Always Aubrey: December 2016

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: Looking Back



Blogging, like journaling or scrapbooking, can really allow you to step back and take a look at where you've been.  When I was a teenager, I used paper diaries.  For over a decade now, I've been blogging on various sites.   And I like being able to see what I did, where I went, and more, because memory is fleeting sometimes.  We get to busy, we don't stop and think back on what we've accomplished.  Here are my favorite moments from this blog (and life!) in 2016...




JANUARY:  Exploring the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff with Dan, while visiting my sister and her fiance.

FEBRUARY:  Traveling to San Antonio for the first time!  I'd really love to come back and explore more of the city.

MARCH:  Putting another half marathon in the books, my 2nd Disney Princess Half Marathon.  It was a full-circle experience since that race was also my first half!




APRIL:  Our long weekend getaway to Austin was really cool.  I can't believe it had taken me so long to get to that city!  Not going to lie, this year was so crazy I almost forgot we took this trip.  And of course it wasn't all one blog post: Jester King Brewery & Salt Lick BBQEast Austin and East Cesar Chavez, Rainey Street and 6th Street, and LBJ Presidential Library, Bullock Texas State History Museum, and more.

MAY:  May is when my blog went from being "Adventures in Aubreyland" to "Always Aubrey", with all the hiccups, dead links, drop in traffic, and other issues that come with being a blogger who does pretty much everything DIY.  Woof.  It wasn't easy, but I think this was worth it... just wish the preferred handle I wanted on Instagram was available.

JUNE:  MBA GRADUATION!  'Nuff said, right?  So glad to have two Master's Degrees under my belt after years of doing school while working full time.





JULY:  Okay, so I was in DC in June for DAR, but I blogged about it into July...  and seeing the White House twice was one of my big highlights, especially the West Wing.  I'm also now pretty glad I got to see it during the last year of the Obamas in the White House, just to feel that energy and sort of bask in it.  I'm sure there will be some changes in the house this year, which makes me sad.

AUGUST:  We celebrated our 1st Wedding Anniversary.  Woohoo!

SEPTEMBER:  September and October were all about covering our week-long vacation in Quebec...  from Quebec City...




OCTOBER:  ...to Montreal.  We really loved this trip, and it reminded us that the coolest destinations are sometimes within your own continent, not just across an ocean.

NOVEMBER:  My friend Lindsey came back to town for a visit, and we had an incredible girls' night out meal at The Standard.

DECEMBER:  Travel was a consistent highlight this year!  I went to Seattle for the first time ever during a work trip in December.  I saw the Space Needle and went to the Amazon bookstore.


My most popular posts, according to Google Analytics, have been old review posts, but they're the kind of thing that bring people to a new blog!  I've updated a couple of these over time because they get so much traffic:


When I think about 2017, I think about wanting to be more in tune to myself and my surroundings.  I want to be present in my own life, less busy and distracted.  Rather than make a more specific goal, that is going to be my focus!  Cheers to you all, and thanks for reading.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Pie Society

I really love The Loving Pie Company (mentioned here on the blog in 2014 and also this year), so when my friend told me about their twice-annual Pie Society event with Jackalope Brewing Company, I felt like it was perfect for a date night.  Held after-hours with candlelight at the brewery, it featured six courses pairing pie and beer.



We dressed up a bit for the occasion, though ties were optional.  The price was super reasonable too, just $35 per person plus tax.  Not bad for a night out including alcohol!  We were served a pint upon arrival, then we settled into seats to be served our first course.



Check out the photo above of the menu for descriptions of the courses and beers.  I'll be focusing more on the food angle, as that's my element, while beer is my husband's!

The first course was kind of a Christmas cookie out of pie dough, with drizzled chocolate and blackberry.  I think I need to make cookies out of all of my leftover pie dough, when I have it!  The second course was a tasty meat pie.  I don't usually like peas in anything, but I ate the whole thing because it was a great hand pie!



The third course was Dan's favorite, a maple pie with BACON.  I think one of my favorites was the fourth course, the cutest apple pie I've ever eaten.  It also had a hint of cheddar.  I love apples plus cheese.  It's one of those strange combos that works!



