Life By Kristen

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

2019: Savor

My word for 2019:

This year I want to enjoy, delight, and lap up every moment, emotion, and happening.

I’ll have a new boss starting in a few weeks that I hope will bring new excitement and enthusiasm to the work place.

Q and I are eager to figure out where we live next and how we can get closer to that goal in 2019. I’m making minimal goals for 2019 because it will be a life-changing year for us.

In June 2019, we’ll welcome a baby boy into the world. 

It’s still a bit shocking for me to say it/type it, but it’s the most amazing blessing and something I’m not sure either Q or I thought would ever happen. Part of me still has a lot of disbelief that there is a little human growing inside me, but part of that is I was so sick for most of the first trimester (hence why I’ve been pretty absent around the interwebs, not reading a ton, etc) that I couldn’t concentrate on much else besides trying to feel better, eat something that wasn’t going to make me sick, and so on. Now that I’m feeling good and like a functioning human again, I’m becoming more excited by the day, despite the never ending list of things I need to buy, learn, figure out, etc.

So my main goal is preparing for baby, welcoming baby, and adjusting to life with a new human and becoming a family of 3. We are hopeful the relationship with Q’s son Little Man will improve with the arrival of his little brother. Our whole family is pretty excited about this new addition so it’s going to be pretty fantastic to see the family come alive in a new way too.

I have a few goals for myself, though I’m being realistic in knowing that I have no idea what life is going to be like once a little person enters it. So the minimal goals for 2019:

  • I’m hoping Q and I will be able to still get some date nights in, even if just to dinner and a Target run.
  • I’d like to read around 35 books, but hopeful I may be able to listen to more on audio, especially when home on maternity leave.
  • I definitely want to be a better friend by reaching out to check in more, even if I can’t make plans.
  • Self-care- before baby, I want to make sure to take care of myself and not get lost in the preparations so I definitely will take a day off for my birthday to get a prenatal massage. After baby, I know I will need to learn to ask for help so that I can keep my sanity, especially during maternity leave.

Wishing you and yours a happy, health 2019!

 

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2018 in Review

2018 was quite a year! My word for 2018 was trust: trust myself, my partner, that the things I wanted would happen, and I definitely think I lived well and fully with that word.

When the year began, I thought for sure I’d be in a new job and possibly a new home by the end of the year (I’ve probably said this a few years in a row). Instead, I celebrated my 10-year work anniversary in September and took on new responsibilities at work once my horrible boss left in May. My new boss starts in January and we’ll see what 2019 brings career-wise.

I traveled to Utah and New Hampshire for vacation with Q and to Connecticut for a work conference. Other highlights of life include going to a live recording of The Moth in February with Q, treating myself to a few massages and a facial, plenty of lazy summer days with Q, and helping my Mom move back to the same town as me (now only a mile away!)

I read 80 books, though just barely made it since I hit a real reading slump through end of October and all of November. Highlights of reading: Tony’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani; A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza; It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover; The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang; Calypso by David Sedaris (on audio); Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng; The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin; and the last 2 Harry Potter books. Q bought me a Kindle for my birthday which I was so resistant to at first, but is one of the best things ever. I didn’t have an audiobook other than David Sedaris that stood out for me this year, though I enjoyed Tara Westover’s Educated and Tom Hanks’s Uncommon Type very much, especially since Hanks did the audio for his own book. I had hoped my turn in the library waitlist for Michelle Obama’s Becoming would happen before the end of the year, but so far, no luck!

I did not accomplish all my goals for the year: recycle old computers ( although I started taking my ancient Mac apart), I did not donate blood or pay off the car loan ( though very close!), and I didn’t return to church, though I continue to pray/meditate. I’m still thinking about this last one, especially about whether returning to the church I grew up with is the right fit or maybe there is something new (keep thinking about trying out an Episcopal service). It also continued to be a frustrating year for Q and I with our relationship with his son, but I am cautiously optimistic this will change in 2019.

