Friday, October 28, 2016

Budgeting Bloggers: October 2016

Where the heck has October gone?  Yikes!  It was actually a pretty big shopping month for me, because I needed a couple of staples (jeans and black boots) as well as starting accessorizing the new Apple Watch that I got for our 1st wedding anniversary.

  1. Apple Watch Bands in Vintage Rose and Red ($7 each), Brown Leather Double Tour ($21), Milanese Loop ($19), Turquoise and White ($9 each):  I got the new Apple Watch, and it came with a grey band... but that doesn't go with everything, right?  So then I fell down a rabbit hole of affordable bands on Amazon, all in total cheaper than one fancy band from the Apple store.  These cheap bands are great quality dupes and options.  I seriously change my band a LOT!
  2. Old Navy Mid-Rise Super Skinny Jeans in Rinse (originally $30, paid $12):  I'm fluctuating between sizes, so I wanted another pair of jeans that fits right now.  These were a steal during a sale, and I like them!
  3. H&M Fine Knit Cardigan in Light Pink ($20):  Blush layering piece, seems perfect to accent all the black, white, and grey that I wear.
  4. H&M Jersey Top, similar ($10):  Impulse t-shirt grab.  I went into the store just for socks, I swear.
  5. H&M Patterned Skirt in White (originally $50, paid $15):  This is actually a half-size too small for me, but I couldn't resist its perfection on clearance.  I'll regret this one later if I can't fit into it by spring.  Why do I do this to myself?  But it was so preeeeetttttyyy.
  6. LuLaRoe Madison Skirt in Black via Poshmark (originally $46, paid $22 after Poshmark credits and negotiating):  I had credits to burn, so when I saw an all-black solid Madison skirt, I knew it would be in my fall wardrobe rotation.  It's comfy, has pockets, and I love that I didn't have to pay full price.  Plus, you can negotiate pricing via Poshmark's offer button!
  7. Me Too Arctic Wide Calf Riding Boot in Black (originally $179, paid $50):  I wore holes in the bottom of my old boots, and when I took them for repair, the cost was too much for me to consider.  So I started searching for a new pair, and I found them via DSW.  I'm really into DSW's ship-to-store, because I can try on the shoes I ship there and only take home the ones I want to keep!  These boots are pretty classic, and I've already worn them a few times.

I also got a new pair of Kenneth Cole REACTION slip-on sneakers in black (similar), two pairs of Tangerine workout capris, and a shiny Limited camisole FOR FREE from my Mom.  Not pictured, but useful!  Yay for Mom spoiling me with the stuff she finds on clearance.

$201 spent -  $25 earned/sold = $176 total spent in October

Quarter Budget: $500 - $176 in October = $324 REMAINING

I'm linking up with the rest of the Budgeting Bloggers at Franish!

What did you add to your closet this month?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Preview: Wine Down Main Street 2016

Last year, I had the privilege of attending the media preview for the best (for nine years running!) charity event in Franklin, benefitting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee: Wine Down Main Street.  (Check out last year's post here.)  Since 2001, this event has raised more than $1.5 million for the Boys & Girls Clubs in Franklin and Fairview.  This year, I was again invited to their media preview, held at Homestead Manor's beautiful barn.

Bites from Catering and Events by Suzette (that foie gras mushroom bite was awesome!)

We enjoyed delicious bites from some of the participating restaurants, including Puckett's Boat House, Saffire, Homestead Manor, Triple Crown Bakery, and Catering and Events by Suzette.  We also had beer and wine provided by the official wine sponsor, Lipman.  I tried one of their newer wine brands, Napa Smith and Sonoma Smith.  If the food we had is indicative of what will be served at the event itself, you will love every sip and every bite!

Dominican pork bites with pico de gallo on a sweet potato grit cake, from Saffire

Squash soup shooters from Homestead Manor

Triple Crown Bakery dessert shooters

Celebrating 16 years, this year's Wine Down Main will be held Saturday, November 5, 2016 from 7 to 10 PM in historic downtown Franklin.  General admission tickets are $85 and include wine, beer, and food tastings.  VIP tickets are already sold our, but a limited number of Premium VIP tickets are still available, including access to the exclusive VIP lounge at The Red House (one of my favorite venues in Franklin) and a gift bag.

If you're in the Nashville and Franklin area, I highly recommend you buy your ticket and support this worthy event.

About Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee

For more than 113 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee (BGCMT) has enabled all young
 people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens. Annually, more than 3,400 youth are served at nine Middle Tennessee Boys & Girls Clubs and through community outreach initiatives. Clubs are located in Davidson & Williamson counties. Boys & Girls Clubs provides a safe place, professional caring staff, fun and friendship, and high-impact youth development programs on a daily basis during critical non-school hours. Priority programs emphasize academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Montreal Fine Dining

Ever the planner, I made two dinner reservations in Montreal months before our trip.  I know, I'm a nut, but I felt like Montreal was the city where we'd indulge in a couple of haute cuisine excursions.  The first was one I'd read about, Le Club Chasse et Pêche.  The name means hunting and fishing club, and it was located in Old Montreal, with a very understated entrance.

