Thursday, January 29, 2015

France Book Tours: The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour

The Last Campaign of
Marianne Tambour:
A Novel of Waterloo




June 1815. Bonaparte has returned from Elba and marches with his army to defeat the Prussian and English enemies of France. Within his ranks is Marianne Tambour, a battle-weary canteen mistress for a battalion of the Imperial Guard’s Foot Grenadiers. Just one of the many cantinières who provide the lads with their brandy and home comforts, both in camp and also in the thick of the fight.
Marianne is determined that, after this one last campaign, she will make a new life for herself and her young daughter, since neither of them has ever known anything but the rigors of warfare. But she has not reckoned on the complications that will arise from a chance encounter with another of the army’s women, Liberté Dumont – Dragoon trooper and sometimes spy for the Machiavellian French Minister of Police, Fouché. And Marianne wonders what she really wants, this hawk-faced trooper with her visions, dreams and fancies.

Yet, for now, Liberté Dumont is the least of Marianne’s worries. Her position as canteen mistress has not been easily won and she has made enemies in the process. Lethal enemies. And creating a new life, breaking with the army, needs money. Lots of money. So when Hawk-face Dumont accidentally provides an opening for Marianne to rid herself of a dangerous rival and also extends the possibility of fortunes to be made, it looks like an opportunity too good to be refused.

The battles that both women must survive, however, at Ligny and Quatre Bras, create their own problems. The closer they come to the English Goddams, the more Marianne is haunted by the memory of the way her adopted mother was butchered at their hands just a few years earlier, in Spain. Thoughts of revenge torment her, distract her from her goals. But her daughter’s capture by the Prussians, and Liberté Dumont’s help in the quest to find the girl creates new and very different bonds, between mother and daughter, and between the two women themselves.

The climax will take place on the blood-soaked fields of Waterloo, where Marianne Tambour and Liberté Dumont must each confront their deadliest foes, their worst nightmares, find answers to the secrets of their respective pasts, and try to simply survive the slaughter. Yet the fortunes of war are not easily won, and the fates may, after all, only allow one of these women to see the next day’s dawn.

David Ebsworth’s story, The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour: A Novel of Waterloo, is based upon the real-life exploits of two women who fought, in their own right, within Bonaparte’s army.


I have not read many war novels that were narrated by female narrators, so it was a unique experience to read this novel as we get to see the war from their view point.  It's very clear that the author spent a lot of time researching this novel. At times I forgot that I was reading historical fiction as it definitely read like non-fiction at times for me but it makes sense that it read that way since it's based on the real-life exploits of two women.  The author did spend time developing the story of these two women but the detailed accounts of the battles and experiences of war made it feel like non-fiction.

I knew very little about the build up to Waterloo or about the battle of Waterloo so it was interesting to learn more about a period of time that I was very unfamiliar with.  Like I said, the narrators of the story are women but the author is male and I don't know that the voice of the narrators really came across as truly female to me.  I've had that experience with other books I've read where a male tries to write from a female perspective; I think it's very difficult to write from the view point of the opposite sex.  



David Ebsworth is the pen name of writer, Dave McCall,
a former negotiator and Regional Secretary for Britain’s Transport & General Workers’ Union. He was born in Liverpool (UK)
but has lived for the past thirty years in Wrexham, North Wales,
with his wife, Ann. Since their retirement in 2008,
the couple have spent about six months of each year in southern Spain. Dave began to write seriously in the following year, 2009,
and The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour is his fourth novel.

Visit his website. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter
Subscribe to his newsletter (see on the right side of the site)
Buy the book: SilverWood Books |  Amazon US  | Amazon UK  | Abebooks  | Waterstones

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Favorite Podcasts

It seems like I am often late to adapt to new technology.  For example, by the time I got my first iPhone, Apple was on their 3rd edition...  and I don't have an iPad or any other sort of tablet computer...  and I have yet to purchase a Blu Ray player and kind of doubt that I ever will... and if my parents hadn't bought me an eReader in 2010 because I was too stubborn/confident I wouldn't like the technology to purchase one for myself, who knows if I would have embraced them as I have!

