Monday, January 30, 2012

Chicago Recap - Belatedly

Oh wow, it's already been 2 weeks since our girls trip to Chicago.  Between parlaying that fun trip into a work trip, having sinus surgery, and recovering from sinus surgery, I can honestly say the last 2 weeks of my life have been a foggy blur.

But here are some of the memories I am holding onto...
  • The delicious meal + wine we had when I arrived on Friday night.  I got in late because of a flight delay, but I let the frustration of that experience go and focused on enjoying the company of Becky, Amber, and Lesli.
  • On Saturday we went out to Oak Park and toured Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio.  I do not like FLW as a person, but I do respect him as an architect.  His home and studio are amazing - and are definitely worth checking out if you find yourself in the Chicago area.  The girls all loved this as much as I did, which was a relief for me as it was something I had recommended.
  • On Sunday, I feasted upon delicious paella at an awesome Spanish restaurant and then we spent a low key afternoon in a Barnes & Noble. That's my kind of day. Oh and I stayed strong and did NOT buy any books!
  • Ordering Thai on Sunday night, watching the red carpet + Golden Globes and having my nails painted by Amber and Becky.  I got star treatment!
  • The conversations.  Chicago is wonderful, but it came second to the talks us girls had about everything from blogging to friendship dynamics to dating/marriage to FLW to books we thought the others HAD to read.  We also FaceTimed with Amber, which was so much fun!!
  • My business meetings went really well - so well that one of the clients sent me a very kind and complimentary email.  I am still new to client meetings, so I needed that positive reinforcement.
I'll close with a couple of shots that the lovely Becky took!

Brunch at Yolk! 

Waiting for the El.  Or the L.  We got mixed answers on the 'right' nickname for Chicago's public transportation system!

Becky & I
Do you have any vacations coming up?  I am done with fun vacations until after the CFA.  My next trip will be my trip to western British Columbia for Amber's wedding in July!  Eeks - so excited!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Surgery

Greetings everyone.  I thought I'd do a quick post to let you all know that surgery went well!  It was more painful than I had anticipated, but I know it will be worth it.  Here's a "Good/Bad/Ugly" summary of my surgery...

The Good
- My mom was here to take care of me.  She was a nurse so is so very very good at this.  I am incredibly thankful that she was here for me.  Also, she bought me flowers on Friday, which was a wonderful surprise.  And she brought me a French-phrase-a-day calendar to cheer me up. :)
- It turns out that I had what you could call a ruptured sinus which was causing all of my sinus problems.  The doctor was able to fix this and told my mom I never would have gotten over this sinus infection without surgery because of that ruptured sinus.  It was really good to have immediate validation that getting surgery was the right decision.

The Bad
- This surgery was painful.  I totally underestimated how painful it would be.  I am not bouncing back as quickly as I thought I would, which means I have to use up more vacation time that I would like.  :(
- I can not blow my nose for 10 days.  This is DRIVING ME CRAZY.

The Ugly
- In a word, Friday was ugly.  I got very sick from the pain pills/aftermath of the surgery/etc.  It was like having the stomach flu while having the worst headache of your life.  My mom picked up a prescription for an anti-nausea med, though, and luckily that has helped!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!  I'll be taking the rest of the week away from blogging, but hope to be back next week!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Surgery Day

Greetings and Happy Friday!  I hope every had a great week.  I had a wonderful trip to Chicago, but am so far behind in life, I haven't had a chance to blog about it!  I'll get to it eventually...

Today is my sinus surgery.  People have asked if I am nervous or scared.  Up until last night, my answer was - no, not really.  Honestly, I just want it to be over with so I can get back to feeling healthy.  I've been battling a sinus infection since late September.  That's a long time to not feel 100%...  The nerves did start to set in last night, but I think that's only natural.

I've had surgeries before so I know how it all works.  I am most nervous for the anesthesia part because I HATE how I feel when I wake up.  I've been put under twice and both times I woke up a crying, disorientated mess.  Those last 2 times I was 16 and 18 so it was totally fine to be crying.  But crying at the age of 30?  Sort of embarrassing.  So hopefully I can hold it together and am not too much of a hot mess when I come to after the procedure.

