Friday, June 29, 2012

Looking Forward - the Vacation Edition

Today is my last day of work until my vacation!  I am SO excited!  I have not had a day off from work that wasn't spent studying since January (and those days were spent recovering from surgery, so don't really count), so I am totally OVERDUE for this time off.  I'll be taking about 1.5 weeks off:  I'll spend the first 5 days at my parents' lake home, and then I fly out next Thursday for Amber's wedding!  So excited!

Here's a list of some of the things I'm looking forward to doing on this vacation:

- Lounging on the dock with a good book - I have lots to choose from as 4 physical books and 4 e-books became available this week!!  The library makes this whole not buying books thing very easy!
- Seeing all of my nephews and my niece.  I haven't seen my Chicago niece and nephew since Thanksgiving.  I will only get one day with them, but that is better than nothing!
- Seeing my sister Abby.  She lives in Arizona, so I only see her a couple of times a year.  But being apart makes me really appreciate the times I do get to see her.
- Catching up with my aunt and uncle from California.  I haven't seen them for almost 3 years.  I can't wait to sit on the dock and sip margaritas and rhubarb slush (a family summer classic!) with them.
- Playing scrabble with my grandma.  She will inevitably kick my butt!  I think I can beat her at bananagrams, though!  
- Finally meeting Kelly and Anais and their significant others.  After reading their blogs for years, I already know them, but meeting them face-to-face will be awesome!
- Getting a lot of quality time with Amber.  We will be sharing hotel rooms for most of this trip.  Also, Anais, Amber, and I will be doing a long run together on Saturday.  Amber ran the Vancouver marathon in May so knows exactly where to take us for a great run.
- Spending time in BC - which is one of my favorite areas to visit!
- Last, but certainly not least, being a part of Amber's wedding.  It is such an honor to be asked to be a bridesmaid.  Amber has been such a low key, calm bride; I hope I am like her when/if I get married some day!  I just know the wedding day is going to be so much fun!

I'll be posting sporadically until I leave on Thursday.  After that, I likely won't post until I return.  But you can always check out Amber or Kelly's blog as I have a feeling one or both of them will do some posts when we are together!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Giving Gardening a Go

I have never had a green thumb.  No, really, I am not being modest.  Go read this post where I almost killed this plant that I took home from my grandpa's funeral.

Those leaves are not supposed to be dropping like that...  It was like the tree on Charlie Brown Christmas - just sad

 My mom rescued the plant and it's alive and thriving.

You see, she has always been a masterful gardener.  Growing up, I had NO IDEA people actually bought produce in grocery stores.  Most of what we ate came form our garden, from potatoes to carrots to green beans to tomatoes to squash to - well, you name it, we grew it.  Truth be told, I was a whiny little child that did not appreciate the garden as it represented work.  Oh how I would whine and mope when my mom would ask me to go pick some green beans for dinner.  Now I am an adult and am envious of the produce my younger self had access to! 

This year, though, I decided to move outside of my comfort zone and give gardening another go.  My patio is pretty small, but there is certainly room for some plants.  I got a bit of a late start as I didn't get a chance to shop for plants until after the CFA exam, so I bought these little guys in their 'teen' stage of life.

Day 1 at Casa de Lisa.  L to R:  Roma tomatoes, green pepper, romaine lettuce, and a beef steak-type tomato

There was a week there where I really thought they were not going to make it...  My tomato plants started to yellow and they started to droop like the plant I had nearly killed in the past...  But then I exchanged a flurry of tweets with San and Kyria, who are also raising patio gardens, and I figured out I was actually under watering everything. After changing my watering routine from every other day to daily, the plants bounced back.  Phew.

They appear to be thriving now, which makes me so excited!

So imagine my excitement when I went to water them last week and found a bunch of little tomatoes!!

It's the little things in life, I tell you.  I've got about 8 tomatoes growing, which makes me so happy as I eat tomatoes like they are apples. 

I just love the outdoor space of my condo.  This is the first place I've lived where I have actually made great use of my outdoor space.  From the little bistro set where I've entertained family and friends to my new Weber charcoal grill, to my little patio garden, it's the perfect little outdoor space for me.  And of course, the view sure doesn't hurt.  ;)

Luckily, a good friend will be taking care of my plants while I am gone.  Her husband is apparently a watering fanatic so I know they are in good hands.  :) 

Do you have a backyard or patio?  Do you have a green thumb? 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Superfood Sunday

Greetings and happy Tuesday.  4 days until my vacation starts!  :)  Woo hip!  With a vacation in sight, there isn't anything that can bring me down!  Add in the fact that I am going to see "Roman Holiday" on Thursday with The Running Historian, and well, this week is shaping up to be awesome!