The fifth and sixth courses were holiday-style desserts of cranberry pecan pie bites and a dessert that was designed almost like Dan commissioned it: chocolate, pretzel, coffee, and Oreo!  I was starting to slow down.  The pies were the perfect small bites for a multi-course meal.



If you like beer and you like pie (and let's face it, if you read my blog you likely like one or the other), these Pie Society events are a great night out in Nashville!  Whether it's a girls' night out or a date night, I really enjoyed it.  I definitely would consider attending another one, if only to get my husband out of the house and into a sport coat.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Budgeting Bloggers: December 2016

It's time for my last shopping post of the year!  I really do enjoy keeping track of what I buy (and how much I sell) in order to have what I love in my closet.  I do think it holds me accountable and helps me avoid being insane.  Well, minus this quarter where I blew my budget on sales.

Given the hectic holidays, I will be covering unopened packages (Lularoe coming!), Christmas gifts, and after-Christmas shopping items in my January 2017 post, so here's what I bought myself in December other than that.


  1. Lularoe Amelia Dress ($65):  I'm always on the hunt in a few LuLaRoe groups for Amelia dresses, Madison skirts, and the occasional leggings.  I found an Amelia in a beautiful color, which I actually just used for some photos for my blog and other things.
  2. Pinup Girl Clothing Madison Dress in Blue (originally $132, $55 via Zulily):  I couldn't resist getting this dress for a song via Zulily, especially since it's still available for full price on PUG.  It's work-appropriate but also pretty and vintage-looking.  Win!
  3. Lazy Sunday comfy cardigan via Finnley's ($45):  I was in downtown Franklin with my friend during a local festival, and she turned me on to Finnley's, a local boutique.  OMG I wanted everything in there!  And honestly, it's all reasonably priced.  I couldn't resist the incredibly soft cardigan I found for layering.  It shed a lot of lint, but I think after a wash it wille be better.
  4. Honey Belle fleece vest via Finnley's ($49, similar):  I never pulled the trigger on buying a herringbone vest from either Old Navy or J. Crew, but when I saw this lighter colored one, I loved it!  I wear my two quilted vests a lot this time of year, so it's going to be well worn.  I even wore it for family photos this month.

$214 spent -  $84 earned/sold = $130 total spent in December



Quarter Budget: $500 - $176 in October - $463 in November - $130 in December = $269 OVER BUDGET


I blew my budget, but given the amazing shopping in the last quarter of the year, I don't really feel too guilty about it!  I did sell a decent number of items too, offsetting my spend.

Reflecting on this past year, I've decided that since I got a raise at work and I want more overall flexibility, I'll be working with an annual budget vs. a quarterly one in 2017, to see how it works.  I've done monthly and quarterly before as I've been tracking, so this is just another variation.  I've decided that my budget for 2017 will be $2500.  I'll explain my personal "rules" in next month's post!

In the meantime, I've added a bunch of things for sale to my Poshmark closet, so check it out if you're in the mood to shop.


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


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!


We hope you had a wonderful holiday!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Seattle

Sometimes, work trips take me someplace new...  and a couple of weeks ago, that meant SEATTLE!  Yes, Seattle in December...  rainy and chilly, just as I expected.  I arrived around lunchtime, grabbed a bite, then worked a bit.  But then my coworkers and I met up to see the Space Needle, which is probably one of the most touristy things you can do there!




Even though it was cold and rainy, the view was incredible!  I couldn't see the mountains, but it was still pretty stunning.




We were meeting a couple blocks from the Public Market, so one morning I walked there on my way to meetings.  It was kind of nice being there before everything opened up and the tourist deluge began.  In fact, I was there so early, there was no line at the original Starbucks store!



I don't drink coffee... I'm a tea girl.  I do enjoy chai lattes, and in my youth I would chug a vanilla frappuccino.  Dan is the coffee person.  But since I was there, I got my chai latte and a souvenir mug to take home to Dan.  It was kind of cool to say I've been there!




I came back through the market during an evening walk too, and I got to see some of the fish and produce.  It would be neat to live close enough to shop there regularly!



I also indulged in DELICIOUS macarons at Le Panier.  Seriously, so good.  I'm a sucker for good macarons, and these were some of the best I've had!




