Always Aubrey: November 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Out & About: More Nashville Eats

I have this standing folder of food photos that I've been saving for one of these "where I've been eating" posts, and now I've got so many I'll be doing one for Nashville AND one for Franklin!  I feel like I don't have enough for a full blog post, so rounding them up feels right.  (Click here for more posts about where to eat in Nashville, and where to eat in Franklin.)


The Loving Pie Company
I wrote about The Loving Pie Company back in 2014, and I still enjoy it!  It's a cute little pie shop that is very Pushing Daisies, if you love Kristin Chenoweth like me and feel like it was cancelled before its time.  I've been back a couple times since my first blog post, and I discovered that on Saturday mornings they play Broadway music and have brunch pies.  BRUNCH PIES.  You gotta visit.




They also have some special events, like The Pie Society hosted at Jackalope Brewing Company, where you dress up and enjoy beer and pie pairings.  BEER AND PIE!



Bartaco
I've eaten at Bartaco in 12 South more times than I can count.  I think their margaritas are great; they're fresh, so they don't give me heartburn like others.  I have had their chips, bowls, and tacos, and all are tasty.  I like their variety.  They serve the food all together in a kind of social, communal manner, and the staff are great.  It's usually a spot I eat with my blogger buddies in Nashville.  It's also very close to Sprinkles, and you can't go wrong with a cupcake after dinner.




Wing Basket
I have a group of coworkers that love hot chicken and chicken wings, so they always drag me out to these fun little spots in search of the best.  One of their favorites is Wing Basket in Nolensville.  It's a casual place tucked into a strip mall, very unassuming.  But they have a huge selection of wing sauces and options, as well as bone-in, boneless, and tenders.  In addition, their fries are well-seasoned and really tasty.  I think I enjoy the fries just as much as the chicken, which is really great!  You can definitely get options with some heat to them, as well as non-spicy flavors.


The Flipside
I went to The Flipside in 12 South with a friend, and it was definitely the kind of meal you need to sleep off afterwards!  The whole place looks very retro, like a diner or soda fountain out of the 50s.  The main event is their Jack's Best Chicken fried chicken patty, pounded thin,  with over twenty options for fixin's.  I chose the eponymous Flipside with jambalaya, eggs, and cheddar, and a side of crispy tater tots.  It was a heavy, gut bomb meal, but tasty the whole way through.  Tots were perfect, and I'd order them again.  I haven't been back since our visit, because I haven't been craving this kind of food.  The service was a little uneven while we were there, with some credit card confusion that resulted in my friend's card being charged twice, but the manager was great despite the server being a bit airheaded.



SmoQue Signals BBQ
The SmoQue Signals BBQ food truck stopped by my office during our summer Food Truck Fridays.  I'm a fan of BBQ, even though I don't always crave it.  Their credo is "Nashville Bred, Memphis Approved" in that they offer West Tennessee-style BBQ.  Memphis-style BBQ is one of the major types of BBQ, and it's really Memphis that is known for being a BBQ city over Nashville.  (People always come to town wanting to eat BBQ like Nashville is known for it, but it's really not.)  This BBQ pork sandwich from Smoque Signals and crispy, thing fries really hit the spot.  There was an extremely long wait for this food, kind of like they didn't realize they'd have a long line.  But I suppose good things come to those who wait!  My only complaint was the wait, the rest was all delicious.



Hattie B's West
My love for Hattie B's is known here.  Since like 2013, right?  But I don't really go to the crowded, touristy Midtown original location anymore.  We head straight to the west side to their larger location, complete with parking lot, (typically) shorter line, and wider drink selection.  You ever have those moments where you're like, "I'm too old for -insert something here-"?  For me, it's the opportunity cost of waiting in enormous lines for something.  I'm just too old.  It's one of the reasons I love restaurants that offer reservations!  But when out-of-towners want a taste of Nashville, we usually stop by.


