Saturday, November 30, 2013

Budgeting Bloggers: November 2013

It is time for Fran's Budgeting Bloggers again!  I was back at $150 as my goal for the month (no gift money this time!) so I thought really hard about what I wanted to purchase for November.  I had a few needs that stuck out to me from my wishlist last month, so I wanted to find items that fit the bill.

That said, I ended up with a lot of shoes and a lot of BLACK this month.  I have to admit I love black.  I had some big-ticket Poshmark sales (I think people are holiday shopping already) and made some big donations that gave me space in both my budget and my closet.  But then I bought a party dress... and busted the budget.

  1. Members Only Quilted Vegan Leather Moto Jacket (originally $99, paid $65):  This jacket in black happened to be on sale in my size online at Urban Outfitters.  I got it for $59, but paid tax on it bringing the total to $65.  I wanted something to layer over my outfits in the fall when it wasn't cold enough for a wool peacoat.
  2. Dr. Scholls Bethany Wedge Bootie (originally $100, paid $58):  I found the wishlist  Timberland Savin Hill Tall Boot for under $100 on Amazon...  but the calf was too tight.  Then I ordered the Coconuts Canda Wide Calf Riding Boot from DSW and these wedge booties to try on to get the two-pair promo deal, plus I had free shipping and a reward cert.  I figured I'd try them on and return them.  Well, I ended up not loving the Coconut boots (wrong style/color for me) and deciding to keep these!  They were less pricey than my Toms, which I was looking to buy in black for a second pair.  I actually think I prefer these; the Dr. Scholls insole is SO comfortable!  But I'm still on the hunt for brown leather riding boots with a wide calf and rubber sole around $100.
  3. Payless Women's Felix Flat (originally $25, paid $10):  Every year I toss my stinky flats out and replace them.  Always from Payless.  I just haven't found another brand that fits as well (the American Eagle line) and doesn't give me blisters.  I have these identical flats that I replaced during a BOGO sale with promo code.
  4. Payless Women's Fantasy Flat ($20):  Another pair of black flats, because I live in them!  This is a different style from what I normally get, more on trend.
  5. Everlane Snap Backpack ($70 with shipping):  I originally planned to get this bag in Burgundy, but then I decided that Hunter was more versatile.  I still debate as to whether I should have gone with Burgundy, but I absolutely love the bag.  I wanted a bag that could tote a laptop but with a classic look.  My current work bag is very techie and branded, and this serves as my MBA bag.  It's HUGE and durable.
  6. Old Navy Embellished Sweatshirts (originally $30 each, paid $20 each):  I've been looking for some warmer tops to wear in the office (I swear we still have A/C on) but comfort is a plus.  Embellished sweatshirts seem to be very "in" right now, so I snagged these on sale from Old Navy.  With the sale price, promo code, and shipping/tax, they came to $20 each.  Lisa at Respect the Shoes has one of these and it looks super on her!
  7. Eliza J Dot Mesh Bodice Fit & Flare Dress ($158+$15 in stupid TN taxes):  ERMAGHERD.  This may be the most favoritest dress I have ever bought in my LIFE.  I also tried another Eliza J that was a Facebook favorite of my friends, but this one just made me swoon.  I want to wear it all the time.  It makes me feel like Joan and Betty from Mad Men rolled into one.  I want to be buried in this dress.  It was not on sale, nope nope nope.  Taxes killed on this one, but shipping was free.  It's the little things.
$436 - $278 Poshmark/Blog = $158
Total Savings = $111

I was over budget for the first time EVER on Budgeting Bloggers!  Womp womp...  but $8 isn't terrible, right?  Especially since I've been under every other month.  I blame the tax on that splurge dress!

If you're shocked you don't see Black Friday deals, don't worry, I did shop! But I went with Mom so every single clothing item (mostly from LOFT!) ended up as a Christmas gift I will receive next month. My one big Black Friday purchase (hint, it's kate spade) won't ship until December so I am counting it next month.

Now that I've been doing Budgeting Bloggers for a while, I'm starting to think that I like how Fran has switched to a quarterly budget.  While hers was more for scholarship reasons, my reasons are more for the sake of wanting to make investment purchases vs. fitting everything to a smaller price per month.  So starting in January, I plan to move to a $500 quarterly budget.

Also, no wishlist this month!  It is the Christmas shopping season after all, so no doubt here will be lots of "free" items in the form of gifts here next month, plus some irresistible deals.

Don't forget to check out what the rest of the Budgeting Bloggers bought!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

30 Days of Thankful

I've been posting these a few at a time on my personal Facebook page, but decided that it would be worth sharing too.  After all, it's not happy people that are thankful, but thankful people that are happy!  Even though it's the 28th, I'm posting all thirty on Thanksgiving Day.

