Always Aubrey: 2011

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2nd Grade Best Friend Reunion!

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I've written about my best friend from 2nd/3rd grade, Nicole, before.  Well, I finally got to see her again, after eighteen long years apart!  She was in Savannah for the holidays, so we met up at Leoci's Trattoria for lunch and some catching up.

First off, the food was great!  Nicole had the Wild Mushroom Risotto, and I had the Pappardelle alla Nonna.  It took us a while to order, though... we spent so much time talking, the waiter came by three times before we had even glanced at the menus!  It was so neat to see my old buddy, especially after we'd remained pen pals for so long after our families moved.  It was amazing we still had so much in common, and I don't intend to let her slip away again.  I even stopped by to say hi to her mom, who knew my mom and aunt from our time in Korea.

I am so happy!  Life is funny, and the world is a much smaller place than you'd think.  Maybe there's an old friend in your life that you need to look up?



2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Very Merry Christmas

Runcible Reunion!  Baby C stole the show.
I had an amazing trip home to Bloomington.  It was short, but my days were so full it felt like I was there for longer!  I arrived on Christmas Day, and spent a relaxing evening at home with my parents.  (Watched the John Wayne 'Christmas with the Duke' marathon with Dad!) 

The next day, I met up with a group of high school friends at Runcible Spoon, a truly local and quirky little restaurant. It was so good to catch up, especially since I hadn't seen some of them in years!  Then I went home to help Mom with the preparations for our big family Christmas party.  My sister arrived that afternoon, so we were able to open our Christmas gifts!  I was very spoiled.... I got an iPad, clothes, and   more from my parents, and my sister went way overboard and got me an orange wool coat, Calvin Klein grey business suit, and a Kate Spade New York bag!  OMG!
 
The Christmas party was fun, and I had a lot of laughs with my relatives. It was strange not to have Grandma there; it was the first holiday without either of the Williams grandparents. I made my Dad a photo book of many old pictures I'd scanned over the past few months, and it was a hit.
 
Loss makes you appreciate what you have even more, and I was so happy to be with my family.  And the food was delicious! My Aunt DW made the sugar cookies I love, and my cousin AV even made my beloved pumpkin pie.  In my family, I think everyone believes I live on pumpkin pie! And I'm not complaining a bit. :)

My Family

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Build-an-Outfit: New Year's Eve

When I think New Year's Eve, I think silver and sparkles!  I haven't been to a fancy New Year's Eve party in ages, but it's fun to plan the perfect outfit just in case I snag a great invite.  (Reality?  I'll be at home with some bubbly and the cat.  But let's dream, shall we?)  I decided that a navy dress with silver accessories would be perfect to ring in 2012!  I also love dark tights to keep you warm in the winter, so you can still wear a pretty dress.

Here's what I would wear, for $160!

Where to Buy:
Windy City Dress, Modcloth, $65
Jet Bead Flower Swag Necklace & Drop Earring Set, Kohl's, $15 sale
Pleated Clutch in Pewter, Target, $20
Hanes Silk Reflections Opaque Tights in black, Kohl's, $10
Kacey Platform Shootie in black, Payless, $50 sale

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!!!

“I have always thought of Christmas as a good time; a kind, forgiving, generous, pleasant time; a time when men and women seem to open their hearts freely, and so I say, God bless Christmas!”
-Charles Dickens-


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Christmas Eve, to me, is not about the holidays... it's about my father.


Dad was Santa all along!
I have the Dad that every girl wishes they could have.  He is loving, honest, caring, warm, and supportive.  He told me funny stories about growing up on a farm.  He held my hand until I didn't want him to anymore.  If I played a sport, he coached it.  If I had a concert or recital or award ceremony, he was there being the loudest person in the audience.  (At times, embarrassingly loud!)  He would drive 15 hours straight to come see me at college.  If I needed something, he made sure that need was met... he even got me a few of the wants throughout the years.

My Dad is the most important man in my life.  Some people say that will change when you marry or have kids of your own, but I maintain that of any man in existence, he has had the most impact on my life and character.

Today is his birthday... this year AW and I bought him tickets to see his favorite singer, Garth Brooks, perform.  He'd never seen him live, not for all the years he sang us those country songs!  AW said he was smiling the entire concert; knowing we could give something back to him felt so incredibly good.  There's no way I could ever repay him for being the steadfast and phenomenal father he has for the past twenty-six years.

Happy birthday, Daddy!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Celeb Looks for Less with @FrugalFrocks

STILL trying to finish your Christmas shopping?  I get the best coupon codes and online sale info from my friend Caroline via Twitter.  In fact, she had SO much info to share, she created a special Twitter feed just for great deals on the most amazing fashion finds!  She's a modern mama who is in tune to style, but also a bargain hunter... You'd be instantly jealous of her closet, but once you learn her tips and tricks, you'll realize she does it all on a budget!  Caroline proves you can mix designer pieces with bargain buys and no one will ever know the difference.

One of the things we both love to do is check out celebrity style and find a more affordable way to achieve the same look.  Here are a few that Caroline has come up with... if you like what you see, make sure to follow @FrugalFrocks on Twitter to find the same amazing deals!

Trend:  Shades of Green

Celebrity: Pippa Middleton
Pippa is wearing a Fay green coat ($1349), Maje shirt (approx $200), unknown denim, booties, and scarf.


