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 –

New Year, New York…

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

What an absolutely fun, exciting and beautiful past few days I’ve had! Even coming back to my office on Wednesday morning to return to my usual weekday grind has been enjoyable- thanks in part to a new scheduling system I’ve been utilizing to better manage my time/tasks. I have to say that starting my 2019 *not* being inundated with cases and loose ends is a nice change of pace.

Of course, I have to talk about my New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day- which was spent between New York City, Western Massachusetts and finally- home sweet home.

I had wanted a cozy, laid-back New Year’s Eve- particularly since the past few celebrations over recent years have involved expensive, extravagant parties, bar-hopping, and/or spending entirely too much time in bitterly frigid New England cold. To see out 2018 and welcome in 2019- I just wanted to be warm, comfortable, have some decent food and a drink- and be somewhere a little different than Massachusetts so I could have a new experience to start the New Year off on the right foot.

And so, I turned to NYC- and entrusted my evening to the fine folks at the Hotel Indigo on the Lower East Side. I’m a frequent guest at their San Diego/Gaslamp Quarter location whenever I travel to the West Coast- so their incredible service, a spacious room with a view, and kick-ass amenities were not surprising. What was surprising was their lobby (with a wrap-around panoramic view of the city via floor to ceiling windows) being located on the 14th floor as opposed to on the ground level. I was a big fan of that twist.

I settled right in, ordered a fantastic cheeseburger from their Mr. Purple restaurant (and some cheesecake! I had to go big and gluttonous for the last night of the year!), grabbed a drink at a dive bar down the street while dodging the rain as much as possible- and then retreated to my room where I texted/video chatted with friends back home and abroad while we waited for the countdown to midnight via various news outlets. I opted to watch Anderson Cooper take shots of tequila and look like he was ready to throw up- and it was worth every minute. Truly.

After midnight, it didn’t take long for my body to give into the cheeseburger, champagne, and a day of train travel to arrive in New York- and I managed to successfully get a full night of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. I awoke on New Year’s Day feeling refreshed, energized- and pleasantly optimistic! Even better? Monday night’s rainstorms and freezing cold had disappeared- and Tuesday saw plenty of sun and temperatures that reached the high fifties/low sixties for most of the day!

To kick off 2019, I wanted to honor a family tradition *and* do something different and daring. When I was a kid, my mother thought lighting a candle and saying a prayer to whatever higher power we believed in to wish our loved ones a blessed new year and express hope for our own happiness/prosperity for the months ahead. After grabbing breakfast- I had navigated my way to Rockefeller Center- and popped by St. Patrick’s Cathedral across the street to honor my mom’s tradition (I called her to let her know afterwards- and she was delighted!) and take in the beautiful architecture.

The city was still very much decked out for Christmas during my brief stay- and it was such a thrill to have a chance to catch a glimpse of some of the over-the-top decor before it gets taken down again. Below are a couple of photos I snapped with my phone. You can click them to enlarge ’em and see!

And, for my “different and daring” to-do for the day- I opted to face my fear of heights and ride an elevator 70 stories up Rockefeller Center to take in the views of New York from atop of the world at the ‘Top of The Rock’ Observation Deck. While the wind made things a little intimidating at first and it took a few minutes for my heart to stop racing- it was such an exhilarating and memorable experience.

The sun made catching photos of the Empire State Building (and snapping the perfect selfie) a little difficult- but I managed to get a few pics I was content with- and would definitely go back and do it again if given the opportunity.

After coming back down to Earth- and knowing I had plans with my friend Troy later on in the evening out in Northampton, Massachusetts- I managed to catch an early afternoon train home before the crowds and traffic got too bad with everyone trying to get out of the city all at once.

Once I was back in my home state a couple of hours later, I closed out New Year’s Day with a cozy night in watching movies and snacking on whatever was in Troy’s kitchen before I headed back to my own place to get another good night’s sleep and prepare for my return to work on Wednesday morning.

And now, only a couple of days later during this short work-week- and I’m ready for the weekend! I have a few things planned- including some local travel/hiking and a recipe post to put together for next week- but before I start all of that- I’m heading over to Allston today to catch a set by The Sheila Divine at Great Scott for Indie617!

If you’re in the area, come say hello! It’s going to be a lot of fun and a great way to kick off live music in Boston for 2019.

