POPSUGAR Must Have Box Review: August 2017

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! I’ve got a busy day at work ahead of me and an even busier weekend coming up- but it’s that magical time of the month where my POPSUGAR “Must Have” box arrives at my door and I get to share all of the fun things I found inside!

What made August’s PSMH Box so special was that it marked the company’s 5th year anniversary of curating their monthly assortment of awesome items to send subscribers. I’ve been a devoted member for a couple of years now, and I don’t plan on cancelling my account anytime soon. The things I receive are always so fabulous- and it’s truly like treating myself every few weeks when I go through it and marvel at what’s inside.

The theme/inspirations for August’s “Must Have” box were pretty self-explanatory given the aforementioned milestone- CELEBRATE, GRATITUDE, LOYALTY, SMILE and FRIENDSHIP were the words used to select this month’s items- and with this being the last box before Fall rolls around- I was really excited to see what the company had chosen to wrap up this season.

First up were these really cute white (and gold speckled!) 24-count tall birthday candles from Meri Meri. I know so many people with birthdays sprinkled throughout late August and September- and for some reason I’m almost always the one responsible for getting the cake in order for their parties (it must be my sharp eye for details)– so it’s going to be nice to have these lovely candles on hand to add to the fun when it’s time for my friends and family to close their eyes and make their birthday wishes!

I’ll never say no to trying a great face mask, and I’ve been hearing a lot of really good things about this “Bouncy Mask” from First Aid Beauty. Said to calm irritated skin, firm, hydrate and refine your complexion in just ten minutes- it sounded too good to be true! I haven’t had a chance to give this a try yet, but I plan on taking some time out during my upcoming busy weekend to see if the mask is really worth all the hype.

Who knows? It might very well make my upcoming Favorites List for the month!

I am in love with this cute, simple, friendship bracelet by Dogeared, Inc. With blue silk thread and a sterling silver heart-shaped clasp- this one takes me back to middle school when my girlfriends and I would exchange handmade friendship bracelets on an almost weekly basis. Granted, this one is a little fancier than the yarn or beaded ones we used to make when I was a kid- but the nostalgia is still there- and I’ve been wearing this a lot over the past few days!

I think my favorite item in August’s “Must Have” box was this rose gold “Free Spirit” journal from Fringe Studio. I’m always appreciative of a lovely, simple and well-made notebook to take with me on-the-go- and this one may be one of my favorites. With it’s durable and protective covers to the sweet design on the front- this has been in my bag with an assortment of pens for when an idea springs up unexpectedly or I need to take down some important information.

I’d love to have a 2018 planner with this design, too!

POPSUGAR kept up with their tradition of sending the BEST snacks this month! From Goodie Girl Cookies comes these gluten-free, low-fat chocolate chunk treats that were gone nearly minutes after I spotted them in this month’s “Must Have” box (and yes, I shared a couple- although I was reluctant about it!)

I’m already preparing to order a couple more boxes online to keep around the kitchen for the next time I have a craving but don’t want to regret cheating with something sweet now and then. These are so, so good!

The older I get- the more I can appreciate a quality gift card- so to receive a $25 card to Shoptiques was pretty cool. The website has all sorts of stuff- from dresses to handbags to shoes and home decor- so I know I’m going to have to take some serious time to do extensive browsing to determine what I want to treat myself to! Yes, some of their things are on the pricier side- but they do have a really nice SALE section I’ve been eyeing.

And also? Look how cute the card came packaged!

Finally, POPSUGAR sent me something I can gift to my mother since I know for a fact she has a set of plates that match this polka doted serving tray- also by Fringe Studio- perfectly. I know she’s going to love it, since we have similar taste in decor and I thought this was such a fun, colorful and perfect for any occasion tray that she could keep on hand whenever she has people over for company or just wants to liven up her dining room table.