Look for Less:
Shoes: DV by Dolce Vita "pilar" booties in cognac, originally $95, sale $58.52 + 25% off code at endless.com
Shirt: Forever 21 plaid shirt $19.90
Jeans: Old Navy Diva Skinny Jeans, Authentic Wash, $29.50 + 20% code ONHURRY20 (they run 1 length short)
Coat: M60 by Miss Sixty Hooded Elbow Patch Coat at www.lastcall.com (Neiman Marcus Outlet), originally $260, sale $179 + extra 50% off = $89.50.  Free shipping code FSANN30 til 12/31/11.
Scarf: Electromagnetic Scarf at ModCloth.com, $19.99

Pippa's Total: approx: $1600+
Frugal Frocks Total: $188.08 for 5 items worth $415.59


Celebrity: Charlize Theron
Charlize is wearing a $875 Stella McCartney chunky textured sweater and carrying a YSL bag.


Look for Less:
Coat: Hive and Honey Green Sweater Coat on sale now at Piperlime.com for $47.99 plus 15% off code GIFT w/ free shipping
Top:  Vintage Havana Animal Print Dolman Top, Piperlime.com, $49 + 15% off
Jeans: (Same as Pippa outfit!)  Old Navy Diva Skinny Jeans in Cuperno, $29.50 plus 20% off.  The authentic wash from Pippa's LFL will also work here if you want to get both looks.
Shoes:  (Same as Pippa outfit!)  The same DV pilar boots can work here as well.



Charlize's Total: $1800+
Frugal Frocks Total: less than $190

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas caroling

It's hard for me to get into a real Christmas spirit in the South...  don't get me wrong, there are Christmas decorations and happenings going on all the time in December!  But with the weather, it just doesn't feel cold enough to be the holidays.  We rarely ever see even a hint of snow.

But last night, I am happy to report, it felt like Christmas.  My friend SB invited me to go to dinner and Christmas caroling with her church, and since I haven't had a busy work schedule, I drove out to join her. There were tons of people, mainly teens, and we went to houses of elderly church members and sang to them.  It was moving...  They were all in walkers or wheelchairs, and they seemed so happy and surprised to see us.  Some sang along with us, others sat quietly and teared up during favorite carols.  It was one of those feel-good moments, where something so simple as singing a song made a difference to someone.  One lady said it really felt like Christmas because we sang.  And that is a feeling I won't be forgetting anytime soon.  Thanks SB for reminding me what Christmas is all about!

Me & SB

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Zumba!

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I finally tried Zumba!  I want to get in better shape before my job interviews in April (look good, feel good!) and didn't want to wait until the New Year to get started.  Since fitness classes are super cheap near my work, I decided to start attended as often as I can after work, and my first night (last night!) was Zumba.

I have a few friends that are either Zumba instructors or take Zumba regularly, and they all love it.  I've done traditional aerobics classes before, and even a Jazzercise class with my Mom, but I was excited to try this one.  Zumba originated in Colombia and is a Latin-inspired dance fitness program.  It's the largest dance fitness program in the world!

Zumba was no joke.  I didn't pick up all the steps right away, but it was fun!  I definitely felt the burn.  It was more of a fast-paced dance class than an aerobics class, and I especially loved the Bollywood-style routine we did.  You get a better workout the more you 'shake it', so you end up really letting loose and enjoying yourself.  It reminds me of late nights at dance clubs, when you're burning tons of calories and sweating on the dance floor!

I should be able to attend class three times a week, but I think I might get a DVD or Wii game for days I want to do some at home.  As long as I have someone to follow, I do well exercising with my big screen!  If you're looking for something to inspire you to get fit, and you love dancing, Zumba may be just what you need.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Making it happen @O_Magazine

Oprah.com
I'm a longtime subscriber of O, The Oprah Magazine.  There's something about its big, glossy pages and life-affirming messages that makes me love it.  I'm a little behind in reading my magazines this month, since I was on vacation, but getting home to a big stack of them felt like a gift.

As I read through this month's issue of O, I felt like it was speaking to me... particularly, Martha Beck's article, "You Can See Clearly Now."  The article focuses on creating a plan for positive change, versus complaining or lamenting about obstacles and problems in your way.  With so much change happening in my life, I really feel like 2012 is a new chapter for me, a fresh start... like the magazine cover screamed at me!

Beck outlines the "Four P's" on how to get what you want... Pushback, Possibilities, Preferences, and Pinpointing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New TV Review: Geek Love

TLC's 'Geek Love'
I'm loving TLC's new show 'Geek Love'!  As a self-admitted geek, I've always wanted to go to Comic-Con, especially the San Diego one.  While I'm not a super Star Wars or Trekkie geek, I do love Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, vampires, and a lot of movies and TV shows that fall into the realm of geeky.  (I may have gotten into the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 graphic novel series after the show ended!)  So why wouldn't I check out a show about geeks looking for love?

Description:  Dating's never easy, but try dating in a Darth Vader mask or Wonder Woman ensemble. Now meet nerd-tastic Ryan Giltch, founder of Sci-Fi Speed Dating, who will bring viewers into the fun, quirky and sometimes bizarre world of geek-focused speed dating.

My Review:  Obviously, I find this entertaining.  Everyone deserves love, and Geek Love is a great show about some really awesome (and sometimes awkward) people in their quest to find the perfect match.  I really feel for these guys, because finding someone out there who accepts you for all of your eccentricities is hard... as a geek, you wear your quirks on your sleeve.  So the idea of sci-fi speed dating is pretty cool.  I'll be tuning in!

