Summertime Pursuits

Here in England, we have been blessed with the longest, warmest summer I can recall since I moved here. The sun has been shining solidly for a month, the days are long and hot and the balmy evenings are made for languid, outdoor lazing in parks or by the water. Many of my happiest memories have been made in golden summer moments, so I plan to make the most of every sunny day for the season. Here are a few of the ways I’ll be spending the summertime:

1. Take a trip to the seaside. Growing up in Australia, most mornings started with a swim in the sea or a weekend at the beach, so to me, it just wouldn’t be summertime without a few seaside adventures. If you don’t live near the coast (as I don’t in Cambridge), then make a road trip out of it and take a weekend trip to the seaside for sunshine, sand and ice cream.

2. Throw a garden party or picnic. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden of your own, then gather all your friends and throw a summer garden party. Otherwise, pack a basket of snacks, a bottle of champagne and some fun activities and head to the park for a fabulous picnic. Bonus points for a round of croquet or bocce on the lawn.

3. Master a signature summer cocktail. You don’t have to be an expert mixologist, but everyone should be able to serve up at least one signature cocktail. Master a drink or two that you love (mine is a rosewater and lychee or pear and elderflower martini) and have your friends around for a summer cocktail party.

4. Wear bright lipstick. Summer is the perfect time to have a little fun with your makeup. Move on from Spring’s pastels and try bright colours you wouldn’t normally wear. I’ve been playing with bright pink lips or cobalt mascara paired with dewy sunkissed skin, messy buns and my favourite summery perfumes.

5. Go on a boating adventure. When the sun is shining, there is nowhere more pleasurable to be than on the water. If you don’t count someone who has a yacht among your friends (and if you do, lucky you!), then hire a rowboat or a punt, take surfing lessons or go wild swimming in a lake for an adventure on the water. If all else fails, then don your favourite swimsuit and your biggest shades and spend the whole day at the best pool you can find. I’ll be punting in Cambridge, rowing on Regent Park lake or having a pool party in Cambridge.

6. Have fun outdoors. I figure that when the temperatures are soaring, exercise might as well be fun. Learn to salsa dance, play tennis, take up surfing or go for a hike. I’ll be taking my Pashley out for long bike rides around Cambridge.

7. Watch jazz or theatre in the park. In summer, I’ll take any excuse to be outside on balmy evenings, so I include my cultural outings in this. Most cities have a wonderful programme of outdoor cinema, jazz, theatre, performances or festivals in green spaces. I’ll be going to the rooftop cinema at The Varsity by the river in Cambridge, jazz on the lawns at countryside estates with my family and watching Shakespeare in the gardens.

8. Pick your own strawberries. To me, one of the best things about summer is the abundance of delicious fresh fruit and produce (I’ve been practically living on a diet of cherries and nectarines the past few weeks). Head to a pick-your-own farm and fill a basket with sun-ripened berries or cherries and eat them just as they are or turn them into homemade jams and tarts.

9. Go to the zoo. Spend a day doing the things you used to love doing as a child. Go to the zoo, the aquarium or the funfair. Buy an ice cream, go on the rides and smile at the animal enclosures. I’ll be going to the Friday night lates at the London Zoo for monitors and monkeys.

10. Eat lobster + champagne. Head to the coast or marketplace near you for the freshest summer seafood, then throw a simple yet luxe lobster and champagne dinner party. Perfect!

Now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be having a picnic in the garden…!

What are some of your favourite activities to do at this time of year? I hope you’re all having a wonderful summer so far!

Love, Miss B xx

 

Springtime Pursuits

Here in England, it feels as though spring is only just bursting forth from the drabness of the last days of winter. Yet in truth, there is less than a month until summer begins, and I’m determined to squeeze in all my favourite spring activities before the new season begins. This is my favourite time of year; all fragrant blossom-lined streets, long days and golden sunsets, spring cleaning and fresh new beginnings. Here are a few of my favourite spring pursuits (or how I will be spending the next few weeks before embracing the glory of summertime):

1. Be a flower girl. More than anything, I love springtime for the beauty of nature’s grand explosion of flora. The first fragrant narcissus and jonquils, pretty puffs of cherry pink blossoms on the trees, carpets of sweet bluebells on woodland walks, streets lined with heady lilac trees, and the English gardens coming alive with the sweetest-smelling blooms of every colour. I’m going for sunset walk to see all the prettiest flowers in the neighbourhood, picking handfuls of wild daisies, buying myself (or someone I love) a bunch of the most blousy pink peonies I can find just because, fill my house with flowers and stop to smell the roses, always.

2. Love where I live. I can’t think of a single place that isn’t improved by the beauty of late spring, and there are few better times of year to fall into a deep love affair with your city. I’m vowing to explore new neighbourhoods where I live, try a new place for brunch, try to find the best coffee (or eggs florentine, martinis, ice cream, live jazz…) in town, take long walks past all the prettiest places, take photos of my favourite sights in all their spring glory and play tourist for a weekend (and when in doubt, pretending I’m playing out the opening scenes of a Woody Allen film).

