Always Aubrey: November 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Learning to eat vegetables.

I don't like vegetables.  The colors, the textures, the smells...  As a kid, it was sure to make me gag.
source

I understand how good they are for me, but my tastebuds reject them.  I've avoided them for years, and actually didn't even eat much fruit for a long time.

Now, fruit is on the menu, and veggies are sneaking their way in!  My boyfriend Duke is starting to cook veggies at home, from zucchini to spinach to squash and more.

And as I promised him, I'm ingesting at least a bite of everything... in most cases more.  While I choked down the first few attempts, I'm getting more used to the textures and flavors.  I think I like zucchini well enough, but not cucumber!  Spinach is more palatable because it takes on other flavors so well.

I've got a long road ahead of me, but I'm proud to be trying.  Better late than never, right?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My New Life: 6 Months Later...

In May, I made a huge transition to the next chapter of my life... I left active duty military service, packed up and moved to a new state, and started a career from scratch!  It was a crazy whirlwind.

source
But now, looking back, I can honestly say I have zero regrets!  True, it has been challenging to make friends in a new place (I still depend on my good friend VB, and I count my coworkers as the main friends I've made so far).  And learning a completely new career field has been like drinking from a firehose.

Still, I can't remember the last time I've been happier.  I'm starting to participate in different organizations (DAR, American Legion, and a small military museum) and exploring Nashville.  I'm also spending more time than ever in Indiana with family.

Probably one of the best developments for me was boyfriend Duke moving to the area... it gave me another friend to lean on, and definitely made my existence here feel more complete.

I've been able to travel more, which was one of the things I missed when I was in the military.  I've been able to read more, write more, sleep more, smile more...  it's just been a better quality of life.

It wasn't always this way.  When I first moved, I was anxious, but I put on a brave face.  I was worried about the choices I'd made, because I was starting over after a couple of pretty rough years.  But I knew I had people who believed in me, who'd support me if I fell, and I pushed myself and embraced the new.

Change is scary, but sometimes taking a leap can reap big rewards.  Life is good... I am so thankful.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend in Tennessee

Mom & Dad came down to visit me for the long Thanksgiving weekend.   We definitely kept busy!

We had a Thanksgiving lunch at Whole Foods, before we headed home to make sure our turkey dinner was ready to go... I had turkey breast, roasted red potatoes, homemade noodles, green beans, sweet corn, and yeast rolls on the menu.  I even had pumpkin pie as a dessert.  I'd say it was a pretty decent first attempt at a small Thanksgiving meal by me, perhaps a grade B.

That evening, we continued a typical holiday family tradition by heading the movies, this time to see the new James Bond Skyfall.  We really enjoyed it!

I had to, um, taste.

Turkey Breast, Homemade Noodles, Sweet Corn, Green Beans, Red Potatoes, Yeast Rolls

Friday morning, I made some Upside-Down Cinnamon-Apple Coffee Cake, which was super easy and a big hit with my parents.  We needed that energy because Mom dragged me out of the house for a morning of Black Friday shopping.  Fortunately, the Franklin area that morning wasn't as crowded; I think by 8 am the deal-hunters were already finished storming the retailers.

In the afternoon, we headed to downtown Nashville to tour the Country Music Hall of Fame.  I had been there before, but I wanted Dad to have a chance to see it.  And it just so happened that Craig Morgan was giving a free concert, so Dad was happy to stay around to hear his entire set.

Country Music Hall of Fame
Post-concert, we walked up and down Broadway, listening to the live music pour out of the honkytonks. The lights were on because it gets dark so early.  I made us reservations to eat at local favorite Puckett's downtown location.  Mom devoured her pulled chicken sliders and sweet potato fries.
Craig Morgan Concert

Saturday, we toured Franklin's Carter House and Lotz House, historic homes that were damaged but survived the bloody Battle of Franklin.   Dad is a history buff, and I think he really liked them both.  Mom preferred the ornate wood carved furniture and ornate porcelain pieces at Lotz House, while I preferred the Carter House with its more extensive grounds.

