A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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Hello, friends! Here we are firmly into summer - are you enjoying it? Summer is my favorite season, so you know I am. I love the warmth, the sun, the ability to go out at any time and walk, kayak, garden, eat outside - basically anything I want to do without being cold or wet. It's my happy place (I think I live in the wrong area of the States since we're pretty much known for cold and wet most of the year...)
I think I've got a great list for you this month! June was all about our vacation so I'm sharing some packing tips, how my capsule wardrobe worked out, a few of my favorite things I bought for the trip, the eight books I'm reviewing for you (Out of 12 read!! Guess what I did on the flight and trip?), plus more.
Be sure to comment and let me know what you think or packing/travel tips you've used and loved!
Of course the best thing in June was our trip to the Caribbean! You can hear how we chose the Bahamas as our island destination, how we planned and saved on the trip, and more photos here. It really was so wonderful.
For this Good Things List I thought I'd share about the packing - how I packed for two weeks in a carryon, my travel outfit, how the capsule wardrobe worked out (and what I'd do differently), and a few of the new things I bought that I thought were great.
Note: I've shared about how to pack in a carry-on for more than a week before, too, for our 2+ week trip to Greece and Kosovo where I used a slightly different technique to fit a lot in (more clothing layers were needed for this spring trip). You can see that here.
Carry-On Only Wardrobe & Packing
My Two Week Caribbean Capsule Wardrobe:
From left to right:
- Swim Gear: Active swim shorts and rashguard (worn with an old bikini bra top I had), skirted swim suit with extra top (I read that we needed at least two suits so one could be drying and this is true). And a sarong that turned out to be a really cool thing.
- 5 Tops: 4 flowy tanks (flowy = less sweat showing from humidity) and 1 short sleeve. I did end up squeezing another t-shirt into a packing cube because there was room, but I didn't ever wear it.
- 3 Toppers: 1 linen long sleeve button up and two kimonos.
- 4 Summer Dresses: 2 black (linked below) and 2 olive pull-over types I shared here. The striped shorter one also worked great as a swim cover up.
- Sleeping: 1 shorts PJ set and 2 bra tanks.
- 4 Bottoms: 2 skirts, 1 jean short, 1 linen pant.
- Extras: 2 ribbed tanks and a baseball hat.
- Shoes: Walking sandals, flip flops, and nicer sandal.
- Not Shown: underwear, 1 pair socks
We did have access to a washing machine, but it wasn't convenient so we used it just once mainly for towels and a few shirts. I hand washed and hung up most things after wearing in the bathroom (see the clothesline I used below that turned out to be a great find).
Carry-on Bag Layers:
- Flip-flops and flat sandals were set in the very bottom around the bars of the extending handle.
- Thin dresses and jean shorts were folded on next layer.
- The layer shown above holds the walking sandals (in a shoe bag), my toiletries container, a skirt and a couple more dresses.
Some things were folded flat, some were rolled and the rest were pushed into three small packing cubes:
You can see above where the black dress that was folded in the previous photo is now rolled behind the packing cubes. You just have to keep adjusting as you go to see how things fit best! I was able to set my flat iron on top of the rolled dress since it sat a bit lower than the cubes.
Here's how I packed the cubes:
- Left cube: all swim gear, including sarong.
- Middle cube: skirt and all tanks and tops.
- Right cube: underwear, PJs, extra tanks, ball cap, socks, bras, etc. This is the cube I had extra room in and you can see the striped tee that I squeezed on top.
When we arrived, I unzipped the tops and just set these cubes in the dresser drawer to use them throughout the trip to keep my clothes organized. It was my first time using these small cubes and I really liked that - and how much I could stuff in them.
I'm always cold on planes and we were flying a red-eye out, so I knew I'd need layers. These included jeans, an elbow length tee, the linen button up, a light weight cotton jacket, scarf, shoes and my slip-on Sketchers that I've been wearing for travel for a few years (they are light, comfortable, and work for walking or hiking).
I went back and forth about arriving in the Bahamas in jeans, but I wasn't willing to freeze on the plane, so jeans it was. And I wasn't sorry - I was happy for all these layers (especially the scarf which I used as a blanket) on our flights. When we got to the island, we were only in the hot humid air walking to the car and to the apartment, so it wasn't a big deal.
So, how did this carry-on wardrobe work out?
Believe it or not, you can take too much even in a carry-on! Just because you can fit it in doesn't mean you need it. Here are the things I ended up not wearing:
- The short-sleeved tees. Our daughter had been to Cuba last year and she wished she had brought more tees to shield her shoulders from the sun, so I packed 3 total (including my travel tee). However, I didn't want to wear anything on my arms, it was so warm so I always opted for the tanks. When I needed relief from the sun, I used the kimono coverup.
