Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Review: The Secret of the Nightingale Palace"

The book cover of "The Secret of the Nightingale Palace" by Dana Sachs is definitely one of those book covers that really drew me in.  Then when I found out it was partially set during WWII, I was sold!  The author winds two stories together.  The first story is about Goldie, a young southern woman who moves to San Francisco in the early 40s to start a new life.  While she is living there, she becomes friends with a Japanese family who is eventually sent to an internment camp during the war.  Before the family left for the camp, they gave her a set of Japanese prints to keep while they were away.

Flash forward 50+ years.  Goldie is now in her 80s and she asks her grand daughter, Anna, to drive from New York to San Francisco so that she can return those prints to the Japanese family.  Anna and Goldie had an estranged relationship as Anna married someone that Goldie did not approve of.  Anna's husband has since died so this trip is their chance to rekindle their relationship.

The book is broken out into different sections for the different time periods, which made it easy to follow.  I loved hearing about Goldie's time in San Francisco, especially since I recently visited that area.  I also liked the section that covered Goldie and Anna's trip across the country as Anna spends much of this trip reflecting on her marriage and dealing with the grief of losing her husband at a young age.

I really enjoyed this book and gave it 4 stars on goodreads.com!

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.   

Monday, February 25, 2013

On Downsizing

Well we are back from our apartment hunting trip to Charlotte.  The word that sums up my apartment hunting experience is downsizing. I knew going into this weekend that I would likely have to rent a smaller space as rent is really high in the area close to Charlotte's Uptown (even though this city is allegedly supposed to have a lower cost of living). So I am losing about 450 square feet so that my rent can decrease to a level that will allow me to save money for plane tickets home. From a net perspective I am actually not saving all that much because of the difference in the utilities I have to pay in Charlotte. But I am saving as much as I can while still living in a place I can be ok with calling home.

My head has been spinning since Saturday as I try to figure out how to get my possession to fit into my new space. Here are some things I am doing to prepare for my move to a smaller space:

- See you later, piano. Considering the fact that I am struggling to fit some small bookshelves in my new home, it was out of the question to try to bring my piano. Luckily my former boss is going to keep it for me while I am gone. He wants his kids to take lessons so it works well for them to take it off my hands. Plus I know they will take good care of it.

- Adios furniture. I put a loveseat and over-sized chair on Craigslist as they most definitely won't fit in the new place. Fingers crossed someone buys them so I can get that aspect of the move over with.

- Bah humbug. My Christmas decorations won't be making the move either. I got spoiled by having storage units the last 8 years that I have lived in privately owned condo buildings. Commercially owned buildings will only provide storage for a fee, and I don't think it's worth it for me to pay a fee just so I can have access to my Christmas tree (my tree/decorations wouldn't fit in the storage available in the unit). Plus I am not sure a tree would even fit in my apt. I know I will be coming home for Christmas so I will just soak up the Christmas decorations at my parents lake home.

- Climate considerations. I'm looking hard at my wardrobe and boxing up things to store at my parents. I'm asking myself: do I need 4 winter coats in this warmer climate? No. Do I need snowpants? Not a chance. Snow boots? Nope. I know it will get into the 20-30s so I will bring some coats but I don't need a closet full of winter coats in North Carolina.

But my 6 bookshelves? Those are coming with me. I have to draw the line somewhere! Fingers crossed they fit. If they don't I guess I will just sell them when I arrive in Charlotte.

So there you have it.  Sorry this isn't a 'I fell in love with Charlotte post.' I really was hoping to come back feeling better about this move, but such is life. It's a step forward for my career and I am sure I will find things I like about my new neighborhood once I settle in.

On a positive note, I did have a really good time with my mom and it was fun showing her the trading floor where I will work. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming so I think she feels better knowing I will work with some nice people. And in general, the people in Charlotte were extremely friendly. Way friendlier than people you would encounter in the Midwest honestly. So Charlotte has that going for it.

 At the end of the day, I am reminding myself that it's only a year and I can come back at the end of that year (assuming I find a job) if I am totally miserable.

Have you ever moved to a place that required you to significantly downsize?

