Thursday, January 28, 2016

Budgeting Bloggers: January 2016

I've decided that for 2016, after a year of no budget, I will set one in order to reduce a little bit from 2015!  Last year I spent about $208 per month, so this year I dialed back to $500 per quarter vs. the $624 last year average.  I'm going to have to start paying student loans on my Master's degrees, so that means I want to spend less in general on closet things.

Aubrey's 2016 Budget Ground Rules:
  • $500 per quarter budget, if not spent entirely it rolls over to next quarter
  • Pajamas, socks/hosiery, underwear, and specific needs for work/DAR do not count
  • ALL clothing and accessories count, including activewear
  • Any clothing sold (via Poshmark, etc.), or money earned from affiliate links, is subtracted from the monthly spend, to encourage me to trim the closet
  • Purchases made with store giftcards do not count against the budget, but gift money does because I could use it on other things
  • Link up monthly with the rest of Franish's budgeting bloggers!

This month's budget was a good one!  I had giftcards and money to spend, but after going crazy in December shopping I hesitated initially to shop.  So most of this month's purchases came out of my gift cash, when it comes down to it.

  1. La Blanca tankini swim top and bottoms, ($89 top /$49 bottom retail, paid $20):  My sister works for a resort, and every year they clean out their boutique and have an employee sale where items are sold for a fraction of retail price.  She called me and scored big on a few items that I wanted, including a new swimsuit!
  2. Havaianas flip-flops in purple and dark green ($26 each retail, paid $5 each): Also from Sissy's employee sale!
  3. Apt. 9 Skinny Belt Set & Chaps Stretch Belt in black (originally $26 and $30, paid $12 total):  I regretfully allowed a LOT of Kohl's cash expire recently, and I was determined not to let it happen again.  With B1G1 50% off on belts, $30 in Kohl's Cash, and a 15% off coupon, I walked away with three belts for $12!
  4. Fossil Sydney Bifold Wallet (similar, originally $35, paid $10):  I forgot to add this to December's rollup, so it's here now!  I found this little wallet on clearance for a steal.  I love little wallets to fit in my small purses, and Fossil makes great leather products.
  5. Forever 21 Contrast-Trim Top in White ($16):  I went into Forever 21 looking for some cheap tops that would look nice under a blazer or cardigan for the office.  I found four!  It was my first and only real clothing shopping this month, not bad for a little retail therapy at the mall.
  6. Forever 21 Contemporary Ruffled Blouse in Peach ($23)
  7. Forever 21 Pintucked Chiffon Blouse ($15)
(not pictured)

$119 spent -  $73 sold/earned = $46 total spent in January
$230 savings

Quarter Budget: $500 - $46 in January  = $454 left for February & March 

January's roundup also includes items received as Christmas gifts...

  • Cultured Freshwater Pearl Classic Jewelry Set in White & Sterling Silver from Mom & Dad via Macy's:  I asked for pearl earrings, and Mom got a great deal, paying $19.99 for a $100 set!  I love how simple and classic these are.
  • Alex & Ani Bracelets Path of Life and Claddagh in silver tones from Dan's Mom, Blue Om from Dan (which is being exchanged or replaced due to a defect):  I've started to wear bracelets regularly, and I like ones that have some meaning behind them!  Dan and his Mom both selected a few that I've been wearing.  I have one set of silver bangles and one set of gold that I tend to wear, but I may start mixing tones for fun!
  • LC Lauren Conrad Mixed-Stitch Boyfriend Cardigan in Black from my cousin AD:  Every year, we do a gift exchange in our family where we draw one person instead of shopping for 20+.  My cousins always do a great job; I told AD I was looking for chunky knits and layering pieces, and this sweater delivers.
  • love this life Family Tree Charm Bangle Bracelet from my cousin AD:  I'm the unofficial family historian, so I loved this bracelet to add to my stack!
  • kate spade Cobble Hill Carson Purse in ivory/beige from Sissy:  Sissy knows I wear a lot of white/off-white for DAR, so this soft leather bag was perfect for my collection!  It's big enough to hold a program for an event, so it's perfect.  She scored it at Last Chance, and I believe it's the Cobble Hill Carson or an older version that's incredibly similar.
  • Mossimo A-Line Dress from Mom & Dad
  • TOMS Classic Slip-On in Navy from Mom & Dad:  My black pair were starting to show their age, and Mom found this color on sale.
  • Bandolino Flats in Natural from Mom & Dad:  Identical to the black pair from last month, but in another classic color for everyday wear.  My new favorite flats!  Both are leather, I believe.
  • Gold Stud Earrings from Dan (not pictured):  I wanted new round, gold studs in 14k to replace a pair I'd lost, so Dan gifted them to me!
  • Tommy Hilfiger Polka Dot Sweater in white with silver dots (not pictured) from Dan's Mom via Macy's (exact in red)

  • Michael Kors 'Parker' Chronograph Bracelet Watch from one of my BFFs (super generous, right?)  Stunning!
  • Other items (not pictured):  I also received two beautiful bracelets that my parents purchased in Bali, a batik shawl/pashmina from Bali, a bracelet from North Dakota, and a necklace from an Indiana craft fair...  not bad, eh?

