Always Aubrey: March 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

Tucson

So I went to Tucson for work back in 2013, and I said I'd love to come back to that resort.  Well, lucky for me my work brought me back!  I spent five wonderful days at the JW Marriott Tucson Star Pass Resort, and I had a ball.  My sister picked me up at the airport, and we road tripped from Phoenix down to Tucson.

Sissy mentioned to me that it's a foodie city, so we went out for dinner downtown at the beautiful Maynards Market & Kitchen.  We started with drinks and the chef's board, which had three cheese and two cured meats.  I also liked their quince paste.  For dinner, we split the bistro salad and their pasta of the day.  The salad was yummy, and the pasta was good.  I think the olives in the pasta were a little overpowering, but we left stuffed and happy.



The next day, we went for a hike near the resort.  So many cacti!



Before Sissy headed home, we had brunch at 47 Scott.  They had $3 mimosas, y'all.  I got mine with grapefruit juice, because that's my obsession lately.



I got the grilled cheese (three cheeses, incredible) and tomato soup.  There was also a hot chili sauce for the sandwich, and it was soooo good.  Seriously, I'm still thinking about this sandwich.  I digress, need to keep blogging and stop thinking about the sandwich.



Once my sister headed back to Phoenix, I spent most of my time at the resort.  I had a massage and exfoliation at Hashani Spa, taking advantage of a special, and spent time by the pool.  It was the most amazing Monday ever!  I did a short hike on my own too, and it was beautiful.



I didn't stay at the resort the entire trip, though!  I headed out with three of my favorite coworkers for dinner at Penca.  An unmarked, sleek, dark restaurant, it has a mysterious vibe.  The drinks were strong and the food was yummy.  The service was a bit on the slow side, and the chip bowl was often empty.  Party foul!  But surrounded by friends engaged in good conversation, I barely noticed.  Hello, chicharrones, guac, and tacos!



I don't have enough words to describe my trip.  It was probably my favorite work trip of all-time, surrounded by really great people and a beautiful desert.  We had a ton of fun, and I really enjoyed it.

I loved my week in Tucson!


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Lately: Basking, Discovering, Tinkering, Feeling, Switching

Sunday Lately is a weekly linkup hosted by the Blogger Tribe
We e-hangout every Sunday, sharing a small glimpse into the past week of life in our own words.


This week was something else!  It was simultaneously fast and slow, and I can't believe it's already Sunday again.  Here's what I've been up to lately.

BASKING...  in the birthday love!  Yesterday was my birthday, but I've been feeling the love all month.  I've been showered with gifts, Dan took me out for fancy sushi, and we stayed up until almost 1 a.m. playing poker with friends.  Low-key and super wonderful day!  My friend Lindsey sent me the gorgeous bouquet from Farmgirl Flowers, which has become a gorgeous dining room table arrangement.



DISCOVERING... that I can do more in the evening than watch Netflix documentaries.  I've been trying to do little things to tidy up, food prep, reading, blogging...  I've been in such a funk, I think that I have more energy these days.  I need to wallow less, do more of what is productive.

TINKERING... with our dinnerware.  I had these Lou Rota plates that I got at Anthopologie, all nature-y and mismatched, but they'e smaller plates.  They needed a complementing dinner plate, but they are in a variety of colors.  Last week I found some Kate Spade dishes at TJ Maxx that were bright and seemed to go with them nicely. You can't see it in the pic, but they're white with a yellow rim.  Now I can't wait to use these dishes more!  What a bright table they'll make. :)




FEELING...  a bit guilty that I quit Korean classes.  Something had to give, and I needed the 5-6 hours a week I was driving/studying/in class.  I found that it directly resulted in me working out, which is a benefit.  I can always come back to learning more Korean, but sometimes you have to say no to some things in order to say yes to others.  I took this class once where they emphasized that everything you say "yes" to means you're turning down something else you could have done with your time.  It's eye-opening to think about, because many of us struggle to say no.  So I said no to Korean class, but yes to these Korean-inspired burritos that I made at home with Plated. (LOL)



SWITCHING...  to a healthier mode.  I hit workout classes four times this week, and I'm feeling really sore, but it's got to be helping my progress, right?  I'm generally eating healthier, though I'm not exactly dieting.  It's more about trying to make healthy choices.  I wasn't so great this weekend, but being active is definitely something I've been lacking.  It also helps that I've been actually scheduling workouts in my planner!



