Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Currently: October

And just like that, it's mid-October! Here's what's currently going on in my world!

Reading:  The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain. I bought this on a kindle deal email sometime this year after a friend recommended it to me. It's been a page turner so far! I'm also slowly working my way through the first part of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I'm only going to read the parts that are applicable to the newborn phase and then I'll read more of it when our baby is older. It's a dense read but interesting!

Loving:  the fall colors and crisp fall weather we've had lately! This week is going to be beautiful as it's going to be sunny and in the 70s. I'm trying to soak up all the beauty as I know the trees will shed their leaves very soon!

Feeling:  really tired. I'm not getting the 2nd trimester burst of energy that others have talked about experiencing, likely because of my RA. Unfortunately my RA is not getting any better. I've stopped counting the number of flares I've had because it's too depressing. Right now I'm getting flares every week, and the one I have right now is particularly painful and is impacting joints in my both of my hands.  :(  I'm really struggling with my RA and wish it would just calm down.  :( 

Thinking:  about our trip to Asheville! We leave next Wednesday and I am so excited for a getaway. We won't be able to do as much hiking as I would like due to my pregnancy/RA issues, but I'm hoping we can do a shorter hike each day. Besides that we'll eat lots of good food and take in the beauty of the area. We'll also be spending a night in Charlotte on the way back. It will be good to see some of my friends as a couple of them haven't met Phil yet!

Anticipating: our ultrasound on Thursday! We haven't seen the baby since the 9 week ultrasound so we are very excited to see him or her again! We are getting a level II ultrasound so they can look extra close and make sure the steroids I've been on haven't impacted the baby's development. Our ultrasound will be done at a perinatal clinic. We have 2.5 hours of appointments, including the 80 minute ultrasound. I'm glad they are being very thorough and it will be good to discuss my RA with the perinatal physician. I completely trust my Rheumatologist, but it will be good to talk to another physician. 

Watching:  very little tv. I finished all the free seasons of Suits on Prime so now I'm impatiently waiting for another season to be released! 

Grateful: for the excellent medical care that I have access to. I really love my OB practice. They told me that any time I feel anxious, I can just come over and listen to the baby's heartbeat. I haven't done this but it's nice to know it's an option. I also appreciate that I live in a large city with excellent specialists. If I lived elsewhere, it would be harder to see a perinatal specialist like the one I'm seeing this week. 

Working: on finishing a blanket that I started last winter, although I haven't been able to work on it the last couple of weeks as my flares have been impacting my hands. I finished the other blanket that I started last winter. I think this will be a baby blanket for baby Segner as I think our nursery will be gray and yellow so this should coordinate with it. 



Listening:  to the Birthful Podcast. It's a great podcast for first-time moms the host covers so many topics! My favorite episode so far was A Mindful and Minimalist Baby Registry. As I've mentioned before, we are trying to be really mindful about what we register for as we don't want to get too much stuff.

Wishing: my RA would calm down. I'm just so tired of these flares as they are painful and make me extra tired. I've kind of lost hope of them going away and feel like they will just be part of this pregnancy.

What are you anticipating, loving and grateful for these days?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Finance Friday: The Time Value of Money

When I wrote my first "Finance Friday" post back in April, I did not intend to go 6 months before writing another post in this series. But life happens. These posts take some time, and in this case, math, to write so I kept putting it off! But today I'm ready to share my next post in the series.

In my last post, I talked about the importance of saving for retirement. As I said in that post, I place an incredibly low probability on the existence of the social security program by the time I retire. I'm a risk averse individual so I do not like to assume that social security will be around, or that it will be provide a sufficient amount of monthly income if that program is still in existence. So Phil and I have really focused on saving for our own retirement so that we can afford to stop working, ideally in our early 60s.

In today's post, I want to talk about the time value of money - a phrase or concept that gets thrown around often but might not be something that everyone grasps or thinks about. This is purely a mathematical concept. In simple terms, it is talking about the fact that the longer you save and the more you save, the larger the pile of money is going to be when you want to retire and live off of your retirement accounts.

Before I delve into the math, I want to address the fact that there is a certain level of privilege associated with saving for retirement. To be able to save for retirement, you need to be able to live within your means, provide for your family, and have money left over, after all your bills have been paid, to put money aside in savings or a retirement account. I completely recognize that this is not possible for everyone.

That said, I think we live in a culture of entitlement, and a culture of "keeping up with the Jones's." Saving for retirement requires sacrifices. We have to say no to some of our current wants and desires in order to be able to stop working at some point in the future. That's not always easy, especially if you are struggling to make ends meet with your household income. This reality has been brought even more to light recently as we start to look at daycare options and have had to come to terms with the fact that we'll spend over $18,000 for daycare in the first year of our child's life. Each year of our life requires evaluation about what our savings goals are and how we are going to achieve them as our expenses fluctuate. I also recognize that there is a certain level of privilege associated with being able to save for retirement - I understand that many people in our country are living paycheck to paycheck and don't have excess money at the end of the month to put in savings or towards retirement.

I bring all of this up as a precursor of getting into the time value of money because saving has to be so intentional. I'm going to share the math behind the time value of money, but the first decision we all have to make is how we are going to go about finding the money to save each month or year. It requires discipline and for most of us, it requires automation. All of my savings occur before the money hits my bank account. My 401k contribution gets deducted from each paycheck, and a certain amount of my take home pay gets automatically transferred to a savings account that I can not easily access. I use that savings account to fund my IRA contribution each year. Granted, not everyone needs their savings to be this automated. For example, Phil does not have money automatically transferred to a savings account. Instead he transfers money to savings once he reaches a certain dollar level in his checking account. That could work for me, but I'd prefer if the money just automatically goes to savings without me seeing it in our checking account.

