July 2017: In a Nutshell

Portsmouth, NH. 7/29/17

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

I feel like many people- myself included- say it every single time we’re about enter a new month, but really- where did the time go? July is finished and here we are getting ready to launch headfirst into August. The summer is almost over! In just a couple of weeks a lot of students will be returning to school, seasonal landmarks and shops will be shuttering their doors until next year- and I’ll be preparing to once again rotate my wardrobe and makeup collection for when the Fall inevitably arrives.

But I don’t want to get ahead of myself, here. We still have a bit of time left to cram in some last minute Summer activities throughout the month of August- so I’m trying not to panic as I make my plans- and July was definitely a whirlwind of a month that deserves a proper sendoff.

I kicked off this past month with a firework-filled Fourth of July and a spur-of-the-moment, wild (and unbelievably fun) 24-hour weekend trip to San Diego to surprise and visit with friends- which might go down as one of the most impulsive things I’ve ever done- and that is really saying something since I’ve done a LOT of crazy, unplanned and unexpected things over the years. It keeps me young, I always say.

Not only was July spent with family and good friends (on both coasts!) but with co-workers as well. A group of really great people I work with and occasionally hang out with and myself caught the most bizarre concert in the sticks of central Massachusetts following my return from California. Granted, one of my co-workers could have easily died in a horrible car accident afterwards- but he miraculously managed to walk away from it relatively unscathed (I saw him the other day when we all went out for lunch and he’s healing up just fine!)

July marked five years since my father passed away, so there was a period of quiet reflection in-between jet-setting here and there. Those closest to me helped make the anniversary a little easier to get through with kind words and much-needed distractions and humor- so I’m very grateful for them- and for a lot of things this past month, really.

Portsmouth, NH. 7/29/17

I would say that the majority of my time in July, much like June- was spent at the beach, mostly in New Hampshire- including this past Saturday when I ventured up to Rye and Portsmouth for a full-day of shopping, dining, swimming in the ocean and cruising the coast while listening to good music. Nearly every weekend throughout the month had at least one full day dedicated to spending time in the sand. You can take the girl out of California but you can’t take California out of the girl- after all- and beach days are a rare commodity around here since it can get so cold sometimes! You truly have to savor it as much as you can and that’s exactly what I did!

So what’s in store for August? Well- for starters- lots of time spent with my best friend Sean, who returned home from Spain yesterday evening (I surprised him at the airport!) after he’d spent some time during his stay hospitalized in Barcelona for extreme food poisoning/dehydration. It’s so good to have him home and in good health again- and I can’t thank the Doctors overseas enough for taking such good care of him.

And while I will undoubtedly spend more time at the beach this coming month- I’ve also got a long overdue trip to NYC planned, a couple of recipes to share, and a few more peeks inside my closet in-between working at my full-time job and traveling as much as I can to those aforementioned seasonal landmarks before they close up for the year!

I’ll see you all in August, but in case you’re looking for a couple of things to add to your end-of-the-Summer bucket list:

  • Bring my 2017 Summer playlist, “Pineapple Daze” with you!
  • There’s still time to whip up some of the recipes I’ve shared these past couple of months for your next BBQ, cookout or pool party!
  • I shared my favorites from July last week- in case you’re in need of some updates to your makeup/skincare regimen for the month of August.

xx

– Ashley –

Advertisements

Favorites: July 2017!

Good Morning and TGIF, everyone! Can you believe we’re heading into the last weekend of July and that Summer is going to be winding down soon? As much as I love the Fall here in New England (I’m very much one of those unapologetic pumpkin-spice-everything type of girls)– I’m not ready to say goodbye to Summer of 2017 yet- especially when it’s been so much fun!

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. We still have this weekend and all through August and early September to soak up some more sunshine and hit the beach before it gets too cold out- which is exactly what I plan on doing come first thing tomorrow morning. Before that, though- I wanted to share some of the odds and ends that I absolutely loved this past month.

Most of my favorites from July were cosmetics-related since I recently did an overhaul and mass clean-out of my skincare and makeup to get rid of expired/empty products and make some room for newer items- but there’s a couple of other things that made the list, too!

One of the things that I ate pretty much non-stop throughout July were these cold brew latte dessert popsicles I kept buying at Trader Joe’s. Think of how refreshing an iced cafe mocha tastes on a sweltering hot morning- then make it even colder and put it on a stick- and you’ve got this wonderfully smooth, creamy and satisfying treat that’s low in fat (and calories, too) and gives you a nice caffeine boost when you might need it the most.

