Thursday, June 30, 2016

Budgeting Bloggers: June 2016

June was pretty much all about accessories!  I was never an accessories girl, but now I put on a few items every day to add to my outfits.  Maybe I'm changing my tune, because of how cute my options are... it's so much easier building a collection of things that coordinate!   I was also spot-on for my quarterly budgeting, thanks to Poshmark sales, which makes me a happy camper.

  1. Kate Spade New York Ice Cream Cone iPhone 6 case (originally $45, paid $34):  My friend Kaelah has this case, and I just HAD to have it.  My coworkers think it's ridiculous (it's on my personal, not my work phone), and it's big, but it fits into my purse and it's really cute and fun for summer.  I have no shame in my love of it's novelty, and it's great for selfies and hilarious to talk on.
  2. Jete Houndstooth Peplum Top ($12 via Gwynnie Bee):  This was the piece I purchased from my trial of Gwynnie Bee.
  3. Capri Three-Row Convertible Necklace and Capri Convertible Jacket Earrings (originally $65 and $32, used discount code):  I got $177 worth of Chloe + Isabel jewelry for $135 (including tax and shipping), thanks to a great summer discount code.  I reviewed some jewelry that I received earlier this month, and I liked it enough that I went back and ordered some other items I really liked.  My fav part about this jewelry line is that you can order coordinating pieces, and even convertible pieces to really mix and match to suit your outfit.
  4. Bianca Open Collar Necklace and Bianca Bracelet + Ring Handpiece (originally $42 and $38):  These two pieces are a bit outside of my comfort zone, but I've been in love with handpieces since I saw them in Iraq years ago.  I really wanted one, and having a matching necklace made sense.  It will also go with the earrings I received earlier this month.

    $181 spent -  $33 sold = $148 total spent in June
    Quarter Budget: $500 - $160 in April  - $185 in May  - $148 in June = $7 under budget

    I think a $500 quarterly budget has been working best for me, after almost two years of this budgeting stuff.  It's a reasonable amount, and it encourages me to sell things I don't wear anymore so I can balance that budget.  I've been experimenting with things like Stitch Fix, Gwynnie Bee, and most recently Le Tote to see what works best for me and my closet.  I don't want to end up with too much, just things I really love to wear!

    Tuesday, June 28, 2016

    REVIEW: Gwynnie Bee

    Disclosure: I signed up for Gwynnie Bee on my own, taking advantage of the first month free.  My opinions are mine alone!

    My friend on Facebook was reading my latest Stitch Fix review, and mentioned she loves using Gwynnie Bee, a clothing subscription service that serves women who are size 10 to 32.  As a size 12, I decided that I'd give it a try, as your first month is free.  (I can already hear my mother texting me to diet/exercise at this admission of my dress size; calm down, Mom!  Be happy.)

    Think of Gwynnie Bee as a style lending library, versus just a try & buy.  You pay a monthly fee ($49/mo to have a single item checked out, then a tiered approach up to 10 items for $199/mo) and then you get to have a certain amount of items checked out at a time.  You have the option to buy the items at a discounted cost (some items even under $12!) or send them back to receive your next items.

    Found this online to illustrate the pricing

    I used the web browser to make my selections, then later used the app to keep adding to my closet and tracking my boxes.  You have to put 25 items in your closet before your box is triggered to ship, which takes a while, but you can also mark items as Priority if you're more excited to get those.

    I signed up for three items at a time, which normally runs $95/mo.  After all the trial is free!  In addition, Gwynnie Bee shows some stats that those who take three items at a time usually cycle through 8-12 items in a month, which I think is pretty cool.  If you think about it, the $95 means that if you try/wear 10 items, it's like $10/ea.  And then you don't pay for dry cleaning either, and you don't have to keep something in your closet that you may never wear again.  Interesting idea, right?

