Life By Kristen

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

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.

June

I almost didn’t realize June began because I was entrenched in a conference in Maine last week that I was co-organized and helped to run. It was a success, but it was a blur of activity, moving boxes, running around to check on projectors, and various other duties that left me tired and more than a few days without seeing the outside of the hotel.

When I left my house on Memorial Day, I said to Q that I couldn’t wait for the conference to be over so we could finally have some time for us. We’ve had a stressful spring with some work woes for both of us, the fire next door to the house, deaths on both sides of our families, and this conference. We were looking forward to doing some vacation planning, buying new outdoor furniture, fixing our grill, and many other little things that bring us happiness.

Life, of course, has other plans.

Sadly, Q’s brother in law passed away unexpectedly over the weekend, and once again, we’re putting our plans on hold as we help his sister and niece. Things are still shocking and fresh right now and I think will be for the foreseeable future.

 

I’ll still be posting on here and have some book reviews coming down the line, but the big blog revamp I had in mind for June may get pushed back a bit, depending on how things shake out with life. Despite the curveballs that seem to keep coming our way, I’ve realized over the past few months that writing is the one thing I want and need to be doing and won’t abandon this space, even if it’s only my mother and aunt who still read it ( hi Pat and Cindy!).

Be well, friends.

Friday Finds May 2017

Female pirates!

I love a good tote bag!

Women Salvation Army volunteers during World War I served up donuts.

Knitting helped send messages in code during World War II.

Speaking of World War II, a female hero from that war recently passed away and for 50 years, her family had no idea what amazing things she did during the war.

Journaling is something I’ve been doing pretty consistently since I was in junior high school. Of course, in those days, it was more of a listing of activities, crushes, heartbreaks, and teen drama. But I have years worth of writing in notebooks large and small. I have long pondered about what to do with all my journals from over the years, the biggest question being what will my family think about all of them ( and their contents!) after I pass away? Turns out I’m not the only one who wonders what to do with all those journals!

Saving things is part of what I do ( and why I do it!) for a living. Regardless, it’s so weird to see things from my childhood being preserved in museums.

My mom is super smart, and apparently I have her to thank for all those good grades in school, crossword puzzle solving abilities, and awesome trivia record!

 

5 on Friday- Spring Photos

After what seemed like a few endless weeks of cold, rainy, damp weather in southern New England, we have had some SPECTACULAR days this week. In an effort to appreciate the everyday little things more and bring more positive mojo into life, I made an effort this week at work to go outside for a few minutes each day. I work at one of the most picturesque places in the state and I have to remind myself to get out of the office to literally take time to smell the roses ( or pansies for this time of year)!

Here are 5 shots to brighten your mood on this Friday.

Enjoy your weekend!

 

Currently: May

This month is just about half over and it is flying by- hard to believe that Memorial Day is only a week and a half from now.

In my family, May is for celebrations ( brother, friend, aunt, sister-in-law, Q birthdays), Mother’s Day, and my brother and sis-in-law’s anniversary. We had a delicious dinner to celebrate the month of May and everyone in it on Mother’s Day, even though the restaurant was crowded and I got all weirded out by the crowds.

This May is also crazy busy because I’m helping to organize a national conference at the end of the month for one of my professional affinity groups. It has been…interesting. It’s way outside my wheelhouse of things I’ve done, but a lot of the organizing has been stressful because of the number of people involved and various moving parts. I ended up taking on a lot more than I originally thought I would because so many members of the host committee had to drop out for various reasons. I’m in charge of many things, but the silent auction ( which is a huge thing at this conference) has become a huge project, involving hundreds of items, many of which have been delivered to my house ( Q and the mailman aren’t my biggest fans right now!). The conference starts May 29 and goes through June 4th, and I cannot wait for this all to get going. It’s been over a year of planning ( almost 2 actually), so getting to the finish line is definitely all I can think about right now.

With that going on and other life happenings, there seems to be some blah energy around us that needs to get moved out. I’m committed to pushing more positive stuff into life. I’m not one to wish away the calendar days, but I know once this conference is wrapped up that I will be able to relax a bit more and feel at ease. Just getting the clutter of these silent auction items ( there are A LOT of books) out of my house will make me feel better!