You know what else is awesome?  Some of the foods I've been eating lately - especially this past Sunday.  I find that the more active I am, the more my body craves foods that are good for me.  That was definitely the case this past weekend.

Between my gluten intolerance and the fact that I try to avoid dairy most days (I have it about once a week), people often ask, "what DO you eat?"  So I thought I'd share some of what I ate this past Sunday.

1.  Morning Snack:  I used my new magic bullet (purchased with a gift card I've been hoarding for 18 months) to make a smoothie with fresh strawberries, blueberries, banana, OJ, and ice.

2.  Post-yoga snack: A diced avocado with salt and pepper.  This is one of my favorite snacks. Yes, avocados are a higher calorie/fat snack, but I feel justified in snacking on these given the number of calories I am burning!  Plus, it's a 'good' fat that your body needs!

3.  Late Lunch:  I grilled salmon for the first time and it turned out great!  I rubbed it with a little olive oil, and added salt and pepper, capers, fresh lemon juice, and a couple of lemon slices, wrapped it in foil, and grilled it on each side for about 3-5 minutes.  It turned out perfect!

The filet was a generous portion so I saved half of it for a dinner later in the week, and pair the salmon with some grilled zucchini.  

In addition to the food shown above, I also had toast with peanut butter, coffee, chips & guacamole, and a lot of pickles!!

So there you have it - some great gluten free + dairy free foods that are healthy and satisfying! 

Do you tend to eat more healthy foods when you are more active?  Have you made any new, healthy recipes lately?  I am hoping to try a few new recipes when I am at my parents' lake home over the 4th!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Marathon Madness Monday: Week 1

The first week of marathon training is in the books - and it was a good one!  My mileage is starting off on the low end, but I am happy with the number of miles I ran this week.  My run club is on a hiatus until this Saturday, so the workouts are informal right now.  I ran with them on Monday and Saturday, and ran on my own on Wednesday.

The exciting part of my week is that I tried something new!  Yoga!  I had taken classes at a gym, but had never been to a yoga studio.  One of the studios in Minneapolis (which has a location 2 blocks from my condo) offers a week of free yoga, so I decided to take advantage of it since I'd be around this weekend. 

I took my first class on Tuesday and I was so nervous! I sent Amber a bunch of messages with questions about what to expect, what to wear, etc.  I ended up going with this outfit:  a Lulu Lemon fitted tank (purchased at the outlet last fall) and fitted pants.

I may not know what I am doing, but at least I look the part!

The verdict?  I absolutely loved it!  I fit in as many classes as my schedule would allow this week (4).  Now I have to think about whether I can make room in my budget for more classes.  It is certainly not cheap, but I think it would really compliment my training.  I know I could practice on my own at home, but there is something special about going to an actual studio and having someone coach you through all the various moves and positions - and correcting you when you are doing it wrong.  I liked the deep stretching of the vinyasa class - and I got my butt totally and completely kicked by the Yoga Sculpt class, which ended up being more of a boot camp style class with things like mountain climbers, burpees, and tons of push-ups (hello, weak upper body).

Anyways, back to the training recap, here is how the week broke out for me:

Monday - 5 miles at an easier pace (9:40) - it was 90+ degrees and super humid.  It felt like I was running through steam, so I took it pretty easy.

Tuesday - 9 miles on a stationary bike, 60 minute yoga class

Wednesday - 7 miles ran on a hilly path at a 9:20 pace.  This was a challenging run as it was so humid but I was really happy with my pace.

Thursday  - Rest

Friday - 60 minute yoga class

Saturday - 12 miles at a slow 10:00 pace.  I used to dread my long runs, now they have become one of my favorite parts of my week!  It helps to have good company out there on the running paths!  I got home, had an avocado as a snack, and headed to a 75 minutes yoga sculpt class.  Big mistake!!  I won't do this class after a long run ever again! I clearly need a fresh body to make it through this intense class!