P.S.  I tuned in to Virgin Diaries, another new TLC series, but it was kind of a terrible show.  I do think that it had a good 'wow factor' with awkward kisses and dates, but in the end it felt like the show was exploiting rather than celebrating.  Geek Love, on the other hand, has a different feeling to it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Last troops leave Iraq


The last vehicle in a convoy of the US Army's 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division crosses the border from Iraq into Kuwait, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011. The brigade's special troops battalion are the last American soldiers to leave Iraq.
(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

This photo was taken by Maya Alleruzzo, an AP photojournalist I had the pleasure to spend time with in Iraq in 2010.  To see this picture now, a year after returning from Baghdad, is a bit surreal.  I think a lot about how that year changed my life...  I didn't come back the same person that I was before I left.  I don't yet know what to think of that, but I'm trying to figure it out.  And as I finish up the last few months I have left in the military, I think about the friends I've lost overseas, the Iraqi people I met, and the ones that I served with.  It's bittersweet to see photos like this, but I am happy that everyone (including some good friends!) are now on their way home from Kuwait.  Well done, my friends.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hawaii Wrap-up

Red velvet pancakes at Cinnamon's
Well, I'm back to the grind again here in Georgia... but I had a great last few days in Hawaii before I left!

After departing Maui, I spent a couple of relaxing, low-key days in Oahu.  I spent time with my aunt/uncle, did some laundry, and read!  :)  Then my college pal MC picked me up and we met up with friends KW, CF, and JP for dinner.  It's such a small world, that I would have a dinner with people I've known since middle school, high school, and college, all mixed together.  It's a small world after all.  We shared a delicious meal at Haleiwa Joe's in Kaneohe, then it was back to MC's house for a good old-fashioned sleepover!

The next day was my last in Hawaii...  MC took me to a delicious breakfast at Cinnamon's, which has an incredible stack of red velvet pancakes.  Yeah, you heard me... RED. VELVET. PANCAKES.  Yum.  They were like the perfect combination of pancake and cupcake, not overly sweet but so fluffy!!!  Then we went on a long beach walk until it was time to head to the airport.  What a perfect ending to my vacation!


Hawaii was a blast.  I got to see friends and family, participate in a gorgeous wedding, and experience the natural beauty of two islands.  I was happy every day...  what more could you ask for?  I can't wait to plan my next trip.

Airport bathroom... only in Hawaii!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gleek Peek: Sectionals and Christmas

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I'll admit it... even in Hawaii, I wanted to get my Gleek on.  So of course, I DVRed the Sectionals and Christmas episodes to watch when I got home!  I even psyched myself up by watching the Glee 3D Concert Movie on the plane, and listening to the new Christmas album!

The Sectionals episode was pretty good, especially performance-wise.  I didn't feel like New Directions was stronger than the TroubleTones, or even the Unitards (with reappearance of Harmony, the 'Gerber baby')... the Michael Jackson tribute was sweet, but the other groups really rocked! I'm glad that Quinn came around, and that New Directions is reunited.  But that's Glee for you, completely implausible but enjoyable!

As for the Christmas episode, I loved it like I loved last year's!  I really enjoyed the retro Christmas TV special (of course!) and the songs.  It's just a warmhearted episode, as Glee's Christmas specials have come to be.

So download some of these latest songs, and buy the albums for the special Gleek in your family!

Songs I'll Download:  "Buenos Aires", "Survivor/I Will Survive", "ABC", "Man in the Mirror", ALL the Christmas songs!

Terminal 6: a scary travel story

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"We've arrived to LAX early," the flight attendant said, "We had to park at a different terminal, Terminal 6."

Terminal 6, I thought.  Good thing my layover it two hours; I have plenty of time to schlep to my next gate.  People pushed and shoved to get out the door in the typical selfish fashion that strikes people in transit, but eventually I made my way off the plane and into the terminal itself.

As I looked around for a information screen or flight attendant to direct me, I couldn't help but notice the barren terminal.  There were gates with no passengers or attendants, active construction zones all around, and no one to direct us which way to go.  I tried to check my flight on my phone, but I couldn't get any kind of signal.  So, adopting the herd mentality, I followed my fellow passengers ahead as they wove through the maze of construction.

No one knew which way to go, and there was no one to ask.  We passed through a series of tunnels, escalators to nowhere, never seeing another soul for what felt like hours.

"Is this the way to baggage claim?" a blonde mother asked.

"I'm trying to find a connecting flight," another passenger said.  I told him I was doing the same, but neither of us new which direction to head.  Every new sign with an arrow had a contradicting sign nearby; we passed only one hurried pilot who answered none of our questions but pointed us down another long, white hallway.  There were no windows, no doors, just singular paths; I couldn't help but feel we were calves being led to slaughter.

Finally we reached a terminus, a single elevator door.  There were no stairs, no other way to go.  It was a dead end.

"This is like the Twilight Zone," one man said, laughing nervously.

"No, it's like the beginning of a horror movie," I said.  Everyone laughed with anxious smiles as we waited for the elevator doors to open.  As the doors closed before us, we didn't know which button to push; the doors opened on floor "0", where we saw two emotionless airport workers staring back at us.

"Is this the way out?" one of us asked.  They ominously directed us one floor up, to level "P" for planes.

No one spoke as we made our way up.  I nervously checked my phone for reception, but there still was none at all.  We stared quietly at the doors, when we heard a noise behind us.  I turned quickly, unsure of what we'd find.

We saw lights!  We saw shops!  We saw restaurants!  Everyone laughed and smiled at one another, heaving sighs of relief.  As I exited the elevator, I looked back with uncertainty.  That is not how horror movies end.  The worst must be yet to come… but since I am the narrator, I figure I've got a better chance of survival than most.

