Friday, March 30, 2012

Not a Joker

One word that does NOT describe me is joker.  I don't like pranks or practical jokes.  Mostly this is because I am a really gullible (and possibly too trusting) person, so I fall for anything.  Example:  last summer  my brother posted a pic on Facebook of a crab they were making for dinner and he said they had caught it in the lake.  Both my sister Abby and I were like - wow, you caught that?  Part of me thought - wow, can you catch eatable crab in a lake in North Dakota?  Yah, my sister and I were the laughing stalk of Facebook that night!!  I took this one well because I could see how ridiculous it was that I actually thought they caught a crab in a lake.   But I usually don't take it well when I fall for pranks. 

Why am I mentioning this?  Well, April Fool's is this weekend.  I HATE THIS HOLIDAY.  Seriously.  Ok, it's not really a holiday, but I just hate this observed day of trickery and pranking.  I am really glad it falls on a Sunday this year because that means I can basically not talk to anyone, which means I won't fall for any April Fools pranks!  Woo hoo! 

Yes, my disdain for April Fool's day probably makes me sound like someone who takes life too seriously.  The thing is, I love telling and hearing funny stories and jokes.  But pranks and outright trickery?  Not for this girl.

Are you a fan of April Fool's Day? 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Race Decision = Made!

For the last 6+ months, I have been hemming and hawing over what marathon to do this fall.  I know what some of you are thinking - "is this a decision that needed to be made at this moment?"  No, it didn't.  But I am a planner.  It's in my nature.  I already know I am running the Chicago Marathon in 2013, so it felt weird to not be able to make a decision about a marathon for this fall!

My initial thoughts were that I'd either run the NYC marathon (which requires a lottery entry), Marine Corp Marathon in DC, or City of Oaks Marathon in Raleigh.  

Then the bills for my sinus surgery started to roll in... which required me to meet my out-of-pocket maximum.  Within the first 6 weeks of the year.  Ouch.  

So I had to go back to the drawing board. Yes, I could have tapped into savings and done one of those destination races, but it would have felt irresponsible.  So I started to look around for other races that are a driveable distance away.  After doing some research, weighing my options, and sending multiple 'what should I do' emails to Amber, I made my decision.

I'll be running the IMT Des Moines Marathon on October 21st, 2012!

I chose this course because:
  • The course is mostly flat - there are some 'hills' in miles 1-5, but they sound pretty benign
  • It's a short, easy drive from Minneapolis (3.5 hours)
  • The race registration fee was cheap compared to other marathons (bargain price of $68, some are over $100 so that's a deal) and hotel options are reasonable as well.
  • Bart Yasso is going to be there.  I have done a lot of Yasso 800's - I can't wait to hear this guy speak at the expo!
  • It's 2 weeks after Nora's wedding, which means I'll be in taper mode at that point and won't have to try to fit in a 20 mile run the weekend of her wedding!
It feels really good to have my decision made!  My training won't 'officially' start until June, but in the mean time, I'll be building up my endurance and doing the same workouts as those in my group who are training for spring marathons (except my long runs are way shorter - max of 8 mi lately).  I'm really excited to see how I do at this marathon - my run club has made me such a stronger runner, I feel like a PR is within my reach.  But most of all, I'm really excited to get back on a marathon training plan, especially now that I have the support and camaraderie of my fellow run club friends (and virtual running buddies afar, of course)!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Why I Love Minneapolis - v1

Happy Monday!  I hope you enjoyed your weekend!  We had another weekend of unseasonably high (and wonderful) temps.  It will cool down a bit this week, but it's still nicer than our usual March (last year we had a blizzard this week), so I will not complain one bit!  Plus the cooler temps will cool down my hot box of a condo (they haven't switched our system from heating to cooling yet).

As I mentioned in my post last week, this spring has been challenging for me.  There is a lot of things I could focus on that tend to bring me down instead of lift me up.  That said, I fully recognize that happiness is a choice.  There are some tough things I can focus on (like the 36-40% pass rate for the CFA), or I can try to de-emphasize (is that a word?) those aspects and instead focus on the good things in my life.  Like the fact that I live in a city that I truly love and adore.

