Life By Kristen

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

Book Review: Goodnight from London


From USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Robson—author of Moonlight Over Paris and Somewhere in France—comes a lush historical novel that tells the fascinating story of Ruby Sutton, an ambitious American journalist who moves to London in 1940 to report on the Second World War, and to start a new life an ocean away from her past.

In the summer of 1940, ambitious young American journalist Ruby Sutton gets her big break: the chance to report on the European war as a staff writer for Picture Weekly news magazine in London. She jumps at the chance, for it’s an opportunity not only to prove herself, but also to start fresh in a city and country that know nothing of her humble origins. But life in besieged Britain tests Ruby in ways she never imagined.

Goodnight from London, inspired in part by the wartime experiences of the author’s own grandmother, is a captivating, heartfelt, and historically immersive story that readers are sure to embrace.

My review: 4 stars.

It’s probably no surprise that I liked another historical fiction novel about World War II. Give me some creative writing on actual historical events that is well-researched, with great characters and a little love story thrown in, and I’m usually a fan. This book was even more interesting to me because it is inspired from actual events from the author’s grandmother’s experiences during the war.

This was the kind of book that I looked forward to reading when I got home from work. I read it on one Thursday night and got so close to finishing, but did the adult thing and went to bed at a reasonable hour because, work. ( Though one of my favorite adulting things is staying up way too late reading because I can’t put something down. That and ice cream for dinner). I liked the main character Ruby, especially for her intelligence, strength/perseverance, and courage. When she describes the air raids night after night, the fatigue from lack of sleep, and the strength it took to make it through each day, I thought a lot about how I would have reacted in a similar situation (probably with tears and crankiness).

The first half of the book, before the United States gets involved in the war, was primarily focused on the Blitz and how England and its citizens were coping with being at war with Germany. The time period jumps forward every few chapters or so which I felt helped move the plot forward at a good pace. There is some conflict/drama with Ruby and her past that presents itself in the last part of the book that felt a little forced and unnecessary, though it does help her connect more deeply with Bennett, her love interest.

This is the first time I read anything by Jennifer Robson, but her other books have been on my to-read list for awhile (since 2014 according to my Goodreads list). I will definitely be going through her back list in the near future!

More info on the book and author here!

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.

Friday Finds April 2017

Unlike Betty Crocker ( an imagined person), Duncan Hines was a real person and he has a lot more to do with food than just cake mix.

In praise of book towers. While I don’t have book towers, but I have quite the stack of unread books on my basement shelves. I have very few read books though because a few years ago I realized I was never going to re-read the books, so sent them along to the library book sale to be loved by someone else. I have only a handful of books that I kept because I loved them so much and only loan them people who I know will return ( Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh is one of them).

Speaking of books, it looks like I was ahead of the game with audiobooks. They are the newest ‘trend’ in the book publishing world because of the new obsession with productivity. I just like them for making my commutes more enjoyable!

Who doesn’t love Pyrex? Antique/vintage Pyrex is a hot item for secondhand/thrift shops.

A short history on capes. I’ve never owned one and not sure I have a lifestyle that would even need one, but they are lovely!

Italian fashion designers are using their own archives to inspire new collections. Love this– and some gorgeous images here.


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!


Not How I Thought My Sunday Would Go

Sunday afternoon, the commercial building next door to my house was demolished by a big fire. Thankfully, we and the house are safe. We’ve got some smoke damage ( the professional cleaning people are currently in my attic and basement where the smoke was the worst), some charred grass and lots of soot/ash on the exterior, but no major damage. We are extremely lucky and so grateful to the firefighters from our town and surrounding areas who worked hard for hours to contain the five-alarm fire.

(the white house is mine)

If you’ve had a fire in your home, my heart goes out to you because the anxiety and fear we felt on Sunday evening and into Monday morning was heartwrenching and terrifying. The fire broke out about 5ish on Sunday, just as we were about to sit down to eat. I was so sure it was a small fire they would have under control shortly that when the police told us to leave the house, I left our dinner on the table since I thought we’d be right back. 4 hours later, they let us come into the house for 5 minutes to grab clothes as the house was too smoky to stay in Sunday night.