Once we entered, it was like we were members of a secret club!  We really enjoyed pairing drinks with courses during these dinners out, and this place didn't disappoint.

Totally contemplated walking off with a glass, but it wouldn't be classy.

We started with the braised piglet risotto, topped with foie gras shavings.  It's one of their signature dishes, but quite heavy, so we split it.  Decadent is the word I would use to describe it.

Dan chose the Chasse et Peche dish, which is one of their specials.  That night it was steak and lobster claw, his version of heaven.  It was one of his favorite meals of our entire week in Quebec.

For me, I chose the other special that changes all the time, the "Hot and Solid" meal, which pretty much describes my favorite type of meal, right?  That night, it was veal with mushrooms and potatoes.  It was marvelous, and it looked like art.  I had to kind of get over my thoughts about veal (having just eaten piglet risotto kind of made me feel like the baby animal seal was already broken that night, and foie gras has its naysayers too) and just savor it all.  Yum.  I can't lie, it was delish.

And yes, we got dessert, because vacation.  But we split this tiny little log of goodness.  I think it was their praline tile, but I can't be too sure.  By the end of multi-course meals with loads of wine, I'm too tipsy to be a good blogger and remember everything.

The other haute cuisine dinner indulgence we made was Toqué!, consistently named one of the best restaurants in Montreal.  I'd eaten there on a trip about eight years ago, and I was excited to be back!  We decided against the famous tasting menu, having indulged so much during our trip, but our server was absolutely fantastic.  He even helped pair half-glasses of wine with each course that I had, which was perfection.  I started with a champagne tasting, just to get going.

Then he paired a white wine with my foie gras starter, with apple purée, shiitake mushrooms, and buckwheat crumble; it was so rich I couldn't even finish it.  It was seriously too much!  I pretty much never eat foie gras, but I felt like I was in France and had to indulge.

Dan's dinner was a lamb dish, and it was beautifully plated!  He enjoyed it, especially all of the mushrooms used in so many of the dishes.

I had the duck magret, with hedgehog mushrooms, carrots, Tokyo turnip, borlotti bean purée, Madeira sauce.  Duck is another indulgent thing I don't get to eat very often.  This one was absolutely beautiful too.  Delicious!

For dessert, we had Peruvian chocolate dish with sorbet.  It's rotated off the menu, but I loved how it looked like bark with plants growing from it.  They do a good job with molecular gastronomy at Toqué!  It was really an incredible meal.

So yeah, I gained a few pounds during our trip to Quebec.  Montreal is an impressive food town, and I feel like we got to taste both the high-end and cheap delight ends of the spectrum, and tons in between.  You really shouldn't have a bad meal in Quebec, because there's so much good to find.  We loved using Yelp to find good spots, and it didn't steer us wrong.

How do you indulge on vacation?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Montreal Food Tour

Two of my favorite things to do when visiting another country or a new place?  Take a cooking class or a food tour.  I reserved an Old Montreal food tour while planning our trip, choosing Local Montreal Food Tours.  Our tour guide Sebastian was fantastic, and we had a group of tourists from a handful of different countries!

Brit 'n Chips

Our first stop was Brit 'n Chips, for traditional British cod fish and chips of course!  This place got a seal of approval from the British couple in our group, and I liked it a lot.  I'm not a big fish person, but it was tasty nonetheless!

Brit 'n Chips

Next, we visited Cantinho de Lisboa, the market and restaurant from a Portuguese chef (and Quebec transplant) Chef Helena Loureiro.  I loved seeing her grandmother's recipes framed on the walls!

Cantinho de Lisboa

I don't know much about Portuguese cuisine, but we basically had soup and salad.  The salad was a cod garbanzo salad, which was interesting.  Again, I'm not the biggest fan of fish, but the combination was good!  The soup was called caldo verde, with potato, greens, and I believe some sausage.

Cantinho de Lisboa

The tour was more than just local stops for food.  It was a lesson in the story of the city, from history to architecture to local life and trends.  Between the two Quebec cities we visited, we learned to guess what era each building came from (French, British, Canadian!).

We even ate inside an historic building, an old bank!  The Crew Cafe serves as a restaurant in the co-op space, where tons of people (mostly freelancers, I'm guessing) would rent meeting space or work space.  It was a neat concept!

Crew Cafe

We ate a sort of deconstructed BLT sandwich, with aioli and prosciutto.  The bread was excellent, and we ate at those tables where you used to write checks and fill out forms at the bank.

Crew Cafe

One of my favorite stops on the trip was Cookie Stéfanie.  Dan and I don't have gluten allergies, but we know people who do.  I have always felt like gluten-free stuff was kind of a novelty, and often not as tasty as the stuff made with gluten.  (Sorry not sorry, this was based on my previous experience!)  Cookie Stéfanie knocked my socks off.  We tasted their carrot cake, and I wish we'd gone back to have their grilled cheese and other goods!