Luckily my  mom will be here to take care of me. She brought home made chicken wild rice with her and will make other things if I crave them.  It sure feels great to be taken care of.  I am not very good terrible at asking for help, but I know in this case, I have to accept the help that is being offered.  Plus, that is sort of what moms are for!

I'll be absent from the blogosphere most of next week as I recover and try to catch back up on life!  But I will try to keep up on what you are all up to!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mid-Month Money Manifesto - Month 1

Greetings and Happy Monday from Chicago!  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend - mine was fabulous and it's not really over with as I have today off since it's a holiday here in the states.  I'm waiting until I am home to do a recap post, so that will come with time (after my surgery most likely!).

Today I am kicking off a monthly feature:  Mid-Month Money Manifesto.  As I said in my 2012 goals post, one of my goals for 2012 is to save more.  For me, in order to achieve a goal, I need to hold myself accountable and revisit that goal on a regular basis.  So this monthly blog post is my opportunity to do that.

The definition of manifesto is:  a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.  Pretty much the perfect word to use in my alliterative post theme title (here I go again with the alliterations).  It seems like many of us have financial goals, so hopefully these posts will be helpful to you and we can all learn from each other!

When you are trying to make changes in your life, I think it's good to start off by focusing on what is currently working well for you.  Here are some of the changes I've made in the past that will help me achieve my financial goals:

1.  401k.  10% of my paycheck goes into my 401k at work.  It's a pre-tax contribution, and it's a contribution that I don't really 'feel' because I've always contributed to a 401k since I started with my employer - I just try to bump up my contribution by 1% each year.

2.  Pay yourself first.  If you read any books about financial management, the authors often stress the importance of paying yourself first.  My 401k contribution is one way of paying myself first, but I also have an automatic deposit set up so that $100 of every paycheck goes into my ING savings account.  I am a BIG fan of ING.  Their interest rates tend to be higher than brick-and-mortar banks, and it takes about 3-4 business days to transfer funds out of the savings account - which keeps you from making impulse purchases.  The $100/paycheck is a bare minimum that gets saved each month.  I keep an eye on my checking account balance and when it gets to a certain point, I transfer funds to the ING account. But lately, I have not been transferring funds over, which means I am spending more than I should, hence the saving goal.

3.  Latte Friday.  For awhile there, I was drinking a large latte almost every weekday!  That is like $5/day, which equals about $1300/year.  Yikes!  Those little, daily expenses add up so fast, so 2 years ago, I enacted Latte Friday.  Now I make coffee at home and bring it to work in a thermos and treat myself to a latte on Fridays.  I definitely appreciate that latte a whole lot more than I did when I was having them every day. 

4.   Packed Lunches.  Since I work downtown and am surrounded by restaurants and take-away places, it's so tempting to eat out.  But a lunch out averages around $7 at most places, and that adds up fast.  So this fall I have really tried to only eat out once a week.  I struggle with this from time to time because it requires planning and preparation on the weekend, and many of my co-workers eat out every. single. day.  

So that is what is currently working for me.  I know I have lots of areas of opportunity for tightening the belt on spending, but at least I've got a somewhat solid foundation to build upon.

What are some changes you've made to improve your financial situation? 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wine and Love - 2012 v1

It's been awhile since I've done a wine & love post, so I thought I'd participate this week!  Nora is the host, hop over to her blog to link up with her!

- Packing for a 5 day trip in a carry-on is so challenging.  But I am just too cheap to pay to check a bag, and I hate waiting for luggage as it wastes so much time.  It's especially challenging because I have to bring 2 different business suits - which are so bulky!  And I usually try to bring my hot rollers (that is so not happening this trip most likely)  Ay yi yi.  This is going to be interesting.  But really, I feel sheepish even complaining about this because a good chunk of the trip *is* a vacation.
- I'm a little worried about how much I am going to have to pay out-of-pocket for my surgery...  My employer changed health plans this year, and everyone is required to do a high-deductible plan...  I won't bore you with the details, but basically, I think I am going likely have to pay for a decent chunk of the bill.  I know the surgery will be worth it, I just wish it wasn't so expensive.

