August 2017: In a Nutshell

The accuracy.

I am the shameless and quintessential Autumn Enthusiast, or “Basic Bitch” as it’s more commonly referred to whenever September/October roll around. Pumpkin Spice? ALL THE THINGS. Ugg boots? Mandatory and comfortable (and okay, yes- a little hideous looking). Sweaters and scarves? Can’t get enough of them. Apple picking and football? Every weekend, baby! Long drives to look at the changing foliage? Hop in! I made us a Fall-inspired playlist to listen to along the way! Halloween? It’s better than Christmas!

You get the idea.

I am all about Fall- but I’ve got to give a proper send-off to August- the last month of what has been an incredible Summer. I knew things were going to be great when my best friend Sean returned home to Boston at the very end of July after a month-long stay in Spain- and sure enough we’ve spent the better part of the past few weeks at the beach soaking up the sun with our friends. When I needed a break from being covered in sand and saltwater- I had also managed to squeeze in a quick (and rain-filled) hiking trip to the White Mountains, a stifling hot afternoon at Six Flags, and caught a live WWE house show in my hometown for the first time since I was about 11. I’m not even going to try and play it cool- I had so much fun and got really into it- and that was even before my friend’s Summer Slam party a couple of weeks ago where I successfully managed to pull off baking a wrestling ring cake!

Balor Club – Boston (8/27/17)

I stood up against hate speech with 20,000+ of Boston’s best, sat through a solar eclipse, cooked up some really tasty recipes and got to hang out and catch-up with old friends I hadn’t seen in a long time now that all of our work and/or vacation schedules seemed to have finally settled down- a trend I hope continues throughout September, too!

So what’s in store for next month? Well, I’m kicking off Labor Day Weekend with an overnight stay at an (allegedly) haunted inn up in the mountains of Vermont because I’m already in Halloween Mode- and a trip to NYC I had initially planned for August had to be postponed for this coming month instead due to a scheduling conflict- so I’m pretty excited to finally head back out there for a day or two! I’ll be attending a couple of early Fall weddings, preparing some of my favorite Autumn-inspired dishes- and sharing plenty of my chillier weather wardrobe staples in the coming days.

And who knows- maybe there will be a couple of other surprises, too!

So here’s to what was undoubtedly an awesome Summer of 2017- and to hoping that Fall is just as fun!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

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Favorites: August 2017!

Good Morning and Happy Monday 2.0, everyone! As September and Labor Day Weekend creep closer and closer- I thought I’d take a few minutes before I get down to business with meetings and telephone calls at work to share a few of the things that made this past August extra fun for me while I savored these last few weeks of Summer as much as I could!

Product-wise, there isn’t much to share- and that’s mainly because a lot of my favorites from June and July (particularly my beach-friendly beauty finds) carried over into August while I was spending a lot of time in the sun before the temperatures drop over the course of the next few weeks- but three things definitely stood out!

The first was this body wash/shower gel from Bath & Body Works, simply called “At The Beach”. I love fragrances that can transport me to other places whenever I smell them- and this Shea and Vitamin E-loaded wash sends me right back to Southern California whenever I use it. It’s a really lovely mix of coconut and flowers that makes me think of sunsets on OB with my friends whenever I’m visiting the West Coast. Better than that, though- is that it cleanses and moisturizes my skin at the same time.

I can’t wait to pick up a couple of bottles of this stuff when the Fall scent collection is released!

Keeping on topic of beautiful, Summery scents- I had to include this ‘Bahama Breeze’ air freshener from Yankee Candle– which has helped make my car, my home, and even my office smell like a freshly made margarita whenever I’m doing my weekly cleaning ritual and don’t want my desk or my upholstery to smell like bleach or the usual strong/potent detergents. A couple of spritzes of this stuff and Summer gets extended an extra few hours!

And, like the body wash from B&BW- these aerosol sprays are going to have their Fall scents released shortly. I’m looking forward to making the transition from beach-side cocktail to pumpkin latte in the coming month.