We accomplished some house projects, watched a lot of movies, and spent a lot of time with family. I did more weight lifting and yoga, though my favorite teacher stopped doing classes for a good portion of last year, so was not as vigilant as I have been in previous years. We did a lot of clearing out of junk, both sentimental and actual, and this process seems ongoing. I swear clutter and random sentimental stuff doubles overnight or something.

It’s always interesting to look back on the calendar for the year gone by- some things seem so long ago and other things you forget happened at all, but as the saying goes, the days are long, but the years are short!

Friday Finds December 2018

Q is OBSESSED with paper towels. If I didn’t buy napkins and Kleenex, he would use paper towels for every single thing. Apparently, he and a bunch of other Americans are also obsessed with them.

Our family started no-gift Christmas a few years ago and it really has made the holiday season so much more enjoyable and stress-free. It’s not for everyone, but it works for us ( and apparently many other people too!)

Speaking of Christmas, did you know that the majority of letters written and send to Santa via USPS are actually answered by them?

I don’t know about where you are in the world, but here in the US, a lot of the suburban malls are dying quickly. The local mall where I spent many a day of my youth has only a few national chain stores left and has quickly become home to non-retail spots like a gym and indoor mini golf to make up for the empty storefronts. I do think it’s interesting how some malls are being creative in adapting the spaces for other uses- there is a mall in my area that now is home to a satellite branch of a local community college in the former JcPenny store space. Got to get creative!

How recycling works in the United States & how the whole system needs a rethink in order to stay in business.

A pickle a day may help anxiety!

 

Secret Santa Mug Swap 2018

The lovely San once again organized a Secret Santa Mug Swap this year. It’s my 3rd year participating!

I was matched with Tanja who I sent a festive poinsettia mug and some hot chocolate over to enjoy. I completely forgot to take a picture of it before sending it off!

Here’s my mug from the fabulous Cait!

It’s a lovely mug that reads: “Ain’t Nothing but a Tea Thing Baby” with a super cute metallic lip smack on the inside lip. She also sent along some fabulous tea and delicious Walker shortbread!

 

December!?!?

I’m still trying to figure out what happened to November. It seemed to pass in a flash this year.

November was a whirlwind at work- museum closed for the season, but lots of end of year work and preparations for our holiday open days. I went to Stamford, CT for a work conference which wasn’t amazing, but included a visit to the very cool Barnum Museum. They’ve had a series of unfortunate weather events, including a tornado, that have impacted their site, but I was impressed with the work they are doing and plans for the future. If you’re ever in the Bridgeport, CT area, I definitely recommend it for an afternoon visit.

I didn’t read a lot in November and I’m getting worried I won’t make my reading goal of 80 books for the year! I only completed three books: Tony’s Wife (my review) and A Place For Us  were both 4 star reads. French Letters: Children of a Good War was a 3.6 (my review). I’m at 73/80 for the year and hope to finish a book of holiday short stories in the next few days, plus a few other quicky holiday reads, and at least one audio book. We’ll see if I reach my goal- hoping the few long holiday weekends will help me get there.

Thanksgiving was a great quiet day with family that we hosted at my house. It was lowkey and much needed with parade, dog show, and football watching, plus Wizard of Oz on TV at night! For the first time maybe ever, Q and I went out shopping on Black Friday in search of a new phone for me which was definitely not the best decision, but we did accomplish that goal, plus bought a new Christmas tree for the house. We decorated it on Saturday. I’m a white lights kind of gal, but Q likes multi-colored, so we ended up with a tree that does both! As someone who is allergic to Christmas trees (well all pine things), I’ve spent many a year putting up fake trees (we had a 14 foot one growing up that was a beast) and this pre-lit one was so easy to setup.

 

The house is decorated and so now I can spend the month of December enjoying it!

This month I’m sure is going to fly by as quickly as November with holiday gatherings with friends, my work Christmas party, and then family time around Christmas. It’ll be another quiet holiday for us, but looking forward to the rest and relaxation that comes at the end of the year and reflecting on the past 12 months.

