Christmas in Cambridge

a-girl-a-style-_-christmas-bowsa-girl-a-style-_-christmas-bows-3Happy Christmas week! Wherever you are and however you celebrate, I hope you’re all starting to wind down for the year and enjoy some festive merriment. In all honesty I’m still in the midst of my usual pre-Christmas frenzy at work* (desperately trying to get everything on my to-do list sorted before all the government departments shut down for the break), but I’ve been determinedly filling my weekend and evenings with all the Christmas. 

Since moving to Cambridge from Australia (almost 8 years ago to the day!), I’ve taken Christmas to a whole new level. December heatwaves and garden parties have been replaced by the kind of festive pursuits I used to dream about growing up. I treasure my Christmas traditions – both old and new. Each year I love going to see a performance of the Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker, attempting to ice skate (terribly), meeting a girlfriend for afternoon tea somewhere fabulous, throwing our yearly holiday movie night where our neighbours all turn up in their pyjamas (we’re lucky enough to have a real-life ‘Friends’ scenario in our building and are close friends with many of our neighbours), and probably the grandest Cambridge tradition of them all – attending the annual Carols from King’s service at the King’s College Chapel (perks of having a clever Fiancé who happens to be a King’s Fellow).

a-girl-a-style-_-topshop-pink-fur-coata-girl-a-style-_-christmas-in-cambridgea-girl-a-style-_-christmas-in-cambridge-2With my calendar so full of parties in December – from decadent college supper parties in the grand dining halls to more relaxed candlelit parties at friends’ houses – I take this as the perfect excuse to dress up (you don’t have to tell me twice). In December, I really only have two sartorial modes: cosy (cute pyjamas for an evening spent snuggled indoors), or festive (because if you can’t get away with being a little bit theatrical with your outfits in December, then really, when can you?). Basically if it’s shiny, sparkly, or has a bow on it, I want to be wearing it right now.

To take the drama out of getting ready when I’m rushing from work to a party, I always rely on one of my favourite party dresses, knockout shoes, and a small but chic bag that can fit all the essentials. So when my favourite Cambridge brand – the Cambridge Satchel Company – asked me to pick out a new bag for the holiday season, I knew this gorgeous red patent version was the one straight away.

Although I don’t tend to wear red when it comes to clothes, I adore it as an accent in the form of party shoes or a swipe of lipstick (I’m never without my red lipstick in winter). I’m not really sure why I didn’t own a red bag before, but now it’s one of my favourite things and seems to work with everything I’m wearing right now (bonus points: its smart enough to be party-appropriate, but still fits all the essentials I need to tote around during the day).

a-girl-a-style-_-cambridge-satchel-saddle-baga-girl-a-style-_-christian-louboutin-bow-heelsWearing: Cambridge Satchel Co saddle bag c/- // Sister Jane dress // Topshop coat // Topshop brooches (on coat) // Christian Louboutin shoes also seen in this post (past season but similar style here).
Beauty: Bourjois ‘It’s Redding Men’ liquid lipstick c/- // Marc Jacobs ‘Kink & Kisses’ blush.

However you’re celebrating this week, I wish you all the happiness and cheer of the season!

Love, Miss B xx

* This explains the fact that I am both obviously sleep-deprived and in need of a haircut in these pictures (aka the never-ending battle that is deadlines vs beauty sleep…)

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This post is in partnership with The Cambridge Satchel Company. Photographs by Joe Galvin.

The Perfect Gifts for Everyone on Your List

Pictured: European travel guide (I swear by the recommendations in this book) // gold bracelet c/- // brass apple candle // blueprint key dish // nude + pink lipstick // crystal earrings // lip balm c/- // crystal arrow brooch.

I’m now officially in full-on Mrs Claus mode; filling our house with twinkly lights and the sounds of Christmas music and finalising the perfect gifts for everyone on my list. Having to go near the high street or a department store in December gives me anxiety, so with the exception of a couple of foodie gifts, everything is being ordered online by the end of this week (with a hot chocolate in hand).

Speaking as someone who everyone seems to find impossible to buy for, I can say with authority that if in doubt you can’t go wrong with a beautiful candle (this is my number one favourite), a good cookbook, anything cashmere or something indulgent from the recipient’s favourite beauty brand. I usually ask my boyfriend to avoid ‘stuff’ I’ll never use and just get me nice chocolate, one of my favourite lipsticks or nail polishes, and a ticket to the ballet or theatre – wonderful!

So if you’re yet to finalise your shopping, here’s my definitive guide to the best gifts for everyone on your list.