Where have you been eating lately?
What's your favorite Nashville spot?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Budgeting Bloggers: November 2016

Budget busted!  Womp womp.  😈  (P.S. Blogger has emojis.  I can't decide if I like it or not?)  But to be honest, I needed to replace items that were falling apart, buy some things for special occasions, and it just took off.  But since we bought some new things for Dan too, I didn't really get upset about the budget!  I actually got a lot for my money.




  1. Stitch Fix Pieces ($296):  As you may have read, I spent a bunch on my latest Stitch Fix box, because I kept all the things!  But no regrets, really.  It happens.
  2. Velvet Patterned Fit-and-Flare Dress via Dress Barn (originally $68, paid $54):  This was the dress I bought for my brother-in-law's wedding.  I LOVE the silhouette, and I got so many compliments.  I think that when you're looking for a good deal on a nice/flattering dress, you can't rule out places like Dress Barn, JCPenney, even Cato.  I have a feeling this will be the new LBD that I reach for over and over again!
  3. Mesh Grid Dress via Dress Barn (paid $38 on clearance, similar):  This dress screamed holiday to me, so I'm holding onto it to wear to The Nutcracker with Dan.  It was on clearance, so definitely a steal, and something I know I can wear a few times at least.
  4. Urban Expressions Stella Clutch via DSW ($35):  I bought this for travel and to carry at my brother-in-law's wedding.  I love the size (perfect for a wedding card/invite) and now I toss it into my big work tote and carry it if I go out to lunch.  I've used it nonstop since its purchase.
  5. CHEERS! Brushed Cozy Pullover Sweatshirt ($18):  Impulse buy, but no regrets.  It's seriously the softest sweatshirt I own, and you absolutely need it.  It's part of the Grayson Threads collection at Target.  And now I want this one too.
  6. Striped Long Sleeve Tees ($12 ea x 3 colorways) at Target:  I needed some layering pieces, as my old long sleeve tees were full of holes after the years. So I dropped some money right away in order to stay warm!

I think November and December are the months I buy the most clothing.  Probably it's because that's the time of year I start to feel the weather changing!  I've actually got a pile going to list more things on Poshmark, to counteract the shopping damage I've done.


$477 spent -  $14 earned/sold = $463 total spent in November

Quarter Budget: $500 - $176 in October - $463 in November = $139 OVER BUDGET



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


Sunday, November 27, 2016

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

It's been a while since I've linked up for Sunday Lately with the Blogger Tribe, but today is their 100th week of doing this linkup! So I definitely wanted to go ahead and post here for and share a little bit of what I've been up to. But first, here's a picture of me snuggling with my "niece" dog Taco over Thanksgiving weekend. Sweet pup! I'm a little obsessed with taking pictures of her with my new Instax camera.





COMPLETING...  I've completed my Gilmore Girls watching.  And I won't reveal spoilers... but man, I really really really wish they would give us some more!  It was like a trip down memory lane, revisiting old friends.  I watched the first two episodes with my sister-in-law and her sister, and then binged the last two in insomnia moments!

Sign at my brother-in-law's wedding, which felt very Gilmore Girls to me for some reason!


VISITING...  We've spent the past three weekends flying to spend time with family... NYC for my cousin's baby shower, Pittsburgh for my brother-in-law's wedding, and then back to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving.  It's been crazy!  But since I have a Southwest companion pass for Dan good through the end of 2017, taking advantage of it means not missing out on what everyone is up to!  I actually haven't been home for a weekend since October 22nd...  so I'm really going to relish the next few before Christmas weekend.

Cookies I commissioned for my cousin's baby shower


REPEATING...  I'm not sure what I'm repeating so much, minus packing my suitcase over and over for all of these trips!  I have to work trips that require flights in December, but other than that and Christmas I should be home.  Just having clean laundry will be key.  I have been repeating my warmer outfits because I need to cull my closet.  I've put out three bags in my closet: one for Poshmark listings, one for mending, and one for donations.  I finally need to just part with what doesn't fit and resign myself to buying new if I manage to lose some weight.