I sometimes lose sight of the fact that I am blessed to live where I live - so I am borrowing a post series that Kelly started, titled the "I Love Boston" project, and have decided to do a series of posts about why I love Minneapolis.  I figure it will force me to focus on the positive - and probably try some new things! And maybe it will make you want to come and visit! :)

I love Minneapolis because it is a wonderful city for running.

For my inaugural post, I thought I'd start with something that has been on my mind even more lately now that my running club season has started:  running.  Minneapolis is a wonderful city to run in!  You don't have to take my world for it, though, as Forbes magazine chose it as one of the "10 Best Cities for Runners"!  We have miles upon miles of running trails, an active running community, and runner-friendly weather.  Yes, it gets cold and snowy in the winter, but if you have the will to run, you can make winter running work.

I thought I'd share some photos of the areas that I love to run, all taken by Amber on her trip to visit me last summer!

Amber is standing on an area of a running path that is about 1.5 miles from my condo.  I run this loop a couple of times a week - it's so peaceful running next to the Mississippi River, and I love running back towards the Minneapolis skyline!

That first bridge in this photo is called the Stone Arch Bridge.  It's a pedestrian bridge located right by my condo.  Most of the runs in my neighborhood start and end by this bridge.

Lastly, this is the running path by my favorite lake, Lake Harriet.  I prefer to run by water as I find it so calming. so I have logged countless miles running around this lake when training for the various marathons and half-marathons I've done.

Finding a running club (with no kilt-wearing runners) has also made me appreciate the Minneapolis running community!

On Saturday our club had a water stop by the famous bunny statue, so some of us stopped to snap a quick picture!

For me, it is so important for a city to be running-friendly.  If I ever had to move, I would definitely take that into consideration as through my travels I have definitely come to find that some cities are more runner-friendly than others (like Chicago!  One of the best cities for runners in my opinion!)

What is one thing you love about the city you live in?  Is your city runner-friendly?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dairy Free Friday: Chicken, sausage, and Rice Skillet

Phew, after the heavy, soul-baring post from yesterday, I think it's time for something a little lighter!  It's been a long time since I've done a dairy free Friday post, so I think I'm due to share a great recipe with you. 

I will start by saying it is not gourmet.  Heck, most of the stuff coming out my kitchen isn't.  I need easy, comfort food that yields great leftovers as I only cook once a week.  I stumbled up on this recipe in my local newspaper and decided to give this one-pot-wonder a whirl!

For starters, here are the ingredients:

• 6 skinless chicken thighs
• 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 2 tsp. olive oil
• 12 oz. turkey or turkey-kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/2 -in. slices (I used turkey kielbasa)
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 1 red bell pepper, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves chopped
• 2 c. medium-grain rice
• 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
• 4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
• 1 medium tomato, chopped
•1/2 c. frozen peas

Preheat over to 400F.  Heat oil in large, over-proof skillet.  Salt and pepper the chicken, and brown chicken on medium high ~4 min on each side - you could use chicken breasts to make it lower-fat.

Remove chicken and brown sausage.

Remove sausage, reduce heat to low, and saute onion, red pepper, and garlic.

Add rice, thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Stir to combine.
Add chicken broth and tomatoes, bring to boil.  Add chicken and sausage. Place in over and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, add peas (I had a hard time stirring the peas in as my skillet was so full!).  Bake for another 10 minutes.

And voila!  A huge meal that makes awesome, delicious leftovers.

 So there you have it!  A simple, but good meal!

Have you made any new recipes lately that you've been happy with? 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hitting the Wall

As I mentioned in my post on Monday, I have been in quite the funk lately.  I don't think that will come as a surprise to anyone who knows me well.  Between recovering from my surgery, managing the stress of potential (but yet to be announced) changes at work, and most of all, studying for the CFA, it's been a tough couple of months for me.

