Friday, January 29, 2016


Happy Friday, everyone!  I hope everyone had a great week!  I'm very happy to greet the weekend today!  Here's how my week played out.

The high of my week was getting together with a friend I used to work with for lunch. I saw her at a wedding in December but I hadn't had one-on-one time with her in many months. It was so great to catch up!

The low of my week was ... nothing really stands out which is great because January has not been my best month due to the health issues I've had.

A book I am reading is The Known World by Edward P. Jones. This Pulitzer-prize winning novel is mostly about a freed slave who goes on to own slaves (I had no idea that actually happened!). There are many other stories woven in along the way, so at times I've had a hard time keeping track of who is who but overall it's been an interesting read. I've owned this book for 5+ years and am glad I'm finally getting around to reading it! It will also count toward the read harder challenge for the book set before 1900 category.

A recipe I am making this week is this enchilada casserole that I saw on Huffington post last week which I am making tonight.  I had leftover tortillas and enchilada sauce from the enchiladas I made last week so it's a good way to use up the leftover ingredients!

For my workouts I went to power yoga on Monday, did a strength training workout on Tuesday, went to yoga sculpt on Wednesday, ran with a friend on Thursday, and today is a rest day. Tomorrow I will run with my club and then on Sunday I'll go to a power yoga class. This is my first week of normal workouts since early January.  I'm being careful about how much I am working out and the intensity of those workouts as I know my body is still in a bit of a fragile state due to my RA flare. Normally I'd like to do 2-3 sculpt classes a week and 1 power yoga class (in addition to other workouts) but right now I am switching it around to 2-3 power yoga classes and 1 sculpt class until I feel more confident that my body has fully healed.

The best money I spent was on some bare minerals foundation and eye shadow. Gone are the days of getting cheap make-up from Target as I now realize that some things, like facial products and make-up, are worth spending a bit more money on.

My plans this weekend include staying in tonight and making dinner for Phil. Tomorrow I am going to run with my club in the morning and then in the evening, Phil is taking me to the recording of A Prairie Home Companion as an early birthday present!  I am sooo excited for this as two of my favorite artists, Ben Folds and Brandi Carlile, are guests on the show!  Afterwards we'll go out for dinner somewhere in St. Paul. On Sunday I'm going over to Phil's mom's as I am going to make dinner for her and Phil.  When I made dinner for her last fall she was so excited that she told pretty much everyone in the neighborhood, which I thought was so cute.  Since it meant so much to her, I am going to try to make dinner for her once a quarter.  Last time I made something that was way too spicy so this time around I'm making my favorite chicken pasta dish.

What was the high of your week?  What are your plans for the weekend?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Try This at Home Tuesday: Shredded Brussel Sprout Salad

Greetings and happy Tuesday!  Here we are in the final week of January which means I have one last salad recipe to share with you. It's been fun to focus on salads for this past month. I've learned a couple of things along the way but the biggest lesson I learned was that I should never buy salad dressings again because they are cheap and easy to make and taste WAY better than the processed ones I used to buy.

For my final week of salads-for-lunch, I made a  Shredded Brussel Sprout Salad. I had made this as a side dish for Thanksgiving but it's hearty enough to stand on it's own as an entree salad. I did make some modifications, though, such as substituting roasted butternut squash for the pear and toasting the almonds. I also added some chicken for protein and celery for extra crunch.

The balsamic maple dressing for this salad is sooooo good and very easy to make.  I doubled it so I'd have enough for 4-5 salads:

2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. pure maple syrup
1 t. dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste

Shredded brussel sprouts are such a great substitution for greens as they area  bit more hearty and will be more filling than lettuce, I think. 

It's been fun to focus on salads for the last month. That said, I'm looking forward to switching back to warm and savory dishes, especially since I crave warm things during this time of year. But this challenge showed me that salads can be filling and enjoyable on their own. 

What are you planning to eat for lunches this week?

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Year of Less: My February Purge

Since the start of the year, I've seen many posts from fellow bloggers about their one word mantra for 2016. It's always interesting to hear the word that others choose and how they go about turning that one word into action. After thinking about it, I decided that my one word for 2016 is lessLess saying yes to things I don't truly want to do.  Less feeling guilty about saying no to things I don't want or truly need to do.  Less accumulation of physical possessions.  Less worrying about things that are out of my control. Hopefully by focusing on less, I will make room for more. More time to invest into the relationships that matter most to me. More time to invest in the hobbies that bring me joy. More of a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment. Throughout the year, I plan to share how I am incorporating my one word into my everyday living.

