Like Real People Do…

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone!

Today is my newly assigned half day at work for the next couple of months before our company’s schedules shift again right before the new year- and I have a (hopefully) lovely afternoon planned at a local orchard after I head out of my office today! Unfortunately, I’m simultaneously fighting off a bit of a Fall cold, as well- so I may need to take it a little easy over the remainder of the week.

My sneezing and sniffles is the result of some serious rain and a sudden temperature drop in the past few days- and being caught unexpectedly in more than one frigid downpour when I was wearing nothing more than a thin cardigan came back to haunt me.

Of course, it’s all been worth it- since I’ve been having so much fun over the past couple of days. Monday night, after I all but tumbled out of my office in my hurry to get over to Fenway right away- saw me at House of Blues to catch a set by Hozier and meet up with my dearest of dear, longtime friends- Steven- who also happens to be the brilliant lighting designer/wizard for this tour.

Hozier’s made a few appearances in past Fall playlists I’ve put together- since he’s perfected the dreary, haunting vocals/vibe- but I’d never actually seen him live and was completely blown away at how insanely talented he, his band, and their backup singers are. It was truly incredible-and I watched most of it with my mouth hanging open in absolute awe.

The opening band, Hudson Taylor, were also fantastic and fun and had the entire crowd fired up. I enjoyed them so, so much!

And of course, seeing Steven is always wonderful. I wish he and I saw each other more often, but when we are in the same town at the same time- it’s always so great to get the opportunity to catch up, crack jokes, listen to good music and (if I’m lucky-) watch him work his magic with his stage designs. Last night, with how low-key and laid back the show seemed- sort of reminded me of way, way back when he and I first met so many years ago before tours got super extravagant and complex. It was really nice- and I’m hoping he comes back sooner than later.

The evening ended with a set list (my very first Hozier one!) and a late night cheeseburger on my way home- which is fitting for any Monday night out, really!

Last night, after working late and just starting to feel a tad under the weather- I opted to stay in so I could wrap myself up in fleece pajamas, warm blankets, and have a serious video game session with Sean (we played ‘Dead By Daylight’ in opposite rooms, obviously. It’s the only way to do it properly!) so it was a nice way to unwind while taking care of myself and getting some much-needed rest.

But today I am all about getting back out there and picking some apples and pumpkins- rain or shine- so expect quite a few photos on my social media along the way!

I’m off to get some work done first, though! Enjoy your Wednesday, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Fall Foodie: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread with Cinnamon Streusel

Good Morning, Happy Monday- and Hello October!

It’s officially “Spooky Season”, and being a self-proclaimed Halloween Queen- I have a lot planned over the next 31 days. To get things started, of course- it seemed only fitting I should post one of my favorite Autumn-inspired, pumpkin-infused recipes!

I had actually whipped this up yesterday prior to the Pats/Dolphins game to serve to a few friends who had dropped by to watch (and what a game it was!) and amid all the salty, crispy and spicy snacks- this was a welcomed change of flavor and ended up being a big hit!

(The recipe below makes one loaf of the bread.)

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

CREAM-CHEESE SWIRL

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

PUMPKIN BREAD

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ cup neutral flavored oil (canola, peanut, or olive–not extra virgin)
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups pumpkin puree

CINNAMON STREUSEL

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.
  2. MAKE THE CREAM-CHEESE SWIRL: In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese with the egg white until smooth and well combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix to combine. Set aside.
  3. MAKE THE PUMPKIN BREAD: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the salt, baking soda, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice to combine.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the oil with the sugar to combine. Add the eggs one at a time and mix to combine. Mix in the vanilla extract and the pumpkin puree.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the bowl with the wet ingredients; mix until evenly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Drizzle the cream-cheese mixture over the top, then use a skewer or the tip of a knife to swirl the cream cheese into the batter.
  6. MAKE THE CINNAMON STREUSEL: In a small bowl, mix the flour with the brown sugar, oats and cinnamon to combine. Add the butter and mix until moist crumbs form. Sprinkle the streusel evenly on top of the batter in the pan.
  7. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the loaf is golden brown, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

This bread was rich, decadent, and loaded with the spicy and sweet Fall flavors I love the most! It can be served for breakfast (I brought a piece with me to the office this morning to enjoy with my coffee!) or as a lovely dessert. It’s pretty much appropriate for any time of day.