THIS PAST WEEK...
  • On the Blog:  I finally got to reveal the big Morton Salt event I attended for their Next Door Chef campaign.  It was a really special event, and I had to wait months to be able to share!
  • On Twitter:  Talking about how one of my funny birthday gifts from Dan was a back scratcher.
  • On Pinterest:  Loaded cauliflower mash bake, looks yummy and pseudo-healthy, right?
  • On Instagram:  My baby kitty Bourbon being all cute and stuff.
  • Shopping:  I haven't been shopping as much lately, with my birthday and Stitch Fix that came this month.  I did purchase a few bras from True & Co., and I was so impressed by the great fit I got after taking their quiz!  Turned out way better than if I had purchased in-store for myself.  I won't shop Victoria's Secret for bras anymore; they just don't fit me right!

How was your week?


Sunday Lately with Blogger Tribe

Friday, March 24, 2017

Morton Salt's Next Door Chef: Nashville!

Do you remember the teaser back in November when I attended Morton Salt's Next Door Chef: Nashville?  Morton Salt partnered with local chef Karl Worley to teach a Nashville local, Travis, how to cook... and then they turned his home and backyard into a pop-up restaurant!  On March 20th, the video from the event at "Indie's Kitchen", named after Travis's daughter, went live, and I couldn't be happier to share the big reveal.

photo courtesy of Morton


Upon arrival at Travis & wife Claire's house, we were truly transported to a beautiful outdoor restaurant!  I loved all of the spring flowers, and the entire menu was tied around springtime cooking, perfect for this time of year.




We started with a cocktail hour, featuring a Lemon Spring Tea cocktail.  The lemons preserved in Morton Kosher Salt really enhanced the flavor of the drink!  Super refreshing for spring as the weather get warmer, and you know Southerners can't live without their tea.  You can find the recipe *here*.



As for the meal, for me it was more than just eating the amazing food that Travis learned to make.  It was about noticing to the subtle flavors enhanced by different types of salt!  I never thought about the salt that enhances pimento cheese; Chef Karl recommended Morton Fine Sea Salt, which easily blends and dissolves for consistent seasoning.  (Find the pimento cheese recipe *here*.)



If you've been using table salt in all of your cooking, you need to check out their tips and recipes.   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 proper use of various types of salt.

A few lessons I learned at the dinner... 
  • Morton Kosher Salt is the preferred salt of many chefs because it is easy to control for perfectly seasoned food.  It's the salt that I keep in my salt keeper by the stove.
  • Morton Coarse Sea Salt adds a visual "pop" that you can see and taste.  I like to sprinkle a little bit of this on top of warm brownies, or caramel ice cream.  I think it's great for a little contrast with sweet desserts.
  • Morton Fine Sea Salt is perfect for blending while cooking.  The crystals dissolve quickly, which means it's the best for marinades, soups, sauces, and dressings.  I can't tell you the number of times I've cooked a dish where I realized too late that I didn't mix well enough for the larger salt crystals to dissolve!

The dish that surprised me the most?  The Salt Roasted Beet Salad.  I'm not a fan of beets!  But these didn't have all of that beet juice runoff I'm used to seeing, because Chef Karl says the Morton Kosher salt absorbs it during roasting.  I was much happier with the flavor and taste of these beets as a result.

Salt Roasted Beet Salad

The Chicken Country Captain with curry, served over cheesy grits, was probably my favorite dish of them all.  There were so many great flavors, all in one perfect dish.

Chicken Country Captain


I didn't get a great picture of dessert, because I devoured it!  So I had to steal one from the professional photographer.  But I think I could make this Biscuit Strawberry Shortcake at home... using the *recipe* provided of course!

photo courtesy of Morton


Travis and Claire (and baby Indie!) were so brave to open their home to a bunch of strangers like us... it was so much fun!  I'm sure it has inspired them to turn to their kitchen for well-seasoned meals more often.