- The nicer sandals. Staying in an Airbnb, needing to walk almost everywhere and we weren't interested in going to fancy restaurants, so I only wore the walking sandals and flip flops for the entire two weeks.
- The linen pants. Same as short-sleeves - it was too hot and I wanted only to wear my skirts and dresses.
- The flowy maxi dress with sleeves. While I love this dress (more on that below) it was a bit fancy for our stay and again too much material for me - I think it would make a nice resort-type dress. This trip was just more casual.
- The black kimono cover. I only needed one. Live and learn, right?
As you can see, I just needed to bring less! As hard as it is to imagine when you think about 5 tops and 2 tanks for a whole two weeks, you really don't need a lot. In the Caribbean, you're swimming everyday (or at least I was!) and you change a lot. I washed things overnight and bottoms don't really get dirty worn occasionally over two weeks.
So, what are the "must-packs" for a Caribbean trip?
The winners in my wardrobe were:
- The 3 dresses - so easy to throw on and so cool in the warm weather.
- The 2 skirts and flowy tanks.
- A comfortable pair of walking sandals and flip flops.
- 2 swim suits and a sarong (used as a towel, coverup, and beach blanket).
- 1 kimono that coordinates with everything.
- 1 pair of jean shorts (or other hiking/walking short) - I was SO glad for these even though they were a heavier material for our days of walking and sightseeing (remember, humidity = chafing, a-hem...).
The Good Buys
I bought these two dresses before our trip. The flowy dress on the left is from Walmart and is under $25. It's airy and super comfortable and I think is really flattering. I've been loving it since we got home - it's really nice for our 70-80 degree non-humid days, but like I said, I didn't wear it on our trip because it was so hot and humid and I wanted the least material needed, ha!
Since coming home I've worn it to church and a backyard BBQ - I think it was a great buy! (Note: it's described as a "strapless dress" which was pretty confusing since it has sleeves. It is exactly as pictured, though!)
I wore the camisole bra top dress on the right, however, at least three times. It was perfect for the heat and humidity - I loved that I didn't need to worry about a bra. It's from Uniqlo, which I only discovered a few months ago. They have quality clothes for very good prices.
The thing I liked the most about this dress is that the bra top is actually cups, not just a shelf. It also was super flattering and knee length, which is my preferred length. Now that I'm home and it's usually not warm enough to wear on it's own, I pair it with a cardigan or my kimono.
I often wear button shirts over tanks as a cover up and for changeable weather. I've got mostly cotton shirts, though, and I read linen was better for hot and humid so I started searching for one.
This is actually how I found out about Uniqlo - they're kind of known for their French linen clothing items. And for being pretty inexpensive - this classic white shirt pictured is under $20. It worked out great and it will be replacing my cotton white shirt at home. It feels lovely against the skin and really did breathe better in the warm Caribbean.
In all honesty I only used it when we were in air conditioned places, though - like I mentioned, I didn't want anything, no matter what it was made from, on my arms in the Bahamas! It was perfect for layering for the plane travel, though.
I looked at quite a few clotheslines for drying clothes washed in a sink while traveling and decided on the one pictured above because it packed away small and didn't require bulky clothespins. It worked great, just as described. It was easy to thread a small section of clothing through the braided rope and there are three ways to hang it up, velcro, suction, or clip. Highly recommended for travel.
You know I was on vacation when I was able to read 12 books in a month - and only 3 of them were audiobooks! It was SO nice and one of the reasons that I came back relaxed and refreshed (well floating in glorious water for a couple weeks didn't hurt either!). Here are the eight I wanted to share with you:
Tell Me Three Things, Julie Buxbaum.
I picked up this YA novel after reading a review on Modern Mrs. Darcy. It was sweet and surprisingly deep with teens dealing with death and grief on top of normal teen issues. The story centers around a girl who's lost her mom to cancer and then her dad remarries and moves them to California (from Michigan) and a totally different life. She has a hard time in school and someone anonymously (over messaging) offers to help her navigate the new school and friends. It doesn't skirt real emotions, but still is a sweet story and eventually a romance. I wish there wasn't the casual attitude to sex among 16 year olds, but I guess that's where we are in this world. There was also language, like almost everything these days, sigh.
Act Like It, Lucy Parker.
This was another recommendation from Modern Mrs. Darcy who lists this as a "closed door" romance (meaning no details, a-hem). It was light and fun, just what I like for travel. This is the first in a series of books by this author around actors in London's West End, so there's a theater theme that was interesting. The premise is that two actors who don't get along are asked to pretend that they are dating to help clean up the lead actor's reputation - and you can guess where it goes from there, ha! Note: while it was closed door, there is language and sleeping around.
