Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 12 Moments of 2012

Well here we are on the final day of the year!  Can you believe it?  No?  Me neither!  I thought I'd close out the year by reviewing some of the best moments of 2012!  So without further ado, here they are in no particular order!

12.  Finding out my dad was cancer free.  Finding out that my dad's blood work came back showing now traces of cancer was the best gift I could have gotten this year.  I know prostate cancer is very treatable, but I was still a nervous nelly about his prognosis!

11.  My Chicago trip.  A weekend full of good friends, good conversations, lots of laughs, good eats, and sight seeing in one of my favorite cities was just what I needed to start my year off on the right foot!

10.  Julia Child Night!  I love this annual tradition and can't wait to see what we come up with for our 5th annual Julia Child Night next fall!!

9.  4th of July at the lake.  I was able to see most of my dad's side of the family at the lake over the 4th.  There were almost 40 of us in attendance (I think), and we had so much fun catching up and lounging in the lake!

8.  Attending Amber's Wedding.  I had so much fun checking out yet another beautiful area of British Columbia!  And it was so great to spend so much time with Amber, Kelly, and Anais (and their significant others)!

7.  Attending Nora's Wedding.  I also had a great trip to St. Louis for Nora's wedding in October and besides spending lots of quality time with Nora, I got to see Becky, Mandy, Alli, and Nilsa!

6.  Visiting my best friend Heidi in Austin.  Fortunately I was able to turn a work trip to Texas into a fun trip to visit my friend Heidi in Austin.  I did not take many great pictures that weekend, but her husband did snap this great photo of Heidi, her daughter Elle, and I!  I love that we are all wearing stripes (although you can't really tell that I am...).

5.  Running a strong marathon.  While I did not quite hit my sub-4 hour goal for my marathon, I am still really proud of my time and I had a really great time checking out the city of Des Moines that weekend!

4.  Exploring San Francisco with my co-worker and Kyria!  I was also fortunate to do some sightseeing in San Francisco while on a work trip!  I traveled really well with the co-worker that I traveled out there with, and I had a blast with Kyria on the tail end of that trip!

3.  Passing a licensing exam for work.  I found out in the fall that I had to take yet another licensing exam for work and had a hard time preparing for it amidst all the travel I was doing for work, so it was a HUG relief when I passed with flying colors!

2.  Meeting my boyfriend.  I am so glad I said yes when my friend suggested that I meet her co-worker.  I think we are a great match and he makes me very happy!  And I know many of you have anxiously been waiting for a photo, so here is one from his Christmas party earlier this month!  I always think he looks handsome, but he looks especially good in a suit!

1.  Passing Level II of the CFA.  Although these moments are not listed in any particular order, this was certainly one of the biggest moments of 2012 for me.  It was such a huge relief as I was quite stressed that I would not pass despite putting so much time, effort, and tears into the studying.  But phew - I passed!

Whew!  When I list it all out like that, it was quite the exciting year for me!  What were some of your best moments of 2012?  Any exciting New Years plans?  We'll be celebrating at the house of my boyfriend's college friends, which will be fun as I think we will be playing games (I am a huge fan of games!).

I hope you all have a safe and happy New Year!  I'll be back later this week with a book review and my monthly recap, and next week I'll be sharing my goals for 2013!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Best Books of 2012

Greetings and Happy Friday!  It's hard to believe it's the last Friday of the year, isn't it?  I'm still amazed at how fast this year flew by.  I have a pretty quiet weekend ahead of me.  My boyfriend and I are going to happy hour at my favorite Mexican place, so thoughts of a yummy cucumber margarita are definitely going to pull me through what will likely be a quiet work day!

One of my favorite parts about the end of the year is all the "best of" lists that come out.  Best books.  Best movies.  Best moments.  So today I thought I'd share the 10 best books that I read this year (out of the 56 that I have finished thus far)!

Here they are in no particular order!

10.  Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio - I love all of Jio's books, but I think this one was my favorite!

9.  The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh - This book sucked me in right from the get go and was a page turner for me.

8.  The Moment by Douglas Kennedy - This was probably the book that I highlighted the most passages of.  It's really beautifully written.

7.  Looking for Alaska by John Green - This was the 2nd book that I read by this YA author and it did not disappoint.  In some ways it reminds me of the movie "Dead Poet's Society".  I think any adult would enjoy it.

6.  Room by Emma Donoghue - This was probably the most disturbing book that I read in 2012, but I am glad I read it.  It took awhile to get used to the narrator since the story was told by a young boy, but it was worth sticking with.

