“Vacation, all I ever wanted…”

Good Morning and Happy Wednesday, everyone!

By the time you read this, I’ll be up in the air and en route to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada for a week away with my West Coast Wife, Kelsey! We’re grabbing lunch at our favorite spot on the strip before we make our way even further West to San Diego for a couple of days to catch a White Lies show and relax by the beach.

It’s a few days of sunshine, rest and relaxation that are long overdue for me given how busy I’ve been lately with my job(s) and my upcoming move to the Valley within the next week. I just need a little bit of time to unwind and not worry about things at the office, packing my things, replacing furniture, etc. I’m so excited!

I’m always packed early, and people have asked me how I’m able to prepare for a trip so efficiently given how busy I am most of the time- and I always say it’s because of a three-day, pre-travel packing/preparation plan I developed after years and years of waiting until the last minute and frantically throwing whatever I could grab into a suitcase the morning of a cross-country trip.

I just couldn’t keep doing it like that anymore- especially since I would almost always forget something important- so the system I developed (with plenty of practice) has been a life-saver! I thought I’d share it here, as well- in case anyone else has ever found themselves in the procrastination boat.

72 Hours Before Your Trip:
  1. Check the forecast where you’re going to keep track of any last minute changes in the temperatures, impending storms, weather advisories, etc.
  2. Begin planning your wardrobe/accessories (if possible, on a day-by-day basis) with consideration to the weather and start doing laundry to make sure everything is clean, dry, ironed or folded by the time it comes to pack!
  3. Make a checklist of toiletries, makeup or skin/hair care that you might be running low on and make an effort to replenish those items within the next 48 hours!
48 Hours Before Your Trip:
  1. Begin packing your shoes, clothes and accessories so you’ll be aware of how much space you have in your suitcase- as well as how much it weights- since some airlines will charge extra for oversize/heavier luggage.
  2. Prepare a travel itinerary to forward to a family member/loved one- just in case of an emergency or if you find yourself stranded during a layover or at your destination for whatever reason. It’s always a good idea to let someone know where you’ll be/where you’re supposed to be in case you need help!
  3. Notify your bank/credit card companies that you’re traveling so you’ll be able to access your funds without issue. The sooner, the better- since it may take a bank/financial institution 24-48 hours to place a notice on your account(s.)
24 Hours Before Your Trip:
  1. If possible, check into your flight to save yourself wait time at the airport/gate. It may also help you secure priority boarding, or in some instances- a better seat!
  2. Pack up your toiletries, skin/hair care in a waterproof bag (just in case!) to put into your suitcase with your previously packed clothes, shoes and accessories. By the way- don’t forget any chargers for your devices!
  3. Lay out the COMFORTABLE outfit you intend to wear to the airport the day of travel- that way you’re not stuck tearing apart your suitcase filled with freshly folded clothing!
  4. Be sure to take a little cash to carry with you while you’re en route to your destination. It doesn’t have to be an obscene, extravagant amount- but enough to cover a cup of coffee or some chap stick so you don’t have to use your credit/debit card at layovers. These sorts of purchases can trigger a security alert on your account and cause issues moving forward.
  5. Pack your carry-on with the essentials- moisturizer, earbuds, sunglasses, a phone charger, a good book/magazine and some gum. All TSA-approved!
  6. Get some sleep! There’s nothing worse than having to go to the airport when you’ve pulled an all-nighter and the exhaustion is creeping up on you while you’re waiting to have your shoes screened by security.

And that’s my guide for a relatively stress-free pre-travel prep! I hope it helps any of you the way it’s helped me over these past couple of years!

I’ll be sure to check in a little later on this week during some downtime from my, well- other downtime- and I’ll have plenty of photos to share here and on my social media (like my Instagram!) so be sure to check back!

Enjoy the rest of your “Hump Day”, everyone! See you all soon!

xx

– Ashley –

Bloom Where You’re Planted…

Good Morning, Happy “Hump Day” and Happy (official) First Day of Spring, everyone!

