Weekend at The Elms…

Weekend at The Elms…

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day,” everyone!

One of my favorite things to do during the Winter here in New England is visit some of our more popular seaside towns and attractions when they’re essentially empty/abandoned due to the cold weather. Places like Mystic, Hampton, and Newport- which are usually wall-to-wall with people during the warmer, Summer months- are just as beautiful and far more accessible from the late Fall through early Spring.

This past weekend, I opted to visit Newport, Rhode Island- which is presently hosting their 31st Winter Festival through the 24th of this month. I browsed some of the shops downtown, stopped by a couple of the local cafes and restaurants for lunch and my coffee fix- and took a stroll through the interior and the grounds of The Elms– which is one my favorite mansions in the area.

I had my camera with me, and managed to capture some of the most beautiful photos while the sun was setting. Click on any of the images below to enlarge them!

It was such a lovely afternoon and I’d love to visit again soon before the Spring/Summer gets here so that I can enjoy the peace and quiet for just a little while longer. If you find yourself in the area anytime soon- I recommend taking a day off to enjoy it!

The next couple of days are shaping up to be busy ones- with work, my part-time gigs, dinner plans and so on- but a little later on this week I’ll be sharing an accessory that was gifted to me by a friend earlier this month and which I’ve been really enjoying on the colder days before we break for the weekend and I prepare to wrap up February with a nice little bow!

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Wednesday! We’re almost to the weekend. Just hang in there a little longer!

xx

– Ashley –

My Winter Makeup Routine!

My Winter Makeup Routine!

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you all had a sensational weekend!

Every few months, as the seasons change- I like to check in and share my makeup collection/routine and the things I wear on my face almost-daily. I love to experiment with colors and trends, while still attempting to coordinate with my wardrobe and the weather.

Living in New England and having the luxury of four distinct seasons- that means I typically change things up with my clothing, my hair and my makeup every 3-4 months- and Winter is no exception!

This time of year, I stick to full coverage foundations and lighter, frostier shades of highlighters and eyeshadow since my skin is at it’s palest during the Winter months and it’s easy for me to look overdone with darker-than-necessary tones- but I let my boundary pushing side shine through when it comes to choosing brighter and bolder lip shades. It may look and feel like a frozen tundra outside on most days- but that doesn’t mean my entire face has to look that way, too! I need a pop of color here and there!

If you’d like to take a look at my past collections- here’s my SUMMER 2018 ROUTINE, and my FALL 2018 ROUTINE. You’ll see some returning favorites in this post, for sure- but there’s a few new things I’ve been making good use of, too!

Fenty Beauty PRO FILT’R Foundation: This is one returning favorite that is pretty much a must for me throughout the Winter. Fenty is one of the few brands that not only have foundations that match my skin tone perfectly- but also offer long-lasting and comfortable coverage at a reasonable price point.

This foundation in particular gives me a lovely, matte finish that covers any and all imperfections and makes contouring and adding subtle hints of color to my eyes and lips a lot easier than other foundations that leave behind shine or aren’t full-coverage. Rihanna saves the day yet again!

[ MORE INFO HERE ]

Milani Cosmetics Strobelight Insant Glow Powder in “Afterglow”: When it comes to highlighting/contouring in the Winter- I try to stay away from anything too bronze, too pink, or too peachy. Again, I’m super pale this time of year (and any time of year, really-) so I lean more towards iridescent, pearl tones to make my cheeks, eyes, and bone structure to pop.

This lightweight, shimmery powder with build-able coverage gives me a beautiful Winter glow that makes me look vibrant and awake without reflecting like a disco ball. This is definitely going to be in my makeup bag again when next Winter rolls around, too!

[ MORE INFO HERE ]

Maybelline Expert Wear Eye Shadow Quad in “Charcoal Smokes”: Okay, so I have to be honest here and say that I don’t use *all* of the colors in this quad- as lovely as they are. The darkest shade, to be used for liner- hasn’t been touched. The light blue/silver, medium and dark grays, on the other hand- I use all the time to create a neutral, flattering smoky eye with a touch of iciness that acts as a sharp contrast to the darker tones in my wardrobe.

