Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: The Round House

I have wanted to read a book by Louise Erdrich for quite awhile as her books tend to be set in or around my home state of North Dakota.  So, when I saw her newest release on the list of books I could review for TLC Book Tours, I jumped at the chance.  While Erdrich doesn't explicitly state where her newest book, The Round House, is set, I could tell that it was close to the area I grew up based up on the towns mentioned in the book.  Like Erdrich's many other books, this book is also set on an Indian Reservation.  When the book opens, we quickly learn that the mother of the main character, Joe, has been violently assaulted on or near the grounds of a sacred Ojibwe site, The Round House.
The identity of the attacker is uknown, so Joe and his father, a tribal judge, seek to find to the attacker on their own.  The author weaves in information about the history of the tribe, The Round House, and the background of the other characters amidst the story of the search for the attacker. 
I really enjoy the elements of the story related to figuring out who the attacker was, but found the parts regarding the history of others in the book sort of distracting.  I tended to lose focus during those parts until the the author returned to the investigative aspect of the story.
All in all, it was a well-written book, but not something that really grabbed me.  That said, it is National Book Award Finalist, so clearly it is a piece of fiction that has received accolades. 
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, November 21, 2012

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 10

Today I am thankful for my family.

It seems only fitting to conclude this post series with what I am most thankful for - my family.  I feel incredibly blessed to be a member of a such a healthy, happy family.  There is so much to be thankful for when it comes to my family, and I can only attempt to sum it up with a short bullet-point list.

- I am thankful that my parents are still happily married after nearly 43 years!

- I am incredibly thankful that my dad beat cancer this year.

- I am thankful that my siblings all have strong marriages and that their spouses are people that I love as if they were my own flesh and blood.

- I am thankful that my 5 nephews and niece are healthy, thriving, happy kids!

- I am thankful that the holidays is a time of peace and excitement for us.

- I am thankful that I live driving distance away from most of my family - and that I will have an opportunity to visit my sister in Tucson this winter.

I am thankful for all these reasons, and so many more.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers, and have a wonderful weekend everyone!  I'll be at the lake until Saturday, and then I head to California on Sunday for my LAST work trip (hooray) which I will turn into a fun trip by spending the weekend with Kyria.  Due to my schedule, my posts will be spotty the next week and a half, but I am sure I'll be back in December with photos and stories from my time in California!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 9

Today I am thankful that I opened my heart to dating. 

I'm thankful that I gave dating a chance because I met someone... someone really great! We were set up by a mutual friend. I went into our first date with fairly low expectations (which is my 1st date MO) and I was totally and completely pleasantly surprised.  The conversation flowed well, there was definitely a spark, and I biked home from that date grinning ear to ear.

 We've been dating for 7 weeks so things are still very new, but I am excited to see where this goes. He is also taking level 3 of the CFA next June so we have lots in common, professionally. And more importantly, he understands that stressful phase of my life and can relate to what I am going through when I prepare for that exam. He has also been very understanding of my crazy travel season.  Meeting someone in the midst of my busiest travel seasons has not been ideal (I've been gone 3 of the 7 weekends since we met), but we have made it work and have learned a lot about each other (and how to communicate) through the process!

There are many things I like about him. I like that he listens and remembers things I tell him - and that he asks follow up questions days later which shows he really was listening. I like his sense of humor and the fact that he also loves to read. I like that he is intelligent and that he loves that I was a math major (finding out that I was a math major is what made him want to meet me). I like that he shares my love of the game cribbage. I love that he is a cuddler and gives the very best hugs. Lastly, I love the feeling of butterflies that I get when I see him.

So often in life I feel like I am spinning and rushing from one thing to the next. But this guy?  He makes me want to stand still.

Monday, November 19, 2012

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 8

Today I am thankful that I have found a career I love.  

Now, I am not even going to try to pretend that my job is perfect.  There's office politics and back stabbing and all other kinds of terrible, but sadly typical corporate-America behavior, and I feel like I will never be done taking exams (I have another licensing exam tomorrow, cross your fingers and/or pray that I pass!).  I lost my awesome boss this year, dealt with some reorgs, and joined a new team that I am still trying to fit into, but all in all, I really really love what I do.

