Life By Kristen

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

Currently: August

How are you, people of the world? I’m going to be honest, my summer has been a bit rough. The state of the world, happenings at work, and some life and family happenings have made for some tough days. I’m trying to take care of myself and my people, practice gratitude where I can, and try not to worry. I’m not great at the last thing, but some days are better than others.

Currently….

Eating: the fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and other veggies from the local farmstand and the veggie garden at my work. I love cucumbers- I’ll eat them raw with nothing on them, with some salt and olive oil, in Italian dressing, and so on. I love pickles. And yet, I do not love cucumber flavored things, especially cucumber water.

Loving: That this summer has not been brutally hot and humid (fingers crossed it stays that way through September).

Buying: Secondhand clothes from ThredUp. It’s an online consignment spot where you can send clothes to sell ( or they donate) and has a huge selection of clothes. I’ve ordered dresses and skirts mostly from there, and have been pretty successful with finding great items, and getting rid of a number of things that either don’t fit anymore or aren’t in line with my style and life these days. Full disclosure: if you click through that link, it gives you a personal invite via me that gives you $10 to shop with and I get $10 too!

Traveling: Q and I went to Martha’s Vineyard last weekend for the day as part of a 4-day weekend stay-cation we both desperately needed. It was gorgeous, but so crowded.

Trying: To not watch the news as much and when I do I try to counter it with good things to remind me of the goodness in the world, like this amazing man in Minnesota who built a pool for the neighborhood kids after his wife died. It made my night on Thursday after a rough day at work and made me all teary reminding me of the great people that still exist among the hate and horrible things.

Disliking: I jinxed myself the other day saying I haven’t had a mosquito bite in awhile, then preceded to get 5 while taking out the trash on Tuesday night. I was outside for maybe 10 minutes total and became a feast for the local skeeter population. I’m somewhat allergic to mosquito bites and they turn into huge, itchy welts that only high-powered anti-itch stuff will help.

Reading: A fluff summer novel, starting the 3rd Harry Potter book, and listening to I am Malala.

Donating: To Southern Poverty Law Center for all the work they do on educating/exposing/prosecuting hate groups. I had the chance to meet some folks who work at the center back in 2004 when I was in Alabama for a conference and was impressed all those years ago.

 

Meyers-Briggs

Have you ever done the Meyers-Briggs personality test?

I’ve done it a few times throughout life for classes and employers. A few freelance clients even ask for it when we’re getting to know each other.

I am solidly a INTJ.

Interesting, as I’m thinking about my life and career next steps, that some of the most popular careers for INTJ’s include research, organization, and project management, things I definitely excel in and enjoy.

 

July in Review, August Preview

Bringing this back from last year….

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

  • Making it a priority to completely be with family on weekends and not checking work emails
  • Surviving my day job ( there are some days it is a struggle).

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

  • 4 day mini staycation on 4th of July weekend
  • Fresh, local produce in abundance- it took a little longer than usual this year because of all the rain we had through June, but we’re definitely reaping the rewards now!

The lesson I learned and am carrying forward with me from July: I am more than my job.

My intention for August: All about me/us– what do we want for the future and how can we get there?

One thing I aim to do everyday in August is: practice gratitude, meditate, and ask myself “what did I do today that was worth my time?”

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

  • Try a different type of yoga at new studio
  • Send out 2 short stories for review

The one book I definitely want to read in August is: The third Harry Potter book!

Something I want to experiment with in August is: My work night routine. More often than not, I come home feeling mentally/emotionally exhausted and end up a blob on the couch, sometimes not even reading, but passively on social media, watching garbage on TV. It’s a really bad habit that doesn’t help me feel better.

Just for fun, I will: go to Martha’s Vineyard– I haven’t been since I was a teenager.

As an act of intentional kindness, I will: make some treats for coworkers who are in a similar job hole as I am- solidarity and food!

 

Friday Finds July 2017

I had no idea there were women astronauts training in the 1960s.

I also had no idea a woman printed the original Declaration of Independence, and put her name on the bottom of the document.

Have you ever seen these amazing murals and art at the Denver airport? I was there in 2008, but don’t recall much, but the conspiracy stories behind the murals it are fascinating.

