Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Looking Forward

It's been awhile since I did a looking forward post so thought I was due.  I love doing these posts as they remind me that I have a lot of things to look forward to!

Today I am looking forward to flying home to Minneapolis.  It's going to be about 60 degrees colder there than it is here but I don't even care! Time with friends trumps weather in my book. 

This weekend I am looking forward to catching up with my Minneapolis friends, some of which I haven't seen since last April (!!!), checking out the home that Phil closed on last week (yes, we are still friends and keep in touch), and eating some macarons from my favorite place in Minneapolis (they have the best macarons that I've eaten outside of Paris). And on the not-so-fun front, I am getting my taxes done and hoping I don't have to pay in!  It's so hard to fit in as much as I'd like on these trips home, but I am trying to fit in as much as I possibly can!  

This (up-coming) month I am looking forward to extending a work trip to Florida so I can see my 4 sets of aunts and uncles that live or winter in Venice, Florida.  I am looking forward to time with family and days spent at the beach, relaxing and reading!  I am also hoping to meet up with Stephany for coffee or dinner as I will be passing by her city on my drive to Orlando for my work conference.  I'm also looking forward to a weekend trip to Savannah at the end of March.  Savannah looks like such a charming city; I am glad I'll get a chance to visit it while I am living in Charlotte. 

This year I am looking forward to rendezvousing with some running friends in the San Franscisco area for a race.  We haven't decided on a race yet, but are leaning towards a trail run.  I've never done a trail race, so it will be a new experience for me, but if I am going to do one anywhere, it seems like the Bay area is the place to do it as it's so incredibly beautiful out there!  Now I just need my rheum to clear me to train for the half marathon distance!

This will be my last post for the week as I won't be bringing my lap top with me to Minnesota so I will catch up with you all next week!

What are you looking forward to these days?

Monday, February 24, 2014

My First 6 Months with RA

It's hard to believe it's been 6 months since I found out about my RA diagnosis.  I'll probably never forget the day I got the phone call as I was standing in a super loud Jewish deli in New York with Alli when my GP called to tell my blood tests and symptoms indicated that I had RA and would need to meet with a Rheumatologist to discuss a treatment plan.  In the first days after the diagnosis, I was pretty much in a state of shock and was pretty scared about how it would impact my life, but over the past 6 months I've gotten to the point where, for the most part, I've accepted it. 

I quickly learned that it was best for me to not read about the disease online because there is a lot of scary stuff out there - things like articles on how RA shortens your life expectancy or can impact your heart and lungs or results in being in disabled status/unable to work.  There is some truly scary stuff out there, and while some of it may apply to me, I guess I am in the 'ignorance is bliss' category.  I have a doctor I trust who will tell me what I need to worry about, so I leave the worrying up to her and avoid reading all the scary things out there.

While I have moved towards acceptance of this chronic disease, I still have my bad days.  Days where I get frustrated over my limitations, especially my inability to do any weight bearing activity as my upper body joints are still not doing great.  Besides that, I still can't really wear heels as it puts too much pressure on the joints by my toes.  Not being able to wear heels might not seem like a big deal to others but it bothers me as I feel best and most confident in a pair of heels.  Lastly, I get frustrated over the limitation on the amount of alcohol I can drink each month (I am limited to about 2 drinks/month due to medication I am on that increases the chance of liver damage).  My frustration mostly stems from having to explain why I am not drinking - it's amazing how many people will ask why I am not drinking or jokingly ask if I am pregnant. 

I also get frustrated by the number of drugs I am on.  It feels weird to pull out my bag of pills when staying at others' homes or when I am eating breakfast in a public place.  I have cut out one medication, but am still on 4.  Granted 2 of those are only taken once a week, but it's still a lot.  It seems like every week I am getting a notification from Target that I have a prescription to refill so it's a constant reminder that while I am doing better, my "new normal" is so different than my old one.  Now I have pill bottles on my counter, sharps containers in my dining room as that is where I give my injections and syringes of medication in my fridge. 

This guy is both a miracle and my enemy at the same time.  It's improved my joint paint but causes skin reactions. But the good outweighs the bad.