Finding a career I love certainly was not a short process.  I spent most of my 20s going from job to job (mostly within the company I work for now), but I never found something that really 'fit'.  And I felt like I was aimlessly trying these different roles in operations, management, and corporate finance, and that my resume was turning into a random collection of jobs that have nothing in common.

When I started my current job, my boss told me that after I got a feel for my new role, I would look back on my past jobs and realize that they all led up to what I am currently doing.  And he was totally right.  I am now able to apply so much of what I learned in my past jobs to what I am doing in my current position.

I don't really subscribe to the idea that "if you love your job, you will never work a day in your life."  No matter how much I love my job, it will always be work for me, but I am thankful that is work that that challenges me and that I enjoy.

Friday, November 16, 2012

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 7

Today I am thankful for the travel opportunities I have had this year.

I traveled less (for pleasure) this year than I did last year, but I traveled WAY MORE for business, so I guess it all sort of balances out...  sort of.  Luckily I have been able to turn some of the business trips into fun trips (like my trip to Texas last week and my upcoming trip to California).  BUT - I am especially thankful that I was able to take one trip that was all about having fun and seeing friends - and that was my trip to the Pacific Northwest.

I just heart that part of the country so much.  If I wasn't so close to my family and so in love with the midwest, the Pacific NW is another part of the country I would consider moving to.  For now, I am fortunate to have some fabulous friends that live in that area! I have visited that area of the country the last 3 years and have plans to return next summer, which I am so excited about!

To close, here are some pictures from my trip.  Seeing the sunshine and bright skies makes my heart ache a bit for summer and that trip.  It was really such a wonderful week, between the beautiful sites, the time spent with friends, and Amber's fabulous wedding. 

Oh how I love the Public Market area of Seattle.  It's stunning with the mountains and the ocean in the background!

I am so glad I had the chance to bike the seawall in Vancouver.  It was so fun and is something I highly recommend you do if you ever visit that fabulous city!

I also saw the Seawall on foot as Amber, Anais, and I did a training run together.  If only I could run with these two on a regular basis!!!

And of course, the highlight of the trip was Amber's wedding.  I love these 3 girls and just wish we all lived closer as we all get along so well and have so much fun together (and bonus - I adore their significant others).

Enjoy the weekend everyone!  I have lots of fun plans, including brunch with friends, dinner & a movie tomorrow night, and a bookstore + ice cream date with 2 of my nephews! 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 6

I am thankful that my parents raised me to be an open-minded eater.

I grew up in a big family (there are 5 kids in my family).  I think when you have that big of a family, meal customization is just not an option - at least it wasn't for my mom.  She prepared one meal for everyone and if you didn't like it, then tough!  I think we had the option of eating bread with peanut butter if we really didn't like what she served, but I don't really ever remember doing that.  

As a result, I am not a picky eaten and will try new things (within reason, I just can't bring myself to eat organs like tripe or liver).  There are some foods I liked less as a child, like mushrooms and onions, but I kept at it and now as an adult I love foods like that, and I've tried new foods, like sushi, avocados, and pomegranates, all of which I love.

I don't know what studies say about whether your taste preferences are nurture or nature, but I am of the mindset that I totally have my parents to thank for raising me in an environment where I was exposed to lots of different foods!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 5

I am thankful for my parents' lake home.

While I LOVE my city lifestyle, I still really, really appreciate getting away from the city and retreating to my parents' lake home on summer weekends.  I think my pulse might actually slow when I arrive at the lake. I love cabin weekends because most weekends I don't drive once I arrive, my wardrobe consists of pajamas/lounging clothes, swimsuits, and sun dresses, and I rarely wear make-up.  Afternoons are spent reading, swimming with my nephews, playing cribbage with my dad, and drinking rhubarb slush (best summer drink ever!).  I always eat like a king, sleep like a baby, and return home relaxed and refreshed.  It is paradise for me.

I am looking forward to heading to the cabin for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  And once the CFA is behind me, I will definitely spend some winter weekends down there as well as it's so peaceful there during the winter. 

I'll close with the most peaceful photo I took last summer.  Just looking at this photo makes me feel a little bit more calm.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 4

Today I am thankful that at the end of each trip, I return to a city and life that I love.

