Into The Woods…

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone!

I hope you’re all having a wonderful week so far- and are staying strong as we work our way to Friday and another weekend ahead. Just a couple of days left and we’re free!

Tonight after I leave my office, I’ve got to head over to Cambridge where I’m meeting an old friend of mine I haven’t seen since this past Summer and some of his co-workers/business associates for a belated holiday party they had invited me to. The plan is dinner and an escape room experience- which should prove to be interesting. My closest friends and I were at each other’s throats the last time we all got locked in a room together for an hour- so it should be pretty entertaining to see how it goes with a few complete strangers!

This past weekend saw me actually escape the city instead, however- as I headed out to Western Massachusetts (and a bit North into New Hampshire) to jump start my New Year’s fitness regimen and spend a little more time outdoors and in nature- and hiked a good portion of the forest surrounding Mount Grace.

It’s been an odd mix of rain and snow here these past few days- and Saturday was no exception. I ended up bringing an umbrella with me to avoid getting sick because of the low temperatures and on/off sleet. It helped a little, but made some of the navigating and balancing myself as I stepped across wet/icy leaves and steep inclines a little difficult. I admittedly took more than one tumble during my trek- but thankfully no serious damage was done!

Best of all? I captured some really nice photos as the fog rolled in and out. You can click on the photos below to enlarge them!

There’s apparently a guard tower that you can scale to get a better view of the forest and surrounding areas- but I didn’t get an opportunity to locate it. That, and with the sun setting early these days- I also didn’t want to chance getting lost in the woods in the dark!

I’ll definitely have to go back and find it when the weather clears up a bit.

I’m hoping to be outdoors some more this coming Saturday/Sunday, although with everything I have planned- I think most of my time is going to be divided between driving to and from- and being indoors with friends and family as we celebrate belated birthdays and milestones that were overlooked around the holidays.

But I’m off to get some work done before the pandemonium goes down in Cambridge tonight. Here’s wishing you all a great rest of your Wednesday!

I’ll be back on Friday with a peek into my Winter wardrobe- provided I make it out of the escape room, of course!

xx

– Ashley –

Backyard BBQ Recipes: Pesto Zoodles

Good Morning, everyone! It’s officially Hump Day!

I was really excited to share this recipe I whipped up this past weekend for a quick outdoor brunch with friends, because not only is it a healthier alternative to regular pasta (which I love, don’t get me wrong)– but it’s also really flavorful and super easy to make!

You can buy “zoodles” (zucchini noodles) pre-made in the produce section at most grocery stores, but if you want to make them the old fashioned way- you can pick up an easy to use and inexpensive spiral vegetable slicer like THIS ONE. I use mine to make zucchini noodles, summer squash noodles, and butternut squash noodles for my Fall/Autumn recipes!

But let’s get back to this very tasty- and very green dish- that only takes about 20-25 minutes to prep and cook!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

FOR THE PESTO:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

ZOODLES:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 zucchini, cut into noodles
  • 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • Parmesan cheese curls, as needed for garnish
  • Red-pepper flakes, as needed for garnish (optional)

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. MAKE THE PESTO: In a food processor or blender, pulse the basil, garlic, pine nuts and grated Parmesan until coarsely chopped.
  2. With the food processor running, add the olive oil gradually and mix until the pesto is a thick paste. Add more olive oil as needed to adjust the consistency. Add salt and pepper.
  3. MAKE THE ZOODLES: In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the zucchini noodles and sauté until tender, 4 to 5 minutes more.
  4. Add the pesto and toss until the noodles are well coated.
  5. Serve warm, garnished with Parmesan curls and red-pepper flakes, if using, to taste.

What I loved most about this dish, apart from the taste- was that I didn’t feel overly full or stuffed after I ate a plate of it. I was satisfied and comfortable- and didn’t need to take a three hour nap while it sat in my stomach before I could feel energized or productive again. The zoodles were refreshing, filling- and delicious!

I’m looking forward to re-making this with a creamy Alfredo sauce in place of the pesto sauce at some point within the next week. I bet it’s going to be so good!

Here’s hoping you all have a terrific Wednesday! I’m off to work!

P.S. – Have you entered my Beach Giveaway?

xx

– Ashley –

Face Your (Gym) Fears!