And now, with bread and coffee in hand- I’m off to get some work done before I head out to paint the city tonight with friends in order to celebrate the kick-off of “Rock”tober. Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Monday and a great start to your week!

xx

– Ashley –

September 2018: In a Nutshell

Good Morning and Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you’re all having a fantastic weekend so far!

October is pretty much here, and I couldn’t be more excited since it is undoubtedly and unquestionably my favorite month out of the entire year. Fall is in full swing- apples and pumpkins are ready to be picked, the leaves are glowing orange, red, and yellow- and when you add in the thrill of all things spooky and Halloween? I’m sold. It’s the best.

And while I have plenty of things planned for the coming weeks- I wanted to take a look back on September- a month where Autumn had just started to peek out shyly and slowly from behind the Summer and a month that was filled with travel, good food, and lots of time with friends and family.

The month kicked off the way nearly every September in New England does- with people scrambling to savor those last bits of Summer before the temperatures dropped. I, personally, honored this tradition by heading to the beach to wear shorts by the surf one last time to enjoy Hampton Beach’s annual Seafood Festival with my mom, cousin and my dog. I stuffed my face with lobster, successfully located some great deals during the three-day sidewalk sale, and enjoyed the scenery of the boardwalk before it closes up for the season.

Mid-way through the month, I was able to see a band that means the world to me- and whose songs have helped me through some really challenging, difficult times throughout my life. Interpol played the Orpheum Theatre and it was a breathtaking performance from start to finish. I definitely cried a couple of times, but thankfully the people standing around me were incredibly kind and fun and made the experience even better. It was right up there in my top favorite shows I’ve ever been to (side note? The Orpheum is an amazing venue!)

Prior to my planned trip to the West Coast closer to the end of the month, I had celebrated two milestones for my family and friends. my cousin’s girlfriend, who is due to pop with their first child (a boy!) any day now- had her baby shower on one of the warmer, sunnier days here- and the following day marked my longtime friend Stef’s Autumnal themed bridal shower/brunch. She’s getting married in early November- so we’re in the final stretch of parties and planning before her big day.

And of course, my trip to Vegas and San Diego was a fitting way to wrap things up by the end of September. It was absolutely wonderful to see my BFF Kelsey and her beautiful, sweet, perfect little baby for the first time in months. It was invigorating to spend time both in and around Vegas, familiarizing myself with the counties and suburbs away from the strip since it recharged my batteries and reignited the spark I needed to continue to motivate me to take steps to get out there after a couple of financial setbacks had pulled the rug out from under me earlier this year and had me feeling a bit down.

And even though our journey through the desert to San Diego had ended with one of my friends I’ve known for years hurting my deeply- it was an eye-opening experience I think I needed to put some things into perspective. That revelation, coupled with other friends in the area going above and beyond for me to make sure my stay was salvaged- was worth it. I did ultimately have a really good time.

I can’t wait to be back there.

And now, with September over- I’m preparing for October and Halloween and all the fun I’m sure will be prominent in-between tomorrow and the 31st. Sure, I’ve got plenty of haunted houses and horror movies planned- but there’s a lot more, too! My friend from Ireland is coming to town for work within the next few hours. Stef’s bachelorette party is within a couple of weeks. There’s apples to be picked, pumpkins to be carved, and costumes to be put together. I’ve got foliage to photograph, Fall-inspired recipes to bake, and chilly weather-approved outfits to show off!

So here’s to September, a roller coaster of a month if I’ve ever seen one- and a lovely way to welcome Autumn.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone! I’ll be back tomorrow- bright and early- with the first official pumpkin recipe of the season!

xx

– Ashley –

Favorites: September 2018!

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

We’ve made it to the end of another week- and pretty close to the end of another month!

While this week was a short one for me, what with returning from the West Coast and today being my half day at work (until next week, anyway- when my designated half day shifts to Wednesdays for a little while!)– I’m looking forward to the weekend and getting ready to dive into October- the month when I’m at maximum “spooky” power.

