April 2018: In a Nutshell

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

With the exception of a couple of showers (that went away as quickly as they came)– this past weekend was gorgeous- and the forecast looks to only get better as this week goes on. I took a “just because” day off from work this Wednesday once I’d heard the temperatures were going to be near 80. It seems like such a shame to spend that kind of day cooped up inside of an office- especially after the rough Winter and rocky beginning to Spring that we had here in Boston! A day like that calls for a picnic, or maybe even an afternoon at the beach.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I dive into May and all the fun, outdoorsy plans I have (both here and out of state) as the Summer gets closer and closer- I wanted to tip my oversized Kentucky Derby hat that I’m dusting off for this weekend to the month of April- filled with plenty of family gatherings, quite a few nights out, and a LOT of unpredictable weather.

April kicked off with Easter and a house filled with brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles and at least two dogs- as well as enough food to feed a small army- and from there the momentum only continued to build. In the days that followed, I was celebrating my best girl-friend’s boozy birthday, donning a purple wig for another friend’s Wrestlemania party, and racing through the streets by Fenway to catch a gig from Franz Ferdinand.

When the snow finally stopped falling and stayed gone long enough for the trees and flowers to begin blooming- I was able to break out the pastels and florals and fully commit to Springtime. I even took the plunge and dyed my hair a subtle and lovely shade of rose gold to commemorate the occasion!

Of course, April had some minor and inconvenient setbacks. A couple of weeks ago I had gotten into a car accident when another vehicle pulled from a stop sign and hit my car as I was traveling on the road- resulting in some dents/scrapes and a brief period of shoulder pain in the days that followed. Thankfully, it wasn’t any worse than that- and my car has since been repaired and returned to me- so it all seems to have worked out for now! We’ll see how it goes when it comes time for the insurance companies to get reimbursed. I’m really pleased and impressed with my own company, though- because they handled everything so quickly and efficiently.

But overall- April was a joy- and now that May is here and things are winding down at work while everyone begins to plan their vacations, cookouts, gardening, etc. I’m really excited for the coming weeks. Boston Calling is this coming month, which is shaping up to be an amazing festival- and although I didn’t make it to NYC this past month as I’d originally planned due to a scheduling conflict- I intend to visit Manhattan again in May. I’m also in the process of putting together another adventure to Washington D.C. for Memorial Day weekend with a longtime friend I haven’t seen in a couple of years since they moved from San Diego to Chicago a while back!

As always, I’ll have my usual rotation of recipes and OOTD posts (now that it’s getting warm enough to show a little leg!) but I’ve also got a really fun contest/collaboration coming up a little later on this week to get everyone into the Spring/Summer accessories frame of mind- as well as some local and product reviews, and plenty of pictures along the way.

Speaking of- to close out this post (and this month), I thought I’d share a series of photos I snapped while out and about this past weekend. Commonwealth Avenue was in full bloom on Saturday, and set against the historic brownstones in the neighborhood and the warm weather- it was a bright, beautiful way to begin the evening!

Enjoy the rest of your Monday, everyone! I’ll see you all on Wednesday- where I’ll have the contest details!

xx

– Ashley –

March 2018: In a Nutshell

Brooklyn, New York. March 2018

Good Morning, everyone! Here’s to it finally being the weekend!

It always feels a little odd updating on a Saturday- especially so soon after my monthly favorites post went up only yesterday morning- but it’s the last day of March and attention must be paid!

March started off pretty crazy- bringing four severe blizzards and a ton of coastal flooding within a two week span here in New England- but over the past few days it seems to have warmed up considerably. There’s still some snow remaining on the ground, but it’s slowly melting away with each sunny day that passes! What’s that saying? “In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb”? That basically sums up the weather in March where I live.

And although a lot of my time was spent shoveling my way out from beneath feet of snow day after day- I did manage to get out into the world and have some fun, too! March saw my take a long overdue trip to NYC to celebrate David Bowie, as well as take to the streets here at home to call for sensible gun legislation on March 24th’s Nationally organized “March for Our Lives” protest.  I wore my greenest-greens for St. Patrick’s Day (and am now sporting my Lavender-est Lavenders for the season!) while phasing out my Winter wardrobe to make room for my lighter, more colorful Spring-appropriate ensembles. I spent time with friends, made sure to pencil in dinners with my family- and went on a couple of dates that were a lot of fun.