3. Freshen my look. In my book, it’s entirely acceptable to float through spring in a wardrobe of white dresses, tanned skin and pastel hues. I’m packing away the coats and cashmere for the season, swapping my burgundy lipstick and dark manicures for a dewy glow and pink cheeks, adding a pop of colour and pretending I’m the girl in a Coppola perfume commercial.

4. Spring cleaning. Whether you approach the act of spring cleaning with satisfaction or disdain, there is no denying the pleasure of a freshly-spruced home that sparkles from top to bottom. I’m throwing open the windows, putting on my favourite tunes and spending a day cleaning, scrubbing, dusting and polishing everything in sight. I’m sorting through my wardrobe, bathroom cabinets, and cupboards and culling anything that isn’t loved. There’s is something so liberating about getting rid of anything that makes you feel drab.

5. Primp my place. After all that sprucing and de-cluttering, I’m taking the time to add a few things that make me smile; a beautiful new lamp, some crisp new linen, a few new Diptyque candles, some statement pieces and finally hanging some pictures on the wall.

6. Go outside. When the weather is this perfect, it feels a terrible shame to waste a moment of it indoors (especially in England, when you never know when the blue skies might suddenly turn drab). I’m meeting friends for al fresco picnics in the park for dinner with a side of sunshine, going for bike rides down country lanes, heading to rooftop bars in town for after-work cocktails with a view, and taking a rowboat out on the lake (you’ll find me rowing on the Serpentine).

7. Spread a little sparkle. Everyone seems to be a little bit friendlier when the sun is shining. Amplify the happy feelings of spring by trying to do one good deed everyday for no reason other than to make someone else’s day a little brighter. Smile at strangers you pass on the street (because happiness is infectious), send a ‘just because’ package to a friend that you know will make them smile, volunteer for a good cause, pay a compliment to someone, and practise random acts of kindness often.

8. Try something new. What is something you’ve always wanted to try, but have never quite got around to doing? Why not revisit your ‘bucket list’ or New Year resolutions to master one skill or another and tick at least one thing off. Enrol in a language class, try a completely new cuisine, ride in a hot air balloon, learn to dance the meringue, go to a polo match, learn to bake macarons.

9. Watch the clouds float by. Luxurious lazing, or taking time to dream, is highly underrated. On a glorious spring day, I just want to lay under a canopy of trees on a sunny day and soak in the loveliness of spring. Because sometimes the best plans are no plans at all.

10. Have an adventure. Where do you want to go this weekend? Gather up your friends and take a fabulously weekend trip somewhere. Plan a scenic route, compile a playlist, pack some snacks, put down the sunroof and just drive off into the sunset (bonus points for ‘glamping’ under the stars at your destination). The only rules: a sense of fun and adventure! I’m heading to Brighton for fun fair rides, striped deckchairs and ice cream beside the seaside.

Now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be punting on the River Cam

What are your favourite things to do at this time of year? I’d love to hear!

Love, Miss B xx

 

Wintery Pursuits

This week, the first snow has fallen, Cambridge is resting beneath a powdery blanket of snow, and I am officially in wintery mode.

I always think there is something so magical about this time of year; the peacefulness of the English countryside frosted in white, the sound of the Cambridge college chapel bells ringing out against the lamplit cobbled streets, bundling up against the chill in snuggly layers, and the excuse to spent cold, dark evenings hibernating indoors in style. These are a few of my favourite ways to spend the season:

1. Indulging in all the most wonderful festive traditions. Deck the halls (or at least your own living room), go ice skating at an outdoor rink, listen to carollers singing outdoor, drink mulled wine, bake gingerbread, and snuggle indoors with hot chocolate and the most wonderfully cheesy holiday movies you can find.

2. Spending chilly evenings at a wonderfully grand old theatre or concert hall. Each year since moving to England, I look forward to the English National Ballet performing The Nutcracker (my very favourite ballet) at the London Coliseum, and this year is no different. My favourite Christmas tradition (I feel like an excited small child being read the most wonderful bed time fairy tale as I watch the ballerinas leap and twirl around the stage).

3. Play in the snow. If the snow falls where you live, make the most of it; build a snowman, have a snowball fight, take pictures of your favourite spots beneath a fluffy white blanket and wear your sparkliest jewels and snuggliest layers (but don’t forget the sensible footwear!).

4. Spend an entire weekend blissfully hibernating. When the weather is too cold and grizzly to fathom venturing outdoors, practice the art of blissful hibernation instead. Light your favourite scented candles, put on your favourite tunes, take a bubble bath, drink champagne and watch back-to-back Audrey Hepburn movies.

5. Throw a fantabulous soiree. Host a small but darling dinner party (complete with whimsical party favours), a movie marathon (with a popcorn bar), a board game night (with retro snacks and scrabble boards) or an afternoon tea party for your girlfriends.

6. Try a new recipe. I love putting my stove to good use on cold evenings (all part of the blissful hibernation) and have been baking homemade bread, pears poached in red wine and goats cheese tartlets. Delicious smells make a house feel like a home!