Friday, February 22, 2013


Greetings and Happy Friday everyone!  My mom arrived in Minneapolis last night and we flew out to Charlotte.  Our mission is to find an apartment for me to rent.  Shortly after I came to terms with the fact that I would in fact have to move to Charlotte, I realized that the person I really wanted to come with me on this apartment-hunting trip was my mom.  I know I am 32 and can make decisions on my own, as I have for the 14 years since I graduated from high school and became an independent person.  BUT sometimes- you just need your mom.

I think to some extent, my parents (and other key people in my life) have felt a bit helpless as they've watched me go through this experience.  My parents have been on the receiving end of many, many tearful conversations and I think they probably feel a little frustrated that besides offering a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, they can't DO anything.  But accompanying me on this trip to Charlotte is something my mom CAN do.  She can come to Charlotte with me and help me decide what apartment I will call home.  And there was not a moment of hesitation when I called her and asked her if she would consider coming with me.

Through this process, I have been downright negative about Charlotte and I am hoping that I can start to turn the corner this weekend and find some things to get excited about.  I hope that I find coffee shops that I can see myself reading in on the weekend and running paths that I can see myself training on during marathon training season.  I hope I find an apartment I will be happy to call home that will be walking or biking distance from work and I hope that my neighborhood feels somewhat as 'right' as my current neighborhood does.

I know that Charlotte will never be Minneapolis.  And I have to accept that.  But I am hoping to find some redeeming qualities when I visit Charlotte this week.  At the end of the weekend, I hope I come back to Minneapolis and find myself closer to a state of mind where I don't tear up when people call and ask me how I feel about my move to Charlotte.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Highlights from an Aunt Date

Even though this is a short week for me, it has not gotten off to the best start.  So instead of dumping all of my complaints/woes/worries on you, I am going to focus on the positive and tell you about something fun I did recently!

Last week, I planned my study hours so that I would have my afternoon free to spend with my nephews.  Unfortunately, the younger one (Matthew) was feeling under the weather, so it ended up being just Andrew and I - which was still wonderful.  Here are some highlights from the time we spent together!

- Andrew is part of a chess club so I asked him how it was going and said maybe he could teach me how to play some day.  He responded by asking for my email address and said:  "If you send me your email address, I will send you a screen shot of a chess board with instructions on how the pieces all move."  Who is this person and what happened to my 7-year old nephew?  No really - he knows what a screen shot is? And he followed through on this and sent me a file later that day with a voice recording of how the different pieces move.  He may be more technologically savvy at age 7 than his 32 year old aunt is.

- When I asked Andrew what his favorite class was, I was SO happy to hear that it is reading!  When we got to Barnes & Noble, it was fun to watch him pick out a book as he was so excited to get the latest Captain Underpants book!  In fact, he was so excited to read it, he sat down on the ground and started paging through it while I was picking out a book for his brother.

 - After we had picked out a book for his brother, we headed over to the 'big kid' section so I could show him the Happy Potter books.  I can't wait for him to be old enough to read them!

- We finished the afternoon by heading to Cold Stone for some ice cream.  He picked out raspberry yogurt with sprinkles mixed in. 

We had such a fun afternoon together.  I am so sad that these aunt dates will be a thing of a past when I move to Charlotte, but I feel lucky to have had as much one-on-one time with my nephews as I have had during the years I've spent in Minneapolis.  And I know we'll have more aunt dates in the future, it just might be 1-2 years before they happen on a regular basis again.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I'm the Kind of Host...

Greetings and Happy Tuesday everyone!  Today is kind of my "Monday" as I took yesterday off as a study day.  Don't be jealous, though.  I spent 6 hours studying for the CFA so it wasn't exactly a day of leisure...  I did fit in a movie night with Phil, though, so at least it ended on fun note!

On Saturday night, I had a little dinner party at my place.  It had been well over a year since I had friends over for dinner and I really wanted one last hurrah at my place before the big move ahead of me.  At the end of the night, we got to talking about what kind of hosts we are, mostly as it pertained to our approach to doing dishes, so I thought it would be a fun post topic to talk about the kind of host I am/have become over the years!

I'm the kind of host...

- that fails to take pictures of what I made to share because I get too caught up in getting everything on the table.

