Life By Kristen

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

5 on Friday: Podcasts

It’s been awhile since I shared some of the podcasts I’m listening to these days. My podcast subscriptions was once up to something like 25 (though all not in active seasons at one time), so I recently pared down quite a bit. Here are 5 new-ish finds to me that I really enjoy.

 

Annotated 

 

This podcast from Book Riot is now in its second season and I’m enjoying it as much as the first. The stories are all related to books, language, and reading but is not book recommedations or just talking about authors or titles. Favorite episode of Season 1 was about the oxford comma.

Making Obama

This comes from the same folks who did the Making Oprah podcast, which I HIGHLY recommend if you have ever wondered how Oprah became a household name and bizillionaire. These episodes are about Obama’s rise in the political world starting with his community organizing days in Chicago. While I read Obama’s memoir Dreams of My Father, I didn’t know much about the political climate he was in prior to hitting the national stage as a senator. Not too much political junk, and lots of back story I didn’t know.

Planet Money

Being an NPR geek, I subscribe to a lot of NPR supported/hosted podcasts. I often heard ads promoting this one on some of my other must-listens, and was never super intrigued. What made me change? There was a promo spot on Pop Culture Happy Hour for an episode about China and money that sounded interesting, and since I knew Q and I were going to be in the car a lot for our Utah vacation, I downloaded it since I thought he’d be interested in it too. And I was right! That one episode made me download a bunch of others and subscribe. I like that it explains complex current affairs related to economy and trade in normal, non-jargon ways, as well as puts them in context with real-life people, events, and issues instead of just a bunch of talking heads/experts who make my head hurt.

Retropod

I know many people who say they can’t get into podcasts because they don’t have a place to fit them into their lives because they don’t commute or have dedicated time to listen. The episodes of Retropod are only about 3-4 minutes long, making them ideal for quick snippets of history and facts that are often related to current events, holidays, or other cultural milestones. I especially like it for the days when a podcast doesn’t entirely fill my commute and I can listen to a few of them in the last 10 minutes or so of my drive.

Sidedoor

I can’t remember quite how I happened across this podcast from the Smithsonian ( probably facebook), but it’s quickly become a favorite. It covers a wide variety of topics from the Smithsonian’s collections and interviews with experts, but in a totally fun and dynamic way that hasn’t been boring yet. The episode about the artist and process for the National Portrait Gallery’s commission of First Lady Michelle Obama’s portrait was a favorite.

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2018 Goal: Digitize Family Photos

If you’ve been reading my blog for any period of time, it’s not surprise that family is the most important thing in my life. I spend a lot of time with them, talk to them on the phone/text multiple times a day, and so on. In my house, I’m surrounded my family heirlooms, mementos, and photos that are my most valued possessions. After my mother and grandmother sold their houses, I became the keeper of some of the family photographs, in particular my Dad’s collection of slides from the 1970s and 1980s when that was a thing you did when developing film.

One of the my goals of 2018 is to pare back the amount of stuff we have, partly because Q and I are hoping to move in the next year or so, and partly because I want to be able to use and engage with the stuff I have. I really wanted to digitize my Dad’s slides because so many of them were from when he was in art school and I wanted to make some prints of his photos to hang alongside those of my aunt’s (his sister), who is a very talented photographer. Also, there were a lot of baby photos in these slides of me, and as the second child, there was a serious lack of photos hanging around with me as a baby because my parents were sleepless and frazzled with jobs and 2 kids under the age of 2!

A few years back, photographer aunt found an online company, Scan Cafe, to digitize her batch of family photos and I used them to digitize my parent’s 8mm film collection onto a DVD for a Christmas present. I was impressed with their pricing and service, so went through them again to do this latest batch of digitization. I’ll go back to them again for my next batch and then hope to attack the photo albums and such that my mother has after that.

As a museum person and historian, I know the photos and slides will only fade over time, so this was a big priority for me to tackle this year, especially a lot of the early photos of my grandparents from the 1950s. It was a great winter project to spend a weekend organizing and going through photos, even if it made me miss my Dad and Grandpa a ton. Scan Cafe has a lot of different packages and has deals all the time so it wasn’t an expensive venture, but preserving memories is priceless (Sorry that sounds like a really cheese tag line!)

Me, Christmas 1983. Photo by Dad.

