Monday, November 30, 2015

Budgeting Bloggers: November 2015

I was a shopaholic this month, to be sure!  I couldn't resist sales, deals, etc.  Here's what I got...

  1. Monogrammed Leather Clutch/Crossbody Bag ($27 + $10 monogram):  I was in my favorite local gift store, Silver Steer & Co., and I noticed their monogrammed leather clutches and bags.   I have been looking for a black clutch, and I figured having an added monogram would be extra nice.  Feels good to shop local, too!
  2. Earrings and Necklace from Silver Steer & Co. ($11 and $20):  I purchased these, with a 10% discount, at the Christmas Reveal Party for the store.  I loved having another version of a tassel necklace to wear as a statement piece!
  3. Everyday I'm Hustlin' Pouch from Silver Steer & Co. ($17):  Another 10% discount purchase.  I used small pouches like these in my purse to hold little miscellaneous things like Chapstick, ponytails, etc. to make it easier to transfer items from purse to purse.
  4. eShakti Dresses ($90 for three: teal jersey, black retro, plaid; originally $165 total):  I purchased five dresses from eShakti during a Buy 3, Get 2 Free sale.  I stacked the sale with a gift coupon and discount code, so each dress averaged out to $30 each with shipping.  I returned two of the dresses in the end.
(not pictured)
  • Stitch Fix Mixed Media Top ($38 after credits):  Check out my Stitch Fix recap here.
  • Large Leather Bag via Etsy ($180):  As you might recall, I've been looking for an alternative to my beloved Madewell transport tote that has a zipper over the top but still fits my laptop and binders.  (My Madewell bag was a purchase following a search to something that reminded me of an old Longchamp, but more durable.)  I found a leather shop on Etsy in Spain that would customize a large black leather bag to have brown handles and cross-body strap.  The price was comparable to a Madewell tote or Longchamp bag, but with the features, materials, and colors I wanted.  The shop also had rave reviews!  I can't recall ever spending this much on a non-designer bag, but it really felt like an opportunity to have the best work/everyday tote possible with my difficult-to-please specs/requirements.  I was nervous ordering it without holding/feeling it beforehand.  (Sorry no photos yet, I blame Thanksgiving.)  Here's a picture of an all-black version, just imagine mine with brown straps.

  • LuLaRoe Amelia Dress ($58):  I will review all of the LuLaRoe pieces here soon! 
  • LuLaRoe Leggings (2 for $42)
  • LuLaRoe Cassie Skirt ($30)

$479 spent -  $103 sold = $376 total spent
$105 savings

Total 2015 YTD Spending: H1 $970 + Q3 $368 + October $196 + November $376 = $1910

Also, here are a few outfit photos from warmer weather days last month...

Don't forget to check out the rest of Fran's Budgeting Bloggers here,
and shop my Poshmark closet!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Pumpkin Cheesecake (and Thanksgiving!)

When I cook for work, everyone wants me to make my strawberry cake or baked macaroni & cheese.  And it's great to be appreciated for those things, but sometimes I just want to try something new!  So I volunteered to make the dessert for my family's small Thanksgiving gathering (we do a bigger family shindig later), with a Pumpkin Cheesecake in mind.

Dan loves the holiday cheesecakes from The Cheesecake Factory, so I wanted to do something similar.  He prefers both the Pumpkin and the Pumpkin Pecan cheesecakes, but I decided to go with the former due to simplicity.  I used this recipe, but ran into a couple of SNAFUs of my own doing along the way, with typical Aubrey solves.

First off, I have three springform pans, but I don't have a roasting pan yet.  So when it came to figuring out a bain marie (water bath) I had to use my 8" springform with a large rectangular cake pan, instead of a 10".  That meant I made a lot of crust and filling.  So I decided to make some mini cheesecakes in a muffin pan, to gift to my friend Lindsey.  Problem solved!

Mixing the ingredients for the filling in my Kitchenaid is always my favorite part!  I used vanilla bean paste from a local shop instead of vanilla extract... I just think it's better, and I love seeing the vanilla bean specks.

It looked so perfect going into the oven!  You can see how I wrapped the springform pan in foil and placed it in a cake pan to serve as a bain marie.  I added the boiling water once the pan was placed in the oven.

So then I cooked everything according to the instructions, but I didn't watch carefully enough!  I ended up with a brown crust on top.  I wonder if I should have wrapped foil over the top?  Any advice?  The top part was elevated and almost separating from the cheesecake, so I used a spatula to lift the brown part off.  Problem solved, again!  (Dan ate the brown crust and said it was tasty.  No waste!)

Before and after the brown crust removal

I added some honey roasted pecan bits (shortcut: used the kind that can be used to top salads) and then whipped cream for serving.  You could use the whipped cream to decorate the top, but I let people add it as they wished.

