Life By Kristen

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

November in Review, December Preview

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

  • Speaking my mind at a work all staff meeting about something I felt was important
  • Giving myself time to relax and do nothing on a few weekends and vacation
  • And a third! Working with a career coach to evaluate what my next steps might be

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

  • Family
  • Supportive work colleagues that make the day better even when things aren’t going great

The lesson I learned and am carrying forward with me from November: I am not my job ( I feel like I have to remind myself of this a lot).

My intention for December: Enjoyment.

One thing I aim to do everyday in December is: thank people in my life for what they mean to me- everyone from thanking the mailman who brings a ridiculous amount of packages to our door to online friends who bring bits of joy to life.

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

  • Informational interviews for people who have jobs/careers that I find interesting to learn more
  • It’ll happen at the end of December, but one of my closest friends, who I happen to work with, is leaving at the end of the month to undertake a new career. I feel like it’s going to take a lot of bravery for me to not breakdown when this happens, as she’s a bright spot in an often gloomy day. January is going to have a lot of adjusting for me.

The one book I definitely want to read in December is: Harry Potter #5

Something I want to experiment with in December is: Can I get up in time and dressed to get to church on Sunday mornings?

Just for fun, I will: watch as many Christmas movies as I want, even the cheesy Hallmark ones!

As an act of intentional kindness, I will: Donate food, toys, and toiletries to the various drives going on this month.

 

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Hosting Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday- food, family, and fun without the pressure of gift giving. As the holiday has changed over the years with people coming and going from our table, it still remains as one of my favorite days of the entire year. This year was extra special as it was my first time hosting and it’s something I looked forward to for the past few months.

Q and I both ended up taking the entire week off of work and I’m so glad we did because we were able to relax and prep the house instead of being tired and cranky getting ready after work. Q even did a few house projects in the early part of the week, which I will admit I was not too happy about when he mentioned wanting to do that, but in the end, worked out amazingly.

We had 8 people and 2 dogs for dinner. In full disclosure, I was merely the host spot for Thanksgiving and the sous chef to my mother. Her years of Thanksgiving cooking mastery are a thing of beauty and organization, I merely just support her and set the table.

One of the things I love about Thanksgiving is the traditions- old and new. I like that each year we use the same electric carving knife that my parents received when they were married in 1978. I use the same pans, old-fashioned crank chopper, and Pyrex casserole dish for the stuffing as my grandmother did. We still buy a Marie Callendar’s Dutch Apple pie as one of the desserts because it was my father’s favorite. Even though each year has brought different circumstances and people to the Thanksgiving table, each year it’s a time to put aside all the noise of life and just enjoy being together.

 

The dishes aftermath! Honestly, I like the cleaning up after, especially this year when I did it after everyone left while drinking wine and listening to a podcast.

Friday Finds November 2017

Pretty light on the links today as it’s been a busy month with not a lot of internet diving!

I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday and are enjoying a lovely lazy day at home or a productive day out shopping getting good deals!

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Have you ever used a Himalayan salt lamp? I keep hearing about the health benefits of this, as well as the ‘salt caves’ that seem to be popping up all over in my neck of the woods. I am curious, especially if it can help with allergies and sinus stuff.

The FBI is reopening the mystery of who alerted the Nazis to Anne Frank’s family in hiding. This includes searching through historical archives, so a great example of history and criminal justice coming together.

Speaking of WW2, a fascinating and important new project out of Northeastern University is documenting the stories of female scientists and scholars.

Quilts made by British soldiers from military uniforms in the 19th century– very cool.

Yet another thing to worry about and plan for- your digital legacy.

 

My Reading List

Prior to the internet and my love of Goodreads, I tracked books I wanted to read on a written list that I slowly crossed things off as I read them. I was mostly reading books I owned or were lent to me from friends. I bought them from bargain racks at the big bookstores, from used book shops, and other spots. My favorite for many years was buying hardcovers for practically nothing at Building 19, a now-defunct New England chain that had a lot of books that had small issues like an inkblot on the title page or a binding that was just off by a bit. The prices were too good to pass up ( seriously, you could get a $25 brand new hardcover for like $3) and I often went with my parents, and going to Building 19 together is one of my favorite memories with them as an adult.