Tomorrow is Easter- and April Fools Day- and from there I have a lot of fun things planned for the coming month: including another trip to Brooklyn to see the cherry blossoms, a ‘Wrestlemania’ party at my friend’s apartment next weekend, some outdoorsy posts now that the warmer weather is en route, a dive back into Urban Exploration photography with some new locations I’ve recently come across, a few delicious (and healthy!) recipes to share for those who need some help getting out of the Winter funk and who want to get motivated again- and finally- some of my favorite fashion/accessories for the Spring!

I had every intention of opening up my closet to the world this past month- but those aforementioned snowstorms caused my Winter wardrobe to hang around just a little while longer.

But for now I’m off to run some errands and start cooking/baking for tomorrow’s big family dinner. Be sure to peep my Instagram for photos along the way!

For those of you celebrating- have a wonderful Easter- and a great weekend, everybody!

xx

– Ashley –

February 2018: In a Nutshell

Good Morning, everyone! Can you believe it’s the end of February already and that March- and Spring!- are right around the corner? I sure can’t. It feels like this month flew by- although I’m sure my traveling and long-term-plan-making kept me pretty occupied (and maybe a little distracted!) as the days went right by me!

February- as short and sweet a month as it is- had it’s fair share of incredible, memorable moments that I’ll carry with me through the rest of 2018. I kicked things off with some of my dearest friends in Las Vegas where I got to catch up with people I love and who I hadn’t seen in what felt like the longest time, enjoy a hometown show from one of my favorite bands (The Killers, obviously!) and ultimately made the decision to move to Henderson, Nevada later on this Fall. Talk about a busy weekend, right?

While I was in Vegas, The Patriots sadly lost the Super Bowl in what was really one of the only low points this past month- which was a bummer, for sure- but what an incredible season they had! I had so much fun reigniting longtime rivalries with friends who support other teams, going to multiple tailgating parties, and enjoying all the amazing game day food- and I’m looking forward to next season where I’m sure my boys are going to dominate again.

But until then- it’s almost time for the Red Sox resurgence!

I was surprised with a Belated-Birthday-Party by my friends this past month, as well as a semi-surprise dinner date for Galentine’s Day courtesy of a guy friend of mine who went above and beyond to cook me a homemade meal (I’m still a little heart-eyed over that one, to be honest!) and rang in the ‘Year of The Dog’ with my own puppers and some Chinese takeout for the Lunar New Year.

With hints of warmer weather teasing us here in New England every so often over these past few weeks- some days were spent out in the sunshine, savoring the rising temperatures- while other, chillier days were spent driving through places in Western Massachusetts and Vermont with the heat cranked up and some hot coffee within reach to decompress and unwind.

And then, of course- there was this past weekend- where I took my friend from work- Bryan- with me down to Mohegan Sun to catch an impromptu show from some of my favorite local boys and longtime friends- the Dropkick Murphys! The guys were nice enough to hook Bryan and I up with an All Access pass so we could roam backstage and stage-side freely- and what a view we had of the show!

The show was the kickoff to their annual Saint Patrick’s Day celebration- and what an incredible performance it was! The crowd was awesome, the setlist was pretty perfect- and we had such an amazing time. Bryan hadn’t seen the guys in years, so I was really glad that he could come along and watch it from what was undoubtedly the best spot in the entire arena with me!

And afterwards, of course- I had to thank Ken- who has been so lovely to me over the years since we first met back in my early (like, really early) twenties. We made sure to take an updated photo, too- since the last one was from circa 2013.

It was truly one of the best ways to wrap up the month, and I hope I get to see the guys again in a couple of weeks at any of their Boston shows. They’re so much fun!

Speaking of- what else do I have in store for March? A long overdue trip to NYC, stopping by the South Boston Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, breaking out some of my Spring wardrobe to share with you all- as well as some new recipes I’ve been experimenting with- and a few other tricks I have up my sleeve!