I’m seriously addicted to these things so I have a feeling they’ll probably make my August Favorites list, too!

I was admittedly a little skeptical when I first saw swatches of Urban Decay’s latest Naked palette, “HEAT”- since I’m pretty fair and always assumed any sort of red/orange shadows would just end up making me look like I had a bad case of pink eye or a weird rash or something. Earlier this month, however- I was treating myself to a couple of goodies and thought I may as well give it a try- and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised with how neat these shadows look.

While there’s plenty of red/orange tones- they can easily be blended and sort of mellowed out with the lighter brown and almost rose-colored shades that are included in this palette, too. There’s a nice mix of shimmers and mattes that I’ve been experimenting with pretty much every day since I picked this one up for myself and I haven’t found a color combination that I dislike yet. Every shade is really beautiful and makes me think of days spend out in the desert whenever I visit Nevada!

Another “wasn’t sure at first but now I’m a believer” find? Brazilian Bum Bum Cream by Sol de Janeiro. HEAR ME OUT- I wear a lot of bikinis during the Summer, and even though I never skip squats and am a body lotion/cream fiend- I was intrigued about this Guaraná-packed moisturizer I heard mentioned through word of mouth. It’s all-natural ingredients are supposed to boost circulation in your skin while smoothing and tightening- and some people I know swear by it.

First things first, the cream smells delicious- good enough to eat, even- and it doesn’t feel greasy or sticky after you slather it on, but the most important thing are the results. I’ve been using this quick-absorbing cream religiously for a good portion of July now- and even though I’ve always thought my posterior looked decent, anyway- it definitely looks a lot smoother and feels a bit firmer after I use this stuff! Consider me a fan!

I recently misplaced one of my favorite raspberry-hued Formula X nail polishes, and I cannot find it for the life of me (I think it’s somewhere in San Diego!)– so I found a lovely substitute in Deborah Lippmann’s Summer 2017 collection with this bright, poppy pink shade called “Shut Up And Dance” which I’ve been sporting on my fingers and toes nearly all month. The formula, long-lasting like a gel manicure but without the harmful chemicals and UV rays- gives full coverage and is highly pigmented.

The shade just feels like Summertime- and I doubt I’ll be wearing any other color on my nails ’til the Fall!

And the last thing in July’s beauty round-up is this gorgeous roll-on fragrance from Replica– “Beach Walk”. A really incredible combination of lemon, coconut, cedar wood and ylang ylang- among others- this perfume transports me to the beach even when I’m landlocked at work. It’s hard to describe just how lovely this perfume is- but I’ve been wearing it every day and I get so many compliments on it.

It absolutely reminds me of evenings spent at Old Orchard Beach strolling the boardwalk with my friends. Replica managed to somehow bottle that memory in fragrance form!

I think that’s it for the things I was able to photograph for the month of July- but there’s still a couple of other Favorites, too!

– MUSIC/MOVIES/TELEVISION –

“Preacher” (2nd Season!) I’ve been a huge fan of AMC’s “Preacher” since it premiered last year, and I was so thrilled that it had been picked up for a second season that started in late June after another series I enjoy, “Fear The Walking Dead”, wrapped up for the time being. The show, characters, story- and the comic book it’s based on- are absolutely bonkers. It’s funny, clever, violent, a little gory- but so, so entertaining nonetheless. I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a Jesse Custer cosplay I intend to wear around Comic-Con next month when it swings through Boston- so I’m very excited!

“Atomic Blonde” – So the movie technically comes out today, but I’m already so hyped up to see this one with my girlfriends this weekend. It’s been a pretty good year for ass-kicking female-led films so far- so to watch Charlize Theron take no prisoners as a secret agent and look stunning while she’s stabbing people with a stiletto heel is something I can definitely get behind. Yes, please!

– MISCELLANEOUS –

San Diego Comic-Con Recaps! – The biggest convention of the year wrapped up this past weekend, and I was LIVING for the updates that were coming out on a near hourly basis- both from friends who were in attendance and on social media. The trailer for the 8th season of “The Walking Dead” (my all-time favorite show, ever- period) stopped me in my tracks when it was released- and I was fan-girling so hard on my phone during the Marvel panel updates. I haven’t been to SDCC since 2014- where I had the time of my life- but I’m really hoping I can be there for 2018 to re-live all the excitement and previews!