And whoever said that people with blue eyes shouldn’t wear blue eyeshadow were wrong, by the way. As is the case with anything- healthy moderation is key- and I believe the light blue in this easy to blend quad makes my eyes really stand out in a good way!

[ MORE INFO HERE ]

MILK Makeup’s KUSH High Volume Mascara: Another returning favorite from my collection and current mascara champion is this cannabis oil-infused, lengthening and thickening black mascara from MILK Makeup. I’ve already gushed at length about how fantastic this mascara is- from how it transforms the look of my lashes to how it simultaneously conditions and softens them as I’m wearing it.

It’s truly something you have to experience for yourself- so if you haven’t tried this mascara yet- get out there and do it right now!

[ MORE INFO HERE ]

Doucce Relentless Matte Lip Crayon in “Winterberry”: One of my year-round lip looks, practically trademarked at this point- is a bold, highly pigmented red lip. In the Spring and Summer- it’s glossy and shiny- but in the Fall and Winter I am all about mattes. Given that my skin and lips tend to be dryer in the colder months, of course- I turn to products that will not only make me look smoldering (even when it’s snowing out!) but also be comfortable and hydrating, too.

Doucce’s soft, rich red lip crayon does just that- with long-lasting wear and no feathering or “bleeding” as the day/evening wears on. I can eat, drink, kiss and be merry- and not have to worry about constant re-applications.

[ MORE INFO HERE ]

NYX Lip Lingerie in “Cabaret Show”: Of course, not every occasion calls for a sultry red lip- and when I’ve got a meeting, a conference, or a daytime event that requires me to present as a little more subtle- I wear this pigmented dusty rose shade as a liquid lipstick alternative.

While this color isn’t as bold as the red crayon, it’s still deep and rich and keeps me from looking washed out the way lighter shades or no lip color at all would this time of year. I’m a huge fan of NYX and their entire ‘Lip Lingerie’ line- and this is definitely one of my favorites.

[ MORE INFO HERE ]

And I think that’s it for my Winter Makeup Collection! Of course, there are a few things not pictured since I mix and match every other day- like concealers, eyeliners, etc. but what’s pictured above is the core of my seasonal assortment this year!

I’m off to get some work done at my office and try not to think about shoveling myself out of yet another snowstorm this week- but of course I’d always love to hear about your own Winter makeup routines/collections if you’d like to share ’em! Feel free to drop me a line, leave a comment, etc.

Here’s hoping for an easygoing week ahead!

xx

– Ashley –

OOTD: Breakin’ Hearts…

OOTD: Breakin’ Hearts…

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

I hope those of you who celebrated Valentine’s Day had a good and delightfully cheesy one yesterday- and those of you who are celebrating Pal-entine’s Day today score some awesome marked down candy and cards so you can share them with your pals at your next get-together (as is tradition!)

I worked my half day at the office yesterday- and while my sorta’, kinda’ Val/Pal-entine is presently out of state for work- I got a series of cards, texts, and little presents from friends, family and co-workers throughout the day that definitely kept me amused and feeling the love.

I dressed festive yesterday, too- without going *too* over-the-top ala wearing Cupid wings or an excessive amount of red and pink. I kept it simple via ModCloth (who are one of my all-time favorites) with this black and white striped short-sleeve sweater- which features bright red “Heart Breaker” lettering across the front.

Cute, a little funny and easy to match with pretty much anything- I wore this sweater with some simple black skinny jeans, black faux-leather combat boots and a black faux-leather jacket to give it an edgier vibe. With my signature red lip- a must in the Winter- and some red/pink glittery polish- I was ready to take on anything the day of love and romance had waiting for me.

What I love about this sweater, apart from how comfortable and flattering it is to my figure- is that I can wear it outside the realm of Valentine’s Day, too. Why I wouldn’t necessarily or actually consider myself a heart breaker- this would still be fun to wear in the Summer with a pair of denim shorts or with a black pencil skirt and some red heels/Mary Janes for a casual dinner with my friends or the fella(s?)

It’s definitely a new favorite in my closet, for sure!

