Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's Been a Year

Well here we are on the cusp of the passing of yet another year.  Out of all of the years of my life, this is the year that I will be most happy to see coming to an end.

It's been an incredibly tough year. It's been a year of challenges.  A year of frustration.  A year of heart break.  I've cried in more places - both public and private - than I have any other year, and the year has certainly held more sorrow than joy.  It's been a year that has exhausted me.

But I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that the year has contained some good things.  I passed the CFA exam.  I hosted one of my best friends for a girls weekend in Charlotte, and traveled to many wonderful places.  I got a promotion at work in the spring.  I made new friends and strengthened existing friendships.  I co-hosted another successful Julia Child Night.

But I look back at who I was in the early days of the 2013 before I knew that the year would hold an unwanted move, a break-up, a stress fracture, a lack of running, and the diagnosis of a chronic disease, among other difficult things - and that person is unrecognizable to me. I know she's buried somewhere underneath all of the layers of sadness and defeat that I have accumulated over the past year, but she feels a little bit lost to me right now.

But I see glimpses of the person I used to be when I am away from Charlotte, and those glimpses are encouraging.  They tell me that previous, better version of myself is not completely lost.  And at least I know how to get back to the person I was before the move.  I know that the way I feel right now is situational and when I get back to the Midwest, the clouds that have been hanging over me for the past year will be gone.  I will get that spring in my step back, smiles will come more easily, and the number of days that contain tears will dwindle.

Recently someone asked me if I would make a different decision if I could go back and do it all over again.  And as much as I'd like to say I would, I know that I couldn't.  I won't bore you all with the circumstances that required me to make this unwanted move to Charlotte, but trust me when I say if I could have avoided it, I would have.  But I couldn't, so here I am, picking up the pieces from a year of challenges and hoping to cobble back together a life I am proud of in 2014.

So here's hoping that 2014 contains more joy than sorrow.  More smiles than tears.  More laughter than anguish.  And more than anything, I hope that 2014 includes the closing of the chapter of my time in Charlotte - and the start of a new chapter back in the Midwest.

Tonight, I will quietly usher out 2013 (and honestly give it a metaphorical middle finger), but I will welcome, with joy, a New Year.

I wish everyone a very safe and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

5 Best Books of 2013

I'm back from my week at home.  I'll tell you more about it later this week, but suffice it to say that I had a wonderful time!

Back to the post topic at hand...  I read a lot in 2013!  As of today, I have read 79 books which is by far the most books I have read in a year.  Between all the flights I took and the extra alone time in a new city, I had a lot of time to read. And luckily, I read some really great books.  Here are my top 5 picks from 2013, in no particular order!

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini - If you haven't read something by Hosseini, I highly recommend that you do.  His writing is beautiful and his books are always such page-turners for me.  And The Mountains Echoed was a little different than his other books as there were several story lines that were all inter-connected.  It got off to a bit of a slow and confusing start for me initially but I am glad I stuck with it as it was truly a wonderful book.  It was one of those books that I was sad to see end as I just really loved the characters.




Still Alice by Lisa Genova - This has been on my TBR list for years and I finally got around to reading it this year.  It was such a great book.  It's told from the perspective of Alice, a Harvard professor who develops early-onset Alzheimer's over the course of the book.  This book was especially impactful for me as Phil's dad had Alzheimer's so it was especially heart breaking to read about this, knowing his dad was suffering from this disease.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - I loved this book.  It's about a heavy subject as the main character is a care taker for a quadriplegic.  Despite the heavy topic, the author did a great job of introducing humor along the way and I actually laughed out loud occasionally, which doesn't happen very often when I am reading.  This book is a tear jerker, so have some Kleenexes on hand.
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher - My aunt/God-mom is a retired English teacher so every time I see her, I ask her about her latest and greatest reads. She recommended this book when I saw her at Julia Child Night so I downloaded it onto my nook for my Paris trip.  I ended up starting and finishing this book on my flight back to Charlotte.  It was so, so good.  It falls under the memoir category as the author writes about the life of his younger sister. But there are other elements in the book such as the decision to live far from family to pursue your career, and whether it's worth the sacrifices (which obviously hit home for me).  Warning:  it's another tear jerker.  I started crying when I got to a really sad part of the book and could not stop!  Which was a little embarrassing since I was in such a public place but oh well!

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum - My best of list wouldn't be complete without a WWII book!  I have owned this one for years but finally got around to reading it for my online book club.  It was such a great book.  There is a modern-day story as the main character, Trudy, researches her family's past and it's potential tie to a Nazi soldier, and then the book flashed back to the time of WWII.  I especially loved that it was partially set in Minnesota as it's always fun to read books that are set in a city you know and love.





What were your best reads of 2013?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Home For the Holidays



This is an especially happy Friday for me as today I fly home for Christmas.  I have been blessed to spend every Christmas with my family, but this year I appreciate the fact that I'll be able to celebrate with them more than ever.

I am looking forward to 5 blissful days with my family at my parents' lake home.  Yes, Minnesota is cold but there is no place I'd rather be.  In no particular order, I'm looking forward to hugs from my nephews, board games in the evenings, face-to-face conversations with my parents, siblings, and their spouses, Scrabble matches with my grandma, delicious home-cooked food, playing cribbage with my dad, quiet afternoons spent by the fireplace reading, and homemade ice cream. 

My goal for this trip home is to live in the present as much as possible.  I don't want the fact that I will have to return to Charlotte on the 26th to weigh me down.  To help me live in the present as much as possible, I have asked my family if we could please not talk about my life here in Charlotte.  I know that may sound dramatic to ask them to avoid talking about a large part of my life, but I know I will get sad and depressed if I have to talk about how much I don't like it here and how anxious I am that I won't find an opportunity in the Midwest in 2014, so I'd rather just not discuss it at all, or as little as possible.  I will deal with my reality when I fly home on the 26th (and will likely be a puddle of tears), but while I am home, I want to just put it out of my mind and enjoy my time in Minnesota. 

I will be taking next week off from blogging so that I can focus on enjoying my time at home.  I'll be back to blogging during the final week of the year, though, with a list of my best books of 2013 so stay tuned for that!

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I hope it's a joyful one!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

More Love Letters: 12 Days of Love Letter Writing






For the 3rd year in a row, I am participating in the More Love Letters 12 Days of Love Letter Writing campaign.  In case you aren't familiar with this organization, it receives letters requests from people from all walks of life who are struggling a bit and could use a little extra love in the form of a letter.  Then volunteers, such as myself, craft a letter to provide support, encouragement, and a tangible sign that there are people out there - even complete strangers - who care. 