Similarly - I was late to embrace podcasts.  I heard people talk about listening to podcasts and thought - 'oh I should check those out.'  But I never did - until I updated the iOS on my iPhone this past fall and realized that the podcast ap was automatically downloaded onto my phone.  Suddenly it became so easy to check out podcast so I finally did - and totally fell IN LOVE with them.

Now, rarely a day goes by when I don't list to part or all of a podcast.  I listen to them on my walks to work, on my drives to and from Phil's or wherever it is I am going (although listening in my car isn't great as I have to use the speaker on my phone since my car is too old for blue tooth technology), when I am running, or when I am cooking.

I'm always curious to hear what others are listening to as it helps me find new podcasts to listen to so I thought I'd share some of my favorites. 

Serial - I have to start off where it all began.  After hearing other friends rave about this podcast, I had to check it out and it definitely lived up to all of the buzz.  In the first season of this podcast the host, Sarah Koenig, goes back and researches a murder that occurred in 1999 to try to confirm whether the person who was convicted was actually guilty. The first season is over but the host is working on a 2nd season and I can't wait to see what it's about.  If you have never listened to a podcast, this is a great place to start!!


Bookriot - If you love books then this is the podcast for you!  In this podcast, the hosts talk about what's new in the world of books.  They cover news stories, book awards, and new books that are coming out, among other topics.  My to-be read list has grown considerably since I started to listen to this podcast but the hosts have inspired me to check out books that I might not have heard of or decided to read if they hadn't spoken so highly of them!  They release a new episode each week and each episode is about an hour long. They also have two other podcasts that are great - Dear Book Nerd which addresses questions from listeners about life, love and literature, and Reading Lives which is a podcast that interviews authors and others that work in the book industry.

Dear Sugar - Those who loved Cheryl Strayed's book, Tiny Beautiful Things, should check this podcast out.  Even if you haven't read her book, you should still listen.  In the podcast, she answers questions from readers about all sorts of problems such as family dynamics, trust in a relationship, and domestic violence.  The two hosts, Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, answer the questions with such insight and compassion.  Even if I can't relate to the question that is being asked I feel like I always come away with a bit more insight/understanding about different topics and issues.  They released their pilot episode in December and a new episode didn't drop until this week but now they will be dropping episodes (which last about 1 hour) every 2 weeks.

Invisibilia - This is a new podcast created by NPR that explores the intangible forces that shape human behavior – things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. The episodes are about things like what causes fear and whether the thoughts we dwell on are really reflective of who we really are. They release a new podcast each week and the length of each podcast is around an hour.

Start-up - This is a podcast that follows the journey of a former This American Life producer (another podcast I love) as he starts a new business. You get to hear him pitch (and totally botch) his business idea to one of the most successful venture capitalists in the world, and he talks about the other challenges of starting a business, from balancing work and life and figuring out the right amount of sustainable growth.  It's fascinating to listen to and I appreciate how brutally honest he is about the whole experience.

It seems like podcasts have really gained popularity in the last year. I think it's awesome that a medium that is very similar to radio has become so popular!

Do you listen to podcasts?  If so, what is your favorite?  If you don't listen to podcasts, I highly recommend that you check them out!  They are free, fun, informative and entertaining! 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Purging by a Book Lover

One of my goals for 2015 was to work on some purging/organizational projects and I have been attacking those projects with gusto in January.  In general, I would say that I don't accumulate a lot of things as I tend to get in these 'purging moods' often enough to avoid amassing all that many possessions.  Plus, since I graduated from college 12 years ago (eeps, that makes me feel old) I have mostly lived in one bedroom apartments/condos which limits the amount of things a person can accumulate.

