Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Asheville Recap: Part I

Happy Halloween, everyone! I'm back from Asheville and ready to chat about our awesome getaway. We packed a lot of fun into this trip so I am going to split the recap into 2 parts so that these posts aren't too obnoxiously long (they'll still be long).

We landed in Charlotte mid-day on Wednesday, picked up our car and started to head towards Asheville, which is about 2 hours from Charlotte. We stopped along the way for some BBQ at Peace N Hominy in Belmont. We could definitely tell we were in the south as the daily menu included a bible verse (this is something you would never seen in the Midwest, despite the fact that we have a large Christian population!). Our lunch was delicious and inexpensive. I like NC BBQ because the sauces are vinegar-based and I LOVE vinegar. :) I had pulled pork and fries and Phil had a pulled pork sandwich.

After that pit-stop, we got back on the road and got to Asheville in the late afternoon. We checked into our airbnb. As I mentioned in my travel post, we much prefer airbnb's to hotels as we like having access to a kitchen. The airbnb we rented was a loft and it was located in a great location. It was downtown, but not in the loudest area of downtown. And it was huge! Phil said it was like sleeping on a basketball court.

There were 2 beds - 1 king and 1 queen - so this unit could have been shared with another couple, which would cut down on the cost. I still thought it was a reasonable expense and really appreciated that parking was included because parking in Asheville is really difficult - especially on the weekends.

After getting settled in, we walked to Trader Joe's and got some eggs and hash browns to make for breakfast each day as well as some snacks for our hikes. We ended up only eating out one meal a day while we were in Asheville as we'd make a bigger breakfast, snack during the afternoon, and then go out for dinner at the end of the day. As a result, we spent very little on food which was nice!

Our first dinner out was at my favorite Asheville restaurant - Chai Pani. If you find yourself in Asheville and like Indian, you have to check this place out! We shared an appetizer, but I forgot to take a picture of it, and we each got our own entrees. Phil got a Chicken Tikka roll which was an Indian-style burrito with naan as the burrito wrapper and I got a 'thali' which included butter chicken, rice, daal, pickled cabbage, pappadams (crispy bread-like things made from chickpeas) and raita. It was delicious!

On Thursday morning we slept in. And I mean really slept in as we didn't get up until 9:30 am (which felt like 8:30 to us with the time change)! I slept for 11 hours which felt amazing! I can't remember the last time I slept more than 7-8 hours. My body really needed the extra sleep. We made breakfast and headed out for some hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Phil jokes that all of our trips involve windy, curvy roads.

There were definitely lots of sharp curves but at least there weren't any one-lane bridges like there were in Maui!  :)

Our first hike was a short 2 mile (round trip) hike called Craggy Pinnacle. The fall colors were absolutely beautiful. It was a little bit cool, but not too cold for us hearty Midwesterners.

Most of the people we saw were wearing winter jackets. Phil, on the other hand, wore shorts! It was in the upper 40s/low 50s. Notice the icicles in the picture below!

For our next hike we decided to hike to the summit of Mount Mitchell, which is the higher point east of the Mississippi. The full hike is 10+ miles one way, but we just did the last 1.5 miles to the top, so 3 miles round trip. It was a pretty difficult trail in some parts as you had to scramble over rocks and tree roots and such, but it was a fun trail. You could also drive to the top of Mount Mitchell but as Phil said, 'where's the fun in that?'

The views from the observation deck were beautiful. Pictures don't do it justice but the fall colors were spectacular.

After that hike we headed back to Asheville and went straight to New Belgium Brewery. This is one of Phil's favorite beer makers so I am glad we had time to tour their site.

We've done a lot of brewery tours but this one was definitely the best we've been on. You can tell the brewery was designed with the tour in mind. They had lots of beautiful artwork throughout the brewery, much of which was circus-themed. New Belgium holds fundraisers each year and they tend to be circus-themed so that is the reason why the art is circus-themed.

At one point we needed to go from the 2nd level to the ground level and there was a slide to get to the lower level.

Phil coming out of the slide
Phil enjoyed trying 4 different beers (I obviously stuck with water since I don't drink beer and I'm pregnant).

By the time we finished the tour it was after 6 pm so we headed back to our loft, showered, and headed out for some tacos at White Duck Taco. They had lots of different tacos, many of which were GF. I had a Korean Beef, a jerk chicken and a grilled fish taco. My favorite of the 3 was definitely the fish taco.

After a full day of activity we were in bed early! All that fresh air definitely wore us out and I ended up sleeping for 10 hours that night! If only I could sleep that soundly and for that many hours at home!

Have you been on a brewery tour? Even though I don't drink beer, I enjoy going on brewery tours as you learn so much about the company and their brewing process. And Phil enjoys the free beer!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Travel: Yes & No

Happy Monday! I'm feeling refreshed after a low key weekend. My younger self would never believe that my older self likes weekends with very few plans the best. I guess this is evidence that our preferences do change as we get older!