American ingenuity- American women during the Depression made dresses out of everything they could, include chicken feed bags.

I definitely enjoy reading about cooking more than I like to cook (but not as much as I like to eat!)

Book Review: The Dress in the Window

Synopsis: A perfect debut novel is like a perfect dress—it’s a “must have” and when you “try it on” it fits perfectly. In this richly patterned story of sisterhood, ambition, and reinvention Sofia Grant has created a story just right for fans of Vintage and The Dress Shop of Dreams. World War II has ended and American women are shedding their old clothes for the gorgeous new styles. Voluminous layers of taffeta and tulle, wasp waists, and beautiful color—all so welcome after years of sensible styles and strict rationing.

Jeanne Brink and her sister Peggy both had to weather every tragedy the war had to offer—Peggy now a widowed mother, Jeanne without the fiancé she’d counted on, both living with Peggy’s mother-in-law in a grim mill town.  But despite their grey pasts they long for a bright future—Jeanne by creating stunning dresses for her clients with the help of her sister Peggy’s brilliant sketches.

Together, they combine forces to create amazing fashions and a more prosperous life than they’d ever dreamed of before the war. But sisterly love can sometimes turn into sibling jealousy. Always playing second fiddle to her sister, Peggy yearns to make her own mark. But as they soon discover, the future is never without its surprises, ones that have the potential to make—or break—their dreams.

 

My review: 3.5 stars.

At face value, this book has many things I enjoy– historical fiction featuring women during post-World War II period and fashion. It is essentially the story of 3 women trying to make their way in the world after losing their husbands/boyfriends during World War II: Jeanne, Peggy, and Peggy’s mother-in-law Thelma ( and a tiny bit about Peggy’s daughter, Tommie).

It took me a bit to get into the story and to really care about the characters. I didn’t feel like a lot of the intrigue began until 150 or so pages in. There were some aspects of the story that I thought would be bigger plot points, but then nothing came of them. I found so much of the story to be sort of sad actually, especially as the relationship between the two sisters evolved and soured. I thought the ending was quite abrupt– even though there was an epilogue, I think the final details of the story could have been woven into the main book. I thought the prologue was entirely unnecessary, as well as a lot of aspects of Thelma’s story.

What I loved was all the references to fashion and the changing nature of clothing in America after World War II. This served as a great backdrop to the story lines of Jeanne and Peggy as it helped give some great context for their lives and changing roles as women too. Since fashion history is one of my interest areas and part of my day job, it was clear that the author did a lot of research into this time period of fashion history to get details correct, and really capture the moment when American fashion in the form of sportswear and off-the-rack/ready to wear clothes took off.

Get your own copy of the book here!


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

Summer Fun

Happy July! It’s actually been a full month already for me and we’re only 11 days in!

With the dreadful rainy spring we had, I’m taking every opportunity to enjoy summer fun while it’s still here. Knock on wood, the weather has been delightful without a lot of humidity or super hot temperatures. Some July 4ths in the past few years have been unbearably hot, but this year was quite pleasant. I took the Monday off for a much needed extra long weekend away from work.

I’ve managed to do many things on my summer fun list- we went strawberry picking, I’ve been to the beach ( though only once), enjoyed eating outside and relaxation time by the water, and eaten lunch outside at work a couple times too. I’m excited for blueberry picking, a new open air market in my town, and am anxiously awaiting local tomatoes from my favorite farm stand.

We don’t have any vacation plans quite yet, but are hoping to make it over to Martha’s Vineyard to see Q’s family at least for the day in August. I’d like to take a vacation in September, since that month has turned into more of a summer month than fall around these parts the past few years. With kids back in school and life quieted down a bit, I think traveling in September is more our speed too.

Hope your July is filled with plenty of lazy days enjoying a good book, watermelon, and sunshine!

Bristol, RI

Friday Finds June 2017

Why fashion has become colorful over the years.

Speaking of fashion, what a physicist sees when she looks at a fancy gown.

I have always lived near to the beach. While I’m not there every weekend in the summer, I love the beach, especially in that time of night around 6pm when it clears out and it’s just quiet with fewer people and the sound of the waves. Here’s how the beach became such a popular spot.