All in all, I am doing pretty well and I have seen improvement, but I feel like it's sort of an internal silent struggle at times.  I hesitate to talk about it with family and friends or on the blog because I don't want to be that person who is always talking about her health.  The disease is manageable and I am coping with it as well as I can, but it still sucks that it's something that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life.  And it's been tough to deal with it on top of all the other struggles the past year has contained. 

All that said, I'm in a better place, health-wise, than I was 6 months ago, and I expect to be in an even better place 6 months from now.  I expect the skin reactions to go away and my upper body joints to heal a bit more.  But in the mean time, I am thankful that my foot joints have healed enough to allow me to return to running.  My fingers are crossed that my doctor will clear me to start training for a half marathon when I see her in early April!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Currently: February Edition

Happy Friday, everyone!  This has been a whirlwind week for me as I took Monday off since the market was closed for Presidents' Day and then I flew to New York on Wednesday for client meetings and will come back this morning.  But the faster the weeks go by, the better for me.

Reading: The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch.  Marisa reviewed it earlier this month and was kind enough to send me her copy.  So far it's been a light, fun read.

Loving: the warm weather we've had lately as it was in the 60s in Charlotte this week!  It's not that I can't handle some of the colder weather we've had in Charlotte lately, but if I am going to live in the south, I'd like some mild temps. 

Thinking:  of this time last year when I was preparing to move while studying for the CFA and wondering how I got through it.

Feeling: homesick but am thankful that I will be home in less than a week for 4 days.

Anticipating: a fun weekend ahead that includes dinner at a friends house tonight, a massage tomorrow afternoon, a gathering at a co-worker's house with fellow Minnesotans who have been relocated tomorrow night and our first virtual family book club on Sunday night!

Inspired by:  people in my life who have faced difficult things but still maintain a positive attitude.

Watching: the Olympics, but not as much as I have in years past as I just have not been around much since they started.

Sad: that I haven't met my new niece and don't know when I will.  Hopefully it will work for me to come home at Easter but it all depends on the timing of when I will be moving.

Working: on a presentation that I will deliver at a client event in Minnesota next week. 

Grateful: that I am able to run again.  My nearly 10 month absence was very hard on me as running is a stress outlet for me, so I am so happy to be back at it!  My mileage is super low, but I don't care because running 3 miles at a time is > running 0 miles.

Listening: to The Civil Wars albums on repeat.  I have yet to get sick of their music!

Wishing: that I had a crystal ball.  The amount of uncertainty in my life is something I am really struggling with as I feel like I can't plan anything after March as I have no idea what will happen after my year mark on April 8th. It just all depends on how soon I find a job and I don't have any sense of clarity about that yet and don't know when I will.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

From the Land of Ma'am: Hosting Kyria

As I said last week, I had the opportunity to host Kyria over President's Day weekend.  Her visit got off to a bit of a rocky start as one of her flights was cancelled. Delta was able to re-book her on another flight, but then her bag got lost - but she rolled with the punches like a champ.  It helps that we are similar sizes and wear the same size shoes so I was able to borrow some clothes to her!

On Friday night, we stayed in and I made lentil enchiladas and a southwestern black bean salad, both of which turned out great.  I would highly recommend either recipe!  After dinner, we played a couple of games of cribbage which is one of my all-time favorite card games.

Saturday morning I was hoping that we could do an outdoor run, but the sidewalks were still snow-covered thanks to the 8" of snow we received last week, so we both put in our time on the dreadmill before hitting the road for Asheville.

I was a little nervous about the drive to Asheville as part of the drive is on a winding, steepish road but luckily the driving conditions were perfect.  Our first stop when we got to Asheville was the Biltmore.  I had a free pass so Kyria got in for free which was nice as the admission fee is $49 this time of year.  It was fun to explore the property with Kyria and the views in this area never disappoint!

After the Biltmore, we headed into downtown Asheville.  The first place we went to was a gourmet potato chip place that came highly recommended by a friend and it did not disappoint!  The chips are all made-to-order and so good.  We shared one order which was a perfect appetizer for dinner. We had a lot of choices, but went with "The Parisian" which had rosemary, thyme, goat cheese, truffle spritz and sea salt.  They were SO good.  I will definitely be back so I can try some other kinds!