Luckily, I have a short week ahead of me as we fly to Asheville, NC on Wednesday morning. This is the first time I will be back in NC since I moved away from Charlotte in May of 2014. I think enough time and healing has occurred since then so I am looking forward to this trip. [For those who haven't been long-time readers, I had a somewhat forced relocation to Charlotte in 2013 and that ended up being one of the hardest years of my life. You can poke around my blog and find some raw/honest posts about that time. I haven't been able to bring myself to read them and don't know that I ever will.] 

We'll spend most of the time in Asheville but we will spend one night in Charlotte. It's going to be a great getaway for us. We'll get to spend time in nature, eat great food, and connect with friends that live in the area. Some of my Chicago colleagues are going to be in Asheville for a wedding so we are also going to try to meet up with them for drinks (n/a for me, of course) on Friday night. I haven't had a day off from work (besides being home with flares which are NOT a vacation day) since mid-August so I am due for a break from work!

With our vacation in mind, I thought I'd do another "Yes and No" post (see my last one here) about travel!

We say yes to:

- Staying in VRBOs or Airbnb's. We prefer having access to a kitchen as we get really burned out on eating out for every meal. If we are only staying in a city for one night (which is pretty rare), we will stay in a hotel; otherwise we opt to rent an apartment. We have stayed in so many different apartments/small homes in various cities and have never had a bad experience! So if you are afraid to try this, I highly recommend it. Just look for places with lots of reviews and read through the reviews.

- Taking solo trips. This doesn't happen super often, but there are times when I go on trips on my own. For example, in a couple of weeks I'm heading to NYC to visit my friend Alli who recently had a baby. And then in early December I am flying to St. Louis to visit my friend Nora to celebrate the end of her chemo treatments (!!!) and to take in all things Christmas and literary. Neither of these trips will be about seeing the area I am traveling to; instead it's about connecting with these dear friends of mine. Phil had the option to join me for either trip but he opted to stay home so I could have my girl time and not have to worry about whether he was entertained. Phil doesn't take trips without me, besides the occasional golf weekend but if he wanted to do something with his guys friends, I would support that. We of course LOVE traveling together, but I have more friends that live far away and seeing them in person is important to me, so it makes sense for me to take the occasional trip to visit these friends. There are times when he will come with, like when we visited my friend Kyria in the Bay area. But that trip was about seeing Kyria and seeing the Bay area, which Phil had never been to, so it made sense for him to come along. I imagine I will take very few solo trips once we become parents so I am glad that I've done as much travel as I have while my life was conducive to it.

- Visiting smaller more slow-paced locations. We are drawn to locations that are close to the mountains or have a more low-key vibe. We have visited big cities, like San Francisco, but we did a lot of hiking and outdoorsy stuff on that trip. It's fun to visit big cities, like Paris, but the older I get, the more I appreciate visiting places that have less hustle and bustle. Our favorite slower paced location that we've visited is Santa Barbara and I have a feeling Asheville is going to be another spot we both love!

- Not having a detailed itinerary for our trips. This has changed since I met Phil. He does not like to be over-scheduled and appreciates a slower pace of vacations. When I traveled alone I think I felt better going into each trip with a detailed list of what to do/see and a plan for when I'd do and see everything. These days we have some things in mind but we take each day as it comes and see what the weather is like/what we feel like doing. So for this Asheville trip, we have some hikes and restaurants in mind and some rainy day back-up plans but that's about as far as we've gone with the planning. It helps that I've been to Asheville multiples times so don't really have to do much research.

We say no to:

- Paying or using miles to upgrade to Delta Comfort or First Class. I have traveled in first class several time, mostly when traveling for business. It's great but it's not worth the money or miles we'd have to spend. Since I have gold status with Delta, we can usually reserve seats in the exit row. We are small people so don't truly need the extra room in first class. And we don't drink on planes (nothing against those who do!). We did luck out and get upgraded to first class on our flights to Jamaica for a friend's wedding but we didn't order any alcohol which totally confused the flight attendant as everyone else was taking advantage of the free booze. But I get dehydrated enough flying as is, so I don't need to extra dehydration that comes from drinking on the plane!

- Super early flights, if we can avoid it. It can be nice to arrive in a city early so you don't waste the whole day traveling. But when we have early flights (like 7 am or earlier), we are usually too tired when we get to our airbnb to do much exploring. So it kind of defeats the purpose of taking a early flight. Ideally we like to fly out around 9 am so we can wait up at our usual time.

- To traveling to locations with the Zika virus. Since we are in a phase where we are starting a family, it's not worth the risk to visit an area where we might be exposed to Zika. This really limits the warm weather destinations we can go to (hence the reason we went to San Diego last February and Hawaii for our honeymoon), but we just can't take on the risk of contracting Zika - at least not until they find a cure/vaccination for it.

