Witch, Please…

Last week, I had taken Friday off from work so I could drive up to Hampton Beach for their annual Seafood Festival and attempt to get a head start to beat traffic, parking, etc. Unfortunately- I hit a pretty tight bumper-to-bumper snag on the highway that threatened to set me back considerably time-wise. It looked like a lot of people had the same idea as me!

Not wanting to spend the majority of my Friday stuck in my car or struggling to find a parking spot under $20 near the boardwalk (spoiler: it’s impossible), I re-routed to spend the afternoon in Salem, Massachusetts instead- and while I didn’t get an oversized platter of crab cakes like I’d initially planned- I still had a lovely time!

Salem is a beautiful town- maybe one of my favorite places in Massachusetts- and it’s filled with so much history, gorgeous scenery, incredible restaurants/bars and a LOT of bizarre tourist traps. Tons of people flock there come October to get in on the Witchcraft and Witch Trial-related activities given the spooky spirit of the season (say that five times fast)– but I find that it’s usually more stressful than necessary to try and navigate anywhere near the place around Halloween. I prefer visiting during the “off” season, instead- and I highly recommend it to any tourist thinking of dropping in. Save your cash and your sanity and soak in the history and sights when it’s much less crowded!

Anyway, while I was in town- I stopped by the outdoor Witch Trial Memorial, right next to one of the oldest cemeteries in my state that is open to the public for viewing and visitors. There were a couple of tours going on courtesy of a nearby museum- but it wasn’t that busy and I managed to really take in the experience without interruption or distraction.

Following a quick sandwich and a coffee at one of the local cafes (and successfully managing to dodge vendors who approached me offering to read my palm or throw sage on me for a pretty penny)– I headed a few miles north to Wenham, Mass- where I made a stop at Tendercrop Farms to stretch my legs. I ended up marveling at some of their produce and strolled through an endless field of sunflowers while I was there and a rainstorm was approaching from a distance- which made the afternoon feel a little more thrilling as the clouds rolled in.

I managed to snap a couple of photos before it started sprinkling out and I had to jog back to my car to keep my camera (and my Elantra’s interior- since I had left my windows rolled down!) from getting wet- but my brief time there was so pretty. I’d love to go back and pick a pumpkin in a few weeks!

Although my day didn’t go quite as planned- it was still an adventure and I’m glad it took the turn that it did. The unexpected stops during an unscheduled journey can sometimes be the most fun and exhilarating- and I started compiling my Autumn playlist while I was on the road, too- which I should have up and ready to go by this coming Friday! Most people know how much I love putting together seasonal soundtracks- so it’s been a lot of fun for me to pick and choose the songs I wanted to use from a whole bunch of new releases from some of my favorite artists!

I’m heading into work now to get my mid-week tasks done before I prepare for a belated-birthday dinner/party for my little niece tomorrow night with my family- so enjoy your Hump Day, everyone! We’re almost to the weekend!

xx

– Ashley –

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Fall Foodie: Chocolate, Pumpkin and Peanut Butter Fudge

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! Now that September is in full-swing, I can start sharing some delicious Fall-inspired recipes I’ve been holding onto for the past month or so- both old favorites and new finds alike- and while a few of them do include a little bit of pumpkin spice here and there- I made sure to mix things up a bit for those of you who might need a break from that “basic bitch” goodness and are looking for other alternatives to cook or bake for your next bonfire or harvest festival.

This recipe, which takes 10 minutes to prepare and 2+ hours to let sit and settle inside your refrigerator (making it perfect to whip up in the morning before you head off to work/class/your errands for the day so you can enjoy it by the time you get back home!) is a sweet and salty mix of chocolate, peanut butter, and pumpkin- making it an indulgent treat that is ideal to enjoy, on your own or with others- during the cool, crisp Autumn weather.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 can (14-oz) sweetened condensed milk, divided
  • 1⅓ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree (not to be confused with pumpkin pie filling!)
  • ½ cup smooth peanut butter
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ⅓ cup chopped pecans

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Line a 8 x 8″ pan with foil; grease with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a microwave-safe dish, combine the semi-sweet chocolate chips and ¾ cup of sweetened condensed milk.
  3. Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir and put back in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted.
  4. Pour chocolate mixture into prepared pan and spread it evenly using an offset spatula; set aside.
  5. In a microwave-safe dish combine white chocolate chips and canola oil; melt on high for 1 minute.
  6. Remove from microwave and stir; put back in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until almost all chips are melted.
  7. Remove from microwave and stir in the rest of the sweetened condensed milk, pumpkin puree, peanut butter and pumpkin pie spice; stir until thoroughly combined.
  8. Pour over previously prepared chocolate layer and spread evenly using an offset spatula.
  9. Sprinkle with chopped pecans
  10. Refrigerate for 2 hours (or until firm.)
  11. Cut and serve immediately
  12. Refrigerate leftovers to savor at a later time.

