Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Podcasts, Books, Workouts and Looks of January

Ufda, January was a doosey of a month.  I packed a lot into these 31 days.  I sincerely hope that life slows down in February because I'm kind of crying 'uncle' right now over how busy I feel.


Offshore:  I'm so glad my friend Kelly recommended this as I've become totally hooked on this podcast. It explores 2 murders that happened in Hawaii 80 years apart. What connects these 2 murders is both deal with the topics of race and power.  She sprinkles in a lot of history of the state of Hawaii which has been so interesting - especially since we'll be there for our honeymoon in May.


I read A LOT in January. 7 books!  It was a crazy busy month, but I still read a lot as I had 8 flights and lots of nights alone in hotel rooms.  This was one of the more pleasurable months of reading that I've had in as long as I can remember. I attribute this to the fact that I read whatever I wanted to read, instead of reading books I had to read to complete a reading challenge.  The best books were When Breath Becomes Air and I'll Give You the Sun. My least favorite was The Wangs vs. the World.

The Trespasser by Tana French - 4 stars
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance - 4 stars
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi - 5 stars
The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty - 3 stars
Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton - 4 stars
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang - 2 stars
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson - 5 stars


This is the first month of solid workouts that I've had since my surgery last May.  I still have work to do to get back to running, but it was great to feel like I was back at it this month. I did the Core de Force Beach Body program, which I loved as it was easy to do while traveling since it requires no equipment.  I worked out 6 days a week despite my crazy travel schedule, which I'm proud of!


** crickets **  I've got nothing working sharing, sadly.  I feel like I wore business suits so much of this month, which is my absolutely LEAST favorite outfit to wear. Besides that my outfits were all about warmth as January is the coldest month for us typically.  Hopefully I'll have something worth sharing next month!

Monday, January 30, 2017

January Happiness Project: Organizational Results

As I mentioned at the beginning of the month, this year I'm going to use Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project, to come up with monthly focuses. The goal is to increase my happiness and satisfaction.

The January focus was organization. I used Apartment Therapy's "January Cure" to guide my focus for the month.  January also ended up being an incredibly busy month. I traveled 3 times for work and did a lot of wedding planning.  Free time was not plentiful and being away from home so much made it tough to focus on organizational projects.  But I did what I could and I did more than I would have if I hadn't set this intention for the month.

Most of my organizational work was done in the kitchen.  There was a lot of opportunity for improvement in that area. Part of the reason why there was so much opportunity for organization is due to how FREAKING FAST I unpacked when I moved in last May.  Unpacking fast was a necessity since I moved in on a Friday and had hip surgery on Monday.  I knew I needed to organize our drawers and cupboards but it was something that just got pushed off - until this month.

I'm not going to bore you with all the before and after results, but here are a couple of projects I completed in January!

Smallest project:  Kitchen drawer before...

Kitchen drawer after!

Medium Project:  food pantry cupboard

Food pantry after!

Bigger project:  kitchen pantry/closet (which had become the "I don't know what to do with this item so I will just put it here" closet).

Kitchen pantry/closet after!

It felt so good to organize our kitchen a bit.  There are still more cupboards and drawers to go through, but I made great progress this month.

Best tip I learned:  One thing the people at Apartment Therapy suggested is to set the timer on your phone for 30 minutes and do what you can do in those 30 minutes.  Sometimes I put off a project (like organizing cupboards/drawers) because it seems so overwhelming. But I love the 30 minute timer approach.  I would often be surprised by how much I got done in those 30 minutes!  My goal is to try to do this 1-2 times a week going forward to stay on top of other projects around the house that tend to get put off.

Was there anything you focused on in particular in January?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wedding Wednesday: Our Theme!

Hi!  I'm back with another wedding update. I do feel a little bit shy about posting about our wedding here as I don't want people to be like, 'geez, enough already!'  But planning our wedding is a big part of my life right now and it seems like many of you are curious about what we are doing, so I'll continue to share.

While I don't think that weddings necessarily need to have a theme, one jumped out at me as being perfect for Phil and me:  books!  We are both avid readers so it's the perfect theme for us.  Plus there are so many cute ideas out there on pinterest and such.