As you all know, I have been traveling A LOT lately.  So much that my last electricity bill was for just over $9.  Seriously.  While I appreciate the travel opportunities I've had - both for pleasure and for business - it is always good to return home.  Even on this last trip where I experienced a 50 degree temperature difference (went from 77F to 27F + snow flurries), it still felt good to unlock the door to my condo and enter my home.  I may have audibly sighed.  There is just nothing like sleeping in your bed, showering in your own bathroom, and preparing meals in your own kitchen.

I have been able to visit many different cities this year, and while I have enjoyed each city I have visited (some more than others), I always come home knowing that where I live right now is where I am meant to be.  Granted, I still feel a pull towards the city of Chicago, but it's a pull of curiosity (and, ok, Nilsa has something to do with that pull as I'd love to live in the same city as her); it's not a pull of "I need a change."

I didn't always feel this way about the city of Minneapolis, especially when I lived in my suburban condo.  When I lived in that condo, I was usually filled with a sense of heaviness when I returned back home - I am so glad I no longer feel that way.

I know Minneapolis and the Midwest with it's hot, humid summers, and blustery cold winters is not for everyone - but it certainly the right place for me!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 3

Today I am thankful for the library.  

I mentioned my love of the library in one of my mid-month money manifesto posts, but it warrants a mention in this post series, too. Having access to a wonderful library has made it easy to stick to my commitment to not buy any books in 2012. Yes, there were times I couldn't read a book club book as there was a 1,000+ wait for a book, but besides that the library has been a godsend to me! I especially love checking out e-books. Even though the library is just a short detour on my walk home, I still appreciate not having to go there to pick up or drop off books.

There are so many that services that the library provides, so I know I am just experiencing the tip of the iceberg. For example, I would like to take advantage to the free museum passes that are available through the library.

Here is hoping that local libraries continue to be well-funded as I think they are SUCH an important resource!!

What are you thankful for today?

Friday, November 9, 2012

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 2

Today I am thankful for my health.

I think our health is something that we can at times take for granted.  I know I certainly have at different points of my life.  Luckily I have not had any serious illnesses, but I was quite sick last year for about 5 months and it definitely impacted my quality of life. 

I often get frustrated because I feel like I do all the right things (exercise, get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet), but sometimes our health is just out of our control, as was the case last fall when I had a sinus infection that refused to go away, and ended up having sinus surgery.  Surgery was my only option as no antibiotic could get rid of my infection, so it's not like I had a choice in the matter, but I was skeptical about whether it would truly fix things.

Well, I am thrilled to say it did!  I have not had a sinus infection since my surgery and will say this is probably the healthiest year I have had in years! 

Besides being thankful for the fact that sinus infections seem to be a thing of the past for me, I am also thankful for the healthy marathon training season I had.  Becoming a runner has definitely hugely contributed to an improvement in my body image.  As I've said before, I no longer obsess over my problem areas and instead am just thankful that my body can do things like run 26.2 consecutive miles!  I mean, it's pretty amazing when you stop and think about it!

So here's to what will hopefully be another healthy year!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 1

Greetings from Dallas, Texas!!  Today kicks off the start of my "10 Days of Thanksgiving" post series.  Each year, I spend the 10 days leading up to Thanksgiving giving thanks for things, both big and small, that I am thankful for.  In years past, others have joined along, so feel free to join in the fun!  I know I have a tendency to overlook the things in my life that I have and focus on what I am working towards, so I love the holiday of Thanksgiving as it forces me to really think about what I am thankful for!

Today I am thankful for the nice ride bike sharing program as it significantly decreases my need to drive.

Oh how I love the bike share program.  You all know that, of course, as I have talked about it several times, but I figured it was a good place to start as it is something that I utilize every day from mid-April to early November.  I have put so many miles on those bikes, it's pretty amazing!  I definitely drive far less as a result as it's often quicker to bike places than drive when you factor in parking. 

They put the bikes away last week, and I was so sad to see them go!  Now I will do far more walking to get places, which is still a better solution than driving!

Thanks to those bikes, I've saved gas money, reduced the wear and tear on my vehicle, and have burned lots of calories! 

What is one thing you are thankful for today?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Hi friends!  Happy Tuesday!  Happy election day!  As most of you know, I don't (willingly) talk politics, so all I will say is GET OUT THERE AND VOTE!  I did!