That said, while I have done a lot of purging of possessions in the past, one group of possessions that was untouched was my books. As you all know, I LOVE books.  I dream of some day having a study or a library with walls of bookshelves so I figured there was no use to purge my book collection because someday I would have a place to display them all.

But then I got to thinking about the books that I do have and why I have them.  And I read this article on Book Riot about why we keep the books we keep which resonated with me.  And I looked at my over flowing book shelves and thought about how much I dislike the cluttered state of my book shelves and I decided it was time to do a book purging project.

I had two criteria in mind when going through the books on my book shelves:  1)  Is this something I enjoyed reading?  2)  Is this a book I would recommend and/or lend to others.  If the answer to these questions was no, I put the book in the donation pile.  I tackled this project yesterday morning and this was the result...

I ended up putting 59 books in the donation pile.

I thought I would be sad after I completed this project, but I'm not at all.  Those books don't really represent who I am and what my interests are.  Plus it is wonderful to look at my book shelves and not see them overflowing with piles of books that I didn't have room for in the past and it freed up a book shelf for my DVDs which used to be crammed in my TV stand.  

The next decision was what to do with all these books.  Luckily, Book Riot had a great post with lots of options and after perusing this list, I decided to donate my books to Books for Africa. They have a donation site in St. Paul, MN so it is convenient for me to donate to this organization (I also plan to make a monetary donation to cover the per book cost of shipping them to Africa).

It is a lot easier to part with all these books knowing they will go to a great cause. 

Do you own a lot of books?  Have you or would you ever do a book purge project like I did?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Five Things Friday

Oh Friday, I'm so happy to see you.  This was a short week at work since I had Monday off but it sure felt long!  Here's a hodge podge of what's on my mind today.

1.  When I lived in Charlotte, Nilsa gave me a sentence-a-day journal.  My goal was to write down something good that happened every day.  I kept up with it for awhile but then really fell off the wagon but on January 1st I resumed writing something every day.  It's a good exercise to end the day reflecting on something good that happened.

2.  On that note, it's been fun to look back on what I was writing about a year ago. For instance, a year ago this week I started to run again (with lots of walk breaks).  But it's weird to read the entries because a year ago I was living in Charlotte.  Isn't it weird that I lived in Charlotte? Sometimes it just feels like a really long bad dream that didn't actually happen.  And then I go back and read blog posts from that time that are rife with raw emotions and it feels a lot more real and makes me even more thankful that I'm where I am today.  

3.   We have very little going on this weekend and I am so happy about that.  Tonight we are going to a game night at another couple's house and then tomorrow night we are staying in and I am trying a new chicken enchilada recipe.  Since I don't have much planned I am going to try to participate in the Penguin Randomhouse Readathon on Saturday.  Normally I would feel a little guilty about reading for 4 hours straight on a weekend afternoon but since it's an official event maybe I will feel less guilty!

4.  Speaking of reading, right now I'm reading Runaway for my local book club which I borrowed from the library, I just downloaded The Book Of Unknown Americans from the library and I'll be picking up The Book of Strange New Things and The Rosie Effect from the library this weekend.  I heart the library so much!

5.  I've had some odd pain in my foot that extends up through my leg so my workouts have been really lame this week as I've only been able to bike and do upper body stuff.  I was a little paranoid that I was having an RA flare-up but I don't think the pain is consistent with the pain I had in the past...  so I just hope that whatever is going on resolves itself soon so I can return to my normal level of activity.  Plus it's been so mild outside lately, it pains me to not take advantage of it and get some longer runs in!

What's on your mind today?  Any fun weekend plans?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Feeling Like a Real Minnesotan

I guess this is the month for new experiences that leave me feeling like a real Minnesota.  2 weekends ago I cross country skied for the first time in Minnesota (I had XC skied in Colorado 10+ years ago) and this past weekend I went ice fishing for the first time ever!  I thought I'd share some photos from our ice fishing experience because I know it's a foreign concept for people that live in warmer parts of the country!

