How to Have the Best Summer Ever: on Seeking (and Finding) that Summer State of Mind

A Girl, A Style _ Summer State of Mind

Remember those heady days of our youth when school would break up for the year and we’d have the whole summer stretched out before us like a sea of possibilities? Honestly, I had forgotten what that feeling was like.

Between my university years (when I’d spend the entire summer holidays either working or getting as many internships under my belt as I could), and adulthood (when years of being a type-A workaholic had tricked me into thinking I couldn’t possibly take a proper vacation or things would fall apart at work in my absence), summer had a habit of slipping by before I had even paused to take a moment to enjoy it. Other than a few lovely Sunday adventures and afternoon picnics in the park, too often I’d over-schedule my life to such a degree or feel so guilty taking any downtime just for me that ‘summer’ became something I merely admired from my office window at work (I must sound like a bundle of fun right about now…)

So this summer, rather than planning my weekends and evenings to within an inch of my life, I did precisely the opposite: with the exception of work, I have virtually cleared my diary for the entire duration of summer. My usual ‘bucket list’ (you can see last year’s list here, should you need a little inspiration for your own adventures) was this year replaced by just three simple goals:

1) when the weather is nice, get outside and enjoy it (instead of spending entire weekends doing battle with my inbox and life admin ‘to do’ list); 

2) give yourself permission to take time away from work to travel and explore new places;

3) do things I enjoy when I feel like it with people I love. 

And you know what happened? I’ve been having the very best summer of my life.

Because rather than carefully organising my free time to maximise the fun (there’s nothing that says ‘fun’ quite like military-level planning…) but then being horribly disappointed when it inevitably rained that day or friends had to cancel, I am learning to be truly impromptu and listen to what I need or feel like that week. When the stress of ‘Brexit‘ got all too much a couple of months ago, I escaped to Italy on a whim (I couldn’t seem to relax at home so joined my boyfriend in Bologna where he had a conference, and we turned it into a mini vacation); it was neither expensive or planned-out and yet it turned out to be one of the best trips of my life. The other day we saw the weather forecast looked good and found a great deal on a hotel, so booked a last-minute weekend in Brussels (and again had such a fun time).

Closer to home, having my evenings free has also meant saying ‘yes’ to things like punting on the river, impromptu dinner parties, or dates with friends (that I normally have to schedule months in advance because we’re all so busy). I found myself blowing off sunny Friday afternoons (which these days are ordinarily reserved for working on my blog) to get ice cream and sit by the river talking for hours on end with Caroline. The other day I met my dear friend Sasha for a last-minute trip to the theatre (after trying unsuccessfully to coordinate our schedules for about a year) and when we were having such a fun time that I literally missed my last train home, rather than suffering first-grade anxiety (as would be my usual response), I just went back to her place for a sleepover followed by brunch and a long walk through Regents Park the next morning.

And just today, when all my afternoon blog meetings were cancelled at the very last-minute, rather than getting stressed about the wasted time and journey to London, I met my friend Charlotte for a walk in St James’s Park (we were meant to go to an exhibition at the Tate but the weather was so glorious we both decided it would have been rude to be indoors and so changed our plans). When she had to dash off to get her train, I carried on lazing in the park beneath the shade of a an enormous fig tree to just watch the clouds float by and write this post (rather than racing home to work from my desk or having an internal meltdown that my post wasn’t up by lunchtime, as I usually would have done).

And so it was while sitting beneath this very tree, giving myself permission to just spend a couple of hours relaxing, that I realised I had accidentally struck upon that summer state of mind I spent years trying to find (or in my business, forgetting to even look for).

Whilst I still spend many a sunny day admiring the blue sky through the window at my office rather than on the beach, I’ve learned that the elusive goal of having ‘the best summer ever’ is not just about working through a ‘to do’ list of fun (or worse, being so busy I forget to make any time for fun at all).

But rather, as I have discovered this year, it’s about a state of mind: that vacation feeling of having a vague idea of what we want to see and do, but generally going where we like – at our own pace – when the mood strikes us. It’s saying ‘yes’ to new experiences when the opportunity presents itself, making new memories and exploring new places (or familiar places, from a new perspective, and playing tourist in our own city), having impromptu adventures whenever the sun is shining, or simply just spending the entire day lazing in the park if what we really feel like doing is nothing at all. In the first instance that means having the schedule that allows freedom (none of my usual type-A tendencies allowed, and of course it helps that we don’t have children to throw into the scheduling equation). But more inportantly, it is about giving ourselves the permission to just have fun and do as we please.