- Long road trips. I know some people don't mind driving - we are not those people. Plus since we live in the Midwest, if you want to drive to a vacation destination it's going to be a LONG drive since our states are so huge. I won't even drive to Chicago which is about a 7 hour drive away. Our max drive is 4-5 hours. Flying can be a hassle with the time to check in and all the waiting around but I will take that over being trapped in a car!

When it comes to travel, what do you say yes and no to?

Friday, October 20, 2017

5 Things Friday

Oh man, this week was quite the week. I'm so happy it's Friday!  Here are 5 things that are on my mind today.

1. I started off my week with another flare that got progressively worse as the week progressed. I went in for 2 steroids injections on Tuesday afternoon. Before the doctor gave me the injections, he traced my hands and marked off all the places I've had injections and included a date so I can easily tell when I can get another injection into a joint (I have to wait 3 months between injections). With the 2 injections I got on Tuesday, I've now had 7 steroid injections. It's a good thing I don't have problems with needles! The pain in my hands was so bad on Wednesday that I needed some help from Phil to get into my pajamas.  I stayed home from work on Wednesday since I wasn't able to type. Luckily my company is very understanding and has told me to take care of myself and to not feel bad when I need to stay home. I always monitor email so I'm still able to help out when I'm not in the office.

2. With all the flares (I've gotten a flare every 1-2 weeks since late July), I've had to take it extra easy. But as a result, I'm doing lots of reading! I've already finished 4 books this month and will finish another one this weekend. Right now I'm reading "Still Life" by Louise Penny. I've been wanting to check out this series for a long time and am finally getting around to it. I've heard others say that it moved too slowly for them, but I am really enjoying the book. The author writes cozy mysteries so it's the perfect series to dig into as we approach winter!

3. We had our 20 week ultrasound on Thursday and the baby looked great! It was cool to see so much detail - like the organs! Seeing the chambers of the heart was probably the most interesting part for me. The baby was moving around so much so it was tough to see his or her profile. Plus when the ultrasound tech tried to get a profile of the upper body, the baby kept covering its face with a hand. Our child must take after its dad and HATE getting its picture taken.  ;) It was a relief to find out that the baby looks great and its development is on track. They were able to rule out a cleft lip (one of the rare risks of steroid use) and confirm that its weight is on track (low birth weight is another risk of steroid use).

Baby Segner with a hand over his or her face
4. We have a mostly unplanned weekend and I am SO EXCITED about this. We are going to make chili in the instantpot tonight (even though it will be 78 degrees today so pretty warm!) and watch a movie. Tomorrow we'll swing by a friend's birthday gathering at a brewery in the afternoon but have nothing else planned. On Sunday I'll go the Farmer's Market and clean out my garden as the season has come to an end. That's about it for plans!

5. I'm counting down the days until our Asheville getaway next week! We fly out on Wednesday morning. This vacation is going to look different than I envisioned as I won't be able to do as much hiking as I would like as I need to be careful about my activity until I get a longer break from flares. But we'll still have a great time! I'm excited for all the good food we will eat!!

What's on your mind these days?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Currently: October

And just like that, it's mid-October! Here's what's currently going on in my world!

Reading:  The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain. I bought this on a kindle deal email sometime this year after a friend recommended it to me. It's been a page turner so far! I'm also slowly working my way through the first part of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I'm only going to read the parts that are applicable to the newborn phase and then I'll read more of it when our baby is older. It's a dense read but interesting!

Loving:  the fall colors and crisp fall weather we've had lately! This week is going to be beautiful as it's going to be sunny and in the 70s. I'm trying to soak up all the beauty as I know the trees will shed their leaves very soon!

Feeling:  really tired. I'm not getting the 2nd trimester burst of energy that others have talked about experiencing, likely because of my RA. Unfortunately my RA is not getting any better. I've stopped counting the number of flares I've had because it's too depressing. Right now I'm getting flares every week, and the one I have right now is particularly painful and is impacting joints in my both of my hands.  :(  I'm really struggling with my RA and wish it would just calm down.  :( 

Thinking:  about our trip to Asheville! We leave next Wednesday and I am so excited for a getaway. We won't be able to do as much hiking as I would like due to my pregnancy/RA issues, but I'm hoping we can do a shorter hike each day. Besides that we'll eat lots of good food and take in the beauty of the area. We'll also be spending a night in Charlotte on the way back. It will be good to see some of my friends as a couple of them haven't met Phil yet!

Anticipating: our ultrasound on Thursday! We haven't seen the baby since the 9 week ultrasound so we are very excited to see him or her again! We are getting a level II ultrasound so they can look extra close and make sure the steroids I've been on haven't impacted the baby's development. Our ultrasound will be done at a perinatal clinic. We have 2.5 hours of appointments, including the 80 minute ultrasound. I'm glad they are being very thorough and it will be good to discuss my RA with the perinatal physician. I completely trust my Rheumatologist, but it will be good to talk to another physician. 