This year, I wrote a letter to Lois.  Here is the love letter request from Lois' daughter:

This request comes to us from Lois’ loving daughter. She writes: “My mom, age 88, and dad, 92, have been married for over 67 years. Mom has been the sole caregiver for my dad since he suffered a debilitating stroke 14 years ago. She has been totally devoted to caring for him. Three weeks ago she had to have knee replacement surgery and for the first time in 67 years they are separated until she recovers. They are both having such a hard time being apart. She is in a rehabilitation center and working so hard at her physical therapy so that she'll be able to come home and care for him once again. Unfortunately, due to her age her recovery is not going as well as she'd hoped. She could really use some love letters and encouragement.” Let’s put pen to paper and lift Lois’ spirits today!


I wrote my letter near the glow of one of my favorite candles.

 If you are interested in participating, you can send your letter here.  The deadline is tomorrow!


Lois' Bundle
c/o Darla A.
2445 Kips Korner Rd.
Norco, Ca. 92860

Have you participated in a love letter campaign before?  Have you ever been on the receiving end of an unexpected letter that provided encouragement and support?  I certainly have in the last year and those letters and notes really brightened my day.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

TLC Book Tours Review: The Supreme Macaroni Company

The Supreme Macaroni Company synopsis from Goodreads:

For over a hundred years, the Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village has relied on the leather produced by Vechiarelli & Son in Tuscany. This historic business partnership provides the twist of fate for Valentine Roncalli, the school teacher turned shoemaker, to fall in love with Gianluca Vechiarelli, a tanner with a complex past . . . and a secret.

A piece of surprising news is revealed at The Feast of the Seven Fishes when Valentine and Gianluca join her extended family on a fateful Christmas Eve. Now faced with life altering choices, Valentine remembers the wise words that inspired her in the early days of her beloved Angelini Shoe Company: "A person who can build a pair of shoes can do just about anything." The proud, passionate Valentine is going to fight for everything she wants and savor all she deserves-the bitter and the sweetness of life itself.

Romantic and poignant, told with humor and warmth, and bursting with a cast of endearing characters, The Supreme Macaroni Company is a sumptuous feast of delights: a portrait of a woman and the man she loves, her passion for craftsmanship, and the sacrifices it takes to build and sustain a family business while keeping love and laughter at the center of everything.


My Review:

The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani is the 3rd book in Trigiani's "Valentine" series which you maybe wouldn't realize if you picked this book up because it's the first book that doesn't use Valentine's name in the title.  Nora introduced me to Trigiani years ago and it has been fun to read her books over the years.  They tend to be fairly light reads, but have enough depth to keep them from really falling into the "chick lit" category, although some of them dip their toe into that category. 

In The Supreme Macaroni Company, the main character has just gotten engaged on Christmas Eve to her Italian boyfriend.  This final book in the series follows the ups and downs of her relationship to an older man with a bit of a past.  Valentine is in her mid-30s and is a bit stubborn and unwilling to compromise at times, so there is plenty of conflict in the book and at times you wonder how this couple will make it.  While Trigiani's books tend to be light reads, there are some sad elements to this book.  

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  I feel like Valentine could have maybe grown more as a character over the course of the series, but I will say that she grew quite a bit in this group.  I am glad I read this final story as it completed a story that I had read over the course of several years.  Lastly, I will say that Trigiani did a good job of weaving in details from past books so it made it easy to follow if it had been awhile since you had read the other books.

Have you read anything by Trigiani?

I received a complimentary copy of this book from TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review, and the opinions are my own.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Year Ago

Happy Friday, everyone!  We made it through another week.  Woo hoo.  I fly to NYC today and fly home for Christmas a week from today so have lots of good things to pull me through the month of December.

I don't know what it is about this time of year, but it seems to bring out a sense of nostalgia.  We think back on holiday seasons from our childhood.  We keep traditions alive that we've established with our family and friends.  There is a sense of anticipation for the celebration of another holiday, but my feelings during this season are closely tied to Christmases past.

Lately I've spent a lot of time thinking about what was happening in my life a year ago.  And to be quite honest, looking back is apt to bring tears to my eyes.  And not happy tears.  I think about how a year ago I was living in a city I love, working for a boss I trusted. I had ample friends at work and people on my team that I trusted.  I loved the condo where I was living and had plenty of room to host friends and family.  I had been dating Phil for 2 months.  I was excited to celebrate our first Christmas together and we attended his Christmas party together a year ago tomorrow.  

Flash forward a year, and it's all changed.  I live in Charlotte now.  I work with a new team where I feel like an outsider.  I have this smaller apartment that I don't particularly like, in a complex that I am not pleased with due to things like the fact that I've had my door banged on by drunks at 3 in the morning or have had to file a noise complaint due to the ridiculous level of noise on weekend nights. 

I want to go back in time to the life I had a year ago.  I want to be at a place where I can say, for the most part, that I really love my life.  I'm approaching the one year anniversary of finding about my move to Charlotte and while some think I should be encouraged by the fact that over 8 months have passed since I moved here, all I feel is discouraged.  I know where I want to end up in 2014, but I don't see a path that will lead me there.  My head spins with details such as the expense of flying back for interviews, my non-compete clause and how that will impact my ability to negotiate a job offer, lease breaking fees, and how I will ensure I don't have a gap in insurance as going without insurance is no longer an option thanks to my $2,000/month RA drug. 

This is supposed to be the most happy time of the year, and I feel like most around me are so excited for the holiday season.  And don't get me wrong, I am excited to return home to celebrate Christmas with my family.  I just wish I could chase away these feels of sadness and stress that are hanging over me and won't seem to go away. 

I'm hoping that I can shove these feelings to the side and truly enjoy my trip home next week, but it's easier said than done.  I'm hoping that once I can start to actively look for jobs, I'll feel more in control and optimistic about the path my life will take in 2014.  But right now 2014 is so full of uncertainty.  And that is very hard for me. 

So this is where I am at right now.  I'm sad and sick of Charlotte and oh so ready for this chapter of my life to be behind me.  I know I posted a wish list last week but all I want for Christmas is a job back in the Midwest and a timeline for when I can return home, which is something that Santa, nor anyone else, can provide.  I'm trying to believe that it will all work out, but it's hard. 

But here's hoping that a year from now, I am preparing to celebrate Christmas back in the Midwest and can look back on this holiday season and say that my Charlotte experience is firmly in the past.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Happy Thursday - can it just be Friday already?  It's been a busy week  but this week just can't go fast enough for me.  I'm so excited for Friday afternoon to roll around so I can fly to NYC for the weekend!  It's good to have things to look forward to!

Here are 3 things that are on my mind today.