I’ll have my look back on September up bright and early this coming Sunday morning before I head out to do some long overdue apple and pumpkin picking- but before I get too ahead of myself- I wanted to share some of the products, purchases, odds and ends that I was coveting and obsessing over these past few weeks.

That’s right- it’s time for my monthly Favorites!

Now, the photogenic products are at a minimum as it was really hard to commit to fashion/accessories/shoes- not only because I was in the desert for a considerable amount of time this month- and also because the temperatures fluctuated so often back here in New England that I never knew what to wear or when! That’s the trickiest thing about September where I live. Summer does everything it can to hold on, while Fall is ready to swoop in and take over!

I digress- there are plenty of other things I enjoyed in September- and they’re all gonna’ get a mention.

Let’s take a look!

When I read that snakeskin was going to have a serious moment this Fall- I couldn’t wait to dive into the trend. Not wanting to go straight for cowboy boots or belts to incorporate the print into my wardrobe- I opted to replace my faux-leather cross-body bag with a faux-snakeskin one from ALDO, instead.

With a braided metal chain and clasp to keep the two spacious pouches within the bag secure- I have been loving this thing, It hangs comfortably, holds the essentials, and matches pretty much everything I own!

I have a feeling is one is going to be getting me through the Spring when it comes time for me to change things up again!

These two products were life savers- especially when I’d left the humidity in Massachusetts and spent time in the dry, dusty climate around Las Vegas during my vacation. It took little to no time at all for my skin, hair, and lips to get dry- but luckily I was prepared!

Knowing fully well that my makeup was going to be running off my face the second I stepped off the plane in Nevada and all that would be left would be dry, patchy skin- I opted for this moisturizing primer from Tarte. Not only did it keep my skin hydrated (even when I was out in the middle of the desert, roasting under the sun!)– but it kept my makeup in place. No touch-ups necessary as I went from day to night mode!

Of course, when it did come time to remove my makeup and turn in for the night- I wanted a sleeping mask that would keep my skin moisturized and bright so I could wake up and go. Enter this glittery, berry-scented and lightweight gel “Unicorn Glow” sleeping mask from Soo Ae Skin Care. After each night I fell asleep with this mask on, I woke up with skin that looked and felt sparkling clean and refreshed. Side note? The packaging is too cute. I’m in love!

And finally, with Fall in full swing- I’ve been gradually phasing out my bright pinks, corals and red lipsticks/lip glosses from the Summer and transitioning into rich nudes and brown tones. I’ve been wearing these two shades (the lighter, “Satin Ribbon” and the darker, “Teddy”) from NYX’s ‘Lip Lingerie’ collection.

These formulas go on smooth and quickly dry to a nice, crease-free matte finish that make my lips look plump and very Autumn-esque. You can keep an eye on my Instagram to see more photos of them up close this coming weekend!

And that’s it for the items/products that could be photographed- but as they say in infomercials- wait, there’s more!

– MUSIC/MOVIES/TELEVISION –

‘The Purge TV’ – I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first turned into this mini-series at the beginning of the month, but it’s been such a wild, dark and twisted ride- and now I’m hooked. The show follows three separate story lines that occasionally intersect on the night of the annual purge (the one night a year where all crime- including murder- is legal) as the characters struggle to survive and face their own morality.

It’s pretty intense- although I loved the candle the network sent me following the premiere!

‘Peppermint’ – I love a good vigilante justice flick, especially when the lead is a female- but seeing Jennifer Garner go from the sweet ‘Capitol One’ spokesperson to a no-nonsense Queen who punches bad guys in the face and blows things up? Count me in. I had so much fun watching this with a friend earlier this month. It was completely unexpected and worth a watch for anyone who likes action movies!

– GAMES/TECH/APPS –

‘Dead By Daylight’ – Although this horror movie-inspired PC game would have been a perfect contribution to my October favorites, I couldn’t wait to add it since my friends and I have been having a blast playing it. In the game, you can choose to be a survivor or the “killer” (and some are based off of classic horror movie baddies)– and you either work with your team to solve puzzles and escape the killer- or you go around and kill the survivors before they can escape.

