Life By Kristen

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

Archive for the category “All About Me”

Currently: April

Loving: the sunshine after work. The time between 4-7 pm is one of my favorite times of day. I’m not as productive as I am in the morning when my creative juices/organizational mind get going, but I love it because it feels like freedom. During the work week, I listen to books or podcasts on my commute home to relax and 40 minutes later, I get home leaving the stress of the day behind. Now that the weather seems to have FINALLY turned to spring in my neck of the woods, I get to go for a walk before dinner, read in my sun-filled sunroom, or do whatever I want.

Loathing: Day-job work drama.

Reading: Some personal discovery/development books as I dream big about what I want next in my life for career. I am eager and wanting for change SO BADLY in my everyday life and both Q and I are determined to make it happen.

Watching: Vice NewsBetter Call Saul, The Leftovers, Veep,  and The Americans.

Anticipating: A super quick trip to Nashville next week ( like 24 hours quick) for a consulting thing and Maine at the end of May for a big national conference I’m helping organize.

Thinking about: Do we sell our house and rent somewhere so we can free up money to pay down my student loans and focus on ourselves and future OR do we refinance and stay put, knowing that the house chores like yard and repairs are ramping up and taking us away from things we want to be doing instead? I think about this at least once a day, with different opinions depending on what’s happening. Like after the fire? Sell. But then reading in my sunroom or enjoying having laundry in our basement? Stay. I’m all over the place.

Eating: Kashi Chewy Nut Bars. Favorites including salted chocolate chunk and almond snickerdoodle. They’re not Whole30, but since we’re not as strict with following it now, they’ve become my go-to on the run snack.

This weekend has some work around the house including cleaning again. Since the fire 2 weeks ago ( also how is it just 2 weeks, as the weeks since have been so long), we had the house professionally cleaned of smoke and soot by a disaster cleaning/restoration company which I am so thankful for, BUT to clean properly, they had to move a lot of things around and while most of it is in tidy piles in our basement and attic, now we have to go through that stuff to get to what we need, put the basement zones back together, put furniture back into its proper spots, etc. I’m not complaining since it could be so much worse, but I look forward to a weekend of true down time for Q and I where we don’t have much going on, errands to run, or things to clean/rake/fix.

Orchids Q bought me the weekend after work exhibit opened-  3 more buds opened since then!


Whole30 is Over, But Not Done

My Whole30 days were up on March 2. How do I feel. Fan-freaking-tastic.

The whole point of the Whole30 for me was not to lose weight, but rather, to assess what I was eating, what was in the food that I thought I loved, and really to get back on track after a few months of laziness in the kitchen and way too many sweets/cookies throughout the holiday season.

But I am, of course, thrilled that I lost 12 pounds and the weight keeps just coming off, so many of the Whole30 principles will be remaining in my life.

The whole ‘tiger blood’ of crazy focus was also a huge selling point for me– the winter is my busiest time at my day job and I found the ability to get things done much different than previous years. There was one Sunday about a week or two ago that I was downright amazed at how much I accomplished– cooked breakfast, did taxes, rearranged furniture, cooked lunches/meal prepped for week, did laundry, and about a million other little to-do items.

Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to be able to stick to the plan. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve made it 2 or 3 days into a way of eating, but give up when I’m tired/bored. What was different this time?  I had 2 work buddies doing it with me, plus Q, so there really was a huge accountability network there. The few other people in my office who were not doing the Whole30 were very supportive– didn’t bring in Valentine’s Day treats, asked how things were going, etc. At home, Q and I realized that while it’s more expensive at the grocery store, it’s actually not so hard to plan meals and make sure the fridge was stocked with lots of veggies and plenty of nuts in the pantry.

This past weekend was my birthday so I had some amazingly delicious cake made by my sister-in-law that was my first foray into sugar. And while delicious, I can definitely say it was way too sweet for me and within hours of having it, all I kept thinking about was another piece of cake. It’s amazing how quickly the sugar can get addicting again. I didn’t even like how the coffee tasted with a tiny teaspoon of sugar in it, which may be one of the biggest surprises of all.

So for life, I’ll be refraining from sugar and carbs, particularly at home and in the lunches I make for work. I think my biggest takeaway from the Whole30 is how much better I feel, especially since I didn’t think a lot of what we were eating before was all that bad. It’s not like we were big eaters of fast food, though we had more pizza in our diet than we probably should. It was amazing to me to read labels and see how much sugar is hidden in our foods like salad dressing.