 Carter House
Lotz House
It was a jam-packed weekend, but they even found time to help me decorate for Christmas!  Our family is passing through here during the holidays, so we may end up opening gifts at my place.  Glad I could decorate a little to get into the spirit.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Things I'm Thankful For

One of the most prolific themes I've seen on Facebook lately is 30 Days of Thankful, in which people make a daily mention of something they are thankful for throughout November.  And since I didn't jump on the bandwagon, I decided that I would make my list all at once, from the big, obvious things, to the small things

There is no order to this list, though I did frontload a few big ones!
  1. Nosy, involved, LOVING family.  My parents and sister are never hesitant to voice their opinions.  And we often communicate our love via phone arguments.  But they're there because they love me, and they care because they love me, in ways no one else can.  I've also got a passel of amazing aunts, uncles, cousins, and beyond who truly
  2. Senile, loud, skin-and-bones, 16-year-old cat, Cally.
  3. Boyfriend, affectionately known here as Duke Silver, who brings me balance.  No one else can pull me out of my own head/anxiety/funk the way that Duke can.  Even though he tries to feed me vegetables, he is a major positive in my life.  And he drives me anywhere I want to go, because I hate driving.
  4. My friends are awesome.  There are a few small groups out there in particular who, no matter how long we go without seeing each other, no matter how far away we spend our lives, are always there.  When we do get together, it's super fun and feels like we were never apart.  And they put up with me and me incessant talking!  You know who you are, rockstars.  Party on.
  5. Work.  I am so fortunate to have found the company and position that are such a good fit for my talents and personality.  I am fascinated by what I learn, excited about what I do, and surrounded by people who really support me.  I can honestly say this is the first time in my life I've felt real job satisfaction, because I have the freedom and autonomy to push myself!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Movie Review: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 (a.k.a. end of the Twilight Saga!)

Summit Entertainment
I'm not a Twihard.

I did enthusiastically read the Twilight books a couple of times (except that terrible joke of a 4th novel) and I did see every movie on its opening weekend.  But I wouldn't say it held the fervor for me that Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings ever did.  (HOLY COW, I'm so pumped for the first Hobbit film!)

But I did go check out the final film installment of Twilight this past weekend, because it felt the right thing to do after the time and energy I invested into the series at some point.  And since the 4th movie was my favorite in the series, I had some glimmer of hope this one wouldn't be a total wash.

Well, the first 30 minutes were so cheesy and ridiculous, my poor boyfriend was already squirming.  He hadn't watched the previous films, and he told me not to wake him up unless he was snoring.  Noted.

There was definitely some silly stuff, and the buildup felt slow.  I think they did a good job of transitioning with Bella as a vampire... but like the stupid 4th book, this movie was a lot of talking and people obsessing over Renesmee.

That is, until the big plot twist.  For real, folks, there's a lot of gratuitous vampire decapitation happening.  But I'm not going to spoil it for you, just know that in the end the movie totally redeems itself.

Well, aside from ignoring the logical ending and proceeding with a cheesy flashback montage of the entire saga.  I think the final movies were my favorites of the series in the end, even though the book was a flop in that regard.  If you're a fan of the series, go see this movie!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Boot Shopping!

I love boots.  I don't know how I ever lived without them in my life.  With dresses, with jeans, in summer, in fall, I'm rocking my boots!

For the past few years, I've worn two pairs of brown and black riding boots that I scored for CHEAP on eBay.  Well, the brown pair gave out on me... so I had to toss them.  This led me on a hunt to find some new boots to replace them (and add to my collection) so I ordered three pairs online to find my match... and ended up keeping every one.  Here they are, with reviews!


Target Merona® Kasia Leather Riding Boot
My friend Caroline let me know about these Frye copycats at Target.  They're a fraction of the price of real Frye boots ($74.99), and I loved the Tan color.  They also come in brown and black.  These were back-ordered, so the anticipation was killing me for a long time... I just hoped my expectations weren't too high, since I wasn't paying the $300+ for the real thing.

These boots do look expensive, and they look great!   I ordered a size down from what I usually get because they were nearly sold out.  It's going to take a bit to stretch out the calves a little, but they fit.  I definitely anticipate some compliments on these.  Definite keepers!