For Her (or yourself):
I like to either buy one excellent gift – perhaps a nice pair of pyjamas (I love this classic pair and this inexpensive pair for everyday), a gorgeous piece of jewellery or new handbag for someone special – or a thoughtful set of items tailored to the recipient; a new teapot and some lovely tea for your mum, or a set of gilded coupes and a bottle of champagne for your girlfriend.

For Him:
I’m always a bit stumped when it comes to shopping for the men in my life, but never seem to go wrong with a good book (anything about science, psychology or cricket is a winner with both my fiancé and Father), dapper wardrobe essentials, some luxe (but man-friendly) toiletries, or foodie treats. This year my fiancé is getting a new cashmere sweater, face cream, and a stocking full of all his favourite small-indulgences.

For the Little Ones:
Truth be told, I’ve never really had to shop for children until recently, but suddenly all my friends seem to be either pregnant or having babies and I now feel it’s my responsibility to furnish them with cute things! I personally like to avoid anything too garish or noisy (for the sanity of the parents) and go for utterly adorable clothes or old-fashioned toys to stimulate their curiosity.

For their Stockings (+ small gifts under £20)
If you have tight budget, it’s always better to get one small but perfectly formed gift over lots of cheaper alternatives; I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be thrilled to unwrap an indulgent box of chocolates or a new version of their favourite lipstick/beauty treat. I always keep a few small pre-wrapped gifts on hand just in case I need an extra present or make last minute plans with a friend and don’t want to show up empty-handed.

I’d love to know your favourite things to give (or receive)!

Love Miss B xx

7 Ways to Find Calm (when your schedule is hectic)

Pictured: ‘Luxe’ bath towels, bath mat and face towels c/- Christy // apothecary cabinet // H&M copper basket // Windle & Moodie hair masque c/- // Leonor Greyl shampoo & conditioner c/- // Fresh lychee shower gel // Aesop rose body wash // Aerin vanilla body wash.

Between my day job, blog, and an always hectic schedule, I hardly ever get any of the downtime I desperately crave in order to recharge. So this month, when my diary is even busier than usual with a flurry of holiday events + looming end-of-year deadlines and I’m on the verge of feeling overwhelmed by the stress of 2016 (seriously, what is with this year?!), I’m making a conscious effort to carve out a little quality ‘me’ time whenever possible this month.

If, like me, your schedule is threatening to trigger an anxiety attack, here are my seven easiest hacks to get you through to the end of the year in a state of merriment rather than stress:

1 // Make the everyday a little more luxurious

Until the day I can hire my own team of assistants, I have to the same mundane tasks as anyone. And while we can’t avoid doing things we don’t enjoy, we can make them feel a little less boring. Blast your favourite tunes and the morning commute feels suddenly more pleasurable; burn a scented candle and household chores feel less tedious; swap your tired old bedding for a delicious new set and bedtime feels like the ultimate treat.

2 // Choose optimism + practice gratitude

Instead of worrying about every little thing that stresses or annoys me each day, I’m trying to focus on that which I can be grateful for. I’m not talking about ignoring injustice or the issues that really matter (which most definitely deserve my attention), but rather not letting those little things – which in the scheme of things are insignificant – mount up and ruin my day; my train running late, someone making a hurtful comment online, or a rude stranger. Instead, every time I start to get stressed at something I can’t control, I try to shift my thinking, take a few calming breaths, and actively focus on what is making me happy instead (‘I’m going to be home an hour late, but I can use this time to catch up on my emails and message my sister, and there’s a cosy bed waiting for me at the other end’). 

 

Pictured: ‘Luxe’ bath towels, bath mat and face towels c/- Christy // apothecary cabinet // H&M copper basket // Sisley radiance face masque c/- // Estee Lauder cleansing balm c/- // Estee Lauder treatment capsules.

3 // Turn your bathroom into a spa

Instead of just quickly hopping in the shower and racing through your beauty routine as quickly as possible, carve out a little extra time a couple of nights a week to treat yourself to some pampering. Leave your phone in another room, play some calming tunes (I’m all about the ‘Nutcracker’ score at the moment; everything feels more festive and wonderful when accompanied by the ‘Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies’), light a couple of candles, put on a hair/face masque and run a bubble bath. That’s at least 20 minutes of peaceful ‘me’ time. If all else fails, the most luxurious towels and body products will make even the most hurried morning shower feel a little more indulgent.

4 // Wind down each evening

Instead of just coming home exhausted, parking yourself in front of the tv, and then falling into bed exhausted, carve out a window before bedtime to de-stress and wind down from the day. I like to make a cup of tea, dim the lights, climb into my pyjamas and escape with a chapter of a feel-good book (when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I actually prefer to re-visit an old favourite like Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Harry Potter that I know will bring comfort). Those relaxing moments help quieten my mind before bedtime and stop me running through a million things I’m worrying about/have to do when I should be going to sleep.