About 10-ish or so years ago, I stopped buying books completely and became strictly a reader from the library or my own shelf. This is mostly true today, though I’ll pick up a few a year that are used or written by an author I want to support.

via Risa Rodil

This book-buying history is important to note when it comes to my reading list, which as of this writing, stands at 445. If I did the math correctly, that would take me just about 8 1/2 years to finish reading if I read a book a week. Depending on time of year, length and type of book, I can sometimes do two books a week, but it might be a stretch.

This list though, is not the complete to- read list because awhile ago I decided to eliminate any book I owned. My thinking there is that I own it, so I won’t forget that I want to read it. Of course, the issue I seem to have is that even though I liked the book enough to buy it, I have some sort of block that prevents me from reading it as fast as a loaned book from a friend or the library. Maybe because I know it’s mine and will always have it, so it doesn’t feel urgent? I’m determined to really “read down” my owned shelf in 2018.

Of course, I’ll never reach the end of my to-read list and that’s the amazing/exciting thing about being a bookworm. About two or three times a year, usually on a night when Q has chosen a movie I have no interest in, I sit on the couch next to him with my Goodreads list, and try to cull it a bit. There isn’t a lot of method to my madness– I eliminate books that might be in a series so that the only one that appears on my to-read list is the first in the series. I try to take off books that I think I’d prefer on audio ( memoir and non-fiction mostly) and know I can get via Hoopla or Overdrive.  I do keep a “favorites” list on Hoopla for a lot of those titles too, which is about 65 as of right now.

Despite the size of the list, I love recommendations and as always, love to find new friends to follow on Goodreads!

From here

 

 

Friday Finds October 2017

If I find a dress with pockets, I feel like I’ve hit the lottery. Here’s a short history of pockets and women’s clothing, and why it’s uncommon to find dresses with them.

There are some museum jobs that get to do the coolest things like cleaning and prepping a spaceship to travel around the country.

As with many gals in my age bracket, I love the movie Dirty Dancing. I had no idea there was an annual festival dedicated to the movie, so I may have to add this to my bucket list.

How setting constraints allowed Dr. Seuss to create his greatest work.

Have you ever wondered where priests get their vestments and other ceremonial clothing? Me either, but this article was interesting and was something I never even thought about previously.

The history of playgrounds in the United States.

Currently: October

Reading: Harry Potter #4. I’m borrowing my friend’s hardcover copy and it’s huge, so making it hard to get comfy with it like other books.

Watching: Finally Walking Dead is back! It might be surprise you that I watch this gory show, but I like how it really looks at the characters and contemplating what you would/would not do in a zombie apocalpyse. I only watch with Q because then I can cover my eyes for the gross parts and he tells me when it’s safe to look. Also, let’s be clear- my chances of surviving a zombie apocalypse are maybe one week since I have such short arms I don’t think I’d be able to attack one and keep it away without getting bit! And yes, I’ve spent too much time thinking about this. I’m also really liking the Will&Grace reboot.

Loving: that it’s finally fall weather. A few weeks ago, just when it seemed like the summer temperatures were over, Q took out the AC from our room. And then we spent almost another week with gross humidity and high temps.

Eating: Tons of apples and butternut squash. Also loving that I can finally use my oven. I have a strict no oven rule in the summer because we have such a small house that retains heat, so I’m excited to be baking again.

Planning: Our first time hosting Thanksgiving. I’m pretty pumped as it’s my favorite  holiday and will be the first major one Q and I host together ( we’ve done Mother’s and Father’s Day at our spot before).

Listening: To so many podcasts! I haven’t listened to an audiobook on my commute in a while because I’ve been adding more podcasts to my playlist. I binged through Dirty John (about a con man) and been going through the backlist of Criminal (really enjoyed the recent episode about the brothers who escaped from Alcatraz).

 

Hope your October is filled with pretty foliage, cool nights, and lots of Halloween candy!

 

Lessons of The Fence

If you follow me over on Instagram, you may have seen a couple of posts over the past few weeks about my fence. It’s been a source of frustration and more than a few tears over the past month.

First, a bit of back story. I first painted this fence with my Dad on Columbus Day weekend 2009. It’s a pretty vivid memory, so much that I recall even what I wore ( gray long sleeve San Francisco t-shirt and brown work pants). It was just my Dad and I who did it together- I’m sure my then-fiance was off traveling somewhere for the weekend or something. I remember it because we talked about a ton of things and because we both complained about how painting a fence seemed like a thankless task.