7. Indulge in decadent small pleasures. In winter, when hidden beneath thick, wooly layers, the temptation can be to hop out of bed and into the nearest warm clothes. But in my book, there is something so luxurious about slathering on a layer of decadent body lotion and slipping into the most gorgeous, silky lingerie I own (it’s all the more special because only I know it’s there).

8. Upgrade everyday essentials. As with the above, there is something wonderful about your everyday essentials having a touch of the fabulous about them. I’m gradually replacing all my tights, tshirts, sweaters, nightwear and other ‘ordinary’ wardrobe essentials with beautifully silky versions that feel a little more indulgent (hello, cashmere socks on icy days!).

9. Send a flurry of snail mail to friends near and far. Who doesn’t love getting post that isn’t a bill? Make your dear friends around the world smile with some delightful post in the mailbox. Hand-write a letter, make a list of all the things you love about them, spray it with your favourite perfume, pop in a few things you know they will adore and pop it in the post.

10. Do one thing in your own city you’ve always meant to try. It might be a wonderful museum you’ve always meant to visit, or a restaurant you’ve longed to try, or a neighbourhood you’ve never visited. Last weekend, I was lucky enough to go to the annual Carols from Kings service with the Clever Boyfriend (who is now a fellow at Kings College) – a beloved Cambridge tradition that I would watch on the BBC every year on Christmas Day with my family – and it was even more magical and moving in person and reminded me to always play tourist in your own city.

And with that, I’m off to put on my Ratpack Christmas album!

What are some of your favourite wintery adventures? I’d love to hear!

Love, Miss B xx

P.S. Just a reminder that you can now find me on Pinterest (I even have a board dedicated to my favourite wintery pursuits).

 

 

Autumnal Pursuits

Here in Cambridge, the wheel of the seasons has turned and autumn has arrived in a flurry of umber leaves. Although I am at my happiness when the skies are blue and the air balmy, I treasure the fact that in England, we experience each season in turn (a novelty to a girl who grew up in Australia).

As the leaves begin to fall and the evenings grow longer, I love watching the countryside change and then racing indoors after bracing walks to spend cosy nights indoors. These are a few of my favourite ways to spend the autumn (I’ll be aiming to check them all of again this season):

1. Leisurely weekend walks in all the most beautiful areas of my city as the leaves change colour – not missing a single opportunity to jump in a big pile of crunchy leaves underfoot, of course. I’ll be strolling along the Backs in Cambridge (the beautiful paths that line the River Cam, with magnificent views of all the grandest colleges), my family’s neighbourhood of Chiswick in West London, and the beautiful London parks.

2. Homemade pumpkin pies. The sweet, nutmeggy taste of my mother’s pumpkin pies is one of my earliest memories, and there is nothing quite as delicious as the smell that fills the house as it bakes in the oven.

3. Making the home decadently cosy; an inviting haven on cold, dark evenings. I’ll be stocking my place with gorgeous scented candles (to make coming home each evening that little bit more wonderful), good books and board games for rainy weekends, beautiful lamps to cast a warm glow, some jazz tunes and a few bottles of champagne for romantic evenings, fluffy pillows and snuggly blankets for cosying up.

4. Visiting new galleries and museums on grey days. When the skies outside are steely, I love venturing indoors for a hearty dose of cultural enlightenment in the form of a new exhibits or previously unexplored museums. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never visited more than a few rooms of the British Museum, so that is at the top of my list, along with the marvellous galleries around the Upper East Side when I head to New York later this month.

5. Spend a whole afternoon lazily browsing the shelves of a favourite bookshop, or sitting in a coffee shop with a stack of good reads. I love getting lost in the wonderful second hand bookshops of Cambridge, or spending hours lazily reading the papers over coffee and cake at Fitzbillies.

6. Visiting the farmer’s markets for new season produce. And then turning it into delicious soups and tartelets.

7. Apple-picking in the local orchard. Every year, the Clever Boyfriend and I ride our bikes (or amble through riverbank meadows for a wonderful hour) to the Granchester Orchards (a Cambridge treasure, where generations of students idle away sunny weekends; Lord Byron even immortalised it in a poetic ode). There, we sit beneath the apple trees for for tea and scones from the little outdoor cafe, say hello to the happy cows and geese in the meadows, and then cycle home with out baskets creaking beneath the weight of the freshly-picked apples and pears.

8. Packing a picnic (or better yet, an overnight bag) and venturing further afield, where the air is clean and the scenery beautiful. I love autumnal weekends away, even if they’re in my own city (see: last year’s ‘staycation’). This year, I’m planning a romantic weekend trip to Oxford (where I took the above picture) or the beautiful Cotswolds.

9. Changing my beauty routine to match my mood. Plummy nail polish, bright berry lips, winged eyeliner and glitter eyelids for when sugary pastels no longer feel appropriate.

10. Refreshing my wardrobe with beautiful new-season essentials. There’s something so satisfying about taking everything out of my wardrobe, having a good old clearout, storing away my summery dresses for the season and replacing them with snuggly new buys in the form of a gorgeous coat, cashmere jumpers and crisp new basics.

What are you favourite things to do at this time of year?

Love, Miss B xx