Next we had dinner at Tupelo Honey which is one of my favorite places in Asheville.  It's this cute southern place that happens to have a great gluten free menu.  I had a basic grilled cheese and tomato soup, which was really good, and treated myself to this fun drink which is lemonade with rosemary.  I know it sounds like a weird combination, but it is so good!

After dinner, we were pretty full, but a visit to Asheville is not complete without a stop at French Broad Chocolate.  They have the best drinks and treats to choose from.  We both had hot chocolate made with dark chocolate ganache and each bought a treat that we saved for later (a chocolate-coconut brownie for Kyria and a GF peanut butter cookie for me).

We were officially stuffed after that so headed back to the hotel and called it a night.  On Sunday morning we headed back into Asheville.  I went to mass while Kyria checked out the city on foot, and then we had a delicious brunch which I failed to take a photo of!

I was hoping to take Kyria on a hike on a trail off the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, but unfortunately the parkway was closed due to the snow and ice we received last week, so instead we went to Crowder's Mountain State Park, which is about 30 minutes from Charlotte.  I hadn't been here before, so it was fun to check out a new place.  We hiked to the summit which had a pretty view.

After hiking for about 4-5 miles (I think?) we headed back to Charlotte.  We had worked up an appetite so I took Kyria to my favorite Charlotte restaurant, Cabo Fish Taco.  I love the fish tacos at this place and the atmosphere is vibrant and casual so it's my kind of place.  I had a tuna taco and a mahi mahi taco and both were excellent!

After dinner, we headed back to my place to read, relax, and watch the Olympics.  On Monday morning we woke up to sunshine and mild temps (36 degrees F) so we headed out for a run.  Kyria is training for a 50k and the Boston marathon, so she needed to get some miles in, but we ran together for about 1.5 miles before I split off and headed back.  I have slowly been working on increasing my run/walk intervals and I am now able to run for 3 miles straight without any walking breaks!  That's a pretty big accomplishment for me after not running for almost 10 months!

All in all it was a really fun weekend!  I love the Asheville area so it's always fun for me to introduce others to my favorite places there.  Kyria and I travel really well together as we have similar interests and similar travel preferences (active days, earlier bedtimes, earlier mornings).  Now that I've hosted her, it's my turn to head out to visit her and I am hoping to do that this fall in conjunction with a running rendezvous with some other friends!

When you have visitors, is there one particular restaurant you like to take them to?  Cabo Fish Taco is my #1 pick for sure!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

TLC Book Tours: A Snug Life Somewhere

Synopsis from

A Snug Life Somewhere is about Penny Joe Copper, daughter of a roustabout shingle weaver, who is caught up in a 1916 union tragedy known as the Everett Massacre. Her brother Horace is killed, as is the cousin of a radical organizer, Gabe. When her love affair with Marcel, a music student seven years her junior, is thwarted, she is pulled into Gabe as campaign to avenge the Everett Martyrs.She follows Gabe to Mexico (where they live in a household of Bolsheviks bent on smuggling jewels), then to Chicago (where she rediscovers Marcel, steals a Faberge egg and escapes from Gabe). Then a second event intervenes at the Seattle General Strike of 1919. Penny Joe returns to Seattle to confront Gabe and meets up with a mysterious stranger who turns out to be J. Edgar Hoover. Should she give the Faberge egg to Hoover as evidence against Gabe or just disappear and start a new life? Is she ever going to reunite with her lost love, Marcel?

My review:

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, so I was drawn to this book which was set in a time period that I haven't read much about.  We learn at the beginning that the brother of the main character, Penny, has been killed, so it gets off to a heavy start.  Penny's parents have sort of turned her out on her own so she is on her own to deal with her feelings of grief and because of the vulnerable state she is in, she gets mixed up with a character, Gabe, who is not exactly the best influence on her.  Yet she follows him to Mexico and their story winds and weaves from there.  

While this book is fiction, the style of writing almost reminded me of a non-fiction book and felt less like a novel.  It read a bit slowly for me at various points, but it seems like I am in the minority in feeling that way since others who reviewed it, loved it, so take my opinion on it with a grain of salt.  

What is your favorite genre?  Mine is historical fiction and I especially love books set in France.

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, February 14, 2014

Five Things Friday

It was another busy week in my neck of the woods, so I'm closing out the week with a 5 things Friday post!

