Tuesday, November 26, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 10

Today I am thankful for my Paris get-away!

Today is a very exciting day as I leave for Paris!  Yea!  I fly out this afternoon and will arrive in Paris on Wednesday morning.  2013 has been a tough year so I am really glad that I treated myself to a big trip like this as I know I have earned it.  Sometimes I feel guilty spending money on a big trip like this since the money could be put towards my grad school loans - but it's a good reward for all the sacrifices I made in the past year, from sacrificing many weekends for CFA studying to leaving all of my family and friends when I moved to Charlotte.

I don't have too much planned for this trip.  Since it's my 3rd trip to Paris, I feel less pressure to plan, plan, plan and will instead wake up each day and do whatever I feel like doing.  I tire more easily these days due to my RA and RA treatments, so I know this easier pace schedule is what my body needs.  I actually have Thanksgiving Day plans as a runner I met while traveling this fall (long story) invited me to his girlfriend's home for a small Thanksgiving celebration, so I won't spend that day alone.  Besides that, my only concrete plans are attending a Christmas concert at St. Chapelle on Saturday, which I am really excited about! 

I do know my trip will include things like walks along the Seine...

marveling at the views of the Notre Dame (which I will be able to see from the balcony of my apartment...

and eating lots of macarons!

While I am in Paris, I will be posting on my France blog, so check that out if you are interested in what I am up to!

Au revoir!  And Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers!

Monday, November 25, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 9

Today I am thankful that my family and friends are supportive - especially over the past year.

My world was totally turned upside last January when I found about my move to Charlotte and I honestly do not know how I could have weathered the last year without the support of my family and friends.  From cards to texts to phone calls to care packages, I have never felt so much love and support as I have over the last 11 months.  I really appreciate the fact that my family and friends don't force positivity on me and have let me cry and have my negative moments.  No one closed to me has pushed me to love (or even like) Charlotte and for that I am thankful.

This past year has definitely been one of those years where I feel like I've taken more than I have given, so hopefully that trend reverses in 2014 and I can "pay forward" the support I have received this year.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 8

Today I am thankful for the healthy kids in my life.

The health of my nephews and niece is definitely something that I try not to take for granted.  They all had issue-free births and have led healthy lives so far - I pray this continues for their entire lives!  I will be an aunt again early in 2014 as my older sister is expecting and I hope and pray that the newest addition is healthy and makes his/her arrival into this world with no issues!


Saturday, November 23, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 7

Today I am thankful that I found a great rheumatologist that I like and trust.

This whole being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis really threw me for a loop this year.  It was such a foreign disease to me, and there has been so much to wrap my mind around, but I am thankful that I have found a great doctor that I like and trust.  She is a great listener and does a good job of acknowledging that having RA sucks while remaining upbeat and positive about my outlook. 

She recently made the decision to put me on weekly injections.  It was a little scary and daunting to agree to this next method of treatment, but I trust my doctor so feel (mostly) at peace with the decision to start the injections.  I took my first dose last Monday and all in all, it really was not bad.  I am also thankful that I am not afraid of needles because if I was, giving myself those weekly injections would really suck!

Friday, November 22, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 6

Today I am thankful that I got to see my aunt Betty one last time before she passed away.

Yes, today's thanksgiving post is a heavier topic, but such is life.  I was blessed to get to visit my aunt Betty one last time in August.  She passed away the day after I saw her, so I got home just in the nick of time.  I had already sent her a goodbye over email as I didn't want to risk having any words left unsaid, but it was wonderful to see her one last time. 

She was actually doing well when I saw her that day.  I'll never forget how she blew bubbles in her 7-up to make her baby grand daughter laugh.  It was a bit surreal when she passed away the following day as I really felt she had more time.  But she had fought far longer than most would have or could have, and I know she is in a better place now.  I am just so grateful that I got to give her one last hug. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 5

Today I am thankful that I have had the financial means to go home as often as I have.

In the 7+ months since I moved to Charlotte, I have been home 5 times (although one of those trips was for the CFA which was obviously not a fun trip home), and I will be home next month for Christmas.  Going home on an almost monthly basis has really helped me tolerate living so far from home.

It's not by chance that I have had a budget for these trips home, though.  When I looked for an apartment in Charlotte, I would only consider places with rent that was lower than my rent in Minneapolis by the cost of a plane ticket home.  As a result, I lost over 400 square feet and live in a place that is not nearly as nice as my place in Minneapolis was, but being able to go home frequently matters way more than where I live right now.