Alright- I think that’s everything! Anything else that I may have forgotten will definitely get a mention next month when I inevitably remember it!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Stone Stacks and Seafood…

As much time as I spend along the coast in New Hampshire- to the point where I know most of the roads and the sights/places to stop like the back of my hand- sometimes I stumble on something I’d never seen before or that I didn’t know existed and I can still manage to be surprised. Case in point: this past Sunday when I had pulled over to a secluded section of the beach in Northern Hampton in order to answer a couple of texts I had received while I was on the road heading towards my favorite seaside lunch spot to grab a quick bite.

Typically, I’d just sit in my parked, air-conditioned car to answer the texts- but it was lovely out on Sunday- with the sun shining and the temperature not too hot or cold. Instead, I decided to climb up a set of rocks to soak up some Vitamin D and watch the low tide in-between reading messages.

Once I’d reached the top of the rocks along the shoreline, I noticed a path that cut down to a section of the beach where there were a ton of intricate man-made stone stacks (some people call it rock balancing, too- I think.) I mean there were SO many. I’d never seen anything like it before- so I completely forgot about answering my messages and instead grabbed my camera before heading down the pathway to check it out.

I had no idea any of those were just on the other side of the edge of the roadway that I’ve driven by literally hundreds of times over the years- otherwise I would have stopped to check it out sooner! It was such an unexpected sight to see- and I had such a peaceful time sitting among the rocks and marveling at just how much time and patience it must have taken to get some of the stacks just right without causing the entire thing to topple over on itself.

Of course, I HAD been on my way to get food- so when I was done snapping photos- I headed down the coast to the Beach Plum for one of their famous toasted lobster rolls and some ice cold lemonade to eat beside the waves.

The best part of the Beach Plum’s lobster rolls? Absolutely no lettuce to get in the way. Just plenty of meat and a delicious, buttered and lightly toasted roll. That’s all I could ever ask for! So, so good.

Overall, I had quite a nice afternoon- full of surprises and seafood- and I’m looking forward to a planned trip a little further up to Maine this coming weekend if the weather permits!

xx

– Ashley –

POPSUGAR Must Have Box Review: July 2017

Good Morning and Happy (Ugh…) Monday! I hope you all had a sensational weekend. Mine was very relaxing- although I’ll get to that a little later on this week. For now, I want to share my July POPSUGAR “Must Have” box with everyone! It arrived early last week and I couldn’t wait to open it up and take a look inside.

I had actually wanted to get this post up this past Friday, but a Thursday evening dinner with my brothers at my mother’s house ran a little later than expected- and coupled with putting in some serious overtime at my job and a spur-of-the-moment Friday evening event that came up unexpectedly at the last minute- I got a little delayed on my usual posting schedule.

But enough excuses! It’s a brand new week and I’m back and ready to write!

July’s “Must Have” box was a little different from past boxes I’ve received, in that it did not have any coupons/online bonus cards included and the monthly pamphlet that detailed each item and brand featured in the collection was missing. Whether or not POPSUGAR simply forgot to pack it in whatever unit my box fell into or scrapped it all together this month will forever remain a mystery- but I found myself looking for them after I’d unpacked everything!

A quick online search shows that this month’s theme/inspirations were FIREFLIES, BONFIRE, CAMP, SAND and FIREWORKS.

The first item that caught my eye were these fireplace matches from Sisters of Los Angeles that came in the prettiest box ever. We all know how much I love California (enough to journey out there for 24 hours at a time just to be under the palm trees for a day!) so I know that when I’m done using these matches on my scented candle collection and in my backyard fire pit- I’ll be preserving the box to use as something decorative around my place as a reminder of my home away from home!

Not only does Tarte Cosmetics make my favorite foundation (the “Rainforest of the Sea” water foundation gives me life)– but they also make one of my favorite waterproof mascaras, too- so to receive a full-sized tube of it in this month’s “Must Have” box was a really pleasant surprise!

“Lights, Camera, Splashes” makes my eyes pop something fierce. It thickens, extends, and slightly curls my lashes- and the formula doesn’t budge- not even with sweat, rain, salt water, etc. I’ve been using it for a long time now, and this replacement tube just saved me $23 at my next Sephora shopping trip since I won’t need to replenish my supply!

Hi, I’m pasty and I can never have enough sunscreen- especially when a good chunk of my free time is spent outdoors and at the beach. I’ve been loving this SPF50 mousse formula from Supergoop because it applies easily and evenly (and you don’t need a ton of it to get good coverage!), it isn’t oily/greasy on my skin- and it’s not loaded with harmful chemicals or weird fragrances or anything.

