Category: Life

What I Read: All the Mysteries

Well, not all of them, not yet anyway. Thanks to Sherry, I recently discovered the Phryne Fisher series, and quickly read my way through the first 3 books. I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about the protagonist, although I appreciate that she’s not your typical 1920s detective. (Weirdly enough, Phryne’s spending habits stress me out. I am perpetually worried that her seemingly endless supply of funds will run out. As I said, weird.) I unreservedly love the author’s attention to detail (especially for clothes, swoon) and ability to recreate the atmosphere of the era and location (Melbourne, Australia). I’m a bit miffed that the books are rather pricey; I like buying my favourite mystery novels, as I tend to re-read them periodically, but the series is some 20 plus novels strong and counting, and at $15+ a pop I don’t fancy my odds of collecting the whole lot. I haven’t been to the public library in years — it may be time for a visit.

On a related note, if you love the fashion described in the books as much as I do, I suggest checking out this Reddit sub for some Phryne #styleinspo.

For Christmas, one of the gifts I bought my husband was a copy of the Atlas Obscura, which struck me as the sort of thing he would enjoy; he is forever looking up obscure factoids on Wikipedia, and emerging from some unlikely rabbit hole hours later, way past his bedtime (ahem). To be honest, though, it also looked like the kind of book I would enjoy reading as well, and indeed I have been dipping in and out of it over the last few weeks. It’s similar to an encyclopedia, except with more photos. Would definitely recommend for the adventurer-at-heart in your life.

Branching out a bit from the usual here, but I would be remiss if I did not tell you to watch the new Victoria series on PBS (Sunday nights). I have been waiting for this show to come to our side of the Pond for months, and so far it has not disappointed. If you’re a stickler for historical accuracy, you may be disappointed; but if you love watching gorgeous people wearing gorgeous clothes on gorgeous sets, then you will be hooked. The cast is led by Jenna Coleman, whom you may recognize from Doctor Who (which I have not watched since Rose and the Tenth Doctor parted ways) and who is fantastic as teenage “Vicky”, and Rufus Sewell, who is always fantastic and whom you may recognize from my occasional drooling posts. Sewell plays Lord Melbourne, who was a sort of (much older) father figure to the young queen at the beginning of her reign, prior to her marriage to the “dreamboat” Albert. By rights, this should make the Vicbourne “ship” a tough sail except that I am *totally* on-board, no questions asked — and that is even after Lord M rocked some truly unfortunate looking high-waisted trousers in the premiere episode. Albert who? I have an enormous soft spot for RS as Aurelio Zen — another, too short-lived “must watch” series — but Lord M might be one of my favourite roles of his to date. His chemistry with Jenna Coleman is strong enough to make me sit through the palace servants’ Downton Abbey knockoff storyline without too much grumbling.

[Fun historical fact: Lord M was married to Caroline Lamb, who had an infamous fling with Lord Byron. The spouses apparently reconciled after the scandal, only to separate again later. He never remarried. He also didn’t look as dashing as Rufus Sewell but then again, nobody does. The man would have chemistry with a phone book, and I volunteer to play the part of said phonebook in any future screen adaptation.]

On to some interesting articles … this Refinery29 post took a look at the (typically negative) way in which women with fertility issues are portrayed in pop culture — The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, anyone? Personally, I think it’s just a part and parcel of the problematic way that women in general are depicted — female characters are frequently either negative stereotypes, Mary Sue improbabilities, or completely lacking in agency. And I say that as a white woman, who at least gets to see characters who look like her, no matter how unsatisfactory their personalities and actions. Invisibility in the media is still, in 2017, a thing that women of colour have to deal with, sadly. On that note, I am really excited to go see Hidden Figures.

On a style-related noted, The Fashion Law recently featured a good article on counterfeit couture. Knock-off designer bags are a well-known issue in the industry and among consumers, but few people realize how pervasive counterfeiting is; everything can and is being knocked-off, from clothes, to all kinds of accessories, to perfume and make-up — and with the off-shoring of so much luxury manufacturing, the counterfeits are becoming harder and harder to distinguish from the real deal. One thing that the article did not touch upon was the dark side of the counterfeit business; I know that, in the past at least, the trade in knock-off bags was linked to gang activity, which added a whole other level of ethical/moral issues to the discussion. I’m not sure if the same is true nowadays, and particularly in respect of high end counterfeits, and I’d be interested to read more on that topic.

The One Where I Did Something I Said I’d Never Do Again

They tell you to “never say never”, and that is solid advice because, inevitably, “never” proves far shorter in duration than one expects. For example, in my case, “never” lasted about 5 years.

It was sometime in 2012 that I decided I would NEVER EVER get a pixie cut again. And you know what is happening on top of my head as I write this? That’s right, a pixie cut. Granted, it’s not as drastic a pixie as my last one. It’s really more of a very, very short bob … except at the back, where it sure feels like a pixie. Did I mention there is a touch of undercutting going on at the sides as well? No? Well, that’s what one gets for saying “never”.


