Always Aubrey: January 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

Rainy day risotto

Today was a rainy day, and I felt like some comfort food. I remembered a recipe I'd seen on EatLiveRun for mushroom risotto, and it sounded delicious. I happened to have everything on-hand except for the mushrooms, so I went to the store for a quick trip and came home to make some creamy deliciousness.

Confession: I'd never made risotto before! I had no idea just how time-consuming it would be, how much my arm would hurt from the constant stirring, as I added chicken stock to my rice little-by-little. I think I got a risotto facial from the steam. The picture doesn't do it justice... served with some warm focaccia bread, it really hit the spot. Mmmm, comfort.

This would be a great side dish with some chicken, but today it was good enough on its own for lunch!

UPDATE: For dinner? Rigatoni in meat sauce. A heavy food day but DELICIOUS.

Last day without shopping!

(WARNING: Rambling to commence now!)

So one of my New Year's Resolutions was to give up shopping for clothes/shoes/purses for the month of January. I know, what a sacrifice, right? But for those who know me, it really was a challenge. I even visited one of the country's biggest malls during my trip to Arizona, with an amazing H&M (and post-Christmas sales!). There were times I thought I would cave and buy something, but because no one believed I could go a month without new clothes, I wanted to prove myself. (Yes, I'm ridiculous.)

What I did find is that if I think more about what I'm going to wear, I have a closet full of great options already. I have dozens of shoes I rarely wear, so why buy another pair when I can try to use those? I have clothes with the tags still on them, so I need to wear them, or donate them away to make space. I worked hard to put outfits together this month, based on what I already had, which was definitely the smarter way to do things than buying new items.

I saved myself many times from shopping sprees. After a one-time yoga class, I felt the urge to run out and buy tons of workout/yoga clothes; I haven't done yoga a single time since. I've filled shopping carts online with clothes I want, but never clicked "Buy", and I completely forgot about wanting them. I've seen something that I wanted, then went into my closet to see if I already had something similar, and lo and behold I did! So I'm starting to see that I need to do a better job controlling myself while shopping, or at least remembering what I do have to put outfits together instead of buying a ton of random trendy pieces.

That being said, this month was not without some retail therapy in other areas, so I'm pretty sure I didn't save myself money.

Rambling about the stuff I bought this month.... It felt like I could justify buying other things if I wasn't buying clothes. Since I cut my hair short, I splurged on a really nice Chi straightening iron. I also put an amazing in-dash touchscreen system in my car that includes a Garmin GPS, Bluetooth for phone, iPod hookup, DVD player... I went into the store only needing an iPod hookup and new GPS, but when I found out my car would need an entirely new radio (the model wasn't very adaptable) I went all out. Was it worth it? Absolutely, the system is amazing; I had money set aside from the past year of working to pay for it, so even though it was a huge cost, I was ready. Other purchases? Souvenir Native American earrings in Arizona, a Cuisinart Griddler for the kitchen (replacing the late George Foreman grill), a few Sephora items, and a whole bunch of fabric for future sewing projects. The fabric is amazing and will likely last me all year, at the rate I'm sewing, but I got some great deals online and have no regrets about it.

But now that the shopping freeze is over tomorrow, I'm actually not in a hurry to go out and buy more clothes. I did do another sweep of the closet to donate items to Goodwill, creating a bit more space. But now I think I'll think more before I buy, and have an idea in mind of pieces I actually need.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Rock the Casbah

I did end up going out last night, and enjoyed an absolutely delicious Moroccan dinner at Casbah! I had the Sultan's Kabob Feast, which had beef, lamb, and chicken skewers served with jasmine rice. I also ordered the couscous, which was great!

One of the fun things about Casbah (aside from the belly dancer trying to make you dance) is that they wash your hands at your table, and you eat your meal with your fingers! I will admit that it was a bit strange at first (using bread to scoop rice/couscous did help) but very fun and different.