Now - let's get into the math behind the time value of money. I'm going to share 2 examples of the math behind the time value of money - meaning the power of your money to earn interest each month or year and how it will multiply and grow exponentially with time. In these calculations, I made the assumption that your money will earn 4% per year. That might be an over-optimistic assumption but it's a common estimate used by financial planners. One point worth mentioning - you can not earn 4% per year in a savings account. You would need to invest it in a mutual fund or some sort with exposure to equity markets. Having money in a savings account is fine and important - but that is not where you should be saving money you intend to use for retirement, for a variety of reasons.

Example #1: Saving $100/month. In the first example we'll look at what happens if you save $100/month for 10, 20 or 30 years. The time value of money calculation is powerful to look at in graphical form because it illustrates the fact that the sooner you start saving, the better. In this scenario, let's pretend you are 30 years old and want to retire when you are 60 (which might not be realistic - this is merely meant to be illustrative) and will either start saving $100/month in a retirement account this year, when you turn 40 or when you turn 50.


As this graph clearly illustrates - the longer you save, the more money you will have when you are 60 years old. Let's use the 30 year investment period to illustrate the time value of money, and the power of compounding of interest/dividends (i.e. interest earned on interest). In this example, contributing $100/month for 30 years will grow to a total of about $69,500 in 30 years. If, instead, you put $100 per month under your mattress for 30 years, it would total $36,000 in 30 years ($100 x 12 x 30). So you'd be missing out on about $33,500 in compounding interest/dividends if you didn't invest the money in a mutual fund or some other financial product.

Example #2:  Saving $5,000/year. In this example, we will look at what happens if you save $5,000/year for 10, 20, or 30 years. You can think of a 30 year old person who makes $50,000/year and puts 10% of their paycheck in their 401k, or about $192/paycheck if you are paid every other week, either at age 30, 40, or 50 and wants to retire at age 60.


Again, the graph shows that sooner you start investing, the larger that pile of money will be when you turn 60. In this case, the 30 year old who contributed $5,000 year for 30 years has put aside $150,000 dollars over 30 years, but it grows to about $290,000 in 30 years.

In closing, there are 3 ways that you can impact the size of an investment account at your retirement age:

1. The amount you contribute. The more you are able to put away each month or year, the larger the amount in the retirement account will be when you retire.

2. The length of time you save/contribute to the retirement account. As these graphs show, the earlier you start investing in your retirement account, the better.

3.  The return of the investment product. We can't control how certain areas of the financial market perform - they will fluctuate over time. But we can control what areas of the financial market we invest in. Let's use the example of investing $100/month for 30 years. If you would have put this in a savings account that earns 1%, in 30 years the account would grow to just under $42,000. Which sounds great until you compare that to the investment account earning 4%, which becomes $69,500 in 30 years. This illustrates why it is important to be thoughtful about how we invest our retirement savings. Picking the least risky investment might seem like a good idea, but you are likely missing out on returns that you could be earning. I'll talk more about this in a future post. I understand that it is VERY OVERWHELMING to look at your investment options in your 401k or IRA. But if it overwhelms you, instead of picking the least risky investment option, consider working with a financial advisor. They can asses your risk tolerances and make a recommendation. In general, the younger you are, the more heavily invested you should be in equity markets.

***

Hopefully I haven't bored you all to tears by this point! If you have any questions, please let me know as I am always happy to talk about all things finance. You can always leave a comment (make sure it's linked to an email address so I can respond) or send me an email at lisasyarns at gmail dot com.

Are there any finance topics in particular that you'd like me to cover in future posts? I want these posts to be as useful as possible, so I welcome your feedback. 

Disclaimer:  The thoughts in this post are my own thoughts and are not meant to be taken as investment advice. I have no fiduciary responsibility to anyone that reads this post. Additionally, my comments are US-centric; retirement benefits vary from country to country.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Weekend Highlights

This past weekend was a busy one, but a fun one! It went by far faster than I would have liked but that's the way weekends always seem to go. Here are some of the highlights from my weekend.

On Friday night we had a fun night out with a friend and her boyfriend. We hit up 3 different breweries and enjoyed delicious tacos at our favorite local Mexican place!

On Saturday morning we looked at another potential home. It wasn't the right house for us but I feel like every time we look at a house with our realtor, it gives her a better idea of what we are looking for in a home. We are definitely being picky, but this next home is going to be a long-term home for us so we would rather hold out for the right house. Plus we can make our current home work for at least another year if need be.

On Saturday afternoon my nephews came over for an overnight stay! It was my brother and his wife's anniversary so I offered to have them stay the night with us so they could have a date night. In the afternoon, I prepped the homemade mac n' cheese (I used this recipe).

Ooey gooey cheesy goodness!
It gets covered with toasted buttery bread crumbs before you bake it. Phil popped it in the oven for me while I went to church with the boys. We really liked it! My younger nephew did not care for the bread crumbs so if you are making it for kids, I would maybe leave the bread crumbs off or just put them on one side.


We served the mac n' cheese with brats from our farm share.

I can't get over how fast these 2 are growing up. They are 9 and 12 and are so much fun to have around. They REALLY like Phil so he definitely got the bulk of their attention.


