Friday, January 28, 2011

Taking to the Skies - Again!

Good morning & Happy Friday! I hope everyone has had a wonderful week. Mine has been pretty busy/hectic, but it's been a great week. It was my 2nd week at my job and I am loving it! I've already gotten to do a little bit of writing! The nerd in me loves all the research I am doing and the social part of me loves all the client meetings & interactions with our sales partners.

What's made this week even better is that I've had another weekend getaway to look forward to! Early tomorrow morning I fly out to St. Louis to visit this lovely lady!!!

That's a picture of Nora and I this summer at the Brandi Carlile concert. I got to play tour guide when she came to visit so now it's her turn to show me the sights of her city! I have never been to St. Louis so am really excited to check out another US city! She's got a great itinerary planned for us which includes things like: the penguin exhibit at the zoo, hot cocoa, book stores, Mexican food, a home cooked meal, and SATC + wine + perusal of Vogues. And the temps are going to be in the 40's which will feel FANTASTIC!

I'll likely be back next week with yet another travel re-cap! Have a fabulous weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

And the winner is...

The lucky winner of the $50 CSN giftcard is Kelly of She Wears a Red Sox Cap! I actually referenced her in the blog post - maybe that was her good luck charm!!

Kelly, I will email you the details! Happy shopping!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tucson Trip Recap

I spent MLK weekend in Tucson - best. decision. ever. I booked that trip quite a long time ago and it really was so fortuitous that I planned it in January as I was in dire need of a getaway! Now if only I could have brought the sun and warm temps back with me!!

The flight to Tucson was, well, not so great. Let's just say it reminded me why I avoid connections. I nearly missed my connection in Denver but luckily they held the plan for me. I had landed 10 minutes after my flight was supposed to leave, so I was so sure I'd be sleeping on the floor of the airport in Denver. Phew, I was relieved when I made my connection as that was not appealing.

On Saturday morning, Abby and I hit the road and headed north to Phoenix to visit one of my best friend's from college. She had a baby on December 15th so I got to meet baby Elle when she turned 1 month old! Oh my goodness, she is such a beautiful baby. She has perfect, porcelain skin and is just so petite! She even had a special "Paris" outfit that she wore!

Heidi and I with baby Elle. Look how bright it is and check out all those lemons! Color me jealous!

We headed out to lunch and were able to eat outdoors! It was so great to catch up over lunch! Heidi brought along my birthday gift - she got me the Paris plate I have been coveting for over a year!! I can't wait to serve some macaroons on it at my birthday party!

I'm so glad I got to meet my faux niece while she is a still an infant! She'll be back in Minnesota this summer but she'll be 6 months then so will be in such a different stage so I am glad I planned my trip shortly after her birth.

After lunch, Abby and I headed back down to Tucson. It was nice to have the car rides to catch up! I love being around her husband and treat him like he is a brother, but there's nothing like one-on-one time with my sister, which is very rare since our family is so big! I don't remember the last time I had her to myself - it was probably the night before her wedding!!

When we got back to their house, they brought out some champagne and we toasted to the good things to come in 2011, like my new job. :)

After drinks, we headed out for some sushi at a local sushi restaurant. The temps were mild so we sat outside. I feel so cooped up due to our cold winters - it was awesome to eat outdoors!

On Sunday afternoon, we headed out to do some hiking. Hiking is one of my favorite things to do, so I am glad I was able to enjoy the beautiful weather while getting a good work out!

I really should have taken a picture of the trail we hiked. Ay yi yi, it was steep! I was sucking wind like nobody's business. I barely talked during the ascent because I really could barely catch my breath. I am going to blame the altitude...

The steep hike was worth it, though! There was an awesome canyon that we hiked to. This picture doesn't do it justice, unfortunately! We rested for a bit and then headed back down that steep, steep trail! I definitely felt it in my glutes the next day!!

After the hike, we drove up Mount Lemmon to a look out area to take some pictures!

Abby and Ryan

Isn't the view incredible?