5.  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - I LOVED this book.  It is a YA book, but it so does not fit into that genre in my opinion.  It was so beautifully written and was just so good.  Read it. You'll love it.

4.  The Violets of March by Sarah Jio - This is Jio's first book.  It makes me want to visit more of the Pacific Northwest.

3.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - This was such a magical and intriguing book.  I did not want the story to end!

2.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - Ok, this book was totally and completely messed up and by the end of the book, I could not stand either of the main characters, but I still love it.

1.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - I love how this book was told in the form of letters written by the main character.  I would highly recommend watching the movie after reading the book!

What were some of the best books you read in 2012?

PS - Happy Birthday to my dear dad!  I'll have a margarita (or two) in your honor tonight!  :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

And So It Begins

Oh hey, why yes it was Christmas yesterday and most are probably still basking in the post-holiday glow...  But there is no rest for the dedicated CFA candidate...  Yes, friends, studying starts today (sob).  I have tried to live in the 'now' during the month of December and not fixate on the fact that I would start studying today.  I was marginally successful at doing this as I had lots of fun things to distract me.  But I would be lying if I didn't admit that I have been filled with a sense of dread...  because that is how I have felt for the last week. 

I just hate the thought of saying good bye to so much free time.  Gone are the leisurely evenings spent working out, cooking dinner, and reading.  Instead work outs will be hastily fit in and I will spend 15-20 hours each week at my dining room table. And there will undoubtedly be tears and feelings of self-doubt and isolation and days where I think "how will I ever pass?" 

But pass, I will.  This is it.  This is the final level.  I just have to get through this test and I will be free.  Luckily my boyfriend is also taking level III so he'll totally know what I am going through and will also be busy studying (albeit not quite as many hours, we have different approaches to test prep).

So if I am quiet around these parts over the next 23 weeks, it's because I'll be studying away, trying to cram all the information from these books into my brain. 

Level III, let's do this.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Calm & Bright

Happy Friday, everyone!  Can you believe it's the last Friday before Christmas?  I personally can't...  I think back on my childhood years when Christmas would take FOREVER AND A DAY to arrive.  Now it comes entirely too fast!!

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I hope that you have a wonderful holiday that can be described as calm and bright...  well, unless you have small children, then it will be chaotic and bright like mine will be with my nephews around!!

I'll leave you with my holiday card this year.  And yes, I am probably the ONLY unmarried person that sends a photo card!  But they are easier and I feel like they are more apt to be hung up than a hand written card.  So a photo card it is for this unmarried gal!

Over the course of the next few days, I am looking forward to a Christmas celebration with my boyfriend, Christmas at the lake with my family, and a visit with my dear aunt that I don't get to see very often!  I'll be back after the holiday with some end of the year posts!

Have a safe and Happy Christmas!

Do you/did you send holiday cards?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On Work Travel

I've talked about work travel throughout the fall, but have spoken mostly in generalities and talked about how tired I was or how much I missed home or how spread thin I've been.  I thought maybe it would be helpful to do some level-setting and explain to you why I am not exactly jumping for joy over the fact that I made status on Delta this fall (which means I completed at least 30 flights, 2/3 of which I flew in the span of 3 months).

Now before I go into the reasons that work travel is challenging for me, I want to make it clear that I am not looking for pityInstead, I just want people to think about what it is really like to travel so often!

This is why work travel is difficult for me:

- The hours are long.  When I am traveling for work, I rarely work 'normal' hours.  Typically my day will start at 7, I'll have a full day of meetings with clients and colleagues, and then usually drinks/dinner afterwards that will go until 8-10 pm.  Granted this doesn't happen every night when I travel, but it happens more often than not.

- There is no downtime/relaxing during the day.  On a typical day in my office, I definitely have time when I can sort of joke around with co-workers.  But when I am traveling, I am usually either meeting with clients or doing office visits and trying to build relationships.  Since many of these relationships are in their early phases, there aren't many laid back moments where I really feel like I can relax.  Instead I am always thinking about what I am going to say next, who I am going to sit with next, etc.

- Stuff piles up when you are gone.  Since my boss left, I no longer have a true back up to help with things while I am out of the office.  And while there is a lot that I can do from my blackberry/over the phone, I still need access to my laptop to really help people.  Plus no one listens to my voice message saying I am out of the office so I will sometimes comes back to multiple voice mails from a person, which then makes me feel bad because they think I am ignoring them.