Enjoy the rest of your day, everyone- and be sure to tip your hat to February. It was a good one!

xx

– Ashley –

January 2018: In a Nutshell

Ocean Beach, San Diego. 1/21/18

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone! I’ve managed to dig myself out from beneath the latest snowfall here in Massachusetts to get into boss babe mode at work, re-pack my suitcase for Las Vegas this weekend, and reflect upon this past month. With five Mondays- January may have felt like an eternity to get through to some- but for me, it was pretty busy, and a little crazy, and sorta’ fast-paced- in mostly the right ways!

The month- and year- started off peacefully enough- with a weekend spent at a quaint bed & breakfast in New Hampshire with my best friend to bid farewell to 2017. But, once I was home and back to work- that’s when the real excitement started. There were blizzards, birthdays, and appearances by The Killers (and that was all within the first week!)

I spent time at an incredibly bright and flower-filled art exhibit here in Boston before eventually working my way out West in the middle of the month to kick-off an extended weekend in San Diego to celebrate my birthday. This is where things got a little tricky- because while I had an amazing time in the sunshine and had the opportunity to catch up with longtime friends I hadn’t seen in months- one of my friends got really sick with a flu that had been going around about halfway through my stay. His being down for the count as he tried to recover threw off some scheduled birthday plans- and my trip ended on a much calmer and much quieter note than I had anticipated.

I tried to make the best of it, though. With half-priced margaritas in the afternoons (Happy Hour is illegal in Massachusetts- just a little not-so-fun FYI- so I fully embraced it as much as possible!) and views like this everywhere you turned- who could feel sad for too long?

When I returned from California last week, my family and some of my local friends from around home made sure that I knew they didn’t forget my birthday while I was away. With dinners, cards, and a pretty funny cake (thanks, Mom)– I feel just as loved at 32 as I did when I was 22. Even more astonishing as that the celebration isn’t even done, yet! Before I leave for Vegas, more of my extended family want to treat me to another party- and when I come home from my second voyage to the West Coast- my friends have another get-together planned for me.

I used to worry sometimes that getting older wouldn’t be so fun or as appealing as it seemed to be when I was younger- but the people in my life have made sure that it is and I’m so, so grateful to them for it.

Side Note: A lot of people who follow this blog and my social media accounts sent such lovely, encouraging, funny, and kind messages before, during and in the days following my birthday- and words can’t even begin to describe how much it meant to me. From the bottom of my heart- thank you all! I truly appreciated all the love. It was overwhelming in the best way possible!

Courtesy of my Mother.

And finally, this past weekend- in honor of the WWE’s ‘Royal Rumble’- I headed to my friend Phill’s annual PPV party in an Alexa Bliss costume (with color coordinated cupcakes in tow!) to watch the show, stuff my face, participate in the pool we had going- and compete for our “Best Party Snack” prize- the Snack-Down Championship Belt.

While my cupcakes didn’t score me the title- I was pretty content that the “People’s Elbow Macaroni & Cheese” won- because it was delicious!

We are so nerdy and I absolutely love it.

So what do I have planned for February? Vegas, baby! I head out this coming weekend to visit with friends from Nevada, catch my beloved Pats in the Super Bowl, and maybe see a show or two before it’s back home to work in-between planned day trips to NYC, sharing some Valentine’s Day-inspired recipes, showcasing more pieces from my wardrobe and trying to get through these last few weeks of Winter unscathed.

And to kick things off in February? I’ll have a recipe post later up this week (Super Bowl appropriate!) before I hop my plane on Saturday morning.

Hang in there, everyone- the week is almost over!

xx

– Ashley –

2017: In a Nutshell

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! We’ve made it through these past 12 months (relatively) unscathed- and here we are! Around this time of year I almost always remark that the previous 12 months flew by and I can’t believe we’re already heading into another year, but let’s be perfectly honest- and I know plenty of people who will agree with me- 2017 dragged on.

As my grandmother used to say: it moved “slower than molasses.”

Whether it was the unsteady political landscape in the United States, the shocking allegations of abuse and misconduct coming from all facets of media and the entertainment industry, natural disaster after natural disaster plaguing various areas of the world- or just everyone unconsciously and collectively slowing things down a little to take it all in and try to process it- but it felt like we had so many things happening this year that caused mass and universal freezes/stand-stills every few weeks.