That night, Abby made butternut squash risotto and Ryan grilled some steaks. Yum! I don't get to eat grilled food during the winter so this was such a great treat (and the risotto was to die for). After dinner, we watched the Golden Globes together which was so fun. Then Ryan asked if we thought we had room for some frozen yogurt and Abby said, in the words of our late grandfather, "There is always room for ice cream!" So we headed to a self-serve frozen yogurt place where I ate a ridiculous amount of ice cream + fun toppings. Mmm... Part of me wishes we had self-serve yogurt places in Minneapolis... part of me knows it's probably a good thing we don't!

And there you have it! It was a short trip, but I had a wonderful time!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ten on Tuesday

Another batch of questions from the lovely Chelsea of Roots and Rings!

1. Do you decorate for Valentine’s day?
No, but I did in college - I used to put up these pink, heart shaped lights. I was known for loving Valentine's Day - even though I was always single. I know many people hate Valentine's Day - and I do not care for the commercialized aspect of the holiday, but I do love that there is one day of the year where we are reminded to tell the people we love that we love them. I know you shouldn't need a holiday to do this, but sadly, some people do.

2. Does your desktop have a picture or computer graphic? Is it organized?
My desktop if organized. I can not stand a cluttered desktop with tons of files saved out there. It makes me cringe when I see that someone's entire desktop is filled with files! I have to resist the urge to organize it for them. I have no picture in the background - it's just a boring blue background!

3. Do you use a paper planner, electric planner or no planner at all?
In the past, I printed off calendars and used them to plan out my life. But they are not very portable, obviously, so I needed a new system. After Amber raved about her Erin Condren planner (and seeing it in person on our Portland trip), I decided to invest in one. It should arrive this week - can't wait!

4. Do you change purses or bags often or stick with a good thing?
I am sort of hard on purses because of the amount of stuff I haul around, so I change them somewhat frequently.

5. What’s your favorite YouTube Video?
I don't have one... I really am not on YouTube much!

6. Do you use Turbo Tax or a real person to pay your taxes?
I use an H&R Block tax filing program and file my own. I actually enjoy doing my taxes. :)

7. How many states have you set foot (or tire) in? Which ones?
Oh geez, that's a good question... I don't even know.... Maybe 20? That number would far lower had I not gone on trip to California with my grandparents in their motor home. I really have not seen much of the US!

8. How many countries have you been in? Which ones?
I have been to 10, in the following order: Canada, England, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Dominican Republic, France.

9. How many pillows are in your house? (Sleeping or decorative)
I have 2 sleeping pillows, 5 decorative pillows on my bed, and 4 pillows in my living room which are boring ones that came w/ my furniture.

10. How cold is too cold for flip flops?
Maybe 50 degrees? I am actually not a huge fan of flip flops so I don't really wear them all that often! I'd prefer to wear flats over flip flops...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Motivation Monday: 10 Mile Training, Week 1

Today I start training for the 10 mile Cherry Blossoms run that I'll be doing with Charbelle!! It has been nice to take some time away from training since the marathon in early October but I am definitely ready to be back on 'the grid'. I find that I sort of lack motivation/direction when I'm not training for anything!

I debated about which training plan to follow but decided to go with Hal Higdon's novice plan. Am I novice? No, not really, but I wanted to ease back into training so I decided to go with an easier plan. I can always modify it down the road if it seems too easy for me.

I will probably use this training plan as a guideline and will modify it to make it work for me. My goal is to run 3 days a week, strength train 1 day a week, and cross train 1 day a week. My rest days will be Monday and Friday. I hope that I can maintain this schedule + studying for the CFA + adjusting to a new position. If that all get to be too much, I will adjust things accordingly.

I don't really have a time goal for this 10 miler. I honestly just want to have a blast and take in the sights! I want to be able to chat along the way with Charbelle and feel good at the end of the race. 10 miles is a great distance - it's challenging, but it shouldn't wipe me out like longer distances. I have only done one other 10 mile race and my time for that was 1:36:10. Could I beat that time on April 3? Yes, probably... Will I be upset if I don't beat it in this race? I hope not - I honestly just want to get out there and have fun!

Friday, January 21, 2011

30 Before 30 Update

It's been awhile since I've re-visited this 30 before 30 list... Truth be told, I haven't accomplished a whole lot. BUT, I accomplished more than I would have had I not made this list so I still consider it a success. Here it is... I crossed off things that have been accomplished... items I am on track to accomplish are in green... items I am not on track to accomplish are in red... items that aren't feasible are in italics..

