Friday, March 27, 2015

Budgeting Bloggers: March 2015

March is my birthday month *and* prep month for Peru, so I felt like I was buying all the things because excuses.  I had a little sales money from my last thredUP consignment as well as Poshmark, which provided a bit of a buffer.  That said, I really love what I got, so no regrets!  I was really good about returning multiple things that didn't work out.

  1. ModCloth Chalk of the Town Dress in Kittens ($100):  I don't normally spend this much on a dress unless it's a special occasion.  This Bea & Dot dress with its cat print was practically irresistible, and I wanted it as my birthday party dress.  I love it so much!
  2. Old Navy Active Compression Leggings in Green Print and White/Black (retail $30/ea, paid $20/ea with promo code):  I got 35% off online during this super sale, so I got these full-length workout pants.  I needed more full-length leggings in order to round out my workout clothes.  With this purchase, I decided to skip my Fabletics this month as my workout wardrobe is almost really complete (and super kickass!)
  3. Old Navy Sweetheart Skinny Jeans in Dark Rinse (retail $30, paid $27):  Needed these to replace a pair that need to be retired.  As in, so busted I won't even donate them!
  4. Old Navy Sweetheart Boot-Cut Jeans in Crater Lake (retail $30, paid $15):  Clearance jeans are a win.  I feel so '90s buying boot-cut jeans, but I do wear them when I'm rocking sneakers or flats and don't want to wear skinnies.   This is one of two pairs I now have that aren't skinny; great weekend jeans.
  5. Everlane T-shirts in Muted Black, Slate, and Light Grey ($15 each, purchased 3):  I bought two Everlane tees in 2013, in Muted Black and White.  They're still in great condition, better than any cheaper tees I've purchased.  No pilling, still soft, not faded.  I never thought I'd love a t-shirt that costs $15, but I do.  So in preparation for Peru, I ordered three to wear because they're comfy and perfect for travel.
  6. Tiffany Double Heart Tag Pendant ($125, received as birthday gift from friend):  Beautiful gift from one of my best friends!
  7. Kavu Rope Sling Bag ($50, free with giftcard from friends for birthday):  I wanted a lightweight, crossbody backpack to take on our Peru trip, which I was able to get it with a generous giftcard from my best friends at work.
(not pictured, mostly gifts)
  • Old Navy Slim Boot-Cut Yoga Pants in Black (retail $19, paid $13): Because yoga pants, and because $13.  I mean for real.
  • Stitch Fix Dress and Necklace ($108 total):  Will review my Fix soon!
  • A hat, hiking socks, and t-shirt for Peru (super clearance, around $20)
  • Ponte Blazer in camel with black piping, gift from Mom
  • Pearl necklace and bracelet, gift from Mom
  • Vintage brown saddle bag (heritage Coach lookalike), gift from Mom
  • Gold/tan Aerosole flats, gift from Mom
  • Scarf, birthday gift from friend
  • Hiking socks, birthday gift from Sissy
  • Tennessee necklace, birthday gift from friends

$368 spent - $48 sold = $320 total
$$$BIG$$$ savings with all those gifts!

Total 2015 Net Spending: $296 + $320 = $616 total for 1st Quarter

Before this year, I would have a $400 quarterly budget or a $100-150 monthly budget.  What surprised me here is that while I spent a good deal more than that, I feel smarter and happier about what I ended up with; does that make sense to anyone else?  Like I'd rather have some higher-priced items to add to the collection vs. quantity of cheaper things.  I also got a ton of gifts.  I think as long as I am actively working to donate and eliminate things from my closet, as well as trying to get things that all work together, I'm still improving my closet and getting closer to where I want to be.

I listed some new workout clothes for sale on Poshmark among other things, so check it out if you're interested.  Help me clear out my closet!  If you're new to Poshmark, use code HROMR when you sign up and we both get a $5 perk!

