Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Friday Finds August 2016

Red lipstick has a tumultuous past.

Have you ever bought food at TJ Maxx or Marshalls? I definitely have, especially around the holidays when they have so many random, yet special things that are perfect for stocking stuffers and gift baskets. Interesting article about the intentional chaos scheme they seem to have going on there.

Speaking of food- spray food. Confession: I used to love Cheez Whiz in college.

The history of skyscraper climbing.

I used to read entire books in the car when I was little. Now, I can barely look at a street sign or the GPS when I’m the passenger. Apparently it’s not just me– car sickness is your brain thinking you are being poisoned.

Librarian Olympics.

You’re not meant to do what you love, you’re meant to do what you’re good at. This was has me thinking… I’m good at making sure lightbulbs are in proper working order, supplies ordered, and so on, but I don’t want to do this with the rest of my life either!


5 Summer Favorites

As the start of the school season is upon us and the unofficial end of summer with Labor Day, I’m trying to savor these lazy days of summer. Here’s what I love the most about summer.

  • Fresh, local fruits and vegetables: There is nothing tastier than a tomato or blueberry from a local farm, picked within hours ( or by me!) of eating it.
  • The hours between 4-8pm: I love that time right after work when the sun is still out, the temp is a tad cooler, and it’s all about relaxation.
  • Sandals:  I love shoes, but hate socks ( I know, I’m a weirdo), so sandals are really my ideal shoes.
  • Grilling: I actually rarely grill, but I love grilled meat and veggies. Plus, it usually means that Q is cooking so I can just enjoy the meal.
  • Being outside: Whether it’s reading on the swing or walking at lunch, I enjoy being outside as much as I can ( minus the super humid, gross days).


What are your top 5 favorite things about summer?

Happy weekend!

It’s August!

I was thinking I’d write it’s been a rough few weeks, but then thinking about it, it really hasn’t… I’m just in the lazy, popsicle-eating, lounging and reading days of summer.

I like the summer, but am more partial to the early days and nights of the season than the afternoons. I have come to detest the thick humidity which seems to become worse every summer- I don’t know how people in the South live like this. Our house is small so we do fairly well with two window ACs, but we are thinking about installing a ductless AC in our front room for next summer– gosh, I’m such a suburban homeowner.

Life-wise, it’s hard to believe that school starts in a few weeks for Little Man. He is headed to the second grade and is quite excited about all the new math he’s going to learn ( his favorite subject) and a little nervous about the reading, which we’re trying to work on with him whenever we can.

Work has been busier than usual this summer, both at the museum and with my fun writing projects. That’s also increased my indoor time more than I’d like, but I’m hopeful for a warm September that can lead to more dinners outside, lounging on the swing in the backyard, and enjoying walks on the beach.

We’re making slow progress on the backyard re-do– I think we have finally tackled all the ants, though now the yard has been taken over by heat-living, drought resistant weeds that give us a false sense of hope and make our lawn look greener than it actually is! Once the hot, humid, thick weather leaves us ( hopefully soon!), we’ve got someone finally coming to paint our fence, a task I did once with my father when I bought the house 7 years ago, and have no interest in doing again.

I’ve got the furniture donation people coming this weekend to get a bunch of random furniture from the basement, something that even though I don’t look at all the time was stressing me out. I’ve held onto a lot of things for the ‘what ifs?’ of life, and am realizing that it’s more annoying to keep it there than its worth. Even if we never move from this house, I want it to be a better space for our family.

Exciting things coming up soon: day off on Friday and a massage, my Mom’s birthday, standup paddleboarding with work friends (finally!), an adventure with Little Man and Q, and trying some new restaurants with Q.

Hoping you’re enjoying the dog days of summer too!

Friday Finds July 2016

The legacy of The Babysitter’s Club. I had every single Babysitter’s Club book, even the special ones. I wish I had saved them, but I donated them to the library where I know so many young readers enjoyed them.

Fast fashion throughout history.

A brief history of the Converse All-Star logo.

Beaver skydiving in Idaho, 1948. AKA beaver transplantation. Weird!

Kodak film and A-Bomb testing.

The oldest living American dies— and she went to Brown, my grad school alma mater.

Whenever I get discouraged about where I am in life, where I think I ‘should’ be and all that, I remember that Julia Child didn’t write her first cookbook until she was 50. She, and other late bloomers, are my source of inspiration!

The Wisdom of a 7 Year Old

Excuse me, 7 1/2 year old. I’m told the half is very important.

This past weekend we had Little Man and Saturday night’s dinner conversation somehow turned to the presidential race because Election Day occurs a week after Little Man’s 8th birthday. Here’s pretty much how the convo went, paraphrasing a bit.

Little Man: And then after my birthday, we elect the first woman president.

Q: Well, we hope to elect the first woman president. There is someone running against her.

Little Man: Is he the guy who yells all the time?

Q: Yep. Not everyone likes him, but not everyone likes Hillary, the woman who is running against him. The same thing happened with Obama.

Little Man: Obama is our president now.