Finally, with all the time I’ve been spending at the beach or hiking in the woods- I still need to stay vigilant on my sunscreen application. While my usual go-to had previously been spray-on SPF- I’ve been really enjoying this mousse formula from SuperGoop! that I had received in my July POPSUGAR “Must Have” box. This lightweight SPF50 applies evenly and smells really clean and refreshing- and I like that it doesn’t make my skin feel sticky or greasy.

When Fall rolls around, I’m definitely going to be looking into getting face-friendly versions of this stuff. I wear a lot of sweaters and layers when it gets cooler outside, but my face is still exposed to harmful rays.

I think that’s it for the products I’ve been using- but there were a few other things that made my Favorites List this month!

– MUSIC/MOVIES/TELEVISION –

The War on Drugs: “A Deeper Understanding”- I know, I know- everyone is talking about Taylor Swift’s new single that dropped last week, but there were two other great releases, too! One of those was the latest from The War on Drugs. This has become my current and quintessential “long drive” album to listen to in it’s entirety when I’m on the road. It’s so relaxing and beautiful from start to finish- and I have a feeling a couple of the tracks will be making an appearance on my annual Fall playlist I usually put together this time of year.

Queens of the Stone Age: “Villains” If “A Deeper Understanding” is my driving album, then the latest from QOTSA is definitely my “getting ready to go out for a night on the town” soundtrack. The album is this sort of unexpected mix of rock and a little funk- but I’m so into it. It’s bad-ass- and it makes putting my mascara on every day a little more fun when I have it blasting in my bedroom.

“Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later” – I absolutely binge-watched this at the beginning of the month during an extended bubble bath on a quiet Friday night- and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. This entire series- from the original movie, to the prequel on Netflix and to this long-awaited sequel- has been laugh-out-loud funny and completely insane in the best possible way. Gene and Mitch remain my favorite duo of all time.

– MISCELLANEOUS –

Dunkin Donuts Maple-Pecan Coffee – So I may have gave in to temptation a little early and ordered a Fall-inspired beverage over the weekend when I made a quick stop at Dunkins while en route to Western Massachusetts. With the usual lineup of pumpkin-flavored everything being advertised in the drive-thru- my eyes immediately went to their newest coffee flavor- which is a combination of two of my favorite things. I couldn’t help myself- and honestly the coffee was so good that I didn’t regret it for a second.

Your move, Starbucks. This one is going to be hard to beat and it’s a lot cheaper, too!

And I think that’s everything for August! Now that Fall is (almost) here- you know I’m going to have lots of favorites to share in September!

Alright, I’m off to get some work done- and enjoy my maple-pecan coffee, of course!

xx

– Ashley –

Protests, Roller Coasters and SummerSlam 2017…

Good Morning, everyone! Have all of your eyes adjusted back to normal after looking at the solar eclipse yesterday? I shared a pair of those special protective glasses with some of my co-workers yesterday when we viewed the phenomenon from a clearing outside our office. Pretty neat stuff- even if it didn’t get as dark out as I had thought (and sort of hoped) it would!

Before I launch into what I did this past weekend, I wanted to get serious for just a couple of minutes.

I try not to get too political here on Blondie Birdie. It’s not because I’m not interested in current events and it’s certainly not because I don’t care about what’s happening in the world around me- a peek into any of my social media would disprove that misconception very quickly considering how vocal I am surrounding the issues I care about deeply- but a good portion of the news and politics continues to be depressing, infuriating and downright horrifying 99.999% of the time. For that reason, I try to keep things light here. Not only for my readers and subscribers- but for myself, too. Sometimes it’s nice to have a small corner of the internet to escape to when things are looking bleak and rough literally everywhere else.

I do have to comment on what happened in Boston this past weekend, though- because I was on the sidelines for a brief period of time and couldn’t have been prouder of my city for the display of unity, decency and peaceful protest that sent a message to the world and set a precedent for how to drive out hatred and bigotry when it dares come knocking at your door.

