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4.01.2016

March | A Month in Review

I fully intended on writing more blog posts between my last month in review and this one, but March was unexpectedly exhausting and I didn't make much time for writing.  However, I do have several post ideas that I'm hoping to flesh out during April!  At any rate, here's a summary of my March 2016!

Books Read
An Unexpected Grace, by Kristin von Kreisler (prompt: recommended by a friend) | 2/5 stars.  A friend gave me this book because I love dogs, and the book is about a dog.  I didn't mind the story line and I loved the dog in the book, but the human characters were quite flat and I really disliked the author's writing style.  She used a ton of metaphors and similes, which I found to be really repetitive and reminded me of a middle schooler's writing style.  Some of the similes she wrote were kind of offensive as well, and I just couldn't get behind them.

Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri (prompt: short stories) | 4/5 stars.  I read Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake last summer and loved it; it was one of my favorite books I read in 2015.  I've not really gotten in to short stories before, so when I saw that she had also written a collection of short stories, I knew I had to use it for this prompt in my 2016 reading challenge!  It was such a great collection - Lahiri has a fantastic way of writing and fleshing out really interesting characters in a very engaging way.  I read this book as I walked on the treadmill and found it to help pass the time well!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (prompt: originally written in another language) | 3/5 stars.  I had heard amazing things about the Millennium trilogy for years but didn't know much about it.  Originally written in Swedish, this book details the investigation of a missing girl from the perspective of a floundering journalist and a gritty, mysterious investigator.  There were parts of this book that were supremely interesting, but there were also plenty of parts that I couldn't get into.  I love a book with deep character development and I really liked the characters in this book, but all of the legal bits in the book lost me.  I'm not sure if I will continue with the trilogy or not.

Dawn, by Elie Wiesel (prompt: a trilogy) | 3/5 stars.  I enjoyed this second book in the Night trilogy.  After finishing Night (the first book in this trilogy), I was really hoping that the second book would talk about what happened to Wiesel himself after having escaped the concentration camp during the Holocaust.  I was a little disappointed when I started reading this book and found that it is a fictional story of Elisha, a Holocaust survivor and freedom fighter who is sent to execute a British soldier in Palestine who killed a fellow freedom fighter.  The story was interesting as it detailed the young man's thoughts as he processed what he was about to do, but it just wasn't quite as riveting as Night.

People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges, by Jen Mann (prompt: funny) | 4/5 stars.  My coworker, Margo, is one of my all-time favorite people.  We have similar senses of humor and are both crude and inappropriate a lot of the time.  She read this book during a vacation at the end of February, and brought it straight to me when she was done, saying that she laughed out loud reading it and that I would also love it.  While it talks a lot about motherhood a lot - something I don't have personal experience with - I still found it to be a quick, lighthearted read that had me laughing right out loud as well.

The Walking Dead, Volume 1, by Robert Kirkman (prompt: graphic novel) | 4/5 stars.  I have been a big fan of The Walking Dead TV series for awhile now, and think it's really cool that it's based on a graphic novel series.  I was really excited to have an excuse to read the first volume in the series for this challenge.  It was a super quick read (partially because it's a graphic novel and partially because the first series of the TV show is based on this volume so I knew the story and characters already), but I loved every second of it.  The illustrations are great, and I love that the story is not about the zombies but about the characters and humanity - how they all work together (or not) to survive the zombies.

Total pages read: 2,363

Days Exercised
In March, I only worked out 9 days.  I logged 483 active minutes (according to my Fitbit), and averaged 53 minutes per workout.

This was a really challenging month for me with regards to exercise.  I was doing so well with my 5K training program and when it ended at the end of February, I tried to keep up on my own.  Turns out, I really need structure, and to have a goal in mind with exercise, because I just could not get it together.  I'll talk more about this later, but I also had an incredibly exhausting month and I physically could not get myself to stay active, which was really difficult for me.  Things are starting to settle down again and I'm hoping to jump back into the Couch to 5K program in April!