There is this concept of "hitting a wall" when you run a marathon - it usually happens around mile 20.  The physiological explanation is that your body runs out of glycogen and has to burn fat (which is an extremely inefficient source of energy) to keep you going.  Your legs feel heavy and you just kind of want the race to be over.  But most runners don't quit.  They power through because, dangit, you've ran 20 miles.  You can do 6.2.

The last month, I have hit a metaphorical wall when it comes to studying.  I am exhausted.  I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and after June 2nd, I'll get my free time back, but right now I am worn out and stressed out.

But this is where past marathon training experiences come into play and help give me perspective.  I think back on the two marathons I've ran and remember times when I felt defeated.  Beat up.  Tired.  But I pushed through those walls I hit in the past, just as I am pushing through the wall I have hit lately.

This is not intended to be a "woe is me, I want your sympathy" post.  I know I signed up for this - no one forced me to pursue the CFA designation.  This is me saying - it is really freaking hard, and I am really tired.  And I have a short fuse.  And I hate it when people ask what is new because the only response I can come up with is whatever section of the CFA books I am tackling that week.  And gah - I don't really like the person I am most days because I am so moody and over-sensitive and prone to tears.  

But this too shall pass.  I know this.  This funk I am in is situational and temporary.  And it's already starting to get a little better, thanks to the nice weather we've had lately.  I know that the clouds will part on June 2nd and I'll fall back in love with my life in Minneapolis, just like I did last year.  In the mean time, I'm trying to stay focused and positive.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thank You, Mother Nature

As evidenced by the grilling photo yesterday, the weather has been amazing lately.  One might think that the photo above was taken last summer. But no - this was taken last Tuesday.  On March 13.

Let's just pause and recognize the fact that last March 13th I was probably trudging through snow.  This year I was getting my sweat on in shorts and a t-shirt.

I know that mother nature giveth, and mother nature can taketh, but dangit, I am enjoying these temps.  It was 60 degrees when I started my long run on Saturday.  At 7 in the morning.  On March 17th. The temperatures topped out around 80 degrees.

Perhaps this year we will actually get a spring.  Or it could snow next week.  You never know.  Last year, we certainly didn't get a spring -which explains why I really can't find any spring clothes in my closet.  You see, last year we went from winter to summer.  This weather appears to be sticking around, so to reward myself for paying off my medical bills, I took advantage of a 50% off coupon for Banana Republic and bought a few spring items.  I'll likely show you what I bought at the end of the month when I do my Music, Books, Miles, and Looks post.  Having some new outfits that I am excited to wear definitely puts a spring in my step!

How has the weather been in your neck of the woods?  Is it unseasonably warm (and fabulous) like my weather?  Here's hoping it sticks around!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Productive Weekend

Greetings and Happy Monday!  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!  Mine was great and it was super, duper productive.

I started the weekend off on the right foot and met Raquelita, her husband, and some of her friends for dinner.  I was supposed to run a half marathon with her on Saturday, but decided to bow out a couple of week ago as I just didn't build my mileage up fast enough after my surgery. 

Raquelita's husband snapped this picture of us at dinner!  What do you know, I'm wearing stripes!  Shocking!  ;)

Besides having dinner on Friday night, I also fit the following into the weekend...
  • Shopped for some new spring items (I had a 50% off coupon for Banana Republic, I couldn't resist)
  • Bought shoes for Amber's wedding 
  • Ran 8 miles with my running club - which went really, really good.  I maintained a 9:30 pace, which I was really happy with.
  • Studied a total of 11 hours between Saturday and Sunday
  • Baked GF chocolate chip cookies (from a mix, gf baking from scratch is just not for me) to bring to a girls night dinner in on Saturday night.  They were delicious, no one could tell they were gluten free!
  • Finished a great book
  • Video chatted with this lovely lady
  • Walked to the grocery store for the first time in months
  • Tried a new recipe
  • And ended the weekend doing this...

Yep, I grilled in March.  While wearing a dress.  And sweating.  Minnesota is the new Arizona, people.

I've been in a terrible funk lately (more on that later this week), but this weekend, I took a giant leap towards feeling like myself again.