1.  I really, really hate the Charlotte airport.  I have an informed opinion about it because I clearly fly very often.  The fact that there is no onsite parking DRIVES ME CRAZY (they tore down the ramps and are rebuilding them but have been working on this for over a year).  Landing in Charlotte is frustrating because I have come to realize that it's always going to involve waiting, which is the last thing a person wants to do at the end of a long day.  I will either have to wait for a cab for up to 30+ minutes at times.  Or I will have to wait for the shuttle to take me to the lot where my car is parked.  Or, like yesterday, I will take a shuttle to a valet lot and wait for them to pull my car around.  Let me tell you, waiting 30+ minutes at the end of a long day is really crappy and makes me the crabbiest person ever.  I am going to go ahead and say that Charlotte's airport is my least favorite airport.  Ever.  End rant.

2.  I have been done with my Christmas shopping for about a week now!  This is definitely the earliest I have ever been done.  It's also the first time I've done 100% of my shopping online.  I really dislike shopping malls so being about to complete my shopping without going to one is a fabulous thing!  I fly home a week from tomorrow and CAN NOT WAIT.   

3.  I didn't do any holiday shopping at a mall, however, I did have to go to a shopping mall last weekend to return my brown boots that I had purchased this fall as the head of a screw started to poke through the heel of one of the shoe which was VERY painful.  This happened while I was in Paris, which was frustrating.  I bought heel inserts to make them more tolerable to wear but it was not ideal.  So now I have no fall boots and am wondering if it's even worth buying any this year...  Part of me wants to invest in a nice pair, another part of me thinks that money should go in the 'get the heck out of Charlotte' relocation savings fund. 

What's on your mind today?  Do you do most of your holiday shopping in stores or online?

Monday, December 9, 2013

France Booktours Review: The Consolation of the Forest & a Giveaway



Synopsis: 

A meditation on escaping the chaos of modern life and rediscovering the luxury of solitude.

Winner of the Prix M├ędicis for non-fiction, THE CONSOLATIONS OF THE FOREST is a Thoreau-esque quest to find solace, taken to the extreme. No stranger to inhospitable places, Sylvain Tesson exiles himself to a wooden cabin on Siberia’s Lake Baikal—a full day’s hike from any “neighbor”— with his thoughts, books, a couple of dogs, and many bottles of vodka for company. Writing from February to July, he shares his deep appreciation for the harsh but beautiful land, the resilient men and women who populate it, and the bizarre and tragic history that has given Siberia an almost mythological place in the imagination.

Rich with observation, introspection, and the good humor necessary to laugh at his own folly, Tesson’s memoir is about the ultimate freedom of owning your own time. Only in the hands of a gifted storyteller can an experiment in isolation become an exceptional adventure accessible to all.  By recording his impressions in the face of silence, his struggles in a hostile environment, his hopes, doubts, and moments of pure joy in communion with nature, Tesson makes a decidedly out-of-the-ordinary experience relatable to the reader who may be struggling with hir or her own search for peace and balance in life. The awe and joy are contagious, and one comes away with the comforting knowledge that “as long as there is a cabin deep in the woods, nothing is completely lost.”

My thoughts:


When France Booktours contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in reviewing this book, I couldn't resist as I was totally intrigued.  While I do a lot of things on my own - like more to a new city, travel, and visit places like Paris, I can't imagine doing something like going to a remote area of Russia for 6 months - alone.

Consolation of the Forest reads a bit like a diary of Tesson's experience living in the harsh conditions of Siberia.  He clearly has a lot of time for reading and reflection, and he shares many of these thoughts in his book.  I think one thing that is interesting is that you walk away from reading this book feeling like it wasn't this sad, lonely experience and instead was an experience that brought him peace and clarity.  He inserts humor throughout the book, and I found myself nodding along to some of his introspective thoughts, such as "Solitude is a country inhabited by the remembrance of others; thinking of them is a comfort in their absence."


Author bio: 

Sylvain Tesson is a writer, journalist, and celebrated traveler. He has been exploring Central Asia—on foot, bicycle, and horse—since 1997. A best-seller in his native France, he is published all over the world—and now in the United States.

http://francebooktours.com/2013/10/03/sylvain-tesson-on-tour-the-consolations-of-the-forest/

I actually have an opportunity to giveaway a copy of this book to a reader in the US or Canada.  To be considered for the giveaway, please leave a comment telling me what's the longest amount of time you have spent alone.  I think for me, the longest time I have spent alone was my trip to Paris for my 30th birthday as I was gone for about 8 days.


Friday, December 6, 2013

5 Things Friday

Well, I survived my first week back from vacation!  I dove right back into work on Tuesday so that forced me to get over the jet lag pretty quickly.  I think I am *mostly* back on EST, but I do get REALLY tired in the late afternoon so hopefully that subsides soon.

I thought I'd close out the week with a 5 Things Friday post.

1.  The next 2 weeks are going to be super chaotic for me.  I have work trips to Denver and Houston, a fun weekend trip to NYC to help celebrate Alli's birthday, and then I fly home on the 20th for Christmas.  I will barely be around the next 2 weeks but this is of course a good thing!  I am super excited for my NYC trip and trip home for Christmas!!!

2.  It's going to be 70F here today.  It's probably about 5F degrees back home.  I am not envious of the bitterly cold temps, but I am homesick for snow and real winter weather (don't hate me for saying that).  I am just not the kind of person who can appreciate warm temps in December.  When January rolls around, I will appreciate them.  But right now this warm weather makes it hard for me to get in the Christmas spirit. 

3.  Speaking of Christmas, I don't have a tree this year (or any Christmas decorations) since I knew I wouldn't have room for it in my tiny apartment.  I am not around much so it's not a huge deal, but I do miss seeing the glow of my Christmas tree in my apartment.  I love seeing the photos everyone else is posting of their trees, though!

4.  I am gone a lot this month, but then after that I have very little planned.  2014 is so very up in the air for me so I don't feel like I can or should plan much so that I can have the flexibility to fly back for interviews if need be.  I have about 1 trip planned/month for January-March, but that is way less than I was gone this fall. Which makes me feel anxious as that is A LOT of time to spend in Charlotte.  I am really hoping that I travel a lot for work to make this tolerable because I just really don't think I can handle all that time in Charlotte.  Clearly my feelings for this city have not improved at all.  Sorry I'm not sorry, this city is not a good fit for me.

5.  On a positive note, I am doing a day trip to Boone tomorrow with my local friend Lori.  It's a cute town that is located in the Blue Ridge Mountain area.  Lori went to college there so I know she will be a fantastic tour guide.  I am looking forward to having a whole day to catch up with her as we haven't seen each other since September!

