Always Aubrey: July 2016

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

REVIEW: Le Tote

Disclaimer:  I tried Le Tote on my own, for $59.  I thought I would get the first month free, but in the process ended up paying... read on!  All opinions are my own.




As you may know, I've been using Stitch Fix for a while, and I recently tried Gwynnie Bee.  When Gwynnie Bee didn't turn out how I had hoped due to sizing, a friend suggested I try Le Tote.


How it works...  Le Tote has been likened to the "Netflix of clothing" in that you can wear things and return.  You select items you'd like, and then it throws together three pieces of clothing and two accessories to send to you.  You have final say in what is in the tote, from a limited selection online.  Then they send it to you and you begin the exchange.  You pay a $59/mo fee, and shipping is free.



What I liked...
  • Brands.  They had brands like Eliza J that I liked.
  • Convenience.  It shows up to your door, after all!


What I didn't like...
  • Slow shipping.  I got one tote before they charged me, with a total of two totes during my trial period.  You have to ship back the entire tote, or they will assume you kept items and charge you for keeping them.  It took ages to ship back and forth!!!  (I got 7 clothing items via Gwynnie Bee, vs. 6 with this, and at a faster cadence, because you could send back partial boxes and receive new items immediately.)
  • I barely wore any of the stuff, the styles just didn't suit me.  No stylist assistance or anything like that.  (With Stitch Fix and Gwynnie Bee, I always found at least one item I loved.)
  • Cost.  $59/mo is steep given the issues above.  And my first month wasn't really free, I got charged.  I cancelled straight away.  The items were also very expensive to purchase compared to other services.
  • User interface on the website wasn't as good as Stitch Fix or Gwynnie Bee, IMO.




In the end, I just got really frustrated because the experience was not to the standard I'd expected after using other service.  If I wanted to wear and return clothing, I'd use Gwynnie Bee since I'm size 10+.  If I wanted to have clothing sent to me to try and keep,  I'd use Stitch Fix.  There just isn't space in my life for Le Tote at this point, at their price point and service levels.

I will say that Le Tote customer service was responsive and helped me cancel in good timing so I wouldn't get charged again.  No hassle, just took care of it.  This one just wasn't for me, guys, it just didn't feel personalized or convenient compared to other companies doing it just a bit better.


Have you tried Le Tote?  What did you think?

Disclaimer:  I tried Le Tote on my own, for $59.  I thought I would get the first month free, but in the process ended up paying... read on!  All opinions are my own.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Lately: Doing, Appreciating, Designing, Humming, Expecting

I'm a little late to the Sunday Lately today, because I was up bright and early for my carry permit class at a local gun range... but I aced it and now I'm home!

BOOM.  100%!


DOING...
Working, working, working!  I coordinated some meetings in town last week (venue, food, etc.) which is always fun, but always stressful.  I did, however, get to enjoy a little bowling at a team night out.  I'm also working a little side hustle helping my friend plan a couple of parties, which I think is fun.  I probably would have enjoyed being a travel planner or event planner in another life!  I'm a kickass bridesmaid, since I'm bragging.




APPRECIATING...
Time with friends!!!  In the past couple of weeks, I've had a BUNCH of friends roll through town!  Three college classmates (and their spouses, kiddos, even a Mom!) and an old friend have passed through either for a day or stayed in the guest room, and I love it!  Friday, I went to The Loving Pie Company with a friend and then to the Adventure Science Center with her toddler.  I've been a little over-scheduled lately (usually happens about one week per month) so it really hit me hard this weekend.  Ugh.  But still worth it.

The Loving Pie Company is awesome.



DESIGNING...
I'm doing a lot in my planner lately, and I really enjoy it!  It's both fun and practical.  I'm also working on a  tri-fold display for DAR, which will take some creative juices. I took a photo for an Instagram tag from my friend, so here's a glimpse at my "summer crushes" including mostly planner things, moisturizer, and my obnoxious phone case.



HUMMING...
Beyonce's "Sorry" and "Hold Up" from Lemonade, because her album is BOSS.  Also, Meghan Trainor's "Me Too" makes me dance involuntarily.