1.  It's Valentine's Day today and I am probably one of the few single people who actually likes this holiday.  While I don't really have romantic love in my life right now, I do have many other forms of love, such as love from family and friends, and for that I am thankful.  I know love should be expressed 365 days a year, but I like that there is a day devoted to love.  Some of my favorite Valentine's Days were the ones I spent with my nephews in Minneapolis - hopefully I can pick that tradition back up again someday. 

2.  Kyria flies in tonight after work - I am so excited to host her for the weekend.  We will spend most of the weekend in the Asheville area as that is one of my favorite areas of North Carolina so it's an area I feel like she needs to see while she is here!  We will check out the Biltmore, check out Asheville, and do some hiking (fingers crossed that the weather cooperates!).  And probably lots of eating.

3.  As of this coming Tuesday, I have 7 weeks left of my one-year relocation commitment.  I know 7 weeks might not sound like much to others as I get a lot of comments about how my year is up 'so soon' but it doesn't feel soon when you are the one getting up each day and trudging through another day in a city where you don't want to live.  I know 7 weeks is less than 52 weeks but it's more weeks than I'd like to spend here, and there's still that whole issue of having to find a job...  So yah.  Hurry up time, and please God let me find a new job in Minneapolis soon.

4.  I talk about how hard it is on me to live in Charlotte, but I can back it up with some scientific proof - namely, how living here has negatively impacted my sleep quality.  Clearly my sleep quality has tanked since around the time I moved last year, and it's at an all time low right now. 

5.  It snowed here this week which made me especially thankful for my walking commute.  I think we got about 8" of snow over the course of 2 days which is a lot for a southern city.  As the snow came down heavily during the work day, people were sort of freaking out and it was hard for me to put myself in their shoes and understand that it was SUCH a big deal after living in a climate where heavy snow fall was a common occurrence.  I usually mock the weather here in Charlotte, but I will actually say that it was very wintery here this week!

How will you be spending your Valentine's Day?  I am picking Kyria up from the airport after work and then will make lentil enchiladas and a southwestern bean salad for dinner. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Girls Weekend in Austin

Before I get to the post topic at hand, I wanted to say thank you for all the kind wishes on my birthday last Thursday.  While I am very far from family and friends, I felt surrounded by love on my birthday thanks to all of the phone calls, texts, facebook posts, and emails.  The day was capped off with an awesome google hangout with some of my favorite people!  I had friends from Boston, Chicago, DC, Kamloops, BC, New York, Ohio, St. Louis, and Winnepeg on the chat over the course of 2 hours.  I love technology and the way it can bring people together.  There was lots of laughter, stripes, and I of course celebrated with some macarons.

On Friday I woke up feeling like a little kid on Christmas Eve as I was so excited to hop on a plane to meet up with some best friends from college.  I decided last fall that I did not want to spend my birthday weekend in Charlotte and my friend Heidi was gracious enough to offer to host me in Austin. Our other friend Brooke decided to meet up with us as well...  little did I know they had a little surprise up their sleeve as when Brooke landed in Austin, she had our other friend Amanda with her!  It was the best surprise!  We have not had a weekend together in many many years so were all long over due for some girl time.

I will let the photos do most of the talking for the rest of the post!

Our first stop was an outdoor shopping center where we had lunch and of course treated ourselves to drinks.  I saved my 2 drinks for the month for this weekend and enjoyed a fun cucumber martini drink.  I am a sucker for anything cucumber flavored!

4 friends reunited!
 After an afternoon of shopping (where I scored some great deals), we made a pit stop at Whole Foods and then headed back to Heidi's for the evening. We had an international-themed meal with different dishes representing the different countries in honor of the opening ceremonies.  Dessert was macarons, which is my kind of birthday cake.

On Saturday night, we headed out for a day of exploring and started off by doing this short hike to a look-out area with beautiful views of the Austin area.

It was a beautiful day with lots of sunshine!  And yes, I realize that I am totally the odd one out in this photo since I am not wearing any workout wear but I honestly don't own any workout clothes that are cute enough to wear while out and about.

It was so beautiful up there, it seemed like the perfect spot to practice some yoga poses...