You can go to MortonSalt.com/NextDoorChef to see more from our meal and learn how you can host your own Next Door Chef with the same recipes we had at our event.

photo courtesy of Morton

Morton Salt has shared that they will be releasing video and recipes from their third Next Door Chef, in New Orleans, this summer. Stay tuned to the website for some amazing grilling inspiration.


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


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Stitch Fix: 14th 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!




Even though I only kept one items from my last Fix, I enjoyed it so much that I moved my next box up to March!  This box was a tough one, because there was one item I didn't love, and at least one that I liked but was on the fence about keeping.  Here's how it played out.

Skies Are Blue Verne Tie Sleeve Top
First, my stylist hit me with my favorite color, mustard yellow, with the Skies Are Blue Verne Tie Sleeve Top.  The picture isn't fantastic, but I really liked the "peasant" look of it for an easy weekend shirt.  I could wear it for work too.  I liked this one a lot, not love, but strong like.


I had another "strong like" moment with the Pixley Lagio Mixed Material Top.  I thought the floral was a little abstract, but I realized it would be great under a lot of my cardigans and jackets.  I also loved the comfortable back panel, super soft!  It was a maybe for me...



The photo isn't the most flattering, but I needed a true red blazer and this Kensie Rebekah Mini Checkered Crepe jacket fit the bill.  Patriotic colors always work for me, considering all of the DAR and Veterans events that I attend.  Plus, perfect for office attire too!  I pegged this as a keeper early on.


The only item I didn't love in this Fix was this French Grey Rosanna Neck Tie Detail dress. It was too short for my preference, and very plain.  I decided I would only keep it if I kept the whole box.  Meh.


I was on the fence about collarless jackets.  But this color, again, patriotic and on trend, and I loved the feel and fit.  41Hawthorn Dorie Stretch Collarless Blazer, for the win.

 This is the point where you might be guessing that I kept the whole box.  Yep.  Basically, the entire box was $352, but if I kept the entire box, it came to $264.  I wanted to keep 4 of the 5 items, so keeping the whole box made sense, because it would "cost" me money to return a single item.  Even though I really liked the tops versus love, I know they'll be worn.  If not, I'll resell them on Poshmark.

I don't plan on having another fix until June, so if I buy more for my closet, I'll be shopping for myself!


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!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Modern Map Art Pillow

I received a free Modern Map Art pillow in exchange for my honest review.
The images, text, and opinions expressed are my own.

The folks at Modern Map Art e-mailed me to let me know that they had posters of the street grid and map of my hometown of Bloomington, Indiana.  Modern Map Art was created last year, inspired by world travel during the founders honeymoon.  They turn city street maps and trail maps into wall art and more.



While some of the bigger city maps would make fantastic wall art, I wasn't ready to dedicate that much wall space to a Btown poster yet.  So I opted for something that remind me of home, but adds a little pop to my living room: a pillow!



The pillow is soft, and of good quality.  It also has a zipper for washing.  It's probably not as firm of a pillow as I would expect for the $40 price tag, but you could also take the map cover off and place it over a better pillow if you want.  I don't mind paying more for something unique and special, individually printed and made in the USA.



It's not always easy being so far from family, but little things like this pillow can be subtle happy reminders of home.  I can pick out on the pillow where I worked in high school, where my business school is, where my mother works.  It's a nice little touch of Btown!

If you had a map pillow, what city would you feature?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday Lately: Progressing, Neglecting, Purging, Wondering, Craving

Sunday Lately is a weekly linkup hosted by the Blogger Tribe
We e-hangout every Sunday, sharing a small glimpse into the past week of life in our own words.


It's been a minute since I caught up with the Blogger Tribe and our weekly Sunday Lately posts!  I was in Arizona the past two weekends, so blogging just wasn't happening.



PROGRESSING...  I finished up some of the DAR awards stuff that I had due this week, and now I'm progressing on some other projects.  Finally!  Procrastinating got the best of me, but things are starting to come along.

