Friday, January 31, 2014

Five Things Friday

Whew, we made it through another week!  Happy Friday, everyone!  I'm closing out the week with a Five Things Friday post.

1.  I am anxiously awaiting news about the arrival of my newest niece or nephew!  My sister has her c-section today so I will be obsessively checking my phone this morning!  We of course are hoping and praying for a healthy baby, but another girl sure would be fun!  It makes me sad that I don't know when I will meet the baby, though, as I am not sure when I'll be at my parents' lake home next, which is close to where my sister lives. 

2.  I picked up my framed CFA Charter last week.  It's kind of obnoxiously large.  I kind of doubt I will ever have an office as that's not common in my industry, so I will probably be the only person who sees it but I still felt it was worth framing!

3.  I have another quiet weekend in Charlotte on deck this weekend but I am ok with it because a week from today I will be reunited with two of my best friends so I will focus on the excitement of that to get me through my quiet weekend!

4.  I tried my first water aerobics class last weekend and it was actually pretty fun.  I was definitely the youngest person in the class, though!  It was a good mix of cardio and strength training and my joints handled it well so it's something I am going to try to go on the Saturdays that I am in Charlotte.  It looks like they have more intense classes during the week, but they start at 6 and it's so hard for me to leave work on time to make it to them.  :/

5. I started working on my taxes last weekend and oh my gosh I am overwhelmed.  Turns out it's really confusing to file taxes in two different states, especially when part of my relocation income was counted as taxable income.  I work in finance, but this in no way makes me a tax expert so I am admitting defeat and will have to pay for someone to do my taxes for the first time ever. 

What's on your mind today?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Things You Might Not Know About Me

It's been another long week, but it's almost Friday.  Almost.  I don't know about you, but the weeks have been kind of crawling by for me lately...  My mind is all over the place, so instead of putting together a coherent post, I'm declaring today "Things you might not know about me Thursday."  So here goes...

You might not know that...

- I am a total snob when it comes to bottled water.  I will only drink Fiji or Evian.  The reason for this is that my boss did a test on the level of acidity of different bottled water using litmus paper (a strange, but informative office project) so now I know which waters are not great.  Fiji and Evian are.
- I work on a cramped trading floor that holds 600 people. My boss sits about 3 feet from me on one side, my boss's boss sits about 3 feet from me on the other side.  There are no walls and thus, no privacy.   I have gotten used to this but it was an adjustment.

- When I walk on sidewalks, I try to avoid stepping on the crack.  I realize this makes me sound like Rain Man.

- I am very anal about the way my blow dryer and flat iron cords get wrapped when storing them as I think my technique prevents the cord from twisting.  The sight of a twisted cord makes me twitch a bit.

- I don't like pizza, and I never have.  I was the kid who requested the salad bar when my family would go to Pizza Hut.

-  If a recipe calls for crushed red pepper, I will often double what it calls for because I like food with a kick.  Sometimes this works out OK, sometimes it doesn't...

- I've never (to my knowledge) been legitimately camping - meaning sleeping in a tent.  I would like to try this but I need to make friends with someone who has all of the camping equipment because I do not even own a sleeping bag.

- I don't like flip flops.  I own a pair because they are necessary for places like the gym locker room and the lake, but I don't like how they look or the sound they make when you walk with them. For casual footwear, I prefer ballet flats.

Your turn, what are some things that people might not know about you?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book Review: The Cost of Love and Sanity

Synopsis from

For Alex Carter, everything is going according to plan—she’s built a successful career and has a steady boyfriend—until life decides to throw a wrench in the mix. Suddenly, her company threatens to downsize and her boyfriend ends their relationship. It is then that she realizes that, like many women, she has neglected to pursue love and family—the goals closest to her heart—in favor of a career.

As a new year begins and Alex decides to focus on personal concerns, she runs into an old flame, Nathan Chestnut. Though she once had it bad for Nathan, she’s careful about trusting him again. Alex’s remedy is to ask him for an unexpected favor, which seems like the perfect resolution to her broken belief in happiness until she realizes that it can only grant her a piece of her dreams.

As her heart and reality get in the way of her request, Alex reaches a major crossroad. Will she gather her faith and fix the situation? Or will she suffer in silence for the rest of her life?

When I read the synopsis of this book, I was drawn to it as right now I feel like everything is taking a back seat to my career.  Not exactly by choice, as I did not feel this way when I lived in Minneapolis, but since moving to Charlotte that is how I feel.  I sometimes wonder if marriage and children will be part of my future, hence the reason I was interested in reading this book since the main character is wondering the same thing.