First off, when it comes to ice fishing, my family has a pretty good set-up.  My dad has a big, heated ice house that is very roomy.  They've had it for 5+ years but this was actually my first time out in it.  I guess in the past I felt like ice fishing was not an experience I needed to have, but my dad really wanted to take Phil ice fishing so I decided it was time to give it a try.  It actually ended up being fun!

As far getting out to the house, we drive an all-terrain type of vehicle out there, but some people drive pick-ups.  Right now there is 18" of ice so it's safe to drive on it (although I don't think I'd want to drive a big pick-up truck on it!).  It is eery when people drive vehicles on it because you can hear the ice cracking!

Phil checking out the holes.  Phil and I bought 24 hour licenses and my dad of course has a license so we had 6 holes as we got 2 holes/person

The water in the holes was way more clear than I thought it would.  My parents lake is a clean lake but the water looks especially clear in the winter.
I quickly learned that ice fishing is mostly about 'hanging out' and waiting for the action to happen.  We passed the time by playing cards.  My mom even came out to the ice house later (she's only been in it one other time) and Phil taught us how to play a card game called euchre which was really fun.

Playing some cribbage

Right around sun down, we heard a line jingle which alerted us to the fact that we had a bite.  My dad pulled out a walleye!

Unfortunately, that was the only fish we caught!  We had some other bites, but no success.  But it was still a fun way to spend the afternoon.

The fisherman and woman

Luckily my parents had froze some walleye that my dad and brothers/brothers-in-law caught around Christmas so we got to have some fresh walleye for dinner which was delicious.

All in all it was a really fun weekend.  This was the first time my parents got to spend time with just Phil and I as the other times we've seen them there has been a lot of other family around.  I love big family get-togethers, but it was nice to have a quiet weekend with my parents!  We played lots of games, ate well, and came back home feeling very relaxed. 

Have you ever been fishing?  This was my first time ice fishing but I fished a lot growing up.  I haven't fished in the summer in several years but it's something Phil enjoys so I have a feeling I'll be giving it another whirl this summer!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Currently: January Edition

Happy Friday!  I am so happy that I have a 3-day weekend ahead of me!  Here's what's currently on my mind these days!

Reading:  The Purple Hibiscus by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie which is a book that I am reading to fulfill the "Book by an Author from Africa" category of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. This book is so heavy and sad as it deals with issues of domestic violence and child abuse but it is so good.  I am very surprised that it's classified by some as young adult, though, as I don't think I'd place it in the hands of a tween or teen.

Loving:  that I live driving distance from my parents.  Phil and I are driving up for the weekend tomorrow.  My dad is going to introduce Phil to ice fishing so that should be interesting!  He has fished in the summer so hopefully he'll like ice fishing.  My parents have an ice house that is heated so it's not like he'll be roughing it out in the cold. :)

Thinking:  about what I want to do for my upcoming birthday. 

Frustrated:  with my new employer's 401(k) match program.  I knew I'd be eligible for the company match starting on January 1st so I assumed I'd start getting that match during the first pay period of 2015.  Wrong!  Instead they deposit the match in February of the following year  so I won't see a match until February of 2016.  I think that is an awful way to administer a benefit (you miss out on the opportunity for compounded earnings growth over the course of the year).  I know a crappy approach to administering the match is better than no match at all, but I'm disappointed by how poorly they communicated their approach to matching (it's not explained in any of the benefit guidelines nor was it explained in the offer letter).  

Feeling: really over-tired this week.  It was a busy week as I've had social plans 3 nights this week that kept me out until after 9, so I am sure that is contributing to my tired feeling.  But you'd think those feelings of being over tired would result in me being able to sleep past 4 am.  Wrong.  I suck at sleep.  So much. 

Anticipating: our trip to Santa Barbara - we leave in less than a month!

Watching:  Parenthood (raise your hand if you sobbed through the episode that aired last week) and Top Chef.  For the first time in as long as I can remember, I love all of the finalists on Top Chef so I am very sad when someone has to go home each week as they are all so very talented!