If you'd like to help me clean out my closet and get some good deals, check out my Poshmark closet below!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

FnB & The Henry

I ate a lot of delicious food while in Phoenix, and I wanted to share some pics of two of them.  The first was the location for one of my work team dinners, FnB.  FnB is acclaimed locally and beyond, with a super-seasonal menu that has a lot of unique options.

I started with a cocktail: the Cranberry Presbyterian, a ginger ale with cranberry-infused vodka.  I giggled when I saw it listed under the heading "Potent Potables", because Jeopardy.  It was strong and tasty, not quite as cranberry-heavy as I expected, but fresh.  We also had a number of small plates to start, with my favorites being the Peruvian chicken spring rolls and house pulled mozzarella (pictured) as well as the pork rillette.

For my main course, I had the pasta with duck confit, lentils, foraged mushrooms, spigarello, and bread crumbs.  The pasta tasted deliciously fresh, and the combination of flavors didn't taste like anything else I'd had before.  The kudos and recognition this restaurants receives (including two James Beard noms for the best chef in the southwest) don't surprise me a bit!

The service was fantastic and the food was too.  We didn't have the right headcount and they were able to move some tables and accommodate more people quickly, not an easy task in a small restaurant.  Our group was still talking about how great the experience was the next day.

My last dinner in Phoenix was Sissy's pick: The Henry.  She'd taken me to a Fox Restaurant before, and they've never failed to impress.  The Henry was no different.  Its concept is "the greatest neighborhood restaurant", and I loved it!  They are open all day, with a coffee shop inside, but they dress up nicely for supper.  The decor was on trend with its combo of old and modern fixtures and furniture.  Sissy, JA, and my college friend AC met up for drinks and bites.

I kicked off with a Pineapple Pisco Sour, and was super impressed at the restaurant emblem in the foam!  It was a delicious version of my favorite drink from our honeymoon in Peru.

I decided to have soup and a starter for my dinner.  The soup that day was a chicken tortilla soup, which had fresh avocado in it.  It was tasty and it the spot, as the evenings in AZ were in the low 40s when I was there in January.

I also had the Short Rib Potstickers, which were excellent.  They tasted fantastic!  I had a bite of AC's Prairie Breeze Cheddar Popovers too, which were super soft on the inside.

Phoenix and Scottsdale are full of fantastic food and drinks, y'all.  I seriously tuck in to delicious meals every time I visit!  Sissy has the best recommendations, and even though she doesn't like to dine out as much as I do, she's always ready to take her foodie sister to the best spots.

Monday, January 25, 2016


Most of my week in Arizona was spent in Phoenix and Scottsdale... either with Sissy or staying at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn in Paradise Valley.

View from my porch at the JW Marriott

While Dan was still in town, we spent time helping Sissy and JA renovate and move into their adorable new house.  We also grabbed beers and food at Mother Bunch Brewing downtown, tacos to go at America's Taco Shop, and I made my orange chicken that my sister loves, in my biggest batch to date.

Mother Bunch Brewing

Orange Chicken

We also got to grab some In N Out, which, other than the Grand Canyon, was Dan's favorite part of visiting Arizona!  We dug into some double-doubles, and Sissy had an animal-style grilled cheese.

Once Dan left, I indulged in a facial and massage at my favorite spa ever, Joya Spa, which was incredible as usual.  I even had some time in their luxurious, quiet whisper room.  Bliss!  Then it was off to work meetings, but not without a little bit of fun...  We did a scavenger hunt with Real London Bus and an evening at TopGolf.  I had delicious dinners at FnB and The Henry (post and pics to come later), took daily of photos of cacti and bunnies (LOL just look at my Instagram) and enjoyed the resort's fire pits in the chilly evenings.

When Sissy moved to Arizona, I don't think I thought I would enjoy going out there that much.  But now that we're older, I miss her more, and I'm happy to venture West for the beautiful landscapes, delicious food and drink, and of course some family time.

P.S.  What Aubrey trip is complete without some kitty love?  Here are pics of my nephew-cats Charlie and Benny... Sweet squishes!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Lately: Planning, Loving, Reading, Wishing, Feeling

It's midterms lately here in my house for my LAST TWO grad school courses, so while I've drafted some blog posts up, it's been slow going.  But I'm of the mind that blogging is my creative outlet and hobby (I work full time, have leadership roles in two non-profits, and have been doing two Master's Degrees the past two years  broken record here, people) so I believe that if I don't feel like blogging, I just don't!

