Pre-Flight Primark Haul

Whenever I go on vacation- particularly when it requires flying anywhere for more than a couple of days- I try to pack light and dress as comfortably as possible.

I used to be the type of woman who would wear my best outfit and a full face of makeup on the plane so I’d arrive at my destination looking radiant and ready- but when your flight leaves at 5 a.m. and you have to be at the airport by 3 a.m. to make sure your luggage gets checked and you get through security in time- perfectly blended eye shadow and killer heels aren’t exactly a priority.

I leave for San Diego bright and early this coming Saturday morning- and while I was out taking care of some last minute errands before my trip- I stopped by Primark to pick up a few airport and cozy night out essentials so I could truly relax (while still looking cute) en route to my piece of Southern California paradise, while I was there and enjoying some down time with friends- and on my way back home to Boston.

Here’s what I picked up (and the prices were a steal!)

If I’m going to be in a seated position for a long time, then I just want to be comfortable. I want lightweight, breathable fabrics and nothing with zippers, buttons, or constrictive waist and/or bust lines. I grabbed a couple of pairs (navy blue and gray) of looser-fitting sweatpants to wear on my flight to California and on my flight home- and paired them with two oversized cotton t-shirts (pink and blue) so that I can nap and eat my airline peanuts in peace and not get off the plane feeling like garbage.

I also have mastered the art of making my way through the TSA- and rather than have to struggle with unbuckling or unzipping boots or strappy heels- I opted for a pair of navy blue memory foam lined slip-on sneakers to wear to/from the airport, instead. They match my sweatpants and t-shirts perfectly- and I can wear them with my jeans while I’m in San Diego, too!

While I’m in California, I will undoubtedly be out in the sun and hitting the beach- but I still need something to throw on at night if and when the temperatures drop a little. I grabbed these two black and white striped tops to throw on over my bikini when I head out with friends and hit some of our favorite bars in the area.

I like that I can wear these to work once I’m back on the East Coast, too!

And finally- at a sale price of $10- I couldn’t resist this leopard print faux-fur coat. I just couldn’t! I imagine pairing this with black leggings or skinny jeans and knee-high boots in my future when I’m back in Massachusetts- or wearing it to an upcoming trip to NYC I have planned ala Edie Sedgwick while I run wild in Manhattan. It’s definitely going to make an appearance in an upcoming OOTD post!

Not pictured are some socks, panties and a navy blue cardigan I had also picked up to replace one I’d lost a few weeks ago.

I spent just under $70 for everything- which is just one of the many reasons I love Primark so much.

The only thing left to do now is pack and run through my travel itinerary again before I up and leave- but first- I have to finish up some things at my office!

Enjoy your Wednesday, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Brightening Up with Takashi Murakami

Winter in Boston can be a trying time- even for the most outdoorsy of snow bunnies. It’s bitterly cold. There’s sludge everywhere from cars and endless foot traffic. The temperatures make everything run slower than usual (like the T, or your phone)– and every once in a while it warms up just enough to melt the snow that’s been piling up for weeks- only to suddenly drop back into the single digits seemingly overnight, freeze all those melted puddles- and turn the entire city into a slippery nightmare.

That last thing happened this past weekend, actually.

Anyway, this recent cold snap is just one of the reasons I’m heading out to Southern California for a few days starting this coming weekend- but leading up ’til then- I needed a break. I needed something warm, and bright, and cheerful- to get me back into a chipper mood and make me feel refreshed again. You can only stay cooped up under your blankets for so long, after all.

Enter the Museum of Fine Arts and their current exhibit honoring Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami.

I’m a big fan of Murakami’s work- which has always been colorful, fun, and most of all- unique. The MFA never fails to showcase talent in such a way that the entire experience is memorable- so I was really excited to see what they’d do with this exhibit.

Let’s just say that by the time I left- I was dreaming of Spring and I couldn’t stop smiling. This gallery was exactly what I needed.

Between the flower-printed floors, light fixtures, and the huge and busy, bustling murals that took up entire wall spaces- this exhibit is truly something to behold. If you’re in the Boston area and you need something to get you out of your Winter blues for an afternoon- ‘Takashi Murakami: Lineage of Eccentrics’ runs through the MFA until April 1st, 2018.