Speaking of fashion– when does it belong in a museum and when can you just wear it?

The many colors of Mister Rogers’ sweaters.

As a library lover, it’s no surprise I also love card catalogs so this history of them was super cool to me. Yep, I’m a book nerd.

 Did you read the book From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as a kid? It was one of my favorites growing up and may be it has something to do with my working in the museum field. Here’s the true story behind E.L. Konisburg’s classic children’s novel.

 Dirty Dancing is one of my favorite movies of all time. Here’s the scoop on the real-life locations that we see as Kellerman’s.

Half a Year Gone

2017 is all about wellness for me.

With half a year gone by, I say I’m doing really well at this goal. It really has been a lifestyle shift for me that began with the Whole30 in February that really shifted my mindset, eating habits, and food cravings.

I definitely have made great strides on cutting down the “busy” time and finding ways to make errands fun by doing them with Q and Little Man. I have made strict rules about no work emails between 6p-7a during the work week and almost no checking on the weekends. I’ve read or listened to 40 books so far this year so I think I will crush my goal of reading 60 for the year. I feel like I’m more myself and comfortable with who I am than ever before.

All this said and with all the steps behind me towards my goal of wellness, I still don’t feel like I’m in the right place workwise. I’m struggling between wanting change and fearing it, as well as the crippling feeling of so many options/ideas for next steps. I hold onto the hope that the right thing, aha moment, etc. will happen with patience, but there have been more than a few frustrating days after yet another rejection. I’ve been consistently applying and interviewing for things for 2 years without results, leading me to really dig deep to think about what I want, what I portray, and what my next steps will be.

The only thing about my 2017 wellness goal– to not buy new clothes– has not happened because I’ve lost/am losing weight and don’t have a ton of things that still fit me. This is a great problem to have, but I’m finding it difficult to adjust my clothing as I slim down because I want to keep losing, but don’t want to look like I’m wearing someone else’s clothes in the process. I’m trying to buy things secondhand (I love ThredUp!) or buying quality things that I can have tailored in the future.

Overall, I’m really pleased with myself and the progress I have made with myself this year. It’s given me the boost I needed in my confidence to remind myself I am capable of doing something I want if I am disciplined and determined. Here’s to continued success for the rest of the year!

 

 

Book Review: Kiss Carlo

Synopsis: It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia bursts with opportunity during the post-war boom. The Palazzini Cab Company & Western Union Telegraph Office, owned and operated by Dominic Palazzini and his three sons, is flourishing: business is good, they’re surrounded by sympathetic wives and daughters-in-law, with grandchildren on the way. But a decades-long feud that split Dominic and his brother Mike and their once-close families sets the stage for a re-match.

Amidst the hoopla, the arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone (Dominic and his wife’s orphaned nephew) who lives and works with his Uncle Dom and his family. Nicky decides, at 30, that he wants more—more than just a job driving Car #4 and more than his longtime fiancée Peachy DePino, a bookkeeper, can offer. When he admits to his fiancée that he’s been secretly moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theater company, Nicky finds himself drawn to the stage, its colorful players and to the determined Calla Borelli, who inherited the enterprise from her father. Nicky must choose between the conventional life his family expects of him or chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes.

Told against the backdrop of some of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, this novel brims with romance as long buried secrets are revealed, mistaken identities are unmasked, scores are settled, broken hearts are mended and true love reigns. Trigiani’s consummate storytelling skill and her trademark wit, along with a dazzling cast of characters will enthrall readers. Once again, the author has returned to her own family garden to create an unforgettable feast. Kiss Carlo is a jubilee, resplendent with hope, love, and the abiding power of la famiglia.

My review:  4 stars

Adriana Trigiani is one of my favorite authors. The Shoemaker’s Wife is among my favorite books and I think she has a real talent for historical fiction and character development. This new book is no exception. It’s rich with detail, but not in a way that makes it feel dragged out or overly long.