Here are a couple of ways we are incorporating our book theme into the wedding:

Save the Dates

Our "library card" save the dates

The photo is a little blurry, but you get the idea! I am so happy with how these turned out! Luckily a good friend of mine does graphic design on the side so she designed these for us and did an amazing job (Thanks, Amanda!!).


To keep the cost down, we are doing some DIY candle projects for centerpieces instead of buying flowers as the cost of flowers adds up so dang fast.  Here are a couple of project I'll be working on this spring, with the help my sister-in-law and some friends.

I'll also be using stacks of vintage books on tables as part of the centerpieces.

I'm really excited to see how it all comes together!

If you are married, did you have any sort of theme for your decor?  What were your wedding colors?  Ours are navy, gold, and light pink.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Currently: January Edition

Hello from the western part of New Jersey!  I flew in yesterday as there weren't any flights that got me in early enough for my meetings today. This trip is going to be an intense one as I will stay in 4 different hotel (in 4 different areas of NJ), I travel with 3 different sales reps, and have dinners 2 nights (I usually get my evenings to myself).  But hopefully I will get a break from travel after this!

Reading:  I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. This a book I bought from one of Modern Mrs. Darcy's daily kindle deal emails. Her daily list of deals is awesome but also dangerous! This book cost me $1.99, though, so I spent far less than I do on my weekly high maintenance coffee drink! I am taking a break from buying books, though, as I have so many unread ones on my kindle right now! I just started this book but so far it's great! It's a young adult book that is narrated by two twins in their teens.

Loving: the mild winter weather we've had lately. It's been in the 30s which feels so great after a stretch of sub-zero weather. Apparently we are getting more storm this week while I am gone, though.  Can't say I am all that bummed to miss it - I just hope it doesn't impact my flight coming back on Thursday morning.

Feeling: tired and a little worn out.  January has been an intense month of travel and I've also been busy with wedding-related stuff.  I'm hoping that February is a quieter month!

Thinking: about wedding stuff quite a bit! For the most part I'm enjoying bringing our vision (Ok, mostly my vision since Phil's not into the details) to life. I'm not a DIY person by nature, but in order to pull off an event that meets out budget, I'm taking on a number of DIY decor projects. Luckily I'm getting lots of help from family members and friends. My sister-in-law is flying in from Chicago in March to help with some of my projects and my mom and other sister-in-law will be helping out too! That is going to be a really fun and productive weekend.

Anticipating: our trip to San Diego! I can't wait to get away with Phil and soak up some vitamin D and fresh air.

Watching: very little TV. I'm still working my way through Season 2 of Suits but it's taking me awhile to get through it. 

Working: out very consistently now that I have an at-home program that I'm loving.  I'm almost done with my first 30 day beach body program (Core de Force).  I think I will start 21 day fix once I get through this last business trip.

Grateful: that I got the chance to go dress shopping with some of the most special ladies in my life earlier this month. It was such a fun day and I LOVE the dress I selected.  

Listening:  to my iTunes library quite a bit and selecting songs to include on our wedding playlist. Since we aren't having a DJ/dance, we are making a song list to play throughout the evening as the reception site has an AV system that we can hook an iPod up to.

Wishing: for an unplanned week, but doubting that I'm going to have one for quite awhile.

What are you anticipating, loving, and listening to these days?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Shouldless Days of '17: January

If I ever needed a shouldless day, it was this month. So I took one on Monday since I had the day off. The pace of life has been quite hectic lately so I fully appreciated a day with no chores or obligations!

I woke up without an alarm, which is blissful in and of itself. I started off my day by getting my sweat on and enjoyed a vanilla protein smoothie with banana afterwards.

After showering, I settled in on the couch and watched a couple of episodes of Suits on Amazon Prime. I'm on Season 2 and am really enjoying this show!

Then I met my Chicago brother and nephew for a late lunch at Chipotle. They had flown in for the weekend to do some ice fishing at our lake home. I'm glad I got a little bit of time with them while they were in the area!

Then it was back home for more couch time. Phil, Oscar and I sat on the couch and watched a couple of episodes of The 80s, which is a CNN documentary. It focuses more on pop culture than historical events but has still been entertaining.

I also did quite a bit of reading. I finished a book (Love Warrior) and started another one:

And I did a little bit of wedding stuff, like ordering our guest book from Etsy and purchasing some other decor items.  More on that in my next wedding update post!