Clothing Bought
MN tee - Target, $20
Gray/white striped tee - Target, $15 (my brother bought it)
Maroon/white striped tee - Target, $15 (my brother bought it)
Purple asymmetrical sweater - Goodwill, $5 (not pictured)
Cream flowy vest - Goodwill, $5
Teal dress - Goodwill, $5
Ravenclaw sweatshirt - Universal Studios, $60 (not pictured)
Hogwarts tee - Universal Studios, $24 (not pictured)
Black Birkenstocks - DSW, $95 (not pictured)
Blue swing dress - Old Navy, $6
Blue cocoon dress - Old Navy, $7
Dark wash Rockstar jeans - Old Navy, $30 (not pictured)
(and the black tee on the bottom right is actually one I bought in February...whoops)

Total spent: $257

This was a big spending month for me.  I wanted to get a few new things for my trip to California and wound up finding some great tees at Target (my brother paid for them - one of the perks of running into him at Target, ha!) and a pair of Birkenstock sandals (I had a fake pair last summer that I wore out and was so excited to get the real deal again - I haven't had a pair of real Birks in years!).  All were perfect for the sunny California weather.  I also found a few new items at Goodwill that I'm really excited to incorporate into my closet.  When I was at Universal Studies, I obviously had to purchase a Harry Potter tee and sweatshirt, because I'm a total Potterhead.  I'm totally fine with these purchases, as they're my souvenirs from the trip and I know I will enjoy them for years to come!  Last, I stopped into Old Navy yesterday in search of a swimsuit and another pair of my favorite mid-rise Rockstar jeans, and walked out without a swimsuit but with jeans and two clearance dresses that I can't wait to wear!!

My hope for April is to not spend much on clothes.  I'm looking for another swimsuit but other than that, I'm fairly set for clothes right now.  If I happen to find another tee or two or a pair of shorts (I only have two pairs right now), I may pick something up, but I also can wait on those things as it's still pretty chilly here in Minnesota.

Outfits Worn
Here are a few of my favorite outfits I wore in March!

 Dress + Leggings: Old Navy | Flats: Kohls | Necklace: Simonson Jewelry

I absolutely love this outfit and have worn a very similar version of it three times already.  This swing dress is ridiculously comfortable, and I love the look of a dress with leggings and flats.  I wish I had bought another one in a different color before they were all sold out!
 Top: Old Navy (thrifted) | Leggings: Old Navy | Sneakers: Converse | Scarf: Target

I wore this outfit on the airplane on the way to California to visit my dear friend Emily.  It was a great outfit for the plane - comfortable but still presentable, so I didn't have to change into "real" clothes for the rest of the day.
 Dress + Tights: Target | Jacket: Thrifted | Wedges: Kohls?  They are so old...

I loved this work outfit - this floral dress is so pretty and it's incredibly comfy.  I love how it looks with my black moto jacket.  I wish I had worn it more during the winter with tights, since it's a little short to wear on its own to work.  We have several weddings, showers, and graduations this spring and summer, so I'm guessing I'll count on this dress for some of these special occasions.
Dress: Ralph Lauren, thrifted | Cardigan + Tights: Target | Boots: Guess

I wore this outfit a couple of weeks ago when I went to happy hour with my high school band teacher.  She was one of my favorite teachers ever and she was my total lifesaver when I was in high school.  We've kept in touch over all these years (I graduated 10 years ago) through email and now on Facebook.  We recently were chatting a little more and decided to meet up.  It was so much fun to see her and catch up in person!!  This dress, by the way, is one of my favorite things in my closet.  It's sleeveless so it requires a cardigan or jacket in the colder weather, but I love wearing it on its own with a necklace and some fun sandals for hot summer days, too.  Also, it has pockets, and we all know that dresses with pockets are the best.

In Other News...
I mentioned that I had an exhausting month...right at the beginning of March, we had a student commit suicide.  It was horrific and tragic, and my colleagues and I have been working hard with over 70 students (the girl's closest friends) who have been deeply affected by this tragic loss.  It is mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting work, but at the same time, it is unbelievably important.
We got these yellow bracelets to give to our students - the yellow ribbon organization promotes suicide awareness and prevention.  It's a message we're trying to talk with our students about a lot, as well, and encouraging them to reach out for help and support if they or someone they know is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide.

Given the intensity of my job this past month, I was so excited to get away to California for spring break.  My good friend Emily lives in LA and writes for a show on Netflix, and I was able to get out and visit her for 6 days.  We had the best time together, going to improv shows, exploring Universal Studios (I went to the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter!), driving around LA and the surrounding area, chatting a lot, and laughing even more.  It was so good for my soul and I feel so refreshed and ready to tackle the last quarter of the school year.  I plan on putting together a post about my trip to California with pictures and more details...stay tuned for that!

I'm glad that March is over - April should be a quick month.  I have a lot of things keeping me busy at work and in life this month, so I'm sure it will fly by!

As always, thanks for reading my massive post and sticking with me!

PS. Linking up with Fran and other budgeting bloggers.

2.29.2016

February | A Month in Review

Oh, look!  It's another month in review post!  This one is a long one, folks!