My 1.5 week break from traveling came and went incredibly fast.  Like I blinked and it was time to print my boarding pass.  It is a little known fact that I am sort of obsessed with knowing airport codes (hence, the blog post title), and I use them when I talk about cities or in text messages, etc.  I even got my previous boss to start to use airport codes when saving presentations as it was shorter/more efficient than spelling out the city.

So I hit the road again today.  I fly out this evening for Dallas, will be there until Thursday, then head to Houston for a day, and then head to Austin for the weekend to spend time with my best friend from college!  It's going to be a whirlwind week as I have a presentation on Wednesday morning and several client meetings. 

I am looking forward to spending time in the Dallas and Houston sales offices, but I am most excited for quality time with these 2 ladies (and Heidi's husband, too, of course)!!

This photo was taken when we met for lunch in September.  Elle and I really hit it off, so I am excited for extra time with her!
I'm looking forward to a weekend filled with reading books to Elle, drinking wine with Heidi, exploring Austin, and soaking up some sunshine!

Even though I'm traveling, I'll still be posting as I kick off my 10 Days of Thanksgiving post series on Thursday!!  This is the 5th year in a row that I will do this post series!  I am excited to kick it off as it's a really fun (and healthy) exercise to think of all the things and people in my life that I am thankful for!  You should play along, if you feel so inclined!!

Do you have any dorky travel quirks?  Besides being obsessed with knowing airport codes, I am also VERY obsessed with passport stamps.  When I traveled through Europe in 2004, I would get SO excited every time we got a new passport stamp!

Monday, November 5, 2012

4th Annual Julia Child Night!

Greetings and Happy Monday!  I had an absolutely FABULOUS weekend.  As you all know, Julia Child Night is something I look forward to for MONTHS, and this year's event did not disappoint. 

I went over to my aunt & uncle's on Friday night to help make the ratatouille and coq au vin.  Man, Julia does NOT cut any corners.  These recipes have many steps, but all of the hard work and attention to detail really does pay off as every recipe I've made of hers is fan-freaking-tastic.  And really, is there a better way to spend a Friday night than at the stove with 2 of my favorite people, with a glass of wine in hand?  I don't think so. 

Now I will let the pictures do the talking - and yes, there are MANY pictures!  I'll start with some 'night before pictures' and then move into pictures from the big day!

Julia Child Night - Part Un

We spent most of Friday night at the stove, sauteeing up a storm!  I love how my aunt and I have the exact same apron in different colors!!

The ratatouille, simmering away!

We had to Flambe some bourbon for the Coq au Vin!
 Julia Child Night - Part Deux

The appetizer spread:  French cheese, GF crackers, assorted olives, and Tapenade (super easy recipe for the tapenade can be found here)

2 of my nephews were there and had a blast playing with the cool toys my aunt and uncle keep around for the kiddos

Stripes!  Berets!  Aprons!

The first course was an amouse bouche of ratatouille

Matthew LOVED the ratatouille - so much so that he licked his spoon clean.  I was impressed he ate it all as it had eggplant, zucchini, onion, and peppers in it.  The kids were sort of familiar with the dish having seen the Pixar film.

Each courses required an assembly line approach for plating! 

The 2nd course was a potato leek soup, garnished with some sour cream and parsley

The 3rd course was a grated carrot salad with currants, walnuts, and parsley.  I twas a unique salad, but was a hit with everyone!

Next up was the main course of Coq au Vin, mashed potatoes, and peas, served by my cousin's girlfriend, Ellen

Last, but not least, was dessert. My sister-in-law made homemade vanilla ice cream, my mom made chocolate meringue cookies, and I purchased some salted caramel macarons from a local sweet shop!  All delicious - all gluten free (everything we served was gluten free).

Of course the night would not be complete without a photo of all the ladies in their aprons!
So there you have it!  Another successful Julia Child Night.  It was so fun to be surrounded by family, friends, and good food.  I went home with a full belly - but more importantly, a full heart.  I am so thankful that my aunt and uncle open up their home and put so much work into this fantastic evening - and I am happy to be their faithful sous chef!  We are already brainstorming a menu for next year!

Friday, November 2, 2012

5 on Friday

Woo hoo - I posted 5 times this week for the first time in AGES.  This won't be a new trend, but it worked out this week!  Here are 5 things on my mind this Friday.