 

All opinions my own. This is an honest review of Scan Cafe based on my experiences. I paid for all services on my own and was not provided anything or solicited by Scan Cafe for this review. 

Travel Tuesday: Utah

Utah isn’t probably a place high on many people’s travel to-do lists, but it should be! It’s one of the most interesting places, both with its Mormon culture and its amazing geography and natural wonders. My aunt lived there over 20 years ago and now has made it her home again. Q had never been to to the state, and it had been so many years since I was last there, that we were both anxious to visit. We also both desperately needed a vacation!

We were in Utah for a week and packed it full of time with family and exploring. We spent a few days down in Moab to visit Dead Horse Point State Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park. The weather was absolute perfection. I kept saying to Q as we were driving around that nothing was familiar to me, but seeing as the last time I was there I was about 14, my perspective of everything was from the backseat of the car. I also realized that we always visited in July ( with one Christmas visit one year) when it was blazing hot so I likely opted to stay in the air conditioned car instead of hiking around.

 Arches National Park

2 relaxed, happy vacationers (minus Q’s sunburned arm)

at Canyonlands National Park.

This photo is the best because my aunt took it. 

Q had only two goals with this vacation- to consume as much Jamba Juice and In & Out Burger as possible. He had Jamba Juice every day ( a few days twice!) and we did In & Out 3 times. He was  a happy camper.

This is Jamba Juice visit #1

We encountered some closed shops and roads in the mountain areas where there is still snow and threats of avalanche. Park City is busiest in the winter and then picks up again in the summer, so there were several shops and museums closed for “spring break cleaning” since it was the last week of April. It didn’t dampen our spirits though- it was lovely to be out and walking around in the sun.

Two highlights of the trip ( other than spending much needed time with family): Hole in the Rock in Moab and Gilgal Gardens in Salt Lake City. The first is a totally wacky roadside stop and essentially historic home that is built into the giant rock. You cannot take photos inside, but it was quirky and weird in a way that I love– it had everything from amateur taxidermy that was truly creepy to fascinating stories about the couple who used dynamite to carve out their home and diner in the base of this rock. Gilgal is a hidden sculpture garden in a residential neighborhood of SLC that was quiet and quirky.

The view from my aunt’s porch 

 

Gilgal Garden

Great Salt Lake

Merry May

I’m back from vacation feeling refreshed and looking forward to the month of May!

It’s finally warmed up in my neck of the woods– it was a dreary and cold April. When we left for our Utah vacation on the 20th, we actually had the heat on that morning, which is just absurd for that late in April. When we came home, the grass was green and our lilac bush has buds on it!

I’ve got a post just about our vacation on tap in the next few weeks, but it was wonderful to get away, spend time with my aunt, grandma, and other family, and lots of exploring with Q. The warmth and sunshine of Utah was just what we needed.

My return to work was also quite interesting yesterday as some big changes are happening. While it’s still  unclear what it means for my role, I’m hopeful that positive adjustments in my daily activities and responsibilities are coming. I’m also optimistic that the changes will mean a little less emotional and mental stress from my day job that may finally give me the creative space I need in my current role so that I can start and end my days with my own personal creative writing.

My main goal for this month is to knock some nagging items off my to-do list for the year- go through attic stuff, declutter closets, and start on the large list of house projects.

May is also a month for celebrations: birthdays for my brother, aunt, sister-in-law, and Q turns 40! Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, plus all the excitement of the coming summer season have me feeling very good about the next 29 days.

 

Friday Finds April 2018

Betty Reid Soskin is 96 years old and works at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II National Park that memorializes the experiences of women workers during World War 2. In this article, she speaks about how Rosie the Riveter didn’t speak to all women’s experiences in WW2. LOVE this quote: “What gets remembered is determined by who is in the room doing the remembering.”

How Girl Scout cookies are made.

Women in Hollywood’s past who were leaders– many names I’ve never heard before.

Saving the history of cosmetics, beauty products, and fragrances at the Smithsonian.

The afterlife of movie wardrobes after production is done.

Funny movie quotes from the past 40 years that have become part of our everyday conversations/language.

What a compassionate, open-minded judge: teens who graffitied a historic building with racist symbols and words were ordered to read a book related to racism, Holocaust, etc.