Books Read
Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness, by Melanie Notkin (prompt: has bad reviews) | 1/5 stars.  Y'all, I had such high hopes for this book.  From the title, I was expecting it to be a book about women who choose not to be mothers, and I was pumped to read it.  Kevin and I are not going to have children.  It's a decision I feel so confident and comfortable with but that is often met with push back or negativity when shared.  I'm really interested in learning about other perspectives of women who have also decided to be childfree.  When I saw this book, it piqued my interest.  However, basically the entire book was about rich women living in NYC complaining about how they're not married and how much men suck and how they'll never be able to have babies.  It was just whiny and entirely not relatable, and not at all what I expected.

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (prompt: more than 500 pages) | 4/5 stars.  This book is a doozy, but I listened to the audiobook in the car as I drove to and from work (I have a 1+ hour one-way commute...lots of time in the car!).  I was really hooked the entire time, despite the book's length (it's over 700 pages!).  The characters were interesting and multi-faceted, and I liked the premise of the book very much.  I can see why it has had so many great reviews!

Night, by Elie Wiesel (prompt: originally written in another language) | 5/5 stars.  Since I was in elementary school, I have always been very fascinated and devastated by the Holocaust.  I grew up in a community with a large Jewish population, and learning about the Holocaust in school always had such personal ties for many of my friends and classmates.  I had heard of Elie Wiesel, the author of Night and Holocaust survivor, back in late elementary school but never had gotten around to reading any of his books until now.  I loved it.  It was painful to read (he describes what it was like in the concentration camps) but I could not stop.  Night is actually the first book in a trilogy, and now I want to read the rest of the trilogy because I need to know what happens to Elie after he gets out of the concentration camp.

The Chemistry of Calm, by Henry Emmons (prompt: non-fiction) | 4/5 stars.  As I mentioned in my last post, I have been dealing with crazy anxiety lately.  I had really been struggling with the balance between supporting students in crisis at work and managing my own mental health, so I reached out to my mother-in-law.  She is a pastor and knows how stressful it can be when you're in a helping field but also have shit going on in your own life...and it felt amazing to talk with someone who really understands the nature of what I do and how it affects me personally as well.  She told me to stop over at her house later that week because she had a book she wanted me to read, and it was this one.  Henry Emmons, the author, is a psychiatrist in Minneapolis who focuses on more natural ways to treat mental health.  This particular book is all about anxiety and how to manage it through the use of diet, exercise, natural supplements, and mindfulness.  I really don't want to rely on medication for my anxiety at this time, so I have been using some of what I learned in this book to manage my symptoms.  It's actually been really helpful!

The Princess Bride, by William Goldman (prompt: classic romance) | 4/5 stars.  My cousin, Katie, is one of my best friends.  We used to have sleepovers all the time when we were little, and when I was in about 6th grade, she introduced me to The Princess Bride (movie).  I fell in love with the movie.  It was years later when I learned that it was based off a book.  I'm not usually a fan of "classic romance" books, but I considered that because this book was written 43 years ago, it was classic enough.  I loved this book!  I read the e-book version as I walked on the treadmill and it made me laugh out loud in many parts (and I rarely laugh out loud when I read)!

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins (prompt: mystery/thriller) | 4/5 stars.  I tried listening to this audiobook back in the fall but just couldn't get into it.  I decided to give it another shot, and I'm so glad I stuck with it.  I really enjoyed this book!  Many people compare it to Gone Girl, but really the only similarity I could find was that it dealt with a missing person...and that I liked both books.  I'm a huge fan of psychological thrillers (in both books and movies), so this was right up my alley.

Total pages read: 2,219

Days Exercised
In February, I worked out 13 days.  I logged 540 active minutes (according to my Fitbit), and averaged 41 minutes per workout.

I also started to run a little bit!  My goal for this year is to be able to run a 5K.  I started an 8-week 5K walking training program back in January and wrapped it up today.  Next, I'm going to continue to build up running stamina by completing the Couch to 5K program (which I've started and quit no fewer than 8 times).  Now that I am very much in the habit of working out 3-4 times every week, I am eager to tackle and complete the Couch to 5K program!

Clothing Bought

Black and white striped dress - Old Navy, $15
Maroon tunic - Goodwill, $5
Purple plaid shirt - Goodwill, $5
Black open cardigan - Goodwill, $5
White lace tee - Goodwill, $5
Total spent: $35

My mom gave me some SuperCash she wasn't going to use, so I wound up finding this insanely cute and comfortable dress on sale!  I haven't actually worn it yet but am planning to wear it tomorrow with leggings for the comfiest outfit ever.

