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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!