Scenes From a Fall Wedding

Since it's the middle of dreaded winter, I've been finding it pleasant to daydream about things I was doing when it was a little bit warmer out. In the fall, N and I were invited to the wedding of some very-cool-but-not-that-close friends of ours. The reason I mention the not-that-close part is because the wedding was smack dab in the middle of the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains, a whole, thrilling 9.5 hour drive away from where we live. We spent weeks agonizing over whether to go, and how important was it really that we were there, and texting admiring pictures of the venue and the Smokies to each other before finally deciding to go (well after the RSVP date...because we are bad people, but like I said, these friends are very cool and chill and do not hate us...to our knowledge). Here they are being totally adorable for your viewing pleasure:
Having never driven through this part of the country, I was a little worried we were looking at 9 hours of farmland, but turns out...we headed straight through the Cumberland Gap National Forest (which I only know exists because of the Wagon Wheel song, being from the west). It was stunning and even the pouring rain could ruin the drive completely. P.S. Feel free to complain about the crack running through these pictures courtesy of N still not having gotten his windshield fixed even though it's been this way for like 3 years.

Before the wedding, we ended up having several hours to ourselves to do a little exploring, and weather be damned, we took advantage of it! Fall was just beginning to show it's colors in the mountains and we managed to find this lovely little waterfall for a quick hike.
Yes, this one was taken by balancing on rocks in the center of the creek.
And then, there was the wedding itself. I can't say enough about how elegant and quaint and rustic and just plain ADORABLE this wedding was. Also, they had a drone that, while drowning out part of their vows to the audience, took amazing aerial panoramic pictures of the ceremony. The reception was in a half indoor-half outdoor rustic barn/lodge-type thing, which was equally gorgeous. Also, the reception had cocktail appetizers and there was much dancing and a photo booth, so I was a happy lady.
I've never given a whole lot of thought to what I want my wedding to be like (mostly because the idea of planning that gives me the beginnings-of-panic-attack feeling if I think about it for too long), but I'm pretty sure that expensive rustic mountain wedding has recently shot to the top of my list.


Book Reviews: The Silkworm and Modern Romance

So far so good on making good of this particular resolution. For a little while, I'd been wanting to read The Silkworm but hadn't worked in any time to actually start it. The book follows detective Cormoran Strike and his red-headed secretary, Robin, on another mystery, in which they are tasked with finding a missing author, whose last manuscript grotesquely depicted real-life friends, family, and other acquaintances who had slighted the man. There were some parts where I found myself annoyed at how obviously the reader was kept from knowing what the main characters knew, but I definitely made it to the end with my suspicions thrown for a loop and the story was fast paced and enjoyable. If you read my review of The Cuckoo's Calling, I would place this at about the same level, though I think Galbraith has truly hit his stride with the main characters by now, who are both very well written. Overall, I would recommend this book. I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to starting the next Strike book, Career of Evil.

This next one was a fall 2015 read, so I can't count it among the New Years resolution books, but I have to say this may have hit my favorite books of all time list. Modern Romance is definitely one of the most unique endeavors by a comedian I have seen and I cannot say enough good things about it. If you haven't heard about this book yet, it centers around the findings of actor/comedian Aziz Ansari and social science researcher, Eric Klinenberg, as they try to understand how technology has affected romance and relationships in the U.S. and around the world. He really has a way of explaining social science research in way that's accessible, but with classic Aziz comedic insertions. While I think the audiobook is probably excellent, I would suggest the print version first, as otherwise, you'd be missing out on some excellent graphs and pictures. Aziz hits on many of the themes in the book in his new show Master of None as well. I would highly recommend this book, even if you are, like me, usually a fiction aficionado. Side TV plug: I would highly recommend the show too.

What are you reading/watching these days?


Resolution Evaluation

Last year, I set goals in a much more concrete way than I have in years past. This year, I want to start the habit of evaluating these goals and continue to set realistic ones for next year. Beware, this post might be long.

1. Improve finances: Save 20% of income each month. Learn about investing and start a portfolio with a small amount of money. Look into Roth IRAs.
Evaluation: 60% complete. I did open an IRA and am maxing my contribution. I started putting some money into an investment account and have been reading up on investing, but haven't actually hit the "Go" button on it, so to speak. And lastly...pretty sure I failed miserably at saving 20% of my income...whoops. I blame sushi.