Link up with the rest of Fran's Budgeting Bloggers for March here!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

30th Birthday Beer Brunch

Today is my 30th birthday, and last Saturday I celebrated with 40-50 (I lost track!) of my family and local friends here in Franklin.  My parents came down from Indiana, and Sissy and her boyfriend came in all the way from Arizona!  One of my besties even came in from New York.  It was a wonderful mix of work friends, college friends, DAR/Legion/book club friends, blogger friends (shoutout Kimmie, Brittany, Trisha, Jenna, and Sarah!), and the like...  I just keep thinking, I'm the LUCKIEST.  Period.  I also got tons of sweet well-wishes from out-of-town folks too that I can't forget!

My family really pulled out all the stops to make the party amazing.  We held the party at the Turtle Anarchy Brewing Co. taproom in Franklin.  Dan made an exclusive peach-flavored beer for the party (a peach Belgian witbier!) and tended bar to allow everyone a chance to sample the craft beers.  My sister and her boyfriend worked hard on beautiful floral arrangements, fruit skewers and veggie basket, and more.  They even got me a birthday Hatch Show Print!  Mom and Dad pitched in and made multiple trips to get everything set up and ready for party guests.

And yes, I wore a cat-print dress on for the occasion!  It's from ModCloth.

Ellie's Old Fashioned Doughnuts

I really wanted everything to be local so people could sample my favorite things.  We had a catered brunch from the wonderful Copper Kettle, featuring biscuits and gravy, hash brown casserole, bacon, and biscuit sandwiches.  I put out apple butter from Loveless Cafe for the biscuits too.  The fruit and veggies were purchased at Costco, but added some color and healthy food to the mix!

I love Ellie's Old Fashioned Doughnuts (see last year's blog post here) and decided they were the perfect "cake" for my birthday brunch.  We had three flavors, picked up from the farmer's market that morning.  Everyone raved about them, and for good reason!

We also had cornhole outside to play, because it was a beautiful spring day.  Here are pics I snuck of the family having fun.

I was overwhelmed by the turnout; it was hard to spend time with everyone individually!  I asked that people not bring gifts, but my friends are crazy generous and showed up with beautiful cards and flowers and presents that fit me to a T.  It was so nice to introduce my family to the people they hear so much about too, because I've met some amazing people over the past decade or so.

I love you all!

I couldn't have asked for a better weekend.  The night before the party, my cousin A and her boyfriend had dinner with us on their way to Spring Break, and I spent the time before and after the party during the weekend with my family.  We had dinners at Mellow Mushroom and Puckett's Boat House, lunches at Husk and Hattie B's, and drinks at Gray's.  It was a truly local weekend, I'd say!  I'm exhausted, but it was entirely worth it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Uptown Cafe

I returned home for a quick 24-hour visit a couple weekends ago, and Uptown Cafe was on the menu.  Even though they serve other meals, the only time I've ever eaten here has been for brunch.  Because brunch is basically my favorite meal on earth.

I ordered bacon and a scrambled egg as a side to my brunch dish, because protein makes me feel fuller.  I probably didn't need it, but isn't it pretty?  The bacon was perfectly crispy, the way I like it.

For my main dish, the pièce de résistance, I ordered the beautiful Creme Brûlée French Toast.  It was as delicious as it sounds, almost like a dessert for breakfast.  It tasted more like a bread pudding than a French toast, super thick and a huge slice.  The fresh fruit and powdered sugar were perfect, no syrup or anything extra needed.  I highly recommend it if you're visiting the restaurant for brunch!  Very heavy, though, so be forewarned.  It was a true indulgence.

Service at the Uptown is consistently good, and while there is often a wait I believe it's worth it.  Call ahead for a reservation like we did with our party of eight.  It's also clean and friendly, and conveniently located just off the town square downtown.  Try it sometime!

Uptown Cafe on Urbanspoon

I also visited Oliver Winery Downtown and Korea Restaurant; click the links for my Yelp reviews!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Aerogarden: 1st Month

I've tried and failed to maintain any sort of plants before, but I've been wanting an herb garden for the longest time.  It's not easy in an apartment that only gets light on one side of the porch, with limited space.  I don't really have much patience for green thumb type things.  But one of my best friends is a gardening expert, and when I went to visit her I noticed her indoor Aerogarden.  Her mother sent me a discount code, and before I knew it I had one in my guest room.  (Note: I purchased this all on my own!  Just reviewing it here for others who might want an easy herb garden.)