You’ll have a blast. I promise!

xx

– Ashley –

Wonderful, Wonderful…

Have you ever had a weekend that was so action-packed and busy that you needed a full week to recover from it, and before you knew it- it was the weekend again? Well, if not- let me tell you about last Saturday and Sunday.

In the midst of sub-zero temperatures, a group of friends and I had been planning a night out on Saturday to celebrate Sean’s birthday in style. Sean had mentioned wanting to have a big dinner at a local Japanese restaurant (weather permitting)– but with a wind chill advisory in effect and more than one person experiencing car problems when the negative temperatures started affecting their engines/car electronics/sensors- we made do with a board game and pizza night at the apartment in Melrose where everyone could stuff their faces without reservations or judgment and stay warm.

A few slices (and buffalo wings, of course) and a round or two of FLUXX and ‘Code Word’ later- and it was time for coconut cake and singing for Sean with some trick candles that almost made him lose his breath trying to blow them out. Although he won’t own up to his age- I know the truth- and I’m really glad that his night was so special and laid-back. He earned it.

On Sunday, after running some errands- I headed down to TD Garden with my friend Kayla from work to have a few drinks, catch up with a friend of mine from Ireland who was in town working for the night, and see The Killers- who were passing through town for their North American leg of the “Wonderful Wonderful” tour. The show was Kayla’s first time seeing the band- and my 274th (okay, maybe not that exact number- but I have seen those lovely and talented boys from Vegas quite a few times over the last 14 years!)

The set and the visuals during the show were unreal- maybe some of the most elaborate, technical, stunning effects I’d ever seen during any of their concerts. My photos simply don’t do it justice. It was awe-inspiring- and I was thrilled that Kayla got to experience it for the first time when everything looked and sounded so good.

They played new favorites from the latest album and bangers from their previous work- as well as a cover of The Cars’ “Just What I Needed” (as a tribute to Boston!) It was a pretty perfect set from start to finish- made even more memorable by all the confetti and sparklers peppered throughout some of the songs. I had an amazing, unforgettable time- and it definitely ranks up there with one of the Top 10 performances I’ve seen by the guys over the years.

If The Killers are coming to your town during this tour, I highly recommend dropping in to catch their show. You won’t regret it. It’s phenomenal- and so much fun!

Both Kayla and myself got home post-show pretty late, and I’ve been trying to play catch-up on my sleep schedule for the better part of a week while juggling work- so it’s been a very interesting few days, for sure.

I’m looking forward to this weekend- where I will undoubtedly sleep late and start packing for my upcoming trip to San Diego.

Enjoy your Friday, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Tipsy Treats: Champagne Doughnuts

The past few days have been filled with a lot of champagne. January is a pretty big month for birthdays (including my own)– so between New Year’s Eve and today- there’s been nearly a handful of celebrations that have involved toasting with some bubbly!

Of course, there’s usually some left over by the time my friends and I are done partying- and I hate to see any of it go to waste- so I found a really fun, super tasty- and rather sparkly-looking breakfast treat to whip up that requires just a small amount of some of that flat champagne so you can take your brunch to the next level and wow everyone!

Best of all? These doughnuts are baked- not fried- so enjoying one or two on your cheat day shouldn’t make you feel too guilty.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

FOR THE DOUGHNUTS:

  • Nonstick spray
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ⅔ cup whole milk
  • ⅓ cup Champagne (Yes, I used canned champagne. I am NOT stepping out in the frigid temperatures to pop the cork on a new bottle!)

FOR THE GLAZE:

  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ⅓ cup Champagne, or more as needed
  • Shimmery gold sprinkles, for finishing

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Make the Doughnuts: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease two 6-cavity doughnut pans with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, butter and oil. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk well to combine. Add the vanilla and stir to combine.
  3. Whisk in the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the milk and Champagne and mix until the batter is smooth.
  4. Divide the batter between the doughnut pans, filling each about halfway full. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a doughnut comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.
  5. Let the doughnuts cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert the pan onto a cooling rack to cool completely, 45 minutes more.
  6. Make the Glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and Champagne (add more Champagne as needed to achieve a pourable glaze).
  7. Spoon the glaze over the doughnuts and decorate them with sprinkles.
  8. Relish in your title as the BOSS of brunch!