Target's Merona Kasia Boot, $74.99

Payless Brash Zooey Riding Boot
I own a lot of shoes from Payless.  And depending on the store "brand", they actually last me a long time and are very comfortable.  I can't tell you the number of times people have complimented my Payless shoes.  I chose these riding boots in Cognac because they were most similar in color to the ones I had to throw out.  I also got a BOGO deal, so it ended up being even better cost-wise.

I wasn't sure I'd like the "ripple" in the front, and I worried the hardware/material would look cheap.  I did like the back zip though, since my last boots ripped along the zipper because apparently my feet knock together all the time.

I really like these boots, now that I have them.  They won't exactly pass for leather, but the color looks great.  I don't think they look cheap, but they don't look very high-end either... kind of a happy in-between.  The fit is good for me, and they aren't too tight when I have on skinny jeans.
Payless Brash Zooey Boot, $59.99

Payless Airwalk Myra Tall Boot
I don't own any actual Ugg boots... I just couldn't bring myself to pay that much when there are so many other versions out there for so much less.  I have a pair of tall, tan Airwalk "Uggs" that I wear very infrequently, mostly because they look very slipper-ish.  But when I was in Pittsburgh, I saw the cutest pair of grey Ugg boots with toggle detail, and I felt like they were more versatile than the ones I had.  In my mind, the hardware made them more jeans-friendly for the weekend.  Who knows.  But I got them in the BOGO deal, and I wanted to see if they were nice in person.

They look exactly like the photo, and are super comfy!  I'm keeping these as well.


Payless Myra Tall Boot, $44.99

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

NYC Trip Part III: Yogi/Vegan Experience

My cousin SS is one of the healthiest people I know.  She's a vegetarian yoga instructor who eats things like kale and drinks coconut water.  Some people talk the talk, but she walks the walk.

As part of my fun NYC experience, she invited me to attend one of her classes at Strala Yoga, a Basics level class.  I actually got to meet Tara Stiles, the founder of the studio who is Deepak Chopra's personal yoga instructor.  Um, as if I wasn't nervous enough about being subjected to yoga...

Look, I'm terribly inflexible, and I suck at keeping quiet.  So the thought of this class was truly intimidating to me.  I definitely almost fell over a few times, and my lack of physical strength in holding a plank was embarrassing.  But I pushed through it, with some tips from Suzy, and I felt my whole body burn and sweat... in the best sort of way.  It was actually relaxing, even though I was self-conscious about everyone seeing my struggle.  I learned that one side of me has way better balance than the other, which is fascinating.

The Kids' Yoga Class

Afterwards, we went out for a vegan brunch at Sacred Chow.  I had a delish banana French toast, home fries, and rose lemonade.  I was really impressed, and even tried a bite of SS and boyfriend JP's dishes... surprisingly good for a carnivore like me!

Sacred Chow on Urbanspoon



SS did make me have a sip of her green juice though... which tasted like vegetables.  Meh.

Green juice is meh.
After yoga (SS was teaching a kids' class) , we walked around Soho, grabbed an awesome $1 slice of pizza (I love you, NY!), then headed home.  SS had a work event, so JP and I decided to hit up a place she doesn't frequent much... SHAKE SHACK.  I've read about Shake Shack; it has the same kind of allure in New York that In 'n' Out burger has on the west coast.  It started as a hot dog cart, then burger stand, then brick and mortar restaurant.  Anthony Bourdain even loves the place.  So I was pumped to get some red meat after my day as a yogi.  I LOVED IT!  One of the best burgers I've had, hands down.

Before I left, we ate a phenomenal brunch at Buttermilk Channel.   This place is well worth the wait!  I had an apple, bacon, grilled cheese sandwich, SS had the buttermilk pancakes, and JP had the fried pork on waffles.  I tried everything, and it was awesome.

Buttermilk Channel on Urbanspoon

My trip to NYC was great.  I especially loved spending some quality time with SS, my other little sister who I don't get to see often enough.  It's a great town, with endless things to do, and it really doesn't sleep... you have to catch yourself and take a break after a while!  But it's amazing, and a place I'll never tire of.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NYC Trip Part II: Family & Friends

Brooklyn
After the Annie premiere, I made my way to Brooklyn to spend the weekend with my cousin, SS.  I worked from home during the day, while she worked at her office, but we were able to meet up for lunch for some yummy Japanese noodles. Definitely what we needed on a chilly day!