Unfortunately the book fell a bit flat for me.  The main character is 35 but I felt like she acted like a naive 20-something at times (no offense to the 20-somethings out there, I was naive at one point, too).  The book spans about 2-3 months and within that time span she makes some huge decisions that I don't think most people can or should make in that short of a time frame, so it felt a bit unrealistic to me.  

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, January 27, 2014

Why I Love Minneapolis

It's winter and it's uncharacteristically cold all over the place, even here in Charlotte, but especially in Minneapolis where the temps have been as cold as -25 degrees, and even colder when you factor in the windchill.  Which means that I frequently get comments like "how could you possibly like living there?" But the fact of the matter is that I do love Minneapolis and I do miss living there, bitterly cold temperatures and all. 

If weather was a huge priority, I probably wouldn't love Minneapolis since we have long, cold winters, lots of gray days, and a short summer season.  For instance, today the high is -11...  But despite all of that, I still love Minneapolis.  So much so that I could probably be an ambassador for the city.  So if you are like my coworkers and wonder why on earth I love Minneapolis, here are some of the reasons!

- Minneapolis is a healthy city.  This was proven by the Today show last week as they did a feature on the healthiest, wealthiest and wisest cities in the U.S., and Minneapolis-St. Paul was chosen as the healthiest city in the U.S.  We have the most parks per square mile out of all the major U.S. cities and we have the 2nd highest number of bicyclists per capita. I love all of the rivers and lakes and the miles upon miles of running/biking paths.  I was so spoiled when I lived in Minneapolis as I could walk out my door and run on a paved running path along the Mississippi River, and that running path linked up to several other running paths that led to lakes and other parkways.  Minneapolis definitely makes it easy to be active (well, when the weather doesn't make that impossible!).

- Minneapolis has lots of bodies of water.  So it turns out that the cities I love most all have something in common - they all have a river running through them or are located on a large body of water.  My condo was located on the Mississippi, but besides this body of water, Minneapolis also has many lakes.  I prefer cities that are located on or near bodies of water because it makes it easier to be active since bodies of water tend to have running/biking paths by them. And they just make for a more picturesque place to live.  Need proof?  See the photos I took this fall...

- Minneapolis has a vibrant downtown.  Even though Minneapolis is small compared to other large cities in the U.S., it still has a vibrant downtown.  There are lots of dining and shopping options downtown, and it caters to people who both work and live downtown as we have groceries stores and a Target.  Large retail stores, such as Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble, and Macy's all have a presence.  When I lived in Minneapolis, I rarely went to a mall because pretty much everything I needed was walking distance from where I worked and lived (including my doctor and dentist).  Lastly, there is a plethora of coffee shops - nearly one on every block in the central part of downtown, and even on the outskirts of downtown where I lived, I had access to 2 different coffee shops in a one block radius.

- Minneapolis has great happy hour specials.  I am a frugal person so I love a good happy hour deal.  Luckily Minneapolis has lots of affordable restaurants with great happy hour specials.  From $3 glasses of wine to $5 margaritas to $3 tacos to $5 sushi rolls, there were a lot inexpensive options at places with a fun vibe. Outside of happy hour, Minneapolis has some great dining options with high quality food that comes with a reasonable price tag.

- The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area has a lot of large, well-respected companies.  From a career standpoint, the MSP metro area is home to a lot of large corporations such as Target, Medtronic, Best Buy, General Mills, and 3M.  As a result, there are a lot of great career options.  Minneapolis has fewer financial companies so it's not the easiest place for me to find a job, per se, but there are some large financial companies with headquarters there such as Ameriprise, US Bank, and Piper Jaffray. 

- I have family and friends in the Minneapolis area.  I'm saving the best for last in this list.  All of the above-mentioned reasons are great reasons to love Minneapolis but this last one is what has my heart pining to live in Minneapolis.  I have a brother, sister-in-law and 2 nephews, an aunt & uncle, and cousins in the metro area, my parents' lake home is 3 hours away, and some of my very best friends live in the Minneapolis area.  I never have trouble filling my week nights or weekends with social plans since I have such a large network of family and friends in Minneapolis.  With the exception of Chicago, I don't think I can replicate what I have in terms of a network anywhere else in the U.S.

So there you have it.  5 reasons, among many other reasons, that I truly love Minneapolis and miss it so much.  What I love about Minneapolis reflects the core things I value - proximity to friends and family, career opportunities, and an urban lifestyle.  And it explains why Charlotte is such a poor fit as the only thing on this list that Charlotte has is career opportunities.  I recognize that what I value differs from what others value, which is why we all love living in different areas of the country and world. 

Why do YOU love where you live?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Currently: January Edition

I have seen this post floating around the blogging community so thought I'd close our my week by playing along as it's a good way to summarize what's going on in my life!