- Erin made my favorite crock pot recipe this week - and LOVED it!  I always get nervous recommending things to people, so it's a huge relief when they love what I recommended!
- My check point friendly backpack arrived this week, so the airport security process will be a bit smoother going forward.  What makes the backpack special is that you don't have to take your laptop out!  It's nice to skip that step!
- I get to see Becky, Amber, Nora, Nilsa, and Lesli this weekend when I am in Chicago!  I can't wait for this girls weekend to Chicago.  We'll be visiting Frank Lloyd Wright's home & studio (a must do if you are going to Chicago, IMO), enjoying the delicious food Chicago has to offer, doing lots of walking, painting our nails, and drinking lots of coffee, I think.  Should be a wonderful weekend!
- Mandy sent me a beautiful sunshine yellow 9x13 fiestaware dish as an early Birthday present.  Which means I MUST have a dinner party soon and put it to use!

What's your wine/love of the week?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday Miscellany

Happy Monday.  As a lover of words, I love a good alliteration, so today I bring you Monday Miscellany.  Here's what's on my mind today....

1.  I ran 8 miles on Saturday, which is the longest I have ran since like October.  And it went really well!  I intended to run 6, but I ran into my run club so I turned around and ran a mile with them, adding 2 miles onto my run, which ended up being totally fine.  I actually had planned to run more than one mile with them, but I misread their route - oops!  Oh well, it was great seeing them for a mile.  I definitely want to get back to doing runs with them again. 

2.  CFA studying is going well, but it's definitely an inner battle to not beat myself up or get discourage.  I keep reminding myself I felt this way last year and succeeded.  It especially bugs me when they say something like, "this is an easy, straight forward way to do x."  Um, no, it's actually not easy or not straight forward.  At all.

3.  I was in Charlotte for work last week and it was 60 degrees on Friday!  Wow, that felt awesome.  We've had a really mild, wonderful winter here in Minnesota, so I won't complain about our temps but 60 degrees felt fan-freaking-tastic.  The trip itself?  Meh, but it's behind me.

4.  I'm heading on another trip this Friday - this time to Chicago!  Friday-Monday will be spent with friends, and then Tuesday-Wednesday I'll be doing client meetings with sales reps.  It's my 2nd trip to Chicago in 3 months - I'd be really happy if these Chicago trips ended up being a quarterly thing.  I won't get a chance to see my brother & his family on this trip, but hopefully on my next trip I can! 

5.  I come back from that Chicago trip and have my sinus surgery 2 days later.  I am actually really looking forward to having this surgery.  I don't feel as awful as I did October-December, but I don't feel great.  And this surgery should result in me feeling great (fingers crossed).  I just want it here and over with!

So... CFA studying + 5 day trip to Chicago for fun/work + sinus surgery = Sporadic posting for the rest of the month.  I'll check in on a somewhat regular basis - just don't be concerned if you don't hear from me for a couple of days.  It means I am up to my eye-balls in linear regression modeling or economic theory.  Don't be jealous. ;)

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Greetings and Happy Almost Friday!

As I mentioned in my 2012 Goals post last week, one of my goals for 2012 is to pass Level II of the CFA.  I have mentioned the CFA quite a bit on my blog, but I haven't really explained what it is, and since I get questions from time to time, I thought I'd do a post about it!

The Books

Those are the books.  I have 2 sets - the CFA Institute books on the left, and the Schweser supplemental materials on the right.  The supplemental books have "professor tips" in them that tell you what to focus on, but the main reason I get them is because they come with about 6 practice exams and an online program with tons of sample questions and case studies.

