Always Aubrey: July 2015

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Budgeting Bloggers: July 2015

I'd originally planned to only do Stitch Fix in July, but then I forgot to defer my Fabletics for the month and it just went out the window!  I also went to TJ Maxx one day on my lunch hour and found a few tops to add to my (shrinking) closet.  I am looking for more work tops to wear with my blazers and cardigans, as I've been turning my closet upside down and getting rid of TONS of things.


  1. Stitch Fix Papermoon Localli Mixed Material Top & Dear John Cuffed Shorts (originally $102, paid $27):  I covered this in my Stitch Fix recap, but I got a great shirt and shorts for $27, which I consider a steal because I had some credits thanks to readers and friends who signed up using my referral link!
  2. Fabletics Aruba Wrap Top II and Salar Legging ($60):  I forgot to defer my month of Fabletics, so I had to buy an outfit... it's the first time this has happened since I joined well over a year ago!  I decided I could use another pair of good black leggings, and the top felt like a good lounge-around-the-house top.
  3. Japna Mustard Blouse (tag price $58, $20 via TJ Maxx)
  4. Japna B&W Top (tag price $18, $13 via TJ Maxx)
  5. Calvin Klein B&W Top (tag price $39, $20 via TJ Maxx)

$140 spent - $112 sold = $28 total spent
$137 savings

Total 2015 Net Spending: Q1 $616 + Q2 $354 + July $28 = $998

The thing I'm most proud of for July is the bags and bags I've either donated or trashed from my closet.  I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and while I think the author is certifiably a Looney Tune, it did inspire me to take a look at my closet and PURGE.  As is, I now have 40 empty hangers, tons more space, rearranging the closets and cabinets in my whole apartment, you name it.  The thing that I like is how she has you touch or hold every item and think, "Does this bring me joy?"  And while I don't necessarily hold a pair of socks and think that, I do think, "Why do I have those ancient, crappy socks in my drawer when I bought new ones a few months back?"  So much to Dan's annoyance, I've been tearing up the apartment reorganizing and purging and moving things around on him.

As for my clothes, I feel like that means I have better handle on what's actually in my closet.  I mailed off my rarely-worn business suits and dresses (minus a couple) to some college friends who could actually fit in them and use them.  I've already made one Goodwill run and I've got enough stuff for another.  It feels wacky, but really liberating.  When's the last time you did a major cleanup/closet purge?

Don't forget to visit the rest of Fran's Budgeting Bloggers at the linkup here.

In case you're interested in anything I'm selling in my Poshmark closet,
check out my widget for a peek!




Monday, July 20, 2015

Taking a little break...

Whether you've noticed or not, things have been a little quieter!  I'm only a couple of weeks out from the wedding, slammed with work and MBA homework, and I think it's time to log off for a bit and focus on a few offline priorities.

image source

I'll be back post-wedding, hopefully with TONS of photos too!  And my July Budgeting Bloggers post and all that.  Don't forget about me!



Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Casual Dining in Grand Rapids

I was back in beautiful Michigan for work in June, and I'm just now getting to recap the delicious, casual bites I grabbed with my coworkers while I was there.  I usually dine at foodie/upscale restaurants during business meals, but this time I was treated to casual fare that was just as delicious.

Olive's Restaurant & Bar


Olive's was my favorite on this trip; we stopped there for lunch on my first day in town.  It was in an adorable district of town (I love East Grand Rapids), had a light interior and cute decor, and the menu, while small, appeared to be fresh and varied.  I decided to order the Crab Cakes off of the small plate menu, with a side of fries added.  This turned out to be the perfect casual lunch!  The crab cakes were perfect and very tasty.  The fries were just as crispy as I like them, with a soft inside.  It took a little while to get our food, but I'm assuming it's because everything was made to order.  All of my coworkers' meals looked just as fresh and delicious!  I'd definitely come back here again in a heartbeat.

Click to add a blog post for Olives Restaurant on Zomato



Brick Road Pizza Co.

For an easy pizza weeknight dinner, we went to Brick Road Pizza Co.  It was a casual place with a fantastic craft beer menu.  Michigan (especially Grand Rapids) has such a great craft beer scene, and the restaurants definitely celebrate that.  I liked that we could ask the waiter for thoughts on craft beer and he knew what he was talking about.  We ordered meatballs and cheesy bread as appetizers, and both were solidly good.  I ordered a personal-sized pizza and could not finish it!  The portions are huge; the calzone could easily feed two people.  Overall it was solidly good pizza and I have no complaints.  It was a fun meal.