Reading: The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers.  It's supposed to be really good, so hopefully I like it.  It's one of the many books I borrowed from the library earlier this month. 

Loving: sleeping in my own bed.  I love traveling but there is nothing like returning to your own bed.

Thinking: about my trip home at the end of February and how to arrange my schedule so I can see as many friends as possible.

Feeling: anxious about things at work, my job search, and the logistics of a cross-country move when it happens.

Anticipating: a quiet weekend with very little going on, which I am actually ok with.  February is going to be a busy month so a couple of quiet, plan-free weekends will be good for me.

Inspired by:  this post by Linda of Curious Notions where she talks about walking away from things that you know aren't right for you, whether it's a career that's not a right fit or a relationship, despite having invested a lot of time into them.  I think it takes a brave person to say - this isn't right and I am going to change something to find what is right for me.

Watching: Top Chef and Parenthood and loving both shows. I'm cheering for Shirley and Nina on Top Chef!

Sad: that some of my closest friends are dealing with heartbreaking things.  Life is really very cruel and unfair sometimes.

Working: on making gratitude part of each day.  Nilsa gave me a one-sentence journal last year which helps as we can all come up with one sentence describing something we are grateful for each day.  It may be the same thing, day after day, at times, but here is always something to be grateful for. 

Grateful: for my financial stability.  I stress about my grad school loans, but in the grand scheme of things, my financial situation could be much worse.  I am really grateful that I have no debt besides my mortgage and student loans, money in savings, and a well-funded 401(k).

Listening: to the Cities 97 Sampler on repeat, which is a compilation album that a radio station in Minneapolis puts out each year.  I got it back in November and am still loving it. 

Wishing: I lived in Minneapolis, but that's been my wish for almost 10 months... so yah.  Hopefully it gets granted soon.

What are you reading, wishing, and grateful for?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

From the Land of Ma'am: Checking out Charleston

My adventures of exploring the south continued last weekend with a trip to Charleston.  Last year some runners from my Minneapolis running club decided to run the Charleston marathon.  Since Charleston is only 3 hours from Charlotte, I decided to meet up with them for some sight-seeing and spectating.

I had heard nothing but great things about Charleston and it did not disappoint.  It is a very charming southern city with so much history and character - and good food!  We lucked out and were there during restaurant week so ate at some great places at a reasonable price!

I will say that I did a horrible job of taking photos on this trip...  I have no excuse, I just did not pull out my phone very often!  But I did take a few photos that are worth sharing!  Here is a recap of what we did!

On Thursday, I had a big client meeting in the area so headed into Charleston after the meeting and arrived mid-afternoon.  We walked down to King Street which is one of the main thoroughfares of Charleston.  After spending most of the day in a car/in a lunch meeting, it felt great to stretch my legs and get some fresh air.

On Friday, we headed into downtown Charleston, checked out the Battery area (which has lots of beautiful, historic homes), walked along the Ashley River, and saw the Cooper River Bridge from afar.

There is a museum on slavery as Charleston was a huge hub for slavery, so we checked out that museum next.  The museum was very interesting and is something I'd recommend to others visiting the area.  After lunch, we took a 2 hour tour of Charleston. I was hoping to do a Carriage tour but no one else was interested in that and it was a bit cool so I will have to save that for another trip.  Instead, we took a tour in a small tour bus, which was very informative.  He drove us through the various areas of Charleston and explained the history of different areas of the city - and provided color on how much properties in the Battery sold for (as much as $6 million!!!). The tour ended with a tour of one of the historical homes in the Battery.  I totally regret not taking pictures of the homes in the Battery!

Saturday was the marathon so that pretty much took up most of the day.  I had 2 friends running it and had some company while spectating as the wife of one friend and the aunt of another came along for the weekend.  We had a really hard time getting around with all the road closures but managed to see our runners at miles 18, 22, and the finish. The weather on race day was not great.  It was pretty cool and very windy, and the course honestly looked pretty ugly so I was actually not sad that I wasn't running it...  But they both ran great races and recovered well.

After the marathon, we had a late brunch at a cute Southern cafe and then relaxed until our dinner reservations at a seafood place along the water.

On Sunday, we headed out to a plantation outside of Charleston.  There are several to choose from but we went to a smaller one called Drayton Hall.  I would love to see Magnolia plantation some time, but would rather see it in the spring when the flowers are in bloom, so hopefully I will get back to Charleston in March or April.

We took a guided tour of the home which was really interesting.  This plantation was purely for the entertainment of guests and was built around 1750.  The guide did a really good job of explaining the architecture of the home and the way it was used by the Drayton family.