After Christmas, I have no trips home planned as I do feel like I need to spend less on plane tickets as that money needs to be put towards a savings account to fund my move back to wherever I end up living in 2014.  I am sad that I don't have frequent trips home on the horizon, but I am thankful that I went home as often as I did in 2013.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 4

Today I am thankful for my love of reading which was fostered and developed from a very young age.

Reading had always been such a big part of my life, and I certainly have my parents and grandparents to thank for that.  My parents read to my siblings and I from a young age, and continued that tradition through the years.  I remember my mom reading "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and being just totally amazed by that book.

Both sets of grandparents definitely played a role in fostering for my love of reading.   They would always ask about what I was reading and books were a common gift.  I remember getting the entire boxed set of the Little House on the Prairie from my Grandma and Grandpa McDougall - a whole set of brand new, never been read books was such a big deal!

My love for reading only seems to grow the older I get.  It's definitely my #1 hobby - and a mostly free one since it's rare for me to buy a book these days since I use the library so much.  Even though reading is a solitary activity, I love how it still brings people together.  It's definitely a frequent topic of conversation among my friends, and when I email my grandma or see my God-mom, who is a retired English teacher, my first question is whether they have read any great books lately. 

 I hope that I can somehow influence my niece and nephews and instill that love of reading in them.  So far they all seem to really enjoy books which makes this aunt very very happy!

I have wanted this print for years as it's such a fun and whimsical way to display my love of reading.  After the holidays, I think I will be purchasing it!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 3

Today I am thankful that I have a wonderful tenant that occupies the condo I own in the Minneapolis area.

Some of you who are newer to reading my blog might not know that I own a condo in the suburbs of Minneapolis.  I was so young when I bought it and did not know myself well enough then to know that the suburbs are a HORRIBLE fit for me.  So a little over 2 years ago, I decided to rent it out and moved into a downtown condo (that I also rented, I am not willing to own 2 properties so will not buy until I sell my condo).

I have had the same tenant since I initially rented it out and he is AMAZING.  I had heard so many horror stories but awful tenants, but luckily my tenant is wonderful.  He pays his rent early, takes such good care of my place, and even fixes things around my place.  He is just a gem and I am so thankful that he is my tenant.

My condo is still worth significantly less than what I paid for it, so I hope and pray that he sticks around for a couple more years as he makes being a landlord so easy.  My goal is to try to sell my condo during the summer of 2015, so hopefully the market rebounds to the extent I need it to, and hopefully my tenant stays around until then!  But whatever happens, I am so thankful he's been there for the last 2 years.

Monday, November 18, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 2

Today I am thankful that I passed level 3 of the CFA and can put that exam behind me for good!

2013 has been a really rough year for me, but one HUGE bright spot was finding out I passed level 3 of the CFA.  I worked so so so hard for that designation and am so relieved that all of my hard work paid off.

It will hasn't quite hit me that the exam is actually over with.  I think it will hit me in late December when I don't have to study.  Or it will hit me at Easter when I don't have to juggle seeing family with fitting in my study hours.  Or it will hit me Memorial Day weekend when I can actually relax and enjoy the long weekend instead of taking 3 days of full-length practice tests.  Or maybe it will hit me on the first weekend of June when I don't have to go to the test center.

Whenever and however it will happen, eventually it will sink in that I can firmly close the book on that chapter of my life.  Here's hoping that having those 3 letters behind my name will pay off when it comes time to job search.

Friday, November 15, 2013

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 1

Happy Friday everyone!  Today I kick off my annual "10 Days of Thanksgiving" post series.  It's hard to believe that this is my 6th year of doing this post series.  The timing of this series is perfect because as evidenced by yesterday post, I am going through another rough spell.  So here's to 10 days of focusing on the good things in life.

Today I am thankful for the friends who have opened their homes to me this year.

I have done a lot of traveling this year - certainly more traveling than I have ever done any other year and luckily many of those trips were to visit some URL turned IRL friends.

It started in June when I went to Raleigh to visit John, his wife, and their two daughters.  I was in the boot for this trip, but I still got to see quite a bit of Raleigh.  I think my favorite part of this weekend was the afternoon we spent at a local coffee shop chatting away.  I really hope I can visit them again while I still live in North Carolina!