It was a blissful, relaxing, slow-paced day, which was just what I needed!

Have you had any relaxing days recently?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Virtual Coffee Date: January 2017

Hello and happy Tuesday!  Today is like a Monday for me as I had yesterday off for the MLK holiday. Oh how I love 3-day weekends.  I wish we had them once a month.  I get so much vacation time, though, that I need to do a better job of making a 3-day weekend for myself during months when we don't have any holidays!

2017 has gotten off to a bit of hectic start as I've been so busy between several work trips + wedding planning!  I feel like I'm running around like a chicken with her head cut off while trying to act like a duck.  You know, calm on the surface but paddling like mad underneath.  So I figured today was a good day for a virtual coffee date.  Grab a cup of something warm and settle in!

I'm treating myself to a vanilla latte with coconut milk as I write this post!
If we were having coffee today I'd tell you...

- I am a little burned out on traveling/being away from home. Between going to Spain in late November/early December, 2 work trips to Chicago in December, traveling for Christmas and New Years, and trips to New Jersey and Jackson, MS for work in the first half of January, I'm kind of exhausted!  Luckily, I will be home for a full week this week for the first time since the week before Thanksgiving!  I leave on Sunday for one more work trip this month (which is going to be a crazy week as I'll do meetings with 3 different people over 3 days and stay in 4 different hotels...). At least I'm racking up airline miles to use for our honeymoon!  :)

- I ordered my dress earlier this month so now I have extra motivation to tone-up between now and our wedding in May! Right now I'm doing the Core de Force program through Beach Body and am loving it!  It's all body weight (i.e. no weights required) and I can access the workouts online. It's nice to have workouts I can do without leaving my house or hotel room. Next up I'm planning to do the 21 day fix workouts.  It's nice to have some new workout programs. And in February I'll start to do some personal training sessions with a friend that is a personal trainer.

- Since our lives feel like they've been a little bit consumed with wedding planning/discussions, we decided to go on a little get-away to San Diego in mid-February.  Our plan is to take a break from all wedding talk!  We rented a cute condo in the Mission Beach area so I'm envisioning lots of walks on the beach and lots of grilling as our condo has an outdoor grill.  We can't wait to thaw out, soak in some vitamin D, and do some hiking!  If you've been to San Diego, let me know if you have suggestions for things to do!

- Speaking of travel, we've also decided to go to Maui for our honeymoon!  We are getting married on a Friday and will fly out on Sunday for Maui and spend 8 full days there. I'm really excited as we'll get to relax on the beach and snorkel but also do some hiking and other outdoorsy things. We're hoping to get it booked by the end of this month. So I'm also open to any Maui suggestions!

- This post has been pretty wedding-centric but there are other things occupying my mind and time, like working on my January Happiness Project (organizing) and reading! I've already finished 5 books this month, the best of which was "When Breath Becomes Air." That book deserves an entire post but in case I don't get around to writing one, suffice it to say that it was a heart-breaking, amazing book.

If we were having coffee today, what would you tell me?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Year in Review: 2016 Spending

While my focus is mostly set on 2017, I have one last year in review post!  I know that talking about money is such a source of discomfort for most people, especially women it seems. But I think it's important to try to find ways to talk about as we can all stand to learn something from one another. Last year I did my first spending post, so I thought I'd do it again this year as I got a positive response to it last year. 

Here's what my 2016 spending looked like:

Home and Condo Rental: This year I decided to split out the expenses of my condo rental from the home category. 2016 was a bad year for renting my condo. Between flooding in the unit that required me to replace the flooring in the kitchen to buying a new fridge to a range of other maintenance expenses, I lost money in 2016. I sincerely hope this is my last year having this rental as I would love to sell it in the fall and be done with it. On a positive note, I spent far less on housing expenses for myself as I moved in with Phil and he doesn't charge me rent!  We have an agreement that I will buy groceries and pay for things like vacations and such.  He felt it wasn't worth the effort to split the expenses evenly since we knew we would be getting married eventually and would combine finances at that time.

Wedding:  Yes, we already have spent a considerable amount of money on our wedding, even though we just got engaged on December 9th! We booked the reception venue and photographer in December so have to make deposits on both of those items.