1. Work my way up to being able to do 20 real push-ups. I can only do 'girl' ones currently.
2. Run my 2nd full marathon (will be running this marathon!)
3. Join a local running club (tried this & did not care for running with others)
4. Go one month without eating out
5. Get a body fat assessment done, most likely in the 'Bod Pod'
6. Run a 5k in 27 minutes (PR is 30 minutes)

7. Learn how to roast a chicken
8. Make one new recipe/month
9. Host a dinner party
10. Find a cooking class/seminar to attend
11. Go to a knife skills class (at Kitchen Window)

12. List or rent out my condo on or before my 30th birthday
13. Set up a living will
14. Put at least $1,000/month in savings

15. Join the women's group at my church
16. Spend 1 hour in the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel each month
17. Go to a Cathedral Young Adults event

18. Learn how to knit socks
19. Learn to crochet
20. See a ballet or opera production (I will go to one in Paris on 2/15 so I am going to count this as it's close to my birthday!)
21. Do something with the photos from my France trip

22. Meet a blogger friend in real life!
23. Send one piece of snail mail/month
24. Buy a new set of dishes
25. Read 3 classic novels (I read The Bell Jar, I Capture the Castle, and A Christmas Carol)
26. Make over my blog
27. Do a hair workshop with my best friend Brooke.
28. Visit my grandma at least once every 3 months.
29. Climb Inspiration Peak in the fall when the leaves are changing
30. Visit the Duluth, MN area

I have accomplished or am on track to accomplish 13 out of the 30 goals. I am actually ok with this. Sure, I wish I was on track to accomplish more but had I not made this list, some of those goals wouldn't have been accomplished so I still consider this list a success.

Between now and my 30th birthday (or maybe on my 30th birthday) I want to Learn how to roast a chicken. I might need to enlist the help of my mom or brother... we'll see. Or maybe I will just figure it out on my own!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Giveaway Time!

Greetings - it's almost Friday! Yippee!
The lovely team at CSN has offered to do another giveaway post. By now I assume most of you are familiar with CSN. They have anything from modern dining room furniture to cookware to bedding. They have 200+ websites, so the options are endless.

One lucky winner will receive a $50 gift certificate to use on one of their sites!

If I had $50 to spend, I'd maybe use it towards...

or a Wusthof paring knife...

or perhaps I would use it towards this mandolin. I have wanted one for a while but now I REALLY want one after reading Kelly's post about Parsnip fries last week! Yum!

To enter the giveaway, please comment by 10 pm CST on Wednesday, January 26th and let me know what you'd purchase! I'll announce the winner next Thursday!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On Coming Full Circle

2011 is off to a bit of a whirlwind start for me. My mind is still spinning over everything that has occurred. Yes, I have been nursing a heart ache, which really sucks, but thus far the good has far outweighed the bad.

The exciting news I alluded to last week is that I started a new position yesterday! I am still with my current employer, The Chariot, so it's an internal move but it's one that I am very excited about. As I've said in the past, 2010 was an interesting year career-wise. I left a job at The Psych Experiment and returned to The Chariot in April. The position I returned to was not a perfect fit - but it got my foot back in the door.

I worked hard the last 9 months and touched base with some of my contacts within the organization. I set up a lunch with a contact in November and came to find out that he had a position that he'd be hiring for - and he wanted ME to apply! The position is a great fit for me; it utilizes my MBA and Math degrees and will have a good balance of analytical work + communication. I might even get to do a little writing!!

There were a lot of moments last year where I asked God WHY he was allowing me to go through this difficult experience. I was haunted by what happened at The Psych Experiment and it took me a long time to recover from it. I know that's a vague explanation, but there are just some stories that we will never tell. But over the last 9 months, I have proved myself, healed, and have slowly, but surely, found my way back to being "confident, self-assured Lisa."

Life has sort of come full circle for me. I returned to a division of my company that I left when I went to The Pysch Experiment. Yesterday I walked into an office with friendly, familiar faces. I know my boss and what to expect for this position. It's going to be challenging and that intimidates me a bit - but I KNOW I can do it.

Wish me luck!