The Aerogarden is very easy to set up.  You get a certain number of "pods" in the starter kit, and you can order custom herbs as well.  That's why I did.  I started my garden off with two types of basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, chives, and sage.  You set it up with water, as well as some plant "nutrients" that you feed from time to time.  On my model, everything is dictated to you in digital messages, so it's really dummy proof.  The lights turn on and off automatically.  You add nutrients and water as needed.  You raise up the lights as the plants grow.  Simple!  Fun!  It was cool to see little spouts with the first week!

The domes stay on until the plant almost touches the plastic, then you let it grow without.  Sage was definitely a major frontrunner.  You can see how much it grew in just the first couple of weeks.  I followed instructions and guidelines online as to how to clip the herbs the right way to encourage more and more growth.  My friend said Month Two is when you really start harvesting and using your herbs the most.

A sad thing happened on Day 19... the cats killed Thyme.  They got the pod and spout out of the garden; I replaced it with a Cilantro pod, and all it grew was mold or something.  No plant, a dud pod.  So now I've got a vacancy for a new pod, depending on what I decide to do.  For the time being, I moved Parsley up to the front because it needed more room, after the last photo in this set.

Now that the garden is getting bigger, it's getting to be really nice and fragrant.  It's in "High Growth Mode" so I definitely have to remember to raise the lights (so the leaves don't singe!) and add water much more frequently.  I'm really proud of this little garden!

The only downside is that the light is really bright and needs to stay on a long time, so it's disruptive to my overnight guests.  But you can just hit the light to turn it off, and it'll be fine while you have people there.  Overall, I'm excited that some of my plants *are* ready to be trimmed for use in cooking.  I've successfully gotten plants to live for a month, which is more than I've ever done!

If you'd like to follow my Aerogarden's progress on Instagram, follow the hashtag #aubreysaerogarden to see it grow!  I'll hopefully come back with an update in another month.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

2015 Tennessee Flavors

As part of Nashville Food Bloggers, I was entered into a raffle for tickets to Tennessee Flavors... and as luck would have it, I won!  So Dan and I turned last Thursday evening into date night, excited to taste some Tennessee-sourced food and drink.

Tennessee Flavors is held at a local community college, and the event benefits the Randy Rayburn School of Culinary Arts as well as the Nashville State Foundation. There's a mix of food and drink here (check out the list of sponsors and participants), as well as a mix of local and wider-reaching chains... everything from the Aquarium restaurant at Opry Mills Mall and Goo Goo Clusters to local fare like Margot or Etch.

I think it is a really great charity event and showing of local flavors.  As a foodie, it's something to experience with that in mind.  The space is tight and warm (we showed up early, per a friend's reco) as it's basically in classroom and hallway space.  The crowd keeps moving, but it's kind of a challenge to enjoy something and make small talk at a booth before feeling the "wave" push you on to the next spot.  At $50/ticket, I would say you should take advantage of the alcohol tasting to make it worth the expense... though remembering you're potentially supporting the culinary future of the area makes the price easier to manage.

The food was presented in such a way that it was really portable and enjoyable!  I tasted a lot of great things.  I'd say my favorites were Puckett's, Red Pony (my wedding dinner will be there!), Margot, Goo Goo Clusters (their new gourmet line is yum!), Fido, and Padrino's Pops.  I also got some Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream, and I think I like it better than Bailey's.

Overall, this was a great showing for a great cause.  It was neat to meet some of the culinary students too, as they had some things (like the pastries in the photo above) on display for tasting.  I'm glad that I got the opportunity to win tickets to go.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Hummingbird Bundt Cake

Whenever there's a work potluck, I always get excited at the prospect of trying out a new recipe.  I love trying new recipes at home, but we end up with too much food that way!  I decided I wanted to try to make a bundt cake this time, as well as use the beautiful cake dome and pedestal that Sissy gave me for Christmas.