This weekend I’m going to be heading out of town to support a friend’s band who haven’t been around the block in a while- and then try to swing down to lovely Newport, Rhode Island for a little day-cation getaway by the ocean before it’s back to work again first thing on Monday morning.

I’ll have some photos of my travels to share along the way, of course- but I also plan on giving you all another peek into my closet with some more Winter Wear- and a look at the makeup that has been saving my complexion this frigid, arctic time of year where I live!

Until then – here’s wishing you all a warm, safe, and most importantly- FUN– weekend ahead!

xx

– Ashley –

Sex and the Single Girl…

Good Morning, Happy Wednesday- and Happy Galentine’s Day, everyone!

As I dig myself out of the aftermath of Winter Storm Maya (the snow actually wasn’t too bad. The freezing rain, however? That’s a whole other story…) and prepare to head back to work for the day- I’m reminded at all sides that tomorrow is actually the “real deal” Valentine’s Day holiday and then I’m subsequently forced to face my current relationship status- or lack thereof- head-on as I navigate my way through glitter-soaked Hallmark cards, boxes of chocolate, bouquets of overpriced flowers and bizarre, couple-inspired offerings at my local restaurants, bars and pubs.

I am unabashed when it comes to my affection for all things sappy and lovey-dovey. “The Notebook” is one of my favorite tearjerker love story movies. I get weepy eyed with joy watching elaborately planned proposal videos on YouTube- and on more than one occasion I’m sure I’ve looked like a living, breathing heart-eye emoji whenever a guy did something unexpected and/or over-the-top sweet for me. As sarcastic and quick-witted and as biting (and dare I say bitchy?) as I can be sometimes- I am a true hopeless romantic.

Which is kind of funny- considering most of, if not all of my past relationships have been anything but something out of a romantic comedy.

I’d like to preface this post by saying I have no intention of dragging or putting any of my ex-boyfriends or ex-lovers on blast here. With every relationship- good AND bad- I’ve gone through, I’ve learned a little something about myself and about what I want/need in my life and from the people I had chosen to surround myself with.

I also learned that through every hardship that came with certain, rockier relationships- I had deep and profound strength and resilience I otherwise never would have known about. I was capable of walking away from situations that were detrimental to me and my well-being. I was capable of finding solace alone, in my own company- and discovered that a relationship wasn’t a defining characteristic and wasn’t a necessity in telling the story of my life- and I also learned the importance of forgiveness when it was justified, reasonable- and actually deserved.

I could and did survive being physically assaulted by an ex in my early twenties. I could and did survive being manipulated and essentially used by a considerably older guy I had gotten mixed up with when I was still pretty young and impressionable. I could and did survive the breakdown (and the gradual, cautious rebuilding) of one of my longest and dearest friendships/relationships when said guy had given into the ways of perpetual, non-stop deception instead of being the honest, upfront and outstanding person he has continually and actively been working towards becoming in the years since things initially crumbled between us.

That last example is where the aforementioned “learning the importance of forgiveness” comes in. While some mistakes and people don’t warrant a second chance- and I’d never tell someone to “get over it” or “move past it” if they’ve been betrayed or hurt- there are still some instances of genuine mistake-making that can be teachable moments for everyone involved. And, depending on the person and situation- sometimes there can be redemption, too.

Ariana Grande wrote a song about being thankful for her exes- and while I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m thankful for past heartbreaks, arguments, messy splits, etc.- I can understand and agree with the sentiment of coming out of the other side of those shitty situations and being a stronger and wiser person for it.

So, as a presently single but casually dating thirty-something year old female with a less-than-ideal dating history- Valentine’s Day elicits a lot of mixed reactions from me and those closest to me.

My happily dating/engaged/married and otherwise enamored friends will say it’s a holiday that serves as a reminder that you should be actively celebrating the one you love. A lovely thought, no?

My single friends- some of whom are deliciously cynical and still plenty of others who are not- will tell you it’s a marketing strategy. A made-up “Greeting Card” holiday to get consumers to spend more money on frivolous things- and that celebrating people you love shouldn’t be reduced to a once-a-year reminder as you’re buying them a heart-shaped box of candy- which also makes some sense when you think about it.