Watching:  very little tv. I finished all the free seasons of Suits on Prime so now I'm impatiently waiting for another season to be released! 

Grateful: for the excellent medical care that I have access to. I really love my OB practice. They told me that any time I feel anxious, I can just come over and listen to the baby's heartbeat. I haven't done this but it's nice to know it's an option. I also appreciate that I live in a large city with excellent specialists. If I lived elsewhere, it would be harder to see a perinatal specialist like the one I'm seeing this week. 

Working: on finishing a blanket that I started last winter, although I haven't been able to work on it the last couple of weeks as my flares have been impacting my hands. I finished the other blanket that I started last winter. I think this will be a baby blanket for baby Segner as I think our nursery will be gray and yellow so this should coordinate with it. 

Listening:  to the Birthful Podcast. It's a great podcast for first-time moms the host covers so many topics! My favorite episode so far was A Mindful and Minimalist Baby Registry. As I've mentioned before, we are trying to be really mindful about what we register for as we don't want to get too much stuff.

Wishing: my RA would calm down. I'm just so tired of these flares as they are painful and make me extra tired. I've kind of lost hope of them going away and feel like they will just be part of this pregnancy.

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Finance Friday: The Time Value of Money

When I wrote my first "Finance Friday" post back in April, I did not intend to go 6 months before writing another post in this series. But life happens. These posts take some time, and in this case, math, to write so I kept putting it off! But today I'm ready to share my next post in the series.

In my last post, I talked about the importance of saving for retirement. As I said in that post, I place an incredibly low probability on the existence of the social security program by the time I retire. I'm a risk averse individual so I do not like to assume that social security will be around, or that it will be provide a sufficient amount of monthly income if that program is still in existence. So Phil and I have really focused on saving for our own retirement so that we can afford to stop working, ideally in our early 60s.

In today's post, I want to talk about the time value of money - a phrase or concept that gets thrown around often but might not be something that everyone grasps or thinks about. This is purely a mathematical concept. In simple terms, it is talking about the fact that the longer you save and the more you save, the larger the pile of money is going to be when you want to retire and live off of your retirement accounts.

Before I delve into the math, I want to address the fact that there is a certain level of privilege associated with saving for retirement. To be able to save for retirement, you need to be able to live within your means, provide for your family, and have money left over, after all your bills have been paid, to put money aside in savings or a retirement account. I completely recognize that this is not possible for everyone.

That said, I think we live in a culture of entitlement, and a culture of "keeping up with the Jones's." Saving for retirement requires sacrifices. We have to say no to some of our current wants and desires in order to be able to stop working at some point in the future. That's not always easy, especially if you are struggling to make ends meet with your household income. This reality has been brought even more to light recently as we start to look at daycare options and have had to come to terms with the fact that we'll spend over $18,000 for daycare in the first year of our child's life. Each year of our life requires evaluation about what our savings goals are and how we are going to achieve them as our expenses fluctuate. I also recognize that there is a certain level of privilege associated with being able to save for retirement - I understand that many people in our country are living paycheck to paycheck and don't have excess money at the end of the month to put in savings or towards retirement.

I bring all of this up as a precursor of getting into the time value of money because saving has to be so intentional. I'm going to share the math behind the time value of money, but the first decision we all have to make is how we are going to go about finding the money to save each month or year. It requires discipline and for most of us, it requires automation. All of my savings occur before the money hits my bank account. My 401k contribution gets deducted from each paycheck, and a certain amount of my take home pay gets automatically transferred to a savings account that I can not easily access. I use that savings account to fund my IRA contribution each year. Granted, not everyone needs their savings to be this automated. For example, Phil does not have money automatically transferred to a savings account. Instead he transfers money to savings once he reaches a certain dollar level in his checking account. That could work for me, but I'd prefer if the money just automatically goes to savings without me seeing it in our checking account.

Now - let's get into the math behind the time value of money. I'm going to share 2 examples of the math behind the time value of money - meaning the power of your money to earn interest each month or year and how it will multiply and grow exponentially with time. In these calculations, I made the assumption that your money will earn 4% per year. That might be an over-optimistic assumption but it's a common estimate used by financial planners. One point worth mentioning - you can not earn 4% per year in a savings account. You would need to invest it in a mutual fund or some sort with exposure to equity markets. Having money in a savings account is fine and important - but that is not where you should be saving money you intend to use for retirement, for a variety of reasons.

Example #1: Saving $100/month. In the first example we'll look at what happens if you save $100/month for 10, 20 or 30 years. The time value of money calculation is powerful to look at in graphical form because it illustrates the fact that the sooner you start saving, the better. In this scenario, let's pretend you are 30 years old and want to retire when you are 60 (which might not be realistic - this is merely meant to be illustrative) and will either start saving $100/month in a retirement account this year, when you turn 40 or when you turn 50.