If you believe the Internet, the "Hummingbird Cake" came into fashion via a 1978 recipe in Southern Living magazine, and the same year it won the Favorite Cake Award at the Kentucky State Fair.  I mean, isn't that like the cake Oscars or something?  Apparently it's one of the magazine's most requested recipes of all time.  That made it good enough in my book to attempt, and as a bundt no less.

The only problem?  I didn't have over-ripe bananas; I like mushy ones for baking.  So I Googled and discovered I could bake the bananas (at 300 degrees, for 30 minutes) as a cheat shortcut.  It totally worked too, the bananas were super mushy and ready for mashing!  I also roasted pecans that I chopped in my food processor.

Every other time I've attempted a bundt, the cake hasn't come out cleanly.  So once again, I consulted Google.  I tried a method I found of melting butter and brushing the inside of the pan, vs. the flour and butter stick rubbing method.  I have to say, it worked amazingly well.  I'll do it that way all the time now.  The cake did not come out with a round bottom, so I had to level it out (and eat the "extra" bits of course).  And yes, those are chopped pecans you see at the top of the cake!  Those went into the pan before the batter.

I should have made the glaze a little runnier; it took two attempts to get the glaze to pour correctly, and it isn't the prettiest.  But then when you add the nuts and let is drip down, it starts to get prettier, right?   Mmmm...  I've got to admit, this cake was delish.

And my coworkers agreed too.  There were ZERO leftovers with this cake.  Good thing Dan and I ate those pieces I saved from leveling!

Here's the link to the recipe at Southern Living!  I followed it exactly, though I did use vanilla bean paste vs. extract, and I sprinkled spice vanilla sugar on the top of it all.  Happy baking!  This one is definitely going into my recipe collection.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Paris (retrospective)

I've been a lot of amazing places in my life, but since many of these trips occurred before the inception of this blog, I haven't shared them here before!  This post is part of a sporadic series featuring some of the destinations I've visited that have not been previously published on Adventures in Aubreyland.

The Seine

I don't know how many times I've been to Paris... my first trip was in high school, then I went back a few times in college including a semester studying at Ecole Polytechnique just outside the city.  It's a very, very popular destination, so even though I haven't been back since 2005, it's the number one place people ask me about visiting for advice on things to see.  My travel books for Paris are lent out the most often.  (Note: The majority of these photos are from my trips in 2005; I visited the city for Spring Break, summer break, and a semester that year.)

Notre Dame, Tour Eiffel, Madeleine, Napoleon's Tomb

I think just about everyone hits the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Bateaux-Mouches on the Seine, Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe...  Those are pretty standard tourist stops that I don't need to talk about.  A few that I would mention that are also worth a visit if you haven't seen them:

  • Musee d'Orsay, which is in a beautiful old train station, and better than the Louvre if you love Impressionists and sculpture.  Seriously, if you are a big Impressionism fan and only have time for one, go to d'Orsay.
  • Musée Carnavalet is a museum dedicated to the history of Paris.  It takes you from prehistory on, and I believe it's underrated and under-visited by people because they stick to the most iconic places.  I found it to be fascinating.
  • Les Invalides, the pretty gold-domed building near the Tour Eiffel that has a great military museum and Napoleon's Tomb inside.  When I went, my military ID (yes, even the American one!) got me free admission.  It's worth it just to see Napoleon's tomb; such a grand resting place for a small man.
  • Saint-Chappelle, a gothic cathedral built for royals, with the most incredible stained glass windows and painted ceilings.  If you're looking for a church as pretty on the inside as the outside, this beats Notre Dame.
  • Les Catacombes, if you're not claustrophobic and want to go underground and see where they stashed millions of bones.  They needed to move a lot of old graves and they used vacated mines as ossuaries.
  • Panthéon, a columned building that contains a crypt filled with impressive residents including Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Jean Monnet, Marie and Pierre Curie and Emile Zola.
  • Centre Pompidou, for modern art.  It's basically the Lady Gaga of art museums.
  • Musée Picasso, a small but pretty museum if you're a fan of the artist.
  • La Conciergerie, the oldest remaining part of the original Parisian royal palace, used as a prison in the French Revolution.  I went because Marie Antoinette spent her finals days there.