After dinner we went to DQ for dessert and then rented "Wonder Woman" from a Redbox.


On Sunday morning, while the boys were sleeping, I snuck out to the Farmer's Market for some breakfast pastries. My favorite GF baker was at the market so I got a cinnamon roll for myself and an assortment of pastries for Phil and the boys.

My delicious warmed up cinnamon roll
I managed to get back home before my nephews woke up. They slept until about 9:45! I am so envious of their ability to sleep in that late! We met their parents for lunch at an Indian buffet, which was so delicious. I forgot to take a picture of my plate but it was soooo good.

When I got back to our house, I spent the rest of Sunday afternoon reading and napping. I am really enjoying our October book club book but it's a sad/heavy read, especially as a parent-to-be.


I had slept well the night before but I was so exhausted that I ended up taking a 2 hour nap. It is so not like me to take long afternoon naps but I'm listening to my body. Growing a human is apparently exhausting.

Later in the day I met my friend at a prenatal yoga class. Prenatal yoga is so different from the typical yoga classes I've taken in the past but I really enjoy the classes, especially the stretches that are meant to prepare your body for child birth.

Phil got home from his mom's around 7:30 pm. We caught up on our days and then I headed up to bed at 9. I was afraid I would have trouble falling asleep after taking a long nap but I was struggling to keep my eyes open when I was reading so I gave up and turned off the lights at 9:30.

How was your weekend?

Friday, October 6, 2017

TGIF

Another week has come and gone. The days are flying by but I expect all of October to go this way since I've got a full calendar. Here's how my week shaped up!

The high of my week was going out to dinner with another couple last night at the restaurant we went to the night we got engaged. If you find yourself in Minneapolis, I highly recommend that you check out 112 Eatery! The food is so good! It's definitely our favorite special occasion restaurant. Make sure you get the scallops as an appetizer and the butterscotch budino for dessert! Those are must-haves for us every time we come here! Our double date was with a guy I work with and his wife. Phil and my co-worker used to work together way back in 2005. Then  almost 10 years later, I joined the same group that Phil worked with, we are just owned by a different company now so the name has changed. As a result, Phil actually knows a lot of my coworkers as most of the people who were in this group in 2005 are still in the same group all these years later. It's kind of crazy how many ways mine and Phil's lives have overlapped. He works with a girl I went to college with (who set us up on a blind date), he used to work with many of my coworkers, and he used to live with another guy that I went on a blind date with years before I met Phil. It seems like we were destined to meet!

The low of my week was getting yet another flare. This is my 6th one of this pregnancy. I'm so FED UP with these stupid flares. As a point of reference, I used to get maybe 2-3 flares a year before changing my drugs to ones that are safe for pregnancy. So getting 6 flares in about 2 months is A LOT. 

A book I am reading is This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel. It's the October selection for my local book club. I've heard great things about it so I think it's going to make for a great book club discussion!

A recipe I made was Unstuffed Cabbage Bowls in my Instant Pot. It's not the prettiest dish but what it lacks in appearance it makes up for in taste. Phil and I LOVE cabbage rolls but they are kind of a putzy thing to make. This dish was super easy to make, especially in the Instant Pot (the recipe also has directions for making it on the stove top). And the leftovers have been great. I need to do a post soon about all the things I've made in the Instant Pot. That gadget is not for everyone but I really love it and have gotten a lot of use out of it! 





The best money I spent was on a prenatal massage on Monday. This was my first prenatal massage and it was wonderful! I have decided to treat myself to one once a month for the duration of the pregnancy. I figure it's a good investment as it's so relaxing and I could use some extra relaxation/TLC. 

My plans this weekend include going out to dinner tonight with another couple at our favorite Taqueria. They make their own corn tortillas and the food is so good and inexpensive. It reminds me of the kind of food you find at Taquerias that I've been to in the Mission district of San Francisco. After dinner we are going to stop at a number of breweries in the area. I told Phil that he needs to take advantage of having a DD! The other couple we are getting together with also loves beer so it should be a fun night, especially since some of these breweries tend to have board games, which I love! On Saturday my nephews are coming over in the afternoon and will spend the night as it's my brother and his wife's anniversary that day. I don't see my nephews as much as I would like given our busy schedules so I am excited to have them stay with us! I'll give them a choice of making dinner or going out to eat and we'll come up with something fun to do. On Sunday I'll bring them back to my brother's and we'll all have lunch together. I don't have much else planned for that day besides going to a prenatal yoga class so it should be a fairly laid back day. 

What was the high of your week? Did you make any new or tried-and-true recipes this week?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Pregnancy Update: 18 weeks

Happy Wednesday! Wednesdays have become one of my favorite days of the week as it's the day that I move into a new week of pregnancy. It's fun to read the pregnancy updates from the various aps that I am using and to hear about the development milestones of the week to come.

I don't want to inundate you guys with pregnancy updates as I know they are not of interest to everyone. So I've decided that I will do a pregnancy update every 4 weeks. Plus I figure that it will be nice to document this experience in case I ever want to walk down memory lane.

Baby size:  The baby is now the size of a bell pepper. He or she is about 5.5 inches long and weighs almost 7 ounces.

Sex of the baby:  I still don't want to find out but Phil still REALLY wants to know the sex. I think I might concede on this and have him find out after our 20 week ultrasound. I'll just have them put the sex in an envelope and he can open it on his own. He is the best secret keeper so I know he won't spill the beans. For some reason, I'm just not that curious about the sex and want to wait to find out on the day of delivery but he feels like he HAS to know as it will help him feel closer to the baby. I know of another couple that did this and it worked out just fine for them.