It seems fitting that the season of blossoming and blooming would start just as so many exciting new opportunities and changes are happening for me/around me right now. I know I always briefly mention how busy I am lately- but I really mean it! I’ve been going non-stop!

Back at the end of 2018, I had mentioned a couple of new projects I was preparing to start working on and had admittedly been excited to delve more into the details when the time was right. One project was for a radio station based out of Boston, and the other was for a family theater company based in the Pioneer Valley. Considering both of those projects are essentially on opposite sides of the state- I go back and forth fairly often!

I also maintain my full-time legal specialist position and still make sure to find time to spend with family and friends- all of whom are thankfully very understanding to my occasional time restrictions- so with everything finally coming to fruition and all the smaller, more intricate details being ironed out- it feels like I can relax much more easily now!

So, what’s the news?

Well, beginning this Saturday- I’ll be starting my very own weekly show on Indie617 from 12-4 PM where I’ll get to play the music I love, talk about upcoming shows, recap recent events around the city of Boston, etc. I’m so excited since I simply adore everyone at the station and have been having a blast popping by for occasional sit-downs/chats over the past couple of months during the “Morning Glory” show.

You can stream my show online at the website or download the Indie617 app (it’s free- so no excuses!)

Additionally, I’ve taken on the role of Marketing & Publicity Director at Paintbox Theatre– a company I have loved and held dear for a very long time now. The work that they do for children and families in the Pioneer Valley is beyond admirable and I’m so thrilled to be a part of all the fun, crazy, and adorable things they have planned for their upcoming Summer season!

Of course, working across and around the state has sort of grounded me in the New England area- which is funny considering it was around this time a year ago I was earnestly and vehemently talking about moving out to Las Vegas/Henderson, Nevada- and as I continue with my year of self-reflection and attempts at bettering myself by learning from past mistakes and missteps- I think that’s one flaw I need to tackle head on: my eagerness to move to a new location- sometimes places that are thousands of miles away from everything I’ve ever known or worked for- without addressing the reasons why.

First it was San Diego, and my main drive behind that was because I wanted to be closer to friends (and yes, a guy I liked at the time)– but I had never stopped to really consider career opportunities or the astronomical cost of living out there. Granted, where I live is on the pricier side as well- but I can still live and support myself without stretching myself out too thin.

I had just assumed my career could be easily transitioned across the county- but that wasn’t the case.

With my planned move to Las Vegas, my intentions were more fine-tuned- I wanted to live somewhere warm, close to my West Coast Wife, and in an area where the cost of living was infinitely more manageable (and I still do so much!)– but being so far away from my family, my friends and restarting a career over in a part of the country where the turnover rate of the population is nearly non-stop was a bit intimidating.

Plus, financial setbacks throughout 2018 kept delaying the process- and now here I am- finally getting my momentum back.

While Vegas/Henderson is not off the table by any means- I need to rebuild my foundation, first- and I need to do it here at home and by utilizing the aforementioned opportunities/projects I’ve taken on to build up both my finances and my resume (should I decide to switch career paths at any given time. I have to show I’m versatile!)

That means making the best of what I have here (“bloom where you’re planted”) for the time being- which includes potentially finding a less expensive place to live within the Pioneer Valley or outside of the city so I can better accomplish my short-term goals- and gradually work my way towards my long-term ones.

With smaller plans in play and these new projects keeping me occupied and focused- I can say with all sincerity that I’m excited for the future and looking forward to what’s ahead without any nervousness, uncertainty or anxiety- something that plagued me in the past when I was trying to relocate/reignite my life and passions.

And hopefully the future will be warmer here in New England real soon!

I’m off to play catch-up after an unexpected day off from work yesterday- and a little later on this week I’m dabbling with floral print again. I’ll have the photos to show you all what I mean!

Enjoy your Wednesday, everybody!

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 Parties and Resolutions…

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone!