The Dinner Table

I grew up having dinner with my parents and brother every single night of the week. Some times it was a quick hot dog and chips before a ball game or a choir practice, other times it was a dreaded meal made for my then-picky eater brother (cheeseburger pie, gross– also happy to report my brother somehow went from super picky to a foodie). But we always gathered together for this meal. Growing up it was often my Mom who made it, but my Dad helped a lot too. In his later years, he was doing a lot more of the cooking, something I know he enjoyed a lot.

Q and I eat together pretty much every single night. Even the nights when I have to work late or have a work event, he will frequently wait for me to get home to eat takeout together. I will admit that we frequently sit on the couch and eat at the coffee table while watching the news and talking about our days. Part of that is Q often has a lot of work to do at home and what is the dining room table becomes his home office. Our kitchen is tiny so we retreat to our coffee table for dinner. Not the best habit, but we try to not get the mechanics of where we eat dinner get in the way of that time together.

Growing up with that built in time with loved ones is an important part of my childhood and who I am as an adult. I look at dinner together as a pretty sacred time to connect, not talk about work (or at least let it be the last time at night we talk about it), and focus on each other. Even when I’m tired or in a cooking rut, I take pride in making or picking up food to have together. I have coworkers who think it’s old-fashioned that I make dinner every night, but it’s part of my value of family and time together, so we make it a priority.

The dinner table holds an important place in my life and heart. It’s the place where the stress and worries of the day melt away and it’s all about home and the people who matter the most to me.

 

 

Routines

I’m frequently the first person to arrive at my work office in the morning. I crave that time in the morning when I can go through emails, check the calendar, and get myself organized for the day. I don’t like chaos in the morning as it sets a bad tone for me for the day. I think best in the morning ( usually when I do most of my writing) and try to schedule myself so the “brain” tasks are scheduled before lunch, and the running around/errands/physical tasks all happen in the afternoon.

I’m lucky that I have the ability to be a bit flexible with my schedule and can adjust my hours as I need to reflect whatever is on the to-do list at work or in life. I work 8a-4pm because that’s what works for me and what needs to get done. I also crave that ‘golden hour’ from 5p-6p when I’m usually at home, or at least out of the office and doing things on my personal to-do list. I’ll come home, start dinner, walk on treadmill (soon to be outside whenever spring arrives here), and unwind. I’ve even come to see my 35-45 minute commute as distinctly me time so that by the time I pull into my driveway, I’ve left a lot of work stress and woes behind me. 

These routines of my weekdays have morphed over the years as circumstances in life changed around me. I’ve tried to run less errands in that ‘golden hour’ to make more time for the things I want to pursue, but I also know that my mind is frequently tired at the end of the day, so writing for myself isn’t going to be as productive as it could be in the morning before work. My work life has been tumultuous to say the least for the past couple of years and has taken a lot of emotional and mental energy. There have been more than my fair share of nights when the only productive thing I do is make dinner and watch whatever nonsense on TV I can find. There are hints of change on the horizon at my day job that I have high hopes will transform my mental well-being and I am cautiously optimistic that will influence my out of work life in big ways too.

I remember being younger and thinking routine and mundane tasks of life seemed like such a boring thing, but as I’ve gotten older, I realize certain routines bring sanity and highlight the extraordinary things, as well as make everyday moments filled with more joy. Every weekend, Q makes a big pot of coffee for us to enjoy together instead of the on-the-go quick K-cups I make on work mornings. I look forward to that simple pleasure every weekend- we often even talk about anticipating it as early as Thursday night! Our life may lack a lot of spontaneity, but it also isn’t predictable- finding the good balance between being in a rut and living in chaos takes some work, but it’s brought me to a good place that only can be improved.

5 on Friday: Book Recommendations

Friday the 13th! Be careful for ladders, black cats, and other signs of superstition today!

4 months into 2018 and I’ve read 23 books out of the 80 reading goal for this year. Here are 5 books I’ve read this year I’d definitely recommend.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Not historical fiction in the traditional sense of the genre, but historical in that it follows one famous movie star over the years as she tells the story of her life and career to a journalist. I picked this up because I love depictions of old Hollywood, but this book is so much more than that. The main character Evelyn Hugo is complicated and dynamic, and it was not predictable in any way. I could barely put it down! 5 stars.