As this graph clearly illustrates - the longer you save, the more money you will have when you are 60 years old. Let's use the 30 year investment period to illustrate the time value of money, and the power of compounding of interest/dividends (i.e. interest earned on interest). In this example, contributing $100/month for 30 years will grow to a total of about $69,500 in 30 years. If, instead, you put $100 per month under your mattress for 30 years, it would total $36,000 in 30 years ($100 x 12 x 30). So you'd be missing out on about $33,500 in compounding interest/dividends if you didn't invest the money in a mutual fund or some other financial product.

Example #2:  Saving $5,000/year. In this example, we will look at what happens if you save $5,000/year for 10, 20, or 30 years. You can think of a 30 year old person who makes $50,000/year and puts 10% of their paycheck in their 401k, or about $192/paycheck if you are paid every other week, either at age 30, 40, or 50 and wants to retire at age 60.

Again, the graph shows that sooner you start investing, the larger that pile of money will be when you turn 60. In this case, the 30 year old who contributed $5,000 year for 30 years has put aside $150,000 dollars over 30 years, but it grows to about $290,000 in 30 years.

In closing, there are 3 ways that you can impact the size of an investment account at your retirement age:

1. The amount you contribute. The more you are able to put away each month or year, the larger the amount in the retirement account will be when you retire.

2. The length of time you save/contribute to the retirement account. As these graphs show, the earlier you start investing in your retirement account, the better.

3.  The return of the investment product. We can't control how certain areas of the financial market perform - they will fluctuate over time. But we can control what areas of the financial market we invest in. Let's use the example of investing $100/month for 30 years. If you would have put this in a savings account that earns 1%, in 30 years the account would grow to just under $42,000. Which sounds great until you compare that to the investment account earning 4%, which becomes $69,500 in 30 years. This illustrates why it is important to be thoughtful about how we invest our retirement savings. Picking the least risky investment might seem like a good idea, but you are likely missing out on returns that you could be earning. I'll talk more about this in a future post. I understand that it is VERY OVERWHELMING to look at your investment options in your 401k or IRA. But if it overwhelms you, instead of picking the least risky investment option, consider working with a financial advisor. They can asses your risk tolerances and make a recommendation. In general, the younger you are, the more heavily invested you should be in equity markets.


Hopefully I haven't bored you all to tears by this point! If you have any questions, please let me know as I am always happy to talk about all things finance. You can always leave a comment (make sure it's linked to an email address so I can respond) or send me an email at lisasyarns at gmail dot com.

Are there any finance topics in particular that you'd like me to cover in future posts? I want these posts to be as useful as possible, so I welcome your feedback. 

Disclaimer:  The thoughts in this post are my own thoughts and are not meant to be taken as investment advice. I have no fiduciary responsibility to anyone that reads this post. Additionally, my comments are US-centric; retirement benefits vary from country to country.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Weekend Highlights

This past weekend was a busy one, but a fun one! It went by far faster than I would have liked but that's the way weekends always seem to go. Here are some of the highlights from my weekend.

On Friday night we had a fun night out with a friend and her boyfriend. We hit up 3 different breweries and enjoyed delicious tacos at our favorite local Mexican place!

On Saturday morning we looked at another potential home. It wasn't the right house for us but I feel like every time we look at a house with our realtor, it gives her a better idea of what we are looking for in a home. We are definitely being picky, but this next home is going to be a long-term home for us so we would rather hold out for the right house. Plus we can make our current home work for at least another year if need be.

On Saturday afternoon my nephews came over for an overnight stay! It was my brother and his wife's anniversary so I offered to have them stay the night with us so they could have a date night. In the afternoon, I prepped the homemade mac n' cheese (I used this recipe).

Ooey gooey cheesy goodness!
It gets covered with toasted buttery bread crumbs before you bake it. Phil popped it in the oven for me while I went to church with the boys. We really liked it! My younger nephew did not care for the bread crumbs so if you are making it for kids, I would maybe leave the bread crumbs off or just put them on one side.

We served the mac n' cheese with brats from our farm share.

I can't get over how fast these 2 are growing up. They are 9 and 12 and are so much fun to have around. They REALLY like Phil so he definitely got the bulk of their attention.

After dinner we went to DQ for dessert and then rented "Wonder Woman" from a Redbox.

On Sunday morning, while the boys were sleeping, I snuck out to the Farmer's Market for some breakfast pastries. My favorite GF baker was at the market so I got a cinnamon roll for myself and an assortment of pastries for Phil and the boys.

My delicious warmed up cinnamon roll
I managed to get back home before my nephews woke up. They slept until about 9:45! I am so envious of their ability to sleep in that late! We met their parents for lunch at an Indian buffet, which was so delicious. I forgot to take a picture of my plate but it was soooo good.