It’s funny and crazy- and is definitely going to keep me occupied in the coming days when it starts raining again!

‘Hidden Agenda’ – Another group mystery/horror game, this PS4-Smartphone hybrid game (from the company behind ‘Until Dawn’!) allows players to work together to track down a serial killer, or- depending on your motives- sabotage your team. We played this as a group right before I left for the West Coast and it was the best. time. Seriously. Get your friends together and give it a shot!

– MISCELLANEOUS –

Maple. Pecan. Everything – Coffee, muffins, candles, etc. I don’t care what it is- if it’s got maple and pecan in it- I’ll eat it or use it to scent my home. Who needs pumpkin spice when this combination is taking over this Fall? I can’t get enough of it!

And I think that’s it, everyone! This month had a lot of fun things I’ll be using well into October- but I’m sure I’ll have some new finds to share, too!

I’m off to finish up some work and enjoy a company luncheon. Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful Friday and beginning to your weekend!

xx

– Ashley –

Notes From the West Coast…

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone!

So admittedly,  I am no longer on the West Coast. After quite a few flight delays and cancellations- I found myself back in Boston early yesterday morning at approximately 2 a.m.- just a few hours shy of when I was supposed to be heading back to work!

Naturally, I called out- something I rarely do- and took an opportunity to sleep late, get myself adjusted to the Time Zone change, unpack my suitcase and do laundry, etc. And now I’m back in my office- bright and early as per usual- and getting ready to catch up on over a week’s worth of e-mails, voicemails, cases, etc.

How soon is “too soon” to take another vacation?

Anyway, prior to my airport debacle when I was trying to get home on Monday- I had been in San Diego since Thursday afternoon after Kelsey and I packed up our things (and her baby!) and started the 4+ hour drive through the desert- which was really awesome, by the way. If you’re into abandoned places as much as I am- then all the long-since-shuttered gas stations, diners, roadside shacks and houses is pretty incredible. I’d love to make that trip again- but definitely stop at quite a few of those places on the way!

Once in San Diego, Kelsey and the baby stayed with her mother and grandmother while I took up residence at a cute little AirBnB in Golden Hill at a friend’s recommendation after he’d located the listing and sent it my way so I’d be within walking distance of both his home and his job.

Unfortunately, this longtime friend then proceeded to ghost me for most of my stay due to his not being particularly forthcoming about some things going on in his life- which put a damper on my trip and a considerable strain on our friendship- which I’m presently re-considering and reflecting on. Without getting too detailed and “snarky” about it- if you’re going to invite a friend from just under 3,000 miles away to visit- maybe try to *not* to be a dick when they get there. It’s just good manners.

I digress. Kelsey swooped in to make sure I had at least SOME fun in SoCal- and other friends in the area were so kind and eager to grab a drink, catch up, and hang out. So it wasn’t a total loss- but between the frustration and seeing the traffic leaving the city firsthand as we were first arriving on Thursday- Kelsey and I opted to cut our stay a little short and return to Vegas on Sunday night as opposed to unreasonably early on Monday morning. We made excellent time- and it was ultimately the best decision.

I had been told early Monday morning that there were issues with my flights, and as the delays gradually increased from one hour, to two, to three- and then to four- I spent the final hours on the strip and thrifting in Downtown Vegas before it was time to head to the airport and begin the grueling, uncomfortable process of TSA pat-downs and layovers.

But here I am- relatively unscathed and only a little tired- although I’m sure by the end of today I’ll want to curl up and nap for another day and a half.

Overall, I had a really laid-back, relaxing and fun trip- filled with good friends, good food, and no sunburns. My determination in moving to the Las Vegas area has only increased given how hot, dry, and beautiful the climate and scenery is- and how it’s been pouring out and freezing here in Massachusetts since I got home. The decision to leave seems pretty obvious at this point!

I’ve got some posts planned to wrap up the month of September later on this week before we launch into October and I reach maximum spooky power- but I’ve got to get some work done here, first!

Enjoy your Wednesday, everyone! Let’s get through this week together!

xx

– Ashley –