    The package came with the items, instructions, and two return bags, so you could return some items at different timing.  The option to send back a partial box and receive new items makes it different from some services, like Le Tote, which require you to send back the whole box at once to receive new items.

    I had two dresses and a top in the first box.  On one of the dresses, the white squares were a bit faded, and I saw some pulling from previous wear.  So that probably kept me from keeping items, if I felt they were already too worn.

    I sent back one of the dresses (below) immediately due to fit/style, and wore the houndstooth peplum top at work.  I liked it a lot, so I opted to purchase it (used) for $12.  So the top below is one that I will keep in my closet for the future!

    After my first three items, I got a couple more rounds in during my first trial month.  In total, seven items.  I thought that was great!  I would have taken more items if I hadn't been traveling for over a week during the month.

    The only thing I ran into was fit issues.  Given that I hover the line between traditional sizing and extended sizing, there weren't as many options for 10-12 as there were for 14 and up.  I ordered some items that were larger than I should have taken because they were so cute/pretty, so the fit was off.  I think Gwynnie Bee is better if you are a size 14 and up, vs. a 10-12.  Kudos to them for making such a great service that tailors to an underserved (in my opinion) style market!

    $95/mo is a lot for me, especially since I travel/like to shop and might not get to wear 8-12 new items a month with dealing with shipping/receiving.  If I had continued, I would have done the 2-per-month for $69/mo, which most users use to get 6-10 average number of items per month.

    If the fit/options had been better for me, I would have seen no reason not to continue using Gwynnie Bee!  I definitely recommend trying it, as I really enjoyed wearing something I liked but not being on the hook to buy it if I didn't reach for it to wear again.   I was able to see if people reacted to a piece, or noticed my outfit.  To be honest, compliments received were a huge factor in me keeping the houndstooth top.  It was really fun!

    You can also go to the Gwynnie Bee shop, to purchase items that have been worn and are no longer in the collection.  That's a great way to get some items for less!  Seriously, major discounts on branded pieces, all professionally dry-cleaned.  Love it.

    Interested in trying Gwynnie Bee?  Feel free to use my referral link to check it out!

    Sunday, June 26, 2016

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

    I'm back!  I was out of town the past two weekends for the annual DAR Continental Congress, which I will definitely share with you in future posts.  Let's just sum it up that it was a hectic (but wonderful) week, and I'm sorry to have missed a couple of these great link-ups.  Shall we begin?

    Anyone else feel like Bourbon?  LOL

    I'm creating a very pretty Happy Planner!  After failed attempts at using the Erin Condren Life Planner, and the Midori, I finally realized that I needed something that worked with the Levenger/Arc system, because the rest of my world was on that system.  (Work, school, you-name-it).  But the Levenger planner, while a great size, was such a bore.  Even washi tapes and whatnot couldn't jazz it up nicely.  So when someone told me the Happy Planner uses the same modular system, I picked one up at my local Michael's.  I chose the Make Every Day Count design, as it felt very Kate Spade to me.  If it merits a post, I'll share more about it here later.  I'm seriously this.close to buying a Silhouette Cameo to make my own stickers and whatnot.  Kind of thinking it's a great way to spend my big Kindle settlement payout (woohoo to being an early adopter!) using Amazon credits.

    Planner Priorities, right?  LOLZ

    I'm finding space and time for me, which is a good thing.  I've been so busy with work, DAR, and school, and now just about everything but work is "out" for summer.  I have new DAR roles coming this fall, meaning a reprieve from the old, so I'm happily using this time for organizing and even catching a little TV.  I need to find the time to eat healthier and work out though...  I want to get a bit healthier.

    When the photographer snags a pic
    and you have a pink elastic key-holder on your arm

    I'm switching gears.  Ever have those times of the year where you're like, "If I can just get through June, things will be smoother."  And you know there is always something else that will jump right back up into your time, but oh well.  It happens.  But in this case, July really does slow down for me, so I'm taking advantage!