(Image/Inspiration via Pinterest)

If you’re wondering if I’m currently buried under feet of snow- the answer is yes. Yesterday’s “Bomb Cyclone” (another, unintentionally funnier way of describing a Nor’Easter or massive blizzard) started bright and early yesterday morning, just as I was headed to work- and powered on through the afternoon and last night. Shoveling proved to be a waste of time since driveways and sidewalks were covered again in less than an hour’s time. After about 3-4 passes up and down my walkway throughout the day- I finally gave up and saved the bulk of the cleanup for this morning.

My back, shoulders and arms are killing me right now- but I suppose it sort of makes up for not being able to get to the gym yesterday, right? It was sort of like an impromptu weightlifting and strength-training day- although it was very cold.

Speaking of which. With the New Year underway, many of us are pushing hard to keep up with our resolutions so we don’t throw in the towel by the end of the month- only to promise ourselves we’ll succeed next year by the time December 31st rolls back around again.

And there’s a good chance that one of the resolutions on many lists involves getting into better shape/losing weight/staying fit/living healthier. It’s a great goal to have- but it’s also one of the more challenging ones to keep up with. It’s easy to get discouraged, sidetracked, distracted- and it’s even easier not to get the momentum started because of procrastination/hesitation. “I’ll start tomorrow” turns into “I’ll start next week”, which turns into “I’ll start next month-” and before you know it- the whole year has gone by before you even realize it.

Believe me- I’ve been there. Multiple times. A lot of people have.

From everyone I’ve ever spoken to has reached a road block in terms of working out/getting fit- more often than not- their reason for it is one surprising thing: they’re afraid to go to the gym.

As someone who had to overcome that fear on my own- I get it. There is the fear of judgment. There’s the fear of not being able to keep up with others. There’s the fear of not using the equipment properly- or even the fear of overdoing it and getting injured. I think more than anything- there’s the fear of failure.

But 2018 is YOUR year- and I’m here to try to keep you motivated! Aaptiv, a fitness app– created this infographic to help those struggling with gym related anxiety overcome their fears. Check it out!

Above are some surprising statistics and some really sound and helpful advice from Aaptiv- and I’d also like to touch base on some of them.

You are worth taking that first step – First and foremost, it’s great that you want to get into better shape and be healthier- and you should be really proud of yourself for even considering making that commitment because it’s going to take time, dedication, and hard work. That being said- as daunting as going to the gym can be- try to remember that the payoff is worth powering through whatever initial discomfort you might feel once you’ve gotten started. You’re going to look better and feel better- and feeling better is what’s important.

Nobody at the gym is there to point at you or gawk at you – That self-conscious feeling gets the best of all of us- and although you might feel eyes on you in spin class or while you’re wiping down your equipment after you use it- try to think positively. Like Aaptiv said- everyone is there for the same reason- to get healthy. Just because someone might be looking at you doesn’t automatically mean they’re mocking you or judging you. They might just be watching your technique for when they use the equipment you’re on, or they might just like your outfit and are wondering where you got it- or they might think you look amazing and are appreciating the results of the work you’ve been putting in. Whatever the reason- own it and just focus on you- and nobody else.

Socializing helps squash any lingering feelings of awkwardness – One way I’ve opened up at the gym and have felt more comfortable is by talking about my goals with the people in my yoga or spin classes. It’s always nice to both give and receive feedback, and it makes going to the gym so much easier (and feel so much more welcoming!) when you know you have people you can smile at and say hello to. I’ve also found that some of the people in my classes offer great insight for at-home exercises/programs they participate in- or other classes that might be really fun to try and that I otherwise may never have heard of!

Don’t get discouraged and DON’T give up – It can be really disheartening to work out every day for a couple of weeks, get on the scale, and not see any immediate results. It might even make you want to just call it quits- but I’m telling you not to. I’m telling you to keep going. Nothing worth achieving ever came easy- so get back in there and keep working hard- because eventually you’re going to see and feel a difference!

Talk to a trainer and gauge what they recommend if you’re looking to change/add more to your routine, too! It never hurts to learn new techniques or different methods that can help you get closer to achieving your goals.

When all else fails, turn it up and tune it out – On the days where I’m struggling to stay motivated and/or can’t seem to concentrate- I make sure to get a thumping, pumping and upbeat playlist going through my earbuds. Not only does it drown out any noises I might not want to listen to while I’m working out- but it makes the time go by SO much quicker, too! Aaptiv has plenty of updated playlists- featuring some of today’s hottest and most popular artists/songs- to choose from!

