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


7 Things for the Weekend

A Girl, A Style _ Farmers Market

Hi lovelies! What are you all up to this weekend? I’ve been working all hours on a big project at work, so this week absolutely flew by with little time for play. This weekend I’m happily skipping Fashion Week (honestly, I just don’t enjoy the hectic schedule, the politics of attending shows and filling people’s Instagram feeds with blurry runway pictures…) in favour of catching up with friends and indulging in a few Autumnal traditions.

1. Autumn is officially here! Mark the start of the season with a trip to the farmers market to stock up on new season dahlias, berries, figs and apples and the last of the summer peaches.

2. The mornings are suddenly a whole lot chillier here in Cambridge. I just ordered this cute duffle coat to team with breton strips and ankle boots (though it seems to work with seemingly everything) on off-duty days.

3. I just ordered this for my entryway (because who doesn’t love a brass pineapple?).

4. This Upper East Side New York apartment on my friend Katy’s blog is the stuff of real estate dreams.

5. The NARS x Christopher Kane collection is all pretty great, but this perfect pale pink gloss in ‘Nucleus’ is my favourite (I’ve been wearing it nearly every day this week).

6. I loved this post: “I look like an Engineer”My fiancé is a scientist at Cambridge, and I’m always struck by how few women are in his courses at Cambridge (although it goes without saying that those who are there are brilliant). Like politics (remember my post here?), I’d love to see more women in STEM subjects, and this hashtag is a pretty great start at highlighting the pool of female talent that already exists.

7. Oh good, Mercury is in retrograde again. As usual, Gala Darling has the best guide to getting through it (which honestly is really great advice even if you’re a complete skeptic).

Love, Miss B xx

P.S. In case you missed my latest posts: Back to School (for grownups) + The Perfect Pair

7 Things for the Weekend

A Girl, A Style _ 7 Things for the Weekend

Hello lovelies! Although most of you follow my everyday adventures over on Instagram, I thought I’d start a new regular series on here where I can share the things I’m reading, buying and enjoying each week. I never want this blog to be just about fashion, so this is hopefully a new way to share some things that don’t warrant an entire post (whilst also allowing me to post more frequently, too). As always, I’m so grateful for your feedback and advice on what you want to see more (or less) of around here, so please do let me know in the comments!

This week we have family visiting from Australia (hurrah for deliveries of Haighs chocolate and dried peaches to cure expat cravings), so evenings have mostly been spent exploring Cambridge, picnicking in the botanical gardens and working our way through our neighbourhood restaurants.

1. Even though I’m still trying to stay in summer mode (I don’t want to let the last of the season pass me by), I definitely have that ‘back to school’ feeling that always seems to arrive towards the end of August. Although I now add all my appointments to my iPhone calendar the moment I confirm them (otherwise: goldfish memory), I still love a hardback planner for all my daily ‘to do’ lists and things I need to remember. I just bought this perfect Kate Spade 17-month agenda (I buy one every year and I love that they start in August and run to the following December) and am spending this weekend getting myself organised.

2. I loved seeing this lookbook my BFF Nicolette shot around LA for Target’s AVA&VIV collection (proving that style is never defined by a shape and size).

3. Although I’m trying to read more novels (any suggestions? I’d love to hear what you’ve enjoyed recently), I always favour interesting biographies and non-fiction books. I’m fascinated by the tech industry, and have just devoured ‘How Google Works’; it’s a fascinating insight into this game-changing company and why they’re so successful (confession: I dream of working there one day).

4. It is a sad day when peony season comes to an end (I bought the very last bunch from the market last weekend and felt smugly victorious). Head to the market this weekend and treat yourself to a giant bunch of hydrangeas or dahlias instead.

5. Did you spy my pictures over on the Coach Instagram account? I’m obsessed with their entire blush pink collection (and this one is similar to my favourite Mulberry Lily bag, minus the price tag).

6. I’m usually sleep-deprived, and this guide to getting a better night’s sleep is an excellent reminder (note to self: stop staring at my iPhone in the dark at midnight!)

7. I loved this post by Garance on how women’s careers and lifestyle influences their style. It’s something I think about often; my day job in politics requires me to be fairly corporate when I’m in the office (you’ll usually find me in a tuxedo blazer and heels during the day, but always with a little sparkle and my own feminine spin), so I love letting loose and being extra feminine or playful with my style when I’m off-duty. I’d love to know how your lifestyle influences your own style?

As always, you can find me over on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest for more day-to-day updates in between posts.

Happy weekend, lovelies!

B xx



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