Sometimes these one word mantras are a bit philosophical and not exactly measurable. But there are aspects of my one word mantra that are measurable - like looking around and seeing less physical possessions. Which is why my focus for February will be on possessions. I've moved quite a bit over the last several years which always results in a purge when I begin the packing process. But I look around my small 1 bedroom condo and know that more can be done. Then earlier month I was listening to The Minimalists podcasts and they mentioned a minimalism game. Here is how it works:

"For a month, you must get rid of one thing on the first day. On the second, two things. Three items on the third. So forth, and so on. Anything can go! Clothes, furniture, electronics, tools, decorations, etc. Donate, sell, or trash."

Sounds a little bit extreme, right?  But also kind of fun if you are the kind of person who is looking for a fun and unique way to get rid of possessions you don't need. I decided that February is going to be my month to play this game. If I make it through the entire month, I will have shed 435 items.  I told another friend about my plan to do this, and her and her husband were so excited by the idea of this that they started that very day and are now on day 14. It's nice to know another person that is doing it as we've talked about the kind of things we are going to get rid of and she's talked about how good it feels to get stuff they don't need/use out of the house.

I've already had a couple of people tell me that this is so extreme and impossible and that no one, besides a pack rat or hoarder, has 435 things to get rid of. Anyone who has been to my home can attest to the fact that I am not a pack rat or hoarder, but I still think I can come dang close to finding 435 things to donate or throw away.  So in February, I'll be checking in mid-month and at the end of the month to share what exactly I've gotten rid of.

I'm really excited to take on this challenge. I find that the older I get, the less "stuff" I want and this will provide an organized way to get rid of some of that stuff.  If this has sparked your interest, I challenge you to join me!  Maybe you won't make it through all 29 days but at a minimum you'll end up getting rid of some things.

Where do you stand on the accumulation of things? Do you find yourself wanting less as you get older or is the opposite true for you?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Year in Review: 2015 Reading

Here we are, well over half-way through the first month of 2016 and I am just getting around to sharing a summary of my 2015 reading!  I debated whether to even share this but then Stephany shared hers last week so I figured I could still share mine!

I've been using for many years to track my reading but in 2015 I decided to also keep a spreadsheet so that I could keep track of the source of the books I read. What can I say - I'm a math major data geek!  In 2015, I read 84 books and here is a pie chart break down of how I sourced the books I read. 

As the chart shows, I clearly get most of my books from the library as 58 out 84 of the books I read came from the library. I did end up buying 5, but 4 out of 5 of the books I bought were book club books that I couldn't get from the library in time for our discussion. Overall, my spending on books was pretty low for the year, but if you included the books I bought as gifts for friends or my nieces/nieces and faux nieces/nephews, the number would be much bigger as I pretty much exclusively gift books to the little people in my life.

Here are some other stats about the 84 books I read, courtesy of
- Total number of pages was 25,861
- The shortest book was 137 pages (I Feel Bad About My Neck)
- The longest book was 528 pages (The Engagements)
- The average length was 312 pages
- My average rating was 3.6

In 2016, I'm planning to track more in my spreadsheet, such as the genre of the book and the sex of the author as I'm curious about the breakdown of what I read each year.

Do you use anything to track your reading (goodreads, a spreadsheet, something else)?  Do you use the library or do you tend to buy the books you read? If you are on goodreads and we aren't friends, please friend request me as I love seeing what others are reading!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Shouldless Days: January

I had my first "shouldless" day this past Monday and in a word, it was fabulous! I'm really glad I made it a goal to have one shouldless day a month as I know it is going to be so good for me - especially for my mental health.  Here's how I filled my day.

I woke up in the morning without an alarm (which is oh so blissful) and started my day by reading while cuddling up under the electric throw blanket Phil's mom got me for Christmas. 

Later that morning, I got a kick out of watching Oscar try to be patient and wait for Phil to finish his cereal so she could have some of the milk.  Her patience wore thin, though, so she started to reach for the bowl which cracked us up.

Hey, I want some of that!
Phil was heading to his mom's for the day so he dropped me off at home and I did some more reading. By the way, the book I am reading is "Blindness" which is a book that I have owned for 5+ years and am finally getting around to reading. The style of writing is very unique but I am enjoying it.