To me, it tasted like pumpkin pie and cheesecake combined in the best way.  I think I would have preferred a pie crust to the graham cracker crust, but that's just me!  I'm no longer afraid to make cheesecake now which is both delightful and dangerous.

I hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving!
I have another meal ahead with our extended family, but Dan and I joined my parents and cousin for a delicious dinner.  Since there was a small group, we made a turkey breast, and I carved it!  We had a great spread, with the cheesecake as the dessert event.  Yummy all-around.  We also went to the movies, because that is a Thanksgiving night tradition for my family! XOXO!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Out & About in Nashville & Franklin

I've been out and about more in town, and trying new places!  Dan and I have made an effort to try things on our list, and we've had get-togethers with friends and things too.  Here are a few spots I've tried lately...

We went to The Hop Stop in East Nashville for my friend's going-away night out.  They had a fantastic beer selection on tap, and we also indulged in their hot dogs for dinner.  I'm kind of a plain hot dog person... I like a really good dog with just ketchup.  I liked theirs a lot!  I also indulged in their shells and cheese, which were very tasty too.  Not the best mac in town, but a great accompaniment to the hot dog.

The Hop Stop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dan and I also visited a new brewery in East Nashville, Smith & Lentz.  They opened around Halloween, and they make solidly good beer.  Their taproom is huge, and you can even play ping pong!  Check them out across the street from The Filling Station.

Dan works in The Gulch neighborhood of Nashville, so he's been eating at Peg Leg Porker for a while.  I was in the neighborhood for work, so I indulged in a delicious BBQ sandwich, with delicious crispy fries.  It's not as good as Edley's to me, but definitely someplace I'd come back to if I were in the Gulch and craving it.

Peg Leg Porker Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lastly, I checked out the new-ish Roosters Hot Chicken place in Cool Springs.  It's pretty good!  I really like their fries, and they did a great job with the chicken.  Not too greasy, and good spice.  The restaurant used to be an Indian place called Swagruha, if you're looking for it.  It's probably some of the best hot chicken in Franklin, since Hattie B's hasn't expanded south yet.   The restaurant isn't much to look at on the inside; it will remind you of a barren cafeteria.  But the food is worth checking out if that's what you're wanting to eat, and you don't have time to get up to Nashville.

What looks yummy to you?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Silver Steer & Co.

I often post about shopping, but I don't often post about where I shop.  I've been so in love with Silver Steer & Co. lately, I just had to give it a mention here!  Silver Steer is a gift and decor store near my office, located in a mess of strip malls... but it's magical.

They had a Christmas reveal party, and look at the line!

When I'm shopping for gifts, this is the first place in Franklin that I go.  Their assortment of locally made goodies is just awesome, and they have a lot of Southern-themed items too.  They change their assortment frequently, and seasonally.

Right now, they're Christmas central of course.  I love that they have so many cheeky items to deck your halls, wear, or gift.  If I can buy you a gift from here, I usually do!

Their Christmas reveal party also had drinks and bites... including seasonal breads made from Soberdough mixes (a local beer bread mix company) and some pies from a new pie spot opening soon nearby, Buttermilk Sky.

I picked up quite a few items at the party!  I got 10% off my purchase, so I picked up some earrings I'd had my eyes on for a month, a tassel necklace (because look at it), a pouch that says "Every Day I'm Hustlin'" which lives in my purse, and a cross-body/wristlet purse monogrammed with my initials.  You can pick a bag from their collection and they will send it to be monogrammed, which a ton of options at your disposal!

We also have a "Hey Y'all" sign above our guest bed from Silver Steer, and some candles too!  Dan thinks the sign is obnoxious, but I love it.  I've lived in the South for 7+ years now, so I'm down with it.  And their candles?  Just wonderful.  They have seasonal candles too, and right now I'm loving Cinnamon Fireball.

If you're ever near Franklin, you should definitely check this place out.  It's not in the historic downtown area, but it's worth a stop on your way back to the interstate!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Review: Green BEAN Delivery

Disclosure: I received a $35 credit to try Green BEAN Delivery in exchange for my honest review of the service.  All opinions are my own!  You can get a discount from them using the promo code in this post.

Green BEAN Delivery reached out to me about their produce delivery service available in my area.  I will tell you, I initially hesitated, because I'm not known for purchasing a lot of produce or healthy food, and when I do I often don't get to use everything.  That said, I was willing to give it a try, because I am trying to do more food prep and cooking at home.

Green BEAN Delivery is easy to use if you have any online shopping experience at all.  You schedule your deliveries, including the size of your bin.  For me, the Combo Bin was the one I preferred, because I could also add some grocery items beyond produce.