How was your weekend?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mid-Month Money Manifesto - Month 3

Greetings!  It's time for another Mid-Month Money Manifesto post.  First I'd like to highlight a couple of great posts that have been floating around the internet lately.  Misris posted about 5 steps to fiscal responsibility.  This girl has paid off all of her student loan debt and is in her 20s, so clearly she knows what she is doing!  And then Ashley posted about How to Get out of Debt.  She has a blog that chronicles her journey towards becoming debt free which is really inspiring as she did it by working 55+ hours a week on top of being a full-time PhD student.  Inspiring stuff! 

Anyways, back to the post at hand.  Since the beginning of the year, I've really worked hard on getting a handle on my cash flow.  What I mean by this is that I have done a lot of analysis of what is comes in (rent from my tenants + paychecks from work) and what goes out each month.  While you may have months where you spend more than you made (like this month when I am using savings to pay off medical bills), in general, it's obviously not a good idea to spend more than you are making.  But in the cash-less society we live in, it's easy to get out of touch with your cash flow situation - especially if you aren't considering purchases being made with a credit card. 

I needed to get a handle on what I had left each month so I could set up some realistic goals for additional payments to put towards debt.  There are lots of great tools out there, but I have been using an online money map application that my bank provides - it tracks all spending between my checking/savings/credit card accounts, and classifies those expenses by type (restaurants, retail stores, groceries, mortgage, etc).  I know there are other programs out there, such as that do something similar. 

In addition to getting a handle on my cash flow, I also set a budget for each spending category and have been holding myself accountable to those budgets.  That means watching what I spend on groceries, meals outs, and places like Target.  It hasn't been easy, but it's nice to see that cushion between what I earned and what I spent grow each month. 

Do you pay attention to the cushion between what you earn and what you spend?  Do you use any applications, like to track your spending habits?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Running with 5 Senses

Happy Wednesday - I hope everyone's weeks are going great thus far.  As I've mentioned before, I feel a bit spread thin these days.  The hours of each day are filled with work, studying, and running.  When life gets busy, I kind of tend to put myself on auto-pilot.  I've never been a "stop and smell the roses" person because I am too busy speed walking past the roses to even notice that they put off a scent.

But that's really no way to live life...  As the saying goes, the days are long, but the years are short.  So lately, I've been trying to be a bit more 'present' in my day to day life and one area I have been focusing on is running.  Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to be able to lace up my Mizuno's, walk out my front door, and run in a gorgeous area of Minneapolis.  In an effort to be more 'present' when running, I've tried to run with my 5 senses.

I listen to the rhythmic pattern of my breathing.

I smell the indescribable smell of spring.

I taste refreshing, clean water during breaks and at the end of my run.

I feel my feet hit the running path.

I see the calm waters of the mighty Mississippi and the rushing waters of St. Anthony Falls.

By paying attention to the sensory feedback, I enjoy running more than I would have otherwise.   And I feel more fulfilled after those runs. 

Do you tend to rush through life or are you good at stopping and smelling the roses? 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Last Weekend...

Happy Monday, everyone!  I hope you all had a great weekend.  Mine was busy, but wonderful.  The highlight of the weekend was attending the baby showers of 2 good college friends who are due a week apart in May!  One was a morning brunch shower, the other was an evening dinner shower.  Both were so well planned and it was so much fun to get together with girls that I don't see often enough.  We are far-flung now as one lives in Manhattan, one lives in Chicago, and another lives in Fargo, ND.  I miss the days of us all living closer, but being far apart makes me appreciate the time together even more.

Besides attending those showers, I packed in a lot of studying, took advantage of the beautiful weather and ran outside on Saturday and Sunday, and made a new recipe, which I will likely share with you at some point.  So all in all, a fun, productive weekend!

How was your weekend?  Do you live close to your college friends or are you far-flung like my group?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Things You Didn't Know About Me...