I had taken it easy for the past several days but was feeling the itch to get a workout in, so I decided to go down to the gym for a run on the treadmill. Running on my treadmill is not my favorite thing to do but it was -8F and even colder with the windchill so it was my only option. It felt good to get my sweat on while listening to the latest podcast released by The Minimalists.

After my run, I had worked up an appetite so I enjoyed the last serving of the Asian chopped salad that I made last week while watching Gilmore Girls.

Mondays are my RA medication injection day, which I still hate doing even though I've been doing it for 2+ years. So I rewarded myself with a mug of salted caramel cocoa (full confession: I'd had one the previous day, too) and 2 GF chocolate chip cookies. It was a delightful treat.

After that, I did some knitting while watching the first couple of episodes of season 4 of Gilmore Girls. This is the season when Rory goes to college and it made me sooo nostalgic for my freshman year of college.
This is the shawl I have been working on for over 2 years... It's going to be beautiful when it's done but it's such a big project!
The rest of the day was spent reading, relaxing on the couch, and enjoying some leftover chili for dinner. It was so great to have such a low key day where I did whatever I felt like doing for the entire day. I spend so many weekends feeling like I am just checking item after item off my to-do list so it was very nice to have a day with no to-do's, chores or other obligations!

If you had a "shouldless" day, what would you do?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Try This at Home Tuesday: Petite Crust-less Quiches

Greetings and happy Tuesday!  I'm shifting the focus of this week's post from salads to breakfast, mostly because the salad I prepped this week was a Greek salad, which is such a basic, easy salad. I picked it as it isn't labor-intensive, which is good since my hands are still stiff/tender from my RA flare so I'm trying to not overuse them.  I did make a good, refreshing dressing that I wanted to share, though, as I know some of you have been enjoying the salad dressing recipes.  So here are the ingredients for the Greek vinaigrette I made.  I doubled it so that it would yield a little over 1 cup of dressing. Similar to other dressing recipes I've made, I only had to buy 1 ingredient (lemon) so it was low cost:

- 1/4 c. EVOO
- 2 T. red wine vingear
- 1/2 of a lemon, juiced (recipe calls for 1 lemon but I found it to be a bit too lemony)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 t. dried oregano leaves
- 3 pinches of salt
- 10-15 grinds of black pepper

This week I wanted to share the new breakfast that I've been eating this month. For the last 3+ years, I have been eating GF oatmeal with a banana for breakfast nearly every day of the week. What can I say - I am truly a creature of habit! However, lately I was feeling a need for a change but it needed to be something that is as quick and easy as oatmeal. Then I saw this recipe for Petite Crust-less Quiche on Skinny Taste's most popular recipes of 2015 post.  I tried them for the first week of January and they were excellent so this is my new go-to breakfast at least for the time being.

What I like about this recipe is:
- they refrigerate/freeze well and taste great when re-heated.
- they are versatile. The recipe calls for onions and green peppers, but you could substitute whatever vegetable you would prefer or have on hand. Some things I'll be trying in the future will be broccoli and asparagus.
- they are very filling. It helps that they are packed with protein (18 g). I eat them with a little salsa on top and have been able to push back how early I have my mid-morning snack of yogurt and granola, so these are definitely more filling than the oatmeal + banana I was eating.

If you make these, one tip I have is to buy liquid egg whites instead of separating eggs yourself. The recipe calls for 4 egg whites and I think it's hard to find a use for 4 egg yolks (at least for me). So it's much less wasteful if you just buy liquid egg whites, which can be found near the egg beaters in the grocery store. According to my carton, 3/4 c. of eggs whites = 4 large egg whites.

Do you have a breakfast regimen or do you change up what you eat each day/week? For me, I value something that is fast, easy and healthy versus full of variety. But I'm all about making it easy to eat healthy.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Living with RA: My First Flare

Those of you who have been reading my blog for quite awhile know that I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in August of 2013. If you are unfamiliar with it and are curious about it, you can read more about it here. Here's an extremely abbreviate version of what it is:

"Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a systemic autoimmune disease which attacks primarily, but not solely, the joints. It is an incurable disease affecting the synovial tissues which surround joints and similar lining tissues of certain organs. Through a very complex process, various kinds of immune cells attack and eventually destroy otherwise healthy tissues."

When I got diagnosed with it in 2013, I started a pretty aggressive treatment plan that put my disease into remission and for the most part, I've been asymptomatic for the last 2 years. Most days I forget that I even have RA. Well, besides when I take my bevy of drugs each week.

