“Love is a great beautifier…”

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! We made it to another weekend (thank goodness!)

Today marks another later-than-usual afternoon post and what I hope will serve as the period or otherwise final punctuation mark on what has been a pretty busy week for me! I had mentioned it on Wednesday right before sharing my Mozzarella-Stuffed Pizza Bread/Super Bowl recipe, but the beginning of this week was packed with work (as usual,) the Patriots celebration parade, and my dear friend Duncan visiting from San Diego/Chicago while he was in town for a job interview and conference.

Additionally, shortly after receiving my car back last week following the repairs for the hit and run accident I had been involved in last month right before my birthday- I had to turn right back around and return my poor Hyundai to my mechanic again for unrelated brake repairs/replacement.

If I never have to drive a rental car again, it’ll be too soon!

I digress- as tired and sleepy as I am right now- I’m grateful that my car is fixed and that I’ve been able to stay active and productive- all things considered! I *definitely* earned the mani/pedi I’m going to treat myself to this weekend, though. At least that’s how I’m justifying it!

Despite a hectic schedule these past few days, I did manage to take some time for a relaxing day trip to picturesque Concord, Massachusetts- where I visited Louisa May Alcott’s house to scratch yet another historic New England location/landmark off of my 2019 travel bucket list!

I love historic homes, Concord in general, and “Little Women,” so to be able to learn more about all three and about a much beloved author from my state in the same place and at the same time was an exquisite way to spend an afternoon off.

Although photography inside the Alcott home is prohibited given how old some of the artwork and relics are- photos of the exterior are encouraged and I was able to get the loveliest pictures just as the sun was starting to set.

Now that things seem to thankfully be calming down and returning to normal (someone, anyone reading this right now knock on wood for me, please!) I can try to relax and focus on the evening and days ahead. I’m having dinner with my family tonight as part of our planned bi-weekly get-togethers- and next week is all about Gal-entine’s Day, Valentine’s Day- and my latest take on the celebrations- Pal-entine’s Day (for your pals, of course!)

I’ll have a recipe for a romantic dinner fit for two you can cook up in 30 minutes or less to share, a look at one of my favorite holiday-appropriate-but-still-casual date night outfits- and some photos from planned weekend travel and day trips I have coming up within the next 48 hours!

But for now, I’m off to eat a quick lunch and head back to work and meetings for a couple more hours.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful and relaxing weekend! See you all again on Monday!

xx

– Ashley –

Favorites: February 2018!

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! What a wild weekend I had- which I’ll be talking about in a couple of days when I share my month’s-end “In a Nutshell” post- but for now it’s back to work for me, while simultaneously grieving over last night’s mid-season premiere of ‘The Walking Dead’ (for real- I cried so much that it was actually kind of gross.)

But before I dive into my morning meetings, e-mails and phone calls- I wanted to share some of my favorite things from this past month. Admittedly, there isn’t a lot of products/items since I did a pretty significant amount of traveling throughout February and many of my favorites from January carried over as a result- but there were a few things that stood out and even more odds and ends that I couldn’t photograph that made the list!

Let’s get right into it, shall we?

Despite fluctuating temperatures here in Massachusetts, it’s still pretty cold at night, and this mermaid tail blanket- a gift from my Aunt and Uncle earlier this year- has definitely come in handy on the nights I’ve spent throughout this month lounging on the couch and watching TV or getting some late night work done from the comfort of my dining room table.  This blanket is really warm and really fun- and has made more than one appearance in a selfie or on my Snapchat throughout the past couple of weeks.

Oddly enough, I recently read an article where someone said the mermaid and unicorn-themed clothing and accessories for adults are “juvenile”- which to that, I say- awesome. I’m warm, and that’s all that matters!

I’ve been wearing a lot of turtleneck sweaters lately, which makes accessorizing my neck a little difficult unless I go for statement pieces that are big and bold. I recently rediscovered this peacock necklace that my mother had given to me a couple of Christmases ago and I’ve been rocking it to work and out on the town nearly every day/night ever since.