Sunday - 60 minute yoga class


All in all, I am really happy with how this week went.  Ideally I would like to run 3-4 times and bike 1-2 times; this week, I ran 3 times, biked once, and did 4 yoga classes, so I feel good about everything I fit in.  I am definitely excited for this training session.  I have some work to do as I lost some speed over the winter/spring, but I am ready for the challenge.

Training Total:

Week 1:  24 miles

Have you ever tried yoga?  If so, do you do it on your own or go to a class?  Are you able to do the crow pose?  That is the one pose I absolutely COULD NOT do!!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Christmas in June!

Greetings and Happy Friday, everyone!  I hope it's been a good week for everyone!

Last night I hosted a little party for the group of people I worked with.  We referred to it as Christmas in June.  Why?  Well, we never got our act together around the holidays...  2 of us were studying for the CFA, I had sinus surgery, and life was just so full for everyone then, so we decided to push our party off until June.

I have a great patio area with pool and grills, so volunteered to host right away.  We made it a family event, as my boss and co-worker both have kids.  It was such a fun night!  The kids swam like fish and the adults had a great time.  I have no pictures of the food because my co-workers do not know I have a blog, and it would be been a little weird to start snapping pictures of the food.  ;)  Plus it was a very informal event!  I provided brats, hot dogs, burgers, and all the fixing, and everyone else brought a side or dessert to share.  Everyone went home full and happy, I think.

This party is sort of the end of an era for me.  Sounds dramatic to say this, but I have sat in this little pod for the last 1.5 years and that set up is coming to an end.  I work on an open-air trading floor, which means we all sit very close together and there are no cube walls - so you really can hear everything your co-workers are saying and there is zero privacy.  Which means you really get to know people quite quickly.  But soon I will be moving over to join my new team, most likely after my vacation.  I am glad we got to all get together before I move.  Granted, we will still work on the same floor, I will just be in a different area.  So in the grand scheme of things, it's really not that big of a deal.  It's a big change for me as I am joining a group of 3 men that have worked together for YEARS and have never had a female in their group...  and I know I won't really 'click' as well with this group, but I am going to make the most of it and in the immortal words of Tim Gunn, "make it work." 

I hope you all have a great weekend!  I am staying home for a change which I am really happy about!  I need to get a packing list together for my trip for Amber's wedding as I will probably arrive home from the lake the morning of the day I fly out - so I need to be very organized!!  Besides that, I will do a long run with my group and get together with a friend I haven't seen in nearly a year!!

What are you up to this weekend?  Do you have a holiday party at work? 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Review: Saving Ruth

I received this book as part of a TLC Book TourSaving Ruth, by Zoe Fishman, definitely falls under the category of a "coming-of-age" story.  As the book opens, the main character, Ruth, has just returned home to Alabama for the summer after her freshman year of college in Michigan. So much has changed since she left home for college - most notably, she has developed an eating disorder. While she should be focused on saving herself, much of her attention is drawn to her brother, who seems listless and withdrawn, and the dynamics of her empty-nest parents.

It was pretty difficult to read her inner dialogue with herself over her struggles with food. Luckily, I don't personally know what it is like to struggle with an eating disorder, but I thought the author did a great job of showing what it is like to go through something like that. The author herself had struggled with an eating disorder in college, so her personal experience lent an air of authenticity to that aspect of the book.

Over all it was a fast, enjoyable read, and I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads. It made me think about my college years. I never did return to my parents home after I left for college as I opted to stay in the city where my University was located so I could take summer classes and work.  I love my parents and the home they created for me, but I do not love my small town roots, so I am glad I did not have to return to the town they lived in. I think I would have struggled even more than Ruth did - albeit for different reasons. I did spend one summer at my parents' lake cabin, though, after studying abroad in Australia and that was definitely a VERY difficult summer as I was dealing with a bit of reverse culture shock and the post-study abroad blues - which seem to be pretty common, at least among the people I've talked to.

Did you move home for any summers during college? Did you have trouble acclimating back to life in your home town?

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Finish the Sentence...

 San posted this last week and I thought it was a fun way to get to know more about here, so I thought I'd play along!

