in the past three weeks including a chilli festival!
    2. Go on a forage. From September onwards, you can pick a huge amount for free from forests and hedgerows. Pick fruits such as elderberries, blackberries, rose hips and more. I turned my elders into a vitamin c boost spiced syrup and my hips and chillies into a spiced jelly. Theres also other treasures to be found like sloes, bullaces, crab apples, cob nuts, sweet chestnuts, mushrooms and fungi… just remember to only harvest them if you are 100% sure you know what they are!

Autumn is transition, change and drama. In slow living it’s the time to prepare for what’s ahead. Don’t rush it, save your spoons, enjoy the beauty and prepare for the winter ahead.

To find out more about things mentioned in this post visit…

All wrapped up

I get really excited when autumn arrives. Not only is it beautiful outdoors but I get to pull all my woollens out. Dress up in scarves and boots and gloves. Go on walks all snuggled in layers. Here’s some of my inspiration for being all wrapped up, from my Pinterest board. Enjoy 🍂🍄🍁🌾🍃


All images are taken from my Pinterest board. None were taken by me. For the originals please visit my board and follow the individual links.

Some days are for warmth…

So today I woke up feeling pretty horrid. New meds are making me sleep for nearly 10 hours a night, and then groggy the next day. I guess this beats the 4 hours average I’ve had for the past few months.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

I’ve begun a new kinder morning routine. It mainly is about not rushing:

Wake Up | Check my journal (not phone) | Feed and let the dogs out | Enjoy coffee / breakfast | Put myself first with yoga or mindfulness | Get ready | Walk the dogs | Check the post | Plan meals and actions for the day

In today’s journal I had scheduled a Weight Watchers meeting, crafts with a friend, followed by a show at the theatre. After sleeping past the Weight Watchers meeting time, and walking the dogs, falling over in the mud, and nearly passing out I knew I wasn’t up to much. In the panic of pain and fatigue I cancelled everything.

Then I realised I did really want to see people and that I needed company and inspiration. I don’t know about you but I am constantly in battle with myself for shared time and alone time? So today I back tracked and rewrote the day. I’m sticking to 3 things at the moment so my new plan was:

  • Drive to the Cowshed to pick up craft materials
  • Meet with Helen, to eat her home made soup and chat and maybe craft
  • Make chickpea blondies

So I did all these things instead of a disaster it was wonderful. Driving through the autumn landscape in no hurry meant seeing the countryside in all it’s glory. Then getting home it’s all warm and cosy and the dogs were waiting.

Helen arrived with a box full of crafts, and her delicious homemade squash soup (I’ll endeavour to get the recipe). We chatted about life, and ideas, and drank coffee. We both, being spoonies, decide to keep the craft simple and make our own ‘advent calendars’. It was Helen’s idea as a way to be kind to ourselves. I provided the labels to write them on and we both came up with ideas for an action a day that would be treating or nourishing ourselves.

Thats all there is to it really. We wrote on luggage labels and decorated them with stickers. I ended up doing 31 to take me all the way to New Year, and have a whole month of adventures. The idea is to pick one each day to do. If it is completely impossible with your schedule we decided we would be allowed to swap one but you should then make time to fit in the discarded one so all the tasks are at least attempted throughout the month. I’ve decided to do mine with the food bank advent idea. In this I put an item of food into a box each day to donate to the local food bank.

Finally I made ‘chickpea blondies’ as a quick sweet treat, they sound odd but they are amazing. I found the recipe here. They are great for lazy days and you literally shove everything in the blender and bake. Oh and then eat of course, still warm from the pan with oozing bitter chocolate.

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What do you do to stay warm once the weather turns colder and the nights are shorter?

 

 

Walking

The trouble with walking so far is getting back.

Every gate I open has to be closed in case I set the beasts free.

Every footprint retrod in a different way.

All the effort with none of the anticipation.

A glance to check only my shadow follows.

The world is big and I am small.

The day has turned tail with me.

I’m back to the safe and known,

I’m back to something new and unknown.

Well hello Autumn 

The trees are finally catching up with life, or maybe life is replicating nature. In other words its all change. And lets face it change is tough but I always have a special place for the summer to autumn turn. The world is a fucking beautiful place and right now it’s showing off

・・・

I recently set up an adventure group on what’s app to protect myself with my friends. This morning in the group chat a collaborative haiku was created:

An autumn morning 

The skies they are sighing 

In a slow grumpy roll

#CapturedInWords

Well done @thecafecat for collecting it.


Today I was super kind and had a massage to heal, made soup from the garden, walked the dogs and went to the cinema. So many anxieties came and went. But I pushed through and spoke with an honest and kind intention to everyone I met, oh and myself too. Instead of hiding in the house I made sure I did things to fill my heart.


Oh yeah the grateful things:

  1. Feet that carry me on adventures
  2. Seasons that show us that change happens and everything is ok
  3. The rspca