I love the teal and purple colors- which stand out against my usual Winter-neutral shades of black, tan, and grey- and matching my eye shadow or eye liner to them proves for a fun, pre-Spring look without getting overly light and bright too prematurely.

With plans to potentially move out West later on this Fall, I’ve been revisiting something I’ve had on my ‘Bucket List’ for quite a few years but have never had the opportunity to complete until now. I’m talking about traveling cross-country on the remnants of what was formerly Route 66- complete with cheesy roadside attractions, cheap motels, diner food, and an amazing classic rock playlist.

I picked up this book a while back to see what this journey had to offer- and although it’s a little outdated- a lot of the attractions are still very much in existence (The Blue Whale of Catoosa! Cadillac Ranch! Prada Marfa!) I’ve been enjoying researching the must-sees and marking them down along my personal route map now and then over the past few weeks. It’s going to be an adventure!

And finally, one skin care product I’ve been obsessed with as of late. When I returned from my trip to Vegas earlier this month, my skin needed some serious TLC. The dryness of the desert, followed up by the harsh cold here in New England when I came back home- did a number on my complexion. I turned to this gel textured, 10-minute mask from First Aid Beauty to even out my face- restoring moisture, softening rough areas, and brightening any dull spots that appeared along the way.

I swear by this mask- which I use 2x a week- and achieve fantastic results every single time!

And I think that’s it for the photogenic stuff! Moving on, however-

– MUSIC/MOVIES/TELEVISION –

‘Far Out\Thaw Out’ – I had shared my most recent, Spring-inspired playlist on 8Tracks a few days ago here on the blog, but it’s worth mentioning again because I truly love each song I hand selected for it and have been listening to them on a rotation (typically on my way to and from work) and thought it was worth posting again!

‘Black Panther’ – WAKANDA FOREVER. Not since ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ have I been so thoroughly in love with a MCU movie as I am with ‘Black Panther’ right now. It was perfect from start to finish- and I have to give a standing ovation to my Queen, Danai Gurira (who rules on ‘The Walking Dead’, too!) I practically shrieked with joy when she showed up on my screen.

I’m actually planning on seeing it again this week with friends who haven’t had the privilege of watching it yet- and I’m just as excited as I was the first time around!

– GAMES/APPS –

Overcooked – I can’t remember the last time a video game caused my friends and I to frantically scream burger ingredients to each other, but here we are. My BFF Sean discovered this game and wasted no time in getting the rest of us on board- but we’ve been obsessively playing it at get togethers all month and we’re showing no signs of stopping any time soon.

The premise seems simple, but the execution can get complicated REAL quick. You play as little cartoon chefs and have to prepare, cook, and serve recipes in the order that they come in. Once the recipes become more complicated and the orders start coming in faster and faster- things turn into an absolute shit show. Our group’s friendship has been tested- more than once- with this game. Over cartoon cheeseburgers, of all things.

And I think that’s it for my February Favorites! I’m off to get some work done- and I hope you all have a great start to your week! Here’s hoping your Monday goes by quickly and painlessly!

xx

– Ashley –

POPSUGAR Must Have Box Review: November 2017

Good Evening, everyone! I hope you all made it through your Mondays unscathed. It feels a bit odd to be updating my blog at night as opposed to first thing in the morning, but I experienced a bit of technical difficulty this past weekend when my laptop- the one I’ve had and have been using since I started college (I’m a firm believer in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”)– finally died out on me for good.

After my initial freak-out, followed by a proper burial and a stunning rendition of “Taps” on trumpet (just kidding- I just packaged it up to have it taken apart by the manufacturer)– I had to make the switch over to my trusty little tablet for all my e-mail and blogging purposes. Of course, transferring all of my stuff took a little bit of time- hence this semi-late night post!