Maybe I should tackle some of the organization projects on my to-do list this weekend.
I love coffee with International Delights Fat Free French Vanilla Creamer (but not any other brands.  I am picky).
People would say that I’m driven.
I don’t understand why people choose to respond to all at work.  Especially when it's a distribution list with hundreds of people on it...
When I wake up in the morning I check my email.
I lost my mittens all the time when I was a child.
Life is full of wonderful adventures. 
My past is full of
memories of time spent with family.
I get annoyed when
people drive slow in the passing lane.
Parties are fun to plan and host!
I wish I had more money in my budget for vacations.
Dogs are
not an animal I would ever want to own.
Cats are something I am allergic to and, similar to dogs, not something I'd ever want to own.
Tomorrow I’m
hosting a "Christmas in June" party for my co-workers since we never got our act together around the holidays!  I'm really excited - we'll hang out by my pool and grill!
I have low tolerance for arrogance.
I’m totally terrified of
mice, snakes, spiders, and creepy crawly things!
I wonder why I
am so hard on myself.
Never in my life have I
eaten a pickled egg.  I like pickles.  I like eggs.  The thought of the two together makes me shudder for some reason.
High school was
one of the worst phases of my life.  I don't think you could pay me to relive those years.
When I’m nervous
I talk fast.
One time at a family gathering
I showed up wearing the exact same outfit as my cousin, who is 11 months younger than me.  We were (and still are) like sisters from another mister.
Take my advice:
Do not rush into the decision to buy a home  Think long and hard about it, and make sure the home you select is what you truly want.
Making my bed
is completely mandatory.  I can't get into an unmade bed.
I’m almost always
over-scheduling my life, but I kind of like it that way.
I’m addicted to
my iPhone.
I want someone to
help me hang some pictures in my living room - nearly one year later, I still haven't hung any...

Play along and fill in a couple of the sentences!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Marathon Madness Begins

Greetings and happy Monday!  I had another wonderful weekend, and hope you did as well.  I did my long run with my run club on Saturday morning and then headed to my parents' lake home afterwards.  It was a more relaxing weekend, which was just what I needed!  I missed the Mother's Day celebration, so was so glad I got to be there for our low key Father's Day celebration. 

It's hard to believe this, but I start training for my 3rd marathon today!  From past experiences, I know these 18 weeks are going to fly by! This will be my first time training for a marathon with my running group. I loved training for my half with them last year, but I really missed out on some of the camaraderie because my long runs were so much shorter than everyone else, so I'd miss out on the post-run "woo hoo we did it" conversations, breakfasts, coffees, etc.  But this year I get to be a part of it all and will get to know people in the club better as a result. 

I haven't really decided on a firm goal for the marathon yet (I obviously have time to finalize my goal).  I want to see how the training goes and then go from there.  My plan right now is to train for a 4 hour marathon with an actual goal of 4:10.  If the workouts are going well, I will pick up the intensity and train for a 3:50 marathon with a goal of 4.  My PR is 4:22, and I am fairly confident that I can beat that time.  When I trained for past marathons, I just focused on logging miles - which worked fine.  But now that I train with a club, each workout has a purpose (speed, hills, tempo, slower paced long runs), and judging by how well that approached worked for my half, I know it will work well for a full, and am fairly confident a PR is within my reach.  I also am going to focus on strengthening my core and cross training 2 times/week, which should also help me improve my time.  

Like I said, I am really excited for this training cycle.  I went back and read through my posts from when I was training for my Portland marathon in 2010 and to sum it up, I sounded tired in those posts...  Despite the fact that I was training remotely with Amber, I was doing all the running alone.  I know that works for some, but I think I do better training with others.  I like the support and encouragement of my fellow run club members - and the guidance and tough love of my coaches!

I'll be doing my "Marathon Madness Monday" posts again, just like I did when I trained for my Portland marathon.

So here's to what will hopefully be a healthy, fun training season!

Are you training for any races?  Have you or would you ever run a marathon?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mid-month Money Manifesto

First off, I can't believe it's almost the middle of the year.  Second of all, I can't believe it's already the middle of June.  This month is flying by!  I am just weeks away from my big vacation of the year!  I'm heading to British Columbia in early July for Amber's wedding.  I am so excited as British Columbia is one of my favorite places in North America - this is actually the 3rd time I am visiting this region in 3 years (and I have plans to visit again next summer!).  If you haven't been there, I highly recommend it - it's got something for everyone as they have the mountains and the ocean!  What more could a girl ask for?