Friday Finds November 2018

I love old newsreels, home movies, and so– very happy to learn that so many are available for free via The Library of Congress.

I’m on the waitlist at the library for Michelle Obama’s memoir on audio CD, but this article on the history of first ladies’ memoirs makes me want to listen to a few others while I’m waiting.

The Japanese take splintered wooden baseball bats and make them into chopsticks! Talk about a great way to recycle!

I didn’t know green bean casserole was a thing until I was in college, so this was an interesting read about the woman who invented the dish.

Speaking of Thanksgiving food traditions, jellied canned cranberry sauce is Q’s requirement for Thanksgiving- I didn’t know a man invented it!

Art therapy works wonders, so it’s great to see that doctors are now prescribing visits to museums, concerts, and other art/cultural opportunities.

Do you have a Little Free Library in your neighborhood? There is one near our public library and I’ve left a few books there over the past few months, but never taken anything.

 

Book Review: Tony’s Wife

Set in the lush Big Band era of the 1940s and World War II, this spellbinding saga from beloved New  author Adriana Trigiani tells the story of two talented working class kids who marry and become a successful singing act, until time, temptation, and the responsibilities of home and family derail their dreams.

Shortly before World War II, Chi Chi Donatelli and Saverio Armandonada meet one summer on the Jersey shore and fall in love. Both are talented and ambitious, and both share the dream of becoming singers for the legendary orchestras of the time: Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman. They’re soon married, and it isn’t long before Chiara and Tony find that their careers are on the way up as they navigate the glamorous worlds of night clubs, radio and television. All goes well until it becomes clear that they must make a choice: Which of them will put their ambitions aside to raise a family and which will pursue a career? And how will they cope with the impact that decision has on their lives and their marriage?

From the Jersey shore to Las Vegas to Hollywood, and all the dance halls in between, this multi-layered story is vivid with historical color and steeped in the popular music that serves as its score. Tony’s Wife is a magnificent epic of life in a traditional Italian family undergoing seismic change in a fast paced, modern world. Filled with vivid, funny and unforgettable characters, this richly human story showcases Adriana Trigiani’s gifts as a storyteller and her deep understanding of family, love and the pursuit of the American dream.

 

My review: 4 stars.

Adriana Trigiani has done it again! Another masterful book that, through great detail and research, immerses you in a time and place that draws you in and leaves you wanting more. Trigiani is one of my must-read authors for new releases and I’m slowly making my way through her back list.

As a historian, I appreciate the way the author creates a narrative and characters that are appropriate for the time period they write- it’s clear Trigiani takes time to research the appropriate clothing, events, and music- which was especially important with this novel since the two main characters are aspiring (and then successful) musicians.

The reason I enjoy books like this is not just because of the historic settings, but because they books cover an expanse of time so you can truly get to know the characters, see how they develop, and understand the decisions that are made. This book starts in the late 1930s and ends in the early 2000s. This does make for a long book (this one clocks in at 320 pages), but since the dialogue always helps push the narrative forward, it rarely feels slow or that it drags on.

Tony’s Wife is a delight- I loved the music references, the love story, and of course, the big Italian families. It portrays the experience of so many women in the mid- 20th century very well ( and really now, despite changing society)– the struggle between career and ambitions against family and obligations. Chi Chi is a strong woman from the beginning and I appreciated how Trigiani helps the reader to understand her as a character, especially as she gets older and is forced into decisions she may have never thought she’d make 10 or 15 years earlier.

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.

Book Review: French Letters: Children of a Good War

Synopsis: Four decades after World War II, 1986 is a year of terrorist hijackings, of personal computers and CD players, of AIDS and Miami Vice. It also is a year in which a beloved doctor falls to his death, a Pan Am pilot is shot while trying to foil the takeover of Pan Am flight 73, and when four bitter French widows use their medicines as bets to play poker in their retirement home while a lonely nun observes her vows of silence in an Irish convent. And it is the year when a cache of faded letters is discovered in a cellar, causing Frank Hastings to realize that he is not who he believed he is, and to go in search of his mother.

