Life By Kristen

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

Friday Finds March 2019

If you came of age in the 1980s, there’s a pretty good chance you played The Oregon Trail in school. Here’s how we all came to love fording the river and trying not to die of dysentery. I didn’t realize the same company also made Number/Word/Super Munchers, which was another favorite computer game of my later childhood years. Also, a reminder you can play the original version of the game on the Internet Archive!

The loneliest road in America: Route 50 through Nevada into Utah. Seems like the start to a horror movie.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be in Cincinnati, but if I am, I’m definitely visiting the American Sign Museum. Looks like great fun and love that it basically was one man’s hobby (obsession?)

I’ve never been to New Orleans (it’s on the to-do list!) and I don’t have any interest in going for Mardi Gras, but I have always wondered what happens to all the plastic beads after the parades are over? Sounds like a mess, but interesting how some people are trying to make more eco-friendly beads for the celebrations.

This would be one of the worst nightmares of my museum career- art theft. This article about the guy who stole art from over 200 museums is fascinating, especially in how easy he makes it sound.

In honor of Women’s History Month:

Margaret Rudkin: founder of Pepperidge Farm. Makes me want Milanos.

World War II “night witches”– female fighter pilots from Russia who ran night time raids on German military targets. I’m always surprised and delighted when I learn about a new aspect of women in history.

Women who explored the North Pole wearing corsets and skirts!

 

 

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Book Review: The Garden Lady

Synopsis: THE GARDEN LADY by Susan Dworkin is a novel about  unexpected love, the silence that becomes complicity, and the magic of redemption.  Urgent and compelling, the story resonates with today’s headlines as it poses the ethical question: How do we live with what we know but choose not to think about or act upon?

Maxie Dash, the heroine of THE GARDEN LADY, is a famous beauty, a fashion icon, the face of many national TV ads. Her first husband, a world-class photographer, took nude pictures of her, which are so beautiful that they now hang in museums.

On the cusp of her 50s, Maxie decides to make one more marriage, something permanent and restful, to a rich man who will guarantee her an affluent life and future security. Amazingly she finds the perfect man. Even more amazingly, she grows to love him. Albert shares Maxie’s passion for the opera and willingly supports her favorite charities. He indulges her delight in public gardens and allows her to endow the community with their beauty. All he asks in return is that she give him her love and her unswerving loyalty and agree to know nothing — absolutely nothing — about his business.

Maxie is sustained by her best friend, the designer Ceecee Rodriguez, whom she treasures as a sister. But she is shaken by the persistent enmity of Sam Euphemia, a fierce young business executive, who suspects Albert of terrible crimes.

Add Maxie Dash to the list of great heroines of contemporary fiction. Smart, funny, enjoying every moment of her hard-won success,  she ultimately faces the truth about her life, moves past denial and realizes that “her loyalty was a side effect of her greed and her greed was a crime against nature and her silence, her willful, terror-stricken silence, the true disaster.”  Her attempt to turn Garbage Mountain, a New Jersey landfill, into a beautiful park is key to her redemption.

 

My review: 3 stars.

This book packs A LOT into its slim 220 pages. It’s not my typical genre of historical fiction or romance, but I’m trying to expand my horizons a bit so I was delighted to have the opportunity to read and review the book. It was a good palate cleanser after spending most of the winter reading feel-good, happy ending books.

It’s fast-paced which I appreciate in a thriller/suspense like book. Years ago, I read more in that genre (I loved Mary Higgins Clark books through high school and college), but as I had more time to read for pleasure, I found that suspense books often didn’t develop fast enough or the plot dragged on and I couldn’t read fast enough to enjoy. Or I figured out the whodunit? or big twist early on and it ruined the book for me.

In any case, The Garden Lady, while it has a lot going on (love affairs, crime, family drama, etc.) and has a lot of characters, didn’t drag for me and it kept me guessing as to where the author was going with the plot. I appreciated that the author didn’t spend a lot of time with character development that took away from the main plot, but I still felt like I understood who these people were, motivations, etc. The main character, Maxie, is complex and interesting, which helps in her path forward in reaching her goal to build a memorial garden. I know it sounds weird that the premise of starting a garden in honor of a dead spouse can be riveting, but the author’s character development, and the role of the deceased husband Albert (and his past) helps to make it interesting. Trust me!

Overall, I gave it three stars not for any fault of the author, but mostly because of my own reading habits and life. I didn’t get to read it in one weekend as I’d hoped and so it took a few sittings, which had me having to re-read a bit and remember everything that I had previously read– might be pregnancy brain, or just that there is A LOT going on with not a lot of pages.

 

Buy the book!