Auto & Transport:  This is new category this year as last year my spending on this category was so small it got lumped into other. My car literally died on me in July so I had to buy a new car, hence the reason why that was my biggest expense category for the year. I didn't pay for the car in full as the financing fee was so low but my goal is to pay it off in 2 years. 

Donations:  My donations category increased this year as I identified a few new charities that I donate to on a regular basis. Since Phil and I live well below our means, I feel that giving back is a very important thing to do.  I don't want to sound like I'm up on my high horse by saying that as I recognize that finances are tight for many people and they don't have extra to give, but since I do have extra to give, it's something I try to do. 

Travel:  This category grew a bit this year since I paid for our vacations in full instead of splitting the cost with Phil. This category doesn't include our Mexico trip as we paid for that in 2015, but I feel good about the amount spending considering that it includes trips to San Francisco, Bend, Spain, and several out-of-town weekends for friends' weddings. Travel will ALWAYS find a place in our budget as it's something we both value.

Target:  Target is still a big spending area for me.  It's hard to split up this category, though, as I get a lot of groceries (non-perishable goods) and household products from Target. I know I still make some additional purchases that I could limit but it would be so much work to get a handle on what I'm spending at Target. I do expect my Target spending to decline now that we have Amazon Prime as now I rarely buy household goods from Target and instead opt to have them shipped to our house.

Shopping:  I actually feel good about the fact that my total for shopping (which includes clothes, books, Amazon, and miscellaneous other purchases). Last year, clothing was 5% of my spending so I feel good about the fact that my total spending in this category was equivalent to what I spent on clothes last year. I bought far fewer clothes this year and instead tried to rely on what I already have. I will need to add to my wardrobe this year as some of my clothes are starting to show their wear, though.

Other:  This catch all category includes things like personal care (haircuts, Arbonne products, massages, and other random expenses). 

What about savings?
I didn't include savings in the graph as I like to see how my spending breaks out. But I also focused on savings in 2016 and significantly increased the amount I have in savings. We know that we will be buying a different "forever" home in the next 1-2 years so I am saving in preparation for that.

Final Thoughts
This is always an important activity for me to do each year, and it's something I encourage others to do.  I keep a close eye on my spending throughout the year, but it's always eye-opening to look at the totals at the end of the year. I feel like I am a pretty frugal person that spends money wisely, but when I review my spending it reminds me I have opportunities to spend less.  I utilize mint.com to track my spending. It does a pretty good job of classifying my expenses, but I have to do a lot of reclassifying of expenses so that it's accurate.

Lastly, this will be my last year of sharing my spending in this manner. Phil and I will be fully merging our finances after we get married and I don't feel right about sharing our spending as a couple. But I will still talk about money and finances, especially about how we adjust to having joint finances, as that is going to be an interesting experience for us after managing our finances independently for so long!

Do you track your spending? If so, what do you use to track it?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Happiness Project: January

As I mentioned in my goal post earlier this week, this year I set fewer 'big' goals and decided to use Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project. Each month I'll set a focus for the month and try to develop habits around that focus that I can carry out throughout the year.  Gretchen picks an area of focus for each month in her book. Some months I'll use her focus, some months I will come up with my own.

Gretchen's focus for January was to "boost energy" by doing things such as going to sleep earlier, exercising better, organizing their house, tackling a nagging task, and acting more energetic.  I felt like that was TOO MUCH for me to focus on for a month so I decided that my January focus will be organization. It makes sense to make organization a focus for January as the first month of the year seems like the perfect time to tackle some organization projects.  Plus it's usually an awful month, weather-wise, so it's a good time to work on indoor projects. A friend at work had recommended that I join Apartment Therapy's "January Cure" so I'll be using the daily prompts they send out to organize our house for the new year.

At the end of the month, I'll share what I accomplished and set my focus for the next month. I'm excited to see what all I get done this month!  I'm traveling quite a bit this month (I'm currently on my first of 3 January work trips right now!!), so I might have a hard time doing all the daily prompts from the January Cure but I'll do what I can!