Here’s hoping your May isn’t as crazy as mine has been so far!

 

 

Book Review: Close Enough to Touch

Synopsis: Jubilee Jenkins has a rare condition: she’s allergic to human touch. After a nearly fatal accident, she became reclusive, living in the confines of her home for nine years. But after her mother dies, Jubilee is forced to face the world—and the people in it—that she’s been hiding from.

Jubilee finds safe haven at her local library where she gets a job. It’s there she meets Eric Keegan, a divorced man who recently moved to town with his brilliant, troubled, adopted son. Eric is struggling to figure out how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. Jubilee is unlike anyone he has ever met, yet he can’t understand why she keeps him at arm’s length. So Eric sets out to convince Jubilee to open herself and her heart to everything life can offer, setting into motion the most unlikely love story of the year.

My review: 4 stars.

I started to read this book on the Sunday of the fire and it was a few days before I was able to pick it back up again, but I’m so glad I did. This was a wonderfully heartwarming story with some great character development of the main character Jubilee and a light love story.

The book is set into three parts and for most of the book, the chapters alternate between the two main characters of Jubilee and Eric. While there is a love connection between the two of them, I think the main course of the novel is more about their own personal self-development and self-awareness as they both struggle with their own issues. As Jubilee comes to terms with living independently and becoming herself despite her allergy, Eric grapples with issues with his children. Together, Eric and Jubilee’s friendship and chemistry between the two of them allows each to work through their own personal struggles and find some resolution.

My 4-star review is only because I found part three at the end of the book to not be as well-developed as the rest of the story. A few of the bits, particularly Eric’s story line with this 2 kids, seemed to be glossed over a bit. Likewise, Jubilee’s story is quickly wrapped up and then explained further in the epilogue. I definitely feel some aspects would have been better served with a more detailed approach. I really came to like Jubilee throughout the novel, so I felt like the ending didn’t have as much of her personal insight and personality as the rest of the book.

With a personally stressful week, it was the perfect thing to pick up each night to read that was light and enjoyable to read, but well-written with characters I cared about. I definitely recommend it and would have likely read in a weekend, if not for the other circumstances of life.

 

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.

A Mediocre Life?

A while back, this article was floating around the internet about living mediocre life. In short, the article asks the questions of who cares and what if we don’t do a huge amazing thing, have a glamorous life, and so on.

And I couldn’t agree more.

You know what my version of happy is? A quiet sun-filled day where I wake up next to Q without an alarm, lazily drink coffee and make pancakes, and spend time outside together, or with Little Man, or our friends and family. It’s getting to hang around my house, or the beach, or at the park reading a book all day. Sometimes it’s going to Target with Q and buying things we need like bananas and things we don’t like fancy soda or new towels.

I do want “more.” I want more time with my family. I want more mental space for my own creative pursuits.  I want more contentment with my day job. I want more time in the sunshine.

While I aspire for more than life than the excitement of Target on a Saturday night or the suburban soccer mom life it looks like I lead, I am overall pretty content with the way my life goes. Yes, I’d like to travel more, have a little less stress with my house and work, but I have an amazing life with abundant blessings and love– things that people who look on the outside like they “have it all” may not have even an iota of in theirs.

not from my garden!

For the past few years, as I have come into the “middle years” of my career, I’ve asked myself a lot ” is this it?” For right now, for various reasons, it is. But that doesn’t mean that’s what it’s always going to be. My dreams and ideas of life are changing and evolving as life happens– I care more about how I feel, my sanity, and my relationships than I do about what my ‘job title’ says about me. That’s been a big hurdle to get over as a classic overachiever/do-gooder/ Type A personality. It’s something that’s even making the practical/pragmatic person in me think outside the box about how I can move forward in productive ways that still let me pay the bills and not live in a cardboard box.

So is life mediocre? Sure, my life is barely “Instagram worthy”– my house is cluttered, my grass is green or mostly weeds, my meals aren’t gorgeous, and I don’t have a TV-ready backyard or bathroom. But I wouldn’t call my life mediocre– I’d call it quiet and filled with possibility.

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