As with all my hair decisions, this pixie cut was an entirely impulsive move. “Maybe I should get a pixie again,” I told myself one morning on the way to work, and by 10 AM that same day, I had a hair salon appointment booked. The appointment itself was not until the following morning, and I hate how life sometimes tries to make me reconsider my dubious decisions before it’s too late. Silly life! I always double down on dubious decisions. I did have a brief moment of serious doubt on the eve of my haircut (more on that in a moment), but I plunged on. As for the result … I’m pretty happy with it. A part of me wishes I had pushed myself a little further towards the “edgy” end of the spectrum; closer to, say, Michelle Williams’ do. I ended up compromising a bit, and sticking with slightly longer layers on the sides just so that, in the event of an immediate change of heart, the re-growing process could bypass the whole Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club-era Beatles phase. Depending on how I feel at my next appointment, I may ask my stylist to go a bit shorter on the (under)sides.

short hair don't care
short hair don’t care

I love long hair. I really do. I just don’t love my hair long; it’s not the right texture to be long (fine and kinda lifeless) and my hairstyling skills aren’t good enough to completely overcome that. I think I look pretty good with long hair … but I also look OK with short hair. And here’s the thing: I love a big change. Every few years, I need a big change. I stopped colouring my hair almost a decade ago, so now the only real impact-making change left within my control is, what else, a big chop. For better or worse, I’ll probably be on the “pixie-bob-lob, repeat” cycle forever. Is there also a saying, “never say forever”? I guess I’ll find out …

Blazer, DKNY (thrifted); dress, MaxMara (thrifted); shoes, Stuart Weitzman; bag, Gucci
Blazer, DKNY (thrifted); dress, MaxMara (thrifted); shoes, Stuart Weitzman; bag, Gucci

As it happens, the one thing that did have me second-guessing myself was the question of how a new haircut would affect my style. Many of the women whose pixie cuts I’ve admired in recent years tend to have a more minimalist aesthetic than I do, often with gamine leanings. Like Michelle Williams. While I admire that sort of look (and will, on occasion, pick outfits with a similar vibe), I also know that it’s not my predominant preference. Would my favourite clothes look strange with a new haircut, I wondered. I ended up finding reassurance from an unlikely source; I adore Elisa Nalin’s sartorial exuberance, but have long come to terms with the fact that I’m nowhere near cool enough to pull off a similar aesthetic. However, looking at pictures of Elisa rocking a short pixie AND lots of colourful prints was all the proof I needed that getting a pixie would not require me to embrace black, grey and white as my everyday rainbow.

Ironically, the first outfit I wore after getting my hair cut? Black, white and grey. In my defence, I had a hearing that day. Also in my defence: I did wear a bold floral. And I loved rocking my pixie.

pixie polished
pixie polished
new year, new do
new year, new do

2017: Shine On

For the past couple of years, I’ve participated in the trend of choosing a “theme” for the upcoming year, largely as a way to focus my mental energy and to think in a very general sense about the things I want to accomplish in the next 12 months. In 2015, I thought about my theme (“soar”) throughout the year, and used it to inspire myself to keep working on the specific goals I had subsequently set for myself. In 2016, I hardly thought about my theme after deciding it, until it was time to write this post. What struck me at that point was how, despite my year going completely against my expectations and plans, my chosen theme – “accept change” – had been almost prophetically poignant.

I wondered if I had had an inkling, this time last year, that 2016 would be a year of fundamental shifts and changes (as it happened, both in the personal and the socio-political sphere). Turns out, not really. I was prescient, however, in understanding that one of the key things I would have to do this year was to learn to embrace or at least adapt to change, no matter what feelings that change evoked. Also, to learn to see the possibilities for growth in change, no matter how painful the process. 2016 was a year that asked for much forbearance from all of us, and I am not usually equipped with much of it at the best of times; this year, I had to learn to dig deep for reserves I didn’t know I had.

So, what next?

I pondered my choice for a new “theme” throughout December, and ultimately chose a simple one.


With the benefit of no crystal ball, I see it as having two meanings – twin themes for 2017, as it were. On a personal level, I see 2017 being the year when all of my work and achievements over the past decade of my professional life will (hopefully) start to coalesce into the beginnings of a new chapter. I see it as a time for me to embrace and show my full potential; after the (long) dress rehearsal, it will be time to, well, shine. Believe it or not, I don’t consider myself a “natural performer” so this whole idea is somewhat uncomfortable. However, I have worked hard to get people’s “eyes on me”, so I don’t want to squander my opportunities. To varying degrees, this is true for other areas of my life as well, so the same perspective would apply there.

On a different level, I also want to focus on being positive in 2017. In difficult situations (and there is no reason to believe 2017 will be any kinder to us than 2016, though here’s hoping), I want to resist my instinctual urge to turn inward, away from people. As hokey as it sounds, I want to shine with hope, encouragement, patience, compassion. In some ways, it’s a selfish goal; I think it’s good for the soul to channel one’s energies into that sort of expression. Again, it’s not something that comes easily to me (I’m a skeptical pessimist, after all) but I think it’s the direction of growth.

If any of you have picked a theme or inspiration for 2017, I would love to hear about it.