- that prefers to serve things that can be mostly made ahead of time - like the lasagna that I served on Saturday.  I had assembled it and froze it ahead of time so that I would just have to bake it that night.

- that is totally ok with having people bring things to share instead of taking on the whole meal on my own.  On Saturday, I provided the appetizer (olive tapenade, assorted olives, crackers, and cheese), the main dish (lasagna), and the dessert (baked apples with a rum sauce + vanilla ice cream).  My guests brought wine/beer, salad, bread, and the rum for the dessert sauce as I didn't have any rum!

- that has to do the dishes when the meal is over.  In other words, I am not a soaker.  I know that this is not optimal host behavior because it sort of takes me out of the hub of conversations, etc, but I just can't handle having dirty dishes piled up on my counter or a dirty lasagna pan soaking in my sink.  Luckily my condo has an open floor plan so I can still be part of the conversations.  

It was kind of bittersweet to gather in my condo one last time.  I know there will be dinner parties in the future as I do really think I will move back eventually, but I am not sure how soon that will happen, so I tried to savor the time as much as possible on Saturday night.

Do you enjoy hosting dinners?  What kind of dinner host are you?  I LOVE having people over for dinner, I just don't do it as often as I would like!

Friday, February 15, 2013


Good Morning and happy Friday!  I hope this finds you all doing well!  I had a great Valentine's Day and hope you did as well!  The dinner I made turned out great and while the souffles did not puff up as much as I thought they would, they tasted good which is all that matters!

I thought I'd close out the week with this "currently" post that has been floating around the blogosphere (originally posted by Amy)!


feeling tired as I have not been sleeping well this week.

writing way more at work these days after a very long dry spell of not publishing anything!

reading a book that I will be reviewing for TLC book tours at the end of the month.  My reading has definitely declined this month as I increased my CFA studying hours from 15 to 18 hours, so that eats up some precious reading time.

listening to the Ingrid Michaelson channel on Pandora.  I heart her!

eating more home-cooked meals than I did this fall.  It has been nice to be home most weekends as that gives me time to make something to eat for lunches during the week!

wishing I felt more certain about all of the decisions I have made/will make in the weeks to come, like deciding to move to Charlotte and figuring out where to live.

enjoying the time I am spending with Phil as he tends me make me feel more calm about things and keeps reminding me that the move to Charlotte will work out.

drinking so much coffee.

learning a lot at work now that I am trying to write articles on my own (in the past I co-authored them with my previous boss).

missing a time in life when I wasn't making so many critical, life-changing decisions.  I miss those simpler times.

thinking about my upcoming trip to Charlotte next weekend and hoping I find an apartment that I like that is in my price range and will have room for my big dining room table.

using the new lasagna pan my parents got me as part of my birthday present when I entertain 3 couples this weekend!

What are you up to, currently?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I'd Rather: The Valentine's Day Edition

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!  I know this is a day that tends to be met with either excitement and enthusiasm...  or groans of annoyance!  I am in the excitement/enthusiasm camp, even though I've only had a boyfriend 3 out of my 32 Valentine's Days I've celebrated!  I get that people hate the commercialized aspect of this holiday and hold the view that your love for others should be expressed every day - not just Valentine's day - and I completely agree with those views.  But I like that there is a day each year that is dedicated to the expression of love - whether that is love for your significant other, family, friends, etc.  So that is why I like this holiday!

Given the polarized view on this day, I thought it would be fun to do an "I'd Rather" post to sum up how I feel about today!

I'd Rather...
 - stay in and make dinner than eat out in a packed restaurant.

- receive French macaroons (especially salted caramel flavored) than flowers.

- receive flowers on a random day than on Valentine's Day, but would of course accept them today as well! :)

- receive tulips or gerber daisies or something like that than roses as roses don't seem to last very long - but would graciously accept any flowers that I received, of course!

- eat Laffy Taffy and conversation hearts than expensive chocolates (I'm not a huge chocolate person).

-  celebrate the day running and take in this view...

and enjoy a post-run hot cocoa from Angelina's...

as I did 2 years ago today than celebrate in any other city!

- but... since a Valentine's Day trip to Paris is not in the cards anytime soon, I'd rather spend the holiday with Phil, cooking lentil enchiladas (his favorite meal I've made thus far), Spanish Rice, and Chocolate Souffles (wish me luck, this is a new recipe for me!) than spend the holiday any other way!