After all, horror movies always end up with sequels.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Build-an-Outfit: Holiday Party

I missed my work holiday party due to my Hawaiian vacation (First World problems!) but I would have loved to dress up for it!  I really like to incorporate gold with traditional Christmas colors, and holidays are a great excuse for some bling.  I was thinking red and gold for this year.  What are you wearing to your holiday parties this season?

Here's what I would wear, for under $160!

Where to Buy:
Gondola Engagement Dress, Modcloth, $80
Pearl studs from Elegance Earring Set, Forever 21, $3
Ribbons and Beads Necklace, Forever 21, $6
Glitter Fabric Obi Belt in gold, Limited, $35
Shimmering Glitter Tights in black, Forever 21, $8
Komet Platform Pump in gold, Payless, $25 sale

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wedding and water!

Seaside Chapel

LC an PD got Maui'ed!  I guess it's LD and PD now…  :)

What a busy, but rewarding day.  VB and I started the morning in our pajamas on the beach, then headed to Kihei Caffe for some breakfast.  I had Spam, eggs, and rice, and we sat under a beautiful rainbow the entire time; definitely some good luck for the wedding, yeah?

The bridal party started our morning off early at Spa Grande, where I got hair and makeup done by the sweetest guy!  He was magic, and shared my love for the Twilight series… he even made my hair similar to Bella's wedding hairstyle in the latest movie.  I loved what he did with my makeup, especially since he used Bare Minerals, which is what I personally own!  Definitely learned a few tricks of the trade.

Then JS and I headed out to pick up some food while the bride/maid of honor got their hair and makeup.  I snagged some Spam musubi (of course!) and headed to the bridal suite.  I was able to catch the last quarter of the Army/Navy football game (great effort by Army, the closest we've been in years for sure!) and eat a bit.  Then it was time to get dressed, take photos, and head to the chapel!

The happy couple
The ceremony was beautiful, and my favorite part ended up being the dove release at the end.  I was initially nervous, especially since I don't particularly care for birds, but the way they circled the chapel after the release was a sight to see.  The reception was beautiful as well, situated on a balcony overlooking the chapel.  There were crystals and flowers and tea lights throughout, a live band, and a great group of friends and family.  We danced into the night, until VB and I thought our feet would fall off!

I've got steel drum skills.... not!
This is the first 'destination' wedding I've attended, and I hope it isn't the last.  While sometimes traveling so far to an event can seem daunting, turning it into an extended vacation and really taking the time to enjoy everything makes it totally worthwhile.

As for the 'morning after', it's all about relaxing on island time!  Champagne brunch at the Grand Dining Room, relaxing by the pool and beach, and a nice dinner with friends at the Monkeypod Kitchen.  Maui has been an amazing time!

The bridesmaids unwinding!


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Kihei and Wailea

Aloha again, my friends!

I had a blast on another jam-packed day in Maui.  We started the day with the wedding rehearsal, in the beautiful Seaside Chapel of the Grand Wailea.  Then the bride and groom treated us to a delicious breakfast at the Grand Dining Room.

Afterwards, the bride and bridesmaids headed out for a shopping outing at the Shops at Wailea, followed by a delicious lunch at Tommy Bahama's.  There, she revealed the gift of crystal and pearl necklaces, earrings, (and bracelets from JS!) that we would be wearing during the wedding.  So pretty!

But the highlight of the day was the incredible Grand Luau at Honua'ula.  A group of eight wedding attendees all sat together, front row center, for this extraordinary evening event!  We watched the slow roasted pig emerge from the ground, drank all the mai tais we would handle, and took part in the delicious buffet of Polynesian fusion.  We even got some fake tattoos!  Then it was time for the show, featuring traditional dances from all over Polynesia, including fire dancing.  I'd been to luaus before, but never so close up!  LC, PD, and VB even got up for the hula lesson.  It was definitely an evening to remember.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

And on to Maui...


I had a blast on another full day in Oahu, this one with my Mom and aunt the entire day!  We checked out the awesome Christmas decorations in Oahu, shopped until I also literally dropped at Ala Moana, then grabbed some delish Asian fare at Shirokiya.  I also got my nails done, as well as my first pedicure (check off another Before I'm 30 task!) and had some delicious Korean BBQ.  I really enjoyed spending some time with my Mom and aunt, something I just don't get to do very often.

Then today I headed to Maui, to begin a jam-packed weekend of wedding festivities and bridesmaid duties!  The flight over is very short, and beautiful during the daytime.  The hotel I'm staying at, the Maui Oceanfront Inn, is right on the beach.  It's older, but comfortable, especially when you are spending all of your time outside your room and just using it to crash!  The beach is pretty amazing, and the water looks spectacular.

Mom & me
I took the public bus up to the local Maui Tacos, and then was able to meet with with fellow bridesmaid JS and her husband IS.  We shopped around, grabbed a drink, and then said our farewells until tomorrow morning's rehearsal.  Tonight I'm headed to the Grand Wailea, where the wedding events are taking place; I actually think I'll be spending more time at the resort than my own hotel!  I'm having dinner with the bride, groom, and maid of honor at Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, which has been rated one of the top resort restaurants on the island.  It's sure to be delicious, and a nice night to kick off what is bound to be a whirlwind of a weekend!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Aloha from beautiful Hawaii!


No, not even a vacation can keep me from blogging away!  The truth is, with Hawaii being 6 hours behind Georgia, I haven't been able to sleep past 5 am for a couple of days.  Jet lag is a challenge when you travel this far, so I'm strategizing a nap and forcing myself to stay awake tonight to combat it.