NEGLECTING...  Clean laundry, 2-3 loads clean and in baskets but not yet put away.  I can do laundry all day, but getting it into drawers and closets is just not something I enjoy at all.

PURGING...  Our old washer-dryer and our old spice containers!  Our old set were from 2005 or so, and they were both having issues.  So we decided to take advantage of President's Day sales and got new Samsung ones.  They have a HUGE capacity (we can wash our comforter now instead of taking it to the dry cleaner!) and so many different settings.  They're lovely.



They discontinued our old spice organization system, and the jars were falling apart.  So I ordered a new system via Amazon.  You can't fit a tablespoon into them like my old set, but I like them nonetheless.  They stack so nicely and work on our lazy susans.  Plus, I got to use my label maker.  Being organized makes me so happy!



WONDERING...  I'm wondering why I was so blue on Thursday and Friday.  No good reason to be at all.  Ever just get a case of the blues without understanding why you want to eat comfort food, cry, read magazines, do nothing else?  Sigh.  It happens to me from time to time.

CRAVING...  Y'all, I'm craving Spam musubi like crazy.  If you don't know what it is, it's basically slices of Spam fried up with teriyaki sauce, wrapped in a little bundle with sticky white rice and held together with some dried seaweed.  It's a popular menu item in Hawaii, where I got hooked on it.  My Mom would make them for me as a school lunch or a snack.  She still makes it for me sometimes when I'm road tripping home from visiting her.  I get mine locally at L&L Hawaiian Grill if I'm too lazy to make it myself.  It grosses Dan out to no end, but it's just something that I crave as comfort food!  I know it's super processed, but it's just a flavor I love.

Those are Korean ribs in the background.


THIS PAST WEEK...
  • On the Blog:  I did a roundup of places I've been eating in Nashville and Franklin the past few months.  Don't read while hungry!  :)
  • On Twitter:  RT because Ed Sheeran puts us through all the emotions, right?
  • On Pinterest:  This deep dish pizza recipe is one of the reasons I'm now obsessed with getting a Lodge carbon steel skillet.
  • On Instagram:  Dan made us cottage pie on St. Patrick's Day, and it was delicious!
  • Shopping:  On my birthday wishlist: carbon steel skillet in 12" and 15", magnetic Lodge trivet, and a butter crock!  The older I get, the more my birthday wish list looks like a wedding registry.

How was your week?


Sunday Lately with Blogger Tribe

Friday, March 17, 2017

Out & About: Where I'm Eating in Franklin

I have this standing folder of food photos that I've been saving for one of these "where I've been eating" posts, so I'm back with another roundup!  (Click here for more posts about where to eat in Nashville, and where to eat in Franklin.)

Kona Grill
Kona Grill is one of the newer chains to go in at the Cool Springs Galleria, and I tried it for lunch with coworkers.  I'd heard their sushi was good, but that day I went with their Kona chopped salad. I loved it.  So fresh and good!  I love that the chicken was served warm and lightly breaded.  I'll definitely be back, because I'm still craving that salad.  It's a bit pricy, but it's got a nice ambience and yummy food.



Connors is a smaller chain in the South with four locations, including two in Tennessee.  Dan and I stopped in for a lunch before I departed on a business trip, so we could have a little date together.  My coworkers had recommended it for the food.  We started with their Voodoo Shrimp, which is very similar to Bonefish Grill's bang bang shrimp.  It has a great sauce and kick, and we'd order it again!  Dan had the lunch sirloin and a baked potato for his meal, which was to his liking.  I really liked my tomato basil pasta with grilled chicken too.  It won't replace our favorite steakhouse in Nashville, but I'd say it's on par with a Bonefish in our minds.




Mafiaoza's
I've eaten at Mafiaoza's in Franklin twice now.  The pizza I've had has been pretty good, but the prices are pretty high for what you get.  I also wouldn't get the pasta again.  I think that it's a good spot for a happy hour, but I'm not sure what all the fuss is about.  It's nice to see more things going into The Factory.