And now, for a limited time for the New Year- you can get access to Aaptiv at a reduced price (because who wants to pay the full amount when the year has only just begun?) When downloading Aaptiv in your carrier’s app store- use the code GETFIT for a 20% discount off of a 30 day trial of an annual membership. Just because the holidays are over doesn’t mean the giving has to stop, right? So why not give yourself the gift of a pocket-sized, portable personal trainer to help you get on- and stay on- track!

And if you’d like to share your own tips on how to overcome gym-midation (see what I did there?) or stories of your own triumphs- feel free to leave a comment!

xx

– Ashley –

POPSUGAR Must Have Box Review: July 2017

Good Morning and Happy (Ugh…) Monday! I hope you all had a sensational weekend. Mine was very relaxing- although I’ll get to that a little later on this week. For now, I want to share my July POPSUGAR “Must Have” box with everyone! It arrived early last week and I couldn’t wait to open it up and take a look inside.

I had actually wanted to get this post up this past Friday, but a Thursday evening dinner with my brothers at my mother’s house ran a little later than expected- and coupled with putting in some serious overtime at my job and a spur-of-the-moment Friday evening event that came up unexpectedly at the last minute- I got a little delayed on my usual posting schedule.

But enough excuses! It’s a brand new week and I’m back and ready to write!

July’s “Must Have” box was a little different from past boxes I’ve received, in that it did not have any coupons/online bonus cards included and the monthly pamphlet that detailed each item and brand featured in the collection was missing. Whether or not POPSUGAR simply forgot to pack it in whatever unit my box fell into or scrapped it all together this month will forever remain a mystery- but I found myself looking for them after I’d unpacked everything!

A quick online search shows that this month’s theme/inspirations were FIREFLIES, BONFIRE, CAMP, SAND and FIREWORKS.

The first item that caught my eye were these fireplace matches from Sisters of Los Angeles that came in the prettiest box ever. We all know how much I love California (enough to journey out there for 24 hours at a time just to be under the palm trees for a day!) so I know that when I’m done using these matches on my scented candle collection and in my backyard fire pit- I’ll be preserving the box to use as something decorative around my place as a reminder of my home away from home!

Not only does Tarte Cosmetics make my favorite foundation (the “Rainforest of the Sea” water foundation gives me life)– but they also make one of my favorite waterproof mascaras, too- so to receive a full-sized tube of it in this month’s “Must Have” box was a really pleasant surprise!

“Lights, Camera, Splashes” makes my eyes pop something fierce. It thickens, extends, and slightly curls my lashes- and the formula doesn’t budge- not even with sweat, rain, salt water, etc. I’ve been using it for a long time now, and this replacement tube just saved me $23 at my next Sephora shopping trip since I won’t need to replenish my supply!

Hi, I’m pasty and I can never have enough sunscreen- especially when a good chunk of my free time is spent outdoors and at the beach. I’ve been loving this SPF50 mousse formula from Supergoop because it applies easily and evenly (and you don’t need a ton of it to get good coverage!), it isn’t oily/greasy on my skin- and it’s not loaded with harmful chemicals or weird fragrances or anything.

The sunscreen is naturally moisturizing and the antioxidant-charged formula has it’s own clean scent that actually makes the application process a lot more enjoyable than other brands I’ve tried in the past that have left me with uneven burns/tan lines or breakouts!

I’ve been making it my Summer mission to drink more water- not only to make sure I’m ridding my body of toxins and keeping my skin hydrated and clear- but because it has been really, really hot out lately, y’all! Getting into my car after a long day of work and knowing that it’s going to take a few minutes for the AC to kick on and offer me some relief is enough to send me into a full blown meltdown (no pun intended.)

I’ve been loving this 20-ounce tumbler from Bando since I received it. The design reminds me of something you’d see at any local beach that has refreshment stands- and I can just load it up with ice water when I hit the road every morning and know that I’m packing plenty of H2O to get me through the day!

One of the items I knew I was going to be receiving this month was this plush, 100% Turkish cotton Ocean Tribe towel by Turkish T– and it is by far my favorite item in July’s “Must Have” box. The towel is pretty big- enough to bring to the beach or the pool and be able to lay on it comfortably- but it is also SO. INCREDIBLY. SOFT. Think of the softest thing you’ve ever touched and then amplify it by 10,000 and that is how soft this towel is.

A $49 value- this item is all mine- as in I’m not sharing it the way I do with some of my other POPSUGAR gifts. The pattern and colors on this towel are lovely, so showing it off is not a problem at all. It’s divine!