I’m off to get some work done before I take off for the rest of the day. I’ll be back on Monday, when my posting schedule returns to normal now that the holidays are done!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

2018: In a Nutshell

Good Morning, Happy Monday- and Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone!

I’m completely stunned that we’ve reached this point again- the day/night when we bid adieu to another year in the books and prepare to welcome in a brand new year (with champagne and confetti, I’m sure!) filled with endless possibilities, new hopes, dreams and goals- maybe a little anxiety at the idea of any uncertainties that lay ahead, too- but hopefully a whole lot of optimism!

That’s right, my dear friends and readers- 2018 is just hours away from being over, and 2019 is ready to glide into our lives and sweep us off our feet! Can you believe it? Time flies by so quickly.

I’ve always enjoyed New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day- not only because I’m fortunate enough to spend it in typically beautiful, picturesque or just plain wild locations, either surrounded by friends or- sometimes- on my own with some much-needed peace and quiet- but also because I like the idea of a clean slate. How, after just a brief countdown to midnight- you can begin to forge a pathway to a future you want and take those first steps to reaching goals for the coming weeks/months ahead.

New Year’s Eve is a celebration of who you were during the previous twelve months leading up to now- while New Year’s Day feels like a whole new beginning and a chance to become the person you want to be. It’s refreshing, isn’t it?

I fully intend to share my plans for the evening and my deeply reflected-upon resolutions for 2019 momentarily- but I absolutely have to look back on and pay my respects to 2018, first. It was a bizarre year- filled with plenty of ups and downs and some memorable headlines, pop culture events and good ol’ memes (which I’ll also get to shortly.)

Now in my early thirties, 2018 was the year I became *painfully* aware of myself as a person- my strengths and weaknesses. My good qualities and my flaws. My past mistakes- some repeated without my even realizing it until recently- and the type of woman I want to be and what I want for myself while moving forward in this more “grown up”, somewhat more stable (but still semi-unpredictable at times), very fun and sometimes treacherous decade I’m clumsily working my way through with the best of my ability.

Professionally, I took on more responsibilities at my full-time job and rose to the challenges that came with those responsibilities- as exhausting as it could be sometimes. I put in plenty of time and effort over the year- and my dedication and careful eye to details were rewarded sporadically and, at times- when I most needed the pick-me-up to stay motivated. My work ethic and positive, professional attitude didn’t just stay within my office, however- but also trickled into my blogging side hustle as I partnered with different brands and fellow bloggers for promotions and products- and even landed me a soon-to-be-part-time-gig at my favorite local independent radio station in Boston. I’m going to have more info on that moving forward!

My personal life and love life, however- took a bit of a hit in 2018 and I suffered emotional and psychological setbacks that really put a lot of things into perspective for me. One of those things, specifically- is that I need to stop being *so* forgiving to people (particularly men) who do me wrong or hurt me. Almost everyone deserves a second chance- depending on the infraction, of course- but I found myself giving second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth chances to some fair-weather friends or men I’d dated for repeated terrible behavior because they had either manipulated/twisted the situation and me into thinking everything was my fault, I didn’t want to come across as a heartless or callous monster- or because I was too afraid of being alone to put my foot down and demand respect and to be treated better.

As someone who preaches self-love, not taking bullshit from anyone and never being afraid of your own independence to everyone and anyone- catching myself being reduced into a quiet, demure, overly apologetic and timid little doormat over the course of the Summer and Fall of 2018 was horrifying and, frankly- disgusting. I am not that woman. I never want to be that woman again.

It wasn’t until these recent holidays where I mustered up the courage to not only tell myself but actually *believe* that I deserved the world and I wasn’t going to stop or back down until I got it- and to hell with anyone who disagreed or tried to tell me otherwise. It’s a frame of mind, an attitude and a mood I intend to carry with me into 2019.

Apart from dating/self-esteem setbacks- 2018 was filled with travel and time spent with good friends and family. I spent my birthday in San Diego, the Super Bowl in Vegas, multiple Spring weekends away in NYC, Memorial Day in Washington D.C.- and an extended vacation driving through the desert during the Summer.

I survived a tornado (and a car accident), caught plenty of incredible shows/festivals (and a couple of weddings!)– and explored parts of New England I didn’t even know existed. I also continued to change my hair color, experiment in the kitchen, watched loads of bad movies (and loved them, of course!) and even found time to read a couple of great books, too!