I hope you’re all having a fabulous week so far. I, personally, have been enjoying a little downtime following last week’s insane amount of work, hustle and back-to-back commitments! It’s nice to have a little time to catch up on some of the things on my “to watch” list on Netflix, curl up with a good book of magazine, play some video games- or mix all three with friends during a bundled up dinner party and game night like I did this past weekend when it was too cold to go outside- so we opted for some indoor fun, instead!

Our menu was simple but filling- wheat linguine with chicken and vegetables tossed in a cream sauce with some garlic bread. It was just so nice to stay warm and toasty and eat together, goof around, and catch-up with one another since it’s been undoubtedly crazy and non-stop movement since the holidays!

Which brings me to the point of this post- staying organized and sticking to goals! I know we all go into the New Year with the best of intentions, big goals/aspirations and earnestly plan to fully commit to achieving them- but by mid-to-late January we might pause and ask ourselves “wait, I have to do this for the whole year?”

I know I certainly get like that- which was a contributing factor to my not reaching some of the resolutions I had set for myself in 2018… And 2017…. And maybe 2016…

… You get the picture.

But while I’m usually holding my head in my hands and sighing in disbelief at my own lack of commitment by this time every year- I’ve actually found a lot of success by implementing one or two different techniques into my daily routine these past couple of weeks- and also by making just a few small, minor changes in how I do/approach things and which don’t disrupt my life in any capacity.

I figured I’d list them here- in the hopes they may help someone else reach their goals, too!

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Invest in a planner- and note it daily. We’re all digital these days- and everything we need to do/want to do is made even more convenient with the click of a button or an app- but I’ve found that writing things down in a planner (and picking out a pretty one is half the fun!) not only keeps me from forgetting important dates/times/due dates/plans that I may otherwise overlook while navigating through multiple applications I have open on my phone/computer at any given time- but there’s something really satisfying about crossing off the things I’ve accomplished each day as I go!

Additionally, I set small goals for myself at the beginning of each month and write them down in my planner, as well. It can be something as simple as renewing my passport before my birthday to something a bit more challenging- like running for a longer distance than what I’m used to when I go for a jog or doing 100 more squats- but having them in writing is a daily reminder that I have something to work towards. And, if I don’t want to have to do them the following month on top of other things I end up jotting down- I’m more inclined to accomplish them!

Build and commit to a schedule and a time frame that boosts your productivity: My job can get absolutely crazy sometimes- i.e., the holidays- and throughout 2018 I found myself getting overwhelmed, irritable, and coming into the office earlier/staying later than I or anyone else should ever have to do because I wanted to get things done. It ended up burning me out and really wearing me down- until I tried a trick a friend (who also has a pretty hectic office job) taught me.

I developed a time frame for every work day and dedicated certain tasks to fit into those time frames. They are the only things I focus on/get done until time is up and I move onto the next designated block of time/tasks. For example, I go into work at 7:30 a.m. From then until 9 a.m. I am drafting legal paperwork (and listening to music) since it’s the only time of day where my phone isn’t ringing off the hook and I can focus.

From 9 until 11, I am making calls and responding to e-mails, and from 11-1 I’m going through tasks, cleaning up files, etc. until I take a lunch break at 1- return at 2- and close out the last couple of hours of my day finishing up anything I didn’t get to in the morning. Since I started adhering to this semi-strict time allowance- I’ve been able to leave on time and not have to worry about things not being done- and it’s been amazing,

Factor in self-care and healthy choices, too: Of course, setting specific times and tasks for those times doesn’t just include work or office duties- but good choices for my body/mind, as well! During work I always make it a point to get up and stretch/take a quick walk and drink plenty of water- and after I leave the office for the day and have a light dinner- I allot a period of time to get some yoga/cycling/cardio in.

It may be Winter, but that doesn’t mean I can’t work out from the comfort of home or the gym!

It’s also crucial for me to schedule in some self-care. Be it catching up on a couple of episodes of a show I’m watching on my couch, taking a bubble bath, coming up with content for the blog, etc. My schedule may not be as strict when I’m not in the office- but it’s important for me to find that time where I can just take a deep breath, unplug from the world, relax and re-center myself.

