Always Aubrey: February 2011

Monday, February 28, 2011

Sunny Savannah


I had a low-key, but fulfilling weekend! The weather was sunny and in the 80s! On Saturday, I slept in and cleaned the house, but my friend LK invited me out to dinner. So we hit up downtown Savannah for a meal at Wild Wing Cafe. As we walked across City Market to get some gelato, we ran into a friend and had a great time just socializing and enjoying the live band outside.

Sunday, I had a brunch date at the Westin's Aqua Star with LC... and had one of the best meals I've ever had in Savannah! I can't even describe this decadent smorgasbord, complete with mimosas... I was speechless. Perhaps it was because I couldn't speak after going up to the buffet for FOUR rounds. It's pricy, but it was amazing. I would love to make it a monthly outing, LC!


After brunch, Linds mentioned she needed a new purse. So what are two girls in search of handbags to do? Put the top down in the Mercedes convertible and road trip to Hilton Head! The outlets were having an AMAZING sale, of which we took full advantage. I scored big on some jeans, and some pants and a dress.


Sunday night, I had some overripe bananas aching for a purpose, so I whipped up some banana bread cupcakes with cream cheese frosting I found on the amazing Eat Live Run. OH. MY. GOODNESS. These were phenomenal. All of the ones I took to work were decimated within SEVEN MINUTES of my arrival. I. Want. More.

Talk about ending the weekend on a sweet note!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gleek Peek: I'm playing catch-up!


I got behind in my Glee blogging! I'll keep it short and sweet.

These last two episodes have been really witty and funny. Really! I loved the Justin Bieber Experience, and I especially loved Mercedes/Rachel's diva-off to "Take Me or Leave Me" from RENT. Love love love.

But the best part about the past couple of weeks? GREAT DIALOGUE. Seriously, the stories have been great, and I have laughed out loud so many times. I feel like there was a slump happening for a while, but now we're back in action. I can't say enough good things.

I didn't care for the music in the most recent episode 'Blame It On the Alcohol' but it was such a good story with great one-liners, I forgive it. You won't hear me complaining, only singing along!

WATCH THIS SHOW! :)

Sick... ugh.

I am sick with the cold/flu/something-ridiculous-that-has-consumed-my-body-and-mind. It's one of those sickness where no matter how much you sleep, drink water/soup, medicate, you're miserable to point of tears. Not cool being on your own when this happens. So I'm laying here, restless and totally bummed out, with my laptop on the sofa.

In addition to being sick, I've put on some weight. I've nearly undone everything I worked so hard for. So when I read on Hungry Girl that using shirataki (tofu) noodles instead of regular pastas could seriously help cut calories/carbs (they are only 20 calories per bag!), I decided to give it a try.

Okay, here's my honest opinion. Bleh. They REEK when you take them out of the bag, so rinse them ASAP. They are flavorless, taking on whatever sauce and seasonings you add to them. They look like normal noodles, but the texture is off-putting to me. The good part? If you can endure it, they're SO fast to cook, and the calorie/fat content is so low they are still enticing.


Being sick is terrible for my diet. All I want is comfort. And since I'm on my own, I decided comfort food was what I needed today. So I made my friend DW's famous (non-politically-correct) "blackaroni". It's her macaroni and cheese recipe that is absolutely out of this world. (I know my nurse Aunt SR told me to cut the dairy while I'm sick, but this stuff is worth the extra congestion! Gross, I know.)

DW's Blackaroni
-box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (the big box with elbow pasta with the Velveeta-like squeeze cheese packet)
-can of cream of mushroom soup
-8 oz. sour cream
-4 cups shredded cheddar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cook the Kraft Macaroni as the package dictates. Then mix in the cream of mushroom, sour cream, and a couple handfuls of the shredded cheddar. Stir it all until it is melted and gooey. Then get a deep baking dish (or a loaf pan) and spoon a layer of macaroni into it. Add a thick layer of shredded cheddar; repeat again. The top layer should be cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and brown.

It is heavenly cheesy. I like it better when DW makes it, but my at-home version was yummy too.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Viva Nashvegas!

I had an AWESOME weekend in Nashville, Tennessee with my good friends MC, GC, and their son BC! We road tripped there and had a really great time. I also got to spend some time with my friend VB, who I've missed so much since she left Savannah. It's hard to sum it all up in a short blog entry, but I'll do my best... it was a great time all-around and definitely a place I'd love to visit again.