And for all those reasons- good and bad- that’s why 2018 was a year of personal growth and reflection- while simultaneously having a lot of impulsive, lovely and very fun moments to keep me on my toes and balance out the serious stuff with joy and happiness, as well. I’m humbled and grateful for this past year. Truly.

But, before I get into my list of resolutions and a final farewell prior to taking off for the evening and returning a little later on this week to recap my New Year’s Eve/Day- it’s time to look back on some of the absolutely insane, awe-inspiring headlines, pop culture sensations and social media/internet memes that took the world by storm this year.

Ladies and Gentlemen- This is 2018: In a Nutshell.

(Image via ABC)

Robert Mueller handed out indictments like Oprah used to hand out cars: As we drearily move forward through Trump’s tenure as President, heads typically in our hands on a daily basis in disbelief at his stupidity, recklessness, hypocrisy, narcissism or compulsive lying (I could go on, really…), Special Counsel Robert Mueller had himself quite a year as he continued his investigation into the Trump Administration and the Russian government’s interference with our 2016 Presidential election.

Late 2017 and throughout 2018 saw indictments being passed around left and right to former campaign heads and aides to Trump, including former campaign chair Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and so on. As the year progressed, some were sentenced to prison while others have struck plea deals.

Court documents released earlier this month from both Mueller’s office and prosecutors for the Southern District of New York have now implicated Trump in at least one federal crime- and as the world waits to see what will happen next- it’s no surprise that many of us are hoping Mueller will wrap things up in this coming year and finally put an end to this nightmare of ignorance and corruption running (and ruining) our country.

(Image via The Today Show)

The Stoneman Douglas High School students showed us that you can do more than offer “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of gun violence: Following a Valentine’s Day shooting at their high school in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead and many more injured- the survivors at Stoneman Douglas High School turned into some of the most efficient and eloquent gun control activists many had ever seen.

Tired of simply being swept away as another senseless statistic after the initial influx of “thoughts and prayers” ran their usual course until the next mass shooting took place- and not wanting their concerns to be dismissed simply because the topic was uncomfortable or inconvenient for officials to tackle head-on- many students rallied, petitioned, utilized social media and eventually took on politicians and the NRA in televised debates that showed the world they knew what they were talking about and weren’t going to be bullied or bought into silence.

The march, it’s purpose being to raise awareness and push for common sense gun laws and a change in political climate- took place globally on March 24th and included speeches from survivors of gun violence and celebrities who stood in solidarity. While some policies have changed as a result- there’s still a lot to be done- but the march got people to pay attention for what felt like the first time in a very, very long time.

(Image via CBS)

Thousands of children were separated from their families, and all eyes were on the U.S.-Mexico border: Under Trump’s “Zero-Tolerance” immigration policy, which looks to criminally prosecute any person(s) attempting to enter the country illegally- it came to light in the late Spring/early Summer that thousands of children, many whose first language is not English- had been separated from their parents by Border Patrol over the course of a six-week span and were residing in detention centers- or, in some cases- “tent cities.”

Outrage was amplified when reports of neglect/child abuse in the detention centers began to surface- and a call for reunification and an outpouring of support/donations to assist families seeking asylum (which is *not* illegal) followed shortly thereafter.

While some children have been fortunate enough to be reunited with their families- many are still in need of help. Back in June I shared some links to organizations that have been working round-the-clock to assist these children and their parents with the immigration process- and there’s still time to donate time/money!

(Image via CBS)

This man-child loves beer- and throwing temper tantrums: When Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated by Trump for the Supreme Court in July- accusations of sexual misconduct and sexual assault were not far behind. At the center of the scandal was Christine Blasey Ford, a Professor at Palo Alto University who alleged that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a house party in the early 1980s with writer Mark Judge present.

Following an initial investigation which included the review of therapist notes where Ford had discussed the assault as early as 2012, her passing a polygraph test and the emergence of two other victims who shared their own experiences with Kavanaugh throughout high school and college- both he and Ford testified in front of the The Senate Judiciary Committee in September in order to determine if he was fit for the lifetime position he had been nominated for.

Ford- calm and collected during her televised testimony- answered questions and faced interruptions and outright misogynistic commentary from fossilized white men with grace. Kavanaugh, on the other hand- had a meltdown- going off the rails about his love of beer and getting confrontational with questioning. Despite all this, Kavanaugh’s nomination was confirmed by a vote of 50–48 in early October and Ford was continually harassed, threatened, and insulted by Trump & Associates, conservative news pundits- and MAGA-bots on social media.