POPSUGAR has done it again. I loved this month’s box- and every item fit in perfectly with their theme/inspirations and birthday celebration! This collection, as I’d mentioned earlier- serves as their lost assortment of items for the Summer- which means the Fall boxes are going to start rolling out soon. I can’t wait!

xx

– Ashley –

Book Fair: The Big Redhead Book by Erin La Rosa

Prior to becoming the dirty blonde babe that I am today- I was a redhead for just over nine years- having taken the crimson plunge when I had become so painfully bored with my naturally dark brown hair and desperately needed a drastic change to liven my look up all those years ago. It was nine years of fun, ruined shirt collars after every dye job, and multiple trips to Sephora when the red made it a little trickier to match my correct foundation shade since I looked a bit on the paler side.

Regardless- the red eventually became too time-consuming and too costly for me to manage regularly- and I couldn’t just sit back and let it fade to orange as it gradually began to grow out. I decided to make the switch to my current shade- and although I love it and have enjoyed being able to go longer between salon visits for touch-ups- I sometimes miss my faux-ginger curls. They were, and I suppose always will be- part of my identity.

I have all the respect in the world for natural redheads- and not just because they have to tough it out through all of the bad ginger jokes and typically have to apply way more sunscreen than other people. I also have to give a shout-out to the other dye-job redheads out there- because that upkeep and maintenance takes a LOT of dedication! Regardless of whether your reds are natural or courtesy of a salon or a box job- it can get downright frustrating from time to time!

Fortunately, I may have found a book that is perfect for my (former) fellow redheads!

I recently received an advanced copy of “The Big Redhead Book” Erin La Rosa at my door- and I couldn’t put it down until I’d read it cover to cover. Even though I’m not a redhead anymore, I could relate to so many things in the book- which covered redheaded depictions in pop culture, art and history throughout the years, the science and genetics behind red hair (which is actually pretty fascinating stuff! Did you know that redheads are harder to sedate during surgery and require 20% more general anesthesia than people with other hair colors do? Me neither!) and of course- dabbling into and de-bunking some of the rumors/myths surrounding redhead stereotypes- but it’s all done with sharp wit and surrounded by interesting statistics and fun quotes from notable figures and characters throughout time who have commented on ladies and gentlemen with red hair.

There’s also a chapter to assist redheads with those pesky makeup and wardrobe challenges that come with having a stand-out hue on the top of your head. Your freckles? Embrace them. Sunscreen? Don’t leave home without it applied to every inch of exposed skin. Hair care? Avoid those sulfates- and so many more helpful tips to make living your best life with the most challenging color to manage a little easier. And if you’re thinking of going red? Don’t worry- Erin has included a helpful guide to make that transition much smoother than standing in the hair dye section of your local pharmacy and staring in confusion at the boxes until you just randomly choose one and hope for the best.

The entire book is clever, funny, and informative. Even if you’re not a redhead and don’t plan on becoming one anytime soon- it’s still a good and enjoyable read- especially since there’s some tips on how to approach and talk to redheads, too. Believe it or not- there are some things that you can say or ask that could be taken offensively (like if the carpet matches the drapes. Never, ever, EVER ask that. EVER.)– so knowledge is power!

“The Big Redhead Book” comes out on August 22nd and is currently available for pre-order at Amazon!

xx

– Ashley –

Comfort Food: Cacio e Pepe Pasta

It might not look like much, but cacio e pepe is one of the quickest, easiest, and tastiest pasta dishes you can whip up in under a half hour when you need your fill of carbs for a cheat day or you’re just trying to satisfy a group of people with something packed full of cheese and pepper. Not quite the usual macaroni and cheese dish- and not quite plain cooked, buttered noodles- this recipe falls in-between the two and was my go-to dinner this past weekend when I had limited ingredients prior to stopping by the grocery store but still had to feed a couple of friends who had dropped by unexpectedly.

If you’ve got a box of pasta and some grated cheese on hand- you can make this in no time at all!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 12 ounces spaghetti (I used linguine since I like the texture better than spaghetti!)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ⅔ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper (lots of it), to taste
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. While the pasta cooks, mash the soft butter with the olive oil and pecorino cheese in a large bowl to form a paste.
  3. When the pasta is tender, drain it, reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Add the spaghetti directly to the bowl with the butter mixture. Toss well to coat, adding the pasta water as needed to make a thick, creamy sauce that coats the pasta strands. Season with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Divide the pasta among four plates. Garnish with parsley; serve immediately.