EXPECTING...
I'm expecting my Silhouette Cameo to arrive tomorrow!  I don't know what the hell I'm doing with it, but I want to make paper cutouts for my DAR display (and scrapbook), make stickers for my planner, and possibly will make cards and other things.  Who knows.  I don't even need the thing, I have just been talking about getting one for like a year, and I feel like it will be useful.  But then again, I also have a sewing machine collecting dust, so we'll see about that.  Woof.  Any starter tips?




What are you up to this Sunday?

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

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Eating DC

I separated my June trip to Washington D.C. into three parts...  DAR, White House, and now FOOD!  I will admit, during the busy week, I ate a lot of toaster pastries, deli sandwiches, street hot dogs... but when I did get out and eat, it was ALWAYS with friends.

My very first night in DC, my mentor and her family treated me to a burger and hard cider at Oh George! in Fairfax, VA.  I went for their Red Eye burger, because it came with an egg on it, of course!  And bacon.  For the fries, I splurged on the truffled parmesan fries.  Definitely worth the upgrade, and the fries were nicely crispy!  I hate soggy fries.

Oh George!


Later, once I was in DC proper, my friend M and I walked from our rental to Burger Tap & Shake.  Since I'd had a burger recently, I decided to go completely creative on this one, and I ordered their special of the moment: the Count of Monte Cristo burger.  Holy cow.  Swiss cheese, shaved ham, turkey, a BURGER, Dijon aioli and raspberry jam between slices of French toast.  It was a heart attack burger, but the combinations of flavor just made it work perfectly.  Oh, and fries.  I didn't have the heart to get a shake (or the stomach) but those looks fab too.  It was a casual, order at the counter, have them call your name for a tray of deliciousness kind of place.  Perfect for the college student crowd in the area.

Burger Tap & Shake


Confession: I have loved Milk Bar from afar, mooching cookies and cakes off people who've actually been to one.  So when I was near one during a walk around DC, I picked up a slice of crack pie and some corn cookies.  Every bit as indulgent and good as I'd imagined.



The crack pie was my favorite, but that might be because I ate multiple sweet, corn cookies.  The crack pie reminds me a little bit of a Paula Deen recipe, because it's just butter and sugar magically coming together to make something really, really, tasty.



I was blessed to see a couple of old high school friends.  Yay!  Non-food pic because people > food.

K & E... and me!


One night, my friend K and I went to Elephant & Castle, a great pub!  I had a pasta dish and we people-watched folks viewing sports on TV.  I hear it's a great pub for watching football, the one Americans call soccer.  I have no idea why American football is called football, it only gets kicked a few times!

Another night, my friend E and I went to Ambar, a Balkan restaurant where we ordered ALL THE THINGS.  So much deliciousness.




We started with the strawberry kajmak bar (with prosciutto and basil) and hummus.  They gave us two types of bread for dipping, one that was fried.  So good!  I love hummus, and the strawberry dip was so perfect with the salty meat combo.  LOVE.  Beautiful.



For our food, we ordered the Ambar fries, Balkan kebab, meat pie, and cinnamon sweet sourdough with Nutella for dessert.  They even gave us a little more dessert on the house.  YUM!  I find that when I share small plates with others for a meal like this, I don't leave the meal feeling completely overstuffed.  The pacing was great, and the plates a good size.



On my last night in DC, my friends J&N indulged with me in a little dim sum in Chinatown at Ping Pong.  We ended up at a restaurant that was a little more fusion/trendy than traditional dim sum, but we enjoyed it!  I can't recall which drink I had, but I remember it had boba and a straw for the pearls! I think it was their Ping Pong signature drink looking at the menu now, but not sure.



We went the shared route with this meal too, and it was a smart move.  I'll be honest with you, looking at their menu now, over a month later, I can't remember what we ate.  I do know we had the five spice pork belly fried rice, because I think that was the spicy bowl pictured below.  And we had mochi.  But the exhaustion of the week just kind of blurred it all together for me, and the drinks to boot.  Let's just say we had a good time, ate good fusion dim sum, and called it a night.  :)



There are definitely more places I want to hit up the next time in DC.
Where should I go next year?


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The White House & Eisenhower Executive Office Building

While I was in D.C. for my DAR trip, I had the opportunity to tour the White House... TWICE!  The day before my trip, a hometown friend on assignment to the White House offered up a West Wing tour to my friend and me, and we couldn't say no!