Click to add a blog post for Brick Road Pizza on Zomato



Little Bangkok


I don't crave Thai food, mostly because I'm not a big fan of peanut and coconut flavors.  I wasn't excited when my coworkers wanted Thai food, but I went with it.  Little Bangkok exceeded my expectations!  I started with their peppery but delicious soup.  It reminded me of egg drop soup but with lots of black pepper.  I then had the Pad Noodle with chicken.  It was a garlicky sauce, with broccoli and onion and water chestnuts.  I was pleasantly surprised that I really liked it!  I would definitely come back to Little Bangkok on future trips.


Click to add a blog post for Little Bangkok on Zomato



Have you been to Grand Rapids?  Any favorite casual bites?


Monday, July 13, 2015

2015 DAR Continental Congress

This site is not an official NSDAR Web site, and the content contained herein does not necessarily represent the position of the NSDAR. The President General is the official spokesperson on issues that have not been addressed as policy of NSDAR.

Last month, I attended my first Continental Congress, the annual convention for the Daughters of the American Revolution, held in Washington, D.C.  (Read more about why I joined the DAR here!)


The events were split between a beautiful hotel and the DAR's Constitution Hall, with the White House about halfway in between.  I made the journey back and forth between the two daily, either by taxi or walking.  I also attended a couple of luncheons during that time, but mostly I was paging and fundraising for our DAR schools.  We worked long days, but it felt good to work hard for a good cause!

Beautiful scenery, and meeting up with my mentor

It definitely struck me how clean and beautiful D.C. is; I never thought about it much, but being in the heart of the city really reminded me of that!  I was able to see one of my longtime mentors (photo above) and roomed with another DAR mentor and my DAR BFF.

One of my favorite experiences was watching the Opening Night ceremonies with my chapter.  I'd worked too late into the evening to page the event, but I made it in time to watch the flag unfurl.  It was definitely a patriotic night!

Opening Night

There were a number of fellow Juniors from Tennessee as well, paging and experiencing the event too.  It made me really happy to see them at events!

Tennessee Juniors, of course my DAR BFF/roomie in there too!

One of the highlights of the events for me was winning one of the national essay contests.  I was honored to have leadership from both my state and chapter there to see me receive my certificate!

Receiving my certificate

The one downside to being super busy throughout the event is the lack of downtime to see friends in the area... but I learned quickly that you can make it work!  My old friend from middle/high school KB stopped to see me for a drink on her way home, and two families that I know from the Army came to meet me for some delicious Shake Shack, babies and all!

Friends and Shake Shack

Overall, it was an exhausting and exhilarating experience.  Truly a sleep-deprived blur... my feet hurt for a few days afterwards too!  But it was worth the money we raised for good causes, the fellowship with other Daughters, and seeing some beloved old friends.  I'll be back next year for sure!


Friday, July 10, 2015

Stitch Fix Review: 5th Fix

Disclosure:  I paid for my own Stitch Fix; all opinions are my own.  If you're interested in trying Stitch Fix, I'd love for you to use my referral link so I can get $25 towards my next Fix!




I switched my Stitch Fix to come every-other-month, to give my budget a break and to wear some items in my closet that aren't getting as much love.  So when this 5th Fix finally arrived, I was SUPER STOKED and excited to see what my stylist, Sydney, had picked for me.


Loveappella Montel Dress

I have three issues with the Loveappella Montel Dress that I received.  1)  The price is too high for a knit dress.  2)  My bra would expose itself with the back accent.  3)  It wasn't the best shape for me.  But I love the feel of the fabric, so I think my stylist is figuring out that I love comfy knits for sure.

Papermoon Localli Mixed Material Top, Dear John Lillie Cuffed Shorts
I'd pinned a lot of mixed material tops from Anthropologie for Sydney to look at, and she absolutely nailed it  with the Papermoon Localli Mixed Material Top.  It's soft, pretty, casual, and fun!  It was the piece I was most excited about.  DONE.

But when I got the Dear John Lillie Cuffed Shorts, I was not happy.  I'd told my stylist I wasn't interested in any bottoms, and I DON'T WEAR SHORTS.  I have "chub rub" issues and most shorts with an inseam long enough to prevent that make me look like a Mom.  Well, guess what... I now own a pair of shorts.  This stretchy denim shorts were soooo comfy, long enough for me, and they fit like a glove.  I can't believe I have SHORTS.  It looks like Sydney took a calculated risk sending these to me and nailed it.

Sweet Rain Galeno Mixed Material Top
The Sweet Rain Galeno Mixed Material Top was good in theory for me, but the white portion was too sheer.  Even with a cami underneath, it showed the white of the cami.  I didn't like that. If the white portion had been a t-shirt knit material, I'd have been tempted to keep it despite the stripes on top making my shoulders look a bit broad.