Have you ever gone through something difficult in your professional life? What helped you get through it? I got through it with the support of friends and family - I don't know what I would do without them!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ten on Tuesday

1. What’s your favorite color to paint your nails?
Clear. It's the only sustainable color. My nails chip so easily (it seems) and I am too lazy to re-apply polish every couple of days.

But really, I maybe paint my nails twice a year? It's just not a priority for me.

2. Do you like to sneeze?
I don't mind it. It's the best feeling when you can feel a sneeze coming on and then you sneeze. Ah, sweet relief.

3. How often do you fill up your car with gas?
About once/week.

4. Were you named after anyone?
I don't think so.

5. Have you made any good recipes lately?
Yes. I made this bean and rice dish on a week night 2 week ago and it was awesome! And super simple. And then I made my favorite recipe ever, Beef in Pomegranate Sauce, which is SO easy and it's so good, you will want to lick your plate afterwards. Seriously, MAKE IT!

6. What’s an easy money-saving tip that you use regularly?
My newest one is parking at an off-site parking place instead of parking at the airport. Airport parking in Minneapolis ridiculously expensive. It's $18/day for our main terminal. It's $9.75 at this off-site place. I feel a bit sheepish about the fact that I have lived here for nearly 8 years and am just discovering this now.

I also save money by rarely buying coffee drinks. I used to drink 3-4 lattes a week. Oy vey, that adds up fast. Now I rarely buy a latte. It's so much cheaper to make it at home!

7. Would you rather have a sore throat or an ear ache?
A sore throat. I haven't had a bad ear ache ever, but I had a mild one once and oh my gosh, it was painful!

8. Do you have any scars? What are they from?
Yes. A small scar on my forehead from being accidentally catapulted into a tv set by my older sister.

9. What are you “known for” in your circle of friends/family?
I am known for my love of pickles in my family.

I am sort of known as the librarian in my group of friends because I own a lot of books, I like to make book recommendations, and I tend to dress like a librarian.

I am also known for being very punctual and being obsessed with all things French!

10. How do you like to eat your pancakes?
I like them with a little bit of maple syrup on them. Mmm... And I really like my pancakes with fresh blueberries IN them. Delicious.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Taking to the Skies...

Happy Friday! I hope everyone has had a fantastic week! I am in the best mood ever! Why? Well, first off, I have some exciting news which I will share with you next week (no, it has nothing to do with boys. I am done with dating for awhile). The other reason for my good mood is that I am flying to Tucson tonight after work to visit my little sister, Abby and her husband Ryan!

That's us last February - notice that she's in a pea coat and I'm in a tank top!! Her blood has gotten a little thin since she moved south!

Truth be told, we had bit to a tenuous relationship growing up... Actually, that is an understatement. I tried to play mother hen was completely over-bearing - as I described it in my wedding speech, I was a "helicopter sibling." (I'm sure you're familiar with the term "helicopter parent.")

Luckily, we both did a whole lot of growing up and now I can say that she is one of my best friends and someone I turn to for advice quite a bit. My mom is probably smugly smiling as she reads this as for years she has told us we would be best friends some day.

This will be a quick trip but a fun one! I arrive late tonight and fly out Monday morning, but we'll get 2 full days together! I can't wait to go for runs (without worrying about losing a body party to frost bite!), drink coffee, talk face-to-face, road trip to Phoenix to visit my friend Heidi, and GRILL!

I'm sure I'll take pictures and do a recap at some point this month!

I'll leave you with one final pic of us and a funny story.

So when Abby got married - some people thought we were twins... Like one of the ushers actually said to Abby's husband: "I didn't know you were marrying a twin!" The photographers then referred to us as "the twins" for the rest of the weekend. I see some resemblance - but twins? I think that's a stretch... After her wedding, this was my profile picture on facebook for awhile. The sister of a good friend saw it and thought I had photoshopped my head onto the body of a bride. I thought that was hilarious - and a bit ALARMING that she thought I'd actually do that.