One of my pet peeves about my decision to not find out is that upon hearing that I don't want to find out the sex, so many people have said they needed to know the sex so they could plan. I am such a type A planner, and I will definitely be doing LOTS to plan and prepare for this baby. However, I feel like most of the preparations you make for a new baby are independent of the sex. Even if we knew the sex, we would have a gender neutral nursery so we could use it for a 2nd child if we have another. Also, since we are looking a new house, we won't decorate a nursery if we don't find a house before the baby arrives because it's a waste of money to decorate a room as a nursery knowing that we'll be selling it soon. Also, besides knowing what color of clothes to buy or how to decorate the nursery, it doesn't seem like there are that many gender-specific decisions to make. Plus, no one in my family has found out the sex of their child, with the exception of my brother's 2nd child - and they were wrong (thought it was a girl and it was a boy!). This is definitely one of those YOU DO YOU decisons.

Symptoms/RA management:  So far I am feeling pretty good. I still feel more tired than usual but that's likely related to not sleeping all that well.

Unfortunately, my RA is still not behaving. After my last flare in September, my rheumatologist decided to keep me on a low dose of steroids for the forseeable future because every time I would go off a course of steroids, I would get a flare. Except I started to get another flare on Monday night, even though I'm on a low dose of steroids.  Le sigh. I've kind of given up hope of being part of the 75% of women whose RA goes into remission during pregnancy. I will see my Rheumatologist tomorrow so it will be good to talk more with her how to keep these stupid flares at bay. I am guessing she'll keep me on a slightly higher dose of steroids since the lower dose I am on isn't working. I am so frustrated right now. And being in pain just really, really sucks.

Recent/upcoming appointments: I had a prenatal appointment on Monday and it went well. The baby's heartbeat was strong at 153 beats/minute! It's really cool to hear the heartbeat as it makes it all feel more real. My next big appointment is an appointment at a perinatal clinic (clinic that works with higher risk pregnancies). I was referred to this clinic since I have had so much trouble with my RA and have been on steroids for most of the pregnancy, which isn't ideal. We have 2.5 hours of appointments including an 80 minute level II ultrasound with a perinatal doctor. I will feel so much better about being on steroids after the ultrasound as they'll be able to confirm that the steroids haven't impacted the baby's development. The dose I am on *shouldn't* impact the baby but I'll feel better once that is confirmed with images!

Sleep:  Sleep has been a challenge. I'm not a great sleeper in the first place and pregnancy has just made it harder since I still get up 2-4 times a night to use the bathroom. I know of a lot of women who slept 9+ hours a night when they were pregnant; I am lucky if I get 8 hours a night, even on weekend nights. I usually have to take a nap each day of the weekend as I still feel so tired. I can't say I've felt a second trimester 'burst of energy' but maybe that is still coming? I know the steroid use does not help with my sleep issues so I might just have to accept that I'm not going to get as much sleep as I'd like while pregnant.

Cravings and favorite foods: I have been eating a lot of pickles. I love pickles and always eat quite a bit of them but I've been eating even more during pregnancy!

Exercise:  I've pretty much just been going for walks and try to get in 10k steps a day but that doesn't happen every day depending on how I feel. My RA has prevented me from being as active as I would like to be, but it's out of my hands and I have to listen to my body and take it easy.

Recent baby prep/decisions:  I started a registry on Amazon but have kept it private for now. I'm really really trying to not over-register. Phil is a minimalist and I do not like to have a cluttered house so we are really thinking about every thing that people say you 'have to have.'

Another recent decision I made was to change OB practices. I started going to a new practice when we found out we were expecting. An OB friend had recommended it as her good friend from residency practices there. But it turns out her friend is having a baby in December so she'll be out for all of my third trimester. I was already kind of frustrated with this practice because they were running behind by 30-45+ minutes for every appointment. And when I was having bleeding from the SCH, it took them 2 days to get back to me when I called with a question. So the combination of all of those factors led me to decide to go back to the OB practice I used to go to. I always had a great experience at my previous OB practice and they deliver at the hospital we want to deliver at so it was an easy decision to change.

Lastly, we also decided to sign up for Bradley classes which is a series of classes that prepares you for the labor and deliver process. I have 2 friends that did Bradley classes and they both thought they were valuable. The class meets once a week for 2 hours for 10 weeks so it's quite the commitment but I think it will be good for us. I'm hoping we can go out to dinner before every 2-3 classes to make it more of a "date night."

Mood: My anxiety has greatly improved since the first trimester. August was really bad since I had 4 flares that month but now that my flares are happening less often, I'm feeling better about things. I still worry about the steroid use, but I trust my Rheumatologist and know that she is recommending the lowest risk treatment for both me and the baby.

Maternity clothes:  After not showing for the first 16 weeks, I've started to show which has been fun and exciting. My bump is pretty small but it's kind of low so my regular work pants don't fit anymore. I tried wearing a belly band but my pants didn't feel secure enough. It's not that they would have fallen off or anything like that - I just didn't like how the belly band fit. Maybe I needed a smaller size?  Who knows. Luckily I've been able to score some inexpensive maternity clothes at Gap, Old Navy, Pink Blush, and a local maternity thrift shop. I also ordered some pants and shirts from Loft - I had no idea they had maternity clothes!