Don’t beat yourself up- and allow yourself cheat days/days off: Listen, life happens- and things can come up without a moment’s notice that disrupt our schedules and plans- and that’s okay. If a day gets muddled up- it’s not the end of the world and you can start fresh the next day. If I were to say this plan has been implemented perfectly day in and day out without the occasional hiccup or setback along the way, I’d be lying- because sometimes I can be impulsive and run off to do something “just because”- that conflicts with my schedule or things I need to get done- but it hasn’t stopped me and I haven’t given up.

More importantly, you have to give yourself some “cheat days” or some time to indulge- especially those of us looking to be healthier or get into better shape. Don’t deprive yourself of the good, even gluttonous things in life- because you shouldn’t have to be miserable while you’re working hard to achieve your goals. Moderation is key- and if you reward yourself from time to time- it’ll be easier to get back on track than it would be if you didn’t stop to smell the roses (metaphorically, of course) at all.

For me, my “cheat days” or days to do whatever I want are reserved for the weekends- where I’m free to go wherever I want, stay out late without wearing myself out, etc. Then, come Monday- it’s back to work and back to focusing on the things I want to accomplish that month/this year.

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I know it’s still very early on in 2019, but those are the things I’ve been doing as of late and I’ve already seen wonderful results in regards to reaching my goals, better managing my time, increasing my productivity- and cutting down on stress!

I feel if I keep going forward with these tips/tricks and maybe implement new ones along the way- I will remain on top of my game and make 2019 a really successful year!

But, time is money- and I’m at work- so it’s off to get things done and prepare for my half day tomorrow (where I’m cooking up something really delicious for Friday!) and finalize some pre-birthday plans for this weekend!

If you’d like to share some of your own tips/tricks for sticking to your goals, staying organized, and time management- I would absolutely love to hear them! Please feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment.

Have a great rest of your Wednesday, everybody!

xx

– Ashley –

Summer Wind Down…

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! Today couldn’t have come fast enough for me!

It’s been a busy and, admittedly- pretty stressful week at work- with a lot of overtime, late nights, and earlier-than-I-care-to-think-about mornings. I’m excited to have a half day at my office today, and am rather looking forward to getting a proper night’s sleep over the course of this weekend. I really, really need it!

I hate to say it, but Summer is coming to an end- and in a couple of weeks we’re going to be into September, Labor Day, and the beginning of all things Fall. Although it’s my favorite season and I have plenty planned around New England to savor every moment of it- I’m a little sad to be saying farewell to the Summertime. I’m going to miss long days, late nights at the beach, bonfires and BBQs.

Of course, the pressure is on to squeeze as much last-minute Summertime fun into the schedule as possible- which can cause some serious stress and FOMO to those, like me- who work a lot- so I’ve compiled a handy little guide that has benefited me over the past few years when it comes time to put the flip flops away and start shopping for cute boots and sweaters again.

KEEP TRACK OF YOUR VACATION TIME/PTO

If you’re itching to take a few days off from work, plan a trip, etc. and you know you’ve got earned (and owed!) vacation time left to use up at your job- ask for a print-out or a written record of how many hours/days/weeks you have for your personal file and reference- and go from there!

In my case, I have about 3 weeks of unused time at my company that I can take- whenever I want- before the end of the year, and although I’d been saving a good chunk of that time for October and Halloween-related festivities- I plan on using a couple of days within the next 2-3 weeks for some stress-free beach days and pool lounging.

Once you have a better idea of how much time you have at your disposal, making plans is a *lot* easier!

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THOSE LATE SUMMER FARES

With students heading back to school and classes starting up shortly (if they haven’t done so already!) many popular tourist destinations and vacation hot spots are going to be a lot less crowded than they were throughout June and July. If you’re thinking of taking a day trip, a weekend away- or a full-blown vacation- now is the time!