- It's lonely.  This is a new phenomenon for me.  In the past, I never really felt lonely when I was traveling because the majority of my friendships were maintained over email/text/phone calls.  Now that I have a boyfriend it's different as I have grown accustomed to seeing him face-to-face multiple times a week.  So in the past it wouldn't bother me to go days upon days with out seeing anyone from my life back home, but now it does.  Plus I work erratic hours at times and when there is a time change involved, it can be hard to find a time to connect. This is something we both know we need to work on.

I think my attitude about travel will shift next year as my travel schedule SHOULD slow down (I hope).  I think if I hadn't traveled on average 3 weeks out of every month the last 3 months, I wouldn't be so burned out and tired of being on the road.  So far for January, I have trips to Charlotte and Austin planned, both of which should be a max of 2 days, which shouldn't be too bad.

So there you have it... I know travel is part of my job and I will embrace it to the best of my ability, but I do feel  like I kind of got robbed of the relaxing fall that I thought I was going to have and I am disappointed that I am not going into CFA study season feeling all that relaxed and refreshed.  But such is life - I will power through these next 5 months and focus on the freedom that awaits me come June 2nd.  And I do still have 1 week of freedom to enjoy (I start studying a week from today)!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Gingerbread House Decorating Party 2012

Greetings and Happy Monday!  I hope you had a wonderful weekend*!  I had a very fun weekend that included a double date with my best friend and her husband and the Christmas Party on Saturday night.  Both nights were SO much fun!

Last week was a fun-filled week for me in general.  I had date night on Tuesday night, the Gingerbread House Decorating Party on Wednesday night, and a knitting (err, I worked on Christmas cards) google-hangout with Kyla and Becky on Thursday night!  It's been quite awhile since I packed so many fun things into one week!

The Gingerbread House Decorating Party was so much fun!  Now that my friends' kids are all a little bit older, we decided to include them this year.  They are 2, 3, and 6, and all had a total blast!  I thought I'd share some pictures from our fun night!

The completed houses - mine is on the right, Owen's is on the left, and Stella & Elliot's is in the middle.  Doesn't it look like a Santa on the middle house?  Well, it's actually a zombie Santa according to Elliot!

The night wouldn't be complete without a little frosting squirted into everyone's mouth!  I love the look on Stella's face in this photo!

Owen kept up with the big kids!  He looks a little angelic in this photo as there is a light shining right on him.

Similar to last year, Elliot practiced more planking!

Lastly, I thought I'd share a picture of my decorated tree since I haven't shared a picture yet this year.  I am really happy with how it turned out and love that, each year, I have more Paris-themed ornaments!

How was your weekend? Will you decorate/have you decorated a gingerbread house this year?

* While I had a wonderful weekend, my heart goes out to those in CT who are dealing with this horrible tragedy.  I know many will be posting about this topic, but I couldn't come up with the right words to address this tragedy... 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mid-Month Money Manifesto

Well, after taking a 2 month hiatus from doing this post series due to a chaotic October and my Thanksgiving post series in November, it's time for my final financial-themed post!  So I thought I'd close with some final thoughts in bullet point form.

I'm happy that...
- I made my goal of not purchasing any books in 2012.  This goal ended up being way easier than I thought it would be.  Yes, it required discipline and there have been books I've wanted to read this year that I haven't been able to due to a 1,233,523 person wait at the libary.  Ok, I may be exaggerating but you get the idea!  I am looking forward to having the flexibility to buy books again in 2013 and I actually have a stockpile of gift cards to use to buy them!

- I paid for all of my medical bills associated with my sinus surgery promptly.  There was a time in my life when I would not have had the saving to do this, so I am proud of the fact that I have gotten to the point where I was able to pay them off right away.  Did it totally and completely suck to pay $4,000 worth of medical bills in the first couple of months of the year?  ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY.  Am I glad I got the surgery?  Yes.  Being healthy is worth every dime I spent.

I'm disappointed that...
- I didn't pay off my undergraduate student loans.  I didn't proclaim this as an official goal for the year, but it was something I wanted to work on in 2012.  But it just didn't happen.  This WILL be happening in 2013.  Mark my words.  I feel sheepish over the fact that I am 31 and still have undergraduate student loans, but it's something I will work to remedy in the coming year.