I also went thrifting on Saturday for the first time in a while.  I am happy to have found several tops that I can wear in warmer weather.  I'm hoping to continue looking at thrift stores a little bit in the next two weeks or so, as I'm going to California at the end of March and to Arizona in the end of April (!!!), and I don't have much for warm weather clothes.

Outfits Worn
Here are a few of my favorite outfits I wore in February!
 Tanks + Jeans + Flats: Old Navy | Cardigan: Target

Yeah, I took this in my office at work on a casual Friday.

 Tank: Old Navy | Cardigan + Boots: Target | Pants: Kohls

Coziest outfit I've worn in a long time.  I adore this plaid wrap cardigan - it's like a big blanket!

 Sweater + Boots: Target | Pants: Kohls | Scarf: From my mom

This thin, sparkly sweater is so comfy and I love how it goes with most of the accessories in my closet!  It's long enough to wear with leggings but it also looks great with jeans or with work-appropriate pants.

Tank + Scarf: Target | Cardigan + Pants: Old Navy | Boots: Guess

I've been wearing primarily gray/white/black outfits lately, so this outfit felt especially colorful for me (haha, it's not even that colorful...).  I love these maroon pants because they go with almost all of my tops!  This navy paisley scarf continues to be a favorite of mine as well.

Tank: Target | Leggings: Old Navy | Cardigan: New York & Company | Boots: Guess | Necklace: From my mom

This cardigan is one that I've had for several years now, but I've previously only worn it at home in the evenings as "lounge wear."  It was only in the past couple of months that I've decided to wear it out and about!  Like the gray plaid cardigan above, it's like a big blanket and is so cozy!

In Other News...
The above photo shows a few different things:

  1. I have been trying to back off using heat on my hair.  Since I plan to donate my hair in December, I want it to be as healthy as possible, which means I've been wearing my hair "au naturel" as often as I can.  The two pictures on the right show what my hair looks like when I don't do much to it.  I spilled on Snapchat about how I feel about my hair and how I've never been someone who gets all weird about my hairstyle.  I've had long hair, and I've had a pixie cut.  I've had my hair dyed different colors, and I've had long streaks of when I haven't dyed it at all (the past 6 years!).  I have always loved my hair in the moment (although looking back often makes me snicker, haha).  The photo on the left was just this week - I straightened it for the first time in a while, and I couldn't believe how much it had grown!  I desperately need to get it trimmed soon, though...I don't think I've had a trim since last June or July!
  2. I got some new glasses!  The pair on the left and the pair on the top right are new!  In a very aggressive dance move following a strike in bowling (I wish I was lying), my previous favorite pair of glasses (here) flew off my face and the lens chipped.  I was super sad about it!  It left me with just my purple glasses and my red glasses, and I really wanted a neutral pair to replace the busted pair.  My new favorite site for glasses (www.firmoo.com) had a BOGO sale so I wound up getting a pair of black cat-eyes (left pair) and black rectangular frames with brown wooden bows (top right pair).  They are both so much fun and I love having several pairs of glasses to rotate between.
Otherwise, February was a month that included:
  • Celebrating National School Counselor Week in the first week of February.
  • Several sleepovers at my coworker's house (thanks to bad weather and a few late night meetings).
  • Judging high school speech meets.
  • A fantastic Valentine's Day date with Kevin, in which we recreated our first date!
There you have it!  An incredibly long post for the shortest month of the year!  I am hoping that I will be able to update a little more throughout the month instead of just a big-ass post at the end of the month ;)

PS. Linking up with Fran and other budgeting bloggers.

2.01.2016

January | A Month in Review

I haven't really shared much about what's been going on in my life lately on the blog, but I thought I'd do a little recap of my month, broken down into categories.  I enjoyed putting this post together - I hope you all like it as well!

Books Read
2015 was the year I fell back in love with reading for fun.  I read a total of 45 books last year, and I definitely wanted to continue working on my "to read" list this year.  I found this reading challenge pin right at the end of December and spent an afternoon looking at our bookshelves and my "to read" list coming up with a list of 52 books I want to read in 2016, assigning each prompt a title.  It was so much fun to create my list, and I've been making great progress already.  In January, I finished the following books:

The Girl You Left Behind, by Jojo Moyes (prompt: set in a different country) | 3/5 stars.  I've never read a book by Jojo Moyes before, but when I saw this audiobook was available from my library, I decided to give it a whirl.  It was enjoyable, but I started to lose interest towards the end.  There are two main storylines in the book and the "present day" storyline fell flat for me.