I received this book to review in May in the middle of a month of celebrations, preparations for the conference I co-chaired (including running the silent auction which was a HUGE task), and so on. I started the book the weekend before the conference and brought it with me thinking I’d have all this down time at night to read which clearly is a sign of how little I knew about running a conference because I worked 14 hour days and was in bed about 830 every night. Then the past week have been overwhelming with Q’s brother-in-law’s death, so reading really has been the last thing on my mind ( which is saying a lot since it’s one of favorite things to do in life). But this past weekend we didn’t have a ton of things going on, so I powered through the book in no time- which is saying a lot considering it’s 544 pages!

The story really is more about Nicky than the Palazzini family, but what I love about Trigiani’s writing is how she weaves in the lives and details of other characters to create a whole universe that helps you to understand more about the main character and their decisions. She does this very well in this novel. I could easily see several of theses characters having their own spinoff books. I’d particularly be interested in reading more about that character of Hortense Mooney, the African American taxi dispatcher/Western Union telegram lady and Nicky’s guardian angel of sorts. I found her to be dynamic, funny, and heartwarming. I am glad she has a happy ending in Kiss Carlo, but I want to know more!

It’s a novel about love, family, and relationships. It takes place in 1949 Philadelphia and is rich with stories that depict how much change was in the air after World War II. If you enjoy family stories with great character development that really transport you back in time, this novel is for you. Even though it’s lengthy, I think it’s the perfect read for a rainy weekend or summer vacation.

The only negative of this book is that I received an advanced reader copy (ARC) which often are missing acknowledgements or author’s notes, which was the case here. In other Trigiani books, she often provides a rich backstory on what propelled her to write the novel, who some of the characters are inspired by, and so forth. I’ll definitely be looking for the book at the library or bookstore to read that as my curious writer’s mind always likes to know the story behind the story.

Kiss Carlo releases today!

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

Book Review: White Fur

Synopsis:

A stunning star-crossed love story set against the glitz and grit of 1980s New York City.

When Elise Perez meets Jamey Hyde on a desolate winter afternoon, fate implodes, and neither of their lives will ever be the same. Although they are next-door neighbors in New Haven, they come from different worlds. Elise grew up in public housing without a father and didn’t graduate from high school; Jamey is a junior at Yale, heir to a private investment bank fortune and beholden to high family expectations. Nevertheless, the attraction is instant, and what starts out as sexual obsession turns into something greater, stranger, and impossible to ignore.

The unlikely couple moves to Manhattan in hopes of forging an adult life together, but Jamey’s family intervenes in desperation, and the consequences of staying together are suddenly severe. And when a night out with old friends takes a shocking turn, Jamey and Elise find themselves fighting not just for their love, but also for their lives.

White Fur follows these indelible characters on their wild race through Newport mansions and downtown NYC nightspots, SoHo bars and WASP-establishment yacht clubs, through bedrooms and hospital rooms, as they explore, love, play, and suffer. Jardine Libaire combines the electricity of Less Than Zero with the timeless intensity of Romeo and Juliet in this searing, gorgeously written novel that perfectly captures the ferocity of young love.

My review: 2.5 stars.

I’m not quite sure why I wasn’t a huge fan of the book. The writing was decent, though more of a literary prose than I often choose ( but it’s good to get out of the regular reading choices). Each chapter is essentially one month in the life of the couple and follows them over a period of just over a year.

I think my main issue was that I didn’t connect at all with any of the characters so found it difficult to relate or really care about them. I didn’t think about the characters or the book after putting it down. I didn’t find that I really understood them that well, and that could be because of the style of writing.

To be clear, it’s not a typical love story with happy endings and warm fuzzies. The relationship between Jamey and Elise was often difficult to read at times. I found a lot of the intimate scenes to be unnecessary and gritty. I wouldn’t consider myself conservative, but I found some of the sexual encounters to be more gratuitous for shock value than for moving the story forward or making me understand the relationship between Jamey and Elise better.

From the description, I thought there would be more vivid settings of New York City and Newport in the 1980s. Other than the copious amount of popular 80s drugs mentioned like cocaine and LSD, I thought the story could take place in almost any city of the 1980s. I would have liked to see more geographical/people/historical event references to really capture the feel of the overdone 80s. Overall, it was a quick read but not a story that will stay with me.

 

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

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