Afterwards, my friends and I headed over to Club One to catch the end of the drag cabaret, which I love to see when I can. Moroccan food and drag queens make for an awesome night out! And as NM pointed out to me, going out on Friday (even after a tiring work day) means you have Saturday to recover and Sunday to relax.

Casbah Moroccan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Old Lady Aubrey

I feel like I'm becoming a real fuddy-duddy. Seriously! I was thinking about how I used to function on six hours of sleep in college, 12am-6am, and yet I used to be able to party all weekend (starting Thursday!) even without the aid of Red Bull. I loved every minute.

Now? At the ripe old age of 25, I head straight from work to home and am in comfy PJs in less than ten minutes. I lay on the sofa, watching TV until I'm sleepy, which lately is around 9 or 9:30 pm. I don't even drink a glass of wine. Going out on Friday nights after a full day of work? That's crazy!

I've been invited to a late dinner/night out tomorrow, and I can't even contemplate how I'm going to manage to stay awake that long. I think I'll have to sneak in a post-work nap to prepare myself.

Beginning to wonder where I can find some sensible orthopedic shoes and prune juice...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lather, rinse, love!

I love the way my hair feels after having it washed at the salon. I go to an Aveda salon (Lavendar Hill), and when CG washes my hair it smells and looks amazing. So I decided to splurge a bit and get some of the shampoo and conditioner she uses on me. I thought I must be crazy for spending money on shampoo like that, but now I bite my tongue... washing my hair with those products makes it feel like I just went to the salon!

I love Aveda's Smooth Infusion line. It tames frizz and smells amazing. Not ready to spend that kind of money? I also love Aveeno's new line of Nourish shampoos. They are what I used most of last year, and they are great too!

Pamper your hair! I don't shampoo/condition every day, because it strips my hair of its natural oils... use a dry shampoo like Ojon on your off days to make a blowout last longer!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Skirt? Meh.

I have some lovely fabrics and patterns that I'm itching to try for apparel. But after my hemming difficulties and only completing two of my four planned aprons for friends, I didn't feel ready to take on a more challenging pattern. After all, the sage advice my sewing instructor and friends have given me is to play around with fabric you don't care about first, then make pieces with the fabric you love. You don't want to ruin the good stuff, after all!

So I was surfing online and found this 'simple' elastic waist-band skirt pattern from Freshly Picked. I figured, I have a big bag of fabric from my Mom's basement (some of it as old as I am) that I could use for such a project. I love skirts, but when I go to some of my favorite stores like Urban Outfitters, they're charging $38+ for a cotton, elastic-waistband skirt. Blah.

I found some red checked cotton that I figured I'd start with. I think Mom used it to make a vest or pillow cover at some point.

Well, like most of my sewing projects, this turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated. I really don't like how it turned out... not that cute! It's just not my style and makes me look really round. But practice makes you better, so I'm glad to have some extra material lying around to experiment with, right?

I'm going to hang on to the skirt, though I can't imagine wearing it. Maybe I'll take out the seams and reuse the elastic, once my skills improve. But it was a fun way to spend the afternoon!

Trying new things...

The other day I was cooking my orange chicken dinner for DW and SW, and it came out that I had never tried Indian food... so of course, in an effort to broaden my epicurean horizons, they insisting I go to Pakwan in Savannah with them yesterday. I had never noticed the restaurant, attached to the Oglethorpe Mall but hardly noticeable next to the blazing Food Court sign. (I am admittedly distracted by the Food Court, which holds my beloved Chick-Fil-A with its amazing lemonade.)

I was a bit nervous; spicy food, seafood, and vegetables are not my thing. I LOVE to cook, and I will cook anything for anyone who will eat it, but I do not sample it myself. My taste buds are plain vanilla. So I asked SW what I should get, and we chose a chicken tikka masala for me, which is a curry dish of roasted chicken in a tomato-based sauce. Served with some white rice, it was absolutely delicious. I also loved the breads we got, naan and puri, especially dipped into the various sauces. I sampled a little bit of most of the food on the table, forgoing some of the spicier/veggie-laden fare, and finished up with a dessert of gulab jamun, fried milk balls soaked in a sweet syrup.

If I could describe my first experience with Indian food in one word, it would be FLAVORFUL. They definitely knew what they were doing with their spices, and it could never be considered to be bland. It was also beautiful to look at, so colorful. I really enjoyed having a great meal with friends, and trying something new. I won't hesitate to try Indian food again!


Pakwan Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My new favorite lip balm!

So someone gave me one of these Evolution of Smooth (eos) lip balms, and people love asking me what the little 'ball' I carry around is for. Well, it's only my new favorite lip balm!

I love it because you don't need to reapply constantly, the scent isn't overpowering, and it's harder to lose than a tiny stick would be. Sure, you can't just stick it your pocket, but it's easy to fish out of your purse, and the rounded shape is perfect for your lips.

I'm thinking about trying their other products, like their shaving cream. And they sell lip balm in a stick too, in case you prefer that! Can't wait to see how they continue to expand their product line.

You can find the lip balm at Wal-Mart and drugstores.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cake Balls, Round 2!

French Vanilla cake, strawberry frosting, vanilla almond bark coating. I found the vanilla bark a lot harder to work with than the chocolate; these aren't as pretty as my last ones, but they are tasty!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"You jump, I jump, remember?"

So I'm flipping through channels and happen upon the movie Titanic on TV... and immediately I was captivated. I'd forgotten how much I loved this movie! When I was young and it premiered, I was one of the legions of DiCaprio-obsessed girls who watched it so many times and couldn't get enough of Celine Dion singing "My Heart Will Go On."

Now, I am remembering just what a great movie it was. It tugs on your heartstrings and you're captivated by the Romeo & Juliet star-cross'd lovers from different classes in Jack and Rose.

Not to mention, Rose's wardrobe is AMAZING. This time, as I was watching, I just couldn't stop staring at her clothes!!! From the dramatic giant hat at the beginning, to the beautiful dresses (my Mom recreated one for my sister for Halloween that year), it was stunning to see again. What ideas!

If you want to revisit a classic, watch the movie again. It's better than I remembered.

"I'll never let go, Jack. I promise."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Future BFF... Emma Stone

I have a new girl-crush, and her name is Emma Stone. Seriously, I want to meet her and make her my new BFF. We could stay up all night watching chick flicks and talking about boys and doing makeovers. But I digress!


For those of you who aren't yet acquainted with this up-and-coming actress, she has had some great roles in films I thoroughly enjoyed: The House Bunny, Zombieland, and Easy A, garnering a Golden Globe nom for that last one. (Her film debut? Superbad.) She has the ability to play the adorkable geek, a streetwise gun-slinging zombie killer, and a high school (fake) slut, all while making you smile and laugh. You can't help but like her and her cute little lisp. I also read that she'll be in the film adaptation of the book The Help, which I loved reading, so I am excited.


Did I mention she's friends with Taylor Swift? Makes me want to hate her, but I just love her more.


She may be the first ginger I've ever fallen for, though I hear she's a natural blonde. Eat your heart out, Lindsay Lohan.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Golden Globes!

The Golden Globes are a fun awards show to watch; they aren't so stuffy as the Oscars, it's a celebration of not only movies but television shows, and the celebs are drinking. What's not to love?

I'm a sucker for ogling the red carpet fashion, and this year I thought everyone made a lot of safe choices... there were lots of nude pinks, one-shoulder dresses, more mermaid-style gowns than ballgowns. I think overall everyone made classy decisions about what they were wearing. There were fewer cringe-worthy dresses than usual.

My favorite this year? Dianna Agron, from the cast of "Glee." I think her J. Mendel dress and accessories (to include her lovely golden locks) define Hollywood glamour. Beautiful!!! (Photo from InStyle)

As for the awards themselves? My beloved "Glee" did SO well last night! Not only did they win Best TV Series - Comedy, but Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch, two of my most favorite actors from the series, one awards for their supporting roles. Of any two that deserved the awards from the series, I think those two truly did; they are the heartbeat of that show, IMHO.

As for the movies, I absolutely agree with Christian Bale receiving an award for his supporting role in "The Fighter." I really think he is the next Daniel Day-Lewis when it comes to method acting. He did an incredible job in the film, and I think he, Johnny Depp, and Leonardo DiCaprio are becoming the best actors of their generation. I've had a thing for Christian Bale since "Newsies" and my beloved "Little Women."

"The Social Network" won Best Picture - Drama, and I do think it was deserving. Of the five movies in the category, I've seen four, and I can honestly say I've liked them all. I'm not sure which one I would have picked, but "The Social Network" was a great film.

Last comment... where was the nomination for Hailee Steinfeld for "True Grit"??? She was amazing in that role!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Blog Design!

As you can see, my blog has a beautiful new layout/design, thanks to my friend Aly at Bridgework Blogs (http://www.bridgeworkblogs.com)!!!

I am super excited about it, because I think it really reflects my personality and has an aesthetic that I love. It features some of the portraits that I had done at Pixelette back in December.

I hope you like it too!




Friday, January 14, 2011

Red Velvet Cake Balls!

So I tasted some amazing Red Velvet Cake Balls from Julia Baker Confections when I was visiting my sister in Arizona. I had never had anything like them before, and immediately all I could think about was finding a recipe. Turns out, cake balls/cake pops are the new "it" thing... they might even usurp cupcakes in the future!

I got a recipe for some Red Velvet Cake Balls from Bakerella.com, who is credited with creating the cupcake pop. I couldn't wait to try it. It seemed simple enough...


Making the cake, crumbling it up and mixing it with frosting, rolling it into balls... that was the easy part. The not-so-easy part? Covering those with chocolate. I couldn't figure out how to dunk them into the chocolate without having some crumb issues... I tried chopsticks, a fork, a small spatula, and a spoon, and combinations of all three. In the end, dunking the balls into the chocolate with a spoon, then sliding them onto wax paper with the small spatula was the method that worked for me!

In the end, they were absolutely delicious! Very rich, but I'm happy with the outcome. That being said, I spent the better part of my afternoon/evening working on these, so I just made myself a TALL amaretto sour to recover. Whew!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

First solo sewing project!




Adorable sewing basket and supplies that I got for Christmas from Mom, Dad, and lil sis. Plus my new sewing machine... yay!

So I spent the better part of the day (okay, pretty much the entire day) making an apron. It's McCall's pattern M5505, part of the "Easy Stitch" series... and let's just say that for my first solo project ever, it wasn't THAT easy! Thankfully, I learned the ruffle at my last sewing class, so that helped a bit.

I think that I prefer aprons with an adjustable neck strap, so in the future I'll change the pattern to do that. Also, I need to learn an easier way of turning the straps right side out after sewing... any ideas? It's not perfect, but I tried it on and I like it. So that's a plus.

Anyways, the fabric is WAY adorable, from Fabrika Fabrics in Savannah. They have the cutest prints in town. This apron is a much-belated Christmas gift for my friend LC. So if she reads this, I've ruined the surprise, but after spending the whole day at my machine at least she'll know I put a ton of effort in. :)

Black Swan

I saw the movie "Black Swan" the other night, and it really struck a chord with me. Let me start out by saying that it is a very dark, twisted movie, and a bit gratuitously sexually charged. Dancing is sexual, but they went a bit overboard with it instead of focusing more on the main character's metamorphosis/quest for perfection. (I suppose it's how they got guys to show up to a ballet movie.)

So why would such a dark movie strike a chord with me, the seemingly chatty/upbeat/happy girl? One word: perfection. The main character, Nina, is consumed by her quest to be the perfect ballerina, the perfect Swan Queen. She succumbs to the demands of her overbearing mother, creepy/manipulative director, and the competition of other dancers. But what really hit me was that the external pressures were nothing compared to her internal drive for perfection. Her destructive path was all her own, and it's something I can absolutely relate to. I have struggled with trying to be what everyone else wants me to be, only to realize that I'm making myself into something I'm not, hurting myself in the process. I have had to learn to give myself priorities, to keep this perfectionist nature in check.

Watching Nina fall apart was a nightmare, but a cautionary tale for people like me. While the other people who saw the movie with me weren't big fans, I will probably come back to this one to remind myself of what's important, before I become a cautionary tale all my own.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Year's Resolutions Update...

So, how is everyone doing with their New Year's Resolutions?

I know it is shocking to everyone, but it is Day 11 of this year (1/11/11!) and I have yet to buy any new clothes, purses, or shoes. I have had to resist some incredibly enticing sales and wonderful stores, but I've stuck to it. Fortunately, I have some last-minute New Year's Eve purchases (HELLO, brown riding boots!) to tide me over. I also bought some beautiful fabrics with which to create some pieces, though my skills have yet to be tested on my new sewing machine. I intend to see just how long I can go without shopping for new clothes, aside from fabrics and notions. It's actually a fun challenge, and I continue to find clothing in my closet that STILL has price tags on it... so I'm shopping in my own closet on a daily basis. :)
As for my other resolutions, I really need to get back in shape. The most exercise I have done lately was hiking Camelback Mountain and shoveling my parents' driveway... and I haven't met a pasta dish or cheeseburger I haven't like. :-) But I have stopped being as vain as I once was. Having short hair is a real challenge; I have to actually blow-dry and straighten it! No more ponytails for me... I do spend some time putting outfits together, but that is kind of my alternative to shopping. Still, I do believe my vanity is being displaced in a good way.

Lastly, being kind. I think this is something I will always have to work on. I've been struggling with bouts of depression over the past year or so, and it really makes me come off as disinterested and cross. My whole life everyone has expected me to be a perky chatterbox (as that is my natural state), and I think it's strange for them to see me this way. So as I continue to resolve the issues I've been dealing with, I am going to continue to try to be kind to others. It's the least I could do for the people who've always been so good to me; my own disposition and feelings are not an excuse to mistreat others.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Arizona!

Took a bit of a blog hiatus after New Year's! The time was well-spent though, as hubby JDM and I were visiting my sister ALW in Arizona!

Highlights of the trip...
-Driving through Sedona and visiting the Grand Canyon... beautiful! The Grand Canyon is one of the most awesome things I have ever seen. Truly spectacular.

-FOOD. Spotted Donkey Cantina, Korean BBQ, chocolate-covered red velvet cake balls from Julia Baker, Sprinkles cupcakes, In-N-Out Burger! Yum yum yum. Also made my orange chicken for Amy.

-Seeing friends for the first time in years, AR and KS!

-Hiking Camelback Mountain, exhausting but worth the views

And of course the best part of all was seeing my little sister. I can't believe how grown up she is now!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

2011 is going to be a big year for me, I can feel it! So what are my resolutions?

1. Cut down on shopping. In fact, for the month of January, I am not going to buy any clothes, shoes, & accessories, with the exception of a pair of running shoes and riding boots. I was looking in my closet and realized I have a ton of unworn clothes, and even some near-duplicate purchases (um, six variations of grey cardigan?). I need to be more frugal and use what I have in my wardrobe. I am allowed to purchase fabric/notions to sew my own clothes, so that is a possibility for me; I'm going to see how long I can keep this up. It'll be good for me in a number of ways.

2. Stop being so vain. I obsess about appearance. I know self-deprecating behavior is annoying, and I need to stop. Yesterday, I chopped off 8 inches of my hair to donate it to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. It was a shocking thing, having short hair for the first time, but I realize how lucky I am to have my hair and am happy to know mine could be used for a good cause. I felt like I had a Jo March Little Women moment, which was meaningful to me. So I am going to try to stop obsessing over how I look and just celebrate being who I am instead.

3. Stay in shape. The holidays have not been kind to the waistline, but my goal is not to lose weight, but to stay in shape. Keeping the weight off that I lost last year, in addition to staying fit, is important to me because I feel like it has improved my quality of life.

4. Be kind. I think we could all resolve to do this.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Always,
Aubrey
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