What's on your mind today?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Wish List 2013

Well it may not look a lot like Christmas around these parts what with the 70 degree temps we're having this week (which is about 20C) but Christmas is definitely around the corner!  I always like to see what is on others' wish lists, so I thought I'd share the items on mine!



I would love noise cancelling earphones like these.  I like that they are smaller than the huge Bose ones, but still apparently work well according to my prior boss.  I take so many flights a year (about 70 this year!!), so I could really use something to block out the noise around me.

My parents got me a comfy pair of moccasin-style slippers last year.  I wear them so often that I have worn through the lining and am in need of a new pair!

I do a lot of cooking so would love a spoonrest, like this cute one from Anthropologie!

I make Mexican food quite a bit since it's very GF friendly, so would like a tortilla warmer as corn tortillas break really easily if you don't warm them up before filling them.


My aunt has both volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which we use to plan our menu for Julia Child Night.  I think it's time for me to have my own copy!



And of course, this Starbucks-loving girl is always happy to receive gift cards to fund my latte addiction!

What items are on your wish list this year?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Music, Books, Miles, and Looks of November

Oh hey December!  Can I just say how happy I am that it's the last month of the year?  I CAN NOT WAIT to say good bye to 2013.   Anyways, I am back from Paris and am diving right back into reality, so here is a recap of my month of November.  Oh and if you are curious about what I was up to in Paris, I posted daily recaps over on my France blog - long story short, it was an AMAZING trip!

Music:



Say Anything by Tristan Prettyman - I was introduced to this song by a compilation CD that a local radio station releases each fall.  It's a sad song, but is relatable for anyone who has gone through a tough break-up.

Books:

It was another really strong reading month for me.  I took some long flights this month and was on vacation the last 4 days, so that really amped up my reading for the month.  I finished 10 books, listed below.  The best book I read this month was definitely "Paris Was the Place." My least favorite was probably The Burgess Boys.

Paris Was the Place by Susan Conley - 5 stars
Why Can't I Be You by Allie Larkin - 3 stars
Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah - 3 stars
Shelter Me by Juliette Fay - 4 stars
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout - 3 stars
Chocolat by Joanne Harris - 3 stars
Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg - 3 stars
Just One Day by Gayle Forman - 3 stars
The Lost Wife by Alison Richman - 4 stars
Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish  - 3 stars

Miles:

Still no running, still no outlook on when I can run again.  When I saw my rheumatologist last, she wouldn't give me a time frame on my return.  So yah.  But I am still biking and using the elliptical.  It's not replacement for running, but is better than nothing!

Looks:

This was a better month for liking what I wore than last month.

Outfit #1 is something I have worn because but is one of my favorite looks.  I love that mustard color!


Outfit #2 is a new dress that I bought when I was shopping with my mom in October.  I love that it has sleeves as I tend to freeze in the office!!


Outfit #3 is a new dress I bought with a 50% off coupon at Banana Republic.  I wore it to my friend Julianne's holiday party but dressed it down by pairing it with boots.  I like the jewel neckline as I don't have to think about accessorizing, which is something I am terrible at (jewelry is just not my thing!).

 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 10

Today I am thankful for my Paris get-away!

Today is a very exciting day as I leave for Paris!  Yea!  I fly out this afternoon and will arrive in Paris on Wednesday morning.  2013 has been a tough year so I am really glad that I treated myself to a big trip like this as I know I have earned it.  Sometimes I feel guilty spending money on a big trip like this since the money could be put towards my grad school loans - but it's a good reward for all the sacrifices I made in the past year, from sacrificing many weekends for CFA studying to leaving all of my family and friends when I moved to Charlotte.

I don't have too much planned for this trip.  Since it's my 3rd trip to Paris, I feel less pressure to plan, plan, plan and will instead wake up each day and do whatever I feel like doing.  I tire more easily these days due to my RA and RA treatments, so I know this easier pace schedule is what my body needs.  I actually have Thanksgiving Day plans as a runner I met while traveling this fall (long story) invited me to his girlfriend's home for a small Thanksgiving celebration, so I won't spend that day alone.  Besides that, my only concrete plans are attending a Christmas concert at St. Chapelle on Saturday, which I am really excited about! 

I do know my trip will include things like walks along the Seine...



marveling at the views of the Notre Dame (which I will be able to see from the balcony of my apartment...


and eating lots of macarons!



While I am in Paris, I will be posting on my France blog, so check that out if you are interested in what I am up to!

Au revoir!  And Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers!

Monday, November 25, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 9

Today I am thankful that my family and friends are supportive - especially over the past year.

My world was totally turned upside last January when I found about my move to Charlotte and I honestly do not know how I could have weathered the last year without the support of my family and friends.  From cards to texts to phone calls to care packages, I have never felt so much love and support as I have over the last 11 months.  I really appreciate the fact that my family and friends don't force positivity on me and have let me cry and have my negative moments.  No one closed to me has pushed me to love (or even like) Charlotte and for that I am thankful.


This past year has definitely been one of those years where I feel like I've taken more than I have given, so hopefully that trend reverses in 2014 and I can "pay forward" the support I have received this year.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 8

Today I am thankful for the healthy kids in my life.

The health of my nephews and niece is definitely something that I try not to take for granted.  They all had issue-free births and have led healthy lives so far - I pray this continues for their entire lives!  I will be an aunt again early in 2014 as my older sister is expecting and I hope and pray that the newest addition is healthy and makes his/her arrival into this world with no issues!






 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 7

Today I am thankful that I found a great rheumatologist that I like and trust.

This whole being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis really threw me for a loop this year.  It was such a foreign disease to me, and there has been so much to wrap my mind around, but I am thankful that I have found a great doctor that I like and trust.  She is a great listener and does a good job of acknowledging that having RA sucks while remaining upbeat and positive about my outlook. 

She recently made the decision to put me on weekly injections.  It was a little scary and daunting to agree to this next method of treatment, but I trust my doctor so feel (mostly) at peace with the decision to start the injections.  I took my first dose last Monday and all in all, it really was not bad.  I am also thankful that I am not afraid of needles because if I was, giving myself those weekly injections would really suck!

Friday, November 22, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 6

Today I am thankful that I got to see my aunt Betty one last time before she passed away.

Yes, today's thanksgiving post is a heavier topic, but such is life.  I was blessed to get to visit my aunt Betty one last time in August.  She passed away the day after I saw her, so I got home just in the nick of time.  I had already sent her a goodbye over email as I didn't want to risk having any words left unsaid, but it was wonderful to see her one last time. 