I went through my closet last weekend and packed up all the pre-pregnancy clothes. It's much easier to pick out an outfit each morning when I am only looking at what fits/feels comfortable.

Before picture - you can't tell in this picture but my clothes extended to each wall of the closet. I know it looks like I have a lot of clothes, but we have 4 seasons here and I don't pack away out-of-season clothes so this is 100% of what I own and wear.


After picture. Less options but more clarity about what my options are.
Reading:  My friend picked up a copy of "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" from a little free library in her neighborhood. The book suggests that the mom read it before she's in the fog of the newborn days so I am slowly working my way through it and then Phil will read it next. The author says that the dad needs to be involved in sleep training and I can totally see why that is the case so it will be good for both of us to understand the techniques recommended by the author, who is a pediatrician with many years of experience.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Podcasts, Books & Looks of September

September was kind of a blur for me as my schedule was pretty busy. It was a pretty good month, aside from the painful flare I got mid-month! Fingers crossed that is my last one of this pregnancy!

Podcasts:

Dating (in Marriage) on The Simple Show - As I've mentioned before, I am really loving this season of The Simple Show as they are taking a 'yes and no' approach to a range of topics. The episode on dating in marriage was really interesting. Phil and I aren't super intentional about going on 'dates' but it's something we'll need to be more intentional about after the baby comes as making time to connect one-on-one is really important.

Books:



September was a really strong month of reading for me, which is good as August was kind of a dud. It's tough to pick a favorite as I really like so many of these books, but my top 2 were Beartown and Refugee.

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips - 3 stars - This is a thriller about a mom and her son that are at the zoo when a shooters take over the zoo. It was a page turner but I didn't LOVE it.

Marlena by Julie Buntin - 4 stars - This was a really great debut novel that I got from my Book of the Month Club subscription. It's about the friendship of Cat and Marlena - two girls that might seem similiar on the surface, but are actually quite different as Marlena is sadly the victim of a broken home, poverty, and drug abuse. It's the kind of book where the characters stay with you finish reading it.

Beartown by Fredrick Backman - 5 stars - I liked this book even more than his previous novel, A Man Called Ove. He does a great job of telling the story of a hockey-obsessed town that is divided when a crime occurs that involves a player on the hockey team. 

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy - 2 stars - I struggled to finish this book. It was a Man Booker prize winner so I should have known that it might be a miss for me as award-winning books are often my least favorite. 

Expecting Better by Emily Oster - 5 stars - This is an excellent book about pregnancy that I will recommend to anyone I know who gets pregnant in the future. It's written by an economist. She takes all of recommendations about what you should or shouldn't do and looks at the research behind those decisions. It was really interesting and a very engaging read. 

Refugee by Alan Gratz - 5 stars - This is a middle-grade book about 3 different refugee families who are seeking assylum. The stories cover 3 different periods as we meet a Jewish family during WWII, a Cuban family in the mid-90s, and a Syrian family in 2016. Even though this is a middle-grade novel, the author does not shy away from exposing the terrible realities that refugees face. People die and terrible things happen to each family as they pursue safety for their families.

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny - 4 stars - This book was quirky and delightful. It's a character-driven story about a man who is on his 2nd marriage and has a son on the Asperger spectrum. His 2nd wife couldn't be more different than his first wife, but she decides that they should befriend his first wife and develop a friendship with her. The story unfolds from there and is told from the husband's perspective.

Looks:

After several look-less months I have a few looks to share!



Look #1:  Unbeknownst to me, this was my last day in my regular clothes (I was 16 weeks, 2 days). The pants are from Nordstrom, the top is from Ann Taylor, and the seer-sucker blazer is from Loft. When I got home from work that day, some maternity clothes had arrived and when I tried on the maternity pants I realized just how uncomfortable my pre-pregnancy pants had gotten! Maternity pants are kind of amazing!
 


Look #2:  This was my first day of wearing a maternity shirt + a belly band with my pre-pregnancy pants. I was excited to finally have a little baby bump to show off!

16 weeks + 3 days

Looks #3: This is a 100% maternity outfit. The top is from Target, the pants are from The Gap. This top makes me look like my bump is bigger than it actually is, but I'm beyond trying to look 'slim' or hiding the bump. If you compare this picture to the 2 above you can see how much hair I chopped off! I'm loving my new haircut!

17 weeks + 3 days

Friday, September 29, 2017

TGIF

TGIF. Times 1,000. This was kind of a long and brutal week for me so I am happy to see it come to a close! Here's how my week shaped up.

The high of my week was getting my hair cut and colored on Tuesday. I hadn't seen my hair girl since my wedding day so we had a lot to catch up on between the wedding, honeymoon, and talking about my pregnancy! As usual, she did an awesome job. She darkened the color a bit and took quite a bit length off - maybe 5-6"?




The low of my week was having a crappy week at work. A couple of different things happened that upset or frustrated me. This is the first 'bad' week I've had at work since I started over 2 years ago, so I know I am pretty darn lucky. This was just a really, really not great week. So bad that when I was talking to Phil about it last night, he suggested that I get a massage since I was so upset/stressed. And he HATES spending money so it's a big deal that he suggested that (luckily I have a prenatal massage scheduled for next week).