And for survivors of sexual assault (myself included)– nothing made us realize the #MeToo movement still has more work to do than watching this unfold.

(Image via VOX)

The ‘War on Journalists’ was a very real, very violent one: On October 2nd, Saudi Arabian journalist and author Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his marriage- and never came out. Khashoggi, who had been highly critical of the crowned King and Prince of Saudi Arabia and was subsequently censored as a result- had been living in a self-imposed exile before reporting to the consulate.

When reports began to emerge that Khashoggi had been killed and dismembered within the building- the Saudi Arabian government did their best to shift the blame and deny the allegations being made. Following a CIA investigation, it was reported that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the killing- presumably due to Khashoggi’s vocal opposition to both the Prince and the King, Salman of Saudi Arabia.

In the aftermath, Trump- notorious for his hatred of the press and journalists- refused to condemn the assassination, resulting in even more backlash against him. Time Magazine, on the other hand- opting to defend a free press- made Khashoggi and other journalists who faced recent violence or imprisonment for their reporting their 2018 ‘Person of the Year’.

(Images via MSNBC and ABC)

Mother Nature made sure to cover all the bases- including a 4-month long volcanic eruption: No year passes without at least a few natural disasters or weather phenomenons- and 2018 was no exception to that rule. Apart from the aforementioned tornado that struck my hometown over the Summer (while I was visiting, mind you. THAT was fun)– this past year saw powerful earthquakes in Alaska, intense and deadly wildfires in Southern California, and a four-month long volcanic eruption in Hawaii that injured dozens and caused over $800 million in damage.

Most recently, the eruption of Mount Anak Krakatau last weekend triggered a nighttime tsunami that caught Indonesia off guard. Hundreds have been killed, many are injured, and search/recovery and cleanup efforts are still underway. CNN compiled a list of non-profit organizations that are assisting the affected areas- and you can review their efforts and make contributions/donations by CLICKING HERE.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed and wishing us all a tamer, safer 2019 when it comes to the weather and climate change.

(Image via Vanity Fair)

It wasn’t all bad news this year. We got another Royal Wedding!: I love a good fairy tale love story as much as the next person- especially when at least one (if not both) of the people are real and relatable. Such was the case when everyone’s favorite ginger Prince married down-to-Earth American actress Meghan Markle in a lovely (and televised) ceremony in the Spring.

Meghan- stylish, beautiful, charitable and outspoken- particularly when it comes to gender equality- was a breath of fresh air from the usual Royal Family headlines (i.e.- Kate Middleton is expecting quintuplets and Princess Diana has been spotted alive and well n Barbados, apparently.)

Although the tabloids were pretty much ready to pounce on her from the get-go- and more than one bitter old racist attempted to take shots at Meghan’s multi-race heritage and a prior divorce- the Duchess of Sussex continued to look flawless and happy throughout the remainder of 2018- and announced her pregnancy this past Fall. The baby (seventh in line to the throne) is due in the Spring of 2019.

(Image via ABC)

And some people were held accountable for terrible and predatory behavior: 2018 was the year that rapists, racists/bigots and brainless internet celebrities finally saw some comeuppance for problematic and downright vile behavior- some of it long overdue after years of abusing their power and celebrity status.

One of the biggest stories was Bill Cosby, after years of evading justice for drugging and sexually assaulting multiple women over the span of his career- was found guilty of three counts of aggravated and indecent assault in April, stemming from a 2004 incident that was still within the statute of limitations. He was sentenced to three to ten years in state prison this past September.

In May, comedian Roseanne Barr, no stranger to controversy and poor taste- tweeted a racist remark to Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to former President Barack Obama- a comment she later blamed on using/abusing Ambien. A vocal Trump supporter, many of the President’s die hard followers came to her defense (many of them the same people who called for the public execution of Kathy Griffin after her equally awful “beheading” video, by the way)– but their efforts were of no use. Barr was kicked off of her own ‘Roseanne’ reboot, later re-named ‘The Conners’- and publicly shunned.

While technology, social media and the internet have opened doors and changed the way in which we consume and deliver content forever- some of the unfortunate risks that come with the ease and speed of communication is that really awful, insufferable people can develop a following and go on to do some really stupid things. Such was the case with “YouTube/Vlogging” star Logan Paul (I’ll let you take a minute to look him up and cringe accordingly)– who faced backlash after a video uploaded on New Year’s Day depicted himself and friends coming across a dead body in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest.