We slept at a family friend’s house on Sunday night that was only a street away from the house so we could be close in case things changed. When we left the corner near the house, the fire was mostly contained and they were bringing in some heavy machinery to get to the heart of the blaze. The building is a total loss and the building owner, plus 3 tenants, lost everything.

Now, as we deal with the cleaning and airing out, I never thought I’d be so thankful for smoke damage. The thought of what could have been makes me sick to my stomach. As we stood on the corner watching the blaze get bigger and the winds shifting, Q and I prayed for the safety of our house, but we knew that it was only stuff inside and that we were safe and together. I’m thankful we were home and that we were able to return to our home just a day later. There are a few scorched lawn and dried leaf areas on our property– if the wind changed, our house likely would have had much worse damage. So while the stress of insurance claims and washing almost everything in the house is frustrating, we’re counting our blessings and thanking our guardian angels and firefighters for the safety of us and the house.

Book Reviews: Wait for the Rain and Bridges

Wait for the Rain and Bridges are two titles by author Maria Murnane that follow the characters of Daphne White, KC, and Skylar, three best friends from college who gather in their 40s to deal with the various curve balls and milestones that life has thrown their way.

The first novel, Wait for the Rain, brings together the the trio on the event of celebrating Daphne’s 40th birthday on a getaway to a fictitious island in the Caribbean.

The second novel, Bridges, has the gals gathering in New York City to celebrate Skylar’s engagement.

I enjoyed both of these titles. Even though I read them one after the other, I don’t think it’s necessary, but adds layers of character development and story line that I found to be delightful. Both novels are love stories for female friendship, as well as celebrating the idea that life is constantly evolving and people grow/learn, no matter our age/stage in life.

In Wait for the Rain, a lot of the novel resonated with me as Daphne is a divorced mom coming to terms with her new life, as well as lamenting the missteps  of the past that led her to that moment. Even though I’m not a mother, I definitely related to many of the regrets and tortured thoughts related to divorce that Daphne expresses, especially as she deals with how to overcome the failed marriage and disappointment in the life she had versus the life she wanted in college. Totally been there. There was even a line in the book that I know I said myself during my divorce process– “I’m divorced. There I said it, and the world didn’t end.”

I definitely think I’ll check out some other Maria Murnane titles over the summer as her writing was fluid, easy to read, and enjoyable– both Wait for the Rain and Bridges are the perfect pick for beach bags or rainy days! She’s also a former corporate person who chose a fulfilling life of writing over the rat race, so she’s another beacon of hope for me that I can get to my dream of full-time writing some day!

Friday Finds March 2017

My father’s family comes from the Azores and I enjoy World War II history, so found this article fascinating about the role the islands played in the war effort.

Reading aloud as adults. Love this. Also: bookworms might live longer, which means more time for reading!

In Maine, the French language clubs unite people across generations and nationalities. Just another reminder that our differences are really just perceptions and that we all have more in common than we realize at face value.

The world’s smallest monuments. Many in Europe, but who knew there was a mini Washington Monument in a manhole!

Speaking of monuments, if you haven’t seen the movie The Monuments Men, I highly recommend it. It’s fairly accurate about how a group of curators, art historians, conservators, etc. helped find and save so many European artworks that the Nazis took from museums, Jewish families, and public buildings during World War II. The book that the film is based on sits on my to-read shelf, but in case you are curious about the history and people, this article is a great resource too.

I have storage bins in my attic with things from my childhood like stuffed animals or objects associated with memories. I often open the bins to try to get rid of things, but then I think about wanting it for the future, so this article on the psychology behind the stuff was interesting to me. Of course, I don’t consider this stuff clutter because it’s nicely organized in the attic. If I could see it everyday, I might think differently. Related: How to see if your ( or your parents’/grandparents’) stuff has value.

Patton Oswalt on grief. I can relate to so much of this and cannot agree more about not knowing the battles that people are going through. If the death of my Dad taught me anything, it’s that every person is dealing with something and you often don’t know it, so kindness matters all the time. It was amazing to me when my Dad passed away that even people who were going through tough things like a childhood friend who was dying of cancer took their time to send me a note.