She was actually doing well when I saw her that day.  I'll never forget how she blew bubbles in her 7-up to make her baby grand daughter laugh.  It was a bit surreal when she passed away the following day as I really felt she had more time.  But she had fought far longer than most would have or could have, and I know she is in a better place now.  I am just so grateful that I got to give her one last hug. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 5

Today I am thankful that I have had the financial means to go home as often as I have.

In the 7+ months since I moved to Charlotte, I have been home 5 times (although one of those trips was for the CFA which was obviously not a fun trip home), and I will be home next month for Christmas.  Going home on an almost monthly basis has really helped me tolerate living so far from home.

It's not by chance that I have had a budget for these trips home, though.  When I looked for an apartment in Charlotte, I would only consider places with rent that was lower than my rent in Minneapolis by the cost of a plane ticket home.  As a result, I lost over 400 square feet and live in a place that is not nearly as nice as my place in Minneapolis was, but being able to go home frequently matters way more than where I live right now.

After Christmas, I have no trips home planned as I do feel like I need to spend less on plane tickets as that money needs to be put towards a savings account to fund my move back to wherever I end up living in 2014.  I am sad that I don't have frequent trips home on the horizon, but I am thankful that I went home as often as I did in 2013.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 4

Today I am thankful for my love of reading which was fostered and developed from a very young age.

Reading had always been such a big part of my life, and I certainly have my parents and grandparents to thank for that.  My parents read to my siblings and I from a young age, and continued that tradition through the years.  I remember my mom reading "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and being just totally amazed by that book.


Both sets of grandparents definitely played a role in fostering for my love of reading.   They would always ask about what I was reading and books were a common gift.  I remember getting the entire boxed set of the Little House on the Prairie from my Grandma and Grandpa McDougall - a whole set of brand new, never been read books was such a big deal!

My love for reading only seems to grow the older I get.  It's definitely my #1 hobby - and a mostly free one since it's rare for me to buy a book these days since I use the library so much.  Even though reading is a solitary activity, I love how it still brings people together.  It's definitely a frequent topic of conversation among my friends, and when I email my grandma or see my God-mom, who is a retired English teacher, my first question is whether they have read any great books lately. 

 I hope that I can somehow influence my niece and nephews and instill that love of reading in them.  So far they all seem to really enjoy books which makes this aunt very very happy!

I have wanted this print for years as it's such a fun and whimsical way to display my love of reading.  After the holidays, I think I will be purchasing it!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 3

Today I am thankful that I have a wonderful tenant that occupies the condo I own in the Minneapolis area.

Some of you who are newer to reading my blog might not know that I own a condo in the suburbs of Minneapolis.  I was so young when I bought it and did not know myself well enough then to know that the suburbs are a HORRIBLE fit for me.  So a little over 2 years ago, I decided to rent it out and moved into a downtown condo (that I also rented, I am not willing to own 2 properties so will not buy until I sell my condo).

I have had the same tenant since I initially rented it out and he is AMAZING.  I had heard so many horror stories but awful tenants, but luckily my tenant is wonderful.  He pays his rent early, takes such good care of my place, and even fixes things around my place.  He is just a gem and I am so thankful that he is my tenant.

My condo is still worth significantly less than what I paid for it, so I hope and pray that he sticks around for a couple more years as he makes being a landlord so easy.  My goal is to try to sell my condo during the summer of 2015, so hopefully the market rebounds to the extent I need it to, and hopefully my tenant stays around until then!  But whatever happens, I am so thankful he's been there for the last 2 years.

Monday, November 18, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 2

Today I am thankful that I passed level 3 of the CFA and can put that exam behind me for good!

2013 has been a really rough year for me, but one HUGE bright spot was finding out I passed level 3 of the CFA.  I worked so so so hard for that designation and am so relieved that all of my hard work paid off.

It will hasn't quite hit me that the exam is actually over with.  I think it will hit me in late December when I don't have to study.  Or it will hit me at Easter when I don't have to juggle seeing family with fitting in my study hours.  Or it will hit me Memorial Day weekend when I can actually relax and enjoy the long weekend instead of taking 3 days of full-length practice tests.  Or maybe it will hit me on the first weekend of June when I don't have to go to the test center.

Whenever and however it will happen, eventually it will sink in that I can firmly close the book on that chapter of my life.  Here's hoping that having those 3 letters behind my name will pay off when it comes time to job search.



Friday, November 15, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 1

Happy Friday everyone!  Today I kick off my annual "10 Days of Thanksgiving" post series.  It's hard to believe that this is my 6th year of doing this post series.  The timing of this series is perfect because as evidenced by yesterday post, I am going through another rough spell.  So here's to 10 days of focusing on the good things in life.

Today I am thankful for the friends who have opened their homes to me this year.

I have done a lot of traveling this year - certainly more traveling than I have ever done any other year and luckily many of those trips were to visit some URL turned IRL friends.

It started in June when I went to Raleigh to visit John, his wife, and their two daughters.  I was in the boot for this trip, but I still got to see quite a bit of Raleigh.  I think my favorite part of this weekend was the afternoon we spent at a local coffee shop chatting away.  I really hope I can visit them again while I still live in North Carolina!


In July, I visited Becky  and Ben in the DC area.  I was still in the boot during this trip, so we had to take it a little easier than we might have otherwise, which wasn't the worst thing as it gave us lots of time to relax and just enjoy each other's company. While I was there, we went to Mandy's step-sister-in-law's home for a delicious dinner.  Some of my favorite moments from this trip were visiting the yarn store that Becky loves, seeing Arlington National Cemetery, the dinner with Mandy's family, and a post-dinner dance/sing-off to a Macklemore song!






In August, I visited Alli in NYC, and once again - I was STILL in that stupid boot.  But we made the most of my visit to NYC.  Alli planned out an awesome itinerary and I came back loving NYC even more than I did when I arrived.  Some of my favorite moments from this trip were the Tenement Museum Tour, walking the High Line, eating delicious/inexpensive Indian food at the Smorgasbord outdoor food market, and relaxing on a park bench in Riverside Park.  Unfortunately we did not get any pictures together but I will be SURE to get one when I visit her a month from today for her birthday weekend!!





In September, I visited Mandy and finally got to see her town that is nestled into the Ohio River Valley.  And for once, I was NOT in the boot for a trip!  Woo hoo!  Mandy planned out an awesome itinerary with the perfect balance of seeing the sights of her area + relaxing.  Some of my favorite moments from this trip were the blogger meet-up she coordinated in Pittsburgh with Erin & Marisa, checking out the views of Pittsburgh from the incline, drinking a delicious pumpkin chai latte at Mandy's favorite local coffee shop, and the low country boil + rib dinner her family made.  Marisa isn't in this photo, but hopefully our paths will cross in the future - maybe in Chicago!