When I got back to our house, I spent the rest of Sunday afternoon reading and napping. I am really enjoying our October book club book but it's a sad/heavy read, especially as a parent-to-be.

I had slept well the night before but I was so exhausted that I ended up taking a 2 hour nap. It is so not like me to take long afternoon naps but I'm listening to my body. Growing a human is apparently exhausting.

Later in the day I met my friend at a prenatal yoga class. Prenatal yoga is so different from the typical yoga classes I've taken in the past but I really enjoy the classes, especially the stretches that are meant to prepare your body for child birth.

Phil got home from his mom's around 7:30 pm. We caught up on our days and then I headed up to bed at 9. I was afraid I would have trouble falling asleep after taking a long nap but I was struggling to keep my eyes open when I was reading so I gave up and turned off the lights at 9:30.

How was your weekend?

Friday, October 6, 2017


Another week has come and gone. The days are flying by but I expect all of October to go this way since I've got a full calendar. Here's how my week shaped up!

The high of my week was going out to dinner with another couple last night at the restaurant we went to the night we got engaged. If you find yourself in Minneapolis, I highly recommend that you check out 112 Eatery! The food is so good! It's definitely our favorite special occasion restaurant. Make sure you get the scallops as an appetizer and the butterscotch budino for dessert! Those are must-haves for us every time we come here! Our double date was with a guy I work with and his wife. Phil and my co-worker used to work together way back in 2005. Then  almost 10 years later, I joined the same group that Phil worked with, we are just owned by a different company now so the name has changed. As a result, Phil actually knows a lot of my coworkers as most of the people who were in this group in 2005 are still in the same group all these years later. It's kind of crazy how many ways mine and Phil's lives have overlapped. He works with a girl I went to college with (who set us up on a blind date), he used to work with many of my coworkers, and he used to live with another guy that I went on a blind date with years before I met Phil. It seems like we were destined to meet!

The low of my week was getting yet another flare. This is my 6th one of this pregnancy. I'm so FED UP with these stupid flares. As a point of reference, I used to get maybe 2-3 flares a year before changing my drugs to ones that are safe for pregnancy. So getting 6 flares in about 2 months is A LOT. 

A book I am reading is This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel. It's the October selection for my local book club. I've heard great things about it so I think it's going to make for a great book club discussion!

A recipe I made was Unstuffed Cabbage Bowls in my Instant Pot. It's not the prettiest dish but what it lacks in appearance it makes up for in taste. Phil and I LOVE cabbage rolls but they are kind of a putzy thing to make. This dish was super easy to make, especially in the Instant Pot (the recipe also has directions for making it on the stove top). And the leftovers have been great. I need to do a post soon about all the things I've made in the Instant Pot. That gadget is not for everyone but I really love it and have gotten a lot of use out of it! 

The best money I spent was on a prenatal massage on Monday. This was my first prenatal massage and it was wonderful! I have decided to treat myself to one once a month for the duration of the pregnancy. I figure it's a good investment as it's so relaxing and I could use some extra relaxation/TLC. 

My plans this weekend include going out to dinner tonight with another couple at our favorite Taqueria. They make their own corn tortillas and the food is so good and inexpensive. It reminds me of the kind of food you find at Taquerias that I've been to in the Mission district of San Francisco. After dinner we are going to stop at a number of breweries in the area. I told Phil that he needs to take advantage of having a DD! The other couple we are getting together with also loves beer so it should be a fun night, especially since some of these breweries tend to have board games, which I love! On Saturday my nephews are coming over in the afternoon and will spend the night as it's my brother and his wife's anniversary that day. I don't see my nephews as much as I would like given our busy schedules so I am excited to have them stay with us! I'll give them a choice of making dinner or going out to eat and we'll come up with something fun to do. On Sunday I'll bring them back to my brother's and we'll all have lunch together. I don't have much else planned for that day besides going to a prenatal yoga class so it should be a fairly laid back day. 

What was the high of your week? Did you make any new or tried-and-true recipes this week?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Pregnancy Update: 18 weeks

Happy Wednesday! Wednesdays have become one of my favorite days of the week as it's the day that I move into a new week of pregnancy. It's fun to read the pregnancy updates from the various aps that I am using and to hear about the development milestones of the week to come.

I don't want to inundate you guys with pregnancy updates as I know they are not of interest to everyone. So I've decided that I will do a pregnancy update every 4 weeks. Plus I figure that it will be nice to document this experience in case I ever want to walk down memory lane.

Baby size:  The baby is now the size of a bell pepper. He or she is about 5.5 inches long and weighs almost 7 ounces.

Sex of the baby:  I still don't want to find out but Phil still REALLY wants to know the sex. I think I might concede on this and have him find out after our 20 week ultrasound. I'll just have them put the sex in an envelope and he can open it on his own. He is the best secret keeper so I know he won't spill the beans. For some reason, I'm just not that curious about the sex and want to wait to find out on the day of delivery but he feels like he HAS to know as it will help him feel closer to the baby. I know of another couple that did this and it worked out just fine for them.