Well last Thursday, I was reminded that I do, in fact, have a shitty chronic illness, when I experienced my first RA flare since my diagnosis. When I went to bed on Wednesday night I had some pain in my middle finger but was thinking/hoping it would go away overnight.  Boy was I wrong.  I woke up on Thursday to a very swollen hand.

Due to the swelling in the joints of my right hand, I could not fully extend my fingers or made a fist and the pain was so bad that I ended up crying quite a bit that morning. I could not do the simplest tasks, like grasping the handle of the fridge to open it, holding a spoon, fork or glass to eat and drink, or open my make-up compact. My left hand was fine but doing everything one-handed is challenging - especially eating and applying make-up as I am FAR from being ambidextrous.

My Rheumatologist was not in the clinic that day but luckily I was able to get an appointment with his partner and he did an ultrasound which confirmed that it was definitely an RA flare as he could see the fluid around my joints, indicating that they were under attack by my immune system. He also determined that my cold had turned into a sinus infection so in addition to putting me on a steroid to reduce the swelling, he prescribed a strong antibiotic to take care of the sinus infection.

I know there are a lot 'at least' statements that can be made, like "at least this was your first flare in 2 years!" or "at least this didn't happen when you were in Mexico" or "at least the steroids will help" and I certainly said some of these statements in an effort to make it seem like I was handling it ok. But the reality of the situation is that it royally sucked and I once again felt betrayed by my body. I was reminded that you can do ALL the right things (eat healthy, exercise, etc) but sometimes it does not matter. So I let myself mope and cry and feel all the "why me?" feelings. Because in my opinion, you have to let yourself feel all those things so you can release those emotions and move on from the experience.

The steroids have kicked in and the swelling has subsided but what I am left with is a feeling of fear.  Fear that this was not a fluke and that I will have more flare-ups in the future. Fear that this might happen again when I am traveling for work or while on vacation or at some other time when I don't have access to my physician.  I know that I have to make the choice to not give into those feelings of fear and to trust that my physician will figure something out if more flares continues, but it's hard to choose to walk away from that feeling of fear.

I realize that this is a Debbie Down post and not at all uplifting but I believe in "keeping it real" and showing what real life looks like (when it's your story to share, as it is in this case). Because life is not all sunshine and roses.  I know that I am very blessed to have a supportive boyfriend, kind and caring family members, and compassionate friends. But you can be thankful for all of those big things and still be sad over the circumstances of your life. And right now I'm feeling a little sad.

So right now I'm trying to focus on self-care. I'm giving my body lots of rest and am taking more rest days than I've taken since the marathon. And I'm trying to squelch those feelings of guilt over my lack of activity as I know that rest and extra sleep are what my bodies needs right now. And luckily this flare coincided with a mostly plan-free weekend and today's "shouldless" day. I know that with time this bout of sadness about my RA diagnosis will dissipate as I continue to get better but right now I just have to be OK with not always being OK With my diagnosis.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Currently: The January Edition

Happy almost-Friday!  Happy almost-mid-month (what? how?)!  Here's what's currently happening in my neck of the woods.

Reading:  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline for the postal book club I'm part of. It's a book I likely would not have sought out on my own as it's about video games and 80s pop cultures but I am surprisingly liking it. This is why I love book clubs - they push you read things you might not have otherwise!

Loving: Amazon Prime. I'm in the midst of a 30-day trial but they have me hooked so I will get a yearly membership. I love being able to ship things, especially gifts, in 2 days and it's really nice to order things that would otherwise require an errand (you know, since I HATE driving). Lastly, the shows on Amazon Prime are a great supplement to Netflix. Phil and I have agreed that, going forward, he'll share his Netflix subscription and I'll share my Amazon Prime subscription so there will be no additional cost to me as the amount I'll spend for my Amazon Prime membership equates to what I was paying for Netflix.

Thinking:  about a purge that I am going to do in Feburary which I'll tell you more about later this month!

Frustrated: by how long this head cold is lingering. I'm feeling better than last week but it just won't go away completely. I'm so over blowing my nose.

Feeling:  excited for the long weekend ahead (I get MLK Day off). Monday will be my first "shouldless" day of 2016 and I am soooo excited for a commitment-free, should-free kind of day! I'm picturing a yoga class and a lot of reading, Gilmore Girl-watching, knitting, and relaxation.

