There's something about the light at this time of year. The way it's so bright and blinding and yet misty all at the same time, the way it diffuses through the city air like cake sprinkles. The way it spreads over the pavements, changing even deadbeat tarmac into something glistening. Most of all, I love the way it hazes down through dancing leaves, pitter-pattering sunlight playing patterns on the ground. On our morning walks, my baby sits bolt upright in his buggy, sticking his little hands out, trying to grasp sunlight in his tiny palms as if it's honey dripping from a spoon, shrieking as it dances around him. These are the bits of summer that already feel like photos, like memories, in my head.
I never used to be a summer person - I always thought autumn was my favourite season (and chances are I may well say that again in a few months time). I have spent years dreading summer, never knowing what to wear, hating the way concealer slid right off my skin. I hated those tube journeys into work, hated coming home crumpled and parched. But it's different now. My summers are more about playtime in the park or picnics on the lawn than hot, stuffy commutes. And I could not be happier, or feel luckier, about it.
But that said, this time last year, summer was an uncomfortable time. I was eight months pregnant, sick and swollen. We had planned a complete new garden layout, the idea being it would all be ready by the start of the summer holidays so the boys could play while I rested my pregnant self in the cool indoors, but naturally it didn't work out that way (the gardeners were still happily working in the garden the same day I came home from hospital with a new baby in my arms). So last year, we had no summer; not really. We were stifled, stuck indoors. I'd planned our home to be ready for our new baby; instead, it was covered in grimy dust blown in from the building work and landscaping going on outside. We took a holiday to escape; I was sick the whole time. It was, in short, a miserable summer, until one hot summer's night in August, the sky indigo with the threat of rain, when Jude was finally born.
This summer is already turning out to be so much more magnificent. We have had our babies; our little family of five is now complete. We finally have a garden with a playhouse and a bug hotel and a digger pit for the boys but also honeysuckle, jasmine and hydrangeas. We water our garden together. We watch it grow. We are blessed, and lucky, and it feels like there are so many promises ahead.
I know a London summer is not for everyone - and yes, we shall be escaping later, first to the Kent countryside, then to the Danish riviera (I cannot wait) -but before that, I intend to make the most of our time here, simply enjoying this quiet little corner of north London that we call home. Spending time uncurling without the rush to be somewhere.
Inspired by Emily of Makelight, we're also making our very own summer bucket list (something she does with her children every year). I love this idea of involving them, now that the older two can join in with that sort of thing, and I hope to share it with you soon. It sometimes can feel like we owe it to our children to create unsurpassable summers (and a pressure to share it on our social media feeds), but all they really need is us, in the moment. I don't intend to spend all my time on Instagram, that's for sure.
seven things I love most about summer that make my every day feel a little lighter
These are the things that I love most about the summer. I'd love to know - what do you love most about the summer too?
Being barefoot I always used to get told off as a girl for going barefoot, my mother chiding me from the back door to put my sandals back on, but I love the way it feels so free, the grass warm beneath my toes. It's a little tiny thrill. Somehow, it makes me feel young. It grounds me. I love seeing my little boys run barefoot, wild like little lion cubs, their feet still small enough to seem adorable. I don't know how long that feeling will last. But it's a sure sign of summer when they patter in with dusty soles, ready to be washed down with bubbles that smell of berries in a tub of cool water.