A concept I’d long-since forgotten from the days of my youth, but which I’m so happy to have rediscovered at last.

Here’s to the maintaining that vacation mindset, all summer long!

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend. And however you find yourself spending the rest of your summer, I hope it’s the best one yet!

Love, Miss B xx

 

Farm Girl, Notting Hill

A Girl, A Style _ Farm Girl 7A Girl, A Style _ Farm Girl, Notting Hill

Dress // bag // sandals // sunglasses // purse

Although we live in Cambridge, when Summer comes around we try to make the most of the warmer weather and head to London most weekends for brunch and a wander around our favourite neighbourhoods. We live just near the station, so can be from our front door to a cafe in less than an hour.

If we weren’t in Cambridge, I’d live in Notting Hill in a heartbeat. I love the leafy streets, the pretty pastel terrace houses, hunting for vintage treasures at the Portobello Road market, and settling into one of the bohemian little cafes for hours on end with brunch, the weekend papers and plenty of coffee (go on a Saturday for the markets and Friday or Sunday if you want the place to yourselves).

A Girl, A Style _ Farm Girl 6A Girl, A Style _ Pink Door, Notting HillA Girl, A Style _ White Lace Boohoo dressA Girl, A Style _ Farm Girl Cafe, Notting hill

After a particularly hectic couple of weeks, this weekend we made the most of the blazing sunshine and headed to Farm Girl (one of my favourite new cafes at the start of Portobello Road) for rose lattes and a stack of berry pancakes. If you’re lucky, you can get one of the pink tables (pretty much made just for Instagram) outside on a sunny day, where they don’t mind how long you loiter.

Afterwards we wandered over to Westbourne Grove to restock at Aesop and pick up a new candle for summer at Diptyque (Choisya, which smells of gorgeous orange blossom on a warm evening), and then spent the afternoon strolling those gorgeous leafy streets and imaginary house-hunting (we’ll take the big white mansion overlooking the private garden, thank you very much).

A Girl, A Style _ Farm Girl 4A Girl, A Style _ Farm GirlWearing: Boohoo lace dress (also in black) // Valentino bag // Miu Miu purse (very similar style here) // Zara sandals (old, but very similar style on sale here) // Tom Ford sunglasses // Lulu Frost crystal necklace + ring // J.Crew pearls // Michael Kors watch.
Beauty: Estee Lauder ‘Wicked Sweet’ liquid lipstick // NARS ‘Orgasm’ blush // Deborah Lippmann ‘Naked‘ nailpolish.

What are your favourite weekend traditions after a hectic week? And do share any favourite London gems that we should visit next!

Love, Miss B xx

Photos by Amber-Rose

The Perfect Pair

A Girl, A Style _ The Perfect Pair (small)A Girl, A Style _ The Perfect Pair 13 (small)

The weather in Cambridge is being frankly bi-polar at the moment (glorious one day, drizzly and grey the next), so I’m trying to make the most of every bit of sunshine before summer disappears. My in-laws are visiting from Australia for a month, so we’ve been spending our weekends and evenings after work playing tourist in the city. The other Friday, I finished work an a little early (the perk of everyone except me being on vacation in August: less emails to deal with!), so decided to head straight to Kings College for an hour of downtime and lazing on the riverbank before the others arrived for our evening of picnicking and punting on the river (my favourite Cambridge summer pastime).

A Girl, A Style _ The Perfect Pair 7 (small)A Girl, A Style _ The Perfect Pair 11 (small)A Girl, A Style _ The Perfect Pair 12 copy

I knew I wouldn’t have time to go home to change after work, so reached for this preppy-casual look that could take me from the office to a picnic. I teamed it with heels and an old favourite blazer during the day (to make it just polished enough for casual friday), and then just kicked off my shoes for punting.

For the sake of full disclosure: although I’ve bought my fiancé a few pairs of jeans and some great check shirts in Hollister (and honestly they wear better than most other brands in his wardrobe), I haven’t shopped there myself in years. But when they invited me into store to pick out my favourite pieces, I happily accepted on the basis that my best friend swears by their jeans and seems to be wearing a pair whenever I say she looks especially great.