WRITING...  the same blog post for ages.  I've tried a ton of those meal kit services, and I've been trying to figure out how to write this massive post/review ranking my favorites.  I've tried Blue Apron, Plated, Martha & Marley Spoon, Hello Fresh, Peach Dish, and Sun Basket.  Let me know what you want to hear about them!  I'm thinking

In the meantime, I've been enjoying some home-cooked food...  we had Thanksgiving with my in-laws this year, which means a traditional/Italian combination of food.  I sure don't mind meatballs and gnocchi as a holiday food option!



SCHEDULING...  I've been scheduling everything!   I downsized to a mini Happy Planner, and it was the right choice.  The only thing I need to do now is sync some of the things I write in it to my digital calendar, so I get the Apple watch alerts that I want.  I love having a place to jot down all the details, and make lists to remind me what to do.  It's a fun way to stay organized and feel like I've got some semblance of control.

THIS PAST WEEK...
  • On the Blog:  I love getting invited to blogger/influencer events in my local community.  Did you see my preview of the Morton Salt event I attended?  So cool!
  • On Twitter:  I watched Me Before You and couldn't get over how I loved all the actors in other movies.
  • On Pinterest:  I'm back on Pinterest like crazy lately, and this brisket with apricots and prunes recipe sounds amazing!  Prunes get a bad rap for being old people food that gets you moving, so I have to laugh now that they're showing up in stores marketed as "dried plums" to shake the stigma.
  • On Instagram:  Of course I ate Chinese takeout while watching Gilmore Girls this week!
  • Shopping:  I loved everything in my Stitch Fix this month, my 12th one!  I've been shopping a ton this month, as you'll see in my upcoming Budgeting Bloggers roundup, but I have zero regrets.





What are you up to this Sunday?

Sunday Lately with Blogger Tribe

Friday, November 25, 2016

Pizza & Steak in Rosemont (Chicago)

I was in Rosemont for a work conference, which is a village/burb northwest of Chicago.  But being in the vicinity of Chicago, I felt like I needed to indulge in some good eats.  This was actually during the world series timeframe, so it felt appropriate.

Of course, I had to find deep dish pizza.  So I grabbed a Lyft to the local Giordano's outpost.



You guys, this was my first real Giordano's experience.  Looking back, I realize that Gino's East was the only place I'd eaten before.  I had eaten Giordano's here when someone ordered a frozen one, but everyone says that's not the same.




Yes, that's a salad.  I was starving by the time I got there, and the deep dish pizzas can take 30 minutes from ordering.  (You can call ahead, FYI.)  So I tucked in to their Italiano Salad in the starter size, to tide me over.  Eating something green made me feel slightly better before deep dish diving!




Pepperoni and pineapple are my favorite toppings on pizza.  Don't judge until you've tried it, it's amazing.  No, not ham and pineapple, PEPPERONI.  I got their personal size deep dish, and I'm so glad they offer it!  I really loved it.  The think the sauce, thick crust, all of it was perfect.  I love deep dish pizza, because it's like the whole thing is a fluffy crust.

So then two nights later, my coworkers want to go out to eat... at Giordano's.  How could I not allow them that experience too?  So I decided this time to try their spaghetti and meatballs.  HUGE PORTIONS.  As in, I couldn't clean my plate!  If I were at home, I'd have taken home leftovers.  It was so much better than you'd get at national Italian chains, from the sauce to the noodles.  I was in a carb hangover for DAYS after these meals.




On my other night in Rosemont, my coworkers took me to Gibsons, a high-end Chicago steakhouse.  It's one of those places that prints the menu every day because they offer specials flown in from all over, and they have that cool meat presentation tableside too.



Quelle presentation!

I can't eat a huge steak, so I always go for a filet mignon.  This one I had topped with roasted garlic, because it keeps vampires away and I love garlic.  It was perfectly cooked, exactly what I expected from a good steakhouse.  It wasn't over the moon exceptional like Wagyu, but it was at a lower price point than specialty filets, so I appreciated its tenderness.