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I probably say this every year, but shouldn’t it be a law that you always have your birthday off from work? I plan for this every year, but this year it was even sweeter because it ended up being a snow day for my work which means it was a completely free day to me!

As with just about every year on my birthday, I rang it in with family. Q surprised me on Friday before my birthday with my gift (flowers and lovely earrings) and maybe the sweetest card he’s ever given me in our almost 6 years together. The entire weekend we didn’t do much which I think is also the rule of birthdays. We had a lovely dinner and birthday cake with family on Sunday evening and I enjoyed time with my Mom on my actual birthday after sleeping in, finally watching Dumplin on Netflix, and coming home to relax and have Q make dinner (yummy steak).

Of course this year feels like a birthday that is closing a chapter of life and starting a new one as it’s the year I’ll welcome our baby. Even though I’m now solidly in the mid-30s and creeping closer to the big 40-0, I still feel like I have no clue what’s next in life. Obviously the baby is going to change every aspect of my life in my responsibilities and priorities. Even with that big change a-coming, I still feel like there are other changes I want for me and for Q and our family– moving to a new home, wherever it might be, hopefully a new job, and whatever adventures life brings our way.

 

And now we March!

A recap of February goals:
Prenatal yoga class: I did not attend an in-person class BUT I am doing a prenatal series that I found on Amazon, so partial success. The class I found is on Sunday mornings and it is SO HARD to get myself out of bed, fed, and out the door.

Basement purge & organization: didn’t even attempt. This is moving into March and hopeful I might be able to get some done on Saturday since it’s supposed to be yucky out.

Baby registry: done! Also, there are way too many products out there.

Taxes: done! And I got my federal return in record time- less than 2 weeks from when I filed.

And now we March!

If you’ve read this blog ever for the past so many years, you know my March at my day job is crazy busy. This year is less frantic because I don’t have a boss who sucks anymore and there weren’t as many off-season projects as there has been in recent years. Of course, everything I’m doing this year, I’m doing slower since I’m 6 months pregnant, but it doesn’t feel frantic in any way ( hoping I didn’t just jinx myself!)

Even with that in mind, I’m not jamming too much into this month.

Enjoy my birthday day off: Current plans include sleeping late, some lunch and shopping with my Mom, and Q taking care of dinner. We’ll go out with family on Sunday to celebrate too.

Get that basement cleaned & organized: This actually has to get done in March because the crib for baby’s room comes sometime in April and the bed that’s in that room currently has to get moved out before then.

Purge one bin from attic: I have bins in my attic of sentimental stuff that I was mentally prepared to handle when my mom and grandmother sold their houses. I’m not sure being emotional and pregnant is the right time to go through all the bins, but I know there is at least one bin of dolls and stuffed animals that I feel pretty confident I can go through to donate or find other uses for this month.

Buy a new pillow: I have some weird neck/shoulder pain happening that I thought a prenatal massage would fix, but it hasn’t. I’ve had pain like this years ago so I don’t think it’s related to all the weird body changes of pregnancy and starting with a better pillow ( the one I have is at least 5 years old) seems like an inexpensive, easy way to try to improve the situation.

 

 

Friday Finds February 2019

The way American office spaces look is much in part to this woman, Florence Knoll Bassett, who died in January at the age of 101.

Another notable female passing: Capt. Rosemary Mariner, one of the first female US Navy pilots. She was honored at her funeral with the first all-female US Navy flyover.

How Girl Scout Cookies captured the hearts of America. What are your favorites? I like TagAlongs (Peanut Butter Patties to some), Samoas (Caramel DeLites), and Thanks A Lot cookies. Fun fact: one year when I was a Brownie, my Mom was the “cookie lady” for our troop. There were hundreds of boxes in our dining room for a month or so. It was AMAZING.

Ten historic female scientists you should know. I knew of only one on the list (Maria Mitchell).

If you’re a child of the 80s, you grew up playing the computer game Oregon Trail. There are spots around the US where you can re-enact the real life Oregon Trail, see remnants of ruts from wagons, and visit the real Independence Rock. Also, if you’re looking for a time suck for the weekend, you can actually play the original game on your computer now, thanks to the Internet Archive. Remember to ford the river!

 

Random Musings

Pregnancy brain has my thoughts all over the place so forgive this post which is evidence of the random things bouncing around in my brain!

I joined a few online marketplace/yard sale groups on Facebook since I thought I might find a few good bargains for some of the items we need/want for baby. Mostly this is not the case and it’s a lot of people selling things like DVD box sets of old TV shows for practically nothing. Part of me laughs every time I see this because it’s so random and the amount of money never seems like it’s worth the hassle of dealing with people, setting up meetups for cash/stuff exchange, etc. Might just be me, but my sanity and time has a price and it’s worth more than $15 for some DVDs!