I am thankful for...
  1. wonderful partner who knows when I need a hug or tomato soup. Also knows when that tomato soup requires a breadbowl.
  2. ...the wonderful ladies I met at the DAR Juniors Retreat this weekend, who reminded me of the importance of sisterhood.
  3. ...the same-sex couples who broke down barriers in the past year to be married at our alma mater, West Point. So proud to KNOW these trailblazers! Love is love is love.
  4. ...Weight Watchers and WW coworkers, which have helped me hit 10 lbs. lost this year from my highest. I had to find a belt today because my (fairly new) pants are falling down.
  5. awesome job.  Sure, it keeps me very busy, and sometimes it's very stressful... but it is a great place to work, a good living, and someplace I don't want to leave anytime soon.
  6. ...Franklin, Tennessee.  I seriously love this town.  It's the first place I've lived as an adult that I feel is home, and I haven't even been here two years.
  7. parents.  My Mom sent me a note the other day, about how someone she knew just lost their newborn baby.  She told me how thankful she was to see us grow into adults... but I'm thankful that I've had my parents with me as I've grown.
  8. ...Wolf Bear.  He is the devil and an angel in one, but it's so nice to have someone greet me at the door every day, get so excited just because I woke up, and be the best snuggle buddy!
  9. weather so I can finally wear my favorite boots.  I'm beginning to think fall weather really is my absolute favorite.
  10. friends.  Whether long distance or local, I am proud to have such a diverse group of people to call my tribe.  It also makes me feel special to always have a full dance card when I can steal away from work/school.  I'm not the most naturally social person; my chatterbox nature is more of a nervous reflex.  I'm glad to have found people who understand that!
  11. ...The 11th was Veterans Day, and it made me thankful for all those who served before me, with me, and will serve after me.  We alone know what we've been through.
  12. ...blogging.  I know, dorky.  But the hour or so a week that I spend writing and maintaining my little corner of the Internet is cathartic and fun.  It's a nice escape and place to get my thoughts out.
  13. maids.  Seriously, I think I have to thank them every year, for cleaning my bathrooms and kitchen.  I just don't get to it, and those twice-monthly visits are the best days to come home from work because the apartment SPARKLES.
  14. ...Honeycrisp apples.  They are my favorite part of fall, and I'm thankful these delicious miracles exist to help me eat healthier.
  15. ...laughter.  The sound of it, the people who make me laugh, the things that make me laugh...  We all need to be glass half full and spend more time laughing in general.
  16. ...Beer.  Because it makes Dan happy, pays the bills, and is a really fun industry to be a peripheral part of.  I have to admit, it's better than I thought it was. :)
  17. sister, who I take for granted and who apparently wanted to appear earlier in this list!  She may be far away, but she is an important part of my life.  I am thankful that we can both be so very different but come back to the same love of family.
  18. MBA classmates, who help answer my questions, support me, and make classes more engaging and fun.  I have two specific buddies from my case study group in August that help me a ton, and I really appreciate them!
  19. ...Asheville, North Carolina.  Duke and I have been there together twice now, and between the Biltmore, craft beers/breweries, and amazing restaurants, it's our special getaway together.
  20. ... Kaelah and Mike at Him & Honey Photo, good local friends who helped us take the photos that we ended up putting on our Christmas card!  It's so hard to get photos of us as a couple, and this couple uses real film to capture those moments.  Love it.
  21. ...Minted, for once again helping us put together a holiday card that we love.  Their graphic designers actually helped edit the template to make it more fitting to us, and they are so responsive.
  22. ...good health.  I just am, and rightly so.
  23. ...Facebook, and I'm not embarrassed about it.  I love connecting and reconnecting with people, and even this imperfect social medium is a fantastic way to do it.
  24. friends who still serve in the military.  I'm happy my military time is over, but I still worry about the safety of my friends.
  25. ...pumpkin pie.  Because it reminds me of Grandma.
  26. ...growing up.  It's a privilege to grow older, never a given.  Each year that passes I feel a little bit closer to liking myself, and a little bit closer to understanding what drives me and where I want to be.
  27. ...things.  Things are not important, but the more I see of the world, the more I realize I absolutely take for granted.  So I am thankful for the things that give me the comfortable life that I have.  Things like a car, air conditioning/heat, a refrigerator, electricity, even TV... because others go without so much.
  28. ...Apple.  Because I'm an Apple addict, and their stuff just makes me happy and makes sense.  Thanks for a great user interface!
  29. ...vacation days.  It's a luxury many don't get, and they keep me sane.
  30. ...being closer to home.  It's the first time in a decade that I've been driving distance from my parents, and I try my best to take advantage of it.  Very excited to be home with them for this holiday.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wild Ginger

My friend S was passing through with her friend J (Army life!) and crashed with me and Duke for a night.  Since they arrived in time for supper, us girls went to Wild Ginger for some Asian fare.