Anticipating:  our trip to Mexico. We leave 3 weeks from tomorrow and given how busy January has been at work, I know the trip is going to come so fast! We had a mild month of December but the weather has turned much colder lately which makes me even more excited for our warm-weather getaway! Plus I'm excited to spend 5 full days with my favorite person!

Watching: Veep on Amazon Prime. Phil and I have only watched the first episode but so far it seems like it will be a series that we'll both enjoy. We have very different tastes when it comes to TV so it's nice to find something that we both enjoy.

Sad:  that life is unfair at times. I hate seeing good people struggling with difficult things like the loss of a parent or a difficult medical diagnosis.

Working: on being really intentional about what I say yes to. For so long I have been so bad about saying yes to things out of a feeling of obligation or to avoid disappointing someone. But an over-planned schedule left me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. This is going to be a work in progress for me as it's hard to shift to saying no to things but ultimately it's what I need to do to create a happy, healthy and fulfilling life.

Grateful: that I am liking my job and feel some career stability for the first time in 3+ years. I just learned of another former colleague who was let go. The list of people I know in my industry that are looking for a job is pretty sickening so I feel very lucky to be employed at a company that feels stable, doing work that is challenging and enjoyable alongside colleagues that are good, smart people.

Listening: to a new podcasts hosted by the guys from the website, The Minimalists. The older I get, the less "stuff" I want to own so I think that listening to this podcast will help me curate my possessions (read: get rid of stuff I don't use or need, hence the upcoming February purge).

Wishing: That our winter forecast didn't include anymore subzero temps. I can handle anything above 0 but when the mercury drops below 0, it's brutal for me.

What are you loving, grateful for, and watching these days?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Try This at Home Tuesday: Chopped Asian Salad

Happy Tuesday!  I'm back with salad idea #2 of the month. Last week's salad will be tough to beat but the Asian Chopped Salad I made to bring for lunches this week will give it a run for its money.

The star of this week's salad is the combination of toppings which have different textures and flavors and a whole lot of crunch. Toppings include:

- shredded rotisserie chicken
- edamame
- sliced radishes
- snow peas
- green onions
- celery
- cilantro
- red and green peppers

The base of the salad is a mixture of shredded carrots and red and green cabbage. I tried to buy pre-shredded cabbage but the bagged stuff looked so unappetizing so I opted to chop my own, which obviously added to the time spent chopping and slicing and dicing but I think it was worth the effort as I'll enjoy the salads way more.

Soooo much chopping!
For the dressing, I made this asian citrus dressing that I found on Iowa Girl Eats. Here are the ingredients:

- 2 1/2 T. rice wine vinegar
- 2 T. orange juice
- 1 T. lime juice
- 1 T. tamari (or soy sauce if you can have gluten)
- 2 t. honey
- 1 t. freshly grated ginger
- 1/2 t. sesame oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced

I had all but one ingredient on hand (lime juice) so it was easy/inexpensive to throw this dressing together. I ended up doubling the recipe as I'll need enough for 5 salads and the recipe only yields about 2 servings.

One big salad ready to go for the week!
This week I was curious about the cost per portion so I kept my receipt and added up all the ingredients. I definitely have more than 5 servings worth of cabbage, so I will need to figure out another use for that, but if I assume I will get 5 meals out of all the ingredients I bought, it totals to $29.39 or $5.88/salad, which is pretty inexpensive for a healthy, filling salad made with fresh ingredients. And chances are I will probably get 6+ servings out of it since I have so many toppings and cabbage.

This was a pretty labor-intensive salad as it requires a lot of chopping but luckily that's something I enjoy and find soothing, and it gave me an opportunity to get caught up on some podcasts in my queue. Plus I'd rather put in a couple of solid hours in the kitchen on the weekend versus doing meal prep during the week.

How do you handle meal prep? Do you tend to consolidate your meal prep into a block of time over the week or do you do meal prep every evening?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Year in Review: 2015 Spending

If there's one thing that people (at least Americans in my experience) struggle to talk about, it's money.  We all know that religion and politics are taboo subjects to be avoided, but money seems to be silently lumped in there as well.  I, too, am guilty of this myself. But it's kind of a shame that we are so quiet about money and spending and retirement because they are important topics.