In the evening, I was able to shop 'til I dropped at H&M, then meet up with my high school from RM to check out the Museum at FIT.  This little gem is absolutely free, and you get to see some pieces from different eras as well as top designers.  Their current special exhibit is a nod to the Ivy League, with some fantastic menswear on display as well.  Fun!

The RM and I took a walk to check out the High Line, a park built on what used to be track tracks, high above the street.  I loved it!  Such a nice walk around sunset.  Afterwards, we met up with another friend from high school, MK, for drinks back in Brooklyn at the Clover Club.  They had fantastic cocktails, but the crisps were to die for... potatoes fried in duck fat and served with truffle creme fraiche.  Insane!

High Line

Clover Club Buddies

I met up with my cousin SS and her boyfriend for dinner that night, at Brucie.  I was so impressed by the Italian food there!  Everything was good, the portion sizes weren't crazy but just right, and I could tell the pasta and meatballs I had were homemade and fresh.  Yum.  I love New York!

Monday, November 12, 2012

NYC Trip Part I: @ANNIEonBroadway

My job is awesome... so awesome that I recently got to attend OPENING NIGHT for the Broadway revival of Annie in New York City!

We had pre-show cocktails and hors d'oeuvres at Blue Fin (a swank locale at the W on Times Square) then headed across the street to the Palace Theater to see the show.  As I walked in, I spotted Bernadette Peters coming in too!  Gah!

Times Square
I was 4th row in the orchestra, so I had a fantastic view.  The show was so good... from the talented actors (especially the young girls, and the lead, Lilla Crawford!) to the set design.  It was well done, and it was nice to see the original musical, which is a bit different from the movie that I grew up watching.
Daddy Warbucks (Anthony Warlow), dog trainer Bill Berloni, and the Sandy star/understudy dogs!
After the show, we headed over to the cast party at the Hard Rock Cafe.  There was a fun kid-friendly buffet of mini burger, chicken tenders, pizza, and even desserts like Twinkies, in addition to the rest of the spread.  Very fun!  We got to see the cast and take a few photos, and it really felt VIP.

I'm a lucky girl!

These little girls were so talented!
Here's the article about opening night:  http://www.playbill.com/news/article/172110-PLAYBILL-ON-OPENING-NIGHT-Annie-Another-Sandy-Hits-NYC

Here's one with a list of some of the folks who attended:  http://www.theatermania.com/new-york-city-theater/news/11-2012/weve-got-annie-and-bernadette-and-andrea-and-katie_63713.html  I saw Bernadette and Caroline Rhea, but missed the others.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

BBC TV: #Sherlock

BBC
I swear, the BBC is spot on when it comes to good dramas and television.  We imported The Office and Dancing with the Stars (a.k.a. Strictly Come Dancing) from them, and we have them to thank for Masterpiece Theatre, phenomenal series like P&P, and my beloved Downton Abbey.

What I love about the pool of British actors is that they will take parts in both TV and movies without losing their star quality.  They'll also take small roles in some series, but larger ones in others.  I watch series and shout out "Dumbledore!" or "Bilbo!" I truly believe there are two degrees of separation for movies/TV with British actors in them.

But I digress.

What I really wanted to tell you about was a BBC show I discovered on Amazon Prime.  Sherlock is not your typical TV series, in that each episode is 90 minutes, and there are only 3-4 episodes per season.  Episodes are more like mini movies that anything, actually.  It's fast, witty, displays true high-quality production value, and it's EXCITING!  It has to be one of the best shows currently on television, even with its different format.

You MUST check this series out!

P.S.  The actor who plays Sherlock is named Benedict Cumberbatch.  Best name ever!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Food About Town #3

Wild Horse Saloon (credit)
More places I've eaten... because I'm a glutton.  :)

Sperry's:  I had a great business dinner here, and it's definitely a hidden gem within a strip mall in Franklin.  The minute you walk in, you're transported into dark, wood-paneled hideaway.  I had a crab cake appetizer, delicious steak, and tasty dessert.  I'm not sure I'll ever go back, because it is a fancy-pants joint, but it's an good old school steakhouse for sure.