In July, I visited Becky  and Ben in the DC area.  I was still in the boot during this trip, so we had to take it a little easier than we might have otherwise, which wasn't the worst thing as it gave us lots of time to relax and just enjoy each other's company. While I was there, we went to Mandy's step-sister-in-law's home for a delicious dinner.  Some of my favorite moments from this trip were visiting the yarn store that Becky loves, seeing Arlington National Cemetery, the dinner with Mandy's family, and a post-dinner dance/sing-off to a Macklemore song!

In August, I visited Alli in NYC, and once again - I was STILL in that stupid boot.  But we made the most of my visit to NYC.  Alli planned out an awesome itinerary and I came back loving NYC even more than I did when I arrived.  Some of my favorite moments from this trip were the Tenement Museum Tour, walking the High Line, eating delicious/inexpensive Indian food at the Smorgasbord outdoor food market, and relaxing on a park bench in Riverside Park.  Unfortunately we did not get any pictures together but I will be SURE to get one when I visit her a month from today for her birthday weekend!!

In September, I visited Mandy and finally got to see her town that is nestled into the Ohio River Valley.  And for once, I was NOT in the boot for a trip!  Woo hoo!  Mandy planned out an awesome itinerary with the perfect balance of seeing the sights of her area + relaxing.  Some of my favorite moments from this trip were the blogger meet-up she coordinated in Pittsburgh with Erin & Marisa, checking out the views of Pittsburgh from the incline, drinking a delicious pumpkin chai latte at Mandy's favorite local coffee shop, and the low country boil + rib dinner her family made.  Marisa isn't in this photo, but hopefully our paths will cross in the future - maybe in Chicago!

Besides these trips home, I also had friends and family in Minneapolis open up their homes to me during my trips home in August, September, and October. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Still a Struggle

Last month as we neared the end of our Myrtle Beach girls trip and approached Charlotte,  my sister said she had had a great time, but said 'I am ready to go home now.'

I thought to myself: 'Me too, sister, me too.'

But I am not home yet - I visit home for brief fragments of times, but it's always tinged with the emotions of impermanence. At the end of every trip home, I have to deal with the sad and difficult emotions of getting back on a plane to Charlotte.  7 months later, it's still hard. I still cry. I still grieve the fact that while it is not and will never be 'home', it is where I currently have to live.

I know I am past the half way point of my year commitment but the time just can't go fast enough. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as I am over half way through my one year relocation contract, but I still have 5 months left (plus however long it takes me to find a new job).  I'm just so over the "I hear Charlotte is a nice place to live" and the "this is a growth opportunity for you" comments.  I'm over justifying and explaining why I don't like Charlotte.

Don't get me wrong - I am thankful for the great career I have, but I want more.  I want a relationship and ample friends and family close by.  And more than anything, I just want to be home - or in a city, such as Chicago - that I would be happy and proud to call home.

This last trip home was so wonderful but it was also a little bit harder than the other trips because I have no return trips scheduled; this was the first time I have left Minneapolis unsure about when I would return. (I will be at the lake for Christmas but I won't spend anytime in Minneapolis on that trip.)

There is no clear cut or guaranteed path back to Minneapolis. I have this one year commitment related to my relocation contract, but after that, it's up to me to figure out how to get out of Charlotte.  I know that like many other things in life, I have to trust that things will fall into place and everything will work out, but sometimes it feels like it's going to take a miracle for everything to fall into place. 

So that is where I am at right now. I am sad and tired and just so very over this unwanted cross country move. I have many trips to distract me in the coming months, such as trips as Paris, NYC and Austin.  And I am so very thankful for all of these trips, but no matter how many trips I plan or how busy I try to stay, it does not offset the fact that all I really want is a one way ticket to Minneapolis.

I know this post is heavy and sad, but it's where I am at right now.  It's my reality and I am trying to believe it is temporary.  But gosh, it is still just so so hard.

But tomorrow, I kick off my 10 days of Thanksgiving post series.  It's going to be really good for me to focus on the many blessings in my life right now.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Julia Child Night #5

Another Julia Child Night has come and went!  We started planning the menu for this year's event in June when I was home for the CFA so it's kind of hard to believe it has come and went.  But it was a fantastic menu, and as usual, I had the best time.

The weekend went entirely too fast, as they always do, but I did pack a lot in.  I flew in Thursday night, had a doctor's appointment downtown on Friday morning and then did my grocery shopping in my old neighborhood.  The specialty cheese and wine shop wasn't open yet when I got there, so I took a little walk through my old neighborhood. 