Pictured: ‘Lilian’ bed linen c/- Christy // mirrored bedside drawers // bed // West Elm lamp // F. Scott Fitzgerald books // Warby Parker glasses // Clarins candle (large) c/- // Diptyque candle (small) // John Derian glass dish. 

5 // Prioritise health + sleep

I confess this is the one I struggle with the most; when things are especially hectic and I’m trying to squeeze too many things into a day, making it to the gym and getting a good night’s sleep are often the first thing to go and I find myself having to scrape by on 4 hours sleep more than I care to admit. But no good ever comes from that, and it makes the following day feel unnecessarily like a struggle (and it’s so much harder to feel cheery when you’re sleep-deprived). While a full 8 hours’ sleep is not always possible, at least try to aim for the best quality sleep possible. Invest in the best quality mattress, pillows and bedding you can afford, ensure your bedroom is a sanctuary and take care of yourself as best you can.

6 // Schedule some festive downtime

While I love a jolly Christmas party, I also make sure to block out some time in my diary for some festive downtime, just as I would any other event. Whether it’s a Sunday at home wrapping presents and baking gingerbread, a festive afternoon tea with a girlfriend, or an evening spent snuggled indoors + watching favourite Christmas movies, it’s important to take time to slow down, go offline and enjoy the season rather than just rushing through the entire month.

7 // Seek out small pleasures often

I’m a firm believer in seeking out small pleasures that make you smile wherever possible. Wearing your favourite shoes just because it’s December; pausing to admire the Christmas decorations in town, the smell of hot chocolate, wrapping yourself in a fluffy robe fresh from the dryer, or finding a new favourite lipstick that makes you feel instantly more glamorous. It’s all about quality vs quantity (and not ‘saving’ your favourite things for a special occasion).

 

Pictured: ‘Lillian’ bed linen c/- Christy // Yawn pyjamas c/- // ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ book // copper tray // Anthropologie mug. 

How do you find a sense of calm and make time for yourself when your schedule is hectic? Please share your best suggestions in the comments below!

Love, Miss B xx

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This post is in partnership with Christy UK #DreamChristy

Pastel Streets and Pink Coats

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If my Instagram feed the past week is anything to go by, the only thing we should all be wearing now that December has arrive is a combination of red, plaid and cream aran knits. But while I love a little tartan – and I’m certainly not opposed to a sartorial cliche or two – I prefer invest in the sort of pieces I know I’ll be able to wear all season long and that won’t feel entirely passé come January. For me, a chic party dress and a classic coat beats a scratchy Christmas sweater any day.

Although blush pink is my favourite colour, I used to think it was just for spring and summer. But the past couple of years, it has established itself as a year-round favourite in my wardrobe. A pink coat might not seem like the most practical choice for winter, but it’s actually the piece I reach for the most once it’s too cold for a nude trench coat (my autumn staple). Aside from blush and navy, I don’t actually wear much colour, and a pink coat seems to instantly brighten an otherwise all-black outfit and add a pop of much-needed colour on a grey winter day and feels subtly festive at this time of year.

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Although I already have several pink coats in my wardrobe, I fell for this blush version the moment I spotted it at Whistles. I resisted for a few weeks (on the very rational basis that I didn’t need a sixth pink coat), but then reasoned that as I wear a coat every day for five months of the year in England, buying a couple of lovely new options each winter was a sensible investment. Because really, life is too short and winter too long to settle for boring coats.

And I’m happy to say that on a cost-per-wear basis alone, the coat has already earned it’s place in my closet. I added a couple of these darling crystal brooches to make it resemble this Kate Spade version I was also fantasising about, and have been teaming it with a black dress and heels for work and appointments, and cashmere sweaters and over-the-knee boots for errands and weekend outings. Bonus points for the big pockets and the classic cocoon cut that makes me feel instantly more pulled-together.

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Wearing: Whistles coat // Ted Baker dress // Kate Spade heels // Coach bag (fuchsia version on sale here) // J.Crew bag charm // Celine sunglasses c/- SmartBuyGlasses // Topshop crystal brooches // Michael Kors watch // Kenneth Jay Lane earrings (inexpensive version here) // Z for Accessorize crystal ring c/- // ASOS horseshoe ring.

Beauty: Marc Jacobs ‘King & Kisses’ blush // Charlotte Tilbury ‘Kim K.W.’ lipstick // Chanel ‘Pink Rubber’ nailpolish. 

What are your favourite non-festive winter staples for this time of year?

Love, Miss B xx

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Photos by Joe Galvin