A book I am reading is Bear Town by Fredrick Bachman. This came highly recommended by several people and had an average rating of over 4 stars on Goodreads so I knew I was in for a good book. I actually finished it last night. It was SO good. It's set in a small town in Sweden that is obsessed with Hockey. A terrible thing happens; will the Bear Town citizens' view of the crime, which involved a hockey player, be colored by their obsession with and support for the hockey program? Read the book to find out. 

A recipe I made was fish tacos with mango salsa and beans and rice. The beans and rice recipe was 'just ok' but the tacos were so good and are pretty easy to make!





The best money I spent was on a new Chi straightener. I've had my Chi straightener for over 10 years, I think, but it died on Thursday morning. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime free same-day delivery!

My plans this weekend include staying in tonight. I'm going to make this gnocchi dish (our local grocery store sells GF gnocchi) for dinner and then we are going to go organize our basement and figure out what needs to go to Goodwill. Talk about an adult Friday night! But we are on a mission to de-clutter and get rid of stuff as we'll have listing photos taken in November. Phil's golfing on Saturday so I will lay low and relax - hopefully in the hammock as it's supposed to be a beautiful fall day. Then that night we are getting together to play cards with another couple. Sunday is another plan-free day. I'm sure I'll go to the Farmer's Market in the morning and I have a google hangout in the afternoon but besides that I have no plans!

What was the high of your week? What are you reading these days?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Eating & Food Sourcing: Yes & No

I've really been digging the latest season of Tsh Oxenreider's podcast, The Simple Show. In this season, she takes a 'yes and no' approach to each show topic. Each week, Tsh and her guest summarize what they are saying yes and no to as relates to the topic at hand. It's an easy way to structure your thoughts on a topic, so I am going to start my own "Yes and No" series of my own. Sometimes I'll borrow topics from her show, sometimes I'll come up with my own (pretty sure I'll be doing several on pregnancy and parenting!).

For the first post in this series, I am going to borrow the topic from Episode 90 of The Simple Show:  Eating Locally. Below I'll share what I say yes and no to as it pertains to eating and sourcing our food. But first - a disclaimer. Like many things (or really, nearly everything) in life, choices like how I eat and source our food is a "you do you" type of decision; there is no right or wrong answer. Sure there are some general guidelines, like drinking enough water and eating enough fruits and vegetables, etc. But beyond that, every person has to make their own choices. I'm far from perfect and I don't expect anyone to adopt or admire my approach to eating and sourcing food. This is just me sharing what works for me/us.

I/we say yes to:

- Not eating every meal together. Phil and I are busy people with full schedules (especially me!) so it's not possible to eat every meal together. Plus I am just not in the position to make dinner every night of the week. If I cooked every night, we would waste more food because we can't eat that much food in a week. Instead, I say yes to cooking 2-3 times during the week and we eat leftovers or simple meals on other nights of the week, like eggs and toast (for her) or cereal and yogurt (for him).

- Buying most of our meat from a local farmer. If you read a couple of books about the agriculture industry, it changes your view of meat that is sold in the grocery store. I had been searching for a better solution for awhile and then about a year ago I realized the meat seller at the farmer's market I frequent had a year-round meat-share program - kind of like a CSA for meat. We split a half-share with another friend because we are not huge meat eaters. Each month, we get a frozen organic chicken, a dozen eggs, 2 pounds of ground beef, and the 2-4 other things such as bacon, steaks, pork chops, brats, pork sausage, etc and we split it up each month. It's kind of fun to pick up the share each month and see what we we will be splitting!

- Packing my own lunch 4 out of 5 days of the week. I'm a creature of habit and don't mind eating the same thing day after day, so I will make something over the weekend, like a soup or stew, or I will prep all the toppings for a salad, and then that is what I will eat for lunch 4 days of the coming week. I do let myself buy my lunch one day of the week as a treat.

- Growing our own food and canning what we can't eat while it's still fresh. Luckily there is a community garden close by, otherwise we would not be able to have a garden since our yard is pretty small. Our growing season is limited in the Midwest, but I make the most out of the season and get over to my garden 1-3 times a week so I can pick what's fresh before it spoils. I've also gotten on board with canning and do not find it at all intimidating. I know it's not for everyone, but it's a great way to preserve food from your garden, or food you buy in bulk from a farmer's market. I'm sad that my tomato crop was disappointing this year as I was hoping to can some marinara. However, my tomatillos have produced like crazy so we'll can lots of salsa verde to use throughout the winter and gift to family and friends.


I/we say no to:

- Eating out often. In general, I would say we eat out for dinner about 3-4 times a month. It varies depending on what we have going on - some weeks we eat 2 meals out; some weeks we don't eat out at all. But in general, we view dining out as a 'treat'. That is how we were both raised so we are on the same page on this matter. In my parents' case, it wasn't exactly a choice to not eat out because there weren't really any restaurants in my tiny town (the population was 500 people). And it was far more economical for my mom to make dinner for our family of 7 than to take us all out to eat. Plus it taught us kids that eating out was something special and not something you do on a daily occurrence. We personally get sick of eating out very quickly so I don't view it as a sacrifice to eat out infrequently.

- Packing a lunch for Phil. He is a light eater since he's pretty much the same size as me, so it's inexpensive for him to eat out each day. He says on average he spend $6-7. There's no way I am going to pack his lunch (I know some people make lunches for their spouses but I don't have time/make time to and he wouldn't want me to even if I was willing) and he has not interested in packing a lunch so eating out every day works for him.