Cookie Stéfanie

Seriously, carrot cake.  It was one of the best I've ever had.  There was pineapple in the cake that kept it moist and good, and I wish I had the recipe.

Cookie Stéfanie

Our next stop was Le Petit Dépanneur.  A dépanneur is a convenient store in Quebec-speak, and the one we visited in Old Montreal was adorable and more high end.  So cute!

Our treat there was their soft-serve ice cream, which was vanilla with bits of apple.  It was a sunny, nice day on our walk, so I very much appreciated it.

From there, we walked along the water and learned more history of the city.

We could see some interesting apartments across the water that were part of the 1976 Olympic Village.  Apparently they are still very sought-after real estate!

Our last two stops were near one another.  The first was a brewpub, Les Soeurs Grises, named for the Grey Nuns of Montreal.  The name means both "the grey women" and "the drunken women", a reference as they had some associations with bootleggers in their history.  Definitely a cool name for a brewery!  We tasted a couple of beers and cheeses.

Our last stop was another one of my favorites, Soupe Soup.  I am usually a savory over sweet girl, but the pudding chômeur was yum!  I actually made the recipe when I got home.  It's a traditional dessert with lots of maple syrup, kind of like a bread pudding and a cake.  I definitely think it will be a recipe I keep in my back pocket!

I love a good food tour, and we really enjoyed this one.  We saw a good amount of Old Montreal, and we learned from great fun facts too.  Thanks to our tour guide Sebastian, we had a great time.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


I'd visited Montreal a few times before our trip this fall, but it was Dan's first time in the city!  We stayed for three nights in Old Montreal in an Airbnb, near the basilica.

I'd always heard the view of Montreal from Mont Royal was beautiful, so one of our mornings we took the Metro to a spot near the park and walked up to the highest spot in the city for the view.  I was NOT anticipating the stairmaster workout that would be required of us...  I did not think this one through very well. Thankfully, Dan had a bottle of water, so we didn't die, and I got some much-needed exercise.  But seriously, look at THE VIEW.

Can you tell that I'm cranky and tired?  No, because it was so nice and cool and pretty at the top, and we took a rest.  Tons of others had made the hike, even though it was on a weekday.  I was glad I'd decided to be hiker-chic and wear my Merrells.  Honestly, I rocked those shoes pretty much the entire trip.  Comfort first, style second for me on this kind of vacay.

I don't know why there was a piano there, but it looked pretty.

There was also a near lodge (with restrooms, vending machines, gift shop/info desk) with squirrel carvings.  I was all about the squirrel carvings.

The day we visited Mont Royal was kind of a stressful one for me.  I really hadn't planned things well.  So we had that monster hike to the top of Mont Royal, and then I was wanting to check out the Mile End neighborhood.  I'd heard it was a super hip 'hood, and that the original/famous St-Viateur Bagel shop was there.  But by the time we got out of the park, we didn't find a great place to grab a cab, and Uber had a long wait.  So somehow, despite my crankiness, we walked two miles to the bagels.  THEN I HANGRY-ATE THE BAGELS BECAUSE I WALKED TWO MILES.

The bagels are boiled in honey water, which is what makes them different from a New York bagel.  We went in and got whatever they had hot and fresh, which is what I'd read to do.  We weren't disappointed, and we devoured those bagels.  NOM.

After the bagels, we ate at a local crepe shop for lunch, which was just okay.  Nothing to write home (or blog) about necessarily.  I was kind of over hiking the city at that point, but I wanted to show Dan once of the big Montreal markets, so we took at Uber to Marché Jean-Talon.  I think I like Marché Atwater better, but this one was still beautiful and packed with wonderful things to see and eat.  We got some pastries, because after Quebec City, Dan was already in love with French pastries!

The nice thing about the market is that it's also close to a subway station!  We took the Metro back to the neighborhood where we were staying.  We saw people headed into the Basilica Notre-Dame, and we decided we wanted to make sure to visit.  The only downside?  After we paid to get in, I realized my camera battery was dead.  So once inside, only iPhone photo ops this time.  Womp womp.  But it's absolutely stunning inside and out, and well worth the price of admission.

Even better?  The organist was playing one of the regular concerts, so our visit was accompanied by magnificent music.  We even sat to listen for a while.  I got to hear one of my favs, Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" too.  The pictures don't do justice to the church's incredible ceiling, covered in stars!

We also strolled through Old Montreal during our time in the city.  It's mainly a couple of streets, the Old Port, and Place Jacques-Cartier in terms of shops and sights.  It's pretty, has plenty of touristy souvenir spots, restaurants, and more. 

I must admit, after four nights in Quebec City, Montreal felt very urban and "big city" in comparison.  After all, it has four times the number of people!  It definitely strikes me as the Chicago or New York of Quebec, with all of the different neighborhoods, cultures, and cuisines.  It's a special place unto itself, and I'm really glad we decided to split up the trip and experience both!

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