I heard about Wild Ginger from friends and coworkers, mainly because it's a very upscale sushi restaurant where a lot of local celebrities come through...  Celine Dion, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Taylor Swift, even the occasional rapper.  We spotted someone who looked familiar and possibly famous, but couldn't figure it out.  Oh well.

We started with an order of Tokyo gyoza, pan-seared pork and vegetable dumplings.  I don't eat much seafood, so these are my Asian fusion standby!  They were sooooo delicious, some of the best I've had.  We also got an order of their Bombay calamari.  I don't usually eat calamari, but when I tried these I was blown away.  The batter tasted like a funnel cake, and the squid was better than I expected.  The mango chili sauce that went with it was great too.

Gyoza and Calamari... after we'd already munched on a few!
S got the Scottish salmon on the Hot Rock Ishiyaki Grill.  I've never seen this before!  The server came out with a super-hot rock (seriously, don't touch it) that we seared the raw tuna on before eating.  At the table!  The sizzling sound was awesome.  The salmon also came with three sauces: chipotle garlic cream, horseradish aioli, and sambal mustard ponzu.  S & J split the salmon and a sushi, which was a HUGE roll.  While the prices at Wild Ginger are fairly expensive, the portions and presentation definitely make up for it.

Scottish salmon on Ishiyaki stone
Look, I'm boring when I'm at a new restaurant.  I like getting something I know will be a sure thing.  I chose the wok dish Honey Sake Glazed Chicken.  It was HUGE (I could only finish half of it) and soooo good.  The chicken was juicy and crispy, and I didn't need to add anything to the dish.

At the end of the meal, S & J insisted on treating me to dinner (TOO GENEROUS!  They also gifted me some gourmet coffee from Hawaii.) so I must include this photo of us at the end here.  I love living in Tennessee because so many people pass through that I get to see.  S and I hadn't seen each other in six years, but it was like we'd never skipped a beat.  I'm so thankful to have such great Army buddies to reconnect with when the opportunity arises.

Me, S, & J

Wild Ginger on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 22, 2013

My Life in GIFs, Vol. 1

As I've been spending some time lately catching up with old friends, conversations have led to a lot of  questions.  It made me want to do a blog post of GIFs, based on where I am in my life right now.  Snark alert, BTW.  Sorry not sorry.  Because GIFs.  I think I'm going to do this more often.

When people ask me what caused my divorce, I want to be like...

When my conservative friends find out I have a live-in boyfriend, they're like...

When my married friends ask me when I'm going to get engaged, they want me to be like...


But really, I'm like...

When they talk about how meaningless life was before their husband/children, I'm like...

When I tell them that I'll probably have a kid before I get married, they're like...

When people ask me if I'm enjoying my post-Army career, I'm like...

And when people who don't get me tell me that I should spend less time blogging
and more time in the "real world", I'm like...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Gray's on Main

When I first moved to Franklin, I quickly fell in love with its charming downtown... think Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls!  But one of the big eyesores was an old pharmacy called Gray's.  It was boarded up and not open for anything, though its sign was still intact.  This year, the space was renovated and opened as a multi-story restaurant.

It has an awesome restored feel, with a stage in the second story space for a band.  It opened in August to huge fanfare (seriously, they shut down Main Street) and its neon sign is a local icon.

I've been to two events at Gray's, and what has impressed me most is its craft cocktails.  They have some that are very strong (not fruity cocktails) and everything is just beautifully done.  Mixology at its finest!

On my most recent visit, I found my new favorite: the Mae Love Mule.  It's basically a Moscow Mule, but the Gray's version is Batavia Arrack, Belle de Brillet pear, lime, and Fever Tree ginger beer.  It was simultaneously delicious and refreshing!  I love how it's served in the traditional copper mug too.

Mae Love Mule
I've heard mixed reviews about the food at Gray's (some say it has changed and improved a lot since the place opened) but I know the menu changes seasonally.  It's always tough when you're facing the opening crowds in Williamson County!  The only time I've eaten there thus far, we had a buffet of delicious things to choose from.  I loved the fried green tomatoes, steak, and wild rice.  Everything was tasty, including dessert.  I haven't found a bite I didn't think was yummy!  I'd love to come back and choose some shareables off their menu.