The cheese, pepper, and even the parsley make this a standout meal. It’s simple, but flavorful- and it’s really filling- so you don’t have to worry about your stomach growling again right after you eat it. Best of all? With the limited ingredients involved in preparing this one- cleanup is a breeze!

xx

– Ashley –

OOTD: Midweek Pinstripes

No, despite first glances- I did not cosplay as a mob boss the other day while I lounged around Bunker Hill Monument with my friend. The outfit pictured above was my post-work-pre-dinner-plans ensemble for when the weather is hot, dry- and I don’t have enough time to change into shorts and a t-shirt after darting out of my office to beat traffic and meet with my party at the designated location. The pinstriped capris, courtesy of Primark– and the black patent leather Steve Madden heels say “I’m a professional just trying to keep cool, comfortable and chic in the Summer heat”- while the black tank top and wide-brimmed hat from Jack & Lucy say “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse,” or “leave the gun, take the cannoli.”

All joking aside- this is one of my favorite Summertime workday outfits because of how comfortable it is. When it’s as hot or as humid out as it’s been lately- I just want lightweight, breezy and breathable fabrics that let me move around and perform my job with ease- but I also want colors and patterns that are easily interchangeable from daytime to nighttime if I make plans after work and can’t stop at my place to raid my closet for a different aesthetic in-between engagements. Pinstripes, like polka dots- are really easy to work with and style around!

I felt like a savvy professional walking around Charlestown in this outfit during the day- and still thought I pulled off a put together and cute, fun-with-friends-appropriate look when I stopped for dinner at Sweet Rice on Main Street for some steamed vegetable gyoza and the best Pad Thai in town later on in the evening. Save your pencil skirts and frocks, ladies and gentlemen. Right now I’m all about a sharply tailored pair of trousers that show off just the right amount of leg and a practical, yet classic pair of heels to give me some height and perfect my posture!

And while I could have easily accessorized this outfit with a rose gold necklace or some bangles to give what little skin that was exposed a bit of extra flashiness- I let the hat speak for itself. It’s really the only accessory I need when I go out because it pretty much draws all the attention to itself!

xx

– Ashley –

Summer Treats: Grilled Angel Food Cake with Blueberry Sauce

Keeping up with my theme of Summer-appropriate and grill-friendly recipes– I shifted today’s concoction from pineapples and ice cream to cake and blueberries, instead!

I love angel food cake. It’s light, fluffy, and has a hint of sweetness to it that makes it the perfect “any occasion” dessert- but it can also go from blissful to bland after a while if it’s not paired with something more flavorful- so combining it with a homemade blueberry-lemon sauce and a big dollop of freshly whipped cream sounded pretty incredible after dinner on a humid evening earlier this week.

This recipe requires minimal ingredients and takes nearly no time at all to prepare when done correctly- so if you’re in a pinch for something sweet and a little tart to serve as a post-meal treat before the Summer ends- this one will definitely come in handy!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 angel food cake (store-bought or homemade)
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • ⅓ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat a grill or grill pan. Slice the angel food cake into 8 even wedges.
  2. Lightly grease the grates of the grill and cook the angel food cake until grill marks appear, about 2 minutes per side. Set aside.
  3. In a medium pot, combine the blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice and granulated sugar. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat until the blueberries break down and the mixture is saucy, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream and confectioners’ sugar to medium peaks. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.
  5. Serve cake with the whipped cream and a drizzle of the blueberry sauce.

I had one slice of this and had to physically force myself not to eat about four more- it was that good. The blueberry-lemon sauce is fantastic- so much that I plan on using some that was leftover on top of a stack of waffles or pancakes tomorrow morning before I head to work- and the whipped cream had just enough of a vanilla kick to it to liven up the angel food cake when it was all scooped up together.

While no dessert is particularly “healthy”, I didn’t feel overly full or gross after I ate this. It was just the right amount of cake and toppings to keep me feeling satisfied and not sluggish- and I can’t wait to make it again!

xx

– Ashley –

“Don’t go chasing waterfalls…”

Ew, it’s Monday again- and I’m bracing myself for a seriously packed workload at my office this morning. I’m hoping by this afternoon I’ll have finished most of my To-Do list and can breathe a little easier- but right now I know I’m going to be completely absorbed in my case files and my coffee for the next few hours.