Have a fabulous weekend everyone! Tell me - do you think my sister and I look like twins?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Book Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Last week, I read "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," by Amy Chua. In her memoir, Chua shares her parenting techniques and compares them to the "Western approach" to parenting. I obviously do not have children so have no experience parenting but I was drawn to this book as I am curious about other culture's approaches to parenting. I've heard anecdotes about the Chinese approach to parenting, in passing, so was intrigued by a detailed account of Chua's parenting. The book was a fast, easy read but I must say it was quite appalling. To some extent, she seems to make a joke of the way she treats her daughters or thinks it is 'cute' - but in my opinion, her treatment of her daughters borders on verbal abuse in some circumstances. For instance, at one point she refers to her daughters as garbage... My jaw sort of dropped when I read that! I simply can not fathom my parents referring to me as garbage!!

Her rearing techniques seem to be successful with her older daughter but her younger daughter does not take well to the way Chua treats her - or the rigorous schedule. In the end, it seems to backfire and I think that Chua realizes that her strict approach is maybe not the best approach in all circumstances.

Chua is very critical of the "western approach" to parenting. She thinks that, under the western approach, children have too many freedoms and that parents try to be a friend instead of a parent. I think this is probably the case in some families, but it was never the case in my mine. I consider my mom a friend now, but when I was an adolescent that wasn't the case. My parents were strict, but not excessively. They instilled values such as discipline but I still enjoyed my childhood. In my opinion, Chua essentially robs her children of having a childhood. Yes, they are accomplished musicians and did well in school but is it worth the price of not relaxing and enjoying what should be, to some extent, a carefree time in your life?

I gave this book 3 stars on goodreads as it was an engaging, fast read. If I was rating it based on my opinion of the author, I would probably give it 1 or 2 stars, though!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from TLC Book Tours. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wish List

My birthday is less than a month a way! Eeks! In case you can't tell, birthdays are kind of a big deal in my world... I am not obnoxious about mine (at least I don't think I am?), I just think they are a special day! I really don't need anything for my birthday, but here is a little wish list of mine!

I think this apron from Anthropologie is adorable. Really, any apron from there is adorable. I think every girl should own an Anthro apron. If you enjoy cooking and don't own one - treat yourself to one!

While we are in the kitchen, check out this adorable plate. It's perfect for a Francophile like myself - and the name of the plate is actually "Francophile Dinner Plate, Eiffel Tower." I think it'd be a fun plate to serve desserts off of - like possibly some fancy pink macaroons! They are typically made with almond flour, so are gluten free. Hip hip hooray! I will definitely be treating myself to some next month in Paris - probably at Laduree!!

When I attended a knife skills class in October (which I still need to tell you about!), the instructor said you shouldn't feel like you HAVE to buy a block of expensive knives. He suggested investing in a high quality chef knife, paring knife, and serrated knife. With these 3 knives, you can do anything! That day I purchased a Wusthof chef knife (which I love) - now I'd like to add a paring knife to my collection!

I have one Pampered Chef rubber spatula, but I would like another one! I think they are the best spatulas out there. I use mine to make eggs every day and it has not melted one bit (my other cheaper version did!).

I really fell in love with Julia Child when I read My Life in France, so I would love to own her cook books. I think her recipes are a bit out of my league but hopefully some day I could successfully execute one of her recipes! I'd also love to receive Around My French Table or any of Ina Garten's cookbooks!
Last, but not least, I'd love to expand my collection of cloth bound Penguin Classics! I received Little Women and Jane Eyre for Christmas, but would love to own them all eventually. Aren't they so pretty?

So that's what's at the top of my wish list these days! And really, if I didn't receive a single gift for my birthday, I really wouldn't care. I'm just looking forward to celebrating with friends/family - and heading to Paris for a week! What's on your wish list these days? And when is your birthday?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ten on Tuesday

Another set of questions from the lovely Chelsea of Roots and Rings!

1. Is there a band/artist that you HATE?
Hate is a strong word, but I strongly disliked Michael Jackson. Yes, he was the King of Pop, but I think he did some pretty questionable/icky things...

2. What do you do when you get a gift that you do not like? How do you react?
I can't even think of a gift that I've received that I didn't like... I am pretty easy to please, though! If I didn't like something, though, I would probably just pretend I did as I would never want to hurt the gift giver's feelings...

3. How is your work office/cubicle decorated?
Decorated? Not. at. all. I don't have a single personal effect at work. No pictures, nothing. I used to have photos of my 4 nephews but then people kept asking me if they were my kids - to which I said:

"Seriously? Do I look like I've had 4 kids that closely spaced? Wait, don't answer that..."