Standing outside the West Wing door

Our visit happened the day after the tragic shooting in Orlando, so we were delayed a bit due to the President's press conference.  We could not access the White House for a while, and we were not allowed to take the usual photo op and visit the Press Briefing Room, because there were very important things happening in the building, obviously.  So we spent some time exploring the Eisenhower Executive Building, next door.

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

One of the coolest rooms in the EEOB was the Truman Bowling Alley, located down a seemingly dingy basement hallway.  The inside is a pleasant surprise!  Super nice.  There's another single bowling lane in the basement of the White House residence, but this one is supposed to be the nicer of the two.  Staffers can reserve it for parties and things, or to play a quick game during the day.



The EEOB was truly grand.  Since we were there on a Sunday, it was super quiet.  Very ornate and cool.  Doors automatically open as you walk in. So much beautiful decorative elements and architecture, too1




We visited the Indian Treaty Room, where Eisenhower held the first televised presidential press conference.  It has been used as a library, and currently is more of a meeting/reception room. It cost more to construct than any other room in the building, and I can see why... so ornate!




We also spent a good deal of time waiting (while the press conference was going on)  in what I think were the Secretary of War rooms, another long sequence of ornate rooms that were really unique and special.  I took a ton of pics, but I know you're in it for the White House stuff on this post, so I won't post them all here.



Where are the West Wing photos?  Well, you can't take any inside!  It's super secret-y in there, but you can see everything we saw here.  I liked seeing the West Colonnade and Rose Garden glimpses, as well as looking into the Oval Office.  It was a lot smaller than I thought it would be (the Oval Office, I mean), but sooooo cool to see!  You can't actually go into any of the rooms, but you can be a total looky-loo and geek out over it a bit.

Then, two days later, my friends and I attend our scheduled East Wing White House tour, which is open to the public (with a reservation and background check in advance).  It's actually part of the National Parks Service, believe it or not!



The East Wing tour is self-guided, and you get a brochure to help you along.  It's so beautiful!  You go from room to room at your own pace, and under President Obama last year they starting allowing photographs.  Love it!  They hold a lot of official events in these rooms, as well as tons of visitors traipsing through.




And some of the room names are quite obvious, LOL. (Blue Room, Red Room, etc.)  It was kind of cool knowing how many important people had been in these rooms, on the furniture, and all that.  It was kind of cool to see that despite political differences, there are many portraits of Presidents and First Ladies still hanging throughout the White House, regardless of party.  So even though the Obamas were in the building when we were visiting, there were still portraits of George W. and Laura Bush hanging, among others.  Very classy.







It had been on my list since childhood to go inside the White House, and now I can say I've been in there TWICE!  In the same week, seeing completely different sides of the building.  It was definitely memorable.  Now to figure out what's on my list for next year.




Interested in visiting the White House?  PLAN AHEAD.  For the public East Wing tour, we worked through our Congressman *six months* in advance.  You have to provide key data to them for the security check, including your social security number.  Tours can be cancelled on a moment's notice.  For the West Wing, you need to get an appointment through a Secret Service or White House staffer that you know, it's much tougher to get.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sunday Lately (on a Monday)

No, I'm not late because I was playing Pokemon Go.  I had houseguests all weekend (YAY for college buddies coming into town!) so I didn't pull away to write anything.  So here's a short update on where things are in my life...

PLANNING...
I'm busy for the next, like, FOUR weekends.  So I've been planning away, to ensure I get all the things done in a timely fashion.  I'm really loving my newest planner stickers though.  Much help.  Since I have no picture of planning, here's a picture from the pedestrian bridge in downtown Nashville (you may recognize it from the show, Nashville, people say it's on that all the time).  I had friends in town so we walked up on the bridge.



LOVING...
I'm loving watching a new-to-me show on Netflix, Penny Dreadful.  I used to hate everything scary, but now I like some of these dramatic shows with a hint of scary.  Plus, I basically love Eva Green in everything she's ever done.  LOVE HER.  So even though I'm just four episodes in, I think I'm hooked.

READING...
Atlas Shrugged, the first page, over and over, because my friend told me to read it but I haven't found the time to make it a priority.  So I usually read "Who is John Galt?" then get drowsy and put my eye mask on for bed.  I've been using lavender pillow mist to help me sleep better and it's working, evidently.  Bedtime reading is nil.