Loving People, Dr. John Townsend.
I listened to this book in the mornings throughout the month while getting ready for the day. It's written by the co-author of the Boundaries books and my Book Notes Journal came in handy because there were a number of gems I wanted to remember from this book on loving people well by being a loving person:
-Loving isn't always roses and happy feelings. True loving is doing what is best for the other person, even if it's hard.
-The myth of loving yourself before you can love others is not true. It tends to isolate us from relationships; love is an interpersonal, relational process, occurring between two people, not inside one person.
-"Love your neighbor as yourself" actually teaches to love others as we would WANT to be loved.
Where the Crawdads Sing, Deliah Ownens.
So, I see on Amazon that this book has over 15,000 reviews and a full five-star rating, so I'm obviously in a minority here when I say that this will not be in the top books of the year for me. I just didn't buy the premise of this novel from the beginning - of a mother leaving her 6 year old, of that 6 year old then figuring out how to live, cook, earn money, etc. on her own, or that no one in the town would take pity on a little girl to help her. We're supposed to believe that because she didn't want to go with strangers that everyone just gave up and left a child to be on their own in a swamp. I didn't care for the cliches of the courtroom scenes - or even the twist at the end (which actually didn't surprise me that much). It was well written, though, and I can see the allure of it - and it will probably make a good movie. It just apparently wasn't my thing.
Born a Crime, Trevor Noah.
Now here's a bestseller with all 5-star ratings that I totally agree with. This book is amazing - to see how people lived just a few years ago in South Africa, learn more about apartheid and race, and just this man's crazy life. I found myself sharing so much of this with Brian (as we sat on the beach in the Bahamas!). I wish he had gone into more about how he went from so poor and stuck to a world famous comedian, but I understand that these were simply stories from his life (and they aren't always in chronological order). There is language (of course) but this is really a worthwhile book.
The Printed Letter Bookshop, Katherine Reay.
This is the latest book by Reay (I've read them all, she's a favorite), and the first to have nothing to do with Jane Austin at all. From the ending it sounds like it's the first in a series of books that will be set in this town. I liked this as a fun, quick read (and Reay's books are always clean). You kind of know what you're getting here and I knew how it would all come out within the first few chapters, but that's okay because I enjoy a good HEA book (that's Happily Ever After in romance-speak, lol). I liked these characters and watching how they dealt with the issues in their lives.
The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber, Julian Rubinstein.
Brian and I listened to this together and we both really loved it. One of our favorite types of books fall into the category of "Unbelievable True Story" and this is definitely that. It tells the 1990's story a legendary outlaw of Budapest, Attila Ambrus, a "gentleman thief, a sort of Cary Grant--if only Grant came from Transylvania, was a terrible professional hockey goalkeeper, and preferred women in leopard-skin hot pants." It's funny, sad and amazing. We also learned more about the history of Hungary and Romania in the years after the fall of the Eastern Bloc. They lived like Americans did 50-100 years ago with no running water, electricity, and other poor living experiences. There was some swearing, but I highly recommend to anyone like us who enjoys a "I can't believe this is real" book.
This Must Be The Place, Maggie O'Farrell.
This is about a marriage between a divorced man whose ex won't let him see his kids and the reclusive film star. It covers quite a few years and while written nicely and with a number of interesting characters, I didn't enjoy this book. I couldn't understand many of the actions they did - or didn't do. I also didn't care for the switching back and forth between years and points of view in each chapter - it made it hard to keep track of and some of the points-of-view seemed meaningless (we learn all about the back story of an elderly lady on a tour bus just so we can see where the dad and son of our story was in that year - and we never see her again...) This just didn't speak to me (and it's telling that I read this at the beginning of June and couldn't remember what it was about until looking it up on Amazon again to spur my memory!).
June TV & Movies
Last season of Elementary. I'm sad to see this show end, though of course all good things must. We still enjoy it seven seasons later (except for Lucy Liu as a blond - I can't get behind that...).
Good Omens. After enjoying Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere so much, we had hopes that this would be another fun, interesting tale. We didn't really like it, though - it was too much over the top and the Christian themes just way too skewed to be funny.
Avengers Endgame. We had to see this since 2 billion others have, right? We did watch Infinity War last month to prepare and it's like I always say with these movies - you know what you're going to get and you just have to let go and enjoy it. We were all scratching our heads with the ending of Captain America's time travel, though, and what that meant for his character's timeline...what did you think?
That's it for another addition of the Good Things List! If you'd like to see more of what I'm enjoying, you can check out all the Good Things Lists here. I'd love to know what you think - if you've tried any of these or what you'd recommend. Leave a comment below with your thoughts!
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