Finally, a POPSUGAR box just isn’t complete without a snack- and I’m packing these smoked gouda cheese crackers from Snyder’s with me when I head to work tomorrow. They’re baked and low in fat, so I don’t think I’m going to feel too guilty if I end up eating the entire bag in one sitting before my lunch break.

And that’s everything I received in July’s POPSUGAR “Must Have” Box!

Overall, I really enjoyed everything included in this month’s collection- although I am still a bit perplexed at the cards/coupons being M.I.A. this time around. It’s not the end of the world, of course- but I think I got so used to having them every month!

I’m looking forward to August’s box- although that means it’ll be the last one of the Summer!

xx

– Ashley –

OOTD: Athleisure

I am very much an outdoorsy type of girl, and while I consider my natural habitat to be pretty much anywhere oceanside or within close proximity to the beach- I’ve never been opposed to hikes through the woods, treks up mountains, or even just a stroll through the park. Of course, New England’s often unpredictable weather tends to make some of those excursions a little difficult (“Treadmill Season” is what I usually call it when I’m confined to the indoors due to things like snow, sleet or the occasional tornado but still need to fit a workout into my schedule!) so I more than make up for lost quality time with the kinder side of Mother Nature once Spring and Summer roll around these parts and I spend as much time outdoors as I can- keeping my body moving and continue getting into and/or maintaining my shape.

… And every Summer, I like to treat myself a little bit for sticking to my guns and working towards my fitness goals all throughout the Winter/Spring by updating my workout wardrobe with a few new pieces, too!

Feeling comfortable and confident are key when it comes to owning any outfit, but especially when that outfit is going to be used for exercising- which, let’s face it- isn’t always the most glamorous thing in the world. Lightweight and breathable fabrics are a must and if you can find anything that is totally and completely equipped to handle sweat- even better!

When the good folks over at Adore Me– the go-to site for designer lingerie at awesome prices- asked me to share my ideal “Athleisure” (athletic wear that can also double as leisurely attire) now that Summer is underway- I knew right away what ensemble I wanted to spotlight. Best part? Every piece of it came from my favorite treasure trove of affordable fashion in Downtown Crossing- Primark! Can you say convenient?

What I love about these stretchy, slimming, and really comfortable purple and black workout pants/leggings is that they give me enough support without slowing me down the way other made-for-the-gym style bottoms can by being made with materials that feel way too heavy or that have any kind of shape wear (literally the most uncomfortable things in the world apart from wearing a suit of armor while doing squats) built into them. These move with my body- which means the fabric doesn’t stretch or tear. I can run, jump, roll, and lift without worrying!

And while the loose-fitting tank top I’m wearing might not necessarily look like anything out of this world- it’s actually designed with fabric that helps maintain a safe body temperature for me no matter how hot I get while I’m in the middle of a workout. Given our recent heat wave- this thing definitely came in handy while I was out and about.

Of course- I couldn’t NOT wear my favorite pair of holograph sneakers (also from Primark!), could I? These shoes go with everything and are just so comfortable that I take them with me all the time- be it to the gym, a local show/concert, or even just to a friend’s house to hang out. I love them! Always be sure you can stand walking/running in your shoes for a while before you commit to them full-time. Nothing slows down a workout faster than sore feet!

Primark has different color combinations of the pants and the tank top- and I own a few more shades so that I can alternate or mix and match while properly caring for/washing these pieces as I go. If you don’t have a Primark near you- I definitely recommend checking out their website (linked above!) to order some of their stuff online.

What’s great about these types of outfits is that I can wear them to the gym but also when I’m out just running errands because the whole thing together looks sporty and comfortable. I just throw my hair back with an elastic or a headband, toss my sunglasses on and I’m ready to go grocery shopping, grab a latte, walk my dog or check my mail.

MUST-HAVE ACCESSORIES:

For these low-maintenance types of outfits, you don’t really need anything more than:

  • Some decent earbuds
  • A kick-ass, upbeat playlist to blast through those earbuds I just suggested to keep you motivated and get your blood pumping!
  • A water bottle filled with ice water so you can stay cool and hydrated- which is always so important this time of year!
  • A light wristlet to carry around your phone/keys/cards/cash/etc. There’s nothing worse than thinking you left one of the essentials somewhere at the gym and having to backtrack to find them.

If you have your own Athleisure must-haves or tips/tricks- feel free to share!

xx

– Ashley –