Paul’s amused reaction to the scene resulted in advertisers cutting ties and his projects being put on hold. It also sparked a conversation about the type of content and role models younger teens/children were consuming and looking up to.

“Be Better 2019” is a motto I’m hoping more people embrace this coming year.

(Image via ABC)

We also witnessed a miracle in Thailand: While exploring a cave with their coach during a post-practice outing and birthday celebration for one of their team members in June of 2018, twelve youth soccer players from the local ‘Wild Boars’ team in Thailand found themselves trapped within the labyrinth-like caverns after heavy rainfall caused substantial flooding in the area and rising waters blocked their way out.

After a comprehensive search and rescue mission was developed, a team of skilled divers went into the waters in July to extract the boys (and their coach) one by one- each mission lasting approximately three hours as the children were fitted with wetsuits, oxygen masks and sedated to prevent panic- and maneuvered through narrow corridors with low visibility from checkpoint to checkpoint until they reached the exit to the cave and were transported to local hospitals for evaluations and recovery. The extraction of the team took approximately two days total.

Leading up to the execution of the rescue mission, a 37 year old rescue diver died after losing consciousness underwater while delivering oxygen tanks to one of the proposed checkpoints in preparation for the boys’ extraction.

On the brighter side- all of the children and their coach ended up being just fine. They have since gone on to make appearances on Ellen and were invited to the opening ceremony of the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires- and there’s rumors of a possible movie deal is in the works.

(Images compiled via multiple news sources.)

Unfortunately, we did lose our fair share of beloved and influential familiar faces this year: Just like wild and unpredictable weather- no year passes without the loss of cherished actors/actresses, musicians, public figures and influential icons- and in 2018 we said goodbye to some of the best.

Some deaths, like Stan Lee, Aretha Franklin and Stephen Hawking- came from natural causes or succumbing to longtime illnesses- while others, including a string of suicides by Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and Frightened Rabbits’ singer Scott Hutchison- shocked and devastated the world and brought discussions of better mental health awareness and support systems to the forefront.

May their work and their legacies carry on into 2019 and beyond.

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Of course, there’s so much more that happened this year- but those were the headlines and the highlights from 2018 that really stuck out to me and made a lasting impression when I first began putting this post together a few weeks ago!

But for some of the pop culture phenomenons, memes, and funnier moments from this past year that still make me grin- I created another HONORABLE MENTIONS section- much like I did in 2017!

– Wakanda Forever: Following the February release of Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’- the movie quickly became one of the most successful and acclaimed comic-book movies to date- and the ninth highest-grossing movie of all time. While there were plenty of memes to follow, the film’s “Wakanda Forever” quote and salute were inescapable- with everyone from athletes, schoolchildren and news pundits jumping on board. At one point, Michael B. Jordan- who plays Killmonger in the film- urged people to stop asking his co-star Chadwick Boseman to do the salute.  That’s how popular it was.

– Gritty was the hero we needed and deserved: When the Philadelphia Flyers revealed their new mascot- Gritty- in September 2018, it was met with mixed reactions. The tall, furry orange… thing- which looks like a googly eyed muppet- was initially mocked until crowds began to warm up to his appearances at games, antics at events, and how savvy his official social media account was being run. It didn’t take long for Gritty to become an unexpected socialist and antifa icon- with his likeness appearing on multiple signs/banners at protests against racism and bigotry around Philadelphia. More Gritty 2019, please!

– We were briefly entranced by a boy yodeling in Walmart: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” Andy Warhol once said- and I think 2018 showed how true a statement that was when Mason Ramsey, a young boy from Illinois- was filmed yodeling Hank Williams Sr.’s “Lovesick Blues” while donning a bow tie and boots in the middle of a Walmart. Once the video went viral- Mason was everywhere- from Ellen to Coachella. He recently released a Christmas music video, and was on tour (yes, really…)

– Toys-R-Us joined Blockbuster Video as a relic of the past: Although Toys-R-Us announced their intentions to close all of their retail stores back in March of this year after filing for bankruptcy in 2017- it wasn’t until the actual completion of the process and the closing of the final store on August 5th where the nostalgia really hit home for many people (myself included) who remembered buying our toys there in a pre-Amazon era. As more and more chain and/or department stores start to become outdated with the convenience of online shopping- I’m left wondering who will be next on the chopping block.