Friday marked 7 months since my move to Charlotte.  All these months later, it's still very bittersweet for me to visit the area where I used to live.  I know I am over half way through my one year commitment to Charlotte, but gosh it is still really, really hard (more on that later this week).

Luckily I was heading to my aunt and uncle's next to start cooking so that helped me get past the sad feelings!  Friday was very busy as we made the soup, prepped many of the components of the salad for the next day and made the chocolate sauce.  After a busy day of cooking, we went out to dinner at the Mexican restaurant we always went to after the CFA exam each year.  It was really, really nice to enjoy a meal there and not be in a post-CFA fog!

On Saturday morning we started cooking at 9:30 and pretty much did not stop until the appetizer hour started around 5!  I will let the pictures do the talking!

A big chunk of Saturday was spent making our main dish, Pot au Feu, which translates to "pot on fire" as it's a dish that is cooked on the stove (or in a roaster).  It has beef, chicken, pork, sausage and root vegetables, so there were lots of different components to work on!

We had our typical appetizer hour of cheese, olives, olive tapenade, and gluten free crackers.  Our signature drink this year was a French 75, which has gin, compari, champagne, simple syrup, and lemon juice.  It's so good!

My aunt Barb and I snapped a quick picture together before the plating of the courses began!  Barb is the mastermind behind this event - she is a very talented cook.  I have learned so much from her through the years and we have become especially close thanks to this event! 

The first course was a cream of mushroom soup!  It was so good, we even had some people who don't like mushrooms finish their bowl!

The salad course was a Salad Nicoise.  This is my most favorite salad and is something I tend to order if I see it on a menu.  It has a french potato salad, tuna, green beans, green beans, tomatoes, olives, and anchovies.  I am not a huge anchovy fan, but when it's mixed in with everything else, it's actually good!

As I said, the main dish was pot au feu.  There were so many components so we took an assembly line approach to plating and had lots of help!  We served it with two sauces - a tradition gravy type of sauce with a broth base and a cream sauce with dried mustard and tomato paste.  They really amp up the flavor of the dish!

We took a bit of a pause between the main course and dessert as everyone was SO full!  Which gave us time to take our yearly "apron" photo!

Dessert was a homemade vanilla custard made by my sister-in-law, which was topped with a homemade chocolate sauce and a homemade truffle.

After dinner, I tabled hopped a bit so I could catch up with different groups.  I snapped this photo of my mom (on the left) and her two sisters towards the end of the night.  I love that they are all wearing stripes and berets! 

So there you have it - another successful Julia Child Night.  I love sharing my love of all things French with family and friends.  I see this tradition continuing for many years to come.  I hope and pray that I'll be living in the Midwest when we host the 6th annual Julia Child night, but I know that no matter where I am, I will always come back for this fantastic event!

In closing, I will say that eating all this French food makes me even MORE excited for my Paris trip - I leave 2 weeks from today!!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Looking Forward

Greetings from LA!  I flew in on Sunday night abut today is my last full day here as I will spend the bulk of tomorrow traveling!  I haven't done a "Looking Forward" post for awhile so figured I was due for one.  I always like doing these posts because it is a good reminder of all the fun things I have to look forward to which help me "keep my chin up" as my Grandpa Neil would say.

Today I am looking forward to having dinner with my cousin who lives in the LA area!  I missed his trip home this spring for my Grandma's 90th birthday party as it fell the weekend before the CFA exam.  Since we live so far apart, it's a treat to get to see him in person.  I'm so glad I had a night free as last time I was in LA I didn't have any free time so didn't get to see him!

This week I am looking forward to going home for the 5th annual Julia Child Night!!  I am so so excited to spend some quality time with family and eat lots of delicious home-cooked food.  This is our 5th annual event - I think it is SO cool that we have kept it going for this many years - and I see no end in sight!  There aren't words to explain how cool and fun this event is.  I feel really really lucky to have such a close-knit family that comes together for this every year.  Of course I've got my striped outfit all planned out!  :)

This month I am looking forward to going to Paris!!  I leave 3 weeks from today!  It seems so far off when I booked the apartment and bought my plane ticket in July and now it's almost here!  I have not planned much for this trip as I just want to wake up each day and do whatever I feel like doing.  More than anything, I really just want to walk and walk and walk and take in all the beauty of the city.

