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Checkout Betty's in York

Betty's, 6-8 St Helen's Square, York. Open 9am-9pm including Sundays

Atmosphere The kind of cake shop that comes to you in dreams - a window display groaning with shiny cherry-studded cakes and gingerbread soliders; inside sleek marble surfaces, glass cases filled with truffles, scones, baps, fondants, pastries, and pink-cheeked assistants in lace caps, frilly white shirts and black stockings.

Stock: On tidy pine shelves behind the counter, a mind-boggling array of breads, from plain old white bloomers and small granary loaves, to pesto ciabatta, pounds 1.35, muesli bread ("moist, close-textured loaf with whole hazelnuts, succulent apricots and vine fruits"), pounds 1.50, and even a "wholemeal Turkestan cob", 98p. In the glass cake case, artistic green and pink confections jostle with more humble but possibly more edible tea cakes, 35p, or orange and lemon scones with citrus peel, 35p.

What to buy: This weekend, Halloween treats like the Biber pumpkin, "a Swiss speciality with roasted hazelnuts and almonds, flavoured with honey and cinnamon", pounds 2.35, a friendly lebkuchen witch, pounds 2.95 or a gingerbread ghost, 35p.

What else to do: Turn right into the busy tea rooms, where elderly ladies and gents sip "fine Assam" from Betty's sister company Taylor's, at pounds 1.58 a pot, or "a cafetiere of Christmas coffee", pounds 3.98. Peckish? Assuage the pangs with mushrooms on toast, pounds 3.98, or toasted teacake, pounds 1.32.

Why not to go: Because you live in Harrogate, Ilkley, or Northallerton, where they have their own branches of Betty's, or you prefer to send off for "Betty's By Post" dreamy mail-order Christmas catalogue filled with treats such as white Belgian chocolate polar bears, praline fir cones, or sloe gin fruit cake. Ring 01423 886055.

Good thing

Storm lighter, pounds 13.95

The storm season is upon us, and the beleaguered nicotine addicts who huddle outside no-smoking offices try desperately to shield their lighters from the howling winds. What they need is Nauticalia's storm lighter. Originally made by World War 1 soldiers from spent bullet cases, the stout brass lighter was taken up by naval types. It has a sliding guard that shields the flame from Force 9 or more; when lowered it puts out the flame and protects the wick from spray - from Atlantic breakers, or passing cars. Order from the Maritime Trust's Nauticalia catalogue: 01932 253333.

Mad thing

Dr Dreadful's Food Maker, pounds 25

For Halloween, a wonderfully yucky toy that children just love. Chemistry set meets cookery lesson, as kids are invited to fill a day-glo skull with "Monster Brains" powder, add water, watch it froth up, then eat it. Or they can make and mould jelly spiders, flies and vampires. Others in the set include Doctor Dreadful's Drink Maker (which includes edible "monster warts"), Plasma Maker and Brain Juicer . Nervous parents are assured that all ingredients are entirely edible, and you can buy refills (pounds 5). From good toy shops, or call Tyco Toys on 0800 585 108 for your nearest stockist

Where can I get ... a leaf blower?

The debate about the strange weather doesn't detract from one autumnal pursuit - picking up fallen leaves. How can you deal with the problem?

To hire:

HSS Hire Shops (0800 282828 for local branch). For clearing leaves they have a two-wheeled garden vacuum with attached litter bag for pounds 23.38. An electric hand-held leaf sucker/blower collects leaves, clippings and even cans for pounds 11, or petrol driven at pounds 23.38. A leaf sweeper will sweep and collect leaves for pounds 8.25. Finish off with a garden shredder which mulches organic rubbish for compost, at pounds 17.88. All prices quoted are weekend rates, not incl VAT.

To buy:

B&Q (0181-466 4166 for nearest store): Flymo Garden Vac collects grass clips, leaves, cans, pounds 59.95, electric with 16m cable.

Do It All (0500 300321): Flymo Garden Vac Plus (with leaf shredder), pounds 79.99; Black & Decker leaf buster, pounds 99.99; Sabre petrol blower vac, pounds 99.99.

Homebase (0181-784 7200) Flymo Garden Vac, pounds 64.99, Flymo Garden Vac Plus, pounds 79.99; Black and Decker Leaf Buster, pounds 98.99; Ryobi Sweeper Vac, pounds 79.95.

Bestsellers Top 10 at the General Trading Company

The last redoubt of the Sloane Ranger celebrates its 75th birthday on Wednesday. Founded in 1920, to "source items on request for discerning customers", the GTC is still the source for pricey but socially OK presents. Branches at 144 Sloane Street, SW1, Bath and Cirencester. Call 0171-730 0411 for Christmas mail-order catalogue.

1 Hide covered library pole ladder ..............................................pounds 930

2 Old kelim covered stool ...........................................................pounds 640

3 Wool picnic rug with nylon backing.......................................pounds 46.50

4 Catriona Stewart table mats (pack of six).............................pounds 11.95

5 Two time zone silver-plated watch cufflinks...............................pounds 75

6 American spiced mug mats (pack of four)............................pounds 11.95

7 Indian Takhat coffee table........................................................pounds 350

8 George V Half Anna silver plate coaster..................................pounds 7.50

9 Emma Bridgewater exclusive design mugs...........................pounds 11.75

10 Manuel Canovas scented candle.............................................pounds 35

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