Me: You’re right, and he was our first ever black President. It’s a big deal for him and for Hillary because women and black people didn’t always have the right to vote.

Little Man: That’s not fair. Why?

Me: Because a long time ago white men thought they were the only ones who had the intelligence and ability to make decisions.

Little Man: Well that’s just silly.

Oh the wisdom of a 7 1/2 year old.


On a related note, I was incredibly surprised how moved I was last night when Hillary’s nomination became official. I don’t talk about politics often and have tried to keep a lot of the noise and media rants out of my head the past few weeks, but between Michelle Obama’s speech on Monday night and the official nomination last night, I have found myself tearing up on more than a few occasions. I think it’s because I see the perspective of the very special 7 1/2 year old little boy who doesn’t even question a woman being president and the prospect that I could someday have a little girl of my own that could change the world when she grows up now that this barrier has been broken. Whatever your politics and where you stand on the issues, it’s an amazing thing to see happen, no matter the outcome.

Summer Lovin’

( Apologies if the Grease song is now stuck in your head!)


I’m not the biggest fan of summer. I mean I like it, and during the frigid days of February, I dream about it. Summer is probably tied for second with winter in my lineup of favorite seasons (#1 is fall, #4 is spring because allergies). I like being able to enjoy outside in the shoulder months of the season, but here in New England, July and August often are grossly humid and hot. Apologies to those who live far South from me and have humidity for more months. I cannot imagine how you survive.

The past few weeks have been filled with that hot, humid weather that has you sweating just from breathing. Despite this, it’s been some of the best few weeks of summer I can remember. Museum visits, lunches outdoors, walks on the less sticky days, reading outside on my swing in the backyard. We finally went blueberry picking as a family, which was tons of fun.

This past weekend, we spent a lot of time indoors in the air conditioning being lazy, which was glorious by itself too. I posted over on Twitter a few Saturdays ago that hot summer Saturdays look a lot like cold winter Saturdays– lots of inside time in the A/C, reading and binge watching a show ( a few weeks ago we got sucked into some HGTV marathons and hunger pains was the only thing that broke us out of it– and got us out of the house!)

Shamefully, I haven’t made it to the beach yet, which is slightly embarrassing since there is one about a 10 minute walk from my work and I drive by at least 3 on my commute. I remember we practically lived at the beach each summer when we were kids ( probably because it was inexpensive!) and as an adult I think of ten other things I could be doing since the ocean is always there– definitely something I take for granted.



Recently: Museums

Even though I work in a museum, I don’t tend to get out to them very often– often because it’s difficult to shut the work brain off, even when in another museum space. I’m always looking at labels, how things are hung, lighting. Even though I write labels for a living, I almost never read them. I hate going on organized tours. When we went to California, we didn’t go to any museums at all ( partly because I’ve seen them all a few times over the years and partly because we had other priorities). So it’s quite funny that in the last 2 weeks, I’ve been to 3 different museums (2 work trips, one personal), all lovely, inspiring, and highly recommended.

Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA


A new museum for me, this museum has a diverse collection and a beautiful building, redone in the past few years. This was a field trip with our tour guides and I tagged along. I especially enjoyed an aboriginal art exhibit that had both historic and contemporary pieces.

IMG_1353 (1)


Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, CT


I visited this museum a few years back as part of a friend’s 30th birthday celebration when she wanted to paint on the grounds by the river for the “Make a Painting Sundays”. This trip was for work and was part inspiration visit for our next year’s exhibit. It was a gorgeous day and it was great to walk the grounds and have lunch outside. At my last visit, we didn’t go into the museum or historic house that once housed an art colony at the turn of the 20th century, so I really enjoyed this part, particularly since Impressionism is one of my favorite periods of art. The dining room of the house is definitely one of my favorite historic rooms that I have seen, featuring painted panels done by the various artists who stayed there over the years.



RISD Museum, Providence, RI

I visit the RISD Museum once or twice a year, often to see their special exhibitions or to attend a lecture or program. They are a world-class art museum in a small city and I always enjoy my visits there, whether for personal or professional reasons. This visit was with my Mom to see the Todd Oldham fashion exhibit that is currently up. If you’re anywhere in the Northeast region or even planning a visit to the area, I highly recommend the show. It’s glitzy and splashy, but also has a great personal view on the fashion and production because Todd Oldham was personally involved in the exhibit design and choosing each piece for the show.



Finally, Vacation

A few weeks ago, Q and I hightailed it over to San Francisco to visit my aunt and grandmother, but more importantly, to get some much needed time away from work and the routine of life. I’ve been to the Bay Area several times in the years my aunt has lived there, but this was Q’s first time to the area, so we did a mix of tourist stuff and general vacation relaxing.


The weather was fantastic, the food was delicious, and the company amazing. Q, by his own admission, is not a great traveler, but had a great time, even despite traffic and some crowds.

And, after a failed attempt a few years ago, I was able to meet up with the lovely San! Love when I can finally meet in person someone I’ve ‘known’ online all these years.


Overall, it was a treat to get away and spend time with family and as a couple. Mostly, it was good to be away from our routines of life and work, giving us some much needed relaxation and perspective on life.