I enjoyed squares of this over the weekend during my designated “Cheat Day” and I have no regrets. The fudge is a combination of some of my favorite Fall flavors- all rolled into one- and was especially delicious when paired with a piping hot mug of apple cider.

I’m baking up another batch later on this week to bring to my office for my co-workers to enjoy- and they’ll undoubtedly be making an appearance when I have some of my family over for dinner soon! I’m sure they’re going to be a big hit!

xx

– Ashley –

OOTD: Summer-To-Fall Transition

Good Morning and TGIF! I took an earned personal day from work to give myself another long weekend to do whatever I please- and I plan on kicking things off this morning with a salted caramel mocha latte and a trip to Hampton Beach’s annual End-of-the-Summer Seafood Festival to eat half of my body weight in crab cakes and browse the sales racks for some bargains I can grab and store away for next bikini season (or for my next trip to Southern California!)

And speaking of Summer fashion- it’s time for that peculiar New England weather again. I’m talking about those first couple of weeks in September where the mornings are crisp and chilly and you leave your house bundled up in a sweater- but by noon the temperatures have skyrocketed and you’re succumbing to heat stroke.

The transition from a Summer-to-Fall wardrobe can be a bit tricky where I live- especially when it comes to choosing pieces that are versatile enough to keep me warm in the mornings but not overheating by the afternoons- and I think I’ve found a pretty basic but winning combination that manages to do both. This ensemble is one I wore around Vermont this past weekend when it was pouring outside- and I stayed completely comfortable.

I try to keep things as simple as possible when it comes to my day-to-day outfits- especially if I’m going to be wearing something all morning or afternoon at work and/or to plans immediately after I leave my office- so breathable fabrics this time of year are a lifesaver. I own a couple of different colored variations of this cotton, quarter-sleeved striped shirt I picked up at Old Navy during one of their last sales events (they have the most cozy tops, FYI!)– and I feel both the cut and the length compliment my figure nicely.

For my legs, I look no further than quality dark-colored skinny jeans or jeggings (AKA my second skin and the best invention of all time) with a knee-high pair of boots to get me through anything that comes my way this time of year- including a lot of rain- which is exactly what we’ve been seeing around here lately! I love these brown leather ones, which I’ve owned for years and are still going strong. The small heel on them gives my legs a more elongated look- but I can still walk in them for hours at a time without killing my feet.

And finally- I recently made the seasonal handbag switch from my see-through, water & sand-proof pink purse to this brown, faux-leather cross-body saddle bag with a fringe tassel that I had been obsessing over since I first laid eyes on it online and recently picked it up (also at Old Navy!) It holds all of the essentials, and so far- I haven’t lost anything at the bottom of it like I usually do- so I’m pretty happy with this purchase. This is going to get me through mid-to-late November until it’s time to break out my favorite Kate Spade bag for the Winter again!

With boot and sweater season upon us- I’m excited to share some of my other favorite outfits for the Fall in the coming weeks- but ones like this are my go-to when Summer is still fighting to stick around for a little while longer!

And now, I’m off to get an early start on my weekend! Have a good one, everybody. See you all next week!

xx

– Ashley –

Mountain Air and Maple Lattes…

Good Morning and Happy Hump Day, everyone! With Labor Day and my taking this coming Friday off to jump start a long-overdue “Girls Only” weekend with my mom- I’ve been more than a little busy at work with trying to get everything done and wrapped up neatly since it’s a pretty short week for me at the office.

This past weekend was completely relaxing and maybe a little indulgent, however. My best friend Sean and I headed a couple hours North of the city to stay at the White House Inn overlooking the absolutely picturesque and rustic Wilmington, Vermont for an evening. Built in 1915 as a Summer home to a lumber baron- the house was spacious, beautifully furnished, and had breathtaking views of the Green Mountains (when it wasn’t pouring rain or foggy outside, of course!) It also had a hidden staircase (you can watch my video of it HERE on my Instagram!), a wine cellar and an old vault that was available to view. When Sean and I weren’t outside taking in nature- we were roaming every inch of the house we had access to.