These were so, so good- and the champagne gave the doughnuts an unexpected and pleasantly delightful flavor that paired really well with the sugary glaze! Also- I am all about edible glitter. It just makes dining much more festive and fun!

I have another brunch scheduled for this weekend with some friends before I leave for California next week- and you best believe I’ll be whipping up a second batch of these to bring to the table with me!

xx

– Ashley –

OOTD: Subtle Sparkle and Shine

In my late teens/early twenties, the New Year’s Eve ensemble code that my girlfriends and I always stuck to was simple: short dresses/skirts, the highest heels imaginable- and enough sequins and glitter that you’d still be picking them out of your hair by Memorial Day Weekend.

Now, in Southern California, Nevada, or Arizona- this dress code would not only be expected, but probably appropriate in some ways, given the climate- but we grew up in (and still reside) in New England. You know, the part of the country that has been consistently under a thick blanket of ice for a few weeks now? That corner of the United States that hasn’t seen temperatures come out of the negatives for days? Yeah, that part.

But we were young and dumb back then- and looking cute or sexy meant risking frost bite or hypothermia in the New Year. I can remember one New Year’s Eve where I wore open toed heels – OPEN TOED HEELS– during a snowstorm because I had a party to get to. I look back, cringe accordingly- and then see other girls around that age doing the exact same thing. I can’t help but laugh- because I know they’ll look back on it someday and have the same reaction, too. It’s a lesson every young woman has to learn when they grow up in parts of the country that experience some drastic season changes.

I digress- now that I’m older and (somewhat) wiser- I’ve learned that layers and practical footwear can be cute for New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day, too. And if I want to sparkle and shine for the occasion- I don’t have to look any farther than knitted sweaters that use shiny thread. Case in point? This oversized sweater I picked up at Primark and wore around New Hampshire and Ipswich on New Year’s Day.

Not only did I look festive AND comfortable- but I was beyond cozy and warm, too. Paired with fleece-lined leggings, knee-high wool socks and my black snow boots- I didn’t have to worry about being exposed to the elements or getting sick as a dog from being outside for more than a few minutes at a time.

I know some people think the material this sweater is made from feels “itchy” at times- but I was fine all day and well into the night wearing it. I think, moving forward- if it ever became an issue- it’s nothing a tank top or a thin, thermal long-sleeved shirt underneath wouldn’t solve.

I wore small, faux-diamond earrings and swiped some metallic gray eye shadow on my lids (and a metallic pink gloss on my lips) to complete the look without going overboard.

I loved the outfit, and it’s definitely something I would wear again- even on regular work days at the office where champagne toasts at midnight aren’t a requirement (but I wish they were!)

xx

– Ashley –

Face Your (Gym) Fears!

(Image/Inspiration via Pinterest)

If you’re wondering if I’m currently buried under feet of snow- the answer is yes. Yesterday’s “Bomb Cyclone” (another, unintentionally funnier way of describing a Nor’Easter or massive blizzard) started bright and early yesterday morning, just as I was headed to work- and powered on through the afternoon and last night. Shoveling proved to be a waste of time since driveways and sidewalks were covered again in less than an hour’s time. After about 3-4 passes up and down my walkway throughout the day- I finally gave up and saved the bulk of the cleanup for this morning.

My back, shoulders and arms are killing me right now- but I suppose it sort of makes up for not being able to get to the gym yesterday, right? It was sort of like an impromptu weightlifting and strength-training day- although it was very cold.

Speaking of which. With the New Year underway, many of us are pushing hard to keep up with our resolutions so we don’t throw in the towel by the end of the month- only to promise ourselves we’ll succeed next year by the time December 31st rolls back around again.

And there’s a good chance that one of the resolutions on many lists involves getting into better shape/losing weight/staying fit/living healthier. It’s a great goal to have- but it’s also one of the more challenging ones to keep up with. It’s easy to get discouraged, sidetracked, distracted- and it’s even easier not to get the momentum started because of procrastination/hesitation. “I’ll start tomorrow” turns into “I’ll start next week”, which turns into “I’ll start next month-” and before you know it- the whole year has gone by before you even realize it.

Believe me- I’ve been there. Multiple times. A lot of people have.

From everyone I’ve ever spoken to has reached a road block in terms of working out/getting fit- more often than not- their reason for it is one surprising thing: they’re afraid to go to the gym.