For those of you who didn’t know, a small group of white supremacists/Neo-Nazis/”Alt-Right” enthusiasts had scheduled a “Freedom of Speech” rally in Boston Common on Saturday so they could get away with as much hate speech/rhetoric and propaganda as they wanted. Following the events in Charlottesville just days earlier- Bostonians weren’t going to just let it stand- and the handful of losers who ended up hiding and huddled together with police protection in a gazebo right in the middle of the park were surrounded by 20,000+ peaceful protesters  who came armed with nothing but signs, banners, and chants until the Nazis (and let’s not mince words. They’re Nazis) were eventually escorted out of the area and back to their basements in armored police vehicles while the crowd cheered, clapped and hollered.

Now, the section I was standing in was well-behaved. I’d heard about a couple of people getting riled up and who attempted to start some trouble long after the rally disassembled- but there’s always and inevitably going to be a few bad eggs in groups that large- and they were far outnumbered by good, decent people who knew that Boston’s strength comes from and relies heavily on the diversity of it’s citizens. I was so, so proud of each and every single person who showed up. THAT’S how you get rid of ignorant and hateful cowards.

And if anyone thinks what happened in Boston didn’t change anything or doubts it made a difference- a bunch of scheduled and similar white supremacy rallies around the country were cancelled following what happened in my city. It DOES work.

Candid. Six Flags. 8/19/17

Following my stopping by the Common to voice my support alongside those fighting against inconceivable and poisonous hatred- I wanted to close out my Saturday with something fun and carefree- and headed to Six Flags New England with some friends for the remainder of my afternoon/evening to ride roller coasters until I sustained a mild thoracic spine strain (those wooden coasters will get you every. single. time- but I’m healing up nicely!) and eat gigantic ice cream cones until the park closed. My friends continue to buy season passes to Six Flags and then never use them for reasons that are beyond my comprehension- but I get a discounted entry when they bring their passes with them- so it works out for me, anyway!

My favorite coaster is still the Superman (formerly the Bizzaro)– because there’s that .3 seconds where you feel like you might legitimately fly out of your seat and die- but they’ve got a couple of re-vamped ones that I really enjoyed, too- prior to my injury, anyway.

The cost of food and beverages in that place is a whole other story, though. If you ever get the urge to go to Six Flags- pack a good, filling picnic lunch and enjoy it outside the gate before you re-enter the park during your stay. You’ll save yourself a small fortune. I promise! Charging $5 for water bottles during the hottest days of the year are NOT okay.

On Sunday, after a long time in the kitchen making sure my baked goods came out just right- I headed over to Allston for my friend Phill’s WWE ‘SummerSlam’ party to view the event with a group of equally passionate professional wrestling fans. Phill has 3 events per year for the three biggest PPVs- the Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, and SummerSlam- and up until now I’d never been to one of his parties. The rules were simple: don’t cheer Roman Reigns (a universally disliked and over-hyped character)– and if you bring a snack, it had to be wrestling themed.

My contributions to this event- and my attempt to win the coveted SNACK-Down Championship Belt (AKA best party food) was my “Undercaker” chocolate cake shaped like a wrestling ring- complete with turnbuckles and ropes!- and some gluten-free Balor Club cupcakes specifically for an attendee, James, who I was informed had an allergy and who I didn’t want to exclude. Overall I think everything paired nicely with the huge SummerHAM that one of Phill’s friends- dressed like John Cena, naturally- brought, as well as a dip called ‘Bean Ambrose’- among many other snacks.

The creativity was seriously awesome, and I had the best time- and while I was debating dressing up like Alexa Bliss, I went for a more simple look and rocked my WAY oversized Finn Balor/Demon King shirt- just in time for him to re-emerge in all his body-painted glory for his match. To say I was delighted is an understatement.

Next time, for sure- I’m rocking the Alexa look. New Cosplay project!

Overall, I had a really fun, really fulfilling weekend- and needed a full day yesterday to recover in-between work and catching up on some errands and much-needed sleep at home. My posting schedule is a little off as a result- but it should be back to normal by next week.

Enjoy your Tuesday/Monday 2.0, everyone! I’m getting ready to throw an impromptu, in-office, surprise Bachelorette party for one of my co-workers who is getting married this weekend! I’ll be sure to take some pictures!

xx

– Ashley –

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 –