And when it comes to saving some money for booking flights or hotels- you’re in luck- because September is typically when fares are at the lowest (especially for those trying to book trips around the holidays!) so keep an eye out for weekly sales- they typically go into effect on Tuesdays and run through Thursdays- to compare prices and save some serious cash.

MAKE A LIST- AND CHECK IT TWICE

No, not the type of list where you’re keeping track of nice and naughty kids- I’m talking about a list of the places/things/activities you want to do before the end of the Summer. I use my notepad app on my phone to help me out when I’m planning day trips. I list what I want to do/see- ranked from what I absolutely and 100% have to get done before Fall arrives to what I can wait to do ’til next Summer- and where each of these places/things are located.

Then, when I’m on the road of planning my day off adventures- I can check the list, see what’s left, and go from there! For example, the other night while traveling to Easthampton- I crossed “get a milkshake at Cindy’s Drive-In” off my list. It’s a little roadside 50s style food stand that remains open throughout the Spring and Summertime only- and I had been dying to go since passing by it last month!

I had one of their German Chocolate Milkshakes- and it was awesome.

GET A HEAD START ON THE FALL DE-CLUTTER

I’m not saying you have to pack up your swimsuits and put your shorts in storage right this minute- but now is the perfect time to begin easing your way into your Fall wardrobe and/or makeup as painlessly as possible.

Those wedge sandals you wore to your cousin’s wedding last month but haven’t touched since? Those can be packed up. The Patriotic tee you tossed on for the 4th of July festivities? Into the closet it can go. How about the aqua eyeliner you’ve been wearing every day since Memorial Day that has been worn down to nearly nothing? Yeah, that can get tossed until you buy a new one next Summer.

As you wear your late Summer outfits- ask yourself when you plan to wear them again before the Fall. If there’s no definitive answer- wash them or have them dry-cleaned and pack them away ’til next year!

This doesn’t just apply to clothing/makeup, either. Every year around this time, I go through my e-mail inbox to unsubscribe from mailing lists and advertisements from companies/businesses I haven’t bought anything from/visited in a long time. That restaurant I made an online reservation with back in June but haven’t returned to since? That clothing company I bought a couple of sundresses from for backyard BBQs and who have been e-mailing me 5 times a day ever since? Yeah. No thanks.

As I get the alerts- I’ll go in, so who the e-mail is from- and if it’s not anything I’m interested in, I unsubscribe. If a company/business is persistent, even after I’ve requested they cease e-mailing me promotions- the trusty block feature works wonders!

This sort of de-cluttering is especially helpful leading up to the holidays, when e-mail advertisements go into hyperactive mode. I like to get it done early!

STAY HYDRATED AND WEAR SPF.

I think this one goes without saying. Summer might be ending- but that doesn’t mean the hotter days are going to be over and done with anytime soon. Remember to drink lots of water and wear lots of sunscreen.

And finally-

DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP IF YOU DON’T ACCOMPLISH ALL YOUR PLANS

So that camping trip in the mountains didn’t pan out as expected and you didn’t get around to signing up for those surfing lessons you swore you’d try way back in the Spring. Relax. Life happens and not everything we want to do or plan to do can go right 100% of the time. We may have the best intentions- but that doesn’t mean work or family or personal matters are going to just go along with those intentions.

If you didn’t accomplish everything on your Summer ’18 “To-Do” list- it’s okay. A lot of outdoor activities are just as much fun in the Fall (maybe even moreso since it won’t be so hot out and there won’t be as many bugs!) and worst case scenario? You add it to the top of your list for Summer 2019! It’s not the end of the world.

Just grab a final scoop of ice cream before it’s gone and enjoy the last of these long, late and lazy days!

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Those are just some of my tips/tricks to making the most out of these final days of Summer. As always, if you have tips of your own- feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment and share what you do to wind down for the end of the Summer!

But that does it for me this week. I’m going to wrap up a few things at my office and then head out to hit the town- and the coast!

Enjoy your Friday, everyone- and have a safe and wonderful weekend! I’ll see you all on Monday!

xx

– Ashley –