Louvre, Musée Picasso, Centre Pompidou... and I was selfie-ing before smartphones.

Amélie, a 2001 movie, along with Moulin Rouge, brought more people to Montmartre, a hilltop area on the outskirts of Paris proper.  It's definitely worth a trip because of its amazing flea market, cheaper souvenir shops, GORGEOUS Sacré Coeur basilica, and more.  Just don't get sucked into the Moulin Rouge stuff, it's an expensive tourist trap.

Sacré Coeur, Moulin Rouge

Versailles is probably one of my favorite places on Earth.  If you travel to Paris and don't have time for Versailles, I pity you.  You should dedicate AT LEAST a half day to Versailles, if not a full day.  I'll caveat this with the fact that I LOVE reading about Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette, so this site is super important.  I even did the Paris-Versailles in 2005, where you run 16km from the Tour Eiffel to Versailles.  (Note: It's almost all uphill.)  So spending time inside the palace (a MUST!) and walking the grounds (free) is super special.  If you're on a budget, you can skip the palace and explore everything else for free!  It's a fascinating estate with tons of history.


I think the other buildings away from the main palace are just as fascinating, especially Marie Antoinette's Hameau, a replica country village she built to escape palace life.  It's like a Disney village of sorts, and you can imagine the ignorant young royal hiding away there.

Hall of Mirrors

Some more random tips....
  • Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage Days) in the city mean lots of places are free to visit, and you can visit buildings that are normally off-limits.  I visited the Élysée Palace, which is where the French President lives, not normally available for touring.
  • Refills on everything cost extra, and I've noticed in general that Americans drink/hydrate more than I've seen French people do!  At a restaurant, you can always ask for a free "carafe d'eau", a carafe of house/tap water, if you're penny pinching and plowing through bottles of Evian.  Better yet, make it a carafe of the house wine, because why not?  It's cheaper than Coke.
  • I don't think the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is worth waiting and paying for.  The best views of Paris have the tower *in* them, so a view from the top of the hill at Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, even Tour Montparnasse (the ugly 'skyscraper') would be a better panorama IMHO.
  • In hotels, if you want a double bed, be sure to ask for a "grand lit" as many European hotel rooms still do twin beds.  Also it's worth checking on ensuite bathrooms, as in older hotels/inns those are not an automatic standard with a room!
  • You can save money by buying your one-trip Metro passes 10 at a time, asking for a "carnet", pronounced car-nay.
  • European hotel chains can offer very efficient lodging at a lower price.  Not hostel cheap, but like Holiday Inn type prices.  My favorite of these is Hotel Ibis, and there are a couple in great spots in Paris.  Expect a tiny, modern room with just enough space for the bed, with an ensuite shower/bathroom.  Basic breakfast.  But if it's just a home base to sleep in each night, it's not a bad choice.  I also stayed at a nice Best Western by the Louvre once that was really nice.  Try to stay closer to the city center in the lower-number arrondissements.

Have you been to Paris?  Did I miss any of your favorites?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Favorites, v.13

My 13th Friday Favorites, on Friday the 13th!  Here are my favorite things on the internet lately.

I'm so bummed I didn't buy this crab trinket box from Katie's Etsy site before it sold!  Her apartment was just featured on Design*Sponge, so be sure to check out her awesome interior decorating skills.

I have to be in a DAR Decades fashion show in about a month, and I still don't know what to wear!  I got the 1960s.   I want to be like a Betty or a Joan, and I've been looking at these dresses:
one / two / three / four

I love the Buzzfeed videos like this one where they have Chinese people try Panda Express, Mexicans try Taco Bell, etc.  When I want what I call "fake Chinese food" I do go to places like Panda... but my coworkers look at me weird for calling it "fake" when we go to PF Chang's or whatever.  It is what it is!

I love EVERYTHING about this banquette area.

+  I really love the series on Slate's XX Factor called Best Laid Plans.  It's all about highlighting different families and relationships and how gender and family dynamics impact career progression and more.  If I've learned anything, it's that no two stories are the same.