I’m pretty tired this morning- and not just because of last night’s episode of “Game of Thrones”- but because I did a LOT of driving, hiking and swimming this past weekend- and my muscles aren’t letting it slide. I’m a sleepy, semi-sore mess and I can’t wait to get home after a post-work burger run with one of my co-workers so I can crawl into bed and get some sleep!

On Saturday, I ventured up North to the White Mountains- towards Mount Washington- when I was caught in a torrential downpour and one of the worst thunderstorms I think I’ve ever seen. Whether it was the altitude or the change in air pressure, I’m not sure- but the lightning was terrifyingly intense and the winds were strong enough to force me off of the road for a while until it was safe to drive again. I ended up parked near Cascade Mountain while I waited for the conditions to clear- which ended up being sort of a pleasant surprise since there is a gorgeous waterfall right there off of the roadway. When the storm passed, I ran out to snap a few photos of it before the downpour started again.

The rain didn’t let up- and it nearly followed me all the way home Saturday evening when I gave up on having enough visibility to safely hike any trails or cross any rivers. The conditions were just too dangerous at the time- and I’m hoping I can try again in a couple of weeks- weather permitting!

Yesterday was much more laid-back and the weather was infinitely nicer. With clear, sunny skies- I headed up to Singing Beach for a few hours to soak up the sun with friends. There was a street festival just outside the beach, too- where the local shops and vendors around Manchester-By-The-Sea gathered to sell food, jewelry, home decor, books, etc. Although parking was a nightmare- it was fun to have a look around before we headed out to grab dinner and a couple of margaritas in downtown Melrose and I started back towards my place to prepare for work this morning!

And now I’m here, sun-kissed and ready to snooze- but prepared to tackle the day as best as I can.

Here’s hoping you all make it through your Monday!

My friend was feeling cheeky yesterday at the beach and snapped this one of me.

xx

– Ashley –

Madrid and Margaritas…

Good Evening, everyone!

I hope you’re all enjoying your Friday night. It’s a bit unlike me to post after dark (I usually update Blondie Birdie early in the morning before I head into work or while I’m waiting for my coffee to brew)– but I took a long-overdue “Selfie Night” for myself today in order to catch up on e-mails I’d been neglecting for the better part of a week, enjoy a long bath while I started binge-watching the new mini-series for “Wet Hot American Summer” on Netflix (I’m nearly finished and it’s so over-the-top crazy-funny. I love it!)– and catch up on some much needed overall rest and relaxation. After I post this, I have a feeling I’ll be crawling into my clean and freshly folded sheets to try and get a full night of undisturbed sleep. I’m exhausted!

My last attempt at a “Selfie Night” was supposed to have been last Sunday, but my plans became a bit rearranged when- as I’d mentioned in my July “In a Nutshell” post earlier this past week- my best friend Sean returned home from a month-long stay in Spain after he came down with a severe case of food poisoning/dehydration that resulted with him spending a significant amount of time in the hospital. It’s a scary thing- to have someone you care about be so sick and so far away from home- and I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for him to go through on his own. Thankfully, he’s back in the States and on the mend- and once he had stepped off the plane- some of our friends and I (and his mother!) who had showed up to surprise him at the arrival gate outside the airport snatched him up to get him some food and a couple of drinks so he could tell us all about his trip.

While Sean had been in Madrid prior to falling ill, he picked me up this really beautiful paper and lace fold-out fan that he gave to me at dinner. I love it. The imagery on it is really gorgeous- and even though I briefly used it to cool myself off in the car ride home since the temperatures were scorching- it’s since been placed neatly and delicately on display near my nicer dishes and silverware in my dining area. I don’t want anything to happen to it- and that’s the safest spot!

It’s just really nice to have him back home. I missed him a lot and I’m glad he’s feeling better and doing okay. We have a lot of catching up to do- starting tomorrow, more than likely! While there’s a few different weekend getaways planned throughout the month of August- I believe the next day or so will be spent in the White Mountains for the first time in over a year. I’m sure I’m going to have plenty of pictures to share!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –