What I Read: Vacation Edition

Victoria!
Victoria!

I love “curating” my vacation reading list; it’s one of my favourite things about traveling. In Mexico, I had a fair bit of reading time, what with the kids’ naps and (relatively) early bedtimes. I ended up packing 3 books, which turned out to be at least 1 short of ideal. I ran out of reading material with about 2 days (and a plane ride) to go, but the luggage weight restrictions would have made it impossible for me to lug more stuff with me. This is where something like a Kindle would have come in handy, but I am hopelessly old-fashioned when it comes to books, so never mind.

Part of the reason why I made it through my chosen books quickly is that 2 of them were fast, snappy reads. Cover Her Face is one of the shorter PD James novels; the whodunit was ok, but I wasn’t really fond of any of the characters involved or the way in which the victim (a young, unwed mother) was portrayed, so I speed-read my way through the book to get to the reveal. In retrospect, I felt the murderer was really obvious. To sum up, not my favourite James mystery. The other mystery I brought along was Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood, another Phryne Fisher mystery. I enjoyed the theatre setting, which reminded me of some of my fave Ngaio Marsh novels. The ending was a bit weak, but it was still an enjoyable read overall. Another slim volume, however, which didn’t last me long.

My favourite book of the trip was, hands down, the biography of Queen Victoria by Julia Baird. It was informative and entertaining in equal measure, and my only quibble is that I wish it included more photographs of the royal family. I love historical photographs. After I finished the book, I was dying to read more about Victoria’s extended family so I spent some time surfing Wikipedia on my phone (thank goodness for fast, free WiFi). As soon as I got home, I dug out a couple of books from my library to re-read — Victoria’s Daughters by Jerrold M. Packard and Born To Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria by Julia Gelardi. I’ve also been scouring Amazon for more titles to round out my Victorian collection, but have been coming up short. I got a biography of Bertie (King Edward VII) coming my way, but if you guys have other recc’s, let me know.

Speaking of Victoria … the last episode of series 1 of the ITV/PBS show aired the day after I got back from Mexico and, to be honest, it was a bit of a disappointment. I mean, we all knew that Victoria was going to make it through (a) any assassination attempt, and (b) childbirth (she survived both a number of times), so there wasn’t any real tension going on. Nor was there any real development in the Victoria-Albert relationship, which is my current obsession. Having read the Victoria biography, there is SO much material to be mined in that relationship, and I feel like the show is only scratching the surface. Sigh. Anyway, as predicted, the Skerrett/Francatelli romance hit the skids and I will admit that I was a little bit sad about that. On to series 2, please!

[Fun fact: did you know that Victoria ordered that all men in the British army should grow mustachios because she loved the way Albert’s looked? Talk about queenly prerogative — though not without precedent. Peter the Great of Russia went around cutting off the traditional long beards of his (male) courtiers as part of a campaign to “westernize” his court.]

Moving on to things I read online, this Reddit thread discussing an article criticizing the minimalist movement was probably more thought-provoking than the article itself (which, as pointed out by commenters, missed the distinction between minimalism as a lifestyle versus minimalism as an aesthetic).

I also spent some time this week re-reading Anne Helen Petersen’s Classic Hollywood Scandals archives on Hairpin. If you’ve never read them before, do yourself a favour and savour her excellent writing and analysis.

Happy Friday!

´╗┐Floral & Leather

Jacket, Joe Fresh (thrifted); dress, Anthropologie (thrifted); sweater, Club Monaco; scarf, Winners; shoes, Clarks; bag, Gucci
Jacket, Joe Fresh (thrifted); dress, Anthropologie (thrifted); sweater, Club Monaco; scarf, Winners; shoes, Clarks; bag, Gucci

I was really happy to re-wear this dress a couple of weekends ago, and even more happy that the weather was nice enough to allow me to pair it with my fave leather jacket. (Having that extra layer of cotton/cashmere came in handy. Those Club Monaco turtlenecks are gold, I tell you.) I wore this jacket to death last fall, and I’ve been missing it terribly ever since. You guys, I am so ready for spring to come. I know you’re probably sick of hearing that, and if you’re not then you will be by the time spring actually does arrive to this part of the world. But, oh, the struggle is real. I don’t want to see my wool coats again for a very long time.

all the patterns
all the patterns
leather & florals
leather & florals

Back to the outfit. There’s a lot of volume going on here, I know, but there’s also quite a bit of leg showing and, to be honest, some days I just don’t care about flattering proportions at all. This outfit feels great, billowing fabric and all. It is also quite a bit “louder” than my current work style, but I still like to mix things up from time to time. Never fear, I am not giving up my prints. And to convince you, I am prepared to wear them all at the same time. Oh yeah!

volume, volume everywhere
volume, volume everywhere
mad for prints
mad for prints

Vacation Tales: Mayan Riviera, 2017, part 2

sunset on the beach
sunset on the beach

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I did bring a bunch of “evening” clothes on my trip to Mexico, although I use that term very loosely. We are talking casual dresses that are no longer in my everyday rotation (and, hence, things I would not mind getting dirty and/or losing in transit) and met the necessary criteria, to wit: being lightweight and comfortable, and somewhat dressier than a cover-up. Here’s a good example:

muumu, revisited
muumu, revisited (Joe Fresh, old)
pre-dinner stroll
pre-dinner stroll & pina colada

One of the best things about traveling with friends that also have children (who are our kids’ BFFs to boot) is that we could arrange an evening trade-off. Each set of parents took the kids for a couple of hours while the other enjoyed some much-needed alone time and a quiet dinner; then, we switched. This is how my husband and I got to explore the resort a little bit without having to worry about the kids’ attention spans. One of my favourite things to do during our “adults-only time” was to walk along the beach (the appeal of which is apparently lost on 3 and 5-year olds) and relax in a hammock-swing contraption with a frothy drink in hand. Like so:

hideaway
hideaway
swing!
swing!

My trusty “evening” maxi dresses were perfect for these sorts of mini-excursions; casual enough for a sandy stroll, but classy enough for a grown-up (buffet, natch) dinner. I did bring a black cardigan with me in case of cooler evening temps, but I never ended up using it. In retrospect, I’m glad I nixed the denim jacket I almost packed. As it was, that left more room for dresses, which meant that I got to wear a different dress almost every night AND used up only half a suitcase. Packing win!

(On that note, I have to mention that I just discovered the magic of packing cubes and I cannot say enough good things about them. Because I am cheap, and was doing everything at the last minute, I ended up getting 4 packs of IKEA packing cubes, which were only $9 a pop. They are not very large, but can fit a decent amount of clothes, especially kids’ stuff. They also work for adult clothes, although it helps if the clothes in question are easily rollable and lightweight. Bulky sweaters, not so much. In the future, given that I am traveling for work more frequently these days, I am probably going to invest a bit more money in getting a bigger set of packing cubes on Amazon.)

another evening, another maxi dress
another evening, another maxi dress (Gap, old)
hello, waves!
hello, waves!
hair disaster, immortalized
hair disaster, immortalized

During our early evening walks, I loved watching the preparations for the various events that were hosted, seemingly on the regular, at our resort; we saw 2-3 weddings, a corporate retreat, and a bar mitzvah. Funny story: I used to hate weddings, including the planning process for my own, but I’ve had a change of heart in recent years. I not only love weddings now, but I also get quite emotional at them. It’s a sign of my advancing age, I’m sure. I’m also a sucker for a good floral display, so you can bet that I stopped and smelled the roses (literally and figuratively) here:

wedding set-up
wedding set-up
swoon
swoon

In addition to my old maxi dresses, I did bring one new-to-me short number with me on the trip.

dress, Dex (thrifted)
dress, Dex (thrifted)

This thrifted Dex dress turned out to be my favourite. The ponte-like black material is hella comfortable, and the floral overlay is ideal for concealing the evidence of my buffet-loving ways. I like this dress so much, in fact, that rather than keeping it in my vacation micro-capsule going forward, I have added it to my everyday casual rotation. Surely, there will be a summer BBQ or two in my future, and this dress will come in handy.

Last but not least, I really ought to give a shoutout to my old J. Crew sandals. I had originally brought another pair of sandals with me — a recently thrifted, never worn gold BR pair — but threw these black ones into the suitcase at the last minute in case the other proved uncomfortable. Boy, was that a smart idea! Sure enough, the BR pair gave me blisters after the first wear, and the inner lining on the straps started peeling in a most peculiar fashion. Needless to say, they went straight in the garbage after that; thankfully, because they were thrifted, the damage to my wallet was minimal, but what the heck, BR! Anyway, I ended up wearing these J. Crew sandals for the rest of the trip and they were as versatile and comfortable as always. I might add that this trip was something of a milestone for my over-packing self: not counting the disastrous gold sandals, I got through a 7-day trip with only 3 pairs of shoes (and that is counting the Chucks I wore on the plane to deal with the 60 degree swing in temperature between departure and arrival). I call that a triumph of minimalism, hah.

sunneeeee!
sunneeeee!
perfect buffet-eating attire
perfect buffet-eating attire

Hasta luego, Mexico!