One of my pet peeves about my decision to not find out is that upon hearing that I don't want to find out the sex, so many people have said they needed to know the sex so they could plan. I am such a type A planner, and I will definitely be doing LOTS to plan and prepare for this baby. However, I feel like most of the preparations you make for a new baby are independent of the sex. Even if we knew the sex, we would have a gender neutral nursery so we could use it for a 2nd child if we have another. Also, since we are looking a new house, we won't decorate a nursery if we don't find a house before the baby arrives because it's a waste of money to decorate a room as a nursery knowing that we'll be selling it soon. Also, besides knowing what color of clothes to buy or how to decorate the nursery, it doesn't seem like there are that many gender-specific decisions to make. Plus, no one in my family has found out the sex of their child, with the exception of my brother's 2nd child - and they were wrong (thought it was a girl and it was a boy!). This is definitely one of those YOU DO YOU decisons.

Symptoms/RA management:  So far I am feeling pretty good. I still feel more tired than usual but that's likely related to not sleeping all that well.

Unfortunately, my RA is still not behaving. After my last flare in September, my rheumatologist decided to keep me on a low dose of steroids for the forseeable future because every time I would go off a course of steroids, I would get a flare. Except I started to get another flare on Monday night, even though I'm on a low dose of steroids.  Le sigh. I've kind of given up hope of being part of the 75% of women whose RA goes into remission during pregnancy. I will see my Rheumatologist tomorrow so it will be good to talk more with her how to keep these stupid flares at bay. I am guessing she'll keep me on a slightly higher dose of steroids since the lower dose I am on isn't working. I am so frustrated right now. And being in pain just really, really sucks.

Recent/upcoming appointments: I had a prenatal appointment on Monday and it went well. The baby's heartbeat was strong at 153 beats/minute! It's really cool to hear the heartbeat as it makes it all feel more real. My next big appointment is an appointment at a perinatal clinic (clinic that works with higher risk pregnancies). I was referred to this clinic since I have had so much trouble with my RA and have been on steroids for most of the pregnancy, which isn't ideal. We have 2.5 hours of appointments including an 80 minute level II ultrasound with a perinatal doctor. I will feel so much better about being on steroids after the ultrasound as they'll be able to confirm that the steroids haven't impacted the baby's development. The dose I am on *shouldn't* impact the baby but I'll feel better once that is confirmed with images!

Sleep:  Sleep has been a challenge. I'm not a great sleeper in the first place and pregnancy has just made it harder since I still get up 2-4 times a night to use the bathroom. I know of a lot of women who slept 9+ hours a night when they were pregnant; I am lucky if I get 8 hours a night, even on weekend nights. I usually have to take a nap each day of the weekend as I still feel so tired. I can't say I've felt a second trimester 'burst of energy' but maybe that is still coming? I know the steroid use does not help with my sleep issues so I might just have to accept that I'm not going to get as much sleep as I'd like while pregnant.

Cravings and favorite foods: I have been eating a lot of pickles. I love pickles and always eat quite a bit of them but I've been eating even more during pregnancy!

Exercise:  I've pretty much just been going for walks and try to get in 10k steps a day but that doesn't happen every day depending on how I feel. My RA has prevented me from being as active as I would like to be, but it's out of my hands and I have to listen to my body and take it easy.

Recent baby prep/decisions:  I started a registry on Amazon but have kept it private for now. I'm really really trying to not over-register. Phil is a minimalist and I do not like to have a cluttered house so we are really thinking about every thing that people say you 'have to have.'

Another recent decision I made was to change OB practices. I started going to a new practice when we found out we were expecting. An OB friend had recommended it as her good friend from residency practices there. But it turns out her friend is having a baby in December so she'll be out for all of my third trimester. I was already kind of frustrated with this practice because they were running behind by 30-45+ minutes for every appointment. And when I was having bleeding from the SCH, it took them 2 days to get back to me when I called with a question. So the combination of all of those factors led me to decide to go back to the OB practice I used to go to. I always had a great experience at my previous OB practice and they deliver at the hospital we want to deliver at so it was an easy decision to change.

Lastly, we also decided to sign up for Bradley classes which is a series of classes that prepares you for the labor and deliver process. I have 2 friends that did Bradley classes and they both thought they were valuable. The class meets once a week for 2 hours for 10 weeks so it's quite the commitment but I think it will be good for us. I'm hoping we can go out to dinner before every 2-3 classes to make it more of a "date night."

Mood: My anxiety has greatly improved since the first trimester. August was really bad since I had 4 flares that month but now that my flares are happening less often, I'm feeling better about things. I still worry about the steroid use, but I trust my Rheumatologist and know that she is recommending the lowest risk treatment for both me and the baby.