4. Do you use all of your vacation every year?
Hells yes! I would like to try to carry over a bit next year as it's nice to have a little cushion at the end of the year in case you get sick. This year I had a whopping 4 hours left as of December 1st... I didn't use those, so carried them over and will use them later this month when I visit Nora.

5. Did you have a real or fake Christmas tree?
Fake. My condo association does not allow real trees.

6. If you could have anything for dinner tonight, what would it be?
I would have shrimp cocktail and ceviche for an appetizer, followed by my mom's oven roasted chicken & mashed potatoes for the main course, followed by homemade chocolate pudding for dessert. Mmm... I realize those 3 courses are sort of disjointed but I don't care.

7. Do you bite your fingernails?
Yes, sometimes... I've gotten better about this but it's something I do when I am stressed...

8. How many cups of coffee do you drink each day?
Somewhere between 1-3. It used to be 6, but then I started having trouble with acid reflux so I had to cut WAY back.

9. Do you have a nervous tick?
Nope, not that I know of... Are they common?

10. How often do you vacuum?
The high traffic areas of my condo have wood floor so I do not vacuum very often. The only room with carpet is my bedroom and I really am only in there to sleep so I don't think it 'needs' to be vacuumed that often. I vacuum it about once/month maybe?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Motivation Monday: A Running Meme

Last month, J of Morning Runner tagged me to answer these questions! They are running related so I figured they would tie in with "motivation Monday".

What are you most proud of accomplishing in 2010?

PR'ing at the Portland Marathon. I trained really hard for that race so it was wonderful to cross that finish line with a 28 minute PR!

What are your running goals for 2011?

I want to run a sub-2 hour half marathon in Fargo in May. I really think I have it in me to accomplish this!

What is your favorite race?

There isn't a race that I consistently do every year... A race I really enjoyed running was the Twin Cities 10 mile run which is ran on the day of the marathon. It's called the short cut to the capitol (the marathon concludes at the capitol). You get to sort of experience the buzz of marathon day so it's a cool race!

What is your favorite holiday guilty pleasure?

Drinking holiday beverages from Starbucks or Caribou Coffee. They are pricey and very caloric so I don't allow myself many!

What is your most embarrassing running moment?

Probably my disappointing half marathon that I ran in the spring of 2007. I was not at all prepared so was pretty miserable. My body was not in proper shape to run 13.1 miles and it revolted against me. I had a friend visiting from out of town and was too sick afterwards to entertain her. :(

I am terrible at coming up with people to tag, so either any some/all of the questions in the comments or do this on your blog!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Best Books of 2010

Let's switch gears and talk about something I haven't mentioned in awhile: reading. One perk of being single is that I sure read a heck of a lot more!

Last week, out of curiosity, I counted the number of books I read in 2010. The total? 50. Ufda. That is a lot of books. Do you wonder how I keep track?, my friends. Do you love to read? If so, I highly recommend that website (I have no association with them, I just think it's an awesome way to keep track of what you've read and what you want to read). If you join, let me know so we can be friends!

After scanning through all those books, I thought I'd share my top 5 reads from 2010!

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay - This was a heavier read. It's set in Paris during WWII and is about the round up of Jews living in Paris. The narration alternates between an American journalist who now lives in the apartment of a Jewish family that was sent to Auschwitz and Sarah, a child in the family that was sent to Auschwitz. When the family was rounded up, Sarah thought they would return to the apartment so she locked her little brother in a cabinet in an effort to save him. As a Francophile, it's probably not surprising that one of my favorite books from 2010 is a book that is largely set in France. It's definitely worth checking out! de Rosnay has a new book out, A Secret Kept, which I might buy and read while I am in Paris!

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart - Ahem. Yes, another book set in France makes the top 5 list... I really adored this book. I played piano growing up and absolutely love pianos. I loved this book because I learned so much about the history of the piano. I think the author told the story of the piano in an interesting way. Carhart gets to know the owner of a little Piano Shop in Paris and gets to see how the shop owner helps his patrons select pianos. This book makes me want to move to Paris so I can get to know the shop owners in the neighborhood I would inhabit. I know I will never really move to Paris, though, as I would miss my family too much, but this book let me vicariously live through Carhart's experiences. And it made me really want to buy a piano! When I buy a house, that will be my first major purchase!