Lately, including today, I felt like blogging!

I continue to use my Levenger Circa smartPlanner as my main planner, and outside of my Outlook calendar for work, it has now replaced iCal for me as my main scheduler.  It feels kind of backwards in this day and age to go back to paper, but there's something about being able to doodle in my planner that helps keep me in order!  And this one has worked for me where some others (Erin Condren LifePlanner, Midori) have not.  I also use my Delta app to track my flights, because it holds ever reservation you've made... IMPORTANT for my life!

I've already been to Arizona this month.  So far, I also have flights scheduled for San Antonio, Tampa, and Austin, flights that still need to be purchased for Orlando, Dallas, and D.C., and possibly another trip up or two to Michigan on the horizon, all between now and the end of June!  Lots to plan.

While I don't love winter weather in Nashville (they just don't know how to handle it, other than to shut down), I do LOVE looking at my phone and seeing that my husband and I have barely texted at all lately, i.e. we've been together and can talk rather than text!  I worked from home on Friday, and Dan got a snow day, so it meant more time in each other's company.

A photo posted by aubreyland325 (@aubreyland325) on


I haven't read many books lately (I blame grad school) but I read a lot of magazines!  I only subscribed to a few magazines, mostly due to $5 subscription costs or just plain dedication (Food & Wine is dedication, and I got $5 subscriptions to Real Simple and Money), and most of the magazines I read are via my local library for FREE on my iPad.  My library has Zinio for Libraries, so I get my favs like O Magazine, Weight Watchers, Food Network, and more to my iPad for free.  It's perfect for all the plane rides I take, as you can download them ahead of time for reading offline.

I kind of wish I had a house of our own, so I could paint walls and get into decorating.  But then I remember that I don't want a house for another 3-5 years, that I don't have the time or cash to decorate, and I just have Instagram/Pinterest/HGTV envy.  I swear this needs to be diagnosed as a true condition.

I've been feeling a little bit overwhelmed, which is usual for me in the first quarter of the year.  There's so much going on at work, plus school and other commitments, my body has been feeling fatigued.  I've been perking myself up with new makeup and skin purchases, new shampoo, Korean sheet masks, etc.  I've also been doing better with my diet, which I think is starting to help.  We'll see!

Sunday Lately is a weekly linkup hosted by the Blogger Tribe. We e-hang out every Sunday, sharing a small glimpse into the last week of life in our own worlds. 
Sunday Lately with Blogger Tribe

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Grand Canyon & Flagstaff

I had to head back to Arizona (lucky me!) for work, so Dan and I headed out early to spend a long weekend with Sissy and her fiancĂ©, JA.  Since it was Dan's first trip to Arizona, we had to make it special... so we drove out to the Grand Canyon to show him why it's considered one of the wonders of the world!

Once we got out of Phoenix, the scenery changed dramatically into a winder wonderland!  All along the road, people were pulled over to go sledding and romp in the snow.  It almost didn't look real!

The snow made it all the more beautiful and stunning!  Sure, it was cold... but it was a bright and sunny day to be out experiencing the park.  This post is photo-heavy and light on my narration, but that's because I think the photos just speak for themselves.

I think that Dan found the Grand Canyon to be surprisingly impressive...  That is, people build it up in talk to be this big thing, but most things in life end up a little disappointing when you have those expectations.  The Grand Canyon, however, doesn't disappoint.  Even after more than one visit, I'm still in awe that it exists.  And, as Dan pointed out, how long it took to form such a stunningly deep impression into the earth.

After our visit to the Grand Canyon, we drove to Flagstaff for the night.  We stayed at the historic (and reputedly haunted) Hotel Monte Vista.  While the hotel itself is a bit past its prime (it used to host very famous guests), we found our suite to be clean and suitable for the night!  The hotel also has a couple of pretty decent bars, and it was walking distance to the main downtown drag.

After checking in, we walked to local ramen joint SoSoBa for some food.  It was a cold and snowy day, so a bowl of hot noodles and broth sounded perfect.  There were a good number of other folks in the tiny restaurant, a good sign.  Service was solid, beer and drink options plentiful, and hipsters galore.

We started with Balls of Fire, their housemade fried mac 'n' cheese balls with spicy sauce.  Dan liked these so much, he wished he'd ordered a few more for his meal!

For my main dish, I had The Mic Drop: udon noodles, pork belly, carnitas, chicharron, sliced ham, bacon, kim chi, veggies, and a tonkatsu pork broth.  Basically, a creative bowl of carnivorous "ramen" that really hit the spot.  It was definitely tasty, despite being a departure from traditional ramen.  

After eating, we browsed some boutiques (mostly outdoorsy places) and had a couple of drinks at the hotel bar before turning in.  In the morning, we had a delicious breakfast at the popular (judging from its line) Macy's European Coffeehouse and Bakery, a vegetarian spot that served me a cider and breakfast sandwich so delicious, I didn't remember to take any photos before devouring!