As I write, it is December 7th, the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, that day that will live in infamy.    I actually flew into Hawaii with a WWII veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor; he was given a First Class seat and traveled all the way from Minnesota for the reunion/celebration.  I also flew in with a high school marching band from Georgia participating in the festivities, which included a lot of nervous teenage first-time flyers. I actually had two long flights with them; the first one most of them screamed (roller coaster style) every time the plane moved!  It's always surprising to me when people haven't flown before, or even left their home state… I was such a nomadic child, I can't even fathom such a thing!

My aunt and uncle live in Oahu, so I've been here half a dozen times and stay with them when I visit.  They always make me feel at home on the island!

My very first day on the island, my longtime friend CF came to pick me up for a day of fun!  I hadn't seen her in years (we ran together in middle school and against each other in high school) so I was super excited!  First we did a hike up Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail, near my aunt/uncle's house.  It's a paved climb up the little mountain (I did it in my flip-flops!) that gave us a beautiful vista.  Definitely worth the walk!
CF and me!
Then we headed to Kailua, to pick up some standup paddles & surfboards.  It took me a while to get used to standing upright on the board; you have to keep your knees bent, and turning was a bit challenging at first!  But we finally got it, and spent a good amount of time on a nearby river; it was too windy to head into the surf that day.  It was even hard paddling back into the wind; you could push all you wanted without budging an inch!  Definitely a fun, full-body workout.  I can see why people love Hawaii; it's so beautiful outside you can have fun and get a workout without even noticing.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Travel Must-Haves!

I've been flying all my life, navigating airports and transfers all on my own since I was about 10 years old.  I know my favorite airports, where their best food stops are, and what to bring onto the plane with you.  I've got this down to science, and I'm a fast packer!  Here are my tips for your 'personal item' bag to tuck under the airplane seat.


1.  Check all your other stuff at the counter.  I love to check a bag; you don't have to fight for overhead bin space, which has become a battle since the airlines started charging baggage fees. People shove their way through boarding just to make sure their bag gets on board.  You also don't have to drag it through your connections.  If you don't want to pay a fee, ask at the gate if they will accept planeside checking of your carryon before you even board; if you have time at your next connection, this can help you out immensely.

Oh, and my pet peeve?  People who can't lift their carryon into the overhead compartment unassisted.  Okay, if you're elderly, or you're holding a baby and have to haul their stuff too, I understand.  But my personal rule is, if you can't carry it, don't pack it.  Maybe it's the military part of me talking, but I cringe when I see people overpack.  Pack your bag, then go back and remove a few things that are less important; I guarantee you don't need them.

2.  Carry a good, solid bag.  I always carry a large tote, something I can slip my laptop into if I choose to bring it.  I bought a black leather Coach tote years ago, which I think was from the Men's section; it's my workhorse bag.  (It's much like the leather Coach Bleecker Legacy Weekend Tote they sell now.)

3.  Stay organized.  I keep all of my travel documents in a cute, small tri-fold that I bought at a museum in Montreal years ago.  (A similar one is here; simple but functional!)  It holds my frequent flyer information, parking/shuttle receipts, itinerary, and tickets.  I can grab it out of my bag without having to fumble through a billion things.  I also keep track of my flight on my iPhone; I typically fly Delta, and their app is great; I can figure out what my connection is before the plane even reaches the gate.  It even lets me load my flights into my calendar.

4.  Bring along some entertainment.  Travel is a hurry-up-and-wait game.  I usually travel with my MacBook Pro and Kindle.  (I supplement my Kindle with the purchase of a trashy magazine or two at the airport bookstore, so I can read during takeoff/landing.)  I also bring my headphones to listen to music on my iPhone, which also has plenty of games!

5.  Stay hydrated!  I try to drink a lot of water when I travel (it helps to prevent jet lag), so I usually buy a small bottled water once I am through security, then refill at water fountains along the way.

Bottom line?  Keep it simple.  You're going to be hauling this bag for the day.  Sometimes I pack a snack or two, but other than that, my bag is pretty much limited to these items!  Maybe I'll have a pair of sunglasses, definitely my wallet, and any valuable jewelry I might bring along.  But you don't need to haul anything else.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Savannah Bridge Run 10K

Me and my running buddies... who both beat me.  :)
If I had to describe the Savannah Bridge Run in one word, I think my feet would choose "OUCH".  The Savannah Bridge Run is probably the most iconic Savannah road race there is; tons of runners sign up for the 5K, 10K, or even the 'Double Pump', which means running them both nearly consecutively!  It's a huge celebration, with costumes and a party afterwards.  It's the only time you're allowed to run over Savannah's gorgeous bridge, and if you choose the 10K (like me!) you run over it twice.
I hadn't trained as much as I should have beforehand, and I was nursing some blisters from earlier this week, but I really wanted to do this race before I move away from Savannah.  It's such a tradition here, and the view from the bridge is incredible.

That said, it was probably one of the toughest runs I've ever done.  The steepness of the ramps and bridge go for so long, and even the downhills are hard on your legs.  I was able to manage about a 10-minute pace per mile, but I couldn't will myself to go any faster; I even had to walk at some points.  But it was pretty cool to see the view that you would only otherwise see from your car, and having TONS of other runners made you feel like keeping with the flow.  We also ran down Broughton Street, which was decorated for the holidays, so I enjoyed that too!