The sunscreen is naturally moisturizing and the antioxidant-charged formula has it’s own clean scent that actually makes the application process a lot more enjoyable than other brands I’ve tried in the past that have left me with uneven burns/tan lines or breakouts!

I’ve been making it my Summer mission to drink more water- not only to make sure I’m ridding my body of toxins and keeping my skin hydrated and clear- but because it has been really, really hot out lately, y’all! Getting into my car after a long day of work and knowing that it’s going to take a few minutes for the AC to kick on and offer me some relief is enough to send me into a full blown meltdown (no pun intended.)

I’ve been loving this 20-ounce tumbler from Bando since I received it. The design reminds me of something you’d see at any local beach that has refreshment stands- and I can just load it up with ice water when I hit the road every morning and know that I’m packing plenty of H2O to get me through the day!

One of the items I knew I was going to be receiving this month was this plush, 100% Turkish cotton Ocean Tribe towel by Turkish T– and it is by far my favorite item in July’s “Must Have” box. The towel is pretty big- enough to bring to the beach or the pool and be able to lay on it comfortably- but it is also SO. INCREDIBLY. SOFT. Think of the softest thing you’ve ever touched and then amplify it by 10,000 and that is how soft this towel is.

A $49 value- this item is all mine- as in I’m not sharing it the way I do with some of my other POPSUGAR gifts. The pattern and colors on this towel are lovely, so showing it off is not a problem at all. It’s divine!

Finally, a POPSUGAR box just isn’t complete without a snack- and I’m packing these smoked gouda cheese crackers from Snyder’s with me when I head to work tomorrow. They’re baked and low in fat, so I don’t think I’m going to feel too guilty if I end up eating the entire bag in one sitting before my lunch break.

And that’s everything I received in July’s POPSUGAR “Must Have” Box!

Overall, I really enjoyed everything included in this month’s collection- although I am still a bit perplexed at the cards/coupons being M.I.A. this time around. It’s not the end of the world, of course- but I think I got so used to having them every month!

I’m looking forward to August’s box- although that means it’ll be the last one of the Summer!

xx

– Ashley –

“Two Tickets to Paradise…”

This past Saturday marked the five-year anniversary since my father passed away, and while I was content with just spending the weekend by myself where I could reflect and grieve quietly- some of my co-workers had a different idea- and I’m glad I went along with it because it ended up being really, really fun.

I love the people I work with. They’re all intelligent, brilliant at what they do, and are incredibly easy-going and funny on and off the clock. Some of us usually get together once a week or every couple of weeks to have drinks and/or grab food after hours- but this past weekend we all journeyed to a campground in the middle of nowhere, Massachusetts to do something a little different- catch an Eddie Money concert. If you’re not familiar with Eddie Money, the over-the-top persona- then you have definitely heard some of his hits on classic rock radio, at least- like “Two Tickets to Paradise” or “Take Me Home Tonight”.

One of my co-workers picked up tickets for about ten of us to catch the afternoon show at Indian Ranch, a campsite located off of the shores of Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagaugchaubunagungamaugg (Yes, that’s the real name. No, I have no idea how to pronounce it.) I hadn’t been there since I was a little kid- and had all but forgotten it was a real place until we arrived on Saturday after grabbing a couple of beers at a little bar down the road.

Pre-gaming for Eddie Money. 7/15/17.

The venue and outdoor stage area was actually really nice- with impressive sound that carried over the crowd and all the way to the water where we were standing to watch- so we could see/hear pretty much everything with complete clarity. My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough shade- and at 2 p.m. in the middle of July- that can be a problem.

The opening act was Eddie Money’s son, Desmond, and his daughter- Jesse- who ended up joining the “Money Man” when he eventually took the stage for just over an hour. There was a lot of banter between songs, which just got funnier and funnier as the afternoon wore on and people drank more and more. I wish I could describe the scene when Eddie asked where his “eighties ladies” were and every woman over 45 completely lost their minds. It was kind of amazing.

Overall, I had a blast- and it was a nice distraction from the usual sadness that otherwise would have plagued me for the day.

The only downside to the weekend, however- was that one of my friends/co-workers was injured in a pretty serious car crash in the hours following the concert when someone abruptly cut into his lane on the highway and he swerved in an attempt to avoid a collision. He’s lucky to be alive- judging by the pictures of his car I saw- and is expected to make a full recovery per the last conversation I had with him- but it was definitely a scary thing to hear about and all well-wishes/good vibes should be sent in his direction while he’s recuperating.

Outdoor BBQ at work! The sky cleared up! 7/17/18.