Muir Woods

Book Review: Lift

Lift cover

About Lift

A riveting cultural history of fitness, from Greek antiquity to the era of the “big-box gym” and beyond, exploring the ways in which human exercise and physical ideals have changed over time—and what we can learn from our past.

How did treadmills and weight machines become the gold standard of fitness? Why have some of us turned our backs on the mirrors and gleaming devices of the traditional gym? What is the appeal of the stripped-down, functional approach to fitness that’s currently on the rise?

In this captivating narrative, Daniel Kunitz sets out on a journey through history to answer these questions and more. What he finds is that, while we humans have been conditioning our bodies for more than 2,500 years, we’ve done so for a variety of reasons: to imitate gods, to be great warriors, to build nations and create communities, to achieve physical perfection, and, of course, to look good naked. Behind each of these goals is a story and method of exercise that not only illuminates the past but also sheds light on aspects of the widespread, multi-faceted fitness culture of today.

Lift begins with the ancient Greeks, who made a cult of the human body—the word “gymnasium” derives from the Greek word for “naked”—and then takes us on an enlightening tour through time, following Asian martial artists, Persian pahlevans, nineteenth-century German gymnasts, and the bronzed bodies of California’s Muscle Beach. Kunitz uncovers the seeds of the modern gym in the late nineteenth-century with the invention of the first weightlifting machines, and brings us all the way up to the ultimate game-changer: the feminist movement, which kicked off the exercise boom of the 1970s with aerobics, and ultimately helped create the big-box gyms we know today.

Using his own decade-long journey to transform himself from a fast-food junkie into an ultra-fit—if aging—athlete as a jumping off point, Kunitz argues that another exercise revolution is underway now—a new frontier in fitness, in which the ideal of a bikini body is giving way to a focus on mastering the movements of life.


My review: 3 stars.

I’m in no way a fitness freak. I do yoga, walk for exercise, lift weights occasionally. I used to take Zumba and have tried my fair share of workout DVDs in my basement. If I had been born twenty years earlier, not many of those things would have been in my world, as they are recent inventions of our image and health obsessed society.  I was interested in the book because I find cultural and social history fascinating, and the history of fitness and working out in the country has changed as our society has become more focused on sedentary work time and leisure activities.

Of course, throughout history, there was no need for fitness machines or classes because people did HARD WORK almost every single day, working on farms, at jobs that involved physical labor, and so on. They didn’t sit in front of the TV or computer for hours on end and didn’t eat processed, fast foods eaten from paper sacks. Our fitness revolutions came largely in the 20th century, mostly during the last 40 years of it, at pretty much the same time and rate as the rise in consumer culture. Kunitz does a great job of that later part of the history of fitness– it’s not that the early civilization history is not well-done, but I have less of an interest in that time period.

For the book overall, I liked Kunitz’s arguments. I enjoy learning about at the changing nature of society through a common topic like fitness. I think there could be a whole other book about fitness and identity with women, as that issue is wrought with other social and cultural changes happening from the 1940s on, similar to one I read in grad school about history of women’s roles with housekeeping and cleaning in the United States.

It was interesting to read this book in July, a month out from the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Rio. It’s always fascinating to me– and to other people I’ve talk with as well– that we could care less about swimming or track and field any other time of the year, but there is something about the Olympics that makes us interested in these sports more than ever. Part of it I think is because these are events that only happen every couple of years, but the other I think is part of the fitness culture that Kunitz discusses– it’s almost mesmerizing and mind boggling at the same time that a person could devote their life– and their body– to one specific endeavor for so long.

While I liked the light history slant, the academic inside me wanted more primary sources and less of Kunitz’s personal story as the book went on. In his note on sources at the back, he does say that he wasn’t seeking to write the definitive history of exercising and fitness, but I think because I come from the academic world, I always want more background and less personal slant.

tlc tour host

As part of the TLC Book Tour of this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

June in Review, July Preview!

Thanks to Nicole for her awesome monthly review questionnaire from her weekly notes email to inspire me!

The two things I’m most proud of from June:

  • Completely detaching myself from work during my vacation
  • Beginning my summer blogging for newportFILM

The two things I’m most grateful for from June:

  • Spending time with my aunt and grandmother in California
  • My backyard- our own little backyard space to enjoy the gorgeous weather

The lesson I learned and am carrying forward with me from June: Getting away from work and life’s routines is sometimes the best medicine for all that ails you

My intention for July: Action with a side of soaking in the summer

One thing I aim to do everyday in July is: move my body!

Because I am brave, here are 2 new things I will do in July:

  • Try standup paddleboarding
  • Creative writing to try to get more of my own voice out there, not just the freelance stuff

The one book I definitely want to read in July is: Something light and from my own bookshelf– trying to break this habit of not being able to read the books I actually own

Something I want to experiment with in July is: How and where we buy our food. My local supermarket is failing us in so many ways

Just for fun, I will: go to the beach

As an act of intentional kindness, I will: host dinner at my house for some family and friends who I want to treat



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