+  Now that my blog redesign is done, I'm itching for new Moo business cards with the new logo.  I know I've been talking about all my Moo cards for years, but I really like them.  And now they have Moo Canada for my readers up north!

+  I loved watching this dog react with such excitement over his soldier coming home from Afghanistan.  When I would go to Iraq, my old cat Cally always seemed happy to see me!

+  I just ordered a few more Everlane t-shirts for our Peru trip.  I never thought I'd like a tee that costs $15, but the ones I have now I got in 2013 and they're really holding up so well.

+  Friday Flashback:  I'm headed to Arizona next month for work, which is great because I'll get to see my Sissy!  About two years ago, she took me to Taliesin West, the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright and his apprentices.  It was pretty beautiful to see.

Taliesin West, 2013

Happy Friday the 13th!   (Mwa hahahaha....)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Stitch Fix Review: 1st 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've been hearing about Stitch Fix for YEARS, but since I was getting regular Fabletics outfits in the mail already, I didn't want to add to the pile.  Plus, I felt like I was already pretty good at finding things I liked, for a great price, on my own.  When a few work friends told me how much they loved it, I thought I would give it a try.

First, you fill out a pretty extensive Style Profile, which I think is great.  This includes everything from sizes to colors to pictures that you choose from and describe your style.  You can also link to a Pinterest board for your fashion/Stitch Fix ideas so your stylist can get to know you and your picks.  Then, you wait!  But not that long...  I felt like it only took a week or so to receive my first Fix.
The presentation of the box was great.  I liked that they had the pre-stamped return bag ready for anything I didn't want to keep, a price list, and cards to help me style all the different items to see how it would fit into my wardrobe.  Each Fix is going to cost you $20 no matter what for styling fees; if you keep an item, that $20 is deducted from the price of what you buy.  You also get a discount if you keep everything.
My Fix Box, and my Outfit Styling Guides
I heard that your first Fix isn't the best, and that the stylist gets to know you better over time.  I hope that's true!  I really only loved one item in my fix, and I only liked one of the other items.  I've decided I will try THREE Stitch Fix boxes over the next few months, before deciding whether to continue at some rate in the future.
Sent back...
I liked the fabric and color of the ponte sheath dress, but I would have preferred either more of an A-line skirt or more of a pencil skirt fit.  It also seemed a little plain, and the skirt didn't want to commit.  The polka dot dress had an odd neckline, and the torso fit me poorly as it was too long.  I took the photo before I tried to take the dress off; I was trapped for 5-10 minutes due to the fabric/side-zip, even though it fit well and went on easily.  Thumbs down after photo.  The necklace I didn't like at all; it was like a Cleopatra necklace on me.  And the black skirt, even though it was beautiful, made me look pregnant.  I didn't include the side view photo here because it made me look like a sausage!
Elephant Blouse, try on then styled for work!
I did find one piece that I wanted to keep, a soft elephant-print blouse.  The print was adorable, and definitely my style.  I loved the softness of the fabric, as well as the fact that I could style it a number of ways.  I tried it on belted, then wore it to work with skinny jeans and a blazer.  I really love it, despite its $48 price tag... though since I had to spend $20 anyways on the styling fee, Stitch Fix claims it is $28 in the end.  LOL.

I was most disappointed by the overall price points in my Fix.  In my preferences, I listed the lowest amount ("The cheaper, the better!") in my preferences, especially as I'm getting started.  My items ranged from $36 to almost $100 each, with most above $50.  (The skirt was $80.)  That's a steep price per item if you're used to bargain shopping!  I need to step back and remember that clothes cost more than I normally pay for them with promo codes and major sales online.  I made sure to leave honest feedback for my stylist on Stitch Fix.  You have three days to return your items once you check in as accepting the package.

Again, I'm definitely giving Stitch Fix a couple more tries to get closer to my style.  It's really convenient to have items come to your house for you to try on!  It wasn't a bad experience, I just didn't love most of the items this round.  It was good to be pushed to try something I wouldn't normally pick up in a store, too.  Hoping for an even better Fix in March!