Do you have any goals or intentions for January?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 Goals + The Happiness Project

Happy New Year, everyone!  I'm excited to usher in a new year, but I have to say that 2016 was a great year for me, all in all.  Sure there were some challenges, like my hip surgery/recovery, but I ended the year engaged to a wonderful man that I'm excited to marry so I really can't complain about the year.

I love this time of year as there's something so pleasing about a fresh calendar full of possibilities. In the past I've created a somewhat lengthy list of detailed goals. However, this year I have decided to change my approach to goals and cut back a bit.  I know that the first 5 months of year will be busy with wedding planning and such so I am giving myself a bit of a break.  So here is the short list of goals I'm looking to achieve this year, none of which will really be "stretch" goals. Well, except the wedding plan one, possibly.

2017 Goals:

1. Plan a wedding and try not to lose ourselves in the process.  I know planning a wedding can be time-consuming and expensive. There's bound to be periods of stress and frustration along the way but I want to try to keep a sense of perspective through the process. The most important thing is that we'll be married on May 19th. Yes, I want a memorable, beautiful day, but I am going to try to not get too caught up/stressed out by all the details.

2. Read 52 books, including 6 physical books I already own.  A goal list isn't complete without a reading goal! I'm taking a different approach to my reading goal this year, though, and want to give myself the freedom to read whatever I want to read (i.e. no reading challenges). I included reading physical books I already own, but dropped it down to 6 books this year instead of 12 like I've done the last 2 years. I think it will be nice to have less structure to my reading.

3. One shouldless day/month.  I am keeping the goal of having a shoudless day each month as this is so good for my mental health!

Monthly Goals:  The Happiness Project

Additionally, I am going to spend the year reading the Happiness Project which has a focus for each month of the year that is meant to bring you more happiness. I have read this book before, but I didn't actually put the book into practice. This time I am going to read about the project for each month in the final week leading into that month (so last week I read about the January project).  Then each month, I'll share the focus for the month and tell you what I did to bring the focus for the month to fruition.

I'm excited that one of my goals will be a monthly focus as I feel like I'll get more out of temporary goals/areas of focus than I do out of broad goals that I work on throughout the year.

Do you have any goals for 2017?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Podcasts, Books, Workouts and Looks of December

Whew, December was excellent.  Getting engaged was certainly the highlight of the month and year for me!  Here's how December shaped up for me.


I'm Made a Huge Mistake by Terrible, Thanks for Asking - "Terrible, Thanks for Asking" is my new favorite podcast. The host is a woman that went through a string of heartbreaking things (had a miscarriage, lost her dad to cancer, lost her husband to lung cancer) all in the span of about 2 months. Her new podcast deals with the tough stuff of life and how we handle it, and acknowledges that sometimes when someone asks how you are doing, the honest and appropriate answer is, "terrible, thanks for asking."  Of the episodes she's released since the podcast started in November, my favorite is episode 2 which is about a woman that makes a big mistake at work and then punishes herself for that mistake for years.  It's about forgiving yourself and recognizing that we are far more critical of ourselves than others are of us.  It's worth a listen.


I only read 3 books in December, which was the fewest number of books I read in a month in 2016. That said, one of them was over 1,000 pages and another one was over 500 pages.  So I still read a decent amount!  My favorite book was Edge of Eternity, which made my 'best books of 2016' list! The bolded book is the one I own that counted toward my 'read 12 books I own' goal.

Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett - 5 stars
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer - 4 stars
Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley - 3 stars


December was a chaotic month between my trip to Spain, 2 work trips to Chicago and being out of town for Christmas and NYE. I tried to fit in as many workouts as I could, but I still worked out less than I would have liked.  At the end of the month, I decided to purchase the "Core de Force" Beach Body program. A high school friend recently became a Beach Body coach and she has had great results from doing this program. I started doing the program in the final month of December and will  likely do a post about it when I finish! I love that the workouts are all body weight so are easy to do at home or in your hotel room!


My favorite look was this new dress I bought at Banana Republic at the beginning of the month during their 50% off sale.  I love that it has long sleeves and pockets!  I added the belt - at Phil's suggestion (he often suggests that I should add a belt to dresses - in this case he was right!). I wore this during a work trip to Chicago. We had our holiday party after work and this dress was perfect for both day and night.  I wish I could buy it in several colors but the other colors in my size sold out quickly!