My summer clothes It has taken forever to get to this point, my thirty-seventh year, to finally find a summer wardrobe I'm comfortable with. I've struggled with clothes that never seemed to leave me cool enough and I'm awkward with skin on show. But this year, celebrating a new me, almost comfortable with my appearance after losing (almost) the weight of three close-together pregnancies, I took the time to plan my summer wardrobe months ahead so that I would not find myself hot and bothered right in the midst of a 30-degrees week in London. My summer wardrobe is minimal, maybe 14 pieces, but it works so well - I've swapped dresses that simply never suited me for breezy jumpsuits (I'm rotating these three and love them all - this one, this one and this one) and airy yet flattering tops (my absolute favourite is this one) that hit at my newly-discovered, almost-there waist and suddenly, I feel confident and even a little taller which, considering I'm five foot three, is quite a feat. Also, inspired by Marie Kondo and these sort of posts (thank you Jessica) pointing out that there's no point in downgrading clothes you'd never wear into loungewear, I finally dedicated time and careful shopping to put together a drawer of simple, effortless and easy clothes to wear at home for those hot days with the children, when we throw open the doors and live in the garden - it's the only place you'll find me in my vintage denim shorts that secretly make me feel fantastic.
My summer skin and make up Something many people don't know about me is that I am a skincare fiend and the ritual of cleansing the day away and then layering oils and serums always feels special to me, no matter what time of the year. But in the summer, it feels like such little effort, even though there's the added step of SPF to deal with. I find the act of double cleansing, gently washing the heat way, such an enjoyable guilty pleasure. In the summer, my skin feels brighter and altogether clearer and the tiny freckles that come out - well, they make me feel young again (just like being barefoot!). I have not worn foundation since my wedding day seven years ago and since discovering this, I no longer have to care about concealer that dries out. A lightly tinted lip stain, flushed cheeks like flower petals and a fresh lick of mascara (sometimes) - that spells out summer to me.
Summer cleaning Who else gets a thrill from hanging the whites out to dry in the sun? I love loading up my huge basket with clothes fresh from the wash and taking them outside to hang on our wooden dryer that fits slimly on the deck and doesn't even look like an eyesore. It's so satisfying; so deeply pleasing to shake damp crumples out into the fresh air, that clean, cool smell. Lately, my older boys have even been asking to help too - the mere presence of the sun turns a chore into something pleasurable. This I suppose, is what finding the wonder in the everyday is.
Summer scents I love those giant hugs that come with little boys running inside after spending the whole afternoon outdoors; I love nestling into them, breathing them in. "You smell like the outside," I tell them, by which I mean they smell like earth and grass and air and it feels like that smell is in all of us, on our skin, our clothes, our hair and everywhere in our home. When evening falls, when the light shifts to that softer shade and the boys are in bed, I find a lit candle slows the whole day deliciously down. Mostly, we think of candles as being autumn and winter treats, but I love them even when it's bright outside. All my candles from my shop are sold out now (!) but in my own home, I've replaced my favourite Tobacco & Sweet Hay candle with The Smallest Light's Song of Summer scent. I've also been diffusing a blend of sweet orange, geranium, lavender and bergamot lately and I love the way it sweetens the air.
That evening shower I have always been an evening shower girl, my very precious alone time. I love washing the day away after the children are in bed, and then sitting out on the deck awhile with a book before my husband comes home - although truthfully, it doesn't happen very often as there's always something that needs my attention - but on the rare occasions it does, just that feeling of being clean and calm with damp hair on my shoulders drying in the evening sun; just that is enough.
Just being us but somehow lighter, better Give me all the holidays in the world, but I'm a homebody at heart and there's no place I'd rather be than home, with my husband and three boys - my favourite people in the world. We'll be escaping London when it invariably gets too stifling, but before that we are fully embracing picnics in the garden, ice cream on the deck, stories under the canvas teepee that lives permanently outside these days. We've been building train tracks under the awning, spraying flowers and each other with the hose pipe, playing cricket on our tiled path. It's these days, these moments, when we're all outside, all together, when the rules don't matter so much - that truly make me love this time of year.
I would love to know what you love the most about summer too and I'd love to include what you love about summer the most in another long read in the next few weeks. Would you join in? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your favourite summer rituals or comment on my Instagram. I can't wait to see what you come up with.
If you like this post, please head on over to my Instagram, where I'm running a little summer giveaway. And don't forget to share what you love most about the summer too, I'll be including your anecdotes in a long read in the next few weeks, so that we can all celebrate this glorious season together.
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