Sad:  that today marks one year since Nora lost her mom.  I got to know her mom well as I stayed in her parents' home a couple of times when I visited Nora in St. Louis.  Her mom was this special, vibrant person who was so full of life.  Her life ended far too soon and it's just so unfair.  :(

Working:  on my list of organization/purging projects.  So far I have gotten through 2 out of 7 so I am making some progress!  I get Monday off for MLK Day so I am hoping to tackle 1-2 projects that day.

Grateful:  that the weather is warming up here. We had an awful cold stretch earlier this month so temperatures in the 30s feel SO GOOD.  I hope those crazy subzero wind chills are behind us but that is probably wishful thinking. 

Listening:  to podcasts any time I am walking, driving, or have downtime.  My favorites are Book Riot, Start-Up, This American Life and Dear Sugar.

Wishing: for more snow.  Yes, I can be grateful for warmer weather and wish for more snow at the same time (it's actually been to cold lately for a significant snow fall).  Now that I own cross country skis, I want to use them as much as possible but we need more snow as the trails are pretty bare right now. 

What are you grateful for, loving, and reading?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Review: Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer


Diapers, tantrums, and French bureaucracy--the crazy life of an American mom in Paris.

Former party girl Vicki trades wine bottles for baby bottles, as this sassy mommy of two navigates the beautiful, yet infuriating, city of Paris.

How does she steer a stroller around piles of dog poop? Or find time for French administration between breastfeeding and business meetings? And will she ever lose the baby weight with croissants staring at her from every street corner?

This hilarious memoir will have you laughing, crying, and wiping up drool right alongside Vicki as she and her ever-patient French husband raise two children in the City of Light.

My Review:

I read and loved "Confessions of a Paris Party Girl" so when the author emailed me and offered to send me a copy of her second book, "Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer," I jumped at the chance to read it.  I loved her first book because she was so honest about her experiences living as an expat in France, and she was also very funny and luckily her second book had the same balance of wit and honesty and I ended up really enjoying it.  I feel like Vicky and I have similar personalities and she is a fellow math major so I think we'd have the best time if we were able to meet up for a glass of wine some day!

The title of the book should make it fairly obvious that her second book is about her experiences raising children in France.  I have not had children so can't relate to the experience of having children or raising children but nonetheless it was interesting to hear about her experiences in France from the difference in medical care to the differences in maternity policies to the day-to-day challenges of raising children - especially in a confined space! 

If you like memoirs, books set in other countries, or reading about the parenting experiences of others then I recommend checking this book out.  It's definitely a light, fun and fast read!

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

Monday, January 12, 2015

Weekend Review

Happy Monday!  I hope everyone had a great weekend!  Mine went by too fast, but they always do.  It definitely feels like there are fewer minutes in an hour on the weekend than during the week!  Here's what kept me busy this weekend.

On Friday night I went to a happy hour and saw a bunch of people that I worked with at my first job out of college.  It was fun to catch up with everyone and hear where they are these days.  After that happy hour I went to Phil's and we headed to his friend's house.  They have a monthly cocktail hour that we try to get to as it's good way to see some of Phil's high school friends.  The host's hobby is mixology so he always has fun drinks to try; this month he had some hot drinks so I had buttered rum in apple cider - it was so good.  I described it to Phil as a warm blanket of deliciousness. 

On Saturday morning I puttered around my condo and got through some of my to do list. Then my friend Courtney picked me up and we headed out for some cross country skiing!

I recently bought XC skis as I felt like I needed a winter activity to help me dislike winter a bit less.  I hadn't been XC skiing for over 10 years and it was harder than I remembered.  I fell A LOT but had a really good time.  We went to Theodore Wirth Park which is less than 5 miles from my condo!  The trail conditions were pretty good but we definitely need more snow!  I'm looking forward to checking out the other parks in the twin cities area. 