Back in 2012, I did an (almost) monthly post series about money in an effort to try to be more open about talking about the topic, but since then I haven't really talked about money ion a straight-forward way. Then last year my friend Kyria shared her 2014 spending breakdown. I thought it was fascinating to read as each person spends money differently and it's helpful to see how your spending breakdown differs from others.  So in 2015 I utilized to carefully track my spending so that I could provide a breakdown as well.

A few notes on my spending for 2015:

- Home - this was obviously the area where the majority of my spending went. If you took the amount I put into savings into consideration as a "spending" category, my housing expenses (rent, bi-weekly house cleaning, moving expenses, etc) would be a far smaller piece of the pie. Another thing to consider is that because I live downtown, my rent is higher. But, on the other hand, because I live downtown, I drive very little which is why auto and transportation accounted for a mere 3% of my spending.

- Donations - as I've gotten older and more financially secure, one thing I've really tried to focus on is increasing my charitable contributions. I feel fortunate to work in a well-compensated industry so I feel it is my duty to give back. The majority of my charitable donations go to my church, but I also give to other organizations throughout the year. It makes me a little bit uncomfortable to share how much I donate because I don't want anyone to think that I expect others to do the same or that I am tooting my own horn for donating. However, since it's a big portion of my spending, I didn't feel like I could leave it out.

- Travel - I am actually surprised that the travel category didn't account for a larger percentage of my savings as I went on several vacations last year. However, I did not take any really big trips as most were long weekend trips. I would expect this category to grow in 2016 as I am hoping to take an international vacation in the second half of the year.

- Food and Dining (excludes groceries) - I am proud of the fact that the percentage of money spent on restaurants and coffee shops, which are the main categories in food and dining, is as low it is. This is an area that exemplifies how we all have different priorities when it comes to spending and how it's all about give and take. While I enjoy dining out, I'd rather dine out less and use that money for other things such as my bi-weekly house cleaning service. For someone else, dining out on a regular basis might be a huge priority.

- Other - So what falls under this category? Things like massages, hair cuts, hair products, make-up, theater and concert tickets, taxes, stamps and shipping expenses for mailing packages, etc. No individual category that fell under "other" was large enough to warrant its own call out.

Biggest areas of opportunity:

Of course the whole reason to track my spending in such a detailed manner is so that I can learn from it and improve my spending habits in the years to come.  I have two big areas of opportunity for 2016:

1. Target - Target is my weakness, and it does not help that there is one a block away from where I work. While I save money by buying some non-perishable goods there, I am also guilty of buying things that I really do not need. In 2016 I want to cut back on those unnecessary purchases.

2. Clothing - This is a tough one for me as I need to look professional and polished at work and also have to travel a decent amount to visit clients or my company's head quarters. So investing in my clothing for work is an investment in myself and my career. That said, I want to be more mindful about the clothing purchases I am making in 2016. I do take advantage of great sales at Banana Republic but I have certainly purchased things that I truly don't need.

What about saving?

As I mentioned in my paragraph about my housing expenses, I saved quite a bit in 2015. I considered adding my savings in when creating the pie chart as choosing to save is ultimately choosing to not spend, but saving is such a personal thing, so I did not feel comfortable displaying it. I definitely save quite a bit between my 401(k), IRA, and my savings accounts. I am able to aggressively save because I work in a well-compensated industry. However, the downside to that is that it's also a volatile industry with very little job stability.  Early in my career, my mentor told me that I need to be careful not to fall into the trap of spending what I make because part of the reason our compensation is generous is because we have less stability than other industries.  I have lost count of the number of friends in my industry who have lost jobs over the last two years, but it's approaching the double digits.  My industry is shrinking so the job search timeline can be extended so I feel like I need to save save save so that I have a safety net in case I am ever laid off. I think I still have room for improvement and luckily Phil is the poster child for how to save as he saves more than any person I know!


So there you have it!  I hope I haven't bored you all to tears with this financial talk but I always enjoy these kind of posts so hopefully you do, too.

Do you use a program such as to track your spending? What are your biggest areas of opportunity in regards to spending or saving?

Friday, January 8, 2016


The first full week of 2016 has gone by in the blink of an eye. Here's a TGIF-style recap of my week.

The high of my week was getting the new tenant in the condo I own all settled in with no issues. I didn't talk about this in December, but the tenant I had for 4.5 years moved out at the end of December. I ended up hiring the property manager that manages the unit that I currently rent as I don't feel I have the time and energy to be a landlord these days. She was able to find someone to move in within days of my tenant departing. I am relieved that she found someone that is likely to be a great tenant based on her application/credit score/etc. Fingers crossed that a year from now the value will have increased enough so that I can sell it and close the chapter on owning this condo!