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 9, 2015

Chateau West

I know I've mentioned a zillion times here that I was a French major, did a semester in France, yada yada.  Bottom line, I'm an unabashed francophile.  Someone at work mentioned Chateau West, a French restaurant that opened last year, and I wanted to give it a go.  I heard the chef is French, and the prices looked very reasonable on the menu, so I suggested it for a girls' night with Lindsey and Krista.

Chateau West is located between a gas station and a strip mall, but don't let that distract you from its charm.  There was a valet ready to take our car, and the charming little building felt like a little house or cottage of sorts.  (I later learned it used to be a pancake house, which makes sense looking at the architecture.)  One thing we noticed was that everyone was pretty dressed up for a Nashville dinner.  You could probably get away with jeans, but hardly anyone else will be wearing them, so dress up a little.  Most men were in jackets.  The majority of the diners seemed to be Baby Boomers and older, so that worried me a little at first.  This review I found from the Nashville Scene is pretty amazing and hit the atmosphere spot in.  I needn't have worried, as you'll read.  The bathroom was a little odd location-wise, located almost in the kitchen it felt like, and the water pressure was in need of a (noted on a sign) fix.  Very clean and no other concerns there.  The space is small, so I highly recommend reservations. 

Our waiter was attentive, albeit a little bit more country than we expected for a French resto.  He was a great salesman with great charm.  We ordered a plate of cheeses to start.  I liked half of the cheeses, which is on par for my relationship with cheese; it was all tasty, I just can't handle the strongest ones.  This is how you know I'm not French.  I also had a French Cabernet Sauvignon to drink, very nice.

Cheese Plate

There was a little bit of time between courses, not *too* much time, but enough to notice.  It made me laugh at first, how we're so used to being served in a snap, when in France it would be wayyyy slower.  For my main course, I ordered the Duck Chambord.   I love duck, so much so that I eat it pretty much whenever it's on a menu.  I got hooked as a result of my time in France.  This duck breast was perfect, served on pommes miettes (potatoes) with beautiful berries and sauce.  It had a sweet taste, which is how I like my duck.  I cleaned my plate.

Duck Chambord

For dessert, because dessert, we had the sampler that included crème brûlée, a cream-filled crepe, and a profiterole.  All were tasty, but the crème brûlée was the star; I'd order just that for dessert next time!

Dessert Sampler

I have to give it to Chateau West, it is very reasonably priced for as nice of a dining experience as it is.  I felt I received great food and value for my money!

We all wore black, by coincidence!

I left Chateau West initially a little underwhelmed by my experience, because I've gotten used to the bombastic foodie fare and flare of other places...  "Farm to table" and reclaimed wood and trendy plating and all that.  Chateau West felt so traditional.  As I drove home, though, I kept thinking about that delicious duck; I really loved the meal.  I realized that older crowd in the restaurant came there for exactly what Chateau West offers: traditional French cuisine, served traditionally and well.  I know now that if I want a meal that reminds me of my dinners in Paris, Chateau West will deliver.  And isn't it kind of hip to be old school?

Chateau West on Urbanspoon

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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Influenster: XO VoxBox

Disclaimer: I received these products complimentary from Influenster for reviewing purposes.

Influenster selected me to receive their XO VoxBox, which had a sort of Valentine's Day.  It was about looking good and smelling good, if you ask me!  Here's a look at what was inside the box:

Inside the box...
  • eBay Guides Campaign:  I could have earned $25 by writing two guides on eBay, but I didn't have the time.
  • Lands' End:  I do like Lands' End as a brand; they make great quality, classic clothes and accessories!  If you'd like to save $25 off your $100+ purchase, the first 25 of you to use code+pin VOXLOVE 13735 can get those savings!
  • Adore Me:  (VIP Membership First Style $24.95, every 6th set free) Free box from Adore Me (ordered separately from the box), a monthly subscription service that offers women's intimate apparel and pajamas.  You pick an outfit from your showroom each month.  Now, I'm not going to show you what I picked or model it, because that's icky.  But I will say the quality was on par with Frederick's of Hollywood, and it could be a spicy gift you give someone for a little sexy fun!  Fit was true to size too!