Springtime Inspiration with iRazoo

This time of year, despite the busy-ness of my day job, has me antsy to open the windows, clear the air in the house, and get cleaning. Q and I are homebodies so after a season spent hunkering down and spending a lot of time at home, I get pretty excited to spring clean and declutter the house. This so-called spring in New England has not brought a ton of warm, sunny days for that, but all these rainy weekends provide ample time to linger over Pinterest looking for inspiration and taking part in iRazoo’s blog offerings of various tips, techniques, and ideas for getting the house in order. They also offer paid surveys which are great for me to pass the time while Q watches a movie I’m not interested in seeing.

This spring, the biggest effort for me has been trying to get our basement in order. It’s just about a completely finished basement ( minus the laundry and utilities area), so we’re lucky to have a whole space in the house that’s pretty much a blank slate. Q claimed an area of it for his workout zone long ago, but the rest of the space had become the holding area/dumping ground for various things– furniture we didn’t want to part with, extra household supplies, off-season clothing, random Little Man toys, and of course, LOTS of dust and spiders. Despite this, I was anxious to get it more organized and clean to have another space for our family to enjoy.

These are the built ins in my basement, before we filled them up!

Q’s workout area is located over here now too. 

We have moved furniture around, putting my desk down there from Little Man’s room and moving up a chest of drawers from basement into his room instead. I made a corner of the room just for the furniture and items to be donated ( and already made an appointment for them to be picked up!). We pushed some things against the wall, utilized the built-in shelves for various games, toys, books, and more. It’s not quite there yet so no reveal shots quite yet, but we’re well on the way to have a space that fits our needs– a place for Q to work out, a quiet place for me to write, and organization for the stuff of life.


Middle of March Mayhem

March Madness has a whole different meaning to me in my particular slice of the museum world.

March is a busy month for me– has been for the past 8 years as it’s the month before the museum I work at comes out of its winter hibernation and gets ready to open in April. Every March feels frantic, goes by in a quick flash, and leaves me tired and living for the weekends. Yesterday alone, I did 11,635 steps just walking around the museum with various tasks, meeting up with contractors/conservators/mountmakers, etc!

This pace of life makes time go by quickly, though the phrase “the days are long, but the years are short” definitely ring true for me this time of year as my level of tiredness grows with 8-hour + days, particularly in the 2 weeks right before opening. It’s become a ritual of life, though one I’m eager to break out of, either in thinking about new things for the future, or just finding a better, less frantic way of doing the same March tasks every year. But every year is different with construction projects, weather delays/cancellations, delivery issues, and so on. I’ve learned to problem solve, be creative, and go with the flow. If anything, my career working in a museum and at a public site has made me more flexible and realize I little control over each day.


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.

Loving Lately in February

Hoopla– As a big consumer of audio books, I really enjoy the Hoopla app, available for free from my public library. There is a huge library of audiobooks to choose from, and unlike Overdrive ( also free from library), you don’t have to wait for the digital audio files to become available. There are also ebooks, music, and movies– only catch is there is a 5 checkouts per month limit. This isn’t a huge issue for me as an average audio book of anywhere between 8-10 hours usually takes me about a week to go through on my commute.

Nutpods- February was the month of Whole30 and I did not want to give up my coffee, but I really dislike coffee black. I knew I could do it without sugar, but needed something to cut the acid a bit. Regular unsweetened, unflavored almond milk was too nutty for me, and I’m not a huge fan of coconut flavor. In doing research for Whole30, I discovered Nutpods, which is a mix of unsweetened almond and coconut milk. It comes in flavors like hazelnut or French vanilla, but I’m not a flavored coffee fan either. I think Nutpods is just enough to take the bite out of the coffee that I need. I’ll continue using these instead of cream in my regular coffee even after Whole30.

Sweet potatoes ( preferably cut up and roasted).

Diffusing essential oils- lately my favorite has been a combination of lavender and peppermint.

The Department of Interior’s Instagram. I think all future vacations will always involve a new national park.

This quote:


via wearsoulsparks instagram



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