- Buying all organic produce. This is an area of opportunity for me. It's easier to buy organic during the farmer's market season as the organic produce looks great there. However, after the farmer's market season ends, I would have to rely on my local grocery store and some of the organic goods just are not appealing. I always buy organic lettuce but besides that there isn't anything that I consistently buy organic. My goal is to work towards buying organic for items on the dirty dozen list (12 produce items with the most pesticide contamination).

What do you say yes and no to when it comes to eating and sourcing your food?

Friday, September 22, 2017

5 Things Friday

Wow this week flew by.  It's good to be busy, though, and now that I am counting the weeks of pregnancy, the faster they fly, the better.  Yes, I know we have a lot to do to prepare but I'll be so ready to be done being pregnant because of the complications of managing my RA when being pregnant. #realtalk

Here are 5 things on my mind today!

1. As I mentioned before, Phil and I are starting to look for our next home as our current home is pretty small and not ideal for our growing family. We have looked at 3 houses so far and it's been pretty obvious that all 3 are not the right fit for us for a variety of reasons from layout to size of bedrooms/misleading information about how many bedrooms there are to really old windows or a really old boiler. I'm hoping that when we see the right house we will just know. I know it's going to take time and patience. Luckily, Phil is the best person to house shop with because he sees things for what they are and isn't swayed by a fancy kitchen, for instance. It's obviously not the best time of year to shop for a home as the market is very quiet. If we can't find something we can close on and move into by January then we will stop looking until after the baby comes. And that's the scenario we are assuming will happen. If that is the case, we won't have a true nursery in our home as it's a waste of time and money to decorate a room when we know we will be moving. So if we stay in our current house, we will have a make-shift guest room/nursery. It's not ideal but the kid will never know they didn't have a dedicated nursery and we don't want to give up our guest room since my parents and most of my siblings do not live locally and we are hoping to have visitors. Plus, I am assuming the baby will be in our room with us for at least the first 2-3 months so that's another reason I don't feel bad about not having a dedicated nursery for the baby.

2. After not showing at all, I am finally starting to look pregnant!  It's pretty subtle and you can only tell if I wear a fitted shirt, but it's kind of nice to look pregnant as it makes it feel a bit more real, especially for Phil. I thought my normal work clothes were fitting fine. But then the items I ordered from Gap last week arrived yesterday and I tried on the pair of maternity pants I ordered. I was like - 'ohhhhh'. I hadn't realized that my normal work pants were actually kind of uncomfortable as they cut right across where my belly is starting to grow. I had only ordered one pair of maternity pants as I wanted to see how they fit. But last night I ordered 4 more pair (there was still a sale at Gap!). Last week, I also bought some dresses from Pink Blush during a 25% off sale. It'll be nice to have some new maternity clothes on hand as my bump is only going to continue to grow and grow!

3.  I roasted a chicken this week which makes me feel like Ina Garten (I use her recipe)!  Roasting a chicken used to intimidate me, but now that I realize how easy it is, I'll even do it on a week night (I usually stick to quick/easy meals on week nights). The chicken came from my meat share so it's locally raised and organic.  It was delicious!! Although now that I look at the photos, I'm realizing that I cooked it upside down! But oh well - it was still great!

Our delicious roasted chicken! Our house smelled amazing. It was surrounded by veggies that cooked in the juices of the chicken, but I forgot to take a photo before I took the veggies out!

Roasted, delicious vegetables! The purple vegetables are also potatoes (I love buying multi-colored potatoes).

4. My calendar is continuing to fill up faster than I should let it.  I am the only person that can affect change in my schedule so I am trying to come up with ways to not over-schedule and over-commit. Why is this so hard? For October, I am going to try to have a strict rule of not accepting more than 2 social commitments during the work week. Otherwise I just get overtired and feel like I am stretched too thin. We'll see how successful I am at this...
 
This is a blurry photo, so it's hard to read. But you get a sense for how full my month of September has been. October NEEDS to be different!

5. Speaking of a busy schedule, this weekend is a pretty busy one for us! Tonight we staying in (halleluiah - I need a quiet night!). Tomorrow afternoon I have a friend's son's birthday party to attend and then I'll go from that to another friend's party (one of the best men from our wedding) which includes dinner at a Mexican restaurant (ole!). On Sunday I'm bringing a meal to a friend who had twins in June and I want to also bring her some zucchini bread as I have a huge zucchini in my fridge that I need to use up. And then I'll be video chatting with Amber in the late afternoon. Luckily I don't have plans for Saturday or Sunday morning... although we are due for a team-clean of our house so one of those mornings will be spent cleaning.

What's on your mind today?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Julia Child Night #9

Another Julia Child Night is in the books! This annual event is so much fun and I love that it gives me an opportunity to see my extended family on my mom's side of the family as we no longer gather with them for holidays.

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

My aunt, uncle, parents, and brother gathered on Friday to start the preparations but I had to miss this as I couldn't take another day off of work after missing so much work due to my RA flares in August. They were very understanding, though! We got to work around 11 on Saturday morning and pretty much worked straight through until the guests started to arrive around 4 pm. Asian food requires A LOT of knife work/prep work. 

My aunt and brother prepping the rice noodles. They made 3 different kinds for the various courses!

I think my uncle spent nearly 2 hours cleaning and preparing the Thai basil for the spring rolls and pho
In the mid-afternoon, the youngest participants of Julia Child Night helped me set the tables. They looked so festive thanks to all the decorations my aunt and uncle found on Amazon!