So with my vacation just around the corner, vacation budgeting is on my mind, so I thought I'd talk a little bit about vacation planning for this month's mid-month money manifesto post.  Truth be told, up until the last 2 years, I really did not consciously think about how much I would spend on a vacation.  I just sort of booked it, spent money while I was on the trip without really thinking about a budget for spending, and came home and never looked back on how much it cost me.  That so doesn't happen anymore - especially now that I have some other big financial goals, like saving up for a down payment for a home...

Vacations are meant to be fun and enjoyable, and stressing about money on a vacation takes away from the fun of the experience.  So here are a couple of things I do to keep the costs under control or help myself track my spending:

1.  Rent an apartment.  This isn't always possible - like during my BC trip I'll be in 3 different places (Seattle, Vancouver, and the island were Amber gets married) so I will stay in hotels.  But if it's at all possible, I opt to rent an apartment over staying in a hotel.  I find that the cost/night is on par with hotels - or even less.  When I went to Paris for my 30th, renting an apartment was the best decision ever.  I usually ate 1-2 (delicious) meals in my apartment each day, which freed up money for a couple of nicer meals and other excursions. Plus, it allowed me to live more like a local by shopping at markets, the local butcher shop, and the local produce stand!

2.  Spread out your spending.  I try to book things over a long period of time so that I am not paying for everything all at once.  My flight usually gets booked 3-6 months in advance (which most people obviously do), and if I am staying in a hotel, I book and pay for it 1-3 months in advance. I really like having the hotel paid for ahead of time so that I am not shelling out money like crazy the week of the trip.

3.  Put it all on one card.  I use one specific credit card for all my vacation travel.  I pay it off after the trip, of course, but I like using one specific card so it's easy to identify how much I spent on a trip.  In the past I really had no clue how much a vacation cost me after the fact.  Now I just add the amount of cash withdrawn to the balance on my travel credit card and I know exactly how much it cost (and how to budget for future trips).

Do you make a budget for yourself when traveling?  Do you keep track of how much a trip costs you in total?  I like to keep track of it as it helps me budget for future trips, or helps me when people ask how much to budget for their trip to a region I've visited.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Family Wedding Fun

Last weekend a cousin on my mom's side of the family got married.  We hadn't had a wedding in the family since my sister's nearly 3 years ago, so we were all overdue for some wedding fun!  It was great catching up with family - 6 of my mom's 7 siblings were there, as well as lots of cousins and their kids.

I am so glad this wedding fell on the weekend after the CFA so that I was able to attend and really enjoy myself.  I did a lot of dancing with my nephews - they are at an age where they LOVE to dance, so we were out on the dance floor quite a bit.  Here are some pictures from my fun weekend!

My sister Emily and Charlie.  I really can not believe he is one.  Seems like Emily JUST had him!

Andrew, Matthew, James, and I before the wedding
Matthew moved so fast on the dance floor, it was tough getting a picture of him. 

James and Andrew had a lot of fun dancing, too!

Me and my dance partner, Andrew.

Me and my 2nd dance partner, James.

My parents got in on the fun, too.
As you can see from the pictures, it was such a fun weekend.  In addition to attending the wedding, I went out with friends on Friday night for a post-CFA celebration, and caught up with cousins on my dad's side of the family on Sunday.  So it was a FUN, full weekend.  My life became kind of small this spring as I hunkered down to study - but weekends like this remind me just how full and wonderful my life really is. 

Do you like dancing at weddings?  I am not one to go out dancing on a weekend, but I love dancing at wedding dances - especially with my nephews! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book Review: The Voluntourist

It's been ages since I've done a TLC Book Tour - but when I saw a travel memoir on the list of options, I couldn't resist!  The Voluntourist, by Ken Budd, is about a man who sort of going through an existential crisis after the death of his father...  He starts to compare his life achievements to the achievements of his father, who was a very well-respected and admired man, and realizes he needs to find some meaning in his life. Additionally, his wife has made the final decision that she does not want to have children, so in addition to trying to make a difference in the world, he also embarks on this journey through 6 countries (USA (post-Katrina), China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the West Bank, and Kenya) in an attempt to fill the void of a childless life.