People ask me all the time how I’m feeling now that I’m over the halfway mark of the pregnancy. I think people ask to show they are interested and/or they don’t know what else to talk about, but I miss people asking how I’m doing instead of just how the pregnancy is going. I guess this begins the struggle of maintaining my individual self over baby!

Also when people ask me how I’m feeling, most of the time I don’t tell them the whole truth because TMI. No one wants to hear about my horrible heartburn and acid reflux, the random back pains, or how I can barely put my socks on. Or the opposite is true with women who have been pregnant before who then want to tell you their horror stories. I guess I’ll probably fall into that category after this whole growing a human process is over.

Does anyone else hoard their Amazon delivery boxes because you know there will be a day when you need them? I am especially obsessed with boxes that are good sizes for books because in my mind I’m always donating them to the library, when in reality, this only ever really happens every two years or so since I have some sort of block on reading from the books I own shelf. Although in my defense, many of my Amazon boxes have gone onto greater good like passing along to folks who are moving or using them when we did our purge/donations.

What’s randomly on your mind these days?

 

5 on Friday: Recent Pop Culture

For the slog that was January, I can’t believe February is halfway over! I’ve been busy at work and a little busy at home, but spending lots of time relaxing and taking in as many quiet nights with Q as we can before our lives change in June.

Here’s 5 recent reads and watches that I definitely recommend;

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

The documentary about Mister Rogers came out in theaters over the summer and I was bummed to miss it with with a local film series in the town where I work. I’d been waiting until it was streaming to watch, but thankfully, it was picked up by HBO so I was able to watch last weekend. I didn’t watch it the night it was first on because I was having a weepy, emotional day and thought watching a documentary about an important figure in my childhood would make things worse, so I saved it for Sunday night when I knew I would need a pick me up before the work week. I’m so glad I did! Not only did I learn more about Mister Rogers, but it brought back great memories for Q and I. There was some part, near to the end of the doc, when Q turned to me and said ” If Mister Rogers isn’t in the The Good Place, I don’t know who would be” ( a reference to our favorite TV show at the moment, though it just ended for season- wah!)

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Since I try very hard to stick to my no-new book buying rule, I’ve been on the library wait list for eons for the memoir by our former First Lady. I was on the wait list for every form of the book possible, and finally my number came up for the audio CD version last week. I’m only 5 discs in out of 16, but I absolutely love it. The book is great, but hearing Michelle Obama in my ears during my commute is pretty fantastic.

First Man

We watch a lot of space, sci-fi, and alien- related movies in our house because that’s one of Q’s interests, but this is actually a film I wanted to watch more than he did! I’m fascinated by the space race of the late 1960s and while this film definitely over dramatizes a lot of Neil Armstrong’s experience, I appreciated the look at his family and personal life during the whole ordeal. It could have been maybe half hour or so shorter ( it was just over 2.5 hours) and there could have been a few less scenes where the camera is spinning like crazy. but overall, it was a great watch.

Project Blue Book

Speaking of aliens, this show over on History Channel follows the experience of the real-life professor (played by Aidan Gillen of Game of Thrones and The Wire fame) who was recruited by the Air Force in the 1950s and 1960s to investigate UFO sightings around the country. Q has read a ton about a lot about the actual incidents so is watching more for the entertainment value, but I’m learning a good amount, plus the sub-story lines of conspiracies and Russians makes for some decent TV watching.

Game of Thrones

I think Q may be more excited about the final season of Game of Thrones starting in April than he is about the baby at the moment! Kidding aside, we’ve started watching the series from the beginning again and it’s not only a great reminder of how things got to the point in the story, but also some of the characters and story lines we enjoyed in the beginning that got us hooked on the show to start!

 

February Aspirations

How is that it’s still January! This month, particularly the last 2 weeks, have felt longer than usual.