After that, we checked out a couple of other popular spots in Austin like Jo's Coffee and Torchy's Tacos, and then did a little shopping in some of the boutiques downtown.

I like stripes but am pretty sure I could not pull off striped sunglasses. 

On Saturday night we headed back downtown for dinner at a Mexican restaurant and then we headed to a really cute wine bar that was located in a quaint little house where we enjoyed table-side s'mores.

On Sunday, Brooke and Amanda flew back to Minneapolis in the morning but I stuck around for most of the day because I am never in a rush to get back to Charlotte.  ;)  I got to spend lots of time with my friend's daughter.   We were both rocking the curls that day and you can't tell in this picture but she is also wearing cream and white stripes!

After spending a couple of hours downtown and eating at a delicious hamburger place that had gluten free buns (yea!) we made one last stop for some macarons.

The light blue one was mine - it was vanilla flavored and was SO good.  Definitely the best macaron I have had this year.

Then it was time for me to head to the airport.  The weekend went so fast but was so much fun.  I am hoping that we can make these girls weekends happen on an annually or every other year. 

I was sad to return to Charlotte, but I left with a full heart.  The last year has been a tough one for me, but weekends like this are a good reminder that I have many blessings in my life, especially the blessing of friendship. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Today, I turn 33.  I think I've written enough posts over the past year summarizing how difficult this year has been, so I am not going to go there today.  It was not my favorite year, but I am determined to make the year to come a better one.

I think if I had to pick one thing that I learned over the past year, it's that I'm stronger than I think I am.  There have definitely been times when I wanted to just collapse under the weight of everything I dealt with.  But I got up every day and kept putting one foot in front of the other.  Many days it felt I was trying to walk up an escalator that was going down, but I kept going. I look back now at all the things that happened in the last year, and I am proud of the fact that I persevered. 

When I look at what is to come in the months ahead, it stresses me out big time and I have been dealing with quite a bit of anxiety related to work and my job search, but I am trying to believe that things will work out and that the year ahead will contain better days.

I am actually on a business trip today which I am OK with.  I don't think anyone on my team knows it's my birthday, so it would have felt like a regular day at work for me anyways. Luckily I fly back in the mid-afternoon which is good as Alli was thoughtful and planned a virtual birthday party on Google hangout tonight with some of my most favorite people who are scattered across the US and Canada!  I can't wait to catch up with all of them and eat some macarons!

Tomorrow I fly to Austin to spend the weekend with 2 of my best friends, one of which recently had a birthday.  It's going to be so much fun to be reunited and I just love Austin so I am really excited for this getaway!

It's your turn - tell me 1 thing you learned in the past year. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Music, Books, Miles and Looks of January

January was a decent month for me, but an awful month for some of my closest friends so I definitely felt a sense of heaviness and sadness this month.  I am looking forward to February, though, as it includes a trip to Austin, my birthday, a visit from Kyria, and a trip home.  Yea!


Say Something by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera - This is a sad song, but I think the simplicity of the music score is beautiful.

All of Me by John Legend - To offset the sadness of the first song, here is a beautiful love song by John Legend.


It was another strong reading month for me.  This is the result of a lot of weekends in Charlotte and sparse social plans.  I read 8 books.  My favorite was The Storyteller, my least favorite was David and Goliath.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - 3 stars
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult - 5 stars
Defending Jacob by William Landay - 5 stars
The Cost of Love and Sanity by Jaye Cherie - 2 stars
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell - 2 stars
The Theory of Opposites by Allison Winn Scotch- 4 stars
The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers - 3 stars
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford - 3 stars


My workouts for the month consisted of spin classes, hill routes on the elliptical, water aerobics and - wait for it - a run/walk combo!  Yes, I can actually say I ran.  It was for short intervals (0.5 to 0.75 miles at a time), but that is better than nothing.  I haven't ran since April 16th so it felt so good to return to it.  I am taking it easy, though, as I don't want to overdo it and need to make sure my joints can handle it, but it's definitely a step in the right direction! 


I haven't shopped for myself since November, so feel a little bit uninspired about the options in my closet, but I did wear one new outfit that I purchased back in August.  I think it would look better with sheer tights but it was about 12 degrees when I walked to work that morning, so I had to wear tights that were a little thicker.