To start off this week of scheduled posts, I wanted to share what I received in this month’s POPSUGAR “Must Have” Box- which arrived at my doorstep late last week and prior to the aforementioned laptop implosion. It was another good one, which should come as a surprise to no one who has been actively reading my reviews of the service.

But let’s take a look inside!

This month’s theme/inspirations go hand-in-hand with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday: SWEET, GATHER, GRATEFUL, FAMILY and HOST. I only knew one spoiler for this month’s box thanks to POPSUGAR’s e-mail list- so I’ll go ahead and share that, first!

I don’t typically get invested in celebrity couples and never understood the media’s obsession with them- but I fully admit I thought Anna Faris and Chris Pratt were adorable- if only because they’re both so incredibly likable individually, as well. I was thrilled when I found out I’d be receiving a hardcover copy of Anna’s new book, “Unqualified”, where she offers up relationship advice based on her own awkward encounters and hilarious history over the years.

The foreword, penned by Pratt- is sweet and equally funny in it’s own way. I’m really looking forward to sitting down with this during the coming weekend to read it cover to cover!

One of my favorite items in this month’s “Must Have” box is this simple, chic and sturdy rose gold metal headband by Chloe + Isabel (in partnership with celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin). Forgive how messy my hair looks in the above-photo. I’d been out in that oh-so-wonderful Massachusetts rain/fog right before I’d taken it- but the headband still looks lovely, doesn’t it? It’s very comfortable and classes up even the messiest of ponytails!

I love, love LOVE Tarte products- so receiving their ‘PRO Glow To Go Highlight Contour Palette’ was like having Christmas come early this year! I’m a big fan of natural, subtle shimmer lately- and the shades in this palette are so pretty and complimentary against my skin tone. They’re easy to blend and create both bold and everyday looks with ease.

But wait- there’s more!

Time for a snack break! It’s that time of year when peppermint reigns supreme- so I’m really looking forward to munching on these dark chocolate and peppermint covered pretzel rods from Fatty Sundays at work this week when I take a much-needed break in the afternoons. I’m already confident they taste amazing- but it needs to be mentioned that they also look so pretty, too! Talk about Instagram-worthy.

Anytime I get gift wrap around the holidays is a time when I’m thankful indeed- especially when it’s a unique and interesting print that sets my presents for my friends and loved ones apart. Case in point- this newspaper gift wrap (where the pattern sort of reminds me of a rock climbing wall for some reason!) from Knot & Bow which I’ll be using for some of my upcoming Christmas shopping now that I’m getting more and more into the holiday spirit!

Finally, one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in a POPSUGAR “Must Have” Box (and are sure to be a hit at Thanksgiving!) are these chalkboard style paper placemat setting pieces from Hester & Cook– with the appropriate pencils to allow for freestyle doodling. My niece- who often sets the table at my family’s get togethers- is going to LOVE these. Designing the seating for some of the guests at Thanksgiving this year is going to be a dream come true for her considering how artistic she is.

I’m so excited to see the look on her face when she realizes what these are!

Now, I never really have problems with POPSUGAR because they almost always hit it out of the park with their “Must Have” boxes, but unfortunately- there was one hiccup with November’s assortment of items- and that was that something was missing. Apparently, I was supposed to receive a $25 voucher to BloomThat– but it was nowhere to be found- even after I turned the box upside down looking for it.

The voucher must have slipped through the cracks. It’s not the end of the world, of course- but it is a little disappointing since it would have been useful to pick up a lovely bouquet to set at my mother’s table for Thanksgiving.

Oh well.

Apart from that teeny, tiny setback- I loved November’s “Must Have” Box. It was fun, festive, and full of lovely surprises. Next month will be the annual Christmas box- and I can’t wait!