I will say it's a little weird to be touring a plantation because it is just such a sad, shameful time in the history of our country since the plantations were ran by slaves.  So while I can appreciate the beauty of the home and setting, I had an unsettled feeling while touring it.

After the tour, we walked around the grounds, which were beautiful.  I love the old trees with spanish moss!

After the tour, we headed back to downtown Charleston, had a light/late lunch, and did some shopping before heading back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. 

On Monday I hit the road around 9 am so I could have most of the day in Charlotte to prepare for the week ahead.  All in all it was a great weekend and I really hope I can fit a trip back there in March or April as I'd love to visit it during a warmer time of year.  The weather was ok, but some of the days were definitely chilly!

Have you been to Charleston?  It's definitely a place I would recommend visiting as it such a cute, charming southern city.

Monday, January 20, 2014

France Book Tours Book Review & eBook Giveaway: Gastien, The Cost of the Dream


When young Gastien Beauchamp flees the farm for Paris, the late nineteenth century bohemian era is in full swing. Color has always called to him, beseeching him to capture it on canvas and show people a new way of seeing things. His father belittled his dream of being an artist and tried to beat him into giving it up. The dream wouldn’t die, but Gastien would have had he not left.
He also yearns to become a great lover. After the years of anguish he has endured at the hand of his father, it would be heaven to feel pleasure instead of pain.
However, the city of Paris has a ruthless agenda. Unless a man has money and connections, Paris unfeelingly crushes dreams and destroys souls. With neither of the required assets, Gastien faces living in alleys, digging in trash bins for food, and sleeping where a man is often killed for his threadbare blanket.

Left with only his dreams, Gastien stubbornly pushes on. He vows that absolutely nothing will stop him, not yet realizing what keeping that vow might mean. Sometimes the “impossible” is possible – but the cost can be extremely high.

This historical fiction novel is book 1 of a 5 book drama/family saga for adults (The Gastien Series).  As such, it contains adult themes and graphic scenes. Each book can stand on its own, but is most compelling read in order.

My review:

I was excited to read this book as when I was in Paris, I went on a guided walking tour of the Montmartre area which is an area of Paris that was historically inhabited by artists, many of which was struggling to make ends meet in order to pursue their dream. In Gastien, The Cost of a Dream we meet Gastien, an artist whose live embodied the struggles and challenges that the guide on my walking tour spoke of.  He comes to Paris to fulfill his dream of being an accomplished artists but quickly learns that the road to success is extremely difficult.  He meets people along the way who are willing to help him out but some of those offers of help are not selfless and force Gastien to decide how badly he wants to pursue his dream, and whether he is willing to compromise his values to pursue that dream.

The synopsis of the book indicates that the book contains adult themes and graphic scenes, and that is certainly the case.  I have never read 50 Shades of Grey, but some of the scenes in this book are probably similar to what you would read in 50 Shades of Grey...  so just keep that in mind if you plan to check this out. 

Lastly, this the first book in a 5 book series.

Product Details Product Details  Product Details    Product Details

Author Bio:

Caddy Rowland grew up with a stack of books that almost reached the ceiling before she was five. Books, along with her vivid imagination, have always been some of her closest friends.

She lives with her husband, who was her high school sweetheart. They are owned by two parrots. Besides being a writer, she is an artist. One can often find her “makin’ love to the color” (painting) with loud music blaring.

Her goal as an author is to make readers laugh, cry, think, and become intimately connected with her main characters. She writes dramatic novels showcasing the sublime joy and bitter tragedy of being human.

To get her books and get in touch with her:
Author Central Page on Amazon
Sign up for New Release Newsletter by Email
Gastien Fanpage on Facebook
Author Blog
Goodreads Author Page
Author Email:
caddyauthor at yahoo dot com
Twitter: @caddyorpims

I have one digital copy to give away so please leave a comment by Friday, January 24 to be included in the giveaway.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Virtual Coffee Date

It's been awhile since I've done a virtual coffee date post so I thought it'd be a good way to catch up on the thoughts and happenings in my world.

- I have been in Charlotte for the last 3 weekends which is the most consecutive weekends I have spent in Charlotte since May.  So I am ready to bust out of here - and luckily I will this weekend as I have a client meeting tomorrow and will head to Charleston from there.  I am so excited to check out this city! The weather should be fairly decent for January (upper 40s most likely so certainly not warm but could be worse), so as long as it doesn't rain I'll be happy!  I do a lot of solo travel so it will be a nice change to have some friends to explore Charleston with!