- I didn't build up as much of a balance in my savings account as I would have liked.  Part of this has to do with the whole sinus surgery thing, plus it was an expensive year with some out-of-town weddings (which were awesome and so much fun and so worth the money spent).  I really struggle with knowing how much to put in savings as I still have student loan debt from undergrad and graduate school.  Part of me wants to put every extra cent towards those dang loans, but another part of me knows that it's healthy and necessary to have a savings account.  After all, there are unexpected events, like surgeries, car repairs, etc, that require savings, so I will continue to save.  I haven't decided on a goal for 2013, but I will be aggressive at putting more aside each month.

So there you have it.  All in all, I am more happy with how I did financially this year than I am disappointed, which is a good way to end the year!  I am dating pretty much THE MOST financially responsible 30-something ever, so I am sure some of his frugal ways will rub off on me in 2013.  :)

Did you have any financial goals this year?  If so, do you feel good about your progress towards those goals?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Looking Forward

While I am trying to really 'live in the moment' during this final month of the year, as I mentioned in my post yesterday, I have a lot of exciting things to look forward to these days so I figured it was time for another Looking Forward post!

Today I am looking forward to hosting my annual Gingerbread House Decorating Party!  This year both of my friends will be bringing their kids, which I am excited about!  This is one of my favorite holiday events each year.  I think this is the 6th annual decorating party, so it is quite a long-lasting tradition!

This week I am looking forward to attending my boyfriend's work holiday party!  It's a pretty formal event, so gives us an excuse to get all dressed up (it's not really our style to get dressed up for our dates typically).  I am excited to get a photo of us together - so far our only photo together is from a Halloween Party and he is dressed as the performing artist Prince so looks a little different than usual.  ;)

This month I am looking forward to an early Christmas celebration with my boyfriend, and then spending the actual holiday with my parents and 2 of my siblings and their families at my parents' lake home!  I'm looking forward to the yummy seafood feast we have on Christmas Eve and watching my nephews tear into their gifts!

This year (meaning within the next 365 days) I am looking forward to planning a trip to the Bend, Oregon area.  I am heading out there for the wedding of a very special couple and will be making this trip my vacation for 2013.  I haven't been to this part of Oregon so am excited to check out another area of the Pacific Northwest!

What are you looking forward to these days?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

12 Days of Love Letter Writing

Happy Tuesday!  It's hard to believe that 1/3 of the month of December has already passed.  Luckily it's been a wonderful month for me so far, and I have lots of exciting things to look forward to, such as my annual gingerbread house decorating party (which is tomorrow), celebrating my first Christmas with my boyfriend, seeing my family on Christmas, and bringing in the New Year with someone special by my side.

The month of December is going to be a good one for me, and I will definitely focus on showing those in my life how much I love and appreciate them throughs acts both big and small.  And similar to last year, I will also be spreading some love to a stranger by partcipating in The 12 Days of Love Letter Writing!  It is an unconventional way to spread love, but I know I have been touched by the kindness of others so hopefully this small act on my part helps brighten someone's days.

Today I am writing a letter to Winnie.  Here is Winnie's story:

Winnie is a first year graduate student who is living on the East Coast for the first time. She is originally from the west coast where her whole family is. In addition to being an awesome person who juggles schoolwork, social life and classes, she is also battling a chronic autoimmune disease. Her letter requester writers,"She balances all these things with strength, optimism and grace. She puts on a brave face for those around her who don't even know she is sick but I know there are times she worries and gets scared about her health limiting her in what she can do. Any words to encourage or advise her in keeping her head up high or that there is a light at the end of the tunnel even when it's hard to see or believe, would be very much appreciated." We need your cursive to help Winnie see how much the world values her strength and loves her without question.
Will you join me in this love letter writing movement?  If so, you can write a letter to Winnie by next Tuesday, December 18th.  The letter can be sent to:
Winnie's Bundle
P.O. Box 2061
North Haven, CT 06473
Have you been on the receiving end of an act of kindness from a stranger?  One act of kindness that stands out in my mind is the time when I returned to my car at the end of a work day and found that someone had cleared all the many inches of snow that had fallen over the course of the day.  

Monday, December 10, 2012


Well, it's been over a week since my California trip and I am finally getting around to my recap!  I spent a total of 8 days in various cities of California. For those who don't speak airport codes, I traveled from Minneapolis to San Francisco to Sacramento to LA to San Francisco and then back to Minneapolis. Honestly, it was a lot to pack into one week.  The trip was a work trip, but I was able to take a day off at the beginning and then spend the weekend there as well, so I got to combine work and fun!  I only got to sight see in San Francisco, as I had a busy work schedule in Sacramento and the LA area, but I did manage to see 3 different bloggers!  Score!  My time with 2 of them (San and Amy) was pretty brief, but I got about 1.5 days with Kyria, which was awesome!