It could be argued that things feeling more slow-paced is a good thing. It’s never fun to feel rushed or like time is slipping away quicker than we’d like, right? Of course not!

But, as one of my friends put it: “2017 aged us all an extra ten years. We’re all eligible for AARP benefits at this point,” so- maybe picking up the pace wouldn’t have been entirely bad for everyone.

We endured and we survived it, however- and I honestly feel like if we can make it through everything that went on throughout 2017- we can make it through anything. Provided we keep on standing up for what’s right and face adversity head-on. Together.

I’m excited to see what 2018 has in store for me, and I’m ready to tackle whatever challenges lay ahead with it.

But before I get into all the headlines/shocking moments/funny memes that came out of this past year that was or dive into my resolutions for the coming year- I have to reflect on the biggest changes and moments that I experienced in 2017.

2017 was the first real, full year I got to embrace and enjoy my “Single Girl Status” following the dissolution of what had turned into a troubled and problematic 7+ year relationship with my ex in the Summer of 2016. While I had powered through that holiday season the best I could- this past year saw my first New Year’s, birthday, Valentine’s Day, etc. flying solo- and even though I feared I’d be an awkward, fumbling dweeb when I eventually and slowly re-entered the world of dating- it didn’t go as badly as I had expected it would. I’ve met a lot of really nice people and have made a lot of new friends I enjoy spending time with. I feel like they’ve helped me come out of the shell I’d built around myself in the aftermath of my break-up- and I’m a better person for it.

And, of course- being single left a lot of room for me and my previously-hectic schedule to travel more often and spend much-needed time with my friends that live further away. I flew across the country way more than I’d done in previous years (including an infamous 24 trip to San Diego where I’d arrived on a Saturday to surprise a friend, flew home that Sunday- and was back to work that Monday morning bright and early!). I visited all corners of New England to hike, sight-see, and seek out some rest and relaxation- and, with my newfound sense of adventure and determination- I went as far as to renew my passport for more adventures abroad in 2018!

I also had more time to focus on my career without distraction, and my hard work paid off. I was promoted to a new position in the Spring (and then was promoted again this past November)– that I absolutely LOVE. The people I work with are great. The work itself is interesting, fun in some ways, challenging in others- and rewarding- and the pay and benefits that come with the position have left me feeling comfortable and confident in my title. I’ve never been able to say that until now. I’m so beyond grateful that I can wake up each morning and go to a job that I genuinely enjoy with people that I really connect with. I know so many others who aren’t as fortunate as I am.

I changed my hair color (from red to blonde!) and my blog this past year- launching ‘Blondie Birdie’ in June after closing up shop at my previous blogging endeavor, ‘Legally Redhead’. I’ve been having a blast putting together content here, as it seems more structured and “professional” (I use the term loosely, of course) than anything I’d done in the past. I cannot thank everyone enough for their support, suggestions, kind words and assistance with getting this off the ground- and of course I am always appreciative of everyone who subscribed, liked, commented or promoted my work here. You all keep me- and ‘Blondie Birdie’- going. I can’t thank you all enough and I have a lot of really great things planned in the coming year to share with everyone!

Overall, 2017 was a great year for me personally and professionally- and I hope that momentum keeps up throughout 2018. I intend to keep working hard, both at work and on myself as a person- but I’ll get to those resolutions shortly. We need to talk about the big stories, first- even though looking back at some of it might be painful at times.

This is 2017: In a Nutshell

(Image via BUSINESS INSIDER)

This absolute trainwreck: Is there enough room on WordPress to talk about what a complete and utter travesty Donald Trump’s first year as President went? With unfulfilled or flat-out abandoned campaign promises from the get-go (which should shock no one with an ounce of common sense)– Trump spent most of his year golfing, Tweeting personal attacks against his critics and/or political opponents, obsessing over the Clintons and the Obamas like Glenn Close in ‘Fatal Attraction’, giving mortifying speeches that showed his limited vocabulary, watching his staff use the revolving door presumably installed at the White House with MULTIPLE firings/resignations, Photoshopping himself onto TIME Magazine covers to hang up at his properties, dodging questions about accusations of fraud and money laundering committed by his dimwitted children, letting Mike Huckabee’s lying, fumbling daughter serve as a laughable parody of a Press Secretary, pushing us closer and closer to the brink of war and essentially being shunned and ostracized by the rest of the civilized world.