- January has been a quiet month, but February is going to be BUSY.  Which is good.  I have a trip to Austin for a girls weekend, then I host Kyria for a weekend here in Charlotte, I have an unplanned weekend in Charlotte, and then I go home to Minneapolis in late February.  So February is pretty much going to be awesome.  Plus it's my birthday month.

- I have been trying to manage some anxiety lately that ebbs and flows with my outlook for my job search.  In the past, my tool for managing anxiety was running.  It's really hard to not have that outlet but I am making it work because I have no other choice.  

-  My cousin came up with a great idea to start a family book club.  We are all scattered across the US so will be using Google hangouts for our meetings.  Gosh I love technology!  I am excited for our first meeting in February.  I picked the first book so I hope everyone likes it.

- Speaking of books, I picked up 5 from the library last weekend.  I just can't emphasize enough how much I love the library.  It's weird to think back on the days when I bought books instead of using the library - now I rarely buy books.  Which is good because my 6 bookcases are over-flowing as it is, so I don't really have room for more books right now.

- I am wishing my sister Abby the best of luck this weekend as she will be running her 2nd marathon on Sunday!  I know she is going to do great and can't wait to hear how her race goes.    

I hope everyone has a great rest of the week!  I'll be back next week with a book review and a recap of my time in Charleston.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Meatless Monday Dishes

Happy Monday everyone, I hope you all had a great weekend.  As I mentioned in my post on Friday, I've been gravitating towards meatless dishes these days.  It seems like many of us start off the New Year with an intention to eat healthier and/or try new recipes, so I thought I'd share some of the meatless dishes I've been making lately!  Plus I haven't done a recipe post in ages so I figured I was due for one!
First up, here is a new idea for an appetizer.  It's a Greek layered dip which is really easy to make and was a hit when I brought it to a get-together earlier this month.  Here are the layers:

6 oz. container of plain Greek yogurt
1 container of hummus (I used roasted red pepper)
1/4 - 1/2 a cup of sliced kalamata olives
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced
1-2 T. chopped parsley

I served it with carrots, sliced cucumbers, and gluten free crackers

 Next up, 2-bean vegetarian chili.

1 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded (I don't seed mine as I like it spicy!)
2 carrots, diced
1 green pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 T. chili powder
1 t. oregano
1 t. cumin

1.  Heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion, jalapenos, carrots, green pepper, and garlic.  Saute for 5 minutes.

2.  Add tomatoes, black beans, kidney beans, chili powder, oregano, and cumin.  Bring to boil and then let simmer for about 20 minutes or until chili thickens (longer is better for more flavor).

Lastly, another favorite of mine is Rogan Josh, which is a recipe from the Penzey catalog that my aunt shared with me which I have adapted a bit. You could serve it over rice but I actually eat mine plain and find it filling enough without a carb. Rogan Josh is a spice that can be found at specialty spice markets, but if you can't find it, you could substitute curry powder.

1 c. lentils, rinsed
1 bay leaf
4 c. water
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 T. vegetable oil
1 T. Rogan Josh
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 c. frozen peas (optional)
1 t. salt
1-2 T. lemon juice

1.  In a 2-quart pot, combine the lentils, bay leaf and water.  Boil the lentils until tender (about 30 minutes).

2.  Heat oil over medium heat.  Saute onions and garlic until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add Rogan Josh and let cook until fragrant (15-20 seconds). Add the tomatoes and saute for 1-2 minutes.  Stir in the cooked lentils and bay leaf.  Ad the peas (optional), salt, and lemon juice.  Cook and stir for 5-10 minutes.  Remove bay leaf before serving.

So there you have it - 3 easy meatless dishes!

Have you made any new recipes lately?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Five Things Friday

Oh boy, this week craaaaawled by for me.  I am not used to being the office 5 days as I got really used to traveling for work this fall.  I don't have any work trips planned for January so I will have to get used to being around more!  Here's hoping the weeks go by a little faster going forward!

I'm closing out the week with 5 things that are on my mind!

1.  My CFA Charter arrived in December and despite the fact that I don't have an office (or even a cube) with a wall to hang it on, I still decided to get it framed.  It's 17" x 22" so is MASSIVE and of course that is a strange document size so it requires a custom frame. It was a little spendy, but I worked so hard for the CFA designation, I couldn't not frame it!

2.  Ever since moving to Charlotte, I have really gravitated towards eating meatless dishes.  It's a combination of not craving it, not having a grocery store close by where I feel comfortable buying meat (big chain grocery store meat grosses me out) and the fact that meat-free recipes tend to draw my eye more than those that contain meat.  I certainly am not and will never be a vegetarian, but I sometimes go weeks without consuming meat - and can go well over a month without consuming red meat, and I don't see this changing anytime soon.