I really, really loved California - especially the Bay Area.  I don't see myself moving there, but it is a place that I could see myself living (if that makes any sense).  It was my first time visiting SF and I fell head over heels in love with it.

As usual, I will let a few bunch of the pictures I took do the talking!

The view from Coit Tower was STUNNING!  I would definitely recommend going to the top of Coit Tower as you get some awesome 360 degree views of the city!

I thought the sea lions at Fisherman's Wharf were adorable.  I loved seeing the 'puppy-pile' of sea lions all snuggled up together, and I loved watching 2 sea lions play 'king of the mountain'.

There is so much beauty in SF.  I would be crossing a street (as I am in this photo), look to my left, and see a beautiful view!

And of course, due to the proximity to the oceans, I had mussels a couple of times!!

San met me for dinner when I was in Sacramento!  We had some yummy thai and it was so fun to catch up face-to-face!  I also had drinks with Amy that night, but sadly we did not think to take a photo as we were too busy gabbing!!

I did not do any sight seeing in the LA area, but I did snap this photo of the Pier in Manhattan Beach when I was out for dinner with co-workers.

And before I knew it, I was back in San Francisco!  Kyria made sure I got multiple views of the gorgeous Golden Gate Bridge.  It's stunning in photos - but even more stunning in person!

We resorted to taking a self photo after the guy who took a photo for us didn't include the bridge in the background (what in the what)?

Another view of the beautiful bridge!!  It was wonderful to hear the waves crashing on the beach, too!

Can I just stay, "Full House"?  Gosh I loved that show - so much that I tried to change my name to Stephanie when I was in the 3rd grade.  I was OBSESSED.

So there you have it - a very photo-heavy post recapping my trip to this beautiful part of the country.  Besides seeing all these sights, I went for a trail run with Kyria and ate lots of yummy food!  Kyria was a fantastic host - we covered a lot of ground on Saturday and I really feel like I saw as much as I possibly could!!

It was a wonderful trip, but being gone for 8 days was a bit much for me and I was just plain worn out by the end.  Sleeping in 5 different beds over the course of 8 days is not really optimal and I missed my boyfriend even more than I missed my bed.  ;)

I know I was fortunate to have been able to take this trip, though, and it is an area I definitely want to check out again - I just want to return on a just-for-fun trip and not at the tail end of a hectic travel schedule!  I am in the process of writing a post about the realities/challenges of work travel as I think there is a misconception that IT IS SO FUN.  Well, the fact of the matter is that it's still work and it's really exhausting...

That said - luckily, this is my last trip for the year (I think, I may have to go to Charlotte next week), so I am trying to soak up my time at home!

Have you been to California?  If so, what is your favorite area?  So far, I'd say San Francisco is my favorite area, but I still have a lot more of the state to see so I may change my mind on that!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday Favorites: Nephew Dates

Greetings and Happy Friday!  I have seen other bloggers talk about their favorite things on the occasional Friday, so I thought I would play along and do posts like these occasionally.

I thought I'd kick off the Friday Favorite post series with one of favorite parts about being an aunt:  Nephew Dates!  Now, I do not have nephew dates nearly enough, but my outing with 2 of my nephews last month reminded me I need to do them more often!

I'll let the pictures (mostly) do the talking!

The afternoon started off with a trip to this awesome children's bookstore called Wild Rumpus.  Besides having books, they have lots and lots of animals (like the cat pictured here, held by Matthew)

After the bookstore, we headed to my favorite local ice cream shop.  It was such a nice day, we were able to sit outside for awhile while the boys enjoyed their ice cream (Andrew had raspberry chocolate chip and Matthew had chocolate)

We got a little cold so moved back inside and Andrew demonstrated how to eat an ice cream cone without getting all messy...

... while his younger brother acquired a chocolate mustache and beard.  ;)

After a couple of hours of book browsing and ice cream eating, it was time to return home. 