The low of my week was coming down with a bad head cold. I felt crummy for the majority of the week.

A book I am reading is A Pig in Provence. It's a food memoir so it counts towards the read harder challenge and it's a book I own on my nook so it's helping me reach my goal of reading all the books on my nook!

A recipe I made was a corn and jalapeno frittata that I made for Phil and I. I thought I had shared the recipe on my blog at some point but I can't find the post. It's a weight watcher's recipe so it's low calorie but very tasty! I added turkey kielbasa to it to bump up the protein. Sorry, I have no picture to share.

For my workouts, I ran and went to a power yoga class on Monday, rested Tuesday and Wednesday thanks to my cold, ran on Thursday, and went to a power yoga class this morning. I usually like to go to yoga sculpt on Friday mornings but I think a 98 degree room + high intensity workout would not be good since I'm still recovering from my cold. Tomorrow I will run with my club and on Sunday I'm hoping to feel well enough to go to yoga sculpt.

The best money I spent was on cold medicine.  Thrilling, I know. I'm mostly excited that I really did not spend much money this week as I am trying to do a bit of a spending fast since November and December were such expensive months with holiday shopping and travel expenses and such.

My plans this weekend include getting together with another couple tonight to play cards, running with my club tomorrow, a date night with Phil tomorrow night (we are going to a new-to-us place we've been wanting to check out), and and then yoga and video chats with Nora and Alli on Sunday.  I feel like I have the *right* amount of plans for the weekend and am really striving to keep making the right amount of plans going forward so I can avoid feeling overwhelmed like I did in the fall!

What was the high of your week?  Have you made any new recipes recently?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Podcasts, Books, Miles and Looks of December

Greetings and Happy Wednesday!  We are already 6 days into the New Year and I'm just getting around to sharing my monthly recap. As you might have noticed, I made a slight change to my recap as instead of sharing a song I am loving, I'll be sharing the best or most intriguing podcast I listened to during the prior month.  I've been struggling to come up with new songs to share every since I starting listening to became obsessed with podcasts so it makes sense to make this shift.


Freakonomics:  Is Migration a Basic Human Right - This podcast about immigration was the most interesting and thought provoking podcast I listened to last month. It covers many aspects of the topic of immigration with a special focus on the economic impact of immigration on the countries the immigrant is leaving and migrating to. It's definitely worth a listen!


Wow, this was my lowest reading month of the year BY FAR.  I only managed to read 2 books!  It was a very busy month, though, with lots of social obligations and shopping and wrapping and fa-la-la'ing. And then towards the end of the month I started a 771 page book...  so yah.  Not a big reading month for me but that's ok.

Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown - 3 stars
Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova - 4 stars


My mileage was also really low this month as I only ran 30 miles. That's pretty pitiful but I am trying to give my body a bit of a break before marathon training starts in February. My total running mileage for the year was 924 which is pretty good.  Instead of focusing on logging miles in December, I did more strength training workouts (10), and went to 13 yoga classes, 7 of which were yoga sculpt classes (high intensity strength training + cardio). All in all I feel good about the month!


The first look is from a friend's wedding we attended in early December. The lighting in the photo is pretty bad and it's not our best photo but it was my favorite dress that I wore this month (which I got at Banana Republic 2 years ago). I love that it has sleeves!

My second look is the dress I wore to Phil's work holiday party.  It's a pretty simple dress but again, I like that it has sleeves!  I got it Ann Taylor 2 years ago (yes, I do own a couple of non-BR items of clothing).


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Try This at Home Tuesday: Roasted Vegetable Salad

Happy Tuesday!  I'm kicking off a new post series today called "Try This at Home Tuesday" which will have a healthy living focus, at least for the month of January. I once heard the quote, "ounces are lost in the gym, pounds are lost in the kitchen" and I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. I'm carrying around a little extra holiday/post-marathon (I tend to gain a bit after a race) weight so in January I will be focusing on cleaning up my eating. But sometimes healthy eating feels daunting because it requires a lot of research and effort in the kitchen so I think it's helpful when other share what they are doing. So hopefully those of you who are looking for ideas will be inspired to make something I share.

My focus in January will be salads to try at home. The salad I made for the first week of January is a copycat of a salad I have had a couple of times at a local salad place. It costs about $11 at this salad place so I was motivated to make it on my own. It is a winner because it has lots of different flavors and textures which is what I need in order to enjoy a salad as an entry.