Wild Horse Saloon:  I went to another work function at Nashville's Wild Horse Saloon downtown, and even though our meal was catered, I loved it!  Fried pickles and nachos to BBQ to a tasty gouda ravioli... yum.  I also liked the live music and country line dance instruction.  This place is a a TOTAL TOURIST TRAP, so be prepared for it to be cheesy.  I preferred it for the private party that we had upstairs, probably wouldn't go for dinner myself otherwise.

Boscos:  I liked Boscos.  It's a great restaurant if you want a large beer selection, and I liked their appetizers and menu.  It's a nice atmosphere for a post-work happy hour or dinner, and they have a few locations.  I had the lasagna and it was pretty good!

Wholy Crepe:  I love crepes!  And this cute little restaurant in Franklin delivers a ton of options that are pretty good.  I went for a breakfast type crepe, as well as a little dessert one to take away.  I'll definitely be heading back.

Molinari's:  I LOVE GARLIC.  This is probably the best Italian food I've found in the Franklin area, located in a strip mall in Cool Springs.  A coworker recommended this place, because she knows I love garlic.  The bread at Molinari's comes with TONS of minced garlic on it.  I'm talking a clove per roll, at least.  It's fantastic.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

An Evening with Anthony @Bourdain in #Nashville

When I heard Anthony Bourdain was coming to Nashville, I was so excited!  I've actually posted on this blog about him a few times before.  He's got a new show coming to CNN that I'm enthusiastically anticipating.  (Maybe he can talk Anderson Cooper out of his Boston Market fixation?)
Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations really made me think differently about travel and food.  It actually made me a braver eater, so to speak.  While I still struggle with my aversion to vegetables, now there really isn't much I won't try at least once.  I learned to drink chai and eat Iraqi food in Baghdad, I indulged in suckling pig in Spain, ate escargot and frog's legs in France, tasted lobster and crab in Nova Scotia, all the while talking to the real people in the area and engaging them.

Anyways, I bought VIP tickets for Duke and me to not only attend Mr. Bourdain's hilarious and insightful speaking engagement, but snag an autograph and photo as well.  (Oh, and the open bar VIP reception with delicious food?  Awesome!)

We had such a good time.  Bourdain was just as candid as he is on his show, and I really felt like he is genuine with admitted hypocritical moments.  That's as real as it gets, and if you've ever read Kitchen Confidential, you know he understands the food world.  I also felt he presented a strong message on how to be a good guest in foreign cultures and what our gluttony for bad food is doing to America.  He speaks as well as he writes, and I enjoyed it wholeheartedly with lots of laughs.  There were definitely some obnoxious/rowdy folks in the crowd, as well as some pretentious chef-wannabes who used their Q&A opportunity to name drop and brag about who had the creepiest Bourdain-related tattoo... but it was all in good fun in the end.  I got to shake his hand, get my cookbook signed, and grab a photo with a personal food hero of mine.

Oh, and free booze.

P.S. My peplum dress is from Target..  :)

This was definitely one of the best date nights ever!

P.S.  We also bumped into Judith Hoag who was on Big Love (and a ton of other TV shows) and currently appears in Nashville.  I told her Duke has had a thing for her since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and she gave him a big hug.  She was super nice, and I recognized her right away.

P.P.S.  Bourdain's wife, Ottavia, is an MMA fighter.  They rock.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pittsburgh


Primanti Bros.
My boyfriend Duke is from Pittsburgh...  and I recently visited there for the first time!  Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy due to Hurricane Sandy, but it was a great trip.  I finally got to meet a bunch of his family and friends.

We ate delicious stacked sandwiches at Primanti Bros., checked out the dinosaurs and artwork at Carnegie Museum, saw a couple of movies (Argo=good, Silent Hill=horrible), and spent time with different folks.  I even had my first metal band experience at a local bar!

I had a lot of fun, but it was also nice to relax a bit.  I travel so much for work, it was nice to take some real time off.  :)


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