WISHING...
Weekends had three days, ALWAYS. Right???  I need two days for fun, one day for planning/laundry/cleaning/etc.

FEELING...
I'm feeling a bit like a bad blogger, because I have a lot of topics to write about, but not a ton of energy or motivation to write in the last week.  This week, I have stuff every day/night except Wednesday night.  So I need to prioritize and get the other stuff done before I can think about le blog.  But then again, nobody can make me feel like a bad blogger because I'm the only one who determines the direction of this space!  I'm a good blogger because I take care of life first, right?



Oh, and Dan and I saw Flight of the Conchords this past week at an outdoor venue.  It was a laugh-filled concert, and the perfect date night!




And since everyone knows my Sunday Lately post ALWAYS has a picture of food (I read the comments!), here's one of some hot chicken that we got at Hattie B's on Saturday.  Stiegl Radler is my summer jam.



What are you up to this Sunday lately?

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, July 14, 2016

I'm an adult playing Pokemon Go... and I'm not sorry.



Hi y'all, I have a confession to make...  I've been playing Pokemon Go.  To be honest, I probably would have been content to have few people close to me be aware of this guilty pleasure, but then I saw Facebook (the social medium of choice for the adult demographic, by data) be all like:



There are so many memes and harsh comments out there, some that are downright offensive.  I guess I was a little bit surprised to see such animosity over something so trivial, especially given the seriousness of news around the world...  but then I realized to the uninitiated, it's just an annoying trend that you see a ton of people doing that doesn't appeal to you.  Like planking or dabbing?  Candy Crush?  There are things I see that I don't quite understand either.  But to focus on the positive, I realized that EVERYONE has a fandom.

What?  You're not a nerd, so you don't have a fandom?  Trust me, you do.  Even if you don't have a smartphone, computer, or television, there is something in your life that you enjoy, and go some lengths to enjoy, that makes other people go, "Huh?"  Fandom is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest... and that could be watching a specific sports team religiously while wearing that team's apparel, or lining up at a store or warehouse hours before it opens to buy your favorite designer's stuff/video game/vintage clothing, or having an intense collection of stickers and stamps for your Erin Condren Life Planner/Happy Planner (guilty as charged).  There are people who view your fandom and think, "That's lame."  Because they don't share that common interest, they write it off.  I still haven't joined Snapchat.  I don't get it.  But I don't have disdain or animosity for those who use it.

I loved the Pokemon cartoon when I was younger, catching it after school if it was on (no DVR or Netflix in those days!).  I would argue that in this day and age of 90s reboots (Fuller House, Girl Meets World, reunion music tours, Britney Spears in residence in Las Vegas), this Pokemon release was just as much for adults as for kids.  The market is primed for nostalgic releases like this, especially since our age group now has its own wallet; the MBA nerd in me is all about this genius move.  I love seeing clever marketing that local businesses are doing around this, including some places introducing pub crawls or even historic tours that double as Pokemon hunts (looking at you, National Park Service, you go!).  Local businesses know that you can't buy foot traffic, only maybe now you can literally lure people to your storefront.

Amusing photos of Pokemon Go in the world... and the last one is great marketing.


So here, as a grown, educated, employed, married, social adult with real-life friends and family and things to do...  I share why I personally enjoy a little Pokemon Go in the morning.  (And during my lunch break.  And some evenings.  #honesty)


  • It's a break for my brain.  After my divorce, I struggled with anxiety and shame and worry.  I had a therapist tell me once that my brain was so active, I needed a way to relieve anxiety or worry that turns my brain OFF for a little while.  At the time, we laughed that reality TV helped a whole lot with that; I used to love the Real Housewives of OC and New Jersey.  Now, Pokemon Go provides me the perfect little break from the grind.  It's also helping people battling depression/agoraphobia, for real!  And it’s FREE. 

  • The idea is really cool.  It uses GPS technology to map your real world, and you discover a little magic within it; it's amusing to see, through your phone, these Pokemon pop up and be visible through the camera in the context of reality.  This is going to change the gaming landscape, I guarantee it.  Nintendo is seeing positive stock results, and all it did was license the characters.  Tech nerd in me thinks this alone is worth acknowledging, whether you play or not.  Does it affect my phone's data/battery?  Sure, but I pay my own bills.