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld - This was probably my favorite read for 2010. It's loosely based upon the life of George and Laura Bush. The author did a great job of capturing the spirit and mannerisms of the Bush's. It was a page turner and would be a great book club book as you could have a great discussion about whether or not you could/did marry someone with different political views.

Good Things I Wish You by A. Manette Ansay - This novel explores the relationship between Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms, the protege of Clara's husband, Robert Schumann. It's a work of historical fiction and Ansay did a great job weaving together notes and photos from both the present and the past. The narrator of the book, Jeanette, is struggling with a divorce and while she tries to find out what really happened between Clara & Johannes, she starts dating someone and finds that her relationship parallels the relationship she is researching to some extent.

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern - Since my other books were heavier books, I had to include one light/funny book. This might just be the funniest book I have ever read. This is the kind of book that you can not read in public, unless you want to look like a lunatic, because it will leave you laughing so hard, you may be in tears! I will warn you, the language is pretty crass/vulgar, but if you can get around that, you'll love this book. I can't wait to talk about this book when I see my younger sister later this month as she also read it and loved it!! I'm picturing us pulling out the book and reading sections to each other. Seriously, check it out!

What were your top reads for 2010?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2011 Goals

I'm a bit late on posting these, but better late than never! I don't usually do resolutions, but I do have some goals for 2011. Here's what I am hoping to accomplish!

  • CFA, Level 1 - I will take the 1st CFA exam on June 4th. I almost didn't post about this for fear that I won't pass and then everyone who reads this will know... But I am not even letting myself think about the possibility of not passing. CFA stands for Chartered Financial Analyst; it's a rigorous course of study that will be super challenging, but it will really help me advance my career. Studying for this test will consume my life for the next 5 months... but the nerd in me is excited about it!
  • Sub 2 hours - I am hoping to run a 1/2 marathon in less than 2 hours. My PR is 2:04 so I KNOW I can do it. I'll be running the Fargo 1/2 so hopefully I'll achieve this goal there where I know my parents will be cheering me on. If not, then I will just have to register for some more races in the summer and fall.
  • Texting while driving - I have this nasty little habit of texting while driving. It needs to stop. Nothing I have to say is THAT important. Enough said.
  • Letting go, looking forward - I'm just going to say that 2010 really, really sucked for multiple reasons. I want to focus on letting go and setting my sights ahead on the future. At this point, I do not feel I will gain anything by re-playing the events of the year past over in my mind. Maybe when the pain I've experienced isn't so fresh, I can re-visit those memories and learn something. But for now? I need to just let it go.
  • Green monster - I tried having a Green monster last summer when I was training for the marathon but I just wasn't sold on it... I think I need to play around with the ingredients a bit... So I am hoping to experiment and come up with a flavor combination that I love! When/if I find one, I'll be sure to share it with you. And for all you green monster lovers out there, I'm open to suggestions! (I tried one with peanut butter this summer and I think that is the ingredient that killed it for me...)

What are your goals for 2011?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Looking Ahead

First off - thank you so much for all the sweet, kind, encouraging comments. One good part about going through something difficult is that I am reminded how many amazing people I have in my life!

Yesterday's post was a heavy one... Yes, I am sad and I miss the Barrister, but luckily, I have so much to look forward to. 2010 was a tough year for me - both professionally and personally. I was not sad to ring in the new year. But I am hopeful and believe that 2011 holds great things for me.

So I will take my eyes off the rear view mirror of life. I will work on letting go of all that happened in 2010. Luckily, I've got lots of exciting things to look forward to:

  • Sister time. I'm flying down to Tucson over MLK weekend to visit my sister Abby and and her husband. I can't wait to thaw out and see the sun! While I'm there, we'll drive up to Phoenix and visit one of my best friends who had a baby in December. I can't wait to meet my faux niece, Elle!

  • Meet Me in St Louis. Days after the break-up, I bought an inexpensive plane ticket to visit Nora! I'll head there the last weekend of January. I can't wait to discover her city, meet her mom and dad, enjoy some Mexican food, and maybe take in the penguin exhibit at the zoo!