Of course, with special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Trump and his “alleged” (he did it) collusion with Russia during the election resulting in recent indictments being handed down to former campaign head Paul Manafort, his business associate Rick Gates, former Trump staffer George Papadopoulos and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn- one can only hope that 2018 is the year we actually make America great again by impeaching this bloated, narcissistic lunatic and all the scumbags that flooded in with him once and for all.

(Image via USA TODAY)

Women fought back- and they fought back HARD: It started with the unprecedented and hugely successful International Women’s March back in January, one day following Trump’s inauguration- and from there, women standing up to their abusers, harassers, oppressors and tormentors snowballed- reaching a fever pitch this past Fall with the #MeToo movement and subsequent re-shifting of social “norms” as a result. How women are treated, spoken to and regarded by men, both in positions of power or not, was put under careful examination- and it was a long time coming.

2017 was the year women had enough of their concerns being sidelined, overlooked or undermined. They came out swinging to finally hold the perpetrators of sexism and sexual harassment and/or assault accountable- and it was a thing of beauty to behold. Not only did women support and stand side-by-side with each other worldwide to make sure voices were heard and never silenced or intimidated by those who tried to doubt or discredit them- but their efforts resulted in the dethroning of some of the most notorious and seemingly “untouchable” of offenders: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Brett Ratner, and most recently, Roy Moore- were just some of the men whose careers and credibility were shattered in the wake of multiple accusations and damning evidence.

The movement was so strong, that TIME Magazine named “The Silence Breakers”- those who spoke up about the sexual misconduct they’d suffered and endured- as their ‘Person of the Year’ for 2017.

(Image via CNN)

North Korea became more than just a thorn in our sides: For years, North Korea has been considered the equivalent to that one younger sibling or cousin we all have that annoys the Hell out of us and exaggerates about things they’ve done/are going to do/are capable of. You know that one. They exist in every family.

I digress. In 2017 North Korea actually went from being easily swept under the rug and forgotten about to being a legitimate cause of concern with frequent missile testing, rumors of possible nuclear devices in their grasp and threats to wipe out sections of the United States with those very same devices. Petty insults were often traded between Kim Jong-un and Trump during the tense and uncertain times (both unhinged and both having unfortunate hairstyles, go figure) which left everyone on edge as an attack or going to war felt imminent.

In the Summer of 2017, American student Otto Warmbier was released from a prison sentence in North Korea after he’d allegedly attempted to steal a propaganda poster while visiting the country. The otherwise healthy 22 year old was returned to the United States in a coma after suffering an unknown neurological injury while detained- and died six days after coming home. As a result of his death, a travel ban was again put into place to block Americans from visiting North Korea- not that anyone should be going there in the first place.

(Image via CNN)

Mother Nature was BRUTAL: 2017 saw a series of the some of the worst, most damaging and destructive natural disasters in years. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria barreled the Southern states and Puerto Rico one right after the other- while a 7.1 earthquake in central Mexico killed more than 200 people in Mexico City and injured more than 6,000 others this past September.

While relief efforts were and are still underway in many areas struggling to rebuild, Southern California just faced some of the most terrifying wildfires ever documented- a few of which loomed dangerously close to parts of Los Angeles and San Diego. Amateur footage shot by those residing in zones that were undergoing evacuations looked like something straight out of a post-apocalyptic action movie. It was unreal.

Monsoons in India and Bangladesh, droughts in Brazil, and devastating landslides in China and Sierra Leone- just to name a few- also caused widespread chaos and panic throughout 2017. Climate change is definitely real and it’s definitely going to continue affecting us all.

(Image via VOX)

The resurgence of neo-Nazis, White Supremacists and the “Alt-Right”: With Trump’s Presidency underway, it emboldened the worst of his supporters- the White Nationalists or, as they now refer to themselves- the “Alt-Right”. Across the country, Neo-Nazis staged marches, protests, and embarrassing rallies (where they presented themselves in what I can only assume is the agreed upon uniform of ill-fitting polo shirts, khaki pants, and Tiki torches they purchased at Pier 1) in an attempt to garner support for their ignorant causes/beliefs- but they were typically met and outnumbered by counter-protesters who sent them fleeing back to their mothers’ basements in a panic.