As someone who had to overcome that fear on my own- I get it. There is the fear of judgment. There’s the fear of not being able to keep up with others. There’s the fear of not using the equipment properly- or even the fear of overdoing it and getting injured. I think more than anything- there’s the fear of failure.

But 2018 is YOUR year- and I’m here to try to keep you motivated! Aaptiv, a fitness app– created this infographic to help those struggling with gym related anxiety overcome their fears. Check it out!

Above are some surprising statistics and some really sound and helpful advice from Aaptiv- and I’d also like to touch base on some of them.

You are worth taking that first step – First and foremost, it’s great that you want to get into better shape and be healthier- and you should be really proud of yourself for even considering making that commitment because it’s going to take time, dedication, and hard work. That being said- as daunting as going to the gym can be- try to remember that the payoff is worth powering through whatever initial discomfort you might feel once you’ve gotten started. You’re going to look better and feel better- and feeling better is what’s important.

Nobody at the gym is there to point at you or gawk at you – That self-conscious feeling gets the best of all of us- and although you might feel eyes on you in spin class or while you’re wiping down your equipment after you use it- try to think positively. Like Aaptiv said- everyone is there for the same reason- to get healthy. Just because someone might be looking at you doesn’t automatically mean they’re mocking you or judging you. They might just be watching your technique for when they use the equipment you’re on, or they might just like your outfit and are wondering where you got it- or they might think you look amazing and are appreciating the results of the work you’ve been putting in. Whatever the reason- own it and just focus on you- and nobody else.

Socializing helps squash any lingering feelings of awkwardness – One way I’ve opened up at the gym and have felt more comfortable is by talking about my goals with the people in my yoga or spin classes. It’s always nice to both give and receive feedback, and it makes going to the gym so much easier (and feel so much more welcoming!) when you know you have people you can smile at and say hello to. I’ve also found that some of the people in my classes offer great insight for at-home exercises/programs they participate in- or other classes that might be really fun to try and that I otherwise may never have heard of!

Don’t get discouraged and DON’T give up – It can be really disheartening to work out every day for a couple of weeks, get on the scale, and not see any immediate results. It might even make you want to just call it quits- but I’m telling you not to. I’m telling you to keep going. Nothing worth achieving ever came easy- so get back in there and keep working hard- because eventually you’re going to see and feel a difference!

Talk to a trainer and gauge what they recommend if you’re looking to change/add more to your routine, too! It never hurts to learn new techniques or different methods that can help you get closer to achieving your goals.

When all else fails, turn it up and tune it out – On the days where I’m struggling to stay motivated and/or can’t seem to concentrate- I make sure to get a thumping, pumping and upbeat playlist going through my earbuds. Not only does it drown out any noises I might not want to listen to while I’m working out- but it makes the time go by SO much quicker, too! Aaptiv has plenty of updated playlists- featuring some of today’s hottest and most popular artists/songs- to choose from!

And now, for a limited time for the New Year- you can get access to Aaptiv at a reduced price (because who wants to pay the full amount when the year has only just begun?) When downloading Aaptiv in your carrier’s app store- use the code GETFIT for a 20% discount off of a 30 day trial of an annual membership. Just because the holidays are over doesn’t mean the giving has to stop, right? So why not give yourself the gift of a pocket-sized, portable personal trainer to help you get on- and stay on- track!

And if you’d like to share your own tips on how to overcome gym-midation (see what I did there?) or stories of your own triumphs- feel free to leave a comment!

xx

– Ashley –

Hello, 2018…

Good Morning, everyone! It’s great to be back- in a brand new year, no less- and I hope you all had a wonderful weekend welcoming 2018 in a fun, memorable way!

I spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in New Hampshire with my best friend Sean. The whole thing was planned at the last possible minute, really- but we’ve been fortunate in past travels/adventures where just winging it and rolling with the punches has worked out in our favor- and this most recent weekend was (thankfully) no exception.

We hung our hats at The Silver Fountain Inn in Dover- which is about 15 minutes away from Portsmouth. The property is both an inn and a tea parlor that hosts private parties and murder mystery dinners- among other events. Sean and I went halves on an already reasonably priced rate to get ourselves the Boudoir Room for a night- and it might have been one of the nicest rooms I’ve ever stayed in- ever. If you’ve ever visited any of the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island- then you’ll understand me when I say that this room gave me that vibe. I felt like royalty in here!