It's a uniquely Franklin spot, and definitely a place I'll bring my family when we're walking around downtown.

Some buffet offerings
Update 2/9/2014:  I went back to Gray's for dinner with a friend, and the food was AMAZING.  The Chicken & Waffles rocks, and the Fried Pimiento Cheese is still a solid favorite.  I love the small plates (portioned into four "servings") to share.  I was more impressed with the food and service at my most recent visit.  Here's a photo:

Gray's on Main on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Basil Bistro

One of my coworkers is a huge fan of Thai food, and he always gets takeout from Basil Bistro.  When I told him that I've only been to a Thai restaurant once (and ordered a non-Thai dish) he insisted we go for lunch.

Why haven't I jumped on the Thai wagon?  Mostly because I'm not a fan of peanut, coconut, or sweet flavors in Asian style dishes.  Well, I do like some sweet, like honey sauces, but not a sugary sweet taste.  My initial impressions of Thai food, based on limited experience, were that these flavors dominated.

At Basil, I decided to go with a wonton soup to start, for two reasons... One, it was a cold day.  Two, I wanted to order something I knew I'd like just in case!

Wonton Soup
For my main dish, I actually saw a lot of things on Basil's menu that looked yummy.  But I decided on Chicken Pad Thai, minus the peanuts.  The portion was HUGE, and we were at lunch!  It was like a neverending bowl of delicious chicken and noodles.  I liked the dish, though it was a little sweet for my taste.  I really liked the bite of my friend's Pad See Ew, so if I go back I will try that dish.  (I love soy sauce.)  I ate until I was stuffed, and there was still half a bowl left!

I enjoyed Basil.  They have good service, generously sized portions, and they offer a vast selection, including sushi!  I would not hesitate to return, even though I'm not completely sold on Thai food as a favorite yet.

Basil Asian Bistro on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Straight No Chaser, 2nd Year!

Straight No Chaser came back to the Ryman, so friend VB and I decided to anniversary last year's outing and got 3rd row seats in the Mother Church.  I love the Ryman.  I don't go to many concerts, mainly because I can't understand paying so much money to be in an arena where I can barely see the act.  At the Ryman, it's such an intimate venue; even the "cheap seats" have great exposure to what's going on.

SNC actually had an opening act this time, Caroline Glaser.  She was on Season 4 of The Voice apparently, and she has a great soulful voice.  Kind of a younger Nora Jones thing going on.  It's been a while since I've heard such a good voice live that didn't sound overproduced.  I'm interested in seeing if she makes it big.

SNC had a great show.  They had some old favorites for sure, but I loved the new mash-ups like Blurred Lines.  They are hilarious and talented and entertaining... even if you *think* you're too cool for the awesome sound of a cappella.

Our only complaint?  We wish the 2nd set was longer (of course) and that we got more Christmas music.  Though in retrospect, last year's concert was in December... so maybe that's why we got so much Christmas stuff vs. this year.

They always take some photos of the crowd... can you spot my dorkiness waving amidst the middle-agers?  Ha!  Where's Waldo Aubrey?  And do you see the guy that looks like Santa Claus too?

The show was amazing as expected.  I just can't understand how they can make such awesome music with just their voices.  A cappella takes such a good ear, talent, and more... you gotta give them props, people.  It's better than Pitch Perfect.

P.S.  I am super proud SNC started in my hometown of Bloomington, Indiana!  I always yell a "Go Hoosiers!" during the show at some point.  Because I'm an uber nerd.

P.P.S.  Pentatonix (of The Sing-Off!) are coming to the Ryman in March and we already have our tickets!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Seoul Garden

I've reviewed one of Nashville's Korean restaurants, Korea House, but have been wanting to try the other for a while.  Seoul Garden is actually closer to where I live than Korea House, but both restaurants are very different!  Since people always ask me about local Korean restaurants, I felt I needed to experience both to offer a solid reco.

I was fortunate to be joined by the beautiful foodies Lauren and Lauren for dinner, of Lladybird and Old Red Boots respectively.

I liked that Seoul Garden had the cooktop tables I'm used to seeing in Korean restaurants that serve BBQ.  There is a two-order minimum on BBQ to sit there, but we knew we wanted MEAT!  We started with some steamed mandu dumplings, and they served the requisite banchan small plates.


For our BBQ, we ordered my favorite kalbi beef ribs, as well as spicy pork dwaeji gogi.  I felt like they were a bit stingy on the kalbi, but they provided an ample plate of the pork.  There was even enough for leftovers.  Both were tasty, but I'm all about Korean BBQ beef, so if I came back I might ask for double if I'm sharing.