    The basics!  I hadn't cut my hair since the fall, and it had gotten so long my ponytail was well over a foot.  So I had a stylist chop off about 4-6" I think.  I've also been forgetting to do laundry, so this weekend I didn't leave the house AT ALL on Saturday, just trying to get my suitcase put away after a week on the floor and getting my hampers cleared out.

    Cake from Whole Foods.  I'm not a sweet person (gimme all the fries!) but lately I'm craving a good vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream.

    What are you up to this Sunday?

    Sunday Lately is a weekly linkup hosted by the Blogger Tribe. We e-hang out every Sunday, sharing a small glimpse into the last week of life in our own worlds. 
    Sunday Lately with Blogger Tribe

    Saturday, June 25, 2016

    Out & About: More Nashville Eats (Food Trucks)

    In addition to the regular restaurants around town in my last post, I also had some food trucks I've visited that were excellent!

    Bradley's Creamery
    Homemade, old-fashioned ice cream.  I LOVED their Cookies 'n' Cream.  Seriously good, creamy, excellent butterfat content too.   Dan's a huge ice cream fan, so I grabbed some when it was parked at the Franklin Farmers Market.

    I absolutely love Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, but Bradley's has all the traditional flavors that you know and love.  Classic, classic, classic.  And since I wanted to take some home, they were able to scoop it into plastic containers for me.

    Street Provisions
    This truck was at the Strawberry Festival at Franklin Farmers Market.  I had a fried chicken biscuit with strawberry honey drizzled on it.  I forgot to take a photo of my food, because it was delicious and I was starving.  So you just get a photo of the truck, in case you see it around town.  They make a solidly good biscuit.

    Bare Naked Bagel
    We have Food Truck Fridays at work during the summer, and Bare Naked Bagel came by for breakfast one morning and I went for it.  I was feeling something traditional, so I got a breakfast bagel and some taters.

    Just look at this perfection.  Everyone was jelly.  They make a great bagel.  I'm a fan!  Next time I'll try one of their more adventurous sammies.

    Ellie's Old-Fashioned Doughnuts
    I know I've posted about them before, but I just love Ellie's.  Been bragging on them forever, posted about them back in 2014.  By now, they know me and throw in a warm one for the road when I place my order.

    And just look at the line!  They're so good, I waited in this line!  Don't forget about Ellie's, ever.

    Do you have a favorite food truck?

    Wednesday, June 22, 2016

    Out & About: More Nashville/Franklin Eats

    As you've seen before on the blog, sometimes I eat someplace and only get one or two photos, not meriting a full blog post.  So I collect these things, and then I share them all at once, and I'm reminded of these great meals that I ate!  Here are more Nashville/Franklin-area eats for you to check out.  Some of these pictures/visits were over the last few months, so menus are subject to change of course.

    Saint Anejo
    The last of the M-Street restaurants I hadn't visited, Saint Anejo is really good!  I definitely recommend the margaritas, and they have 2-for-1 specials on Wednesdays.

    As for the food, I haven't been to the brunch everyone talks about, but I joined a group of girls for a birthday dinner and really enjoyed it.  The portions were huge; I took a good deal home with me to-go!  The chips were crisp and tasty, and I had the Carne Mixto Burrito, which has steak and chorizo.  They also threw in celebratory churros for my friend's birthday.

    Overall, Saint Anejo has great people-watching, drinks, and food.  If you believe all Mexican-ish food needs to be cheap, don't come here.  The burritos are $12; this ain't Chipotle.  You get so much more here, and it's upscale and hip.  After all, it's the Gulch!

    The Neighbourhood Taproom and Kitchen
    There is a shopping center near our apartment that recently had a facelift, and they added some nice new things like a Sprouts store.  Another newer addition to that center is The Neighbourhood Taproom and Kitchen, which replaced this old sports bar that used to have the same location.  We rolled up for a drink and a late lunch one day, and I snapped a few pics.