We were free to explore the rest of the inn- including the rooms that weren’t occupied- at our leisure, and the entire house looked just as gorgeous as our room was. From an amazing dining room with still-festive decor, a spacious sitting room, and a spiraling grand staircase that worked it’s way up three floors- there was a lot to take in!

Below are some of my favorite shots I snapped while we were stretching our legs and grabbing some complimentary tea from the dining area.

I could live there forever- no questions asked!

Of course, we had to briefly leave the comforts of our palace-for-a-night and head out into the bitter, brutal Northeastern cold (seriously- it was actually painful being outdoors for more than a few minutes at a time) to grab dinner and count down to midnight.

After pausing to VERY quickly appreciate some celebratory ice sculptures in downtown Portsmouth- Sean and I headed over to Fat Belly’s Bar & Grille to grab our annual “end of the year, face-stuffing cheat meal” where we just ingest the greasiest/most fattening/carb-loaded dishes, desserts and snacks we can before it’s back to square one on January 1st. I enjoyed a bacon cheeseburger with fries, while Sean had some over-the-top BLT. Fat Belly’s can always be counted on to deliver the goods (hence their name.)

Following dinner, and with a couple of hours to spare- Sean and I did a bit of bar-hopping until we found one that we felt comfortable in, and that wasn’t charging a ridiculously overpriced cover to scam people who were simply looking to come in out of the cold. We popped into The Portsmouth Brewery and ended up staying there for the remainder of our night out on the town- counting down to midnight with a room full of fun, enthusiastic people in their downstairs lounge area.

After milling about for another hour or so, saying our goodnights and best wishes for the New Year to everyone around us- Sean and I bundled up once again to brave the Arctic Tundra temperatures to get back to my car and from there- back to Dover so we could get some much-needed rest and relaxation in our room. I fell asleep almost immediately- the bed was so comfortable.

The next morning, bright and early and feeling rejuvenated- Sean and I enjoyed a breakfast prepared by the innkeeper, Pam. We had initially been a bit indecisive on what we wanted- so Pam made us a little of everything: a Mexican scramble, a buttermilk & strawberry pancake, bacon and English Toffee coffee. It was delicious- and when other guests who had stayed the night eventually came in to join us- we spent the better part of our meal getting to know one another and laughing about our favorite suspenseful TV shows over the years.

It was a really great environment and energy throughout the house- like we were catching up with old friends instead of strangers- and I was admittedly pretty sad when it came time to check out and head back to Massachusetts later on that morning. I’d really love to travel North and stay at the inn again- but definitely for more than just one night next time.

To get back to Melrose, Sean and I opted to drive down the coast as far as it would take us before heading inland to get home. We made a stop at Hampton Beach to enjoy just a couple of minutes of salty, freezing air- and marveled at the braver people who were getting closer and closer to the tide.

I heard every January 1st there’s a “Polar Plunge” (where people jump into the freezing water as a means to ring in the New Year) in Hampton- but I am 100% all set without doing that. I’ll just stick to my heated car and watch from the shore, thank you.

We also made one other stop at the Heart and Soul Cafe in Ipswich for lunch (avocado toast all day, every day!) before we eventually made it home to binge-watch some TV and play some video games before it was time to get my meals and wardrobe in order for the work-week ahead, pencil time into my schedule to hit the gym every day, unpack my bag- and try to get a good night’s sleep.

Overall, I had such an extraordinary and magical experience in New Hampshire for New Year’s- even if it was much colder than I’d expected or hoped for. Everyone remained in good spirits and seemed intent on helping each other out in terms of offering warm places to sit/stay. It was a very pleasant, peaceful way to begin 2018 and I’m very grateful it all worked out on such short notice!

Later on this week, I’m going to be sharing my tips/tricks to overcoming any gym anxiety for those who are looking to get back into the workout game and stick to your resolutions. I’m really excited to be partnering with the creators of a particularly helpful app for that very purpose- and I can’t wait to share the details with you all!

Until then, though- I’ve got to get to work!

Enjoy the rest of your day, everyone!

Ipswich, MA. 1/1/18

xx

– Ashley –