Papermoon Cresson Knit Top

Oh, I wanted to love the Papermoon Cresson Knit Top, quite possibly the softest and shirt known to man.  Comfort, comfort, comfort!  But there was a small snag in the material, and it made me think about what my cats might do to this beautiful shirt.  I wanted to keep it, but I was on the fence given the snaggability (new word I made up) of the knit.

Overall, I decided to keep two items that added up in cost to $102.  Minus the $20 styling fee and the $55 in credits (thank you!) I was sitting on, my total came to $27 out of pocket paid for the shorts and the top... not too shabby whatsoever!

Disclosure:  I paid for my own Stitch Fix; all opinions are my own.  If you're interested in trying Stitch Fix, I'd love for you to use my referral link so I can get $25 towards my next Fix!


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Weekend in Bloomington

Back in June, Dan and I headed home to Bloomington for my cousin's wedding and Father's Day weekend.  It was a quick trip, but Dan and I got to check out a couple of local spots before heading to Terre Haute for the festivities.

For lunch, we headed to Do: Asian Fusion Cuisine & Lounge for some Korean food.  Because I get to have Korean food in NYC and LA pretty much every year, it gets me on this Korean BBQ kick.  I've been working my way through some of the Korean spots in Bloomington when I get home, but I've yet to find one that nails it the way bigger city places do.


I really liked the ambiance of Do.  It was clean and kind of wooden-chic.  Since it was a weekend, they only served the Dinner menu; I wish they'd serve the lunch menu on weekends too!  We were given a salad (not my thing) and some miso soup to start.  We both ordered Bulgogi as our main dish.


I really liked the Bulgogi.  I felt like it was marinated better than a lot of places, and the portion size was adequate.  While the price was steeper than I'm used to for the portion (again, you get spoiled in LA/NYC) I would definitely eat here again when I'm downtown or near 4th Street.  Dan enjoyed his meal too.  The service was good.  I noticed grill tables outside in their porch area, so I'm hoping that means they do some Korean BBQ out there in better weather.  I think that would be great!

After lunch, we hit up Cardinal Spirits, a relatively new distillery right off the B-line trail.  It's a clean and modern place that seems perfect for cocktails on warm days or a break from the trail.  We loved the clean design and cool labels.


Cardinal Spirits is a great addition to the Btown scene; I love that it has a great porch overlooking the B-line, and that it has great craft cocktails. I really miss the wonderful drinks they served at The Rail, so it makes me happy to see similar care given to mixology here. I had the Gin Gimlet and Dan had the Negroni special, as it happened to be launch day for their new drier gin. Really well-priced cocktails.  We loved both, and bought a bottle of vodka and the smooth American Gin to take home.


I will be honest, the only reason I'd heard about the place as an out-of-state visitor was because I used to follow a Btown fashion blogger (Jessica at What I Wore) and she plugs it since her husband is involved in the biz. She, too, loved The Rail so I was pleased to find this place offered great drinks as well.  Yet another instance where blogging and reading blogs pays off.

Then... it was off to wedding time!  Even though Dad missed the photo ops, we had a great time celebrating my cousin JR's wedding.  The reception was held at an old, restored theatre, so the whole wedding (from the invitations to the bridesmaids' dresses to the decor) had an Old Hollywood meets Great Gatsby meets Art Deco theme.  Definitely something I could get behind!

Dan, me, and Mom

Congratulations to the bride and groom, who have since gone on a beautiful honeymoon and seem to be enjoying everything married life offers quite immensely.  It was a great excuse to get back to Bloomington for a quick weekend getaway, and remind myself why I love my home state so much.



Monday, July 6, 2015

An All-American Day of Eating

We had one heck of a 4th of July weekend in our family, y'all!  It was a weekend of EATING.  We had friends in town (along with their adorable toddler and Boston Terrier) and had a blast showing them around Franklin and Nashville.  On the 4th in particular, we had an all-American feast.

To start, I hit up the Franklin Farmers Market for my standby Ellie's Old-Fashioned Doughnuts.  (Read my first post about them here, or see how I served them at my 30th birthday party here.)  In particular, I wanted their Red, White & Blueberry Doughnuts: my beloved blueberry donuts, with a white and strawberry glaze.  DELICIOUS!

Ellie's Old-Fashioned Doughnuts
Ellie's Old-Fashioned Doughnuts

From there, we loaded up the car to head to the Music City Hot Chicken Festival.  Even though we've lived here for ages, I have never been.  It is always soooooo hot outside!  This year, it was rainy and humid, but we trekked out to East Nasty to get some food.  I tried the Hot Chicken Buns from Otaku South.  I'm a sucker for bao buns!  I can't wait for their ramen shop in the Gulch to open!