3. I am kind of having a tough RA month.  I had site reactions to my last 2 injections which is apparently a normal side effect, but uncomfortable for me (swelling, red skin, itchy).  And while I have seen improvements, I am so sick of the limitation this disease places on my body.  I tried to do a new class at the gym on Monday and it just did not go well. I finished the class because I had too much pride to walk out mid-class, but my joints definitely weren't ready for it.  So pretty much my workouts are limited to spinning and using the elliptical, and I am going to join the senior citizens and try water aerobics this weekend. I know what I am able to do is better than nothing but I miss being able to do whatever exercise I wanted to do.  My joints should heal with time, but after almost 5 months of dealing with RA symptoms on top of 4+ months of being in a boot from a stress fracture, I'm totally sick of being limited.  I miss running.  I miss being able to do strength training.  I miss yoga.  Hurry up and heal, body.

4.  It's actually been cold here this week.  I usually roll eyes when people talk about cold weather here, but this week I will actually say it's been cold.  It's certainly nothing compared to the temps that the Midwest has had, but we dipped down to the single digits on Tuesday and the windchill was -5.  Luckily it's short-lived as we'll be back up to the 40s today and will climb into the 60s this weekend which will feel glorious. 

5. A year ago yesterday was the day I found out about my relocation to Charlotte. That day will undoubtedly go down as one of the hardest of my life.  I am really trying to put all that happened in 2013 behind me and to instead focus on what is ahead, but I felt especially sad yesterday as it was hard not to think about all of things that happened over the past year. Here's hoping a year from now I am in a better place both figuratively and literally.

What's on your mind today?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Looking Forward

This fall, I focused a lot on planning things to look forward to as a coping mechanism for living in Charlotte.  The thought of too many unplanned weekends in a month made me downright anxious, so I bought plane tickets like they were candy bars and visited as many east coast friends as I could.  But I can't keep traveling at that pace (or spending so much of my disposable income on plane tickets) so the next 3 months are going to be different for me.  I still have things planned, but far less than I was used to.  It makes me a little bit anxious to look at a less packed calendar, but when I sit down and think about it, I still have things to look forward to.

Here's what I am looking forward to these days!

This weekend I am looking forward to trying a new recipe.  I am going to try making Skinny Taste's butternut squash and spinach lasagna rolls.  They sound super tasty so I am excited to give this recipe a try. 

This month I am looking forward to a long weekend in Charleston, SC.  Some friends from my Minneapolis run club are running the marathon over MLK weekend so I am heading down to hang out with them and cheer them on.  I have heard nothing but amazing things about Charleston so I am excited to check it out.  It's about 3 hours away from Charlotte so I hope to visit this area more than once before moving!

This quarter I am looking to traveling to Austin, TX to visit my college best friend, Heidi!  My other college best friend, Brooke, is flying in, too.  The weekend falls around both mine and Heidi's birthdays, so it will be such a treat to get to celebrate our special days with some of my favorite people!  It's pretty rare for all 3 of us to be together for more than a couple of hours at a time, so I am really excited about this!

This year I am looking forward to traveling to Iowa to attend Amber's wedding!  I got to meet her fiance, Bill, when I ran the Des Moines marathon in October of 2012.  It's been exciting to watch their relationship develop and I am so happy for Amber.  Her wedding is in July so I just hope and pray I am driving distance away from Iowa by then but regardless of where I live, I am going to really try to be there for her big day.  If by some chance I am still living in Charlotte, I will just combine my trip for her wedding with the lake vacation I will take in the summer.  My life is so up in the air for the year so I am not planning much, but this is one date on my calendar that is circled and I am determined to make it there.

I actually could have written about more things I am looking forward to like becoming an aunt again, a trip home and a visit from a good friend! There are definitely some really fun things on the horizon for me!

What are you looking forward to these days? 

Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 Goals

I don't do resolutions.  Instead I like to use the word goals.  Before diving into my 2014 goals, I thought it'd be good review my 2013 goals!  So here goes:

1.  Pass Level III of the CFA.  DONE!  Woo hoo.  Best moment of 2013 was certainly finding out I passed that test.  I worked so freaking hard towards that goal.  I don't think words exist to sum up the relief that the CFA is behind me.

2.  Pay off my undergrad student loans.  DONE!  I paid them off with my bonus in March, which felt great.

3.  Run a sub-4 hour marathon.  Not done. Totally out of my control.  My body failed me this year.

4.  Read 52 books.  DONE!  With ease!  I read 79.

Accomplishing 3 out of 4 goals is pretty good!

Now for my 2014 goals!