When the fence started to peel over a year ago, I did NOT want to do it again. I think there should be some homeowner rule that if you do a project once, you shouldn’t have to do it again. I even priced out getting the fence done by someone, but because of humidity and schedules last summer, it never got done. The wet winter and fire next door to our house this past April helped to peel a lot of the paint, so much that it was definitely looking BAD by the start of the summer. I knew it had to be done and again I delayed for various reasons- weather, busy schedules, and so on.

A few weeks ago I found myself with a relatively free Sunday and got to scraping. But it was hot and I was mad to have to do it again. Doing it brought so many thoughts of my Dad and doing house projects with him back and a flood of emotions. I didn’t get very far and ended up a crying mess.

 

This weekend, I finally got my act together and finished scraping one side, I took it upon myself to get the rest of the supplies I needed for painting. Thanks to a few good podcasts and being stranded at home without a car while Q had dental work done, I got the lion’s share of the fence done. It still needs another coat, and I didn’t paint the adjacent side, but the lesson here is an evergreen one- the things you put off usually don’t take as long as you anticipate once you finally get them done.

Working on the fence I was thinking a lot about my Dad and how he often told me that often it was his father, my Grandpa, who was the one who pushed him to get house projects done. I miss the time we spent doing projects around the house together, though just as it was with his father, my Dad was the one who motivated me to get things done around the house. That makes my home  filled with memories of things we did together (or things he just did for me) for which I am eternally grateful.

It also makes me realize that, in the future, condo living is right for me!

Book Review: Start Without Me

Synopsis: The author of the critically acclaimed The Book of Jonah explores questions of love and choice, disappointment and hope in the lives of two strangers who meet by chance in this mesmerizing tale that unfolds over one Thanksgiving day

Adam is a former musician and recovering alcoholic who is home for Thanksgiving for the first time in many years. Surrounded by his parents and siblings, nieces and nephews—all who have seen him at his worst—he can’t shake the feeling that no matter how hard he tries, he’ll always be the one who can’t get it right.

Marissa is a flight attendant whose marriage is strained by simmering tensions over race, class and ambition. Heading to her in-laws for their picture-perfect holiday family dinner, her anxiety is intensified by the knowledge she is pregnant from an impulsive one-night-stand.

In an airport restaurant on Thanksgiving morning, Adam and Marissa meet. Over the course of this day fraught with emotion and expectation, these two strangers will form an unlikely bond as they reckon with their family ties, their pasts, and the choices that will determine their way forward.

My review: 3 stars.

I always enjoy reading novels that are about family dynamics because they are always so fascinating and layered with interesting characters. This book does not disappoint in that way. Both characters that we get to know in-depth, Marissa and Adam, are deeply flawed, but fascinating. They aren’t entirely likable, but they aren’t depicted as horrible human beings either.

Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I always wonder about these “strangers meeting” novels where two people’s lives come together from a happenstance meeting. I don’t think I could ever meet a person and connect with them so well in a few minutes that I’d invite them to my Thanksgiving with family.

A lot of the Thanksgiving family drama of this book reminded me of one of my favorite ( and one of the few) movies about Thanksgiving, Home for the Holidays. It’s a Holly Hunter movie from the 1990s where Hunter’s character goes to her family’s Thanksgiving in her hometown after many years away. It’s about love, family, and all the mess that comes on Thanksgiving.

Fun thing about reading this book was I took it with us on our Vermont long weekend getaway to Brattleboro, so imagine my surprise when it turns out that Marissa is on her way to in-laws’ Thanksgiving right outside of the same place!

Buy the book!

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.

Weekend in Vermont

Q and I desperately needed some time away. After a tough summer, we decided just after Labor Day weekend to go away for the long weekend in October. We chose Southern Vermont because it wouldn’t be too long of a drive and would be a nice change of scenery. Honestly, I wanted so badly to get out of our rut, I would have taken a night away at a Holiday Inn off the highway somewhere.

We stayed in Brattleboro, Vermont– it’s just under a 3 hour drive from our house and we both had been there in our younger years and liked the place. It also was well-situated for short car rides to other spots that had things to do too. Downtown Brattleboro is a small New England city, but has some great food and beer spots, and a very active arts scene. Since it was the long weekend, there were a lot of people around and all the restaurants were packed.