    They have a large selection of beer on tap, to please just about any taste.  Unlike places that are exclusively serving craft on tap, they had a lot of more mainstream beers available too.  They also had sports playing on the screens, making it kind of a sports bar but with better ambience and class than the previous place had.

    We started with the Neighbourhood Bread, with pepperoni, which is basically a doughy flatbread pizza, with sauce for dipping.  It was very good!

    The rest of the menu is primarily pizza, macaroni and cheese, and sandwiches/brats.  Very much bar food.  Dan really liked his brat, and I ordered a The Surfer Dude pizza.  The pizzas are not small, probably just a little bigger than personal sized I'd say.  I loved how doughy the pizza is, and the sauce was great too.  It really was a good bite to eat, without frills.

    We'll probably be back, when we want some no-frills, sports bar type bites.

    Wild Ginger
    I've written about Wild Ginger before on my blog, but that was back when I pretty much only ate dumplings and glazed fried chicken there.  Since then, I've expanded my horizons, because they have an extensive menu that deserves a look!  My roll of the moment is the Pink Lady, which has ahi tuna, mango, and avocado in it.  The rice is bright pink from beet juice, stunning!

    I also love their pork belly bao buns, which are on their warm starters menu.  They're big and packed with flavor, and the buns are sticky and doughy.  Definitely a great starter.

    I recommend going with at least one other person, so you can get a few rolls and mix and match your tastes.  Dan and I can usually eat a little more than one rolls each, if we get the appetizer beforehand.  And you can always take home what's left.  I pretty much only eat at Wild Ginger for sushi. It's fancy, it's nice, and I don't mind paying the price for that.

    Shot + Pepper Cantina
    Kate's Kitchen closed, and the owners reopened it in the same location as a new Mexican concept, Shot + Pepper Cantina.  I went with my coworkers to check it out, since it's near our office.

    I think the best description of what I thought of the meal was that I was, well, whelmed?  While their queso and salsa were both really delicious, some of the chips we got in our bucket were quite stale.  And $7 is a lot to pay for queso.

    Service was relaxed, so kind of on the slower side for a weekday lunch.  I decided to get the Chipotle Carnitas Tacos, which come with beans and rice.  For $11, I got two tacos and the sides.  I'm just not sure that what I got matched what I paid.  While the food tasted alright, the restaurant seemed to kind of hover between wanting to be more upscale (like Saint Anejo, above) and still bringing some casual flavors.

    It was a bit pricy for a lunch, so I'll probably just go to Moe's or Chipotle to get my taco fix on weekdays.  This location doesn't get the bustling margarita happy hour/people-watching that Saint Anejo has in the Gulch, so it just feels a little out of place.  I like that they're trying to bring a new concept, but I won't be clamoring to get back.  Food's okay, value for price feels a little off, and I think it's alright.

    Where do I need to eat next?
    (Probably just need to hit the gym, right?)

    Monday, June 20, 2016


    I traveled to Cincinnati for work at the end of May, and it was my first solo trip to the city.  I've passed through Cincinnati with family and friends, but this felt a little different!  I actually road tripped it to boot.

    Since I was staying for a few nights, I booked a spacious room at the Residence Inn downtown.  Located in a historic apartment building, they have large rooms that are actually suites, with a kitchen/office/living room, and a separate bedroom.  It felt like I had my own mini apartment.  I really liked my digs.

    The other perk about the Residence Inn?  The rooftop bar, which is a hot spot for anyone downtown, Top of the Park.  Talk about a view!  And it was mine every day, if I wanted it.

    It's also located across the street from a sweet little park, called Lytle Park.  I'm hoping to revisit the nearby museum if I come back to the area.

    For one of my evenings, I walked from my hotel to dinner at Sotto.  If you blink, you might miss it, as the entrance is down in a little basement entry.  Once inside, you're in Italian food heaven.  I didn't have a reservation, so I sidled up to the bar, my usual m.o. when traveling solo.  I overheard someone say that the next reservations available were 9:30pm, on a Tuesday night; so I recommend you get a reservation if you want to go!