SIGHTS...
We went to Franklin, downtown Nashville to see the Parthenon and Country Music Hall of Fame, and just took it all in. I felt like everyone was super friendly, and I LOVED how quaint and cute Franklin was. It totally reminded me of B-town! We also drove by some of the big mansions where some of the country music folks live... stunning.

SHOPPING...
I bought cowboy boots, shoes, a cute dress, some blingy earrings at a boutique in Franklin... it was a great time. I also got an iPhone this weekend, so let's just say I did some serious retail therapy!

FOOD...
Mellow Mushroom, Margaritaville, Dotson's, Sweet Cece's, Thai... we ate so much and so well! I totally gained weight this weekend, but I can't say enough good things. Dotson's is a diner that made an AMAZING breakfast for me/VB, and Sweet Cece's is an adorable frozen yogurt place that I wish we had in Savannah.


Still, after such a busy weekend, it was nice to get home and decompress. I'm dreading Monday, but I am glad I had such fun.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chili Cookoff!

I've never made chili before. But when my work decided to hold a chili cookoff benefit, I decided it was never too late to try it! That being said, I've never been a 'traditional' person, so I thought I would do something different from the normal beans/ground beef combo.

I found a recipe for Texican Chili on Taste of Home, but I decided that I needed to add some flair to it. I added more of some ingredients, didn't brown the beef cubes beforehand (or dice them smaller... laziness was a contributing factor!) and gave it a little Indian twist. So here is my variation of that recipe, which I will call 'Texicindian Chili' due to the garam masala spice. :) It will make your house smell divine.

TEXICINDIAN CHILI (made in a 5-qt. slow cooker!)
16-18 servings, Prep: 25min. Cook: 9hrs.

Ingredients:
8 bacon strips, diced
2-1/2 lb. beef stew meat, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
2 cans (one 28 oz., one 14-1/2 oz) stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 cans (8 oz. each) tomato sauce
1 can (16 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups sliced carrots
1 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 T. dried parsley
2 T. chili powder
1 T. garam masala
1/2 T. garlic powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground pepper

Directions:
In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp; remove to paper towels to drain.
Add beef cubes, bacon + drippings, and all remaining ingredients to slow cooker.
Cover and cook on low for 9-10 hours or until meat is tender, stirring occasionally.

I wasn't even close to winning, but there was absolutely nothing leftover, so I am considering it a success!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shopping cuteness...

Things I bought this weekend in Savannah...


Vapur "Anti-Bottle" Water Bottle. It's foldable, dishwasher-safe, perfect for air travel! Stick in the purse and you can fill it up once you get through security.


Cookeys Key Covers. It looks like I have cookies on my keychain. :)


Carhartt Jacket. Not the "cutest" jacket per se, but holy cow it's super warm and comfy. Never thought I'd own one of these.

Where did the weekend go?

What a busy weekend! I literally have no idea where the time went. Here's the play-by-play.

FRIDAY
Went straight from work to home, changed, and headed to Savannah to pick up my new 46" HDTV from Best Buy. One little problem... I drive a Toyota Corolla. The thought that my new TV might not fit in my car did not occur to me until the guy wheeled it out. OMG. I hadn't factored in the size of the box. I had to lay down my backseat and literally push it down with my entire body while the Best Buy guy shoved the TV in through the trunk. It took some effort, but we finally made it fit. After that, I hit up the Bass Pro Shop to pick up some warm clothes for a fishing trip; I got an awesome Carhartt jacket (super warm!), overalls, and some duck shoes.

Best part of the night was meeting up with LC and PD to see the new Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston movie "Just Go With It". It was a cute rom-com, and we had a lot of laughs, but the REAL reason we went to see it was because the majority of the film takes place at the Grand Wailea resort in Maui, where LC/PD are getting married in December! (I am so excited to be in the wedding party... ALOHA!)

The worst part of the night? Realizing I couldn't extract the TV from my car on my own once I got home. Oops.

SATURDAY
My good friends RH and AH are moving soon, so Saturday I met up with them for pizza at Vinnie Van Go-Go's in Savannah. They brought along their adorable daughter LH (my little buddy!) and I was so happy to see them one last time before they depart. The pizza is one of the best in Savannah, so it was nice to do something really local as their farewell.


I also got to do some shopping at the lovely Kitchens on the Square, and stopped at World Market to pick up some wine and spices. Finally, it was time to hit the road to Eutawville, South Carolina, to meet up to fish with DW & SW. We had a great dinner at Chef's Choice Steak House, and followed it up with some Cranium and movie trivia games. I had a blast.

SUNDAY
We woke up early to meet Captain Wayne to go fishing for catfish. We were out before dawn, and staying about seven hours... but no fish. :( Stupid fishes. Still, it was fun to get out on the boat with friends, and I really thought it was a beautiful day. I always laugh a lot when I'm with them.


On the way home, I stopped at a Le Creuset outlet and drooled over expensive cookware (nothing purchased yet!), then got some delicious tomato soup in a breadbowl from Panera to take home. Within minutes of coming through the door, I was in fleece PJs on the sofa with Cally the cat. I can't believe how fast the weekend went; is tomorrow really Monday?

Still, it's a short week at work for me, capped off with a long weekend trip to Nashville, Tennessee with GC, MC, and little BC! I can't wait to head to country music's hometown!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Gleek Peek: Falling in love all over again!

'Glee' continues to redeem itself in my eyes with each new episode since its hiatus! The Valentine's Day episode had a lot of songs I really liked, and the storyline is so interesting. I'm kind of in love with Santana's evil streak, the Finn/Quinn falling back in love storyline that's been going on lately (she's still with Sam! WTF!), and the MUSIC. Always the music.

I think every episode there's a song I don't really care for, which is why I don't automatically download all of the music. But this episode had two songs done by the Warblers (love a cappella!) and one of my favorite Katy Perry numbers sung by Rachel, 'Firework.'

The show lapsed a little bit last year, but now it's getting back to basics. I like when they don't overproduce the songs, which they don't do so much with the Warblers group (how can you when the voices are the instruments?). The 'Firework' number was pretty close to the original in terms of music, but I still loved it, because it felt like Rachel's character is really coming into her own as an independent girl no

I have a love/hate relationship with Rachel, because so many people I know who watch 'Glee' say that she and I are the same person, minus the ability to sing. Rachel does/says so many cringeworthy things, I often wonder what people really think of me when they compare us. But at the same time, I can see how the comparison is funny and even flattering, because she has redeemable qualities. We're both incessant talkers, overachievers, and love music... but with a heart. And sometimes we kind of dress alike; we both love cardigans, dresses, and flats! :)

So I'll take the comparison, at least for now. I saw Lea Michele perform in 'Spring Awakening' twice on Broadway, and she's an amazing talent.


Friday, February 11, 2011

The first rule of a sandbag workout...

...is never have your (stronger) friend make your sandbag for you. Thanks, VB!

Today we did a workout that still has me (and my lack of upper-body strength) reeling. It's similar to some of the things you'll find here (check out the photo). I am an extremely lazy, out-of-shape bum, surrounded by friends who are totally into fitness... Bikram yoga, Cross-fit, P90X, Insanity, marathons, lifting. They are studs. I, on the other hand, am a weakling.

So kudos to them for giving me a heavy sandbag and convincing me it was a good idea to lift and squat and thrust and whatnot with it. I'll be lucky if I can walk tomorrow!

Raiding the fridge...

I'm not very good at shopping for one person. I tend to buy too much, allow it to expire, and end up throwing it away.

That being said, I'm getting better about using up my leftovers! I repurposed extra mushrooms from the mushroom risotto into a mushroom/sage butter sauce tossed with linguine. (The original recipe, from Every Day with Rachael Ray this month, called for gnocchi instead of linguine, but I was using what I have!)

This morning, I was famished. Like my-stomach-is-screaming-at-me hungry. I'm totally guilty of eating leftovers from the previous night's dinner for breakfast... reheating pizzas, pastas, anything, even if it isn't 'breakfast food'. Today I wanted something breakfasty, but felt guilty about all the uneaten leftovers in my fridge... and then I noticed a medley of leftover meat. And when life gives you a meat medley, you make a meat-lover's omelette! (Which, by the way, is the meal my friend LC and I always choose at Sunshine Breakfast.)

I had leftover turkey pepperoni and mozzarella cheese from when I made a hearty Chicken Parmesan from EatLiveRun, leftover Italian sausage from a rigatoni meal I made, plus some deli ham and cheddar cheese I've been trying to use up. I tossed these into my mini food chopper, scrambled them in a bowl with some eggs, and fried up a filling, tasty omelette.
It was just what I needed to give me strength to get through one more work day before the weeekend!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gleek Peek: GLEE IS BACK!

Confession: I did not watch a single minute of the Super Bowl. I did, however, catch the latest episode of Glee! I had no idea how bad my Glee withdrawal was until this new episode. I really feel like actual storylines/rivalries/good songs are making a comeback.

For the first time in a while, I was actually into the storyline more than the songs! Honestly, the "Thriller/Heads Will Roll" mashup was great, and the a cappella "Bills, Bills, Bills" was excellent. I just sometimes question the choices of songs because it seems they could have picked others that were more fitting, IMHO. My hopes are some people kept the TV on after the Super Bowl to watch the episode, and that perhaps there are even MORE Gleeks out there now to keep the momentum going for the show. The Emmys proved the show is quality, they just need to continue to make it as good as it was early in the first season.

That being said, they really need to stop overproducing these songs. Cute some of the instruments and get back to basics, you know? The best songs in the first season were the ones that you could hear the voices in, not the background music identical to the radio edit. I want to hear a difference between originals and Glee versions, you know?

Alright, enough with the criticism. I'm SOOOOO happy Glee is back!

5-Minute Project

Before & After

It's always kind of bothered me that my front windows didn't have any sort of curtains at all. When my security guy mentioned I should have at least something there to obstruct the view from the street, I figured why not? I couldn't find panels that fit my narrow windows, but I did find some magnetic curtain rods at Wal-Mart (i.e. no drilling/installation required!) that fit the space. I also found a single curtain panel that was too large on its own, but something I could possibly cut in half and sew.

The reason this was a 5-minute project? I got super lazy. I had plans to sew up the curtains, make little strips to tie them cutely, all that. But by the time I got home, I had no motivation anymore. So what did I do? Cut the panel in half (rough edges and all) and tie a knot in the middle to give it the hourglass flares.

And you know what? Good enough! The panels definitely obstruct the view into the windows (even though in the photo they look very see-through). Mission accomplished!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Savannah Restaurant Week

Today was the end of Savannah Restaurant Week, a great time to check out some of the best restaurants the city has to offer! The deal is you get a three-course meal for $30, which is a steal compared to the normal pricing.

Last night I went with LC and PD to check out 17Hundred90, a restaurant/inn that I had never been to before. I'd heard good things about it, so we decided to give it a try.

Boy, did I overeat! I started with their crabcakes, which had so much flavor packed into them, not to mention a great lemon dill aioli to top it off. Then I had the hanging tenderloin, which had a bourbon demi glace that really made the steak taste delicious. For sides I had mashed sweet potatoes and an amazing sun-dried tomato risotto. Lastly, I finished off with the chocolate bombe. And for $30, it was a steal.

That being said, I had a stomachache the whole night from overeating, and from it all being so rich! I think it was great, but I'm not sure if I'll head back there again. There are so many great places to eat in Savannah, I realized I need to try some more variety! I really want to check out Vic's on the River, Local 11 Ten, 700 Drayton, and Broughton & Bull (which replaced Il Pasticcio). They are all pricy, so I'd better plan these for special occasions!

17 Hundred 90 on Urbanspoon

Not concerning food...
Today was nice Sunday for me. I spent the afternoon/evening babysitting for friends. RH and AH have the most adorable two-year-old girl who is contagiously happy and good. I'm not the most experienced babysitter, and I don't always like kids. That being said, I would babysit this girl for free anytime, because she's hilarious and makes me feel like I could possibly handle a rugrat of my own someday. I even gave her a bath, which is not something I consider a usual part of my babysitting repertoire. Give me a decade, I'll have this figured out.

New Blog I'm Following: Annie's Eats!

Everyone knows by now that I LOVE FOOD. My friend ER posted a link to some peanut butter swirl brownies, and I followed that link back to an amazing blog that I cannot believe I've never found before... Annie's Eats. I was even MORE pleased to find out she's living in Indiana (Hoosier shoutout!).

I dig the design and aesthetic of her blog; I'll be honest, that's important to me. I love that it's pretty to look at. The photos (which she takes herself) are drool-inducing, and I have gotten so many ideas from perusing her site. It's easy to navigate, with some great categories to choose from. She cooks a wide variety, which I appreciate; I peruse tons of baking sites, but definitely need to branch out to 'real' food. I can't subsist on cupcakes, right?

The reason I'm so into food blogs is that these authors came to their medium from a pure love of food and cooking. Not only that, they're so willing to share tips, provide step-by-step photos and instructions, and answer questions that people leave. You don't get that on the Food Network website. You're lucky to see one photo of a recipe there. People like Annie are making things that seem "do-able" to me, things that I can imagine making in my own kitchen. There are times I'm inspired by Food Network or Cooking Channel or Martha Stewart, but even the ingredients aren't something I can find at my local grocery chain, let alone replicate at home. The bloggers I love the most share their triumphs, failures, and finds, and it feels like a conversation.

I must confess I barely look at my beautiful cookbooks anymore. Instead, I log on, print, and keep a binder of the recipes I find online. I do consult my books on occasion, but there are just so many resources at my fingertips; I never need to buy another cookbook again. (Though knowing that still won't stop me most likely!)

What will I make next?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Reality Addiction

Yes, another entry about television. Can you tell I've been spending a lot of time vegging out?



I have become a reality show junkie. Now, I refuse to get hooked on 'The Bachelor' or 'Jersey Shore' and things of that nature. But I have been a huge fan since I first starting watching 'The Real World' so many years ago. My favorite shows tend to be documentary-style efforts (not competitions like 'The Bachelor') that follow someone in their profession. It's great because each show is not part of a bigger storyline (not really, anyways) and you can just pick up an episode anytime without worrying about chronology. It's another day in their life and you can be the voyeur and join in.

A new show that I've started to watch on the History Channel is 'Pawn Stars' which reminds me a lot of Antiques Roadshow with more street cred and interesting items. I love the family business aspect and how they seem to 'flip' the purchases they make from people and earn some serious cash. (My friends say that if you like this show, you'll love 'American Pickers' but I can't afford to get hooked on even more TV!)

I've been watching 'The Millionaire Matchmaker' on Bravo since it airs. I would love working for Patti Stanger! She's so blunt and brazen and genuinely good at what she does, and the millionaires she is forced to work with are kooky and crazy and sometimes impossible. The antics are great. I sometimes wonder if loving her show is anti-feminist, since it seems she insists the people fit a certain look/aesthetic. But I really believe she knows what she's doing (she's a third generation matchmaker after all) and can't tear myself away from watching her.

'Ace of Cakes' is the show I credit with my cake obsession. It is ending on Food Network after its 10th season, which is why I want you all to start watching while you can. Duff and his eclectic crew are the rock stars of the cake world, and their creations are truly ART in cake form! Watching the show will inspire you to culinary creativity, I guarantee it.

'Hoarders' does not fit into the same category as these other shows, but I just can't tear myself away from the screen. It's so sad, what these people go through... their homes remind me of the Junk Lady from the movie 'Labyrinth', who becomes so enamored with stuff she just keeps piling it onto her back until she is basically a junkyard herself. This show is a warning to me to stop attaching myself emotionally to 'stuff' and to release myself from the pressure of holding on to things I don't really need, despite the fact that they could *possiblymaybesomeday* be of use to me. I've started donating more things to Goodwill and keeping myself from buying things I don't need.

Grey's Anatomy


Confession: I watch a lot of television. Alright, you already knew that. But there are very few shows that I watch with dedication, and by dedication I mean from the time the pilot airs to the time the show ends. Sometimes I catch a show late, but sometimes I know from the very start that I'm going to love it. 'Gilmore Girls' was one such show (I even got to visit the set on a trip to L.A.) and you all know that 'Glee' is another. Still, I have yet to blog about the other 'G'-named show that I adore, 'Grey's Anatomy'.

Back in 2005, I watched this show from the very beginning. I really ought to have a coffee mug that says Seattle Grace (Mercy West) Hospital. I have never been able to stomach the idea of surgery. The sight of my own blood may induce me to faint. But the drama of this series, both in and out of the operating room, was (and continues to be) something I can't get enough of.

My favorite character? Cristina Yang, played by Sandra Oh. And it's not because she's Korean. Her incredible focus and drive, her flawed perfectionism, her stunted emotional reactions... I find we have more similarities than differences sometimes. I love her friendship with Meredith Grey, the next character I relate to the most. I live and breathe the traumas they go through, the camaraderie they build with each other, and the endless metaphors for life that come out of surgery.

I have not missed a single episode of this show, albeit sometimes viewing them a bit late. Two episodes ago, the show ended with a quote that spoke to me, and perhaps speaks to why this show is so poignant to me. Perhaps it's one you should catch up on, if you're bored sometime and need a new addiction.

"Surgery is extreme. We cut into your body, take out pieces, and put what's left back together. Good thing life doesn't come with a scalpel because if it did, when things started to hurt, we would just cut and cut and cut. The thing is what we take away with a scalpel we can't ever get back. So, like a said, good thing."
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