Enjoy the rest of your night, everyone! My posting schedule will be back to normal on Wednesday morning!

xx

– Ashley-

Book Fair: The Big Redhead Book by Erin La Rosa

Prior to becoming the dirty blonde babe that I am today- I was a redhead for just over nine years- having taken the crimson plunge when I had become so painfully bored with my naturally dark brown hair and desperately needed a drastic change to liven my look up all those years ago. It was nine years of fun, ruined shirt collars after every dye job, and multiple trips to Sephora when the red made it a little trickier to match my correct foundation shade since I looked a bit on the paler side.

Regardless- the red eventually became too time-consuming and too costly for me to manage regularly- and I couldn’t just sit back and let it fade to orange as it gradually began to grow out. I decided to make the switch to my current shade- and although I love it and have enjoyed being able to go longer between salon visits for touch-ups- I sometimes miss my faux-ginger curls. They were, and I suppose always will be- part of my identity.

I have all the respect in the world for natural redheads- and not just because they have to tough it out through all of the bad ginger jokes and typically have to apply way more sunscreen than other people. I also have to give a shout-out to the other dye-job redheads out there- because that upkeep and maintenance takes a LOT of dedication! Regardless of whether your reds are natural or courtesy of a salon or a box job- it can get downright frustrating from time to time!

Fortunately, I may have found a book that is perfect for my (former) fellow redheads!

I recently received an advanced copy of “The Big Redhead Book” Erin La Rosa at my door- and I couldn’t put it down until I’d read it cover to cover. Even though I’m not a redhead anymore, I could relate to so many things in the book- which covered redheaded depictions in pop culture, art and history throughout the years, the science and genetics behind red hair (which is actually pretty fascinating stuff! Did you know that redheads are harder to sedate during surgery and require 20% more general anesthesia than people with other hair colors do? Me neither!) and of course- dabbling into and de-bunking some of the rumors/myths surrounding redhead stereotypes- but it’s all done with sharp wit and surrounded by interesting statistics and fun quotes from notable figures and characters throughout time who have commented on ladies and gentlemen with red hair.

There’s also a chapter to assist redheads with those pesky makeup and wardrobe challenges that come with having a stand-out hue on the top of your head. Your freckles? Embrace them. Sunscreen? Don’t leave home without it applied to every inch of exposed skin. Hair care? Avoid those sulfates- and so many more helpful tips to make living your best life with the most challenging color to manage a little easier. And if you’re thinking of going red? Don’t worry- Erin has included a helpful guide to make that transition much smoother than standing in the hair dye section of your local pharmacy and staring in confusion at the boxes until you just randomly choose one and hope for the best.

The entire book is clever, funny, and informative. Even if you’re not a redhead and don’t plan on becoming one anytime soon- it’s still a good and enjoyable read- especially since there’s some tips on how to approach and talk to redheads, too. Believe it or not- there are some things that you can say or ask that could be taken offensively (like if the carpet matches the drapes. Never, ever, EVER ask that. EVER.)– so knowledge is power!

“The Big Redhead Book” comes out on August 22nd and is currently available for pre-order at Amazon!

xx

– Ashley –

POPSUGAR Must Have Box Review: June 2017

A couple of years ago, I was actively reviewing about 3-4 monthly subscription box services every few weeks: GlossyBox & Ipsy (makeup/cosmetics), Loot Crate (gaming/movies/comics/etc.) and POPSUGAR’s “Must Have” Box (a lifestyle subscription service that features a little bit of everything from makeup, food, decor, books, etc.)

Last year, while reviewing my finances and budgeting- I decided to limit myself to one subscription box per month- and the one I overwhelmingly chose to stick with and continue receiving/reviewing was POPSUGAR’s service. At $39.95 per month (+ shipping), the “Must Have” box is a bit more expensive than the others- but the value of everything included with each installment far surpasses the cost and makes each box worth the splurge now and then. It’s like a little treat for myself that arrives on my doorstep just when I need it the most!

Every month, POPSUGAR selects a theme or multiple inspirations to curate the contents of the box around. I’d say that most of the time- the items included fit the theme/inspirations very well. Subscribers are usually given the theme/inspirations in advance- so it’s always fun to try and guess what will be in the box before it actually arrives.