Besides these trips home, I also had friends and family in Minneapolis open up their homes to me during my trips home in August, September, and October. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Still a Struggle

Last month as we neared the end of our Myrtle Beach girls trip and approached Charlotte,  my sister said she had had a great time, but said 'I am ready to go home now.'

I thought to myself: 'Me too, sister, me too.'

But I am not home yet - I visit home for brief fragments of times, but it's always tinged with the emotions of impermanence. At the end of every trip home, I have to deal with the sad and difficult emotions of getting back on a plane to Charlotte.  7 months later, it's still hard. I still cry. I still grieve the fact that while it is not and will never be 'home', it is where I currently have to live.

I know I am past the half way point of my year commitment but the time just can't go fast enough. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as I am over half way through my one year relocation contract, but I still have 5 months left (plus however long it takes me to find a new job).  I'm just so over the "I hear Charlotte is a nice place to live" and the "this is a growth opportunity for you" comments.  I'm over justifying and explaining why I don't like Charlotte.

Don't get me wrong - I am thankful for the great career I have, but I want more.  I want a relationship and ample friends and family close by.  And more than anything, I just want to be home - or in a city, such as Chicago - that I would be happy and proud to call home.

This last trip home was so wonderful but it was also a little bit harder than the other trips because I have no return trips scheduled; this was the first time I have left Minneapolis unsure about when I would return. (I will be at the lake for Christmas but I won't spend anytime in Minneapolis on that trip.)

There is no clear cut or guaranteed path back to Minneapolis. I have this one year commitment related to my relocation contract, but after that, it's up to me to figure out how to get out of Charlotte.  I know that like many other things in life, I have to trust that things will fall into place and everything will work out, but sometimes it feels like it's going to take a miracle for everything to fall into place. 

So that is where I am at right now. I am sad and tired and just so very over this unwanted cross country move. I have many trips to distract me in the coming months, such as trips as Paris, NYC and Austin.  And I am so very thankful for all of these trips, but no matter how many trips I plan or how busy I try to stay, it does not offset the fact that all I really want is a one way ticket to Minneapolis.

I know this post is heavy and sad, but it's where I am at right now.  It's my reality and I am trying to believe it is temporary.  But gosh, it is still just so so hard.

But tomorrow, I kick off my 10 days of Thanksgiving post series.  It's going to be really good for me to focus on the many blessings in my life right now.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Julia Child Night #5

Another Julia Child Night has come and went!  We started planning the menu for this year's event in June when I was home for the CFA so it's kind of hard to believe it has come and went.  But it was a fantastic menu, and as usual, I had the best time.

The weekend went entirely too fast, as they always do, but I did pack a lot in.  I flew in Thursday night, had a doctor's appointment downtown on Friday morning and then did my grocery shopping in my old neighborhood.  The specialty cheese and wine shop wasn't open yet when I got there, so I took a little walk through my old neighborhood. 

Friday marked 7 months since my move to Charlotte.  All these months later, it's still very bittersweet for me to visit the area where I used to live.  I know I am over half way through my one year commitment to Charlotte, but gosh it is still really, really hard (more on that later this week).

Luckily I was heading to my aunt and uncle's next to start cooking so that helped me get past the sad feelings!  Friday was very busy as we made the soup, prepped many of the components of the salad for the next day and made the chocolate sauce.  After a busy day of cooking, we went out to dinner at the Mexican restaurant we always went to after the CFA exam each year.  It was really, really nice to enjoy a meal there and not be in a post-CFA fog!

On Saturday morning we started cooking at 9:30 and pretty much did not stop until the appetizer hour started around 5!  I will let the pictures do the talking!

A big chunk of Saturday was spent making our main dish, Pot au Feu, which translates to "pot on fire" as it's a dish that is cooked on the stove (or in a roaster).  It has beef, chicken, pork, sausage and root vegetables, so there were lots of different components to work on!



We had our typical appetizer hour of cheese, olives, olive tapenade, and gluten free crackers.  Our signature drink this year was a French 75, which has gin, compari, champagne, simple syrup, and lemon juice.  It's so good!


My aunt Barb and I snapped a quick picture together before the plating of the courses began!  Barb is the mastermind behind this event - she is a very talented cook.  I have learned so much from her through the years and we have become especially close thanks to this event! 

The first course was a cream of mushroom soup!  It was so good, we even had some people who don't like mushrooms finish their bowl!


The salad course was a Salad Nicoise.  This is my most favorite salad and is something I tend to order if I see it on a menu.  It has a french potato salad, tuna, green beans, green beans, tomatoes, olives, and anchovies.  I am not a huge anchovy fan, but when it's mixed in with everything else, it's actually good!

As I said, the main dish was pot au feu.  There were so many components so we took an assembly line approach to plating and had lots of help!  We served it with two sauces - a tradition gravy type of sauce with a broth base and a cream sauce with dried mustard and tomato paste.  They really amp up the flavor of the dish!

We took a bit of a pause between the main course and dessert as everyone was SO full!  Which gave us time to take our yearly "apron" photo!


Dessert was a homemade vanilla custard made by my sister-in-law, which was topped with a homemade chocolate sauce and a homemade truffle.


After dinner, I tabled hopped a bit so I could catch up with different groups.  I snapped this photo of my mom (on the left) and her two sisters towards the end of the night.  I love that they are all wearing stripes and berets! 

So there you have it - another successful Julia Child Night.  I love sharing my love of all things French with family and friends.  I see this tradition continuing for many years to come.  I hope and pray that I'll be living in the Midwest when we host the 6th annual Julia Child night, but I know that no matter where I am, I will always come back for this fantastic event!

In closing, I will say that eating all this French food makes me even MORE excited for my Paris trip - I leave 2 weeks from today!!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Looking Forward

Greetings from LA!  I flew in on Sunday night abut today is my last full day here as I will spend the bulk of tomorrow traveling!  I haven't done a "Looking Forward" post for awhile so figured I was due for one.  I always like doing these posts because it is a good reminder of all the fun things I have to look forward to which help me "keep my chin up" as my Grandpa Neil would say.

Today I am looking forward to having dinner with my cousin who lives in the LA area!  I missed his trip home this spring for my Grandma's 90th birthday party as it fell the weekend before the CFA exam.  Since we live so far apart, it's a treat to get to see him in person.  I'm so glad I had a night free as last time I was in LA I didn't have any free time so didn't get to see him!