The Whole30 isn’t for anyone, and as a person who likes to limit her red meat intake, I definitely had more steak this month than usual. I’ll definitely be incorporating some of the “no foods” back in( we had sushi for my birthday lunch, so that was the first time with rice), but some things like pasta or sweets, won’t be making their way back into my regular diet, but become more special occasion foods.

Hello February!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I enjoy, what makes me happy, and how to do more of that in this year of 2017.

I’ve come to realize I actually like winter a lot, leading me to believe I may need to always live in a climate where there are 4 seasons. This past January seems to have been more spring-like than wintry, so I’m hoping February has some of my favorite winter things thrown in like another weekend snow storm ( or a snow storm that cancels a work day) and some more cozy, lazy days.

The big news for me this month is that Q and I are embarking on the Whole30 eating plan for this month. No sugar, dairy, alcohol, carbs. Why? Mostly to try to get ourselves back on track from lazy eating of too much pizza, pasta, and brownies.

For me, I’ve noticed in the past few years as I’m getting older that some foods don’t agree with me as much as they used to ( onions!), and I’m trying to get a better handle on what some of those are. It will be a challenge for us– probably a big one for Q who eats a ton of food already and barely gains any weight. This morning I started with no sugar or dairy in my coffee, instead using Nutpods, which is a combo of unsweetened almond and coconut milk. I can report the coffee was still tasty! We’ll see how it goes!



2017: Wellness

Wellness is my word for 2017.
Personal health, financial, career. All of it.

I’m all about creating healthy habits. Drinking more water, moving my body everyday in some way. Less sweet-snacking at work and less unhealthy takeout at home for dinner.

I’m trying to buy no new clothes this year, stop filling my time by running errands, and plan meals and activities.

I want to improve my self-care practices, make date night with Q a priority, and spend more fun time with family, especially Little Man.

I want to improve my work-life balance and write more. Unsubscribing from unnecessary emails, spending less time on social media, coloring and reading more. 

Overall wellness for the mind, body, and soul. Robust living with intention.


Wishing you a happy, healthy 2017!

2016 in Review

Was 2016 a good year? It didn’t go as I hoped, but there were some important lessons and personal growth, so not a total flop.

New states visited: 1

Hours spent watching Star Wars with Little Man: At least 1460, but likely much, much more

Books read ( or listened to): 54 (2 more than my goal of 52)

Number of dinners ruined: Maybe 5? I should keep an accounting of this, but it’s happening less and less.

Number of 2016 resolutions kept: I don’t make resolutions, but choose a word and then focus on goals and practices that help me live that ideal out. 2016 was “embrace” and I feel like I did that with everything from my day job, dreams about the future, and embracing my current stage of life.

Debts repaid: Credit card debt gone! Made little to no dent in student loans and took on a car loan, but have great goals for debt repayment in 2017.

House projects completed: 3 1/2 (yard cleanup, new garage roof, basement cleanout, new blinds for bathroom, but still none for kitchen), plus a ton of cleaning out of stuff

Days I felt like there was no hope: Only one- November 9th.

Moments filled with laughter and love: Too many to count!


How Not Buying Changes Christmas

After my Dad died, we spent a lot of time cleaning out STUFF. His, stuff my Mom wanted to get rid of, my grandmother’s house, and so on. So much ended up in trash, donated, or sold. Yard sale after yard sale, we watched gifts and random purchases go away, in an effort to simplify and downsize.

So three years ago we decided to stop doing presents for Christmas.  We are Santa for Little Man and sometimes do gifts with Q’s family, but overall, we pretty much are a buy nothing family for the holiday season. It’s totally changed the holiday season for us all.

We’re all adults and more Christmases than not, my brother and I were sending emails with links to specific things we wanted/needed to our family, using the holiday to be gifted the items we couldn’t afford or didn’t spoil ourselves with. The Christmas after my divorce, I was most excited about getting a toaster. The Christmas my father passed away, all I wanted was a dual urn/K-Cup coffeemaker. It sort of took some of the magic of the holiday away when the gifts were already known.

Q and I only gave gifts to each other on the first Christmas we were together, and once again, practicality took over. He bought me fancy olive oil, an expensive pillow ( which I still have and is amazing), and some jewelry. I got him some fancy grilling rub, a beer making class, and some special limited edition beer. After that Christmas, we decided to save the money for things we wanted to do together. This year, that extra money is going to pay off the new car ( romantic, I know).

Our no gifts policy extends to birthdays– we all go out for a nice dinner to celebrate the person instead of gifts. It takes a lot of pressure off, but also eliminates the random stuff of life that piles up and always ends up being donated.