I’ve got a lot to do at the office this morning- especially since yesterday was my company’s annual Summer BBQ where we managed to keep the rain at bay long enough to enjoy some freshly grilled cheeseburgers and play some games outside for a couple of hours- but it set me back a bit on my case load and I’ve got to play some catch-up this morning to make sure I don’t fall behind or overlook anything.

Have a great Hump Day, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Comfort Food: Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread with Tomatoes and Green Onions

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! I know it’s pretty hot around here lately (and probably everywhere else, too!) but I’ve got another skillet recipe for you all if you can stand a little extra heat in your kitchen for about 30-45 minutes. I promise that it’ll be worth it, though. This recipe is a good one!

I love cornbread- especially when it’s homemade and served hot- but sometimes it can taste a little dry or bland all by itself. When I saw this slightly modified version, which loads up the classic recipe with a couple of different flavors and textures in the form of some unexpected vegetables instead of just corn kernels- which I’ve seen done in the past- I knew I had to give it a try.

I served this as a side dish with a meal I prepared for friends this past weekend as a substitute for standard dinner rolls, and it went over really well!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 pint assorted cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease an oven-safe 9-inch skillet with nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the cornmeal with the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt to combine. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk, cooled melted butter and eggs; whisk well.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet and smooth into an even layer.
  4. In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with the scallions, olive oil, salt and pepper to combine. Pour the tomato mixture on top of the corn bread batter.
  5. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the corn bread comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

This cornbread was rich and that m word that ends in “oist” that I refuse to say because it’s one of the worst words in the English language- but this WAS that word. The onions and the tomatoes were also still juicy after cooking this up and gave each bite some additional flavors that were much-appreciated. I’d like to try making this again and maybe add some green peppers to the recipe, as well.

I had a small amount left over that I’ll be enjoying for a mid-morning snack in a couple of hours, since this cornbread is appropriate for any time of day!

xx

– Ashley –

OOTD: SoCal Smolder

Since I was only spending 24 hours in San Diego this past weekend- I didn’t pack much- just enough necessities to fit inside a backpack (like my makeup, my phone charger, and a fresh change of clothes for my flight home.) It wasn’t until I was actually in town and realized that I needed something a bit dressier and something I HADN’T spent 5 hours cramped onto an airplane in to wear for my plans on Saturday night- and I made it a point to make a quick pit-stop at the closest shopping center in order to pick up a new outfit to add to my wardrobe.

When it comes to going out in Southern California- I tend to dress a bit more on the provocative side- but without crossing the line into inappropriate territory. Mini skirts with a cute blouse and nice, dressy sandals? A sleeveless maxi dress with stiletto heels? Short shorts with a tattered band t-shirt and funky sneakers? I’ve worn ’em all at various points out West- so I opted for something a bit different this time around in this black and floral printed back-less, frilly mini-dress.

I love the cut of this dress. It shows off my arms, my legs, and just enough of my back to leave something to the imagination- and the fabric is so light and breezy that I was comfortable and confident the whole night I was wearing it. I picked up a long, black quarter-sleeve cardigan to wear over it, too- just in case the night got a little chilly while I was in San Diego (thankfully, it didn’t)– and also so I could get away with wearing this dress to work, too.

It’s definitely office-friendly in the front, but in the back? Not so much- so a light sweater is definitely a must.

I played up my pale and otherwise bare neck area with a red acrylic and faux-diamond studded statement necklace that I got on sale in a small boutique in Horton Plaza while I stopped in the area to get a caffeine fix and a blow-out for my hair. I wanted something to match the red flowers in the dress.

The necklace came with a pair of ruby red teardrop earrings, as well- but I skipped over wearing those since I was keeping my hair down for the evening and my hair always hides my ears. I’m saving them for a special occasion!

And finally, I wore sneakers to and from San Diego- which simply would not do with a dress this cute- so I grabbed an inexpensive pair of pointed, buckle-strap flats to tie everything together since I knew there was no way I’d be able to walk properly in high heels at a music venue or at a bar. These worked out perfectly- since they were both comfortable and practical- and I’ve been sporting these since I got back with jeans and t-shirts. I feel like they give me a sort of rocker edge without being too dramatic. They’re just the right amount of eye-catching!

Someday I’d love to do a list compiling all of my Summer dresses- although it would take forever since I have so many at the moment- and now I have one more in my collection thanks to this vacay-purchase gone right. I love this outfit, especially since I had pieced it together last minute- and I can’t wait to wear it again now that I’m back home!

xx