I really enjoyed this book.  I think most of us can relate to that burning question of 'what am I meant to do with my life?' and maybe we feel guilty that we aren't making much of a difference in the lives of others in our careers.  That is the case for me as my job does not make anyone's life better, so I have to rely on volunteering in my free time to get that sense of fulfilling/leaving the world a better place. I actually recently talked to a co-worker who did her own little 'voluntourist' trip to a country in South America.  She said it was a wonderful experience as she got away for awhile (during our bitterly cold winter) and got to feel like she was making a difference in the life of another person - and, might I add, the trip was tax deductible.  I'm a finance person, I couldn't leave that out!  ;)  I would love to try to do that one of these years, I just need to plan it out so I will have enough vacation time.

All in all, it was an intriguing book. Some of the sections of the book drug a bit for me (China and the West Bank) and I wished that the Kenya section would have been a bit longer, but in general I enjoyed it, and it makes me want to do my own voluntourist trip.

Have you ever travel abroad and volunteered?  Would you ever want to?  Any country in particular you'd live to visit?  I would want to go to Costa Rica, or maybe a Central or South American country.  
I received a complimentary copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.  I was not compensated for this review, and the opinions are my own.   

Friday, June 8, 2012

I'd Rather

Greetings readers!  My mind is still a bit numb from the exam last weekend, so I thought I'd do a lighter "I'd Rather" post. 

I'd rather...

- spend my money on vacations than on a nice car.
- go into work early than stay late.
- run in the rain than run in gusting winds.
- work for a male boss than a female boss.
- fly than drive.
- take a train than drive.
- be a passenger in someone else's car than drive (can you tell I hate driving?)
- have an appetizer with my meal than dessert.
- live in a condo building with a balcony than a home with a backyard (I may change my mind on this someday, but I am not sure...)
- drink wine than beer.
- go to the Summer Olympics than the Winter Olympics (although it'd be awesome to attend either, I am just more of a Summer Olympics kind of girl).

 Your turn!  What's your "I'd Rather"?  

Enjoy your weekend everyone!  I have a post-CFA celebration with girlfriends tonight, and a family wedding tomorrow night!  SO much fun stuff to look forward to.  It is wonderful to have my life back.  :) 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Little Moments - v5 and My Current State of Mind

This is my last post of little moments.  I am so glad I focused on little moments for the month of May. It was a stressful and exhausting month, so looking for the little things in life that make me happy really, really helped me maintain a more positive attitude!

Here are my final moments for the month!

30 - Getting a great "you are going to pass the CFA" pep talk from my boss.

31 - Closing up my books for the night, knowing it was the last evening I'll spend studying for a long time!

I won't continue to do these posts, but I do intend to write down a little moment from each day in my planner as I really think it's a great exercise to help you focus on the good things in life!


Now for my current state of mind...  I am loving the fact that I am free from studying.  Seriously, it's the best feeling.  I've got a week full of run club workouts and post-CFA celebrations with friends and co-workers.  It's just great to not have CFA studying hanging over my head.

But that thought of whether I passed?  It's EATING away at me.  I am praying (hard) for peace about it because it's gnawing away at me.  On Monday night, my running coach gave me some great advice, though.  He said, "Worrying is like paying interest on a debt you might not owe."  So I am trying to keep that in mind and check my worrying at the door each day.  I'm moderately successful at accomplishing that...

Why oh why, CFA, do you require me to analyze the crap out of 20 cases in a span of 6 hours, but you get 8 weeks to analyze our scores?  NOT FAIR.

Are you good at letting go of things once they are behind you?  I was good about letting go last year? This year?  Not so much...  

And - What were your little moments of the last week?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Stick a Fork in Me...


It feels so so good to say that.  Exam day went fairly well.  I had some test day jitters, which is to be expected, but felt relatively calm.  Having a fun outfit to put on really helped!

I feel most confident when wearing dresses!  (disregard the dirty mirror - housekeeping was LOW on my priority list last week)

 The exam started at 9 am, after a very drawn out check-in and instruction reading process.  Thank goodness I don't struggle with test anxiety - the whole process is just a hot bed for anxiety!  The morning session felt very hard.  The CFA threw a lot of curve balls at us, and on one problem set, my calculations were not resulting in one of the possible answers.  That is an AWFUL feeling.  I kept track of the ones I was unsure of, though, and I think there is a chance I got around a 70 in the morning.  Maybe.

My lunch break didn't quite go as planned...  The restaurant took the nicoise salad off of their menu (how dare they!!).  So I went with the next best option (mussels and fries - yum!) and tried not to let it shake me.  Yes, I have my rituals, but I wasn't going to let a change in menus shake me.