Happy Friday!  This week has been better than expected.  It started off wonderfully by finding out that my dad is cancer free!  Getting that news really put life in perspective for me - my dad's health trumps all other concerns.  I am still waiting for the reorg changes to be announced at work, but I know no matter what happens, I'll figure it out. 

San did this post earlier this week.  It was fun to read and I learned a lot about her, so I am borrowing it from her!

I am very disciplined.
I think I am a logical person.
I know I am far from perfect.
I have a wonderful family and group of friends that bring meaning to my life.
I wish I was not so hard on myself.
I hate feeling like I will be late for something.
I miss family/friends that live far away.
I fear that I will never get married.
I hear the sound of my furnace.
I smell the french cade & lavender candle on my coffee table.
I crave pickles.
I search for ways to be better at my job.
I wonder if I will run a 4:10 marathon this fall.
I regret buying my condo.
I love reading.
I ache for Paris.
I am not a patient person.
I believe in God.
I dance at wedding dances.
I sing along with music in my head on runs.
I cry very easily.
I fight for what I believe in.
I win banagram games most of the time (unless I play my uncle Paul. He always wins)
I lose most cribbage games that I play against my dad.
I never leave the house without making my bed.
I always remember that I am blessed to have healthy nieces/nephews.
I confuse the words "lend" and "borrow."
I listen actively.
I can usually be found studying at my dining room table most evenings.
I am scared of snakes, spiders, and other creepy crawly thinigs.
I need order in my life.
I am happy about the progress I am making on my CFA studying.
I imagine a life where I am a CFA charterholder and can be done with tests for good.

Using some of these prompts, what are some things I don't know about you?

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Highs and Lows of Being Home

I hope everyone had a great weekend!  Even though mine was a 3 day weekend, it went by way too fast (as they always do).  I'm so glad I got a chance to get home.  I am pretty sure it's the last time I will see my parents until after the CFA exam in June as I just don't see how I can go home over Easter and miss out on all studying...  Oh well, such is the life of an adult.

Here are some of the highs/lows of my trip....

  • Spending quality time with my parents.  I got to their place around 7:15 on Thursday so had a good 2-2.5 hours to just sit and talk before we went to bed.  My dad is recovering well and his incisions look really good (he has 6!  yikes!).  
  • I slept so well at my parents.  I think it's because I sleep in the basement there so it's extra dark.  I forgot to pack my sleep mask (I am addicted to my sleep mask) but it didn't seem to bother me too much, so that is good!
  • Spending time with my grandma.  It's not common for me to get my grandma all to myself since I usually see her at family events, so I really treasure the one-on-one talks.  She let me pick out some books and something from her china cabinet.  I picked out a cup and saucer that is so beautiful!  See for yourself... 

    • My boss called on Friday with some not news about potential changes happening at work.  Nothing is official yet, but if/when these changes happen, it will significantly impact my quality of life at work.  I spent most of the day in tears. 
    • The roads were so bad!  It was really windy on Friday so the snow was blowing across the road, which resulted in icy roads.  The drive to and from the wedding should have taken 50 minutes each way, and instead took 90.  I did not stay very long at the wedding  because I knew I had a long drive ahead of me and it had already been a long day for me.  
    • I had to turn down my grandma's offer of a game of scrabble as I had to get back to studying.  I hated saying no, but I had a certain number of hours I needed to put in on Friday.  She understood, and we will just have to play this summer when this darn test is behind me!
    All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.  I really didn't want to leave my parents' house on Saturday morning.  I wanted to stay in the cocoon of safety and comfort that only your parents can provide. 

    I have a really busy week ahead of me between studying, work stuff, and 2 baby showers this weekend (which I am really looking forward to!), so I probably won't be blogging much, if at all.  I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    Bittersweet, Whirlwind Trip

    Happy Friday everyone!  Yesterday was actually my Friday at work.  I have a wedding tonight in Fargo, ND so I decided to drive home last night and am using today as a study day, so it's not really a "day off" per se, but I'll take what I can get. 