1.  Get out of Charlotte.  This is obviously my big goal for the year; if I achieve no other goals besides this, I will consider 2014 a smashing success.  April 8th is my relocation contract release date, which means that I can resign at that time with no financial repercussions.  I will be attacking this goal like it's my job, but I will not be sharing much about my progress towards this goal because while I am sure my bosses in Charlotte won't be surprised when I resign, I don't want them privy to the timeline, etc.  I doubt they would find my blog, but you never know.

2.  Pay down 2/3 of the balance of my grad school student loans.  I am attacking my student loan balance aggressively right now.  I put more towards them every month than I put towards rent.  But I want to attack them even more aggressively in 2014 because my goal is to pay them off in 2015.  This is going to be a tough goal, but I know I can do it. 

3.  Read 52 books.  I am not adjusting this goal to a higher number because 2013 was an outlier.  I think a book a week is still a good goal!

4.  Return to running.  I don't like to put things on my list that are sort of out of my control, but I am making an exception and adding this one to my list because it's really important to me to find a way to get back to running.  My RA pain is still not 100% managed so I know this is a ways off, but I hope and pray that I can get back to running, even if it's just a 5k or 10k race.  Ideally, I'd love to run a half marathon in the fall.

What goals have you set for yourself in 2014?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Minnesota Christmas

Happy Friday!  I imagine this has been a short week at work for everyone, so hopefully it was a good one!  I had an absolutely wonderful Christmas.  In the weeks leading up to Christmas I was kind of worn down due to all of the travel I had been doing and I was feeling very down about life in Charlotte, but this trip home was really good for me.  I slept well, relaxed a lot, and enjoyed spending time around family.  And no one brought up Charlotte - which I was thankful for as it's a topic I don't enjoy discussing.  For the rest of the post, I'll let the pictures (mostly) do the talking.

My trip home definitely did not get off to a good start, though.  I spent 6 hours at the airport as they kept delaying my flight due to mechanical problems and then they ended up cancelling it.  I was a sad, crying mess and going back to my apartment in Charlotte that night was the most depressing thing ever, but I got re-booked on the first flight out in the morning.

After connecting via Minneapolis, I flew into the tiny airport in Fargo, ND.  You know you are in the heart of the Midwest when there is snow removal equipment on display in the airport terminal!

My mom picked me up, we grabbed some lunch, and were on our way to the lake!  It was so good to be reunited with some of my nephews!

The weather was bitterly cold when I was home...  I did not complain at all.  I was just happy to be home.

Since it was so cold, I spent a lot of time huddled up on the couch in front of the fireplace, reading.  Most mornings I was awake before anyone else and it was really peaceful to start the day reading by the fireplace with a cup of coffee to warm me up.

While reading during the day, I'd often have the company of my Godson, James.  I'd read, he'd play on my mom's iPad, and we'd snuggle up together.  I am glad he's not 'too cool' for his aunt yet!

One afternoon we had a little Dance Dance Revolution face-off, which was a lot of fun (and a really good workout, I might add).  No one could beat aunt Lisa!  :)

Christmas Eve started off with me receiving a bracelet made by my nephew Matthew.  He is so thoughtful - he remembered to use my favorite color (pink).  Handmade gifts are the best. 

I was impressed with how well the boys all played together.  With 4 boys under the age of 10, it can get a bit rowdy at times, but that is to be expected.  It's tough to get them to sit still for a picture, but I managed to snap one of James and Charlie on Christmas morning.

And before I knew it, it was time to come back to Charlotte.  The time at home went incredibly fast and I wish I would have taken some pictures of the delicious food my mom and brother prepared. I also wish I would have remembered to take a picture with my parents and with my Grandma on Christmas Day but it just slipped my mind.

The trip back to Charlotte went better than when I came back in November.  I made it through the goodbyes and the flight without crying.  I think it it helps to come back knowing I am just over 3 months from my relocation contract release date.  For the first time, I came back knowing I could start to look for a new job opportunity, and I have an action plan.  Having a plan really helps.

Luckily, I came home to a bunch of Christmas mail which really brightened my day.  I think this is the most cards I have ever received!  So if you sent me one, thank you very much!  I look at them every day!

And so another Christmas season has come and gone.  To be quite honest, I am glad this one is behind me.  It was tinged with heavy emotions of sadness and anxiety, but like I said in my New Years Eve post, I am hopeful that 2014 will be a better year.

I'll be back on Monday with my goals for 2014!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New York City at Christmas

So I know everyone has seemed to have moved on from Christmas and is focusing on the New Year (myself included), but I can't let the Christmas Season come and go without recapping my trip to NYC in mid-December.  Plus, technically the Christmas Season lasts until the Epiphany, which is on Sunday!  So I am getting this post in right before the season ends!