Like many steakhouses, the sides are shareable.  My favorite side was their enormous twice-baked potato.  It could probably feed four people.  Can you tell how huge it is from the size of the spoons?  Hot, soft, like a baked potato and a mashed potato had a delicious baby.  (Insert Homer Simpson's salivating mmmmm noises here.)  Excellent.  They also had a reasonably priced wine list, of which I partook!  Gibsons is a solid choice for a good steak night.




If you eat poorly in Chicago, it's your own fault, because even the suburbs have great foodie spots!  Eat up, my friends!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Escape Room: The Game





I love puzzles and brain teasers.  I especially love the "escape room" attractions popping up all over the place.  I consider myself to be a bit of a puzzle guru, but these games ALWAYS stretch my thinking, and having others join the fun means you get extra perspective.  No two people look at these puzzles the same way.

That said, it's expensive to attend some of these game venues, around $30 per person.  So when I heard that there was an at-home version Escape Room: The Game available, bringing the thrill of the game to your dining room table, I was in!  And it only costs about the cost of one person's admission, for FOUR games.




This is definitely a game for those with advanced puzzle and problem-solving skills, i.e. teens and adults age 16+, suggest for groups of 3-5.  (I think this could also be a good game for two, if you're a nerdy puzzle couple like me and my husband!)  It's perfect if you have a regular adult board game group getting together.


Don't we look super serious?  WE WANT TO WIN!!!


I played the game with three of my work friends, because a few of us had enjoyed the escape room experience before. I figured we'd be really good at this game... but we definitely were stretched!  You have just 60 minutes to find hidden clues (look closely at EVERYTHING!), decode and solve puzzles, and "escape" from one of the four rooms included in the box.  We attempted the Prison Break game, and we were ultimately victorious (yay!), but not without needing some of the hints.





A few tips...You definitely want to have pen/paper and a calculator on hand.  You also want to pick up the decoder so you can use the tools on the sides.  Lastly, remember that every wrong attempt at inserting the four keys costs you a minute.  We definitely used all of the hints provided, as well as made a few wrong attempts using the keys.





You can even enhance your experience by downloading the free Escape Room app for background music, and to share a photo as you celebrate in victory!  I definitely think the music adds to the ambiance as you're figuring things out.




The only downside to this game?  Once you've solved the four puzzles, you're done... and I want more!  But given the keys and the decoder are something you use in every game, they could easily put out expansion games and packs for you to play, to bring even more puzzles to your home!

If you're thinking about an in-person escape room experience, this game is the perfect primer to unlock that type of thinking in preparation.  If you live too far from one or don't want to pay that premium pricing, this is the perfect alternative.  You really get some good value for the investment with this game.  Definitely add this game to your shopping list for the holidays gifting season!





I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Standard at the Smith House

Lindsey is one of my best friends, and she and I have lived near one another a couple of times over the last decade.  Until a few months ago, she lived within two miles of me, and life was grand... but then she was called home to New England and relocated to Rhode Island!  So when she came back to Nashville for a short trip, I knew we had to have a special girls' night out.



I made us reservations at The Standard, a restaurant that had been on my radar from OpenTable but without a recommendation from anyone I knew.  I think that given its location (downtown, but not on a main pedestrian drag) and steakhouse fare, it probably gets overlooked at times.  One reviewer called it intimate and secluded, and maybe that's it!  When we rolled up to the valet, he knew me by name.  (Service!)  He introduced us to the house and its rich history.  I must say that the building impressed me, as it's the only one of its kind remaining in downtown Nashville.



When I entered, I got a little bit worried.  I could definitely smell the cigars from the cigar club upstairs.  They have a members-only group that uses that space, which is kind of neat, but I was worried the smell might hamper our dining experience.  Nope!  Once we were whisked into the beautiful dining rooms, I was transported.  The rooms were small, but stunning. The fireplaces!  I can definitely see it as the perfect place for a wedding rehearsal dinner, or a fancy date night.    It's certainly romantic, and quiet enough you can actually talk to the people at your table without hubbub.  Guys, take note, this place is probably a good one to take a lady friend.