2. Improve skin: Less picking/nervous face-touching. Find a dermatologist. Get into the habit of moisturizing daily. Wash your damn make-up off every night.  
Evaluation: 60% complete. Gotten a little better about picking. Am moisturizing pretty close to daily (and using a moisturizer with SPF 15!) and pretty sure I've almost always washed my make up off ALL YEAR (disregard that I maybe wore make up like 20 times all year). Did not find a dermatologist, but I'm not sure I want to anymore.

3. Get healthier. Develop a routine (even for weekends). Buy at least one vegetable you don't usually eat per grocery trip and figure out a delicious recipe to prepare it. Take at least one dance class this year.
Evaluation: 80% complete. I know for a fact that I did more regular exercise this year than in years prior and it feels great, even if I haven't really seen a change in my body yet. I ate way more variety of vegetables this year than I can remember eating since I stopped living with my parents, but I was not nearly as good as I hope to be on cooking at home and not eating out as much. Again, I blame sushi. Also, I am taking a salsa class! I'll post more on that another time. 

4. Make two new non-work friends.
Evaluation: 50% complete. I met a lot of new non-work people through various meet-ups and salsa class this year, some of whom I've started to see more regularly, but I don't know if I would categorize them as friends just yet. 

5. Volunteer locally.
Evaluation: 10% Complete. I looked into a few things, probably not as thoroughly as I could have, but didn't find anything that was really what I was looking for and/or fit with my schedule which currently involves almost never being available on weekends.

And now for the new/continuing resolutions:
1. Improve finances.
Press play on investing. Since saving 20% didn't work for me last year, I'm rolling it over, but adding in a weekly calendar task to check how I'm doing in case I need to adjust. Just in case I'm totally sucking at this goal like last year, I also added a calendar reminder for 6 months in to switch to the "just immediately put the 20% in your savings account on the second paycheck of each month and don't ever withdraw it" method.
2. Get healthier. Do 30 min of exercise at least 4 days a week. Track calories (I did this for about 2 months of last year and probably saw more body change and habit change during those two months than any other time). Meal plan and prep at least two weeks a month. Research and implement ways to decrease stressed out skin-picking. Keep on dancing!
3. Get educated. I have some skills I think could use a little brushing up. I have a little money saved, so I am planning on taking a couple of classes this upcoming year.
4. Read more. Last year, I read very little for pleasure, which is sad, because reading brings me A LOT of pleasure. I read 13 books in total, which doesn't sound so bad until you find out that 10 of those books were a Series of Unfortunate Events re-read. I have a few on my iPad and got a couple for Christmas, so I have a nice little list to start off with. I am hopeful that if I just plan a little reading time every day, I should have no problem reaching this goal.

What are your resolutions?


Nostalgic Trip

I am currently sitting on the balcony of my hotel room and looking out at this view, except now the sun is setting so the hotel adjacent is reflecting the pink light of a beautiful California sunset:
I have a glass of water at my side because I bought a bottle of wine without realizing I had no corkscrew, but I've been thinking. Something about living here made me want to start blogging, and even though I've had months of absence on this blog since I've moved away, being back here again after three years (and in a swanky bay-side hotel I didn't have to pay for on top of that) made me want to blog again. I'm pretty sure this feeling will go away once I return home, so I figured I ought to hurry up and post this.

I am so enamored of the food here. I am lucky if where I live there are places have 3.5+ stars on Yelp with >50 reviews. Here, I am swimming in 4.5+ stars and sometimes >1000 reviews. As someone with an obsession with Mexican food and sushi that could rival our society's obsession with celebrity breakups, I am in fresh salsa and fish HEAVEN. I seriously never want to leave. It's been so amazing to see a few of the wonderful friends that live here and spend time with them, too. And finally, this conference I'm at has been excellent. It's reminded me why I went into infectious diseases in public health and how critical conferences like these are to keeping up with research and making connections in the field. But, I wish I could be doing this from somewhere else. I don't mind the Midwest, but it pales so much in comparison to where I grew up and the hot southwest that I love.

Why did I leave again?!

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