My uncle folded these beautiful paper cranes as centerpieces for the tables!
There was an appetizer course in the basement and a signature cocktail (a lynchee lemongrass cocktail) but I was too busy at this point to remember to take a photo. We had a big family toast where we toasted to the recent birth of my aunt and uncle's grandchild (he was a premie, so my cousin and her husband were unable to attend since the baby can't be around big groups of people), the recent engagement of my aunt and uncle's son to his awesome girlfriend, and the news that Phil and I were expecting!

Then it was time to make the first course: fresh shrimp spring rolls. We had to make 30 of them so we set up 3 stations with 2-3 people at each station.


Plating the spring rolls
The finished product was beautiful and delicious!


The second course was a classic Vietnamese dish: Pho with filet mignon. The broth was made from scratch and had so much flavor.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the 3rd course, which was my Asian vegetable salad. but here's a picture of from the practice night in August. We got a lot of compliments about how light and fresh the salad was.


Next up was the 3rd course: Beef short-rib lettuce wraps and pork and shrimp fried rice. We were cooking for about 30 people, so we had to double the fried rice recipe. My mom and I cooked side by side and my sister read the directions out loud to us. It was kind of intense as fried rice comes together so fast and the wok is so hot so you need to have all your ingredients ready. Abby probably did not love the job of reading to us. We made her repeat so many parts of the directions, sometimes 2-3 times! Sorry, Abby. You were a trooper to deal with us!


The beef short-ribs were served on butter lettuce on top of a layer of homemade kimchi, made by my aunt with the fried rice on the side.


The next course was a signature dish of my brother's: shrimp Thai pasta. This was so delicious!! The pasta was a wide rice noodle. 

I actually forgot to take a picture of the dessert which was a green tea ice cream, made by my sister-in-law, with almond cookies that my mom made. My mom made one of the batches of almond cookies gluten free and sent the extras home with me! Score!

And of course, at the end of the night we had to take our annual apron photo. As you can see, the number of attendees has grown and nearly everyone wears an apron!


It was a wonderful night with family. Everyone was very complimentary of the food, and as usual, went home with a full stomach and full heart!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Shouldless Days of 2017: September

Julia Child Night was so much fun, but it was also exhausting. Plus I got an RA flare on Friday night, this time in my left elbow, and got less than 5 hours of sleep on Friday night since the pain was pretty bad. Luckily the steroids kicked in quickly and I was still able to enjoy Julia Child Night on Saturday.

However, after a poor night of sleep and being on my feet for about 12 hours, I was in need of a shouldless day! Plus the flare moved from my elbow to my left hand so it was clear that my body needed some rest.  Here's how I spent my Sunday!

I was in bed later than usual on Saturday night as it was almost 11 by the time we got home from Julia Child Night, so I slept in a bit and laid in bed until 8:30 which felt glorious! After having breakfast and watching part of Face the Nation with Phil, I got started on making some banana bread with some overly-ripe bananas that I needed to use up. I got to use the Kitchen Aid mixer my parents gave me for my baby shower for the first time!

 The finished product!


After that I had a few errands to run, starting with the library. I love that they make the returns area extra fun. I am sure it's meant to entertain children but it made this adult smile!


I picked up this book which I am excited to check out! I've heard nothing but great things!


After stopping by the grocery store, I came home and had the rest of the leftover Chicken Tikka Masala that my sister and I made last week. I think it might have tasted even better as leftovers!


For dessert, I enjoyed a slice of banana bread. For some reason, the chocolate chips were not evenly distributed, but it still tasted great!

 

After watching a couple of episodes of Suits, I headed outside to do some reading. Phil had set up the hammock for me before he headed to his mom's that morning. It was a beautiful fall day so the perfect day to spend some time in the hammock. It was a bit chilly (for me, I get cold easily) so I brought a blanket to make it extra cozy. I read a little bit of Refugee, which is a middle-grade book that my a good friend recommended to me. It tells the story of 3 different refugees - a young Jewish boy during WWII, a Cuban family trying to get to the US in 1994, and a Syrian family that is trying to get to Germany in 2015. Truth be told, I didn't read for all that long as I kind of dozed off for awhile.


My good friend Courtney stopped by that afternoon to get a couple of books from me and I ended up picking her brain over pregnancy stuff for longer that she probably intended to stay! She has a little boy who will turn 2 in November and is due with another boy in January. We are only 6 weeks apart so our kids will be so close in age. It's nice to have a good friend who has a similar lifestyle to us and has been through all of this so recently and can share advice on things from breast feeding to which cloth diapers to buy to what stroller to get.

After she headed out, I got going on meal prep for my lunches for the week. I decided to make taco salads this week so I browned some ground turkey and sauteed some peppers and onion with salt, pepper and cumin.


By now it was dinner time so I made one of my favorite comfort meals - eggs over easy with GF toast. I stopped eating this when I found out I was pregnant as I read that runny yolks weren't safe to eat during pregnancy. But when I saw my OB a couple of weeks ago, she said that it was actually ok to eat eggs over medium as there isn't a risk to the baby - just a risk of food poisoning, which is so unlikely since I eat fresh eggs. I'm not going to eat these every week, but they sounded good on Sunday night so I gave into the craving.


I pretty much laid on the couch for the rest of the night. I caught up with Phil when he got home. He brought Oscar back with him as she had spent the week out at his mom's - I was so happy to see her! And I will be heading to bed soon!! All in all it was a really wonderful shouldless day and just what my body needed!

Stay tuned for my Julia Child recap which will be coming on Tuesday!