I'd like to spend a week in the Pacific Northwest with Dan.  The sky seemed bigger out there!  I even shopped at the Amazon Books store (like, a real store) and it was different in cool ways from what I'm used to seeing in bookstores.



I did get out and enjoy food and nightlife too.  We played beer and Seattle-themed putt-putt at the Flatstick Pub, a cool bar that's kind of like an indoor adult fun zone with giant Jenga, trivia, etc.



I indulged in a lot of comfort food too.  Grilled cheese and tomato soup at The Lodge, pizzas at Serious Pie & Biscuit.  We also bar-hopped, hitting the great strip of spots on Ballard Ave.  I hit up Ballard Loft, Macleod's Fish & Chips, and King's Hardware before I got tired and called it a night.


I loved Seattle, despite the cold.  Good food, good people, and a beautiful city!  I think a week in Portland/Seattle would be a great vacay.  What do you think?



Monday, December 19, 2016

My Favorite Macaroni & Cheese



I've been making the same macaroni and cheese recipe since 2011, but since then I've made a few tweaks and variations.  It's seriously delicious and cheesy, and I haven't found a better recipe out there since my Army buddy DW gave me hers.  It's one of the dishes I'm known for at potluck, and it's one of the recipes people most ask me to share.

And it starts with a box...



INGREDIENTS (for potlucks, I double this recipe for a 13x9" baking dish)
  • 1 box of deluxe (squeeze cheese!) macaroni & cheese; I use Kraft or store brand
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup (if you hate mushrooms, find a substitute)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or your preferred melting cheese)
  • panko breadcrumbs, or pie crust for pot-pie version
  • salt and pepper
  • PLUS mix-ins to your liking, like bacon, broccoli, herbs, chicken, etc.

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Make the macaroni as directed on the box.  Drain and mix in the cheese packet.
  3. Stir in sour cream, cream of mushroom, and a handful of shredded cheese until well-mixed.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  I like a good sprinkling of pepper in this.
  4. At this stage, add any mix-ins that you'd like.  Cooked chicken chunks, bacon, broccoli, herbs, etc.
  5. Spoon half of macaroni into baking dish (I use an 8x8 dish, or a loaf pan.)  Spread into layer.  Then sprinkle cheddar cheese on top.
  6. Repeat if your dish is deep, but do not put cheese on top for final layer.
  7. Sprinkle panko breadcrumbs on top layer for crunchiness.  Or, if you're doing a pot-pie version, place your crust on top of the macaroni, brush with egg wash for good color, and cut a few slits for venting.
  8. Bake uncovered in oven (keep an eye on it) until breadcrumbs are toasted brown or crust is golden.

This is what a bowl of this looks like (old photo) without the breadcrumbs.  I started adding the breadcrumb topping and pepper to taste after this photo, and I love it even more.



The pictures below are from a single batch that I made this past weekend, with a pie crust top.  It was comfort food heaven!




What's your favorite comfort food?


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday Lately: Creating, Finding, Switching, Forgetting, Craving

As I always try to do, linking up with the ladies of Blogger Tribe for Sunday Lately!

Here's what I've been up to this past week.

CREATING... meals! I've been taking a break from Plated, which has really boosted my cooking confidence. So I've been cooking more at home, and pulling recipes from my cookbooks. I made this Spicy Italian Sausage Meatloaf from the Cravings cookbook I mentioned last week. It was so good, Dan actually ate the leftovers, and he HATES leftovers.



FINDING... the perfect Christmas decorative dish. Right??? IT HAS CATS! I got it at Anthropologie, and it's by Quill & Fox. I can't find it online anywhere, so I'm glad I snagged it.



SWITCHING... from Kindle books to audiobooks! I was a die-hard print book person, until I deployed with the Army and discovered the joy of my first Kindle years ago. Now, I mostly read books on my iPad with the Kindle app, because when I fly it's also perfect for Netflix (downloads are a thing now, yay!) and portability. That said, I spend a decent amount of time in the car, or walking through airports, so my friend recommended Audible. I have listened to three books so far, and I'm on my fourth. I've only been listening to non-fiction, all with the writer narrating their own work. Some narrators are better than others, but I've been able to get through more books than usually because I can make the most of car time. Downside? I have a zillion Podcasts filling up my queue that I've been ignoring!