Luckily the afternoon session went much better.  I felt pretty confident about most of my answers and think I may have scored close to an 80.  So hopefully when they average the 2, I will pass.  I talked to others who took the exam and they agreed that the morning was brutal and the afternoon went better...  So now I just hope I did a little better than they did in the am.

I felt really good when I walked out of the test center.  Not as good as last year when I was completely confident I had passed - but I left knowing I had done my best and work as hard as I could have (my study hours came to the total of 368.5!!).

I got to my aunt & uncle's and was greeted with chips, salsa, guac, and wine!  When my parents and brother arrived, we had a champagne toast.  I definitely felt VERY loved!  Then it was off the the restaurant for some yummy mexican food!  I had such a fun night - I got to sit by my nephews, who provided endless entertainment.  I watched in wonder as my 4 year old nephew consumed about 3 times as many chips as I did and then proclaimed, "It's a good day for chips!"  Yes, Matthew, I think that is the case everyday.  ;)

Here are a couple of iPhone photos that I snapped!

Andrew and Matthew practicing their balancing skills with the place mats!

It was Andrew's birthday on Friday so he got to wear a sombrero and we sang to him!

All in all, it was a really fun night.  I laughed a lot, had a ton of fun, and barely thought about the CFA.

I had a pretty fitful night of sleep on Saturday night as I kept thinking about exam questions and how I answered them, but hopefully I can put the over-analysis behind me.  It does no good for me to think about it - what's done is done.  I can't go back and change anything so I just have to accept that it was enough.

Pass or fail - I am ready for a break!!  And I intend to FULLY enjoy my summer!  I've got so much to look forward to between weekends at the cabin, workouts with my run club, my sister Abby's visit home, and Amber's wedding in July!

How was your weekend?

Friday, June 1, 2012

It's Go Time!

And just like that, it's the day before the exam.  You've all read along and heard me moan and complain, feel anxiety, and moments of confidence over the last 5+ months.  It's been a long 5 months, but at the same time, the last 5 months have flown by and it's kind of crazy to think I'll be sitting for this exam tomorrow.

There are so many parallels between marathon training and studying for the CFA.  Well, except the whole taper thing.  I so didn't get to taper going into this test, instead I increased my study hours in the final weeks.  But the main thing these 2 challenges have in common is that you have to trust your training.  You have to show up on test day or race day knowing that you did everything you could to prepare yourself.

The element that I am trying not to let bother me so much is the fact that this test is basically graded on a curve.  There is no 'passing score' - it's determined every year, and they usually pass about 36-40% of those who take the exam.  That was the case last year, but I knew there would be some who wouldn't adequately prepare for the exam.  This year I am up against people who passed level I, so they know what they are getting themselves into...  So approximately 40% of those who passed level I last year will pass Level II - which equals about 16%...  That's a low number.  But I can't control how prepared they are - I can only control how prepared I am.  And I couldn't be more prepared than I am, so I am trying to trust that it's enough.

The process of studying for this exam has been long and hard.  But it really will all be worth it when I do eventually earn the CFA designation.  It will do wonders for my career and my financial stability, which are important for a person in an single income household...

So here is hoping that the 7 practice tests and 350+ hours of studying I did over the last 5+ months is enough.  There are a total of 20 case studies on the exam, so they can't test you on EVERYTHING.  The cases are very tricky, though, and they definitely throw some curve balls at you.  My hope is that there are lots of intense computational problems as that is what I excel at.  And I really hope I walk out feeling as confident as I did when I left the exam last year.  But I don't know if that will happen as this level is SO much harder than the first level. Either way, I am going to try my best to put it out of my mind. 

Luckily, I'll have some help in that regards as I've got a fun Mexican meal with family to look forward to afterwards which will definitely distract me.  11 of us will be eating out, including my parents who are driving down just to join us for the post-CFA celebration!  And then I have a massage the following day!  And I'll spend the next 8 weeks catching up with all the friends and family I've neglected for the last 5 months!

Say a little prayer for me tomorrow!  I should be a free woman around 4:30 tomorrow afternoon!  Can't wait!

And PS - it's my nephew Andrew's 7th birthday today!  Doesn't seem like that long ago that he was born!!

Andrew and I! (wow, I look young)