All in all, I'm glad I did it, and glad my friends VV and BD could join me.  My feet are almost covered in blisters that I need to nurse, but at least I've got my bragging rights!  I made it across the bridge.  :)


Friday, December 2, 2011

@Bota_Box Wine

www.botabox.com
I love wine...  red, white, sparkling, and rose, I don't discriminate!  My favorite white wines are Gew├╝rztraminers and Rieslings, but I also love a good Cabernet Sauvignon.  The problem is, I only drink a glass or two, and then I'm stuck with a partial bottle that doesn't keep very long on the counter or in the fridge.  (I'm not a heavy drinker!)  It's such a shame to me to have good wine turn to vinegar before I can finish it all!

Then, while browsing at a local beverage store, I noticed a pretty box of wine on the shelf.  I know what you're thinking... boxed wine is cheap and unrefined.  Yeah, I thought so too.  But when I saw the high ratings on Bota Box's Cabernet Sauvignon, I was intrigued.  Even Wine Spectator rated the Cabernet Sauvignon with 87 points, and Wine Enthusiast gave it 85.  I also saw that, once opened, the wine will stay fresh for over a month.  That's because Bota packaging keeps the wine away from light and air. 

I decided to try it, and I wasn't disappointed.  The box was easy to set up, and the wine tasted great!  It was the same caliber as the wine I buy in bottles.  The box is perfect for a countertop, or even the fridge.  And the price is right too; I paid the same for a 3L box that I would for one bottle of wine.  That's like getting three bottles for free.

I know that there will still be people who turn their nose up at boxed wine... but now the technology is there to make it both good and practical.  If you live alone and like a nightly glass of wine, this is the perfect match.  You can still bring out your fancy bottle for company, but when it comes to the everyday, Bota Box has definitely got a new convert in me!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Aloha! Packing for Hawaii




It has been particularly chilly in Georgia lately, y'all... so I can't help but think about my upcoming trip to sunny Hawaii!  I've been thinking about what to pack, and I'm full of ideas; I've been to Hawaii a half dozen times (I have family there) but this time I'm venturing off Oahu to Maui!


I'm checking a bag this time, since I'm traveling for 10 days and have a bridesmaid dress/shoes in tow.  So, I'll be packing my bigger Burton Wheelie, the Double Deck.  I love this bag because of its 'cram' zippers and 50/50 split; it's the magic carpet bag of suitcases, and you can pack it to the brim!  I'm also bringing my new Epiphanie Lola camera bag, which looks like a purse but secretly stashes my Canon DSLR and lenses.  I can't wait to take some amazing shots with my new camera!

Another must for Hawaii is, of course, swimsuits!  Being a curvy gal, I favor the retro style suits; I have two one-piece Jantzen Vamp Maillots, and they are my favorite.  I also have a nice halter two-piece from Target.  You should choose a swimsuit that makes you feel good even on your not-so-skinny days (of which I'm having a lot lately!).  I always pack multiple suits for Hawaii, and plenty of sunscreen.  I also plan to wear my pink Betsey Johnson sunglasses, because Hawaii is all about COLOR!

Lastly, I had to have a tropical dress to wear for LC's rehearsal breakfast and bridesmaids' shopping outing... so when I snagged this belted tropical floral dress by Spense on clearance at Goody's (I paid $15 on an $80 dress!), I had to get it!  It's perfect for a Hawaii trip, right?

I've got a lot more packing to do, but these are just a few of the things on my list!  :)

Gleek Peek: I Kissed a Girl

FOX
I love me some Santana snark!  Everything she says has a hilarious bite.

But even more so, I loved everyone banding together to support Santana after she was so abruptly outed last episode.  I actually really liked Blaine and Kurt's rendition of P!nk's "Perfect"; so sweet, and they do really well together in duets.  I think Puck's solos lately have been kind of... blah.  I just don't get into them; nothing has compared to "Only the Good Die Young" in my mind!  Give him better songs!  Finn's slow, sad "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" was really moving.  I don't usually like his songs, but this was such a neat interpretation.

I'm also a Coach Beiste fan, and watching her battle over a guy with Sue is simultaneously tough and hilarious.  It was nice to hear her sing, and I love when characters sing during a 'real-life' montage.  It's more emotionally loaded than a big produced number, and it makes me wish real life was like a musical!

I still think this Puck/Shelby/Quinn stuff is far-fetched and WEIRD.  Quinn trying to seduce Puck was pathetic, and I'm glad Puck called her out for being a psycho.  "I'd rather raw dog a beehive"?!  Priceless.

Favorite moment was the girls coming to Santana's defense, giving an awesome "I Kissed a Girl" rendition.  I love Katy Perry, and Katy Perry + Glee is the bomb!  Her grandmother's reaction, however, was heartbreaking.  Overall this was a decent episode, even though I thought a few of the songs were lackluster.  And it's definitely going to be interesting since Rachel is banned from Sectionals... can't wait for next week!

In other Glee news, I've downloaded their latest Christmas album, and once again it's a HIT!  Add it to your Christmas list; it makes me entire house feel festive.



Songs I'll Download:  "Perfect", "I Kissed A Girl"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Sing-Off: CONGRATS Pentatonix! @PTXOfficial

Pentatonix! (NBC)
I put up with a lot of Nick Lachey reading puns this year to FINALLY be vindicated when the Pentatonix won last night's Sing-Off competition!!!  WOOHOO!

First off, I was shocked that Urban Method made it to the final three when Afro-Blue or Vocal Point did not.  They just couldn't hang.  But I did like Katie from Urban Method a lot!  Their rapper just acted like a total frontman and stole the show everytime; it seems like everyone was there to be his backup.