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!  Regardless of your relationship status, I hope that this day - and every day of the year - is filled with love!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

'Tis the Season of Sacrifice

As many of you know, today is Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of the season of Lent.  For those who are not familiar with this season, it is a 40-day periods during which Christians all over the world will prepare for the celebration of Easter.  It is meant to be a time of sacrifice, prayer, and almsgiving (which is a fancy word for giving to those less fortunate, either financially or by volunteering). 

I went back and forth as to what I should do this year.  I honestly don't feel like I have many indulgences in my life.  I rarely clothes shop, I don't eat sweets often, and I don't drink alcohol very regularly.  Initially I thought about focusing on doing something extra, like going to daily mass once a week and praying the rosary instead of giving something up as I just couldn't think of anything that would be challenging enough.

And then I thought of something really challenging to give up yesterday.  For the next 40 days, I am going to give up using my phone during work hours.  I know that may not sound like much of a challenge to some people, but I am really bad about checking my phone constantly obsessively. Now, since I am in the midst of a move, I am going to let myself check my phone for 5 minutes over lunch to make sure I haven't missed any important phone calls or emails regarding my move, but besides that, I will not be using my phone between the hours of 7 am and 4:30 pm each day.

I know this will be challenging for me, which is what Lent is supposed to be all about!  In addition to this, I still want to try to get to a daily mass each week, which is feasible since there is a Catholic church that is just over a block away from work so I can easily go before work or over lunch.

On a unrelated note, the fact that Lent starts today makes my move seem really soon as I will pack up and move the week after Easter.  Eeks!

If you observe Lent, what will you be giving up this year?  Would it be difficult for you to stop using your phone during the day?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekend Warrior

Happy Monday!  For those of you who were hit hard by a snow storm, I hope you are digging out!  It was crazy to see how much snow the Northeast got over the weekend.  I am SO glad that was not me as I am really over snow.  Luckily we just maybe got 4" yesterday?

I had a super productive, yet fun weekend.  On the productive side, I filed my taxes, studied for 11 hours, got caught up on ironing, ran 6 chilly miles outdoors, assembled and froze the lasagna that I'll make for my dinner party next weekend, and cleaned out/purged 2 closets!  On the fun side, I went out to dinner with a couple I hadn't seen in about a year, had fun at a game night at Phil's where I learned how to play a new game (Catan, it's a favorite game in his group of friends), caught up with Mandy on the phone, and ended the weekend with a video knitting night chat with Becky and Kyla!

Oy vey.  I almost get tired just typing that all out...  It was a fun, full weekend, but I can't say I felt all that relaxed and refreshed at the end.  Instead I feel sort of exhausted and spread thin as I moved from one thing to the next with very little downtime.  But I think I just have to accept that this is how life will be until after the move... or until after the CFA exam in June most likely.  I struggled with feeling overwhelmed and spread thin last year when studying for level II and those feelings are exacerbated this year since I now have to fit in pre-moving tasks and trying to see as many family and friends as I possibly can before I move in early April.

So in the mean time, I am trying to find time each day and each weekend to do something for myself, whether that is going for a run or spending an hour reading.  And I am reminding myself that this is a temporary phase and that life will return to normal soon (well, at least a new normal as I'll be in Charlotte when things slow down eventually).

I am also trying to not put too much pressure on myself to SEE EVERYONE and DO EVERYTHING I think I should before moving.  I have a limited amount of free time and I want to spend a significant amount of that free time with Phil before moving, which might mean saying no to some dinners or happy hours that I'd like to say yes to... 

What do you do when you start to feel overwhelmed?  Are you good at making time for yourself during the busiest seasons of your life?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Virtual Friday Coffee Date

Both Amber and Kelly did this lately (post idea via Jenna's blog), and I thought it was a fun way to catch up on what is new in their life, so I thought I'd play along! 

If we were having coffee this morning...

... I'd tell you that I feel really blessed to have so many people in my life that made me feel so special and loved on my birthday.  The number of emails, cards, texts, tweets, and facebook messages, as well as in person birthday celebration with Phil, friends, and family really made my day.