I planned my trip to New York to coincide with Alli's birthday, which was on the 15th.  I have never been to NYC during the holidays (well, I went shortly after Christmas one year but it's not the same as going before Christmas) so I was thankful that I could find an inexpensive ticket.  I landed on Friday evening and was treated to a delicious meal of steak fajitas and a very fun mocktail.  Due to my RA med interfering with my liver function, I am only able to have 1-2 drinks/month, so I really have to ration my consumption of alcoholic beverages.  It was very nice of Alli to craft a mocktail in a martini glass so I could still enjoy a fun drink!

We woke up to snow on Saturday morning, which I was so excited about.  I have really missed having snow around during the month of December as it just doesn't feel like Christmas without snow and cold weather.  We got bundled up, grabbed some Starbucks, and headed down to Rockefeller Center to check out the beautiful tree!

It was awesome to see this iconic tree in person.  There were a lot of people in the area, but it didn't bother me.  We checked out the skaters...

And then walked towards Saks to view the tree from another vantage point.

Our next stop was the windows at Saks, which were so impressive!  A series of windows told the story of Yeti, which unbeknownst to me is another name for the Abominable Snowman.

We also popped into Saks to warm up and check out their indoor tree displays, which were all so unique and beautiful. 

After warming up, we headed up 5th Avenue to check out all the holiday decorations.  We stopped at the Eloise store at The Plaza Hotel before heading to the Columbus Circle holiday market.  Unfortunately at this point my fingers were just too cold to take out my phone and snap photos!  The market was so cool and featured many small vendors.  At this point, Alli and I had been outside for over 3 hours and were both really cold, so we headed back to her apartment to warm up and eat lunch.

That evening, we met up with Alli's boyfriend Chris and went out to a Greek restaurant for her Birthday dinner.  The restaurant was so cute and our waiter handled Alli's food allergies and my gluten intolerance well (we were probably definitely his most high maintenance table of the night!).  At the end of the night, we managed to get a picture together!

The next day, Sunday, was Alli's actual birthday.  I got up and went to mass at this beautiful church in her neighborhood and we grabbed Starbucks again, walked around a cute outdoor market (which had an awesome pickle vendor) and then met up with Chris for brunch at a cute restaurant on the Upper West Side.

Sadly, I had an afternoon flight back to Charlotte, so I had to head to the airport after brunch.  I ended up being in NYC for less than 48 hours, so it was a whirlwind trip, but I am so glad I went.  It was great to see NYC in all its holiday glory, spend time with Alli, meet her boyfriend (who is the perfect match for her), and help her celebrate her birthday. 

Have you ever been to NYC during the holidays?  I highly recommend going during the holiday season as it's such a magical time to visit!  

I'll be back tomorrow with a recap of my Christmas in Minnesota!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Music, Books, Miles, and Looks of December

Woo hoo!  It's 2014!!


Make Me Crazy by Keri Noble - This is another song that I was introduced to by a compilation album that a Minneapolis radio station releases each year.  The vocals in this song are amazing!


I finished off the year with another super strong month of reading, thanks to my Paris trip and the many flights I took this month. My favorite book was The Little Way of Ruthie Leming; my least favorite was The Death of Bees.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes - 3 stars
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher - 5 stars
The Consolation of the Forest by Sylvain Tesson - 3 stars
The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell - 3 stars
The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani - 3 stars
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion - 4 stars
Lowcountry Boil by Susan Boyer - 3 stars
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) - 4 stars
Gastien:  The Cost of a Dream by Caddy Rowland - 3 stars
The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure - 4 stars
Orpahn Train by Christina Baker Kline - 4 stars
I'll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Palmieri-Hayes - 4 stars


I will probably start to track my bike and elliptical miles, but I didn't start doing that this month.  I got in a decent number of workouts, except for when I was home for Christmas and my only workout was playing DDR with my nephews.  I didn't clock a lot of miles on my feet, but I flew a lot of miles, as I flew back from Paris, had work trips to Denver and Houston, flew to NYC for a weekend, and flew home to Fargo, ND for Christmas.  I made Silver on 2 airlines this year and flew a total of 70 flights - which is a lot compared to the 30 I flew last year! 


I didn't wear anything noteworthy in December, but I did buy some Hunter brand boots when I was in NYC, which you can see in this picture.  It was cold & snowy that day, so I am bundled up and am rocking a white girl 'fro in that photo but I still love that photo as it was magical to see that tree in person. I still need to recap my NYC trip - I ran out of time as life was so hectic after I got back between a work trip and my trip home for Christmas!  But I'll do a belated recap tomorrow!