– ‘Queer Eye’ is back and better than ever: I was late to the ‘Queer Eye’ revival party since I’m currently binge-watching so many shows and trying to catch up on multiple seasons when I’m able- but I’m so glad I finally got around to watching ‘Queer Eye’ because the new cast and the heartwarming tone of the show is seriously a much-needed break from the insanity going on in the world these days. I’m already doing the “grabby hands” motion while I wait for new episodes in the coming new year. Yassss!

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And there you have it, everyone! 2018 in a nutshell!

Now, to say a fond farewell to this past year and welcome 2019 in style- I’ll be heading to NYC a little later on this afternoon. No, I’m not going to be freezing in Times Square with thousands of other people, thank you very much- but I *am* going to be watching the ball drop from my TV in a penthouse suite I booked in the Lower East Side that boasts an incredible view of the New York City skyline!

It’s going to be thermal pajamas, room service, and champagne being sipped in a California King bed for me tonight- and then tomorrow, before I head back to frigid Massachusetts once again- I’m going to be doing a bit of sight-seeing and shopping around the city.

Treat Yo’Self 2018 might trickle into 2019, I think.

Of course, I have resolutions- since I actually like to set both short and long-term goals for myself and enjoy the process of working towards them, tracking my progress, and seeing my results- but while my resolutions for 2018 were mostly about getting organized and budgeting/improving my financial planning a bit more (both of which I accomplished!)– 2019 is all about self-care.

Here’s what I got:

Get Healthier/Get Into Better Shape – Let’s just get this resolution we’ve all got in our minds and on our lists out of the way first since it’s pretty much mandatory at this point. The holidays are, as always- brutal- when it comes to sticking to diets and fitness regimens. After Thanksgiving, I pretty much said “screw it” and started eating whatever I wanted, sleeping all sorts of odd hours, and tried to convince myself that getting up to get the remote control counted as a form of cardio.

In 2019, it’s back to the grind- eating better, actually exercising the correct way(s), sleeping like a normal adult, drinking more water- and even taking multivitamins regularly. I’ve downloaded helpful apps to keep me on track, have nutritional (and delicious) recipes on deck to hold my interests- and have enlisted friends and family who also want to get into better shape as motivational partners during our respective journeys.

I’m really excited to see how different I feel (and look) by the end of next year compared to now!

Stop Putting Up With Bullshit – And Command Respect: I had mentioned earlier that by the end of 2018, I noticed I was being overtly forgiving to fair-weather friends and men I dated who were routinely flaky or downright awful towards me and disrespectful to whatever relationship/bond we had. Whether it was lowered self-esteem, my just trying to be polite and show kindness/understanding, or fear of coming across as heartless for simply “cutting people out”- all that changes in 2019.

I’ve already started the phase of distancing myself from people who have been detrimental to me, my mental health, and my growth as a person- and so far it’s been pretty great and really refreshing not to have negativity clouding my life or to feel as though I’m giving everything I have, stretching myself too thin- and not getting any sort of emotional support or respect in return.

2019 is the year I finally start loving/respecting myself again- and not wasting time on people who can’t appreciate me or the good I bring into this world.

Hit Up Some of The Places on My Bucket List: Nashville, New Orleans, Joshua Tree- all places I’ve longed to visit and explore- but up until now have never really had the opportunity to do so. While I still budget responsibly and make sure all my bills are paid on time- it’d be nice to scratch some of these locations off of my bucket list in 2019.

Even if it’s not all of them- one or two would be great! And now, with my recent accumulation of travel points from past vacations/excursions- getting to/from these places is looking like it might be a lot easier than before- and much less expensive, too!

The question is- where do I go first?

Get Back Into the Arts: You all probably know I love taking pictures and photography in general- but did you know I also love to paint? And dance? And design? All passions of mine that unfortunately fell to the wayside as I started to focus more on my legal career over the past few years- but with my recent work with the radio and with the theater in Pioneer Valley- I think 2019 will be the year there is a resurgence of my creativity and more opportunities to do the things I love and am passionate about while simultaneously helping others.

I’m so very, very excited to get started with everything! It’s been so long and I have so many ideas swirling around in my head!

And with all that being said- I think that does it for me! I’ve got to pack a bag and get ready to catch my train to New York. I’ll be taking the next few days off before I’m back on Friday morning with a full re-cap of my NYC/NYE adventure- but you can also follow along over at MY INSTAGRAM.