    I am taking a study break to have lunch with my grandma today, though, and am really looking forward to that.  It will be a bit of a bittersweet experience as she is moving into an apartment in about 2 weeks.  My grandparents lived in this home for their entire marriage (I think?  Or close - so 60+ years).  He passed away 3 years ago and the time has come for her to move.  I know this is a very positive change for her as this house is so big and a lot for her to care for, but it's weird to think it's my last meal that I will likely eat in their home...  a home which holds so many memories.  But I feel blessed to have made so many countless memories with my grandparents.  And those memories will always exist, regardless of who occupies that home in the future.

    The day will end on a positive note as I will watch a college friend get married.  We were the last 2 single ones in our group, and lived parallel lives in our late 20s as we both went through tough break ups within days of each other back in 2008.  We exchanged 100s of emails and both continuously told the other person that there IS someone out there for each of us - well, he has found that person, and I am so very happy for him. 

    I will head back early on Saturday morning as the CFA studying beckons...  So it will be a bittersweet, whirlwind trip, but one I am looking forward to.  I am going to try to soak up the limited time I will have with my parents as it is likely the last time I will see them until after my CFA exam in June.  But at least that point I will be able to join them at their beautiful lake home! 

    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    Music, Books, Miles, and Looks of February

    Most months I'm all, "whoa, that month went fast, slow down time!"  But February was not my best month, for a plethora of reasons, so I am welcoming the month of March with open arms and am hoping it's way better than February was!


    Shake It Out by Florence + The Machine - I love this song.  It's been my mantra for the month and on particularly crappy days, I have listened to this on repeat on my walk to and from work.  I'm posting a video of a live performance of this song.  I was hoping to see this band live in April, but the concert sold out before my friend was able to buy tickets.  :(

     I read a lot of books in February - more than one might think I'd find time to read given my rigorous work and study schedule (I studied 62 hours in the month of February, 20 more hours than I studied in January).  The thing is, most days I don't turn my tv on and I've watched 1 movie this year (besides when I was recovering from surgery).  If I have free time, I tend to spend it reading and I try to read for at least 30-60 minutes before going to bed to calm my mind.

    Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - We read this for our blogger book club (hosted here and open to anyone who is interested) and I really enjoyed it.  It was slow at first, but the mysterious nature of the book drew me in!

    Divergent by Veronica Roth - I really liked The Hunger Games series, so this was recommended to me as a book that is similar.  It's a Young Adult book, which usually isn't a genre I enjoy, but I really liked this book (and it's a super fast read, I read most of it on my plane rides to/from Charlotte).

    22 Brittania Road by Amanda Hodgkinson - I bought this on my Nook ages ago and finally got around to reading it now that I am on my book buying fast.  It's a novel set during the post-WWII era.  It was a little bit disappointing, though.  I didn't hate the book, but I didn't love it and it's not something I would recommend to others.

    Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares - I read the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books when my sister was at the target age for these books - and loved them!  So when I found out there was a '10 years later' sequel, I had to check it out.  It did not disappoint and I stayed up past my bedtime a couple of nights - and read this in 3 days - because I just HAD to see how it would all turn out.

    The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan - This is a cute book based upon words in the dictionary.  Each word is accompanied by a short vignette.  It's a fast, fun read.  Amber wrote a really good review here if you'd like a better explanation of the book!


    This was a better running month for me.  I am not even going to add it up because I know I will be disappointed, but know I need to adjust my expectations and realize my mileage will be lower when I am in maintenance phase.  I'm keeping up with running 3 x's/week and biking 1-2 x's, which I am happy with for now.  My run club started up again last night, so I expect my mileage to increase next month.


    This was my favorite outfit from February - I got the shirt from my friend Heidi.  She clearly knows me well since she picked out my favorite color!  I've already worn it twice this month!

    But besides liking this outfit, I felt pretty ho-hum about everything else I wore.  I may have even cried one morning because I felt like I looked so frumpy (the fact that I was over-tired may have something to do with it.  I'm usually more rational than that).  I'm ready for spring and feel like I need new clothes, but at the same time, I don't feel like I can/should spend money on new clothes right now, so I am going to have to get creative with my wardrobe...