This year I am looking forward to going home for Christmas!  I will be home for 5 full days and I am not working any of those days.  I'll be at my parents' lake home the whole time and can't wait for 5 days of family time.  Christmas is one of my favorite times of year and I am so glad I will (most likely) have a white one as it just wouldn't be Christmas without snow for me.  Since I am flying in and out of Fargo, ND for this trip, I won't get a chance to see friends but in a way it will be kind of nice as I won't stress myself out trying to fit it all in and can instead focus on savoring the time with family.

This is my last post of the week since I will be traveling and preparing for Julia Child Night, but I will be back next week with an event recap!  

What are some things you are looking forward to?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review: The First Phone Call from Heaven

I have read all of Mitch Albom's Books, so when I saw it on the list of books to review for TLC Book Tours, I was excited to check it out.  I just love Albom's books as I usually walk away with such a sense of perspective about life.  I usually try to read Tuesdays with Morrie once a year as out of all of his books, that one impacted me the most!

Synopsis from Good Reads:

The First Phone Call from Heaven tells the story of a small town on Lake Michigan that gets worldwide attention when its citizens start receiving phone calls from the afterlife. Is it the greatest miracle ever or a massive hoax? Sully Harding, a grief-stricken single father, is determined to find out. An allegory about the power of belief--and a page-turner that will touch your soul--Albom's masterful storytelling has never been so moving and unexpected.

My review:

This book could almost be classified as a mystery as one of the main character, Sully Harding, is skeptical about the truth behind these "phone calls from heaven."  We spend part of the book learning about the various characters who are receiving phone calls from loved ones who have passed, and part of the book following Sully's search for the truth.  

The book held my attention until the end, but I will say it was not my favorite Albom book.  I brought it with me on my trip to Myrtle Beach and it was a good book for a trip like that as it was easy to pick up and put back down and it was a pretty light read, which is what I prefer on relaxing beach  vacations.  I think if I had not read Albom's other books, I might have liked this more, but having read all of his other books, I was a little bit disappointed.  But I am still glad I read it.

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

Friday, November 1, 2013

5 Things Friday

Happy Friday!  I hope it's been a good week for everyone.  It's my first full week in the office w/ no travels since September, which was actually kind of nice!  Here are 5 things on my mind as we close out this week.

1.  After a string of really poor months of sleep, I am finally sleeping better.  I attribute it to a combination of cooler temps at night that allow me to sleep with my patio door open, being on Ambien (this is not a long term solution but will help while I am on steroids for my RA), and wearing ear plugs in addition to my sleep mask.  I am definitely a high maintenance sleeper, but I'll do what it takes to get a solid night of sleep.

2.  After a 1.5 week break from travel, I head to the LA area on Sunday as I have a client event on Sunday night and some client meetings on Monday and Tuesday.  I am looking forward to this trip as I really like the sales rep that I will be doing the meetings with. 

3.  I'm patiently awaiting the arrival of my new 5S iPhone.  I was trying to hold off as long as possible as upgrading is kind of expensive, but my 4 has become ridiculously slow and I worry it will die on me at an inopportune time, like when I am traveling, so I took the plunge and upgraded.  Luckily due to the exchange value of my phone, I will not have to pay as much out of pocket as I thought I would.

4. I can't believe it's November, but I am so happy it is!  This month will fly by as it includes work trips to LA and St. Louis (where I will squeeze in a dinner with Nora!), my trip home for Julia Child Night, and my trip to Paris!  Hooray! I will be gone about 1/2 of the month between all my trips so I think it will be a great month.  :)

5. I had my follow-up appointment with my Rheumatologist this week.  I wasn't very happy with the lack of progress I've made since starting my RA drug 8 weeks ago, and she wasn't either so I will start to take weekly injections indefinitely (it's not a temporary thing).  Going into this appointment, that was the outcome I was hoping for as I am totally over the joint pain and swelling.  But sometimes wanting something and then having it become a reality can be two different things.  Don't get me wrong, I want to feel better - I just wish it wouldn't involve weekly shots.  I'm not afraid of needles, so it's not a big deal; I just sort of mourn for my old pre-RA life where I didn't have to take all these medications to achieve a base level quality of life.  But I know with time, this will become my new normal.  I know I'll get to an "this isn't so bad/it could be worse" state of mind but right now I'm in a "this kind of sucks" state of mind which my doctor said is normal/healthy/to be expected.

What is on your mind today?  Any fun plans for the weekend?  Since I fly out for LA on Sunday morning, I am taking it easy tonight and tomorrow.