  • 30. On February 6th, I'll exit my 20s, and enter my 30s. I'm still struggling to wrap my mind around this as I don't feel like I should be turning 30. Ready or not, though, here it comes. I'm having a French-themed 30th birthday party (of course, what else would you expect from a Francophile like me) and am looking forward to celebrating with family and friends!

  • An American Girl in Paris. The week after my birthday, I'll fly to Paris where I'll spend 8 fabulous days! I'm renting an apartment in the Marais and will chronicle my journey on my France blog. Hopefully you'll hop over there and follow along (I'll remind you of the address when we are closer to my departure).

  • Cherry Blossoms. In April, I'll head to DC to run the Cherry Blossom run with Charbelle! I'll be staying with Becky! Mandy is meeting up with us as well, and Charbelle is staying with Jess, so it will be quite the blogger meet-up!!

The first 4 months of the year will fly by with all the trips! I heart traveling so am so excited!

What are you looking forward to in 2011?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


The Saturday before Christmas, I sat on the Barrister’s couch while he made us a cappuccino – a tradition of ours. The song “Why” by Annie Lennox played on XM radio as he busied himself boiling the coffee and frothing the milk.

Truth be told, I had been struggling in the relationship for the past couple of weeks. As I sat there, the lyrics from this song resonated with me:

Why can’t you see this boat is sinking

Due to the Barrister’s work travel schedule, we had spent a lot of time apart in December. Friends and family had encouraged me and said, “Distance can make the heart grow fonder.” They told me stories of how time apart strengthened their relationship. They grew closer as a result. They grew stronger as a result. I clung to these words and hoped it would be the case as the Barrister would be traveling every week from December – mid-May.

But when we were apart, I felt so lonely. It was so hard on me when we were apart, but it didn’t seem to bother the Barrister – or if it did, he couldn’t find the words to tell me. On this cold December morning, as that sad Annie Lennox song played, tears filled my eyes and spilled over onto my cheeks and I cried in front of him for the first time and told him how hard it was for me when we were apart.

Let’s go down to the water’s edge
And we can cast away those doubts
Some things are better left unsaid
But they still turn me inside out

This display of emotion prompted other conversations throughout the weekend. Conversations about what I wanted out of a relationship. Conversations about priorities and careers and family. Conversations that confirmed what I had began to fear over the past weeks – that we were not right for each other.

This is the book I never read
These are the words I never said
This is the path I’ll never tread
These are the dreams I’ll dream instead
This is the joy that seldom spread
These are the tears…
The tears we shed
This is the dread
These are the contents of my head

I was filled with a sense of dread, but I knew what I needed to do. I cared very deeply for the Barrister, but we have different relationship needs/expectations. I really wanted him to be the one, but I knew I deserved more. So on the Monday before Christmas, we parted ways. There is no “good time” for a break up, but the week of Christmas is a pretty craptastic time. However, I didn’t think it would be right to pretend everything is ok just because it was Christmas when I knew in my heart that we should not be together.

I don’t blame his travel schedule for the break up – I think it just put a magnifying glass to some flaws in our relationship.

I’m proud of myself for choosing to walk away – for putting my wants and needs first and recognizing that we were not right for each other, and that our differences were irreconcilable. In the short term, it would have been easier to stay with him as I did love spending time with him. In the long run, though, I would have been short changing myself.

It’s been a tough couple of weeks, but it gets better each day. While our relationship may seem brief to some people, I fell hard and I fell fast. I did not talk about him much on this blog but he was a very big part of my life for the last 3+ months.

I have no hard feelings towards the Barrister. We ended things before any feelings of anger or resentment had a chance to develop. I still care for him and wish our story would have ended differently.

Why is a question I have asked myself a lot over the past weeks.

Why do I keep getting my heart broke? Why do others seem to find their true love so easily and at such a young age while I continue to struggle through these break ups. Why does it have to hurt so much?

Tell me…

But I just spin in circles when I ask questions like these. I am working on accepting the fact that I don't have all the answers.

But when I find myself feeling down, I pull up this quote found on this lovely blog.

And it gives me hope.

* Lyrics are from Why by Annie Lennox...