On Saturday night we met up with Phil's college friend to celebrate a friend's birthday.  We went to a bowling alley but Phil and I did not end up bowling as by the time we got a lane it was 10:30 and I was yawning like crazy (I'm the worst at staying up past 10).  It was fun to see everyone, though!

Sunday was blissfully uneventful.  I went to an awesome yoga class, got caught up on Top Chef and Parenthood, chatted on the phone with Mandy, and read quite a bit.

In the late afternoon I chopped up a bunch of veggies,

And used those veggies to make a big pot of vegetable beef soup.

I finished the book I had been reading for a postal book club and started a new book on my kindle.  Yep, I have converted from the Nook to the Kindle.  There were several reasons why I made the change but the biggest two are that it's easier to borrow books from the library on the Kindle and the prices of books seem to be lower.  I haven't used my Kindle much as I'm trying to get through all of the books on my Nook first but a library book became available so I opted to read it on my Kindle.

I capped off the night with a video chat with Nora

All in all, it was the perfect weekend as I had the right mix of social time, active time and down time.  Finding that balance is tough but I am learning that unplanned Sundays tend to help as it's nice to end the weekend with a quiet day spent at home!

How was your weekend?

Friday, January 9, 2015


First off, thanks for all of the kind, supportive comments on my post from Wednesday.  It's always a little scary to publish posts like that, but it's so rewarding to read all the thoughtful comments.

I thought I'd close out the week with a little TGIF recap of the week!

The high of my week was booking a trip to Santa Barbara with Phil in February!  I had a companion fare on Delta that I needed to use up so after a lot of discussion about what we wanted out of a getaway and a lot of research about which flights were most reasonably priced, we settled on a long weekend in Santa Barbara over Presidents' Day.  I'm so excited!  It looks like a beautiful area with lots of outdoorsy activities to do.

The low of my week was working 5 full days.  Just kidding (sort of).  I really didn't have any lows this week which is a good thing!

A blog post I loved was Caroline's post about being gutsy. 

An article I loved was this article that Amber sent to me that talks about how we date these days and touches on the concept of not comparing our relationships to others.

A podcast episode I loved was all the episodes of the Start-up Podcast that I binge listened to this week.  Nilsa recommended this podcast - it's a step-by-step series about establishing a start-up.  I learned a lot about the start-up process when I getting my MBA but it's one thing to read about Angel investors and venture capital firms in a text book or case study - it's a whole other experience to listen to a first hand account of the process.  This is totally fascinating and I highly recommend it!

For my workouts, I completed a shred workout on Monday, 4 mile dreadmill runs on Tuesday and Thursday, and a shred workout this morning (I'm doing the New Years Shred as I figured it would be good to have some extra motivation as I started the New Year).

The best money I spent was on the plane ticket and deposit on the condo we'll be renting in Santa Barbara!  Eeks, can't wait for that trip!

My plans this weekend include a happy hour tonight with a bunch of people I used to work with at my first job out of college, and then another get together later in the night with some of Phil's friends (so much for saying yes less in the New Year!). Tomorrow I will get to use the cross country skis I bought last week as Courtney and I are going to brave the cold and hit the trails in the afternoon. In the evening we have a birthday bowling get together for a college friend of Phil's. Sunday should be low key as my only plans are a video chat with Nora in the evening.  I intend to do some cooking and then hope to read and relax as much as possible!

What was the best money you spent this past week? Any fun weekend plans?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What I Struggle With

This is one of those posts that should have a subtitle of "keepin' it real."  I read several other posts like this from other bloggers last year, like Caroline's post last fall and really appreciated the honesty of the posts. 

Most of us tend to focus on the good and positive aspects of our life but it can sometimes paint an unrealistic picture of an effortless, issue-free life. Yes, I love my life and am very happy with where I am today, but that doesn't mean there aren't things I struggle with...  So in an effort give you the full story of my life, here are some things that I struggle with.