Franklin Mercantile Deli
Gosh, I love Franklin Mercantile Deli.  The food is great, it's adorable, and it never disappoints.  I had a smoked turkey and swiss panini with soup.  It is a little dangerous that it's next door to Ivy Cakes, because I always want a cupcake, but it's the perfect local sandwich spot.  Skip Panera and head to the Merc!  Perfectly located downtown.



Saffire
I've been going to Saffire at the Factory since 2012, and I haven't had a bad meal yet.  It's a really great spot for a nice upscale, Southern night out.  There are more affordable options on the menu, like the delicious burger I had, as well as seafood and ribs and all sorts of things.  The drinks are fab too.  It would make a reservation here if you're in downtown Franklin, because it's a sure bet.




Frothy Monkey
People see Frothy Monkey as a coffee shop, and they forget the food is yummy too.  They serve breakfast all day until 5pm (my favorite) as well as sandwiches and salads.  I like their eggs in particular.





Pieology
Pieology has a restaurant on Main Street in downtown Franklin.  Even though it's a chain, I gave it a try.  It's kind of like Pie Five in that it's a made-to-order personal pizza place. The crust is on the thinner side, but it tastes good.  I'm not sure I'd go back, since Mellow Mushroom has my fav pizza and it's just down the block, but it's not bad!






Where have you been eating lately?


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Out & About: Where I'm Eating in Nashville

I have this standing folder of food photos that I've been saving for one of these "where I've been eating" posts, so I'm back with another roundup!  (Click here for more posts about where to eat in Nashville, and where to eat in Franklin.)

The Family Wash - East Nashville
The Family Wash was on my radar from Instagram and other things, so when my boss asked us to pick a place for a weekday brunch together, it made the cut!  It was a Monday, so a tough day to find open restaurants, especially with breakfast.  Family Wash serves breakfast all day and night, and they have a ton of options!  The place has a garage vibe that is really hipster and eclectic, and the bar and band areas look very cool.  I'd love to come back for an evening visit, as my pancakes were delicious.  My one complaint was that the blueberries weren't mixed into the pancakes... I'm used to blueberry pancakes as one thing, and the berries as a topping surprised me.  But it was still yummy, and the service was pretty good.



Burger Republic - Gulch
We've been fans of Burger Republic since 2013, and we also love their location in the Gulch!  I felt like it was worth mentioning here, because it's still good.  We had a giftcard and enjoyed ourselves a lot when we visited.



Sun Diner - Downtown
I was staying downtown for work, and I needed to grab lunch before a meeting.  I walked into Sun Diner, a pretty new spot at the time, because there aren't a ton of restaurants downtown with awesome reviews.  This one looked intriguing.  I loved the decor and layout!  Really fitting for Music City.



The food was pretty good.  I had a breakfast burrito.  The potatoes surprised me because there were sweet ones in the mix, but not bad.  I got the wrong tea from my server, but it was corrected pretty easily.  My one complaint is that I had to pay at the register, which is located by the door, and there just isn't much space there.  Overall, I'd say this is a safe bet when you're downtown, and I think it would taste even better at 3am.  After all, it's a 24-hour diner!



Bearded Iris - Germantown
On the brewery front, Dan and I visited Bearded Iris for an alumni party I was attending.  They don't serve food, but they have this really cool industrial meets vintage taproom area that's worth a visit. And there's free parking!



Americano - Midtown
My friend VG and I had a tapas feast at Americano.  First off, I loved that there was a free parking lot behind the restaurant, which is rare for restaurants in Nashville anymore.  The restaurant wasn't busy (another Monday) but we had great service and really enjoyed our visit.  We ordered...

Spicy Tuna Guacamole and Croquettas



Fried Manchego Cheese



Seared Duck Breast



Hot Chicken Tacos and Potato Bravas



Overall, the spicy tuna guacamole is what would bring me back.  I wish the potatoes had been crispier, but we ate until we were stuffed anyways.  It was really a delicious meal, and now I understand why the reviews on Yelp are so good!  Oh, and the caipirinha I had was delish too.  I'd come back to Americano to drink and munch on tapas with friends.   The best food is eaten shared like that!

Where have you been eating lately?


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