FORGETTING... I feel like I've been forgetting ONE THING from my purse every day. It has everything to do with the fact that I spent time last week in Seattle, and this past week in Pennsylvania. When I get home mid-week, I rarely get my bag unpacked, so I just kind of toss things into my purse. I'm always forgetting to put on rings, chapstick, gum, or leave my badge hooked to my pants, things like that. I usually have this little pouch that I just move from bag to bag, but with travel it all goes out the window.

CRAVING... comfort food. I made my usual macaroni and cheese, but added a pie crust top to make it a sort of pot-pie. I think I'll share the recipe here soon, because it's adapted from one I shared in 2011 from a friend, but I've tweaked it slightly! Coming soon!



THIS PAST WEEK...





What are you up to this Sunday?

Sunday Lately with Blogger Tribe

Sunday, December 11, 2016

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



I'm linking up with the ladies of Blogger Tribe, rounding up my favorite things from the past week.


DOING...  some reading with new cookbooks!  I got the Skinnytaste cookbook recently, because I'd followed the blog for a while.  I also picked up Chrissy Teigen's book Cravings while I was in the Amazon bookstore in Seattle, because my cousin had recommended it.  Love them both!  Beautiful photography and recipes I can make at home.  I think that making new things via Plated has made me more willing to try new recipes, and I love my cookbook collection.




APPRECIATING... ARMY'S WIN OVER NAVY IN FOOTBALL!  They hadn't won since 2001, so I literally waited almost half my life to see a win that I remember.  I started the game wearing my Army sweats, but we had dinner/ballet that evening, so I put on my ring and some West Point earrings to head to dinner.  We were seated near enough to the bar that I could watch the end of the game (I'd been streaming it on my phone on the way to dinner) and I CRIED.  I cried over a football game, and I don't even like football.  But I love my alma mater, forever and ever.



DESIGNING...  I'm reorganizing my family recipe binder into my beloved disc-bound system, because I think it will hold more recipes and be more easy to sort.  My cousin made this beautiful family book, and I've collected cards/recipes from other family and friends, so I want to make it more functional in format.


HUMMING...
  all the Christmas songs!  I visited the original Starbucks in Seattle during a work trip this week, and it just felt like Christmastime with the red cups, lights, and chilly weather.



EXPECTING...  more travel in the coming weeks!  I have another work trip, as well as family travel for Christmas.  I'm kind of tired; I haven't even unpacked my suitcase from my Seattle trip this week.  But I'm enjoying downtime at home while I can.  We went to see the Nutcracker ballet this weekend, and I also had brunch with my friend and caught Franklin's Dickens of a Christmas festival.  Good winter activities!




THIS PAST WEEK...
  • On the Blog:  I did a post of some of the restaurants and food trucks around Franklin, TN.
  • On Twitter:  I RTed Mindy Kaling because I've been watching The Crown and this is so true.
  • On Pinterest:  I am going crazy pinning "dream house" things, including ALL THE BUILT-INS on Pinterest.  Like this for a master bedroom. 
  • On Instagram:  Macarons are my fav.
  • Shopping:  I think this rolling pin that also dispenses flour (for rolling dough) is brilliant!





What are you up to this Sunday?

Sunday Lately with Blogger Tribe

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Out & About: More Franklin Eats

As I mentioned in my post last week for Nashville, I have this standing folder of food photos that I've been saving for "where I've been eating" posts, and now I've got enough to write one for Franklin! (Click here for more posts about where to eat in Nashville, and where to eat in Franklin.)

Gray's on Main
I've been going to Gray's to meet up with friends since 2013 (read my original post here), and I still love it for the cocktails. While I do prefer some other downtown spots for food, I did have a fancy dinner at Gray's for work that was pretty good.  Definitely made for a pretty picture!  I think my reco is to do drinks and apps at Gray's then hit up another spot for dinner.  Worth mentioning because it's kind of become this iconic spot downtown (and it's beautiful!).