... I'd tell you that it's been a month since I found out about my relocation and that I am certain I have cried more tears in the last 30 days than I have in my any other month of my life, and that I wish that a) I wasn't a crier and b) tears were something that had an on/off switch as I have cried at some rather inopportune moments.

... I'd tell you that I am trying to fight the feelings of sadness by creating a virtual inspiration board with pictures of the things I want to do and the places I want to visit to help spark some positivity and excitement about the move!

... I'd shift from these heavier move-related topics and tell you I am looking forward to celebrating Valentine's Day with Phil next week, hosting a dinner party next Saturday, and spending a day with my nephews next Sunday!

... I'd tell you that I am really excited to register and start planning my trip to Chicago for the marathon!  I'll be running it with Amber, Anais, and Lauren, and Kelly will come spectate! And Nilsa lives there!  So there is lots to look forward to for that trip!  I may or may not already have my long runs scheduled in my planner.  ;)

Your turn!  If we were having coffee this morning, what would you tell me?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Today, I turn 32.  I'm celebrating with Phil by going out to my favorite BBQ place, Brasa, which means I'll cross something off my bucket list! I am looking forward to celebrating with the special guy in my life, and this birthday should far outweigh my lackluster, celebration-free birthday last year, which I spent in Charlotte at a sales conference.

I feel like birthdays are a time of year that make us account for the year behind us and anticipate the year ahead.  I am proud of what I accomplished last year, like passing level II of the CFA and PR'ing at my marathon.  I had some wonderful experiences, like trips to Chicago for a girls weekend, the Pacific NW for Amber's wedding, and St. Louis for Nora's wedding, and I extended work trips to Austin and California and got to spend time with some of my favorite people and see more of the country.  I met a great new guy who has definitely brought me much happinessSo there are lots of great things to look back on.

What I struggle with is looking at the year ahead of me.  I know I need to stay positive and I will get behind this move, but I would be lying if I didn't acknowledge the fact that there are going to be a lot of struggles ahead of me, and that the upcoming move is casting a bit of a shadow over the celebration of my birthday.  I know that the year to come will probably hand me more struggles than years past. I am up to the challenge, of course, but instead of having a sense of excitement about the year to come, it sort of feels a bit daunting and scary.

For now, I am trying to focus on the fun things that the year ahead of me will hold.  Things like my Chicago marathon trip in the fall with some of my favorite fellow runners, trips to explore areas around Charlotte like Asheville, Charleston, Savannah, and Raleigh, trips to cities like New York, Boston, and Pittsburgh to visit URL-turned-IRL friends, and hopefully having this dang CFA experience behind me for GOOD!

So I definitely have quite a few adventures ahead of and lots of exploring to do - both inward exploration as this move will undoubtedly teach me a lot about myself, and exploration of news placess.

I have to believe Sigmund Freud's quote which I am sharing below.  I have to believe that, despite all the inevitable struggles ahead, 32 is going to be a beautiful year.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Road Not Taken

This is going to be a more pensive, sad kind of post because that is how I feel some days.  I certainly don't feel sad every day or even most of the day.  But I do feel sad some days, which is to be expected.  And I think writing about how I truly feel about things - instead of painting a picture of a life lived with ease - may be one of the best ways to deal with these feelings and attempt to put them behind me. 

When people ask me how I am doing, which, as you can imagine, is the most frequently asked question these days, the best way I can sum up the experience thus far is that it feels like I am having an out of body experience.  It doesn't really feel real.  Instead it feels like something that is happening to someone else.  It's like I am looking at listings online for apartments that someone else will live in, and I am researching areas around Charlotte that someone else will visit for a weekend getaway.  It doesn't really feel like it's my life.  It feels like a string of hypothetical decisions.  Decisions like, if I had to live in Charlotte, what area would I live in?  What run club would I join?  Where would I grocery shop?  I think through all of these decisions, but it doesn't seem possible that I will be living with these decision, because I never once pictured a scenario that involved moving to Charlotte.