My room!

The inn is associated with a ski resort a few miles away that offered a spa and fitness center for guests. Although Sean and I dropped by to utilize the facilities and take a look around (another beautiful building, by the way! I don’t ski but I’d love to see it in the Winter!)– any hard work put into achieving or maintaining fitness goals was thrown right out the window by the amount of food we ate during our stay!

We had headed into the small and quaint Main Street area of Wilmington a couple of times- including one stop on Sunday evening to have an early dinner at Dot’s Restaurant– but most of our face-stuffing took place back at the inn. Not only did I have one of the best breakfast sandwiches of my life on Monday morning before we headed back into town and then eventually returned to Boston- but Sean and I split two desserts (since we couldn’t make up our minds!) late Sunday evening that blew my mind. Tempura chocolate cake AND lemon & lavender pavlova. Absolute heaven. I’ve been looking for the recipes online on and off since we got back!

To close out the weekend, Sean had wanted to go antiquing to find some items for his bedroom that he’s currently updating/remodeling. With maple lattes in hand- we hit up a couple of spots in downtown Wilmington to browse some of the local goods and see if we could find anything with a cool history behind it.

Sean ended up walking away with a pretty nice picture frame he plans on fixing up and putting on display after he’s found an appropriate replacement painting for the one that had originally been inside the frame- and I found a book of poetry from 1886 that I plan on giving to my mom since she’s an even bigger fan of antiques than I am. I know she’ll find a good spot to show it off to her guests.

Overall, I had such an amazing time- and even though I ate way too much- I returned home feeling refreshed and relaxed and ready to get back to work. I am head over heels in love with the White House Inn- and with Wilmington, really- and I’m hoping to return again later on this Fall to take a longer look around and maybe stay a couple more nights since no ghosts or ghouls surprised me while I was trying to sleep. I’m sure the views of the mountains are even more gorgeous when the leaves start to change colors!

And now, I’ve got to dive right into my cases for the day.

Have a good Wednesday, everybody!

xx

– Ashley –

Quick Eats: Baking Sheet Quesadillas

Good Morning, Happy Monday- and Happy Labor Day, everyone! This post was drafted right before I left for a long weekend away in the middle of the mountains in Vermont with my best friend. I’m heading home later on today- and I’ll be sure to have plenty of photos from my trip to share this week once I’m back in my home office (where I have a more stable WiFi connection than out here in the woods!)

This coming Thursday is the kickoff to the New England Patriots’ regular season- and to celebrate- we’re having a tailgating party at work (I swear, we do actually work now and then) where everyone has been encouraged to bring their favorite game day food. Although my go-to recipe to satisfy a fairly large group of people has always typically been a big plate of nachos- this time around I wanted to try something a little different- and I came across this 20-minute recipe for mess-free quesadillas that looked delicious.

I did a trial run a few days ago to see if it was something I could pull off in the early morning hours before my commute so they would stay fresh and warm by the time our party started- and I’m pretty excited to share these with everyone at the office- because they turned out awesome!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
  • 12 tortillas or wraps
  • ½ cup salsa
  • 12 ounces shredded cheddar or Jack cheese
  • Shredded and cooked chicken or beef (depending on your preference! You can also go meat-free and stick to just the cheeses and salsa.)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons sliced green onions
  • Sour cream, as needed for serving
  • Salsa, as needed for serving

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Grease a baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of the butter.
  2. Arrange half of the tortillas in the prepared pan, overlapping them as needed to fully cover the base.
  3. Spread the salsa in an even layer on top of the tortillas. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the salsa and add your cooked and shredded chicken or beef.
  4. Arrange the remaining tortillas on top of the cheese, salsa & meat- overlapping as needed to fully cover the pan. Spread the remaining 2 tablespoons butter evenly over the tortillas.
  5. Bake until the tortillas are golden and the cheese is fully melted, 9 to 12 minutes. Garnish with the cilantro and green onions.
  6. Serve immediately, warm, with sour cream and salsa on the side.

I’m not even going to lie- I ate enough of these to the point where I felt like I couldn’t move- that’s how good they tasted. Fantastic flavor aside, I couldn’t get over how quick, easy, and painless these were to make- and I think I’ve found my new favorite party recipe for this coming football season!

Enjoy your Monday, y’all! (And Go Pats!)

xx

– Ashley –

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 –

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 –