McCreary's Irish Pub
YES to McCreary's Irish Pub, a tiny hole-in-the-wall on Main Street!  It's the only Irish Pub I know of in the area.  It's tiny.  Seat yourself, because that's the only way you'll get served, as it's so small you can't stand around.  Fire codes, y'all.  But once you squeeze in, you're in for a treat.  Their fish and chips are awesome (and their chicken tenders, if you're not a fish person), and they have baked potatoes and other goodness.  I haven't had a bad bite here, ever.  And of course, Guinness, Magners, and other Irish drinks of choice.  I need to get here more often.



Chapman's II
I visited Chapman's a couple years back, when it used to park its trailer by Landmark Booksellers.  I think it might have actually had another set of owners since my first visit.  It went out of commission for a while for an overhaul of the old wagon, and a lot of people didn't love the changes to the menu.  It just wasn't the same anymore.  That said, I had a steak and egg sandwich and potatoes from the truck while they were parked at a local brewery this fall... and it was AWESOME.  Honestly, it was the best meal I've had from Chapman's, ever.  So while there are still folks mourning the way it used to be, and their favorite old menu items, I will admit that I like the new taste now.  Great seasoning and food all-around.



Big Shake's Hot Chicken & Fish
Big Shake's is officially my favorite hot chicken in Franklin.  Judge me if you want, but I get tenders.  (Hot chicken purists think you should only have bone-in...)  But even the purists will agree that Big Shake's is delicious, and that their catfish is excellent.  I usually get Crybaby heat and it's hot enough for me.  The fries are SO GOOD and the perfect complement for the spice.  I also love how close it is to where I work and live, bonus points.



Meridee's Breadbasket
This cute little bakery is a great lunch spot in downtown Franklin, right near Puckett's.  Meridee's has a great apple bacon panini that I like, complete with their own freshly baked breads, perfectly paired with some tomato soup.  You order at the counter and then they bring your food out or call your number.  I've also heard they make great pies and desserts.



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

Sunday, December 4, 2016

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

I'm linking up with the ladies of Blogger Tribe, rounding up my favorite things from the past week.

A look at some of my decorations around the apartment


PLANNING...  Holiday gifts for everyone!  I'm way behind on shopping this year; the only gifts we've bought are the one thing we got for ourselves this year... a new TV!  Dan couldn't let the deals go by, and I must admit that it's a huge upgrade over my old bachelorette TV.  Oh, and we got the kitties a new cat tree.  Best money spent, despite it being a monstrosity... our kitties are fully clawed, but they don't touch the furniture!



LOVING...  This new mug I bought, because Lacey had it and I wanted it in my life.  Treat yo' self!



READING...  Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham.  After finishing the new Gilmore Girls episodes (or more like mini-movies?) on Netflix, I jumped into this book to keep things going.  There are some typos, and the essays are a little uneven, but they're still really fun to read as a behind-the-scenes look at one of my all-time favorite shows.  I was mostly satisfied by the new content on Netflix.  I watched GG from the pilot and am the same age/timeline as Rory; we graduated high school the same year and everything!  It felt like a sort of homecoming, and this book sort of enhances that.

WISHING...  I was pregnant.  Y'all, I don't vent about this on social media and stuff, but if you're the praying type, send some good vibes my way.  I know it takes time, especially at my age, and I have a couple of months before I need to see the doc to make sure nothing's off.  I'm not even that open about it with everyone in my life yet, but something compelled me to write this here in this post.  I'm doing all I can, and I have lots of advice and books and whatnot (more than I need, probably).  In the meantime, I'm trying to distract myself by making delicious food and whatnot.  Like this beef bibimbap from Plated.  Everyone says to just relax and let it happen, but I'm not the relaxed type.  So distraction works.



FEELING...  Tired.  This was my first weekend home since October 22nd.  Yes, you read that right.  And I have to go to Seattle next week for work.  Brrrrr.  But you gotta fake it 'til you make it!  I had my hair and makeup done for some photos yesterday, so I snapped a little thumbs-up selfie afterwards.  Because we gotta keep on keeping on!




THIS PAST WEEK...





What are you up to this Sunday?

Sunday Lately with Blogger Tribe
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