The theme/inspirations for June were: BEACH READ, SWIM, WAVES, BREEZE, MERMAIDS and PALM TREES.

I love the Summer boxes- so I was really excited to see what I got!

I am always and forever in need of durable totes/clutches/pouches to carry with me when I’m on the go- and I’m legitimately in love with this palm tree-covered one from ALOHA Collection. Apart from the cute and Summery exterior design- this pouch is completely splash proof- which means that my belongings are going to be safe, secure and dry when I bring this to my next outing at the beach.

It’s the perfect size, too- so it can fit all of the necessities in it without it weighing me down!

Of course, no good beach outing is complete without a decent page-turner to dive into while I’m resting on the shore under my umbrella. Taylor Jenkins Reid’s “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” is described as a drama with a little bit of mystery thrown in for good measure. From Google Books’ reviews:

“In this entrancing novel “that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all” (Kirkus Reviews), a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.”

I received a hardcover edition of this novel in this month’s “Must Have” box and I’m already bringing it with me to start reading at work during my break!

I’ve been taking extraordinary good care of my nails as of late (although after this weekend I’m in dire need of a fresh coat of polish) and one of the reasons is because I’ve been utilizing cuticle oil. This “So Rich- Mermaid Tears” version from NCLA is packed with Vitamin E extract and sunflower seed oil to keep my tips healthy, moisturized and shiny. Bonus? This oil smells like honeysuckle!

POPSUGAR always includes the most unique (and delicious) snacks in their “Must Have” boxes. These cookie butter bites from Belgian Boys are no exception to that rule. I absolutely indulged in these super tasty (and super cute!) mustache-shaped cookies from the Heavens the second I saw them- and I don’t regret it one bit!

I’ve been using a sea salt-infused texturizing cream to give my curls a more wavy and Summer-appropriate beachy look lately- but I have to admit that the sprays make it SO much easier to style my hair without the crunch or the hassle. I am LOVING this version of those sprays from Captain Blankenship– especially because this particular spray is infused with aloe- so it won’t dry my hair out!

The fragrance of this spray is, admittedly, a little potent at first- but it fades quickly so it’s not as powerful as the day goes on after spraying and styling my hair the way I want. I’ve been browsing some of the other products this company makes- and they definitely know a thing or two about keeping your skin and hair ready for the beach. I sense some shopping in my immediate future!

My favorite item in June’s “Must Have” box is- without question- this adjustable “Aloha” baseball cap from Billabong. I love the bright blue hue of this cap, as well as how comfortable it is- and it goes with pretty much anything in my wardrobe. I can wear it to the beach, out running errands, around the house- and to work on our casual office days.

This is my new go-to hat for every occasion (sorry, trusted Red Sox hat!) and I’m going to be sporting it for the remainder of the Summer for sure!

Considering I’ve been experimenting with Summer-inspired eats/treats and drinks in my kitchen lately- I know I’m going to use these pretty pastel blue and white striped straws from Meri Meri the next time I have company over and need to serve some chilled watermelon lemonade or chocolate & strawberry milkshakes to help my guests cool down when the temperatures are soaring.

I just love the look of these straws- and I’m tempted to find plastic cups that match them- just because!

Finally, POPSUGAR included a bonus item in this month’s “Must Have” box- and it’s one I’m definitely familiar with- especially when I’m in a rush in the mornings! It’s a bottled version of Starbucks‘ mocha Frappuccinos (best served cold- by the way!) which I’m sipping right now as I post this from my office! It’s tasty AND refreshing!

POPSUGAR was nice enough to include a coupon, too- for when I decide to stock up on more of these drinks before this week comes to an end!

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I loved this month’s “Must Have” box and thought that each item really represented the overall theme/inspirations really well. I’m going to use everything that I received- which is another reason this box was such a success! Nothing is going to waste!

I can’t wait to see what POPSUGAR has in store for July!

xx

– Ashley –