This week I am looking forward to going home for the 5th annual Julia Child Night!!  I am so so excited to spend some quality time with family and eat lots of delicious home-cooked food.  This is our 5th annual event - I think it is SO cool that we have kept it going for this many years - and I see no end in sight!  There aren't words to explain how cool and fun this event is.  I feel really really lucky to have such a close-knit family that comes together for this every year.  Of course I've got my striped outfit all planned out!  :)

This month I am looking forward to going to Paris!!  I leave 3 weeks from today!  It seems so far off when I booked the apartment and bought my plane ticket in July and now it's almost here!  I have not planned much for this trip as I just want to wake up each day and do whatever I feel like doing.  More than anything, I really just want to walk and walk and walk and take in all the beauty of the city.

This year I am looking forward to going home for Christmas!  I will be home for 5 full days and I am not working any of those days.  I'll be at my parents' lake home the whole time and can't wait for 5 days of family time.  Christmas is one of my favorite times of year and I am so glad I will (most likely) have a white one as it just wouldn't be Christmas without snow for me.  Since I am flying in and out of Fargo, ND for this trip, I won't get a chance to see friends but in a way it will be kind of nice as I won't stress myself out trying to fit it all in and can instead focus on savoring the time with family.

This is my last post of the week since I will be traveling and preparing for Julia Child Night, but I will be back next week with an event recap!  

What are some things you are looking forward to?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review: The First Phone Call from Heaven

I have read all of Mitch Albom's Books, so when I saw it on the list of books to review for TLC Book Tours, I was excited to check it out.  I just love Albom's books as I usually walk away with such a sense of perspective about life.  I usually try to read Tuesdays with Morrie once a year as out of all of his books, that one impacted me the most!

Synopsis from Good Reads:

The First Phone Call from Heaven tells the story of a small town on Lake Michigan that gets worldwide attention when its citizens start receiving phone calls from the afterlife. Is it the greatest miracle ever or a massive hoax? Sully Harding, a grief-stricken single father, is determined to find out. An allegory about the power of belief--and a page-turner that will touch your soul--Albom's masterful storytelling has never been so moving and unexpected.

My review:

This book could almost be classified as a mystery as one of the main character, Sully Harding, is skeptical about the truth behind these "phone calls from heaven."  We spend part of the book learning about the various characters who are receiving phone calls from loved ones who have passed, and part of the book following Sully's search for the truth.  

The book held my attention until the end, but I will say it was not my favorite Albom book.  I brought it with me on my trip to Myrtle Beach and it was a good book for a trip like that as it was easy to pick up and put back down and it was a pretty light read, which is what I prefer on relaxing beach  vacations.  I think if I had not read Albom's other books, I might have liked this more, but having read all of his other books, I was a little bit disappointed.  But I am still glad I read it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review, and the opinions are my own.   

Friday, November 1, 2013

5 Things Friday

Happy Friday!  I hope it's been a good week for everyone.  It's my first full week in the office w/ no travels since September, which was actually kind of nice!  Here are 5 things on my mind as we close out this week.

1.  After a string of really poor months of sleep, I am finally sleeping better.  I attribute it to a combination of cooler temps at night that allow me to sleep with my patio door open, being on Ambien (this is not a long term solution but will help while I am on steroids for my RA), and wearing ear plugs in addition to my sleep mask.  I am definitely a high maintenance sleeper, but I'll do what it takes to get a solid night of sleep.

2.  After a 1.5 week break from travel, I head to the LA area on Sunday as I have a client event on Sunday night and some client meetings on Monday and Tuesday.  I am looking forward to this trip as I really like the sales rep that I will be doing the meetings with. 

3.  I'm patiently awaiting the arrival of my new 5S iPhone.  I was trying to hold off as long as possible as upgrading is kind of expensive, but my 4 has become ridiculously slow and I worry it will die on me at an inopportune time, like when I am traveling, so I took the plunge and upgraded.  Luckily due to the exchange value of my phone, I will not have to pay as much out of pocket as I thought I would.

4. I can't believe it's November, but I am so happy it is!  This month will fly by as it includes work trips to LA and St. Louis (where I will squeeze in a dinner with Nora!), my trip home for Julia Child Night, and my trip to Paris!  Hooray! I will be gone about 1/2 of the month between all my trips so I think it will be a great month.  :)

5. I had my follow-up appointment with my Rheumatologist this week.  I wasn't very happy with the lack of progress I've made since starting my RA drug 8 weeks ago, and she wasn't either so I will start to take weekly injections indefinitely (it's not a temporary thing).  Going into this appointment, that was the outcome I was hoping for as I am totally over the joint pain and swelling.  But sometimes wanting something and then having it become a reality can be two different things.  Don't get me wrong, I want to feel better - I just wish it wouldn't involve weekly shots.  I'm not afraid of needles, so it's not a big deal; I just sort of mourn for my old pre-RA life where I didn't have to take all these medications to achieve a base level quality of life.  But I know with time, this will become my new normal.  I know I'll get to an "this isn't so bad/it could be worse" state of mind but right now I'm in a "this kind of sucks" state of mind which my doctor said is normal/healthy/to be expected.

What is on your mind today?  Any fun plans for the weekend?  Since I fly out for LA on Sunday morning, I am taking it easy tonight and tomorrow.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Music, Books, Miles, and Looks of October

*insert cliche comment about how freaking fast the month went*

October was a really great month for me and I have high expectations for November!

Music:


Your Man by Five For Fighting- I really love the new album by Five for Fighting and this is definitely one of my favorite tracks from the CD.  I like that the score of this song is piano-heavy.

 
Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus - Ok, I really dislike Miley Cyrus and her attention-seeking antics.  That said, I do really like this song.  I just pretend she isn't the person singing it when I hear it so that I can continue to like it.

Books:

Well October was another strong reading month as I read 8 books.  I also hit my goal of reading 52 books this year - way ahead of schedule!  Once again, instead of recapping the books, I'll share the rating I gave them on goodreads.com.  The best book I read this month was Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.


Her Fearful Symmtry by Audrey Niffenegger - 3 stars
Life Sentences by Laura Lippman - 2 stars
Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani - 3 stars
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown - 3 stars
The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom - 3 stars
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - 4 stars
Arranged by Catherine McKenzie - 3 stars
Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg - 5 stars

Miles:

Yep, still not running.  Still no plan for when I can return to running.  I am still biking, though, and started taking spin classes at the end of the month, which I am loving!  I really hope that my RA pain is completely under control by the end of November, but I keep saying this every month and it has not happened yet, so I probably should stop saying "maybe next month" because I just set myself up for disappointment. Anyways, while I am not running any miles, I did wrack up a lot of airline miles as I flew to Minneapolis, then to Chicago, then back to Charlotte and also did a day trip to Columbus.