Before I get going, I just wanted to thank you- all of you- who have been reading/subscribing to Blondie Birdie this past year. I try my best to put out content that showcases or highlights my interests/talents and that will entertain or inspire like-minded individuals. It’s been an absolute pleasure reading your e-mails, comments, social media posts, etc. and I’m thankful that this little hobby of mine has connected me with people from all over.

I look forward to posting more in 2019 and I hope that you’ll all continue reading and corresponding with me along the way as we traverse the coming months ahead!

Here’s wishing you all a fun, safe and wonderful New Year! See you all in 2019!

xx

– Ashley –

OOTD: Subtle Sparkle and Shine

In my late teens/early twenties, the New Year’s Eve ensemble code that my girlfriends and I always stuck to was simple: short dresses/skirts, the highest heels imaginable- and enough sequins and glitter that you’d still be picking them out of your hair by Memorial Day Weekend.

Now, in Southern California, Nevada, or Arizona- this dress code would not only be expected, but probably appropriate in some ways, given the climate- but we grew up in (and still reside) in New England. You know, the part of the country that has been consistently under a thick blanket of ice for a few weeks now? That corner of the United States that hasn’t seen temperatures come out of the negatives for days? Yeah, that part.

But we were young and dumb back then- and looking cute or sexy meant risking frost bite or hypothermia in the New Year. I can remember one New Year’s Eve where I wore open toed heels – OPEN TOED HEELS– during a snowstorm because I had a party to get to. I look back, cringe accordingly- and then see other girls around that age doing the exact same thing. I can’t help but laugh- because I know they’ll look back on it someday and have the same reaction, too. It’s a lesson every young woman has to learn when they grow up in parts of the country that experience some drastic season changes.

I digress- now that I’m older and (somewhat) wiser- I’ve learned that layers and practical footwear can be cute for New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day, too. And if I want to sparkle and shine for the occasion- I don’t have to look any farther than knitted sweaters that use shiny thread. Case in point? This oversized sweater I picked up at Primark and wore around New Hampshire and Ipswich on New Year’s Day.

Not only did I look festive AND comfortable- but I was beyond cozy and warm, too. Paired with fleece-lined leggings, knee-high wool socks and my black snow boots- I didn’t have to worry about being exposed to the elements or getting sick as a dog from being outside for more than a few minutes at a time.

I know some people think the material this sweater is made from feels “itchy” at times- but I was fine all day and well into the night wearing it. I think, moving forward- if it ever became an issue- it’s nothing a tank top or a thin, thermal long-sleeved shirt underneath wouldn’t solve.

I wore small, faux-diamond earrings and swiped some metallic gray eye shadow on my lids (and a metallic pink gloss on my lips) to complete the look without going overboard.

I loved the outfit, and it’s definitely something I would wear again- even on regular work days at the office where champagne toasts at midnight aren’t a requirement (but I wish they were!)

xx

– Ashley –

Hello, 2018…

Good Morning, everyone! It’s great to be back- in a brand new year, no less- and I hope you all had a wonderful weekend welcoming 2018 in a fun, memorable way!

I spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in New Hampshire with my best friend Sean. The whole thing was planned at the last possible minute, really- but we’ve been fortunate in past travels/adventures where just winging it and rolling with the punches has worked out in our favor- and this most recent weekend was (thankfully) no exception.

We hung our hats at The Silver Fountain Inn in Dover- which is about 15 minutes away from Portsmouth. The property is both an inn and a tea parlor that hosts private parties and murder mystery dinners- among other events. Sean and I went halves on an already reasonably priced rate to get ourselves the Boudoir Room for a night- and it might have been one of the nicest rooms I’ve ever stayed in- ever. If you’ve ever visited any of the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island- then you’ll understand me when I say that this room gave me that vibe. I felt like royalty in here!

We were free to explore the rest of the inn- including the rooms that weren’t occupied- at our leisure, and the entire house looked just as gorgeous as our room was. From an amazing dining room with still-festive decor, a spacious sitting room, and a spiraling grand staircase that worked it’s way up three floors- there was a lot to take in!

Below are some of my favorite shots I snapped while we were stretching our legs and grabbing some complimentary tea from the dining area.

I could live there forever- no questions asked!

Of course, we had to briefly leave the comforts of our palace-for-a-night and head out into the bitter, brutal