A Girl, A Style _ The Perfect Pair 6 (small)A Girl, A Style _ The Perfect Pair 3 (small)A Girl, A Style _ The Perfect Pair 9 (small)I bypassed the super-destroyed denim (too trendy for my taste) and the ultra-thin legging jeans (that don’t work if you have curves), and went for the classics. This gingham shirt is exactly my style and a wardrobe essential; I had spent a year hunting for the right one and have already since worn it tucked into navy chinos at the office and teamed with a little black a-line skirt on the weekend. I’m trying to incorporate different denim styles into my wardrobe (instead of reaching for the same three favourites), and these skinny blue jeans (I also bought a clean version without the ripped knees) are perfect for that preppy collegiate look I love, the same the quality as all my designer pairs (minus the price tag), and so comfortable (even while messing about on boats and cycling around town).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be lazing by the river…

A Girl, A Style _ The Perfect Pair 2 (small)A Girl, A Style _ The Perfect Pair 5 (small)Wearing: Hollister shirt c/- // Hollister jeans c/- // Sportsgirl blazer (old, but similar style here) // Rebecca Minkoff clutch (sold out, but similar style here) // Zara heels (sold out, but similar style here) // Karen Walker sunglasses // Mimco necklace (old, similar style here) // Michael Kors watch.
Beauty: NARS ‘Grace’ lipstick // Clinique ‘Soft Peach’ blush // Deborah Lippmann ‘Like Dreamers Do’ nail polish. 

This post is in collaboration with Hollister. Photos by Beth Morton

How To Ace Summer

A Girl, A Style _ How to Ace SummerWe are half-way through August, which means there is just over a month left until the end of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. This is the best season of the year, so don’t let it pass you by without extracting every last drop of fun from these long, sunny days. Here’s my guide to how to win at summer (even if you don’t have a vacation booked):

1. Have an adventure. Travel to a new place or have a fun weekend getaway with your girlfriends. Explore a new city, go to a festival, spend a weekend on the coast, or go camping in the countryside.

2. Get outdoors. Make the most of these long summer evenings and get outside whenever you can. Cycle to work instead of taking the subway, dine al fresco at sunset, watch an outdoor play, visit an outdoor cinema for to see a favourite movie beneath the stars or listen to a jazz band in the park.

3. Dance all night. Every summer should include at least one extravagant party. Get all dressed up, drink champagne, kiss beneath fireworks and dance until the small hours.

4. Play tourist. Don’t let the tourist have all the fun in your own city. Visit the sights, go to the zoo, take in a show or try the hottest new restaurant or rooftop bar in town.

5. Throw a picnic. I take any excuse to have a picnic outside, but every summer I try to have at least one especially wonderful version complete with the best food, good company and a round of croquet or punting on the river afterwards.

6. Build the ultimate summer playlist. Make the perfect soundtrack to accompany those summer adventures. Mine is filled with everything from the Beach Boys and Brigitte Bardot to Phoenix and Vampire Weekend and evokes fond memories of summer bike rides and beach days (and my imaginary summer in California).

7. Take to the water. Head to the pool to practice your swan dive (or cannonball), rent a rowboat on the lake or, better yet, make friends with someone who owns a yacht and set sail into the sunset.

8. Host an impromptu dinner party. On an evening when you have no other plans, gather your favourite people for a summer party at home. Decorate with bright flowers, put together a make-your-own taco or pizza bar, play your favourite tunes and serve up homemade lemonade or frozen cocktails.

A Girl, A Style _ How to Win at Summer 1

9. Work on your green thumb. Even if you only have a tiny windowsill or balcony, make the most of the sunshine and try growing your own basil, mint or hydrangeas. Guaranteed smugness when you make a salad with your own herbs.

10. Have a beach day. Grab your brightest towel, your strongest SPF and your favourite swimsuit and spend the day splashing about at the sea. Bonus points for beach hair and silly photos.

11. Visit the farmer’s market. Go for brunch at your favourite cafe and then head to the farmer’s market to stock up on summer berries, peaches and the biggest bunch of hydrangeas or sunflowers you can find.

12. Ride a bike. If you don’t have your own set of wheels, rent a couple of bikes and spend the day cycling out to the prettiest spot outside your town (I’m planning to cycle to the Grantchester meadows or the Hitchin lavender farm in Cambridgeshire).

13. Find the best lobster rolls or ice cream in town. I’ve taken this one step further and bought an ice cream maker with my neighbour so that we can make our own ice cream flavours as often as we want (my favourite so far is peach and orange blossom).

14. Make like an aristocrat. Head to the grandest estate near where you like and spend the afternoon strolling the gardens, having tea in the orangerie or playing croquet on the lawns.

15. Spend a day in the park. Feed the ducks, watch the clouds drift by and and make a dent in your summer reading list.

I’d love to know your favourite things to do in summer! How do you plan to spend the rest of the season?

Love, Miss B xx