The colder weather and weekends without plans really let accomplish a lot for my January goals. Here’s a recap:

  • Clean out closet of shame & donate: While this is done, I’m only counting this goal as 75% completed. The closet is empty and we donated 4 boxes of stuff to our local Savers. Now the room is scattered with stuff that needs to be dispersed to other areas of the house, namely the attic. Since it’s not heated up there and we’ve had some cold temps, Q and I have been procrastinating about getting the boxes up there. The room has also become a bit of a holding area for random things like clothes that aren’t fitting right now and need a home, our tax paperwork stuff, and so on.
  • Get a haircut: Completed yesterday! Almost forgot about this one actually, but last week there was a city-wide gas outage where I work so my office had no heat. That meant I worked from home most days and didn’t blow dry my hair which really made me realize how stringy, dry and gross my hair had become. Now it’s actually a little too short for what I wanted, but it’s only hair!
  • Make new household budget: Sort of. My raise didn’t happen until this past paycheck so I only just figured out what new take-home pay is, what I want to contribute to my retirement, etc. This coming weekend Q and I have plans to sit down and look at numbers, especially since I think a few home repairs may be pushing up the need to-do list.
  • Meal plan & better organize grocery shopping: Argh, this continues to be one of my main struggles of adulthood- what to eat! I’ve been sort of picky in this second stage of pregnancy because I worry about triggering the queasiness again and there are certain foods (spicy, red sauces, things with onions) that are sparking some major heartburn for me. I’m at the point where I plan maybe 1-2 days at a time, organize a Prime Now Whole Foods order delivery for the things I need, but then always end up at a local market getting something I forgot.

February Goals

Prenatal yoga class

I’m only halfway through pregnancy and I’m achy. I think my couch is part of the problem and not having yoga for the past few months has definitely affected posture and flexibility. I found a class on Sundays a few towns over and I know making the effort to get there will pay off.

Purge, organize, and rearrange basement

Even Marie Kondo, I could tell you that my basement did not give me joy. It’s three-quarters finished with carpet and some lovely built-in bookcases so it’s a functional space, but over the years, it’s become a mish mash of stuff. It needs to have 3 areas in the finished section( workout/gym, storage, bedroom/office area) and the unfinished section (laundry, tools, off-season storage). It’s become more of Q’s domain in the past few years as his array of exercise equipment has expanded so may take some creative thinking to give him a zone that still makes the big room feel like his own place.

Baby registry

I already got a head start on this project as I’ve slowly been doing research and finding things we’ll need, but there really are just too many products, opinions, and options.

Taxes

Likely the last year I’ll do my taxes on my own and aiming to have them done before the looming mid-February possible new government shutdown.

Friday Finds January 2019

I like this idea- the magic of book fairies. Basically, folks that leave special books all around in public for people to discover.

Speaking of books, I have never heard much about the search for missing books stolen by Nazis during World War II, but apparently, the hunt for stolen books is very much alive. In the museum world, there is a lot of work about artwork, especially paintings, silver, and European decorative arts that were taken by Nazis during World War II, but I had never even considered books.

A job I would have loved- tea tasting! The FDA used to have a Board of Tea Experts, though I don’t think my palette is as developed as you’d probably need to have to taste good versus bad quality.

In light of the Marie Kondo craze hitting everyone, courtesy of her Netflix series ( which I still haven’t watched), a tiny history of how Americans have been “taught” to tidy and clean up.

American Girl

Awhile back I read this article about how many women don’t get rid of their American Girl dolls.

As a gal who grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, I was of course introduced to American Girl pretty early after their arrival on the book and doll market. I can’t recall how I was introduced to the lovely world of Felicity, Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly (the original 4- Addy and Josefina were added as I was ), but since I was a huge reader, the books came first for me and I plowed through them.

As the creators of American Girl also smartly created the dolls and a whole line of stuff to play to the hearts of the girls who fell in love with them, I had to have one of my own. I was enamored with the Kirsten doll because her name was so close to my own, as well as the fact her family was Swedish which was close enough to my ancestral background of being half Dutch. I was jealous of other friends who had more than one doll, but I didn’t love the stories of the other characters as much, though I’m sure the stories of Molly, the World War II era doll, likely influenced my later interest and studies in the period.

Since I work in the museum world,  I have found that many of my female colleagues who are in my age bracket had an American Girl doll or at least had read all the books. A few definitely thought their interests were related to their love of the brand, and I’m sure that’s at least a little bit true for me too.

As the company expanded its line of dolls and offerings, I got their magazine and other doll accessories, but aged out of the books and dolls by the time they started introducing more historic characters and books. When the original makers, The Pleasant Company, sold to Mattel, they became part of the doll powerhouse it is today with American Girl stores, increased line of doll offerings, and movies. I even applied for a job with Mattel a few years back to be a researcher for them as they were developing new historic characters, but sadly, didn’t even get an interview! I met a lady who worked for American Girl line within Mattel at a conference a few years ago and she confirmed for me it’s a really awesome job.

I have my Kirsten doll up in a bin in my attic and I don’t know if I’ll ever get rid of her ( though I think she could use a spruce up to get her braids done again properly). When ever I get around to the KonMari method of decluttering, the doll will definitely still “spark joy” and make me recall one of the loves of my childhood.

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