But, it is slowly starting to feel more real.  Experiences like signing the relocation agreement (I have a year commitment), being assigned a relocation coordinator, and making the move "Facebook official" made it feel slightly more real last week, and I had a bit of a breakdown on Friday night when talking about it with Phil.  I imagine that it will feel even more real when I go to Charlotte at the end of the month and show my mom where I will be working and walk through apartments that I may potentially call home. And then it will REALLY feel real when I buy that one way ticket to Charlotte.

Right now, I see the fork in the road ahead of me, but it hasn't quite hit me that, as Robert Frost so eloquently describes in the poem "The Road Not Taken", I am taking the road less traveled.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
~Robert Frost, 1920

I have all these thoughts about the upcoming move, and I read Robert Frost's poem, and I think to myself:  I hope someday I tell the story of this move with a (happy) sigh and say that taking this road has made all the difference - or at least that it is not a road I regret taking. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Music, Books, Miles, and Looks of January

Well, the first month of year sure flew by.  I should be surprised given that it was kind of a crazy month for me.  I would like time to SLOW DOWN between now and April 8th and then GO SUPER FAST for the year after that.  Please and thank you.


93 Million Miles by Jason Mraz - Full disclosure, I cry almost every time I hear this song.  It's like the song was written for me and what I am going through.  Like the lines, "Oh my beautiful mother, she told me: son in life you're gonna go far, if you do it right you'll love where you are.  Just know, wherever you go, you can always come home" and "Oh my irrefutable father he told me: son sometimes it may seem dark, but the absence of the light is a necessary part.  Just know, you've never alone, you can always come back home."  Side note:  I wish Jason Mraz would shave off his facial hair and cut his hair while he is at it.  He was way better looking when he had more of a clean cut look, in my opinion.

This was a good reading month for me.  I managed to read 5 books on top of studying 66 hours - and I really liked all the books I read!

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - Oh how I loved this book!  I had marked it as read when I joined goodreads years ago, but I think I did so in error as I do not think I read it in its entirety.  I am so glad I did as it's such a beautiful, well-written, timeless book.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum- I also loved this book. It was haunting and difficult to read at times, but so good. If you enjoyed Sarah's Key, you should definitely check this book out. It was partially set in Minnesota, so it was cool reading about all the Minneapolis references and knowing exactly what areas she was talking about!

All That I Am by Anna Funder - I also really enjoyed this book.  You can read my review here.

Stay by Allie Larkin  - This was such a fun, light read.  It was similar to the book "Something Borrowed" (which is a book that REALLY bothered me) in that the main character, Van, is in love with her best friend's fiance - except in this book, the main character chose the higher road and did not give into those feelings.  The relationship between Van and her dog is really sweet, funny, and endearing.  I'm not even a dog lover and I really liked that aspect of the book. 

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green - this is the 3rd book I read by Green and probably my least favorite. It was good and I would give it 3.5 stars but it doesn't compare to his later books (which is to be expected). I am still glad I read it, though!  


My mileage was decent for the month.  Most of them were ran on the dreadmill as it's been crazy cold here in Minnesota - like days where the high is in the negative range with bitterly cold wind chills (it was -25 with the windchill a couple of days).  I actually hate the treadmill a little bit less than usually do.  I am only doing 4-5 mile runs on there, so nothing substantial as I pretty much lose my mind after 5 miles.  I am training for a 10 mile race in early March so hopefully the temps warm up soon so I can do more runs outdoors.  My total mileage for the month was 71 miles.


I am really trying to restrain myself from doing any shopping these first 3 months of the year as I know that there will be costs involved with the move and I want to use as little of the lump sum they give me as possible as I will be saving that to use to move back eventually...  So I have been resisting things like 50% off coupons from Banana Republic (sob).

I did get this sweater dress early in the month as it was on sale for $14 and that is just too cheap to resist.  Plus I have been wanting a sweater dress for years but because I am tall for my size, I have trouble finding ones that are long enough on me, and this one was!  Oh, and as you can see, I cut my hair even shorter at the end of December.  That's as short as I will go!

And my other favorite look is a new Anthropologie apron from Ray!  She sent me a little something to brighten my day after the whole shock of the relocation.  It was so incredibly thoughtful of her!  The bright, cheery colored definitely brightened my day!  I might need to wear this to the 2013 Julia Child Night (I am definitely budgeting a return trip for that event!).