Not giving gifts makes us think more about the season and doesn’t leave us with the frantic feeling of buying for everyone on the list. Even for Little Man last year, we didn’t even go get his gifts until the weekend before Christmas. For an A-type, to-do list maker like me, it’s nice to feel relaxed the entire holiday season. I try to make more charitable gifts at the end of the year anyway, and having some extra dollars for that instead of buying another mug or candle for my loved ones makes it a win-win.

I get that it’s not for everyone to forgo gifts with their family and friends, but it’s right for us and our family. It gives us the freedom to enjoy the season, the extra money going towards what we want, and the ability to only have things we want in the house– I think everyone should try it one year!


Routines & Motivation

I think routines can be important– if I didn’t have one in the morning, I don’t know how I’d get out of the house every morning. In fact, not too long along, Q and I switched the order of who had the shower and bathroom first for a few days when he had to be out of the house before me. It totally screwed with my mind and day. I think routines are needed before coffee is consumed.

I’m not a creature of habit with every aspect of life, but there are some things that I’ve done for so long that I’m finding it hard to break out of them now. I come home, go through the mail, change out of work clothes, wash my face and prep dinner. Most nights after dinner, I end up reading or watching TV.

This is the routine I’m trying to break. Even on yoga nights, there is an order to getting things done because after yoga, I’m so relaxed that I usually am asleep shortly after eating dinner at 8pm. On non-yoga nights, even with after dinner “chores” like laundry or tidying up the house, I find myself on the couch and leave exercising to the wayside.

I will admit that I haven’t made the effort to change the routine too much. I want time with Q and after his long workday, he likes to sit on the couch and relax watching TV or a movie. Even if I don’t watch what he does, I sit next to him reading or fooling around on the iPad. I should say that Q’s routine involves getting up early everyday to work out.

Why don’t I get up with him? The easy answer is that it’s rough to get up early, but years ago, before I was even married, I did often get up early to go to the gym. Now, my answer is mostly that the morning workout time is Q’s self-care/quiet time to himself and I don’t want to impose on that. Of course, I could do something upstairs in our room or living room while he uses the workout stuff in the basement, but I don’t.

I like the idea of exercising AFTER work because there are days when I’m at the computer all day, plus I like the quiet after work time between 5-7, at least in the time of year when it’s still light out at that time. But, I also like eating in that time and even with sharing dinner duties, a lot of those 2 hours are taken up by making, eating, and cleaning up from dinner. So then that leaves 7pm on for at least 30 minutes of exercise in our basement, equipped with space to lift weights, a treadmill, and exercise DVDs I haven’t touched in years, which makes it clear to me it’s not about time or routines, but about MOTIVATION.

When I was married, weight/exercise/how I looked/what I wore was an issue that was heavily discussed. Q, in his amazing way, thinks I’m beautiful no matter what. Maybe I have some sort of mental block/PTSD/silent protesting going on about exercising.  I put it in my to-do list and calendar, but it’s one of the easiest things for me to ignore. At this point, I’m doing it for myself and my health. And yet, that doesn’t push me.

So what’s going to motivate me?


Hey, It’s October!

I spent most of the summer contemplating possibilities of life- thinking of career and life moves, both physical and emotional. It was exhilarating, scary, exciting, nerve wracking, and annoying all at the same time.

The end result is we are staying put in all walks of life for the foreseeable future, but with the seed of change planted firmly in our minds.

Thinking of drastically changing our life was a great exercise for Q and I as a couple and what it would mean for our current and future family, but really made me hunker down and think about what I wanted next in life. Being the eternal pragmatist, I wanted a clear answer, but as I have learned a million times before, the reality is often quite different when so many factors (and other people’s decisions) are involved.

In short, we were thisclose to moving across the country. And while it’s not happening now, we feel pretty certain that a move to somewhere completely different is in the cards for us. We want a change of pace and scenery, new perspectives and new adventures. We want to free ourselves of the burden of owning a home and have more time/money/energy to travel and explore, even if it’s just a new town and state.

So even though we’re staying, we’re determined and focused on a goal, even if we don’t entirely have it defined at the moment. We’ve set a rough date of selling the house by summer of 2019, mostly because that’s when my mortgage rate changes so it seems like the perfect deadline to work against. We’re committed to certain house projects, getting one newish car, and reducing the clutter and stuff in our house and life.

As we enter in the busy season of fall and the whirl that is the holiday season at home and work for us both, I am trying hard to stay focused on bettering things for us right now as we work towards what we want.


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!

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