Maternity clothes:  After not showing for the first 16 weeks, I've started to show which has been fun and exciting. My bump is pretty small but it's kind of low so my regular work pants don't fit anymore. I tried wearing a belly band but my pants didn't feel secure enough. It's not that they would have fallen off or anything like that - I just didn't like how the belly band fit. Maybe I needed a smaller size?  Who knows. Luckily I've been able to score some inexpensive maternity clothes at Gap, Old Navy, Pink Blush, and a local maternity thrift shop. I also ordered some pants and shirts from Loft - I had no idea they had maternity clothes!

I went through my closet last weekend and packed up all the pre-pregnancy clothes. It's much easier to pick out an outfit each morning when I am only looking at what fits/feels comfortable.

Before picture - you can't tell in this picture but my clothes extended to each wall of the closet. I know it looks like I have a lot of clothes, but we have 4 seasons here and I don't pack away out-of-season clothes so this is 100% of what I own and wear.

After picture. Less options but more clarity about what my options are.
Reading:  My friend picked up a copy of "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" from a little free library in her neighborhood. The book suggests that the mom read it before she's in the fog of the newborn days so I am slowly working my way through it and then Phil will read it next. The author says that the dad needs to be involved in sleep training and I can totally see why that is the case so it will be good for both of us to understand the techniques recommended by the author, who is a pediatrician with many years of experience.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Podcasts, Books & Looks of September

September was kind of a blur for me as my schedule was pretty busy. It was a pretty good month, aside from the painful flare I got mid-month! Fingers crossed that is my last one of this pregnancy!


Dating (in Marriage) on The Simple Show - As I've mentioned before, I am really loving this season of The Simple Show as they are taking a 'yes and no' approach to a range of topics. The episode on dating in marriage was really interesting. Phil and I aren't super intentional about going on 'dates' but it's something we'll need to be more intentional about after the baby comes as making time to connect one-on-one is really important.


September was a really strong month of reading for me, which is good as August was kind of a dud. It's tough to pick a favorite as I really like so many of these books, but my top 2 were Beartown and Refugee.

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips - 3 stars - This is a thriller about a mom and her son that are at the zoo when a shooters take over the zoo. It was a page turner but I didn't LOVE it.

Marlena by Julie Buntin - 4 stars - This was a really great debut novel that I got from my Book of the Month Club subscription. It's about the friendship of Cat and Marlena - two girls that might seem similiar on the surface, but are actually quite different as Marlena is sadly the victim of a broken home, poverty, and drug abuse. It's the kind of book where the characters stay with you finish reading it.

Beartown by Fredrick Backman - 5 stars - I liked this book even more than his previous novel, A Man Called Ove. He does a great job of telling the story of a hockey-obsessed town that is divided when a crime occurs that involves a player on the hockey team. 

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy - 2 stars - I struggled to finish this book. It was a Man Booker prize winner so I should have known that it might be a miss for me as award-winning books are often my least favorite. 

Expecting Better by Emily Oster - 5 stars - This is an excellent book about pregnancy that I will recommend to anyone I know who gets pregnant in the future. It's written by an economist. She takes all of recommendations about what you should or shouldn't do and looks at the research behind those decisions. It was really interesting and a very engaging read. 

Refugee by Alan Gratz - 5 stars - This is a middle-grade book about 3 different refugee families who are seeking assylum. The stories cover 3 different periods as we meet a Jewish family during WWII, a Cuban family in the mid-90s, and a Syrian family in 2016. Even though this is a middle-grade novel, the author does not shy away from exposing the terrible realities that refugees face. People die and terrible things happen to each family as they pursue safety for their families.

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny - 4 stars - This book was quirky and delightful. It's a character-driven story about a man who is on his 2nd marriage and has a son on the Asperger spectrum. His 2nd wife couldn't be more different than his first wife, but she decides that they should befriend his first wife and develop a friendship with her. The story unfolds from there and is told from the husband's perspective.


After several look-less months I have a few looks to share!

Look #1:  Unbeknownst to me, this was my last day in my regular clothes (I was 16 weeks, 2 days). The pants are from Nordstrom, the top is from Ann Taylor, and the seer-sucker blazer is from Loft. When I got home from work that day, some maternity clothes had arrived and when I tried on the maternity pants I realized just how uncomfortable my pre-pregnancy pants had gotten! Maternity pants are kind of amazing!

Look #2:  This was my first day of wearing a maternity shirt + a belly band with my pre-pregnancy pants. I was excited to finally have a little baby bump to show off!

16 weeks + 3 days

Looks #3: This is a 100% maternity outfit. The top is from Target, the pants are from The Gap. This top makes me look like my bump is bigger than it actually is, but I'm beyond trying to look 'slim' or hiding the bump. If you compare this picture to the 2 above you can see how much hair I chopped off! I'm loving my new haircut!

17 weeks + 3 days