To me, and it took years for me to reach this level of self-assurance and confidence- Valentine’s Day is a day to remind myself of everything I’ve been through in my love-life, express gratitude for the person it has made me into and the lessons I’ve learned throughout the process- and acknowledge that while I’m not jaded enough to think that finding a healthy, soul-strengthening and world-enhancing love with someone else isn’t a possibility- that loving myself is the priority and that my wants/needs should never be placed on a back burner or forgotten about.

One of my favorite quotes from Lucille Ball comes to mind almost immediately as I type that:

It’s simple and oh so true. The most important relationship you can have is the one with yourself- and if you’re not happy or satisfied with yourself as an independent person and where you’re at in your life right now- finding happiness and contentment with another individual will prove to be incredibly difficult. You really have to learn how to stand on your own- and enjoy your own company- before you can truly open the door to allow others into your life and your head-space and to potentially become a part of your world in a big and meaningful way.

Valentine’s Day also serves as a reminder that despite the pressure many single people face to “couple up,” “settle down,” and “find that special someone RIGHT NOW!“- that there is no time frame, no time limit, and no expiration date when it comes to not only meeting someone you’d want to possibly share parts of your life with and/or face milestones and adventures together- but meeting wonderful people, friends and connections in general.

Twenty-something year old me- who was still struggling to learn all of this and felt crippling pressure to be in the right relationship then and there- would be miserable on a day like Valentine’s Day (I’d also be buying a completely unnecessary gift for a guy, I’m sure…) whereas now- thirty-something year old me writes all this with a grin and is looking forward to the cheesy-ness- wearing red and pink and buying 50% off candy first thing on Friday- and is in a  much clearer, even-keeled frame of mind when it comes to sex, dating, and love.

And yes, I’ll still be watching “The Notebook” or “Sex and the Single Girl” (my favorite Natalie Wood/Tony Curtis rom-com!) within the next 48 hours. I have my traditions, after all.

Now get out there and enjoy yourselves, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Dinner For Two: 30-Minute Beef Stroganoff

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

As we an embark on this “week of love” with Galentines Day, Valentines Day, and the latest spin on the holiday- Palentines Day (falling on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, respectively)– I thought it’d be fun to share some holiday-inspired posts throughout the next few days.

The first, and one of my favorites- is a super quick and easy recipe you can whip up with just a few ingredients and within a half hour to share with your love, your date, your lady-friends- or your friends in general before you light some candles and gather around to watch a romantic comedy together…

… Or whatever you do to celebrate these sorts of holidays (mine involves a little more beer and little more “Mystery Science Theater 3000”- but to each their own!)

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 pounds beef tenderloin, halved lengthwise and cut into ½-inch strips
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 quart button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1½ cups beef broth
  • 1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound pappardelle (FYI – I used egg noodles this time around!)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a large pot, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Season the beef with salt and pepper.
  2. Working in batches, add the beef to the pot in a single layer and sear until browned on both sides, about 1½ minutes per side. Transfer the beef to a plate.
  3. Add another 3 tablespoons of the butter to the pot and melt over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic; sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Stir in the mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beef broth and the mustard. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
  5. Simmer until the liquid reduces into a thick sauce and the mushrooms are very tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in the beef and continue to simmer until the beef is tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the sour cream and parsley.
  7. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pappardelle according to the package instructions. In a large bowl, toss the pappardelle with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter; season with salt and pepper.
  8. To serve, top the pappardelle with the beef stroganoff and dill.

Loaded with savory flavors and with each portion being filling and beyond satisfying- this dinner is a convenient and delicious spin on a favorite that typically takes a lot longer to prepare- making it perfect for busy Gal/Val/Palentines Day plans!

It’s a lot of fun to prepare together, too- so why not get your significant other or your friends in on the process with you? Cooking a meal together is a great bonding experience, after all!

And now, with Monday morning underway- I’ve got to buckle down and get some work done today- and tonight it’s all about meetings and meetups with friends!

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful start to your week! See you all again on Wednesday!

xx

– Ashley –