I started with a cocktail, and it was a good one!  I also liked the beautiful postcards on the tables, which show the historic house.  Not a bad keepsake if you make it a special occasion.  They had a pretty good wine list too.  The server really made us feel like he was only waiting on us, and no one else!

On his recommendation, we definitely had to start off with their fried green tomatoes, served with jumbo lump crab meat.  This is something you must order at this restaurant!  Not only is it beautiful, but it's delicious.  Perfect size for two people to share.



Like many steakhouses, the sides here are large and shareable.  We both ordered 6 oz. filets, and the meat and cooking temperatures were excellent.  Their macaroni and cheese also came highly recommended, so we had that as well as the mashed potatoes.  (I know, starch on starch, sue me!  It was delish!)




Overall, I have only good things to say about our visit to the Standard.  It was quiet, pretty, tasty, and charming.  Definitely a hidden gem that hasn't been getting enough buzz in my circles!


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Stitch Fix Review: 12th 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 started receiving Stitch Fix boxes back in March 2015, and I can't believe I'm already on my 12th Fix recap!  Looking back at my previous fixes, I realize that I still love getting these boxes, when I have the budget for them.  It's so nice to have someone curating clothing items for me, vs. going to the store.  To be honest, with the weight I've gained over the past year or so, shopping in-store has had me disappointed in terms of selection.  Online shopping has always provided more size options in each style.  That said, it sucks to comb multiple sites to find a bunch of pieces that I need.  Stitch Fix doesn't require me to work for it, which it probably why I'm still loyal.

I've had success when I add items to my Pinterest board that I provide my stylist, and when I keep my size profile updated.  I had a couple of frustrating fixes, and I realized that it was because my sizes were not current.  Unless Stitch Fix is playing with me by using the same stylist's name over and over, I believe I've been working with the same girl for nearly two years now.  The longer I've used the service, the more I feel like she "gets" my preferences and what I like.  This box was definitely evidence of that, because (spoiler alert) I loved it.


Le Lis Kano Textured Knit Dress

I really loved this Le Lis dress.  You can't see it well in the image, but it has a beautiful texture.  I loved that it easily pulled on over my head (no zipper struggles!), and the fabric felt luxe.  It's going to be the perfect work dress for travel, since I don't need help zipping.  I wore it to my cousin's baby shower, and the fit & flare silhouette was flattering for sure.  Price felt steep, but it was a beautiful dress.  KEPT.


41Hawthorn Henderson Tie Neck Blouse

I love bow-tie blouses, and I love mustard yellow.  So this top, while not 100% the most flattering cut all-around, still looked freaking adorable.  I tied the bow in my selfie, but I wear it like the actual Stitch Fix picture instead.  I was probably a little on the fence about this one, especially for the price, but (another spoiler) it was worth keeping given the discount I could get for the whole box.  KEPT.


Pixley Jacobsen Textured Knit Dress

I loved this dress.  I actually think I will wear it a lot in the spring, given it was a lighter fabric vs. a heavy ponte knit.  Love the pattern, and the black and white!  It was a flattering fit, too.  I would have kept this one no matter what, given the price.  KEPT.


Skies are Blue Bathilda Cutout Detail Blouse

This blouse was probably my least favorite item in the box.  It looks cute, and the cut-outs and color are neat, but the fit/feel wasn't the best of the bunch.  When I did end up wearing it, I got quite a few compliments.  I think that the color is my style, and the blouse was a good one to keep after all.  KEPT.


Tart Kearsley Knit Blazer

I live in comfy blazers.  Ponte knits are my fav.  My stylist warned me that this piece was as splurge.  When I look online, Tart knit blazers run $120-160.  Once I put the blazer on, I didn't want to take it off.  It's comfy enough to sleep in, but looks office-appropriate.  In fact, I wore it with black pants on election day to represent #PantsuitNation.  (Bittersweet, to be sure.)  The only downside to this piece is that it is Dry Clean only, but I recently found a good cleaner on my commute that makes it easy.  After all, you gotta protect investment pieces!  I'm definitely gonna keep an eye out on Nordstrom Rack to see if any of these blazers make it there on sale, because I can't afford to buy these in every fix!  KEPT.