The Guest Room, by Chris Bohjalian (prompt: published in 2016) | 4/5 stars.  Chris Bohjalian is an author my mother-in-law turned me onto.  I really like his books (Water Witches is another great one), and when I saw he was coming out with a new book this past month, I added it to my queue at the library.  The Guest Room is a murder-mystery of sorts, and although it's dark and racy (it examines the sex slave trade industry), I really liked it.

Oogy, by Larry Levin (prompt: based on a true story) | 4/5 stars.  My coworkers and I are all mildly obsessed with dogs.  We all passed this book around the office - so heartwarming, and such a beautiful story.  A bonus?  I didn't cry when reading it, haha!

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel (prompt: set in the future) | 4/5 stars.  I had heard great things about this book...and I really enjoyed it.  Such an interesting premise!  I listened to the audiobook version of this book and I really liked the narrator's voice.

A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving (prompt: became a movie) | 5/5 stars.  Simon Birch is one of my favorite movies, and when I realized it was based off a book, I knew I wanted to read it.  My dad has been recommending A Prayer for Owen Meany for years, and I finally got around to reading it.  I absolutely loved the book.  It's quite different from the movie, but it wasn't distracting at all to me.

Total pages read: 1,802

Days Exercised
Kevin and I bought a treadmill this past fall, and I am loving having it!  It's up in my office, and since it's easily accessible, I've been using it quite a bit!  I've been walking on it 4 days per week, and once I become very set in a consistent workout schedule, I'm planning on actually training for a 5K.

In January, I worked out 17 days.  I logged 598 active minutes (according to my Fitbit), and averaged 35 minutes per workout.

Clothing Bought
Gray tunic sweater - Target, $11
Tan tunic sweater - Target, $11 (same as above)
Gray baseball sweater - Target, $12
Gray sparkly sweater - Target, $12
Black tunic tee - Target, $8
Gray plaid wrap cardigan - Target, $20
Total spent: $74

I wasn't planning on spending anything on clothing this month, but I was not feeling ready to go back to work after winter break, so I decided to look for some cute winter clothes that I might want to wear to work.  Up until I bought these sweaters, I only had three pullover sweaters in my closet, and two of those were had 3/4-length sleeves...not ideal for MN winters!  I am so pleased with the items I bought, and have worn them all multiple times already.  I love that all of them work with jeans or leggings for weekends or with skinny ponte pants for work.

Outfits Worn
 Jacket + Top: Thrifted | Pants: Kohls | Shoes: TOMS

I wore this outfit to work the other day and was told I looked trendier than usual by one of our teachers, hahaha.

Sweater + Boots: Target | Jeans: Old Navy | Scarf: From my mom

This is a very typical weekend outfit for me: sweater, skinny jeans, scarf, and boots.  Predictable, yes, but oh-so-comfortable.

Onesie: Target

I bought this onesie at Target over Thanksgiving weekend.  Kevin's family had a huge Star Wars movie marathon and I wanted something cozy to wear...so I found this unicorn onesie for $15.  It has pockets and it's so soft!  Unfortunately, Pippin decided she liked this onesie better as a horse, and she chomped the horn right off.  Oh well, at least it was just the horn, ha!  I've been wearing my onesies (this one and I also have a Batman one) non-stop because they're so dang comfortable.  (I'm wearing this one right now as I type, actually...).

Things Accomplished
I've been dealing with crazier than normal anxiety lately, including two awful anxiety attacks in the car on my way home from work and one 3-minute meltdown in my office.  I reached out to some trusted people in my life for support and help, and one gave me some great referrals to therapists.  I still need to make an appointment but I'm really trying to work through this all and feeling like myself again.

Kevin and I have been having a blast establishing ourselves in our new community.  I've reconnected with some of my friends from high school and college, which has been awesome.  Kevin and I have also started to make some "couple friends" and going on double dates.  Some of our recent favorites have been bowling at this great retro bowling place in Minneapolis called Bryant Lake Bowl and doing trivia at Bent Brewstillery (and testing out their delicious craft beers and liquors).  It feels incredible to start putting our roots down here in the Twin Cities again.

I have also been "hobbying" so much more.  In addition to coloring, reading, and writing, I've been making lots of music lately.  I came home after an especially rough day at work and sat at my piano for a good hour or so.  I recorded this video of me playing and singing "The Song of Purple Summer" from Spring Awakening (my favorite musical).

There you have it, my friends - a little snapshot of what January 2016 was like for me!