As you know, the Ginge and I like to partake in the occasional burst of escapism. During this year's very autumnal October, we packed our bags with warm layers, gloves and sturdy shoes and set off for a few days in Appleby-in-Westmorland. We stayed in a perfect little converted Pump House and enjoyed a week of solitude. We reveled in simplicity and ate hearty, homemade risottos, soups and cinnamon oatmeal. We chatted for hours in cafes, explored stone circles and wandered around deserted National Trust gardens, full of apple trees dripping with fruit. In many ways, Autumn is my favourite time of year. I love the homeliness, the root vegetables, the spices and the primal need to hunker down in cozy places and take stock ready for the colder months. Those colder months have most certainly arrived and with them bring my other great love, the festive season. Today is the 1st of December and the preparations are soon to begin. We are starting with a trip into the Peak District, where our friends are hosting a Christmas Fair at their pub. Bring on the hot, mulled drinks and the cheery red cheeks, nipped by cold. There is a lot still to do, including making our annual hampers full of goodies, decorating the house, lots of singing and sending out my Christmas cards (they have just arrived from here and look great. More on all of that soon. What are you doing to prepare for Christmas?