1.  Saying yes to the right amount of things.  Hi, my name is Lisa and I am an over-planner.  I over-planned my life this fall to the extent that I wasn't really enjoying the plans I was making which defeats the purpose of making plans at all.  I have a hard time saying no to things because it makes me feel guilty and selfish.  I am very fortunate to have so many opportunities to say yes to as I have a diverse group of friends (college friends, work friends from past and current jobs, grad school friends, run club friends, Phil's friends, blog friends, etc) but I have to figure out how to say yes to less so I don't feel bogged down by my schedule.  This has become more challenging now that I am in a relationship as in my single days I would make plans to see friends 3+ days a week and that was fine, but now that Phil is in my life, I want and need to carve out time for the two of us and I also need some alone time on top of all of that. 

2.  Being in a different stage of life than most of my friends.  Let me preface this struggle by saying that I am so very happy that my friends lives have taken the direction they have. But sometimes it is hard to be in such a different place in life than most of my friends (i.e. most are married and have children).  We have less that we are able to relate to in each others lives because the source of our struggles are different and we probably each romanticize what the other person's life is like.  All this is not to say that it's not possible to have close friendships with people who are in a different stage of life, because I do not think that is the case at all...  It has just gotten more challenging for me as I get older and the gap between our day-to-day life experiences widens.

3.  Figuring out my career.  I've worked so hard over the last 8+ years to get my MBA and become a CFA Charterholder. But sometimes (OK, many days lately) I wonder why I worked so hard to arrive on a career path that has left me feeling unfulfilled lately.  I'm not going to give up on a career in finance as I know that some of my dissatisfaction I've felt in my last couple of roles has been strongly influenced by the work environment, but I am struggling to figure out where exactly I fit in the finance world. 

4. Not comparing my relationship to others.  Eleanor Roosevelt said it best when she said, "comparison is the thief of joy."  For the most part, no good comes of comparing our lives to others but it's something I am guilty of, especially when it comes to relationships.  It isn't a healthy exercise because each relationship is as unique as the two people that form the relationship. 

I could go on and include other things like sleep, being patient with others and myself, being in situations where I'm not in control, and the list goes on and on.

It's hard to write posts like this as they make a person feel vulnerable but I think it's important to mix in a dose of reality because I'd hate for anyone to read my blog and come away thinking that I live an easy life or have it all figured out because that is so far from the truth!

What do you struggle with?

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Goals

Monday seems like the perfect day to post about goals, right?  I just love the start of a fresh year - the slate is wiped clean and you get to start all over.  Before I lay out my goals for 2015, I thought I'd check in on how I did with my 2014 goals!

1.  Get out of Charlotte.  Done!  Woo hoo!  Last year I said that if I accomplished no other goal besides this, I would be happy and that is totally the case.  Getting out of Charlotte was the best thing that happened to me last year because it led to SO MUCH happiness in other areas of my life.

2.  Pay down 2/3 of the balance of my grad school student loans.  Done!  I actually blew this goal out of the water as I paid off my grad school loans in full in July.  That meant using some money from savings but it was all worth it to have the satisfaction of having no student loan debt.  Plus I was able to replenish the money I took from savings by the end of the year, which felt great.

3.  Read 52 books.  Done!  I knew I'd accomplish this goal since I read so much.

4.  Return to running.  Done!  I started my return to running at the end of January with a lot of run/walk combos and slowly built up the amount of time I was able to run.  By March, I was back to running without walk breaks and I ran my first race that month.  Being a runner is a huge part of my identity so I am very thankful I was able to return to the sport in 2014 with no injuries or issues!  Take that, RA!!

So now for my 2015 goals.  I have to admit that I had a bit of a harder time developing goals for this year as there wasn't anything HUGE that I am looking to achieve, like passing the CFA or finding a new job.  Here is what I came up with!

1.  Work on resolving my sleep issues.  Sleep has not come easily for me this year.  I've never been good at it, but this year has been especially bad. I've been on Ambien for well over a year and I really need to get off of that, so my hope is to get off of Ambien, try to do a sleep study if insurance will cover it, and find some cognitive behavior therapy techniques to help me deal with my sleep issues.