1.  Julia Child night is tomorrow night!  Woo hip!  I am heading over to my aunt & uncle's tonight to help make the main course (Coq au Vin) which we will warm tomorrow evening (it's even better the 2nd day).  I am so excited for a weekend of good food, and especially time with my family.  My parents and brother and his family will be there, in addition to other aunt/uncles/cousins.  In total there will be 24 of us there, I think!  I will post a recap at some point next week!! 

2.  I really need to buy another business suit.  I do not want to buy another one, though.  They are so expensive and I hate wearing them, but I have had to wear a suit twice a week lately and will need to wear one 3-4 days a week when traveling to Texas and California this month so I think it's time to buy another one.  Le Sigh.  They are so expensive.  Thank goodness I got a 50% off coupon from Banana Republic for next weekend!

3.  I activated a 30-day yoga pass on Sunday and have gone to 3 classes so far.  I am loving the deep stretching - it's been a nice change of focus after being solely focused on running for the last 6 months.

4.  I usually love Daylight Savings Time, but this year I am not looking forward to it getting darker earlier as I HATE running in the dark.  My pace is significantly slower and I just feel 'off'.  I don't feel scared, I think I just get disorientated.  I wear a headlamp, which helps, but it's not the same as running in daylight.

5.  I really can not wait to sleep in on Sunday morning.  It's been awhile since I have slept in and my body REALLY needs it.  So I guess the extra hour from DLS will be good in that regard!

Happy Friday everyone!  What is on your mind today?  Do you like Daylight Savings Time?  Or do you live in a place that does not acknowledge it?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Music, Books, Miles, and Looks of October



Ho Hey by The Lumineers - Oh how I love this song!  I need to check out this band and see if their album is worth buying (anyone own it out there?).

Not with Haste by Mumford and Sons - Oh my gosh, the Mumford & Sons new album ROCKS.  I wasn't sure they could release something as good as their first album.  Well, they did.  This is my favorite song on the album.  I love the last line:  "And I will love with urgency but not with haste."


It was another strong reading month for me, thanks to all the plane travel I've done!

The Moment by Douglas Kennedy - Oh this book.  It was so good, read in a flurry, bookmarked in many places, thought about as I fell asleep at night. It is the story of an American man and a German woman who fall in love in Berlin during the time of the cold war, amidst the complications of living in a divided city.  He so artfully describes the beauty of falling in love. I could wax on poetically, instead I will close with one of the passages I bookmarked:  'We're all so preposterous, aren't we? Holding onto our torments, our agonies, our small dramas - and using them to sabotage that which was so want... And actually deserve.'

Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat - This was our October book club book.  It's a well-written memoir by a young woman who was imprisoned in Iran in the early 80s. It is a harrowing story but a fast an engaging read.  I highly recommend it.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - Another great young adult novel that is definitely a book adults will enjoy. I thought the writing was great!!  I also had a chance to see the movie and thought they did a fantastic job turning it into a movie.  The author wrote the screen play and directed it - and that was reflected in the quality of the movie.

Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio - Sarah Jio strikes again!  I read this book in the span of about 48 hours, so that should tell you how good it is!  I think this is my favorite Jio book of her 3!!  The story is engaging from the very beginning!  Such a great book!!

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom - This was a super fast read - I read it over the course of a day spent traveling. It was good but not as good as Albom's other books. I would give it 3.5 stars if that was an option.

Yes Chef by Marcus Samuelsson - I really enjoyed this book.  I fell in love with Samuelsson when he was on Top Chef Masters years ago.  If you are foodie who is interested in the restaurant industry, you will enjoy this book.  Samuelsson did a great job writing this and I especially appreciate the fact that he owns up to mistakes he made along the way.


My mileage was on the low side this month since I spent the whole month tapering, and then ran my marathon.  I ran a total of 98.25 miles, which I am happy with!  Most importantly, I ran a strong marathon!


Look #1 (with a horrible background) is a dress I bought at Banana Republic.  It's a very simple silhouette that is flattering for people like me that don't have curve.  Also, I love that it's navy!   I paired it with gray peep toe heels.

Look #2 is another Banana Republic outfit.  When I saw the skirt was on display in the window, I was drawn into the store like a moth to a flame.  I am STILL obsessed with mustard!!

Look #3 is my quirky shirt that I bought at the coolest t-shirt shop I've ever been to, which was in Des Moines.  I think the shirt is hilarious!