I enjoyed the whole afternoon, but I especially liked the car rides as it gave me a chance to really talk to these two.  Oh my gosh they made me laugh, especially Matthew.  First he told me I am a pretty angel (he is going to be a charmer).  Then he said that my GPS was too yappy (which means talks too much. He also confessed that he can be too yappy sometimes, too).  Then we had a discussion about the different meaning of the word cool (temperature and the way of describing a person's personality) and he told me that my clothes are not cool, but they are very pretty.  You've gotta love the honesty and perspective of kids.  ;)  Neither Matthew nor Andrew could get over how SMALL my car was (my brother drives a truck and my SIL drives a crossover), but they both said it was very 'cozy'.

They each got to pick out a book and it was so exciting that Andrew is able to read chapter books now!  It has been so fun to watch my nephews learn to read and it always amazes me how they all seem to hit a point where the 'light goes on' and they really 'get' reading.  It makes me very happy that they love books!

I only wish my niece and other nephews lived closer so I could do things like this with them, but I will just have to make a point to do outings with them when we are at the lake or when I am visiting them!

Do you have any nieces or nephews? 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

We Gave Thanks

Why yes, it is the 5th of December and I am just getting around to recapping my Thanksgiving.  Better late than never, right?  I mean, I spent 10 posts talking about all the things I was thankful for, I can't not recap the actual day of Thanksgiving!

I had a really wonderful time with my family up at the lake.  I feel like I have been living life at a frantic pace lately, so it was nice to go up north and have a chance to slow down and relax a bit.  Plus, there is really nothing like being in the cocoon of your parents home.  I was barely on my phone, ate a lot, read a lot, relaxed a lot, and soaked up the time with my parents, grandma, siblings,  sister- and brother-in-law, and nephews!  And I got to meet my cousin's newborn baby (but sadly have no photos of holding her little guy!).

But - I did get some other great photos on my iPhone, so I'll let the pictures do the talking!

James and Andrew are about 10 months apart and they are the best of friends!

Piled on the couch after dinner with 3 of my nephews - I love that they are all wearing stripes (why wasn't I???)!

Of course, the weekend would not be complete without a game of Scrabble with my grandma.  She beat me as usual!  She is SO good!

I could not get over how much Charlie has changed in the last 3 months!

The weather turned colder on Thanksgiving day and it began to snow.  The look on Charlie's face matches how I felt about seeing snow...  I am not ready for winter (the snow has since melted).

I capped off the holiday weekend by showing my nephew James how to play Words with Friends.  He did really good!

My Thanksgiving weekend was a bit short, as I came back on Saturday morning so I could pack, run errands, and have a date night before heading to California for 8 days!  I'm obviously back from that trip (which was wonderful, albeit a little bit on the long side) and hopefully I will get a chance to recap my time there next week!

I know Thanksgiving is a distant memory for most, but if you celebrated it, what was your favorite part of the holiday?  My favorite part was being around family - especially my nephews.  I can not imagine a holiday without kids around - they keep things light and funny and always make me laugh.  I'm so so lucky that I am an aunt to 5 fantastic nephews and 1 adorable niece!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Music, Books, Miles and Looks of November

Well hello, December.  I can't believe we are in the final month of the year, but I am excited for this month!  November was a good month, but it was a busy one between my Texas and California trips and being gone for Thanksgiving.  I think I was gone more nights than I was home this week, so November sort of wore me out!  December should be more calm and peaceful.  I hopeIt's my last month of freedom before CFA studying starts on 12/26, so I intend to fill it with quiet nights in, lots of date nights, and some holiday fun!



Begin Again by Taylor Swift - Yep, I am 31 and I love Taylor Swift.  Feel free to judge.  I think her new album is great, and I love that the music video for this song is set in Paris!!


This was a slower reading month for me, mostly because one of the books I read was REALLY long!  I only read 2 books,

Dearie:  The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spit - This book was very well-written and comprehensive. I am glad I read it, but unless you are as obsessed with Julia Child as I am, you would be better off reading My Life in France.This book was SUPER long.  I am glad I read it, but it took me about 3 weeks to finish it, which is pretty long for me.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich - You can read my review here.  


This was a low mileage month for me as I only ran 51.25 miles - which I am ok with.  I wanted to give my legs a rest after running a marathon in October, and instead focused on going to yoga as much as I could as I had a groupon for a month of unlimited yoga.  I expect my mileage to stay low this month as well.


** crickets **  Yep, I have no looks for this month!  Lame, huh?  I didn't wear any new outfits this month and didn't take any pictures of my favorite looks - nor does anything stand out in my mind!  I will work on that next month!!

Here's hoping everyone has a fabulous last month of the year!

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!