  • Tide Pods Plus Febreze ($4.99 & up) We recently started using Tide Pods, so I was curious how these would stack up.  These definitely added a noticeable scent to the wash, stronger than the other pods we were using!
  • SkinFix Hand Repair Cream:  ($10 for 1 oz.)  This was the first product I used after opening the box!  It came in an adorable bottle, and my hands always need lotion.
  • Colgate Optic White Toothbrush + Built-in Whitening Pen ($14.99) and Express White Toothpaste ($3.99 & up):  I didn't like the feel of the gel in the whitening pen, but I like the toothbrush and concept a lot!  It's two steps in one.  The toothbrush feels high-tech in a way.  I have been using the Express White toothpaste for a few days; no major noticeable differences, but also no negative impact like sensitivity.  I'll keep using it to see if anything happens.
  • John Frieda Frizz Ease Beyond Smooth Collection: ($9.99)  I love John Freida's Frizz Ease products!  I received Primer, Shampoo, and Conditioner, and they felt great on my hair.  They didn't make my hair feel greasy, and it smells great.  If you have halo frizz around your face like me, you know it needs taming!

Overall, I'd say my favorite things in this box were the Tide Pods (seriously, my laundry smells great!) and the Skinfix hand cream.  The Frizz Ease products will also work perfectly for my upcoming work trip!

Disclaimer: I received these products complimentary from Influenster for reviewing purposes.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday Favorites, v.12

I'm back with some of my internet favorites!  Since we've had a lot of winter weather, I've been spending more time online enjoying myself.

All of them.  Collect them all.

ModCloth used women of all sizes for their swimsuit models, and it rocks!
And I totally want this swimsuit.

This video is awesome!  Love has no labels!

Artist David Irvine paints random characters into thrift shop paintings, and it's amazing.

Vince Vaughn and his movie cast mates posed for amazing office stock photos,
and I want to sneak them into presentations!!!

+  Kelly Clarkson will not be fat shamed, and I love her so much for it.  Curvy girls unite!

+  This adorable cat lives at university in Germany!  Cats and books, my favorites.

+  I bookmarked Alissa's old post on taking better blog photos, because, well, I need to.

+  These naughty, gangsta cross-stitches make me laugh so hard.  Not your grandma's stitches!

+  I want all the things that ModCloth sells with cats on them.  Purr-petual Charm Dress / Hither and Yarn Dress / Chalk of the Town Dress in Kittens / Start from Scratch Top

+  Friday Flashback:  This time in 2013, I was in Las Vegas! Hitting the strip with my Mom, of course...  LOL

Thursday, March 5, 2015

1000th Post... and a fresh look!

This post is a big one, y'all... It's my 1000th post on this blog!  How the heck did that happen?  It's sort of like a blog birthday, in a way.  And by coincidence, I'm also debuting a new look on the website at the same time.

For those of you using a reader... here's a peek at the new look!

I've had a hankering to redesign my blog, but aside from a logo a few years back I've been DIYing it on my own.  It kind of felt like I'd been coloring my own hair for a while, and I wanted a fresh perspective.  When I saw Fran's blog redesign, I loved how classic and sophisticated it looked.  I contacted Maru to see if she might be able to help me.  We spent three days working together, including using Pinterest and collaboration to come up with a mood board:

Then, today, it went live!  I really love how it turned out.  I'm not that gifted at code, so a static menu bar and some of the other widget titles and things were not within my wheelhouse.  I really can't believe how much change happened in just a few short days.

The old design, for reference.

I did enjoy working on my old design myself, and it had its merits.  It also had a lot of color.  But I was itching for a change... is it a coincidence that I'm turning thirty this month?  Probably not.  I couldn't be happier with the way things turned out; I feel like this design, more so than the old one, represents how I want to be seen as a blogger, person, whatever.  A little more Kate Spade, a little less Rainbow Brite.  Hope you like it as much as I do.

You will see some things in old posts, like my old signature doubled on top of the new one.... that's because of my DIY coding and ain't nobody got time to go back and delete them, so...  yeah!

Thanks for reading even a fraction of these 1000 posts!

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