One rally in particular, in Charlottesville, VA. earlier in August- made headlines when a White Supremacist plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters- killing 32-year old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Heather and her mother, Susan Bro- who has shown amazing courage, poise and resilience in the face of such a heartbreaking loss- have in many ways become the faces at the forefront of counter-protesters who have been actively combating the White Nationalists at every turn.

Trump- again- showed his true colors and faced well-deserved criticism after the incident with his failure to condemn the actions of the “Alt-Right” and instead tried to justify their actions by explaining to the press that there were “good people” on both sides.

(Image via CNN)

Terror struck concert-goers: With schools, movie theaters, places of worship, night clubs, restaurants, shopping malls, office buildings and tourist attractions having all experienced some form of mass violence in recent years- it was heartbreaking to see concerts, which are perhaps one of the most powerful, poignant and intimate experiences that crowds of people can enjoy together- fall under attack, as well.

In May, following an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena- a homemade bomb was detonated as attendees were exiting the venue- killing 23 people (including children) and injuring over 500. Ariana Grande wasted no time in visiting survivors who were recovering from their injuries and putting together a benefit concert in Manchester a month later- which raised £10 million to help the victims and their families.

Months later, in October- 58 people were killed and over 500 were injured after a lone gunman opened fire from his hotel room on concert-goers at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas- making the incident the deadliest mass shooting in the United States. The incident once again brought gun control to the forefront of National conversation- particularly regarding the sale of bump stocks- which the shooter used to make his semi-automatic weapons fire at the same rate of a fully automatic weapon.

Like Manchester, a benefit concert was also held in Vegas to raise money for the victims. Gun control, however- has been swept aside as usual.

(Images via multiple media sources)

We lost fascinating and talented people along the way: Every year has it’s share of unexpected and tragic deaths of beloved figures- and 2017 was no different. From the not-so-shocking, be it old age or battles with long-standing illnesses (Hugh Hefner, Malcolm Young and Adam West, for example)– some celebrity deaths caught us completely off guard- such as Chris Cornell’s suicide in May or Tom Petty’s sudden heart attack in October.

Each of them will be missed for sure- but these individuals live on in the extensive and impressive body of work they’ve left behind for us to enjoy- brilliant television/movies and albums to watch/listen to over and over again.

Charles Manson finally died this year, too- but I think we can all agree that was a highlight of 2017 instead of a low point. Some people just gotta’ go and be gone from this world- and he was one of them.

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Now, I know plenty more happened this year- but those were the big things (in my opinion!) But, not wanting to leave out some of the funnier fads and trends from 2017- I’ve created this year’s HONORABLE MENTION section to re-live the laughs and lighthearted moments.

– The Solar Eclipse was pretty neat, wasn’t it?: In August, we got to witness a total solar eclipse go coast-to-coast over the United States. People everywhere stopped to look up (with the correct glasses/devices to prevent permanent damage to their eyes) to catch a glimpse of it and news outlets streamed live coverage as their cameras panned upwards to catch the phenomenon in real time. It was a fun afternoon.

– Robert Kelly’s kids interrupted his interview and stole the show: If there was ever a moment we all collectively needed to brighten our lives- the Robert Kelly BBC interview from March 10th was it. While discussing the scandal surrounding the South Korean impeachment from his home office via webcam- Kelly’s toddler and baby found their way into the room in the background and hilarity ensued. The video has since gone viral- and it’s always worth a re-watch if you’re ever feeling down. I laugh every. single. time.

– “And the winner is… La La- Moonlight!”: Awards shows spark countless trends and hashtags, but perhaps one of the most unintentionally funny moments was at the Oscars this year when Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, after being handed the wrong envelope- announced that the Best Picture winner was the musical ‘La La Land’. In actuality- it was Barry Jenkins’ ‘Moonlight’ that had taken the top honor. When the correction was made- the awkwardness was cringe-inducing- but the memes that resulted in the aftermath were gold.