The total price for all five items was $386, but that was reduced by 25% since I kept all of the items.  With tax, styling fee, and everything else, I paid $296.28 total, which averages to about $59 per item.  That's not cheap.  But given the quality of the items (think Nordstrom, not H&M) and the convenience factor, I felt like it was worth the expense.  I find myself reaching for my favorite Stitch Fix items over and over, especially comfy blazers and layering pieces.  This is only my 5th Fix of 2016, so you can see how I've switched my scheduling around based on budget.  :)  Thanks for stopping by for this recap!

Past Stitch Fix Reviews
(all reviews, in reverse order)


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!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Morton Salt's Next Door Chef: Nashville



On Monday, I was thrilled to be invited to join a number of guests at Morton Salt's Next Door Chef: Nashville.  We were transported to the backyard of a local family, hosts Travis and Claire, so Travis could learn to cook (with different types of salt as a complement) under the tutelage of a professional chef.  

At the event, the home was transformed into a beautiful outdoor bar and restaurant! This was Morton Salt’s second Next Door Chef event, after a dinner served in Chicago.  There, they focused on holiday cooking, which you can view here.  




If you've been using table salt in all of your cooking, you need to check out their tips and recipes.   Table salt is for the table...  Kosher salt, coarse sea salt, and fine sea salt all have the ability to bring out the flavor in your home-cooked meals.  All of the dishes we tried, from cocktails to main course to dessert, were transformed by the addition of various types of salt.




Want to host a salt-enhanced dinner part of your own?  You can go to MortonSalt.com/NextDoorChef to download your own hosting kit, complete with recipes and steps to add that extra something to your meal.  And if you do host a “Next Door Chef” party or have a recipe idea for using Morton Kosher or sea salt, post your photos using #NextDoorChef!

I can't wait to share more about this special event when the video and recipes get published to the Next Door Chef website.  In the meantime, make sure you check out what they did in Chicago, and learn more about how you can enhance your cooking technique and flavors for the holidays.




Thank you to Morton Salt for sponsoring this event and blog post!
The images, text, and opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

REVIEW: Basic Invite

I received free thank you notes from Basic Invite in exchange for writing an honest review on my blog.  Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own!



I love me some snail mail, you guys.  Yes, I've embraced the era of electronic invitations and communication, but I still tuck stamps into my planner just in case.  In particular, I always carry a Thank You note.  You never know when you're going to need one, and they ensure you deliver a timely note to those you wish to appreciate!

When Basic Invite reached out to me, my initial thought was, I don't need baby or wedding invitations, what can they offer me?  But then I took a look at their wide range of card offerings, from graduation announcements to thank you cards to bar mitzvah invitations!  Not only that, but once you select a design, you can actual change the color of individual elements within the card down to the tiniest detail.  I like the ability to coordinate with whatever I'm looking at.  That includes picking from the 40 colors of envelopes they offer.



You can also order custom samples of your actual invitation or item, so you can hold it in-hand and see exactly how it will print before you commit to a larger order.

I ordered two sets of custom thank you notes from Basic Invite.  I love that the envelopes are all peel and stick... no licking!  I wanted one set that was more Dan's style (beer theme!), and another that could still be from us both but a little more feminine.



While we don't have a baby brewing (this thank you card coordinates with a beer-themed baby shower), I thought these cards were perfect coming from a beer family like ours.  The cardstock quality was great, and the custom names make it a truly thoughtful note to send to someone.  They'll remember your effort!



I also browsed more of Basic Invite's offering, including custom baby shower invitations...  I'm always attending baby showers or helping friends and family with theirs, so I love these!

Basic Invite


And aren't these holiday cards adorable?  I know there are tons of sites out there with holiday cards, but the customization options mean you can match your font color to the outfit in the photo.

Basic Invite

I'm very happy with my Basic Invite thank you cards, and I know they'll come in handy during the holidays!


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