All in all, it was a great road trip from Phoenix.  I think Dan liked Flagstaff even more than Phoenix, though both boast a lot of craft beer!  We'd definitely come back, and now we know why Sissy loves it for a quick getaway from the desert.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday Lately: Completing, Visiting, Repeating, Writing, Scheduling

I haven't blogged in over a week, because I've been traveling for work and play!  You'll see a few posts int he near future about my trip to Arizona (yes, again!) but I'm here linking up with the other ladies for Sunday Lately to get back into the swing of things.

I need to be completing some homework (notice this recurring theme?) including an exam today.  But overall, I'm really thrilled that in six weeks, I'll be completing grad school, for good.  I'm so ready. Senioritis levels at 110%.

I had some great visits last week with my sister, her fiancĂ©, my friend from college, and my coworkers.  I planned a meeting for my work team in Phoenix, AZ, so it was a full week of visiting, socializing, and getting to know people on top of work stuff. 

Laundry cycles...  I left home with two full loads of laundry in the hampers, came back with even more, and we have linens to wash too!  It feels like every time I take a break from doing something productive (in which I'd like to nap or rest or something) I end up moving something from the washer to the dryer, new stuff to the washer.  Rinse and repeat, right?

I'm hoping to write some draft blog posts from Arizona.  I've taken a bunch of photos, I just need to divide them into posts and organize.

I'm scheduling air travel, upcoming trips, and even what I'm going to do once grad school ends!  So far, between now and the end of June, I've got at least three trips for work and three personal, all with planes to get there.  I have one more plane ticket to buy, and a lot more logistics to plan.  Here's to frequent flyer miles!

Check out the rest of the bloggers linking up today...
...and I promise to come back with more posts soon!

Sunday Lately with Blogger Tribe

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Christmas (in food photos)

Dan and I spent a week over Christmas in his hometown near Pittsburgh, and I think I gained a few pounds!  My husband isn't a shutterbug, so after the holiday I realized that my photos from our trip were kind of typical Aubrey snaps: food and cats.  But since the food was pretty special, I figured I'd share what my Christmas looked like, in food pics.  Like, a TON of food pics.  I warned you.

(I'm sorry, New Year's Resolutioners.  I'm with you, I'm counting points again and working on getting my waistline to reduce...  but I couldn't not share, because this is NOT the normal Midwest Christmas fare I'm used to!  Definitely a unique thing for me.  I don't think I saw ham or a pumpkin pie I don't think.)

Where Dan grew up, there's a place called Mac's Donut Shop, and it's delicious.  It's located a block from a Dunkin Donuts, and yet it's packed every morning because the donuts are so good!  The family that runs it now has had it for three generations.  I loved their frosted cake donuts especially.

Pretty much every place I saw with donuts had black & yellow ones... classic Pittsburgh.

There's a large Italian population where Dan grew up, and he has Italian heritage in his family.  So my plate, at every meal, looked like a smorgasbord of homemade Italian goodies!  This plate is all kinds of wonderful: braciole, meatballs, roasted chicken and potatoes, pasta in sauce.

I even got to learn a bit about how to cook things from my mother-in-law, including making ricotta gnocchi...


...and of course sauce.

My MIL also made seafood to celebrate Christmas; I do like crabcakes!

And I can now add Italian Wedding soup to the short list of soups that I like!

We didn't dine out much, but when we did I could never finish my plate!  Here's a meatball calzone I had at Vesuvio's... I ate almost half of it and saved the rest for Dan.

Dan also took me to one of his favorites, Burgatory.  I had a burger that had bacon in the patty and added rubs, sauces, etc. for a really rich, custom burger.  Not bad!  We also had Salted Nutella Crunch milkshake to share, and it was over the top.

At homes we visited, they also had these Italian nougat candies; I liked the vanilla flavor.

Now, here's something I didn't anticipate...  cookie platters.  When we were at my niece's high school graduation, there was a huge table "buffet" of homemade cookies out.  I thought it was just because she loved cookies!  Dan thought I was weird because I mentioned this was a strange tradition... as it turns out, it's regional to the Pittsburgh area.  He had not idea that everyone else didn't do this.

Everywhere we went, everyone had cookies!  The cookies with Hershey kisses were especially popular given Hershey is in PA.  Here are three I snapped.  I also saw lots of pizzelles, an Italian waffle cookie.

As you can tell, it was a Christmas filled with plenty.  It's hard not to look at these photos and think about how rich my holiday was, and how fortunate I am to have more than I could ever want to eat.  But I also think about the love that went into making so many of these from-scratch foods.

And since I love a good cat photo, I leave you with a snap of my sister-in-law, Agnes. :)  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday too!

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