– Blake Shelton was PEOPLE’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ for 2017 and a lot of folks had questions: With PEOPLE’s announcement that ‘The Voice’ coach had taken their annual honor of being the sexiest man alive for the next 12 months- the internet did not hold back. The responses of disbelief- and suggestions of other, worthier contenders for the title- came rolling in. Blake has said some pretty offensive stuff in the past- so I didn’t feel too bad laughing at the influx of bewildered tweets that came pouring in.

– Salt Bae and “Blinking White Guy” gave us the .gifs that keep on giving: The concepts were ridiculously simple- a Turkish chef dramatically sprinkling salt on the meat he was preparing- and a relatively unknown, normal looking guy caught on camera blinking in astonishment- but from those two documented moments- countless memes were born. I’ve used the “Blinking White Guy” .gif in response to nearly every news story that has emerged in 2017- and it never gets old.

– ‘Wonder Woman’ prevailed: An origin story about a strong, smart, beautiful female superhero who can hold her own- directed by a talented and brilliant female that shattered box office records? ‘Wonder Woman’ was the movie women and girls everywhere needed. It was action-packed, funny, and entertaining- and spawned countless girls to don the Wonder Woman costume throughout the year. I was awesome- and I can’t wait for the sequel.

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And there it is! 2017- in a nutshell!

To ring in 2018, I’m heading up to Portsmouth, New Hampshire with my best friend for a night of indoor/outdoor activities leading up to the countdown at midnight- and relaxing at a Victorian manor-turned-bed & breakfast in Dover. I’m excited- even though I suspect it’s probably going to be cold out- because I haven’t had a low-key, laid-back New Year’s Eve celebration in a long time and I think it’s the perfect way to transition from 2017 into the new year.

And, like most people- I’ve made a list of Resolutions for myself for 2018. Attainable, feasible goals I know I can accomplish if I push myself, stay motivated, and don’t allow myself to get discouraged and/or give up!

Get Healthier/Get Into Better Shape – The obligatory resolution that I think makes everyones list year after year- but it’s always a good one to have. The holiday season (and all the desserts that come with it) made for a somewhat gluttonous end to 2017- so in 2018 I want to get back on track and eat better, exercise more, and get into bikini-bod shape so that I’m ready for the Spring and Summer of 2018 to roll around!

Nurture Myself – An update to my “Treat Yo’Self 2017” mantra. In 2018 I want to focus on getting plenty of sleep, drinking more water, taking better care of my skin and my hair and not overworking myself as I tend to do now and then. I want to put aside “me” time at least once or twice a week where I can relax, zone out, meditate, get a massage- and otherwise just recharge my batteries so I don’t get burnt out.

De-Clutter EVERYTHING – I’m a bit of a neat freak, but there are certain areas of my life and living space that need a major overhaul on organizing. My bedroom, my garage, and my office space come to mind almost immediately. I’ve already taken small steps between Black Friday and Christmas by de-cluttering my inbox of spam e-mails and promotions I never use- but now it’s time to work towards throwing out old paperwork, donating old clothes to charity, stripping and re-painting my walls, etc.

Budget Better – Near the end of 2017 I unsubscribed from a lot of paid services I was being charged for monthly- like streaming services, subscription boxes, etc. that I was no longer using as much in order to keep more money in my pocket for travel and leisure. Now, in 2018- I want to monitor my spending habits more carefully and stop any unnecessary or frivolous impulse purchases. This resolution is so that I can grow as a person and finally (and successfully) budget in the splurge on a home in Nevada.

Travel More – I know budgeting and traveling don’t exactly go hand-in-hand, but there are a lot of resources and many ways to take a trip without breaking the bank these days. You just have to know where to look. Even if it’s keeping it local and in the New England area- I still want to get out there and see it all- although I’m hoping I can make it down to New Orleans and/or Nashville at some point this year!

And I think that’s everything. This entire year that was and hopes for the upcoming year that will be packaged up into one (very lengthy) post!

I hope you all have a safe, fun, thrilling- and warm– New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I’ll be sending you all a kiss at midnight and good vibes for the future! Here’s to seeing 2017 off in style and to 2018 being a better year for all of us!

See you all in 2018!

xx

– Ashley –