Our weekend was spent, as most vacations are, eating and drinking. We really enjoyed the Whetstone Station Brewery, Saxon River Distillery, and Grafton Village Cheese Company. We stayed at the Latchis Hotel, which is right in downtown Brattleboro, which made it great for walking around and going to various spots without either of us worrying about how much we were drinking ( which, isn’t a lot anyway, but always nice to not have to think about driving and how many beers one of us can have). It rained most of the time, which happened when we went to Maine a few years ago on Columbus Day weekend too, so at least we’re consistent! We ended up driving into New Hampshire on the rainy day to see Keene, which is near where I went to college, so it was a nice little trip down memory lane for me. We ended up at one of my favorite bookstores, Toadstool Books, which I spent many hours in over my 4 years of college.

 

The foliage was just short of peak, so lots of muted colors and the cloudy skies made them seem a bit more gloomy than usual. Overall, we had a lovely weekend and it was a good reminder that we need to make more of an effort to break up our routines and get more fun into life!

Clearly we are not amazing picture-takers, as our selfies were all ridiculous looking from our height difference & those pesky power lines!

 

Book Review: The Fire by Night

Synopsis:  A powerful and evocative debut novel about two American military nurses during World War II that illuminates the unsung heroism of women who risked their lives in the fight—a riveting saga of friendship, valor, sacrifice, and survival combining the grit and selflessness of Band of Brothers with the emotional resonance of The Nightingale.

In war-torn France, Jo McMahon, an Italian-Irish girl from the tenements of Brooklyn, tends to six seriously wounded soldiers in a makeshift medical unit. Enemy bombs have destroyed her hospital convoy, and now Jo singlehandedly struggles to keep her patients and herself alive in a cramped and freezing tent close to German troops. There is a growing tenderness between her and one of her patients, a Scottish officer, but Jo’s heart is seared by the pain of all she has lost and seen. Nearing her breaking point, she fights to hold on to joyful memories of the past, to the times she shared with her best friend, Kay, whom she met in nursing school.

Half a world away in the Pacific, Kay is trapped in a squalid Japanese POW camp in Manila, one of thousands of Allied men, women, and children whose fates rest in the hands of a sadistic enemy. Far from the familiar safety of the small Pennsylvania coal town of her childhood, Kay clings to memories of her happy days posted in Hawaii, and the handsome flyer who swept her off her feet in the weeks before Pearl Harbor. Surrounded by cruelty and death, Kay battles to maintain her sanity and save lives as best she can . . . and live to see her beloved friend Jo once more.

When the conflict at last comes to an end, Jo and Kay discover that to achieve their own peace, they must find their place—and the hope of love—in a world that’s forever changed. With rich, superbly researched detail, Teresa Messineo’s thrilling novel brings to life the pain and uncertainty of war and the sustaining power of love and friendship, and illuminates the lives of the women who risked everything to save others during a horrifying time.

My review: 3.5 stars.

Probably not a shocker that I read yet another piece of historical fiction about World War II. This was especially interesting to me because of the undergraduate research I did on nurses during the war, as well as an exhibit that centered on the experience and World War II uniforms, belongings, and ephemera of one Army nurse who was the great aunt of my then roommate.

There are a lot of novels centered on World War II because of how tumultuous and life changing the time period was- it’s full of interesting people and stories that should be told. Fire by Night is a different spin on the World War II story not only because it’s coming from the perspective of the nurses, but also because it’s very detailed and well-researched, without being boring or too much like a history lesson. Fire by Night  is told by Jo and Kay in alternating chapters, and even though they are separated during the war, their experiences as nurses is very similar. It’s a novel about their experiences, but also about their friendship.

It’s the first book by this author and the reading guide and author’s interview at the back of the novel was quite telling about her writing and research experience. She spent 7 years (!) researching this book, and it’s obvious that she invested a lot of time in getting the details and information correct, which I greatly appreciate. I would love to know more about some of the people she interviewed and how much of their stories are reflected in the final text.

The details of the war, on both fronts, is so well-done that my weak stomach could not take a lot of the descriptions of the various medical scenarios both nurses are involved with. This made me have to skim some of the book more than I’d like, but some of the descriptions were just too vivid for me ( there’s a scene with Jo in Germany during an operation to take out a soldier’s appendix that really made me feel gross). I wouldn’t say that’s a reason to skip the book entirely, as I enjoyed the characters and this new perspective on a unique experience during World War II, but just be warned that if descriptions of blood and injuries bother you, it’s not a book to read while eating a meal!

Buy the book!


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.

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