We also ordered bibimbap, the dolsot version in the stone pot.  My sister and Mom don't like the stone pot version as much, but Lauren loved how the rice got crispy where it touched the pot.  I agree that it made it even yummier!

We enjoyed cooking our meat at the table, and everything tasted great.  The service wasn't that great once our meat was cooked, but there was a decent crowd for a weeknight.

The best part about Korean food is that it is shared.  We ordered three entrees, but we all ate bits and pieces of everything.

Overall, I'd say that I like both of Nashville's Korean restaurants.  Both are authentic, though not the same as what you'd experience in major Korean hubs like New York and L.A.

There are things on the menu at Korea House that they don't have at Seoul Garden, and the price is a bit more reasonable.  But for the cooktop experience, I do enjoy Seoul Garden's setup.  They have more seating as well, and Korea House had a wait the last time we visited.  I'd say that if you want laid back dining with a lot of selection (like casual dish dokbokki), choose Korea House.  If you want BBQ cooked at your table with a hungry larger group, go Seoul Garden.  I think my mother would approve of both (and already likes Korea House) but would choose KH for the prices any day.

Seoul Garden Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 8, 2013


Our team at work wanted to do a fun group activity, so we went out to the Kingston Springs (near Foggy Bottom where I canoed with Mom and Sissy) to Adventureworks.

Adventureworks is in the middle of the woods, featuring a ropes course, aerial trekking, ziplining, etc.  Basically things I am afraid of.  I have an irrational fear of heights.  Still, after watching my teammates climb this 35-foot pole (with the goal of standing on top of it and jumping to ring a bell) I had to do my best to climb.  I made a goal of going up halfway, not wanting to embarrass myself

Well, I got to the top, but looked down (dizzying!) and couldn't bring myself to try to stand!  But I did get to the top in the end.  The team was cheering me on, so it felt good to let go and let the harness catch me.  :)

I really liked the zipline course.  While I'm afraid of heights, ziplining feels more secure to me.  I'm afraid of falling more than anything, so ziplining and its speed/momentum don't freak me out as much.  It was a good time!

We had a tasty lunch afterwards at South Street in midtown.  We noshed on chips and dip to start, after burning a ton of energy and calories during the morning at Adventureworks.  I decided to have the pulled chicken as my meal, with a side of homemade tater tots.  Those tater tots were AMAZING.  They taste more like risotto balls or something.  They were soft but crispy, and super delicious.  I'd go back there just to eat those tots.

I felt like the service was extremely slow, but then again it was a weekday afternoon, after the lunch rush.  So maybe they were short-staffed.  No matter, though, as the food made up for it!

South Street Original Crab Shack & Authentic Dive Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Local Taco

I wanted to head north to Brentwood in search of Honeycrisp apples at Fresh Market (my favorite) so Duke and I grabbed lunch at nearby Local Taco on a Sunday afternoon.

I was excited to see they had a brunch menu until 3pm on weekends, because I love eggs in flour tortillas!  I often order Mexican egg burritos or huevos chorizo for lunch or dinner at different restaurants, depending on what they offer.

Duke had three tacos, the Local BBQ, Grilled Steak, and Portabella.  He gave them a 3 for 3 in terms of awesomeness, which is a lot coming from him!  The steak was probably his favorite.

I chose two brunch tacos, a Southern fried chicken one and a traditional breakfast taco, which featured chorizo, cheese, eggs, and a great curry-flavored red sauce.  I also had a side of their potato hash, but it was a little too greasy to be appetizing to me.  Still, I devoured those tacos!

We also had chips and queso on the side.

I definitely think we will be back, because I didn't even get to taste anything on the regular menu.  So many unique offerings!  The portion size was perfect for me, and we both really felt it was a yummy meal.

Local Taco on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bubbles! Sodastream

Duke and I drink way too many cans of La Croix sparkling water.  And since our complex doesn't do recycling except for cardboard, I feel like we waste these cans and boxes every week.  We'd talked about a Sodastream for a while, and recently we took the plunge.


I love it!!!  We got the Yves Behar-designed model (very sleek) and it's something you can leave on the counter or stow away; it doesn't have to be near an outlet to work, since it's just the little carbonating tank doing the work.  I like plain sparkling water with a little squirt of lemon or lime juice, and this makes bottles of it for me in seconds.

Duke can't wait to experiment and make things like mint ginger ale.  I'm just glad we aren't wasting as much!  I don't think Sodastream really saves you that much money or anything, but sparkling water with a hint of flavor truly gets me to drink more and stay hydrated.  So I think it's worth it just in that regard.

And bubbles.  Bubbles!
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