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World by Ann Shen

A free Amazon Prime Kindle book that I grabbed while Q watched a horror movie that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy. As a person in women’s history, I was pleasantly surprised that there were so many women in this book that I had never learned about before. So many of their stories are fascinating, and it’s got me thinking about the many historical fiction ideas for my own writing based on some of these amazing females. I only gave this 4 stars because I thought the book could have included more diverse women.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

An audiobook listen, I chose this book because science/nature/space are mesmerizing to me, but also so outside of my realm of understanding it’s a little embarrassing. I never did well with science in school ( especially physics and chemistry) so I decided to listen to this to try to have a better understanding. Tyson’s documentaries and work with astrophysics is centered on trying to make it more palatable for the average person, and I so appreciate that. This short audiobook ( I listened within one commute week, so I think it was under 8 hours total) is narrated by Tyson, who has a great speaking voice. I will admit it gets 4 stars only because there was a whole section explaining protons, neutrons, and so on that totally made my head hurt and confused me more, but that’s my own personal shortcoming in the science realm and not a dig to Mr. Tyson!

Coming Clean: A Memoir by Kimberly Rae Miller

Another free Kindle book that I can’t remember quite when I downloaded it, but this memoir about living with parents who were hoarders was both fascinating and horrifying. 5 stars.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Is there anything more wonderful to a book lover than a book about a bookstore owner and the world he lives within? I devoured this book in almost one sitting and it was so heartwarming, charming, and lovely. 5 stars.

5 on Friday- April Updates

I’m back from the most stressful month of March I think I’ve ever had!

  • My exhibit at work opened on Wednesday night, and while my actual exhibit was done 2 weeks ago, the historic house I work in was in a state of chaos right up until midday on Wednesday. I do not like working under these types of conditions, but because of people, scheduling, and other circumstances out of my control, I had to deal. There were more than a few late evenings.
  • Now that the busiest months of my work have passed, I am so ready for vacation in 2 weeks. Pumped to go see family and spend some time in nature, but honestly just happy to not go to work for 10 days.
  • Spring has decidedly not sprung in my corner of the world. In my excitement for the turn of the season, and some prep for my vacation, I put away all my wool sweaters and heavy clothes, hoping that would tempt the weather gods to smile favorably on us, but nope. Lots of layering for the next week or so when I think the highest temperature we’ll see is about 45.
  • Since we’re still in hibernation mode, we’ve been watching a lot of TV and movies. Happy that The Americans is back on (last season!), intrigued by Homeland— though between that, The Americans, and our actual news, it’s a lot of conversations about Russia. Side note: Russia is not a country on my travel list. Highly recommend the movie I, Tonya too. Even if you have no interest in figure skating or Tonya Harding, it’s an interesting look at class/culture of domestic violence that even Q enjoyed.
  • I now own an actual Kindle! When I quit playing Farm Heroes Saga at the beginning of 2018. I was still looking for some passive entertainment that wasn’t social media that I could watch on nights when I want to relax with Q but have no interest in his show/movie. I sometimes read a physical book with the book light (I tend to shut my main reading lamp off when we’re watching TV). I do crossword puzzles on the iPad, but after a few a night, I needed something more. I downloaded the Kindle app for iOS, but felt like the iPad was getting too heavy and hot, so after polling my Twitter reader buds, I settled on the Kindle Paperwhite. Q also really wanted to get me something for my birthday related to technology because I never get stuff for myself in that category, so this was the perfect compromise. I don’t know what took me so long to jump on the bandwagon!

(not me but I hope this is me in a few weeks lounging and reading outside!)

Friday Finds March 2017

Dolly Parton’s charity that provides free books to kids gave out is 100 millionth free book! Amazing.

Another phenomenal female- a 101 year old female runner in India.

In honor of Women’s History Month, the NY Times is writing obituaries for women who were overlooked. This particular link takes you to Ruth Wakefield, who invented the chocolate chip cookie recipe we all love so much. Here’s the link for the whole series, Overlooked.

Did you know a woman invented the paper bag? Me either.

How certain foods became associated with certain meal times in America. Related: I hate cereal.

The odd and weird platypus.

Geek alert- plastics and museums. I spend a lot of time thinking about how 20th century materials break down in the museum collection I manage (especially plastics, polyester, and vinyl!) so this is interesting to me.

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