And the Dartmouth Aires are great, especially Michael.  (My friend JTal and I agree he needs to go straight to Broadway!)  But in terms of being marketable and making something out of the record label, I think the university groups are at a big disadvantage.  They depend upon their dancing/theatrics to enhance performances, there are too many of them to really get attached to individuals, and they change as people graduate.  A smaller group like Pentatonix (and my favorite, Nota, from the first season) are going to do much better post-competition.

I really liked that the ladies all performed together too, but I still think the show is way too long.  Loved Sara Bareilles singing, and Ben Folds judging, but one hour is enough.  The rest just seems like fluff.  I also think all the groups should compete against one another, instead of being bracketed, more like American Idol.

The good news for Pentatonix, besides the recording contract, is that since there are only 5 of them, that $200,000 is going to go a long way!!!  I actually texted in votes for these guys, so I'm happy with the results.

Monday, November 28, 2011

@Smashbox Photo Finish Hydrating Primer

Smashbox Photo Finish Hydrating Primer, $42
I've been using Smashbox primers for ages... it is THE most important step when putting on makeup.  I apply primer, then carry on prepping my outfit, brushing my teeth, etc. while it sets.  Then it's time to put my face on.

While I used the Color Correcting formula for a while, I noticed I tend to get dry skin around my nose and eyebrows at times.  When my primer supply ran low, I decided to try out the Hydrating formula.  I was not disappointed!

First off, I love the new primer packaging.  It used to be in a cute, pumping tube, but sometimes the pump would break and the bottle was a bit awkward to pack for travel.  This new packaging is PERFECT for travel, and the squeeze bottle allows for more control... because you only need a LITTLE primer.  This bottle really does go a long way.

While there is a little different smell/feel to this primer, I love how it makes my face feel.  It is absorbed almost immediately, and it really does the job.

If you're looking for a new primer, or you're missing this crucial step in your makeup routine, you absolutely need to check out this Smashbox line!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thoughts on Pumpkin Pie...

credit
Conversation with a group of friends on Facebook about my beloved Thanksgiving favorite, pumpkin pie:

Aubrey:  "Making another pumpkin pie, because mine has already disappeared... pumpkin's a vegetable, right? :)"

"Or is it a fruit?"

"Totally a vegetable, like squash! :) Plus, this weekend everyone gets a free eating pass."

Aubrey:  "It's a winter squash, and Wikipedia says squash are considered a vegetable in cooking, but botanically are fruits. So this TOTALLY counts as a zillion servings of fruits/veggies. :) Forget all the sugar and whatnot."

"I agree it should be counted both as a fruit and a vegetable simultaneously, for purposes of diet."

"I always make two at a time. My favorite pie."

Aubrey:  "I should have made two pies at once, but I live alone and didn't anticipate that I would pick off HALF A PIE in leftovers in two days... :) With whipped cream, of course!"

"I've discovered, by repeated experiment, that Reddi-Wip sprayed on top makes the entire pie disappear."

___________I love Pumpkin Pie.___________

Once, as a kid at Thanksgiving at Grandma's, I ate half a pumpkin pie all by myself. Tickled that I loved her pies so much, my Grandma would always bring an extra pie to family gatherings, specifically for me to 'hide' and take home. Then, when I went to West Point and into the Army, she would make a pumpkin pie for me every time I came home, even in the summer.

This is my favorite pie for a reason.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday: Hey, big spender!

iPad 2 from apple.com
It's official, y'all... I went hog-wild on Black Friday without ever leaving the comfort of my sweatpants.  Isn't the Internet a marvelous thing?  I got the same deals they had in-store.

Canon EOS Rebel T3i
I managed two big purchases today... and I'm super duper pumped about them!  First off, I ordered an iPad 2 from Apple (YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!) which my parents are giving me for Christmas.  (It's even being shipped to their house, so I can't have it until then!)  Apple is known for never giving discounts, so the little $41 off we scored today was minimal... but I'll take it!

The second big purchase today was the Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR!  I've been wanting a DSLR since college, but never was able to make the commitment to purchase.  Then, after months of research, I began to build my dream camera kit.  I've acquired two lenses at a steep discount (via Craigslist), purchased a gorgeous camera bag, flash diffuser, and memory cards.  And while there are still a few more add-ons (lenses, tripod, flash, etc.) on my wishlist, I knew it was time to take the plunge to buy my camera body!  I snagged it for just $610 from 42nd Street Photo, which was at least $40 less than anywhere else I saw it.  And, since I got the kit lens for dirt cheap, I saved a bundle overall!  I can't wait to use my new camera in Hawaii next week!

Anyone else snag some goodies on Black Friday?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving thanks

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was all about family.  If we were stationed overseas, my Mom cooked the meal for our little family of four.  When we were in Indiana, we ate at the smorgasbord that was Grandma & Grandpa's house, sometimes even joining the larger family of my Grandma's siblings for another meal.  As I reflect today on Thanksgivings past, I realize I haven't had one of those large family gatherings in years due to my Army assignments...  and I don't know if I ever will again.
Thanksgiving 2010, in Baghdad, Iraq

Without my Grandma, the glue that held the family together, other things seem to get in the way of everyone getting together now.  There is no magnet to draw us all in, which is incredibly sad to me, especially since most of the family lives within an easy driving distance of each other.  I suppose it's only natural that we give up the big parties with tons of cousins and aunt and uncles.  We draw closer our nuclear families... which for me, is something I have always had as a constant in my life.  Someday, my sister and I will have kids of our own to increase the numbers, increase the joy.