Looks:

I didn't wear any new outfits this month or anything I really loved, but I did buy a new coat!  I know, I know.  I don't really need more coats, but I could not resist.  I tried this on while shopping at the end of September and could not stop thinking about it.  And then Banana Republic sent me a 40% coupon which sealed the deal.  I ordered it and it arrived while I was in Chicago.  I adore it.  I know I will wear it to Paris, on trips home, and occasionally when it gets cold enough in Charlotte!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Things That Made My Weekend Wonderful

This weekend was a good one for me.  After being gone 14 out of the first 20 days of October, I was ready for a low key weekend in Charlotte.  I have learned that I need to plan out my weekends so that I don't have too much free time as I tend to get lonely easier in Charlotte.  This weekend was the perfect mix of having things to do, being productive, but also having some downtime to relax.

Here are of the things that made my weekend awesome.

1.  Dinner Party Deliciousness.  I needed to practice some Julia Child recipes in preparation for the big event in 2 weeks and luckily a couple I am friends with are open-minded eaters and were willing to help me eat the mushroom soup and nicoise salad that I prepared.  I bought a really high quality sushi-grade tuna so just seared it off.  I know rare fish is not for everyone, but I sure love it (and my guests did, too).  My guests brought some GF dinner rolls which were surprisingly good (GF bread usually kind of sucks) and to cap it off, I had vanilla ice cream and a selection of macarons for dessert.


2.  Spinning.  I am still not back to running, but I can do low impact exercises, like biking.  After biking on my own for a couple of months, I figured I was ready to check out a spin class - and I loved it!  I went to classes on Saturday and Sunday and both classes kicked my butt - in a good way.  I ended up buying some capri workout pants at Target, pictured below, which I love as I did not care for biking in shorts.

I look kind of mean in this photo, but I was exhausted after an hour long spin class.  I was exhausted but satisfied as it felt great to get my sweat on and be challenged.

3.  TLC.  My SIL from the Chicago area is an occupational therapist.  She is familiar with therapies that work well for people with RA and one of those therapies is paraffin wax treatments.  So she sent me my own at home kit.  My hands really bug me, especially my left hand but doing these paraffin treatments on a weekly basis seems to help!  I am lucky to have such a thoughtful SIL.


4.  Planner.  My new 2014 Erin Condren planner has arrived and I have started to fill it in.  Know what's awesome?  Not having to plan out a study schedule or write down exam day on the first weekend in June.  It's going to be awesome to actually enjoy the late winter/early spring season for a change.  I've already scheduled some things for January-March, including a trip to Charleston, SC to cheer on some run club friends who are running the marathon, a trip to Austin to visit my best friend Heidi, and a trip to Florida to visit the 4 sets of aunts & uncles who live or winter there!


5.  SBUX.  I treated myself to a PSL on Sunday morning after mass as I didn't get a chance to get one on Friday.  The PSL was awesome but can we all agree that it's just a little too early for holiday cups?  It's not even November!



Was there anything in particular that made your weekend wonderful?  One other thing that made my weekend wonderful was finding out that my best friend in Minneapolis got to bring her baby home from the NICU after he spent nearly 4 weeks there.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Inaugural Girls Trip: Myrtle Beach

I am finally getting around to recapping my girls trip to Myrtle Beach that was now over a week ago!  The idea of this trip was born over Easter weekend when I was spending one last weekend with my family before moving to Charlotte.  I think in an effort to cheer me up a bit, someone said - 'hey we'll come to Charlotte and do a girls trip in the area!'

And thus, the idea of a trip was born!  I have to say, I am pretty amazed that we pulled this off as it's not the first time we've talked about doing a girls trip.  The husbands were equally skeptical - but so happy when we actually booked our trips, reserved our hotel, and made it happen.

Myrtle Beach was chosen as a location as my parents have a time share which had an ocean-side location in Myrtle Beach.  To be quite honest, I had not heard the best things about Myrtle Beach (I had been told it was tacky/touristy/etc), but I will say it totally surpassed my expectations. We were there to spend time together, eat fresh seafood, and spend time by the ocean so for what we looking for Myrtle Beach was just great.

I'll let the pictures (mostly) do the talking!

Abby was the first one to fly in, so went to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Cabo Fish Taco, which has been featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.  I love their fish tacos!


The rest of the family flew in late Wednesday night, so after I picked them up we went directly to my apartment and straight to bed as we had a full day ahead of us!  On Thursday morning, we hit the road and arrived in Myrtle Beach around 2 pm.  After lunch, we hit the pool and beach!

The views of the ocean were amazing and it was relaxing for me to walk along the shore

On Friday morning, we woke up without alarms which is the best feeling ever.  I have been struggling with sleep lately, but luckily slept really well on this trip.  I started each morning with a workout in the hotel gym and then we had a leisurely breakfast on our balcony where we enjoyed this view!!


On Friday morning, we drove down to Pawley's Island which was just south of MB for some shopping.  I found some awesome olive oil and balsamic vinegar there so was happy with my purchases.  Abby and I found these hammocks so relaxed for a bit while the others wrapped up their shopping.


We had lunch at this cute bistro called Bistro 217.  A friend had recommended it to me and it did not disappoint!  It was one of my favorite meals of the trip!

We finally got a picture together!  On the left is my mom, sister Abby, and me.  On the right is my sister Emily, SIL Julie, and SIL Emily. (Yes, I have a sister AND SIL with the name Emily!)

We spent Friday afternoon relaxing on the beach, reading and walking along the ocean.

There are few things more relaxing that having your feet in the sand a good book in your hand
A storm started to blow in so we headed back to the room and got ready for dinner.



Since we were on the coast, we enjoyed a lot of fresh seafood.  It's tough to pick a favorite meal, but one of my favorites was this seafood muddle that I had on Friday night.  It has mussels, clams, scallops, and shrimp in it.  Yum!


On Saturday morning it was overcast, so we did a little shopping, had lunch and then hit the pool when the cloudy weather had passed.

Abby and my 2 SILs - who are really more like sisters

On Saturday night, we had one last seafood dinner out before retiring for the night.  We knew we had an early morning on Sunday so we were in bed fairly early.

On Sunday morning, I snapped one last photo of the view from our room and we headed back to Charlotte as my mom, sister, and SIL had a 3 pm flight.


All in all, this vacation was really relaxing and wonderful.  It was nice to wake up without alarms and see where the day would take us.  I really enjoyed all the walks on the beach and hearing the crashing waves of the ocean. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of memories were made.  I'm sure we'll be telling stories from this trip for years to come!

I hope this is the first of many girls trips.  We are going to try to plan one every 2 years and select destinations where my parents can swap out their time share as that makes it a very affordable vacation for everyone.  Right now we are tossing around the idea of Miami in 2015!

Do you do girls trips with your family or friends?  My running trips that I tend to do almost yearly are definitely girl trips and they are so so fun.