The store is easy to browse, and I really liked how picky you can be!  There are just two of us in our household, so being able to order just a couple of apples or potatoes appealed to me... no more 5-lb bags that take up my counter space!  There is a huge organic offering, and the produce is sourced as close to you as possible.

Your Green BEAN order comes in a reusable green plastic tote, with a styrofoam container within that with cool packs to ensure freshness.  My box as delivered on time and as promised!

My favorite thing about the products that arrived?  Freshness and quality of produce.  I sometimes used a grocery delivery service locally, but I'm always disappointed in the lack of care that goes into choosing the best produce for my order.  Everything from Green BEAN looked like it came from a farmer's market haul!  The apples and potatoes were in brown paper bags to minimize impact on other produce (they give off a gas, from what I've read), so I appreciated that care.

I think one of the best perks of using Green BEAN is that it really pushes you to plan your meals and snacks ahead of time.  This can benefit you financially in terms of sticking to a budget (no impulse purchases in-store!) as well as encourage healthier eating.  I have a MAJOR takeout food habit, and it was doing my waistline no favors.  With my Green BEAN delivery, I felt pushed to use the produce and cook.

I packed healthy snacks for work, added BBQ pulled pork to some delicious baked potatoes, had breakfast wraps (using tortillas and avocado from my bin) and fresh apples, and even made my orange chicken using fresh juice and slices from oranges in the bin.

The only thing I did not like about Green BEAN was the bin itself... you leave it out when you place your next order, and they swap it in for the new one.  But since I live in an apartment, having to keep the bin someplace was a little bit of a predicament.  Where to put it???

Overall, I found that Green BEAN Delivery would be perfect for someone trying to plan their meals, stay on a budget, and perhaps is a bit too busy to hunt down fresh, local produce at the farmer's market or local stores.  This solves for all of those situations, and it's really very easy to do!

Interested in trying Green BEAN?  You can use the code "Aubreyland" to get $15 off your first order!  (It expires 2/16/2016.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

24 Hours in Tampa

24 hours with Anna is never enough.  But we certainly know how to make the most of it!  Anna picked me up at the airport, and we headed for brunch at Cask Social Kitchen.  I was famished from the trip, so it was the perfect place to refuel.

I heart Anna!

We did enjoy some adult beverages, because brunch...  Anna had an amazing-looking Bloody Mary, while I had the Tito's Lemonade.  Yum!  We also enjoyed some fresh fruit with our meal, because it was just so gorgeous.

I had breakfast tacos for my main dish, and they were tasty too.  I think that breakfast wraps/tacos are pretty much perfection most of the time though.  I wish the cheese had melted a little more, but the pico de gallo was excellent.  Bacon was crispy too!

Cask Social Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After brunch, we headed back to Anna's to change for the beach at St. Petersburg.  I was like, "The beach, in October?!  Yes yes yes."  Floridians do get to appreciate the beach a lot.  We even saw a bunch of dolphins!  Seriously, a bunch!  So close!

Does it get any better than this, when you know it's chilly and rainy back home and you're in a swimsuit at the beach?

We enjoyed ourselves sunning and chatting, then headed home to change for dinner.  As you may have read in an earlier post, Anna arranged a dinner for us at Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City.  In anticipation of the big meal, we made sure to walk the entire Ybor City main drag before dinner for a little exercise.

The murals in Ybor City are gorgeous!  It's a historic neighborhood, founded in the 1880s by cigar manufacturers.  It has always been a diverse area, populated by thousands of immigrants, mainly from Cuba, Spain, and Italy while its cigar factories rolled cigars in the millions for years.

Remember that bread pudding we ate at Columbia Restaurant?  We ran it off the next morning!  We went on a 4-mile bayside run, watching the sun come up.  It was the most scenic run I'd had in ages, and being along the water was so nice.

There was a pirate ship too... a running selfie was a must at that point!  Sorry not sorry.

After the run, we grabbed miss Ellie (Anna's dog) and walked to Piquant for breakfast outside.  I can't say no to French (or French-inspired) eats.  And if you're sitting outside, there's a "pooch" menu for your pups!

Knowing this was my last meal with Anna before I headed back to the business trip grind, I had some delicious ham and Gruyere crepes with bechamel sauce.  I had them add a fried egg on top, because it was breakfast.  They did a really great job, and I would love to come back for more French fare.

And Ellie loved her hard-boiled egg!  Love a restaurant that allows you to bring your dog along for the fun.

Piquant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
I had the most incredible 24 hours with Anna!  I can't believe everything that we saw, ate, drank, and just overall ENJOYED when we were together.  It's so nice to be able to travel, but it's even nicer to be able to see good friends along the way too.
(P.S.  Sorry about the left and center justification inconsistency.  I tried multiple times to fix the alignment, but Blogger was spiteful so I just gave up!)
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