    I just wanted to keep it simple that night, so I ordered their bread and olive oil, as well as ragù bolognese as my main dish.  The pasta was so good!  I was scraping the bowl at the end...  meaty too.

    On another night, I took an Uber to the hip Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.  Multiple people recommended The Eagle, which I learned was known for its fried chicken.  WINNING.

    Being the wife of a brewer, I spotted 3 Floyds Zombie Dust on tap, so I did the right thing and got some to sip with my chicken.  I also ordered their macaroni & cheese, because that's basically a Southern vegetable when you're eating chicken.

    Do you see this chicken?  See that skin?  Yowza.  It was served with a spicy honey, which blends with a fantastic sweetness with the salty chicken.  I got white meat pieces, and it was perfectly cooked.   Not overly greasy either.  The macaroni was creamy and good too; almost as good as I make at home.  I liked how they used a large, curly pasta noodle.

    It was such a gorgeous evening in the OTR neighborhood, so I walked around to their boutiques and explored a bit.  From what I gathered, the neighborhood is not one you would have visited years ago; more recently, it has had a revival, becoming a very cool neighborhood not far from downtown.

    Before I left OTR, I spotted a doughnut sign wearing a mustache.  Hello, Holtman's!  I was going to grab a traditional donut with sprinkles, but then I was tipped off by the gal behind the counter that I needed to try their Red Velvet donut.  She was so right, and that $1 donut was fantastic!

    Cincinnati isn't the same city I visited when I was younger... it's better.  I hope I get an opportunity to taste (literally!) more of what it has to offer.

    Friday, June 10, 2016

    Homestead Manor in Thompson's Station

    As you may have read here, my friend Lindsey and I have a decade-long tradition of meeting up for lovely Sunday brunches.  This time, we decided to include our guys for a double-date in the country, checking out the beautiful Homestead Manor in Thompson's Station.

    Homestead Manor is beautifully situated on 50 acres, and it's an easy drive from Franklin.  It's definitely worth a visit, if you're wanting to escape the city.  Owned by the same family/group that now manages the Puckett's collection of restaurants, Harvest at Homestead is a beautiful restaurant experience inside an old Southern house.  That's where we made reservations to dine.  There's also The Glass Bar adjacent to the house, The Barn for events like weddings, and The Farm where the food is grown.

    The decor in the house is far from stuffy and traditional, like you might see in a museum house.  Instead, it's eclectic.  Every room has a different style and spirit, so you might want to call ahead to see if you can dine in a specific space if that's your thing.

    For my brunch, I chose the Monte Cristo and fried fingerling potatoes.  The Monte Cristo boasted country ham, Gouda, homemade brioche, and blackberry jam, dipped in batter and fried!  Woof.  Delicious and rich for sure.

    The potatoes?  OMG!  So fresh and crispy.  Dan kept stealing them off my plate.  I would put these on the must-order list for brunch.

    Their fruit tea was sweet and refreshing, but after one glass I wanted something with a little more bite.  I certainly got what I asked for with the Thyme is of the Effervescence cocktail (gin, elderflower, Prosecco, lemon juice, thyme simple syrup).  I know, Aubrey's at it again with the elderflower!  It wasn't sweet, and it definitely packed a punch... really unique and perfect for brunch.

    The best thing to do after a big meal is to walk it off a bit.  So we explored the grounds around the house and took it all in.  I can definitely tell that this is an ideal wedding venue, but I also think this might be a nice place to steal away to for a drink at the bar, and for taking in the countryside that surrounds Nashville.

    Not to mention, friends.

    And family.

    I just saw on the Homestead website that you can reserve a picnic basket to dine al fresco on the grounds, which is such a sweet offering!  Note to self for a future date idea.  This was certainly a beautiful way to spend a Sunday morning.

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