The main feature of the salad is roasted vegetables. For mine, I roasted butternut squash, brussel sprouts, and beets. I roasted them at 400F. The squash and brussel sprouts were done in about 30 minutes, the beets took closer to 50-60 minutes.

Mmm, roasted beets are delicious and so easy to make!
The other star of the salad is the dressing, which is an apple cider vinaigrette.

The recipe yielded more than this but I had already portioned out some before taking this picture.
Every time I make a salad dressing, I ask myself why I ever buy salad dressings, which are loaded with preservatives. I had everything on hand that this recipe called for:

- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 T. Dijon mustard
- 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
- 2 T. lemon juice
- 1-2 T. honey, as needed for sweetness (I used 1 T.)
- 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste

The green base of my salad is a 50/50 mix of spinach and a spring greens mix, and other toppings include shredded rotisserie chicken, cooked wild rice, craisins, sunflower seeds, chopped celery, and blue cheese. I realize that is a lot of ingredients but I need a high ratio of toppings to greens to make a salad filling.
My salad for lunch, all portioned out. I find it works best to put the toppings at the bottom and the greens on top, and I keep the craisins, sunflower seeds, blue cheese and dressing separate and mix before eating.
In total, I would say that I spent about an hour of active time prepping this salad. The food I prepped will yield at least 5 servings so the time spent is well worth it in my opinion. You could cut back the active time by buying a butternut squash that was already cut up. Lastly, while I did not calculate the cost, I know that it is well below the $11/serving that I would have paid at the local salad place, so it's also economical!

Do you pack your lunch for work?  If so, what do you tend to bring?

Monday, January 4, 2016

2016 Goals

Happy New Year, everyone!!    I hope everyone had a safe and fun New Years celebration.  We had a quiet celebration with friends.  I thoroughly enjoyed having a 3 day weekend!  If only those happened more often!

Monday feels like the right kind of day of the week to share my goals for the year.  Here's what I'm hoping to accomplish in 2016!   This year I split them up into categories.

1.  Health and Fitness

> PR at the YWCA women's triathlon.  I did my first triathlon last year and didn't have a challenging goal going into it since I didn't know what to expect. Now that I have one under my belt, I am ready to try even harder and see how much I can improve my time.

> Run a sub-4 hour marathon at Grandma's marathon.  Yes, this means I am doing another marathon. Going into the Twin Cities marathon, I really thought it would be my last, but my disappointment over not making my goal led me to register for Grandma's marathon, which is in June.  If I don't run a sub-4 there, I think I will just have to accept that it's not in the cards for me and move on, but I want one more shot!

2.  Personal growth

> Identify an organization to volunteer with and volunteer on a consistent basis.  I've done a good job of making financial contributions to charitable organizations, but this year I want to focus on also giving them my time. I think I have identified an organization to volunteer with as I am going to the Minnesota Literacy Council's volunteer information session later this month.  Through this organization, I could volunteer to work one-on-one with an adult or I could co-teach a class.  I clearly feel very passionate about reading and know how powerful the ability to read is, so hopefully this will be a good fit.

3.  Reading

> Finish all of the books on my nook.
Last year I treated myself to a new Kindle Paper White. I still had some books left on my Nook but I thought I'd get to them eventually.  Then I fell so in love with my Kindle that I didn't want to read things on my Nook.  But I don't want to waste the money I spent on those books so I am going to make a point to read them this year.  There are only 4 and I've already started to read the longest of the 4 (The Goldfinch).

> Read 12 physical books that I already own.
This was one of my goals last year and I am making it a goal again for this year as I still have many many many many unread books on my shelves!

> Complete the 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.
I had so much fun doing this challenge last year so I decided to do it again. I really like the categories they chose this year.  Many of the books I will read for this challenge are books that I already own or books I've been wanting to read for awhile.  I can't wait to get started!

4.  Mental health

> Have one "shouldless" day a month and blog about it.
Last month I talked about my desire to have more "shouldless" days so I decided to incorporate it into my goals for the year. My goal is to have one per month, usually on a Sunday, and then in order to hold myself accountable, I'll share what I did on my shouldless day on my blog.

So there you have it!  I love the excitement of having a new set of goals to work towards and am ready to attack this list with gusto!

Do you make goals or resolutions?  What would you like to achieve in 2016?