2.  Tackle a list of purging/organizational projects.  I've purged quite a bit over the last 2 years between my two moves, but there is more that can be done.  I have a list of different areas of my home that I want to tackle, such as the recipe box area of my kitchen where I have piles of folded up printed out recipes (I crossed this project off the list on Saturday so have already gotten a start on the list).  Right now there are 6 projects on the list (and it seems to continue to grow!) and I am hoping to tackle them in the early part of the year when the weather is crappy outside as I know I won't want to be working on projects like that come summer and fall when it's gorgeous outside!

3.  Complete the Book Riot Read Harder ChallengeI usually set a goal for the number of books I will read each year, but this year I want to do something different, so I am going to work on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.  I love this challenge because it is going to push me to read books that I would not have sought out otherwise, like poetry, short stories, and romance.  I like that it's a 24-book challenge because that means I will have time to read other books.  I'll be posting about my progress toward this goal quarterly so I can hold myself accountable to completing it!

4.  Read 12 books that I own.  I own a lot of books that I have not read.  A LOT.  Like several bookshelves.  I want to start to whittle down the number of unread books I own because it's obnoxious so my goal is to read a book per month that I already own.  Some of these books will count toward the Read Harder Challenge so I can work towards killing two goals with one read!

5.  Employ a "Buy One Give One Away" approach to all book, clothing, and kitchen gadget purchases.  This ties in with goal #2 as it will hopefully help control the clutter and amassing of possessions that I am trying to avoid.  I live in a small space and there is a limit to the number of books I can own, the amount of clothes that can fit in my closet and the number of kitchen gadgets that will fit in my cupboards!  The older I get, the less stuff I want piling up around me so hopefully this approach will help.

6.  Complete a sprint tri.  I've thought about doing a triathlon for several years now as I've watched others around me complete them, but I always had the excuse of not owning a bike.  This is no longer the case so 2015 is the year I'd like to try a tri!  I'm planning to do this women's triathlon in August with my friend Courtney!

I can't wait to get going on these shiny new goals!  The one that intimidates me the most is the first one plus it is going to be the hardest to objectively measure, but it's definitely one of the most essential goals for me to accomplish... 

Have you made any goals or resolutions for 2015?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Music, Books, Miles and Looks of December

Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope 2015 is off to a great start for everyone!



Lost in My Mind by The Head and the Heart - Alli introduced me to this bad and I am loving their first album.  I'd love to see them live someday.


December was a big reading month for me as I was on vacation and then had quite a bit of downtime at the lake.  I read 7 books, bringing my total for the year to 68!

Up at Butternut Lake by Mary McNear - 3 stars
That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay - 3 stars
Neverhome by Laird Hunt - 2 stars (least favorite book of the month by far)
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell - 4 stars
Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer by Vicki Lesage - 4 stars
The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh - 3 stars
The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price - 3 stars


I attempted to do a mile-a-day challenge in December but I didn't achieve this goal as I missed 2 days when I was in Jamaica and 3 days when I got the flu over Christmas.  But I ran 70 miles which is far more miles that I have ever ran in the month of December so I am happy about that.  My total mileage for 2014 was 787 which I am very happy about, especially considering that I ran very few miles in 2013 since I was unable to run April-December of that year.


My first favorite look is a dress that I wore in Jamaica.  I bought this dress this summer at Banana when I had a 50% off coupon and then never got around to wearing it!  It's definitely something I'll wear often next summer.

We look so tired in this photo as we had been awake since 3 am

My second favorite look is a very basic black dress, but the reason I like this outfit is because I am actually wearing jewelry, which so rarely happens!  I got a lot of compliments on the necklace.  The positive feedback should encourage me to accessorize more but I know myself well enough to know I'm never going to be the girl who accessorizes most of her outfits...  jewelry is just not my thing!  But it is fun to wear once in awhile.