  • It forces you to go outside and play!  The first night I downloaded the app, I deleted it, because nothing was happening while I sat sedentary on the couch.  Once I went outside, I realized how fun the scavenger hunt could be, kind of like geocaching with less navigation.  I've struggled with finding motivation to work out, and Pokemon Go actually seduced me into going to my local park to jog actual MILES, pausing for Pokemon if I happened upon them.  I see groups of kids on bikes, or running through parks, having the kind of active summer I remember having as a kid.  I see self-deprecating adults waving at each other, sheepishly admitting we're having fun.  People are rediscovering their cities in a new way.   As a friend on Twitter put it, we don’t stop playing games because we grow old.  We grow old because we stop playing games.

I'm SO keeping track on MapMyFitness because exercise, yo.

  • It brings people together.  If I had a dollar for every story of a sullen teenager suddenly interacting with their parent who is playing, or every kid who used to be sedentary who is outside clocking 6+ miles a day, I'd probably be able to buy some Pokecoins.  I personally have met some fun people while playing, many of them seemingly normal adults like me who laugh about it.  We catch a monster, then we talk.  It's more social than any social media I've seen, to be honest.  I'm meeting people I didn't even know lived in my community, face-to-face.  All ages, all races, all creeds.  Talk about real-life networking.  I'm waiting to hear about the romances that spin off these kinds of interactions too!  The game now has more users than Tinder.

Look, I acknowledge the bad stories that have been going around the internet about this game, because we live in America and dumb people do dumb things.  Yes, I think it’s dumb to go to a Pokestop lure at 2am and not be aware enough to notice people staking you out to rob you, or walk into traffic playing a game, or climbing a tree thinking you’ll find a Pokemon…  This is just natural selection at its best, people.  The herd will thin itself out, this is just a vehicle like everything else.  SITUATIONAL AWARENESS AND COMMON SENSE.  Don’t play in hallowed places like a memorial or the Holocaust Museum, have some damn respect.  Don’t play at work, you’re an adult, you gotta pay the bills.  Don't ignore your spouse, your children, your family.

But this isn't any different from another fandom.  Some people just take it too far.

For me, the game is a fun little escape that doesn't take over my life.  I still have one, and if you don't believe me, let's chat.  Because everyone has a life, and they're entitled to their fandom.  What makes us weird makes us different, and what makes us different makes us richer.


P.S.  I do find this meme below to be funny.  Because the funniest things are based in the truth.





Monday, July 11, 2016

2016 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.



The Daughters of the American Revolution, as an organization, has become a big part of my life.  It is my way of giving back to the local community and beyond, and building bonds with some pretty incredible women.  (Read my post on why I joined, and my trip to last year's Continental Congress in Washington, D.C.!)

I spent a full week in June in Washington, D.C., for the 125th Continental Congress, our annual convention.  With it being an anniversary and DAR election year, there were a record number of ladies present!  As you can imagine our Opening Night ceremonies were pretty magical.  I jokingly called it patriotic prom on Facebook, because the spirit of the events are just so moving... and AMERICAN!






I think one of my favorites parts about Continental Congress is getting to represent my Chapter at the National gathering.  I loved the Tennessee Dinner, because we got a photo of our members together!



I also enjoy that I get to cross paths with fellow Tennessee daughters, especially fellow Juniors and pages, from across the State who attend as well.  It's a wonderful mix of new friends and old friends, and it makes you feel united in your work.


Tennessee Pages

I worked for the week at our Junior Shoppe, one of our fundraising efforts for charity.  I won't go into detail here, but it was a cause I really enjoyed supporting these past two years!  I was on my feet a ton, and it was exhausting, but so worth it in the end.  There was so much hustle and bustle, tons of projects.  We accomplished a ton as a Society during the week, including a new GUINNESS WORLD RECORD title for “Most letters to military personnel collected in one month” with a total number of 100,904 cards!



Another perk?  I spent all day in our beautiful DAR buildings, a block or so from the White House, which are a wonderful part of our legacy.



Continental Congress is a blur, and it's hard to describe here in a post.  But I had to share some of my favorite snapshots.  I loved sharing a house with four of my Tennessee girlfriends.  I loved meeting new women, including one who is my distant cousin!  I loved doing something for a good cause.  Paging is hard work, but it's definitely good work.  I'm proud to be able to give the time, because I get just as much out of it as I put in.



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