The Material & Study Schedule

The material is broken down into 9 main topics, and then further broken down into 18 study sessions, which are further broken down into readings.  The 9 main topics covered are Ethical & Professional Standards, Quantitative Methods, Economics, Financial Statement Analysis, Corporate Finance, Equity & Alternative Investments, Fixed Income, Derivatives, and Portfolio Management.

It's far from easy (see above equation, that's an example of one of the equations I studied this week).  But it's doable, with hard work and dedication.  I have had to let go of my expectations for how fast I will get through the material - it's painstakingly slow to get through some of it - for instance, on Monday I spent 5.5 hours going through a 48 page reading and the 30-40 associated problems...  I feel like I could possibly read a BOOK in 5.5  hours.  I usually try to study 3-4 week nights for 1-2 hours, and then 4-6 hours on Saturday and Sunday.  They CFA Institute recommends 15-20 hours/week, and that is about what I average each week. It's grueling as I will follow that study schedule from now until I take the test on June 2nd.  But at least I am studying during the least desirable weather conditions in Minnesota - studying in the summer or fall would be WAY WORSE. 

My Outlook 

Last year, I did not handle the stress of studying well - AT ALL.  I was really down and depressed, because a) it was extremely isolating to spend so much time in my condo alone, studying, and b) I felt like there was a strong chance I wouldn't pass because I struggled to retain information as I progressed through the material.

This year will be better.  It has to be.  It will help that I now live in an area where I can walk to the library or a coffee shop if I need to be around people.  My goal is to study at the library on the weekends as the change of scenery will be good for me, I think.  On days when I do study at home, I can play the piano when I need a study break, which will make a huge difference.  It will also help that I don't have an hour long commute home - instead I have a 20 minute walk, which means I'll have plenty of time to get a work out in and start studying by 6:30.  And last, but not least, I will have the confidence of passing the Level I to draw from when I start to get discouraged.

I'm nervous for level II as the format will be different from level I.  The pass rate is just as low as level I (36-40% pass, on average)  It features case studies with multiple choice questions instead of individual MC questions like level I.  There are half as many questions, so each one counts more.  The material is more difficult.  But I will work as hard as I can and hopefully, come July, I'll be celebrating another pass! 

The CFA program is BY FAR the most difficult thing I've ever committed myself to. But it's my CHOICE to do this - no one is forcing me; I am going to keep that in mind when I feel tempted to complain about it.  It's really important to my career and when it's all said & done, it will be so worth all the time and effort I'm putting into it. 

What is the hardest thing you've ever committed yourself to? 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Music, Books, Miles, and Looks of December


Winter Song by Sarah Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson - Oh my goodness, I was so excited when I found out 2 of my favorite artists recorded a song together.  This song is so beautiful.


Whoa, I read a lot this month.  But I knew it was my last month of freedom before CFA studying resumes, so I made the most of it.  Plus, I read a lot of light, easy reads, many of which were holiday-themed.

Holiday Books:
- The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck
- Christmas Jars Reunion by Jason Wright
- Lost December by Richard Paul Evans
- The Perfect Love Song by Patti Callahan Henry

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda - This made my top 5 of 2011 list!

The Wedding Letters, The Seventeen Second Miracle, & The Cross Gardener by Jason Wright - I loved The Wedding Letters, it was such a great sequel to The Wednesday Letters.  The other 2 books I read by this author were sort of disappointing, though.  Oh well, can't like them all, I suppose!

Divine by Karen Kingsbury - This was a Nook Free Book Friday book, so I picked it up.  I knew the author was a Christian author, but I didn't realize the extent of how religious her writing style was...  It was interesting as the story of the main character mirrors the life of Marry Magdalene, so it was an interesting concept, it was just a little too over-the-top religious for my liking...

- I did not track my mileage this month, but it was a better running month for me, and I also started biking again a couple of times a week.  Luckily our weather was really mild so many of my runs were done outside!  I much, much, much prefer running outdoors to running on the dreadmill!


This was my favorite look for December.  It's another dress I got for half off at Banana - I wore it tgo work and then swapped my purse for a wristlet and wore it to my condo building Christmas party.  I love outfits that are appropriate for work and social events.