Last year, I was in Iraq for Thanksgiving.  I served the troops at our dining facility, and it was a really happy time despite being so far from home.  I think that most people, including my own friends and family, have no idea what it's like to spend a holiday so far away from 'home' in such an austere, unfriendly environment.  They may never know what it is like to feel that vacancy, that void... and maybe that's why things like Thanksgiving meals with family are taken for granted.

Thanksgiving 2011
This year, I served (in another funny hat!) again at our dining facility, for tons of soldiers eating a Thanksgiving fare for lunch yesterday.  It's a moving experience to share that with so many people, and I'm so glad that local families take them into their homes if the soldiers cannot leave for the holiday.

When I think about what I'm thankful for, I realize that I am an incredibly fortunate girl.  I have parents who are incredibly supportive and loving towards me.  I have a sister who makes me laugh and will always be there for me no matter what.  I have friends who have helped me survive the worst things in life, especially these past two rough years.  I am so optimistic and hopeful for the future, starting a new chapter in my life, and moving forward.  2012 is going to be my year, but I am thankful to have gotten to this point and to have the best company in life a girl could ask for.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kindle Touch

Amazon.com
I have had a Kindle since its 2nd Generation model in 2009.  Its original model was one of Oprah's favorite things, and even in this world of smartphones and tablets, it is still one of MY favorite things.

I've had my eye on a new Kindle for a while, because I could see the improvements in it...  clearer e-ink, larger screen, smaller/thinner body, faster page turns, better interface.  But my Kindle 2 was still kicking and I couldn't justify the purchase.

A lot of people have been talking about the Kindle Fire, Amazon's new tablet.  But I just don't consider it to be a true 'Kindle' e-book reader.  It's a tablet, it's backlit, and you can watch movies on it.  I love my quiet Kindle, how it rarely needs charging, how it lets me read books without bells and whistles.  I don't get eye strain because it's not a glaring screen; it mimics a page.  I don't read books on my laptop or iPhone.  I love my Kindle.

Back in 2009, I paid almost $300 for my first e-reader, but it paid for itself in savings on the books I bought through Amazon.  It made me a convert, even as a former library employee and lover of old, smelly books.  But now you can get a Kindle for under $100.  Brilliant.

So I bought the Kindle Touch for $99, and I love it.  Its size is awesome, and I can toss it into a purse easily.  It took me a little while to pick up how to navigate the touchscreen, but it is sensitive enough to work well, and I notice the improved speed.  I have already read three books on it in 48 hours; it inspires me to read more, like my first Kindle did!  It's be latest gadget and beloved toy.  Even if I get an iPad, I'll still read on my Kindle.  It's light, soft, and not flashy.  And I like it that way.

My old Kindle is still on my account, so I gave it to my Mom so she could read all of my books.  I'm passing on the love for Kindle to another.  It will continue to be loved!


P.S.  My ONE gripe about the new Kindle Touch?  It only comes with a USB charger, without the additional clip-on charger for an outlet.  BOO.  You'd have to pay an additional $10 for the power adaptor.  Come on, Amazon.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cupcakes with Friends @sweetpeonyblog

When I was in 2nd grade, my best friend was a adorable girl named Nicole.  I always thought she had the prettiest hair and clothes, and it really surprised me that she wanted to be my friend!  We braved the playground together daily, and I am sure we shared many secrets.  We remained best friends through 3rd grade, until Nicole's family moved away from Korea, as military families tend to do.  From then on, we stayed in touch through letters... move after move, as our handwriting improved each year, we were loyal pen pals.  But then, through no fault of either of us, the letters just stopped.

I'd always wondered what Nicole turned out to be like as an adult.  My Mom would sometimes ask me, "Are you still in touch with Nicole?"  Randomly, after college, I decided to search for her on Facebook... and after looking through tons of photos, I finally found her.  I knew it was her!  Turns out, she'd gone to college in Georgia, even gotten married in Savannah at a beautiful mansion I drive by frequently.  We'd had these entire lives apart, but it was so cool to reconnect and look at photos online of each other.  How neat to see how these little girls turned out!  To this day, it is my favorite Facebook connection story.

Nicole has a gorgeous baking blog, Sweet Peony... and my favorites are her cupcake recipes.  Even though I haven't seen her since we were little kids, I feel connected to her because we both share this love for making sweet goodies!  Wanting to take some cupcakes to work, I decided to make her Brown Sugar Cupcake recipe...  as I baked, I thought about how at some point, she had gone through the same exact steps.  (It was a very Julie & Julia moment!)  Maybe someday we'll get to bake a little together.  :)



Brown Sugar Cupcakes by Nicole at Sweet Peony
makes 12 cupcakes


Ingredients:
My decorations are from Walmart!
For the brown sugar crumble:
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold & cubed

For the brown sugar glaze:
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water

For the cupcake:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a cupcake pan with liners.

To make the crumble:  In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients using a fork, pastry cutter or your hands until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Set aside.

To make the glaze:  Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, whisking until smooth.  Set aside.

To make the cupcake:  Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high until lightened in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Lower speed to medium and add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping the bowl as needed.  Add vanilla and mix until combined.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with the milk and mixing just until incorporated.

Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.  Top with the brown sugar crumble & lightly press the crumble into the batter.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Poke holes in the tops of the cupcakes & spoon on the brown sugar glaze (some might drip down the sides but that’s okay).  Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Frost and decorate as you wish!  (*Note from Aubrey, I sprinkled Cinnamon-Sugar on mine!)





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