***

My review: 3.5 stars.

This likely would have been a higher review for me but with life and work happenings ( including being at an exhausting work conference for 3 days), it took me longer than usual to read. I had a few days in between readings so found myself having to go back and remind myself what was going on- this isn’t a critique of the author, his writing, or the book, but more about where my brain was at for the past couple weeks.

The French Letter series is a new one to me, as is this author, but I agreed to review the book because of my interest in World War II.  Children of a Good War is the third book in the series, but I didn’t feel like I missed anything or was confused by characters, plot lines, etc. by not having read the previous two books ( though I did add them to my to-read list).

Without giving up too much of the plot, the story centers around Frank Hastings, a writer who is estranged from his brother Peter, a pilot. The two brothers come together after the death of their father (the doctor), and it is revealed that Frank’s mother is not the same as Peter’s. Letters from World War II are found and the mystery surrounding Frank’s mother, and his father’s time in France during the war are made known. There are other revelations about Peter too, and again without giving a lot away, both of the brothers are changed by what they learn of their parents and how they view themselves and their relationship with each other.

Part of the 3.5 stars for me aside from the time it took me to read was that there were a lot of different characters to keep track of, which didn’t help with my slow reading. The author is definitely creating a distinct and clear ‘universe’ in both the modern and historic timelines– it’s clear a lot of research and time went into crafting the novel with its details, subplots, and development. Some of the background helps inform the main narrative, but there were a few that left me feeling a bit clueless like I’d missed something. That being said, I appreciate novels where you can see the personal development, realizations, and self-discovery of a fictional character, so this book gets good marks for that.

Buy the book!

 

I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

November: A Month for Gratitude

Sorry I disappeared for most of October! It was a busy month for work and overall various things going on. But super productive with house projects getting done and fall activities.

We decorated for fall and even a few things for Halloween. We had about 30 trick or treaters last night- mostly superhero and zombie costumes. I don’t always love Halloween but I do like seeing kids all dressed up, especially the little ones.

I’m 10 books away from reaching my goal of reading 80 this year. I feel pretty confident I’ll make it and possibly go over. I read 7 in the month of October, though I wasn’t over the moon for any of them. I was disappointed by a few- most of the books I only rated a 2 or 3, which may have more to do with my level of tiredness this month while reading. Take Crazy Rich Asians  which I wanted to read before I watched the movie. I’ve heard people love it or hate it, but I was definitely in the indifferent category. The only 4 star book was Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody which I listened to on audio for my commute. It wasn’t the best celebrity memoir I’ve listened to, but I gave it the extra star because I liked her delivery and jokes.

One fun thing from October was a visit just last week to the Florence Griswold Museum in Connecticut to see their Fairy Houses outdoor exhibit. It’s an annual event for the museum where local artists create these fun, whimsical interpretations of fairy houses all with a central theme. This year’s featured letters and numbers. It was a great afternoon with a friend, even though it got chilly pretty quickly! The picture below is an example– this is the house created for letter H and an example of the little rooms inside.

 

November is a month for giving thanks and for my favorite holiday. Even though my museum closes for the season this month, we have some December holiday programming to prepare for and this year we’re doing some new things, so this month will be filled with prepping for that. I’m looking forward to a few long weekends and lazy days, as well as decorating our house in our simplified Christmas decor. But really, the best part of this month is Thanksgiving!

Friday Finds October 2018

On my travel list whenever I find myself in Atlanta- a new museum dedicated to the puppetry of Jim Henson.

Speaking of the amazing creations and imaginations of Jim Henson, the original Big Bird leaves Sesame Street after 50 years. Sidenote: I played Big Bird in my 1st grade play!

The trash that came out of Yellowstone geyser that has normally been quiet- stuff from the 1930s! Weird and fascinating.

How the Smithsonian helped the FBI track down the missing ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

There were never 57 varieties of Heinz Ketchup! Marketing schemes!

Duck sauce is an essential part of New England Chinese cuisine. I had no idea it was another thing that is only known in this end of the world!

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