Hot Chicken Buns from Otaku South

Since we were in the VIP area thanks to Dan's job, we also got to sample some chicken from Hattie B's and Party Fowl.  I'm not one for super-spicy food, but I love good, boneless fried chicken.

Hattie B's and Party Fowl Chicken

Me and my Guy

In the afternoon, we headed to Antique Archaeology, Third Man Records, and Yazoo Brewing Company to explore and have some beers.  Then, for dinner, we headed to 12South for some delicious Edley's Bar-B-Que.

Edley's Bar-B-Que Pulled Pork Sandwich and Sides

Whew!  Can you tell I needed to wear yoga pants the next day?  It was a delicious, food coma-inducing day of indulgence.  Sounds pretty 'Merica to me!  We spent our Sunday night watching the delayed fireworks (due to rain) from Lindsey's rooftop and wishing the weekend was a bit longer.  Isn't that always how it feels?

P.S.  I purposely didn't post photos of our houseguests (I don't usually post pics of people's kiddos and such on this very-public blog, unless I've checked with them first) but I had to share this one of their adorable pup.  Isn't he the best?


Hope you all had a great holiday too!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Red Gold Homemade Lasagna & a *Giftcard* Giveaway

Disclosure: This is a sponsored blog post. I received a beautiful package from Red Gold with cans of tomatoes and sriracha ketchup, an insulated tote bag, and a gift coupon for Laura's Lean Beef...  but all opinions are 100% my own!  This post contains links to Red Gold websites, and I am providing the giftcard for giveaway on my own dime.



Red Gold has a fun summer promotion for you to participate in called the Red Gold Summer Grilling Party!  They'd love for you to use their tomato products this summer as you're grilling; I love them because their tomatoes are grown in the Midwest... just like me!  Red Gold will give away a Large Big Green Egg each week as well as 1,000 insulated tote bags; the giveaway runs until July 22, 2015 on their Facebook page.

I was going to do a great grilling recipe, but then we were overtaken by terrible thunderstorms and weather.  I had an umbrella malfunction one day and got so drenched, I had to leave work to go home and change!  Needless to say, I was craving some warmth and comfort... so I turned to a really great recipe from Red Gold for their Skinny Lasagna, using Laura's Lean Beef.


Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 1 (28 ounce) can Red Gold® Crushed Tomatoes, or 2 (15 ounce) cans Red Gold Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans Red Gold® Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic & Oregano 
  • Ground black pepper to taste 
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning 
  • 1 pound Laura's 96% Lean Ground Round, or ground turkey, cooked and drained
  • 1 (16 ounce) box traditional whole wheat lasagna noodles 
  • 1 (15 ounce) carton low fat cottage cheese 
  • 2 cups shredded low fat mozzarella cheese 
  • 1/2 cup grated low sodium Parmesan cheese 

(I added a drained can of mushrooms, because we love mushrooms!)



Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. In large mixing bowl combine water, crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes, black pepper, Italian seasoning and ground round, stir to combine ingredients in the sauce.
  • Cover the bottom of a 9x13x2 inch baking pan with 1½ cups of sauce mixture.  Arrange 1/3 of noodles on top of sauce, slightly overlapped.  Top with ½ of cottage cheese, ½ of mozzarella cheese and 1 cup of sauce.  Repeat layers and top with last 1/3 of noodles and the remaining sauce.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  • Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 to 1½ hours; until noodles are cooked. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. 


I served it with some garlic toast, and Dan LOVED it.  We're actually enjoying the leftovers, and he told me he'd like to have it more often.  I really love the Red Gold Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic & Oregano; the scent when you open the can just smells incredible, like your favorite Italian dish.  I've also read that you CAN cook lasagna on a grill, so that fits in with the summer grilling theme, right?

Because I loved cooking with Red Gold and Laura's Lean Beef (which I found at my local Kroger) I am offering a $25 Kroger giftcard plus some Red Gold goodies to my readers!

My Giveaway
One reader will win a $25 Kroger giftcard (use it purchase Red Gold and Laura's Lean Beef products!), an insulated Red Gold tote bag, and a collection of great grilling recipes.  You must be a resident of the USA, 18+ to enter.  Please use the Rafflecopter form to record your entries.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Disclosure: This is a sponsored blog post. I received a beautiful package from Red Gold with cans of tomatoes and sriracha ketchup, an insulated tote bag, and a gift coupon for Laura's Lean Beef...  but all opinions are 100% my own!  This post contains links to Red Gold websites, and I am providing the giftcard for giveaway on my own dime.



P.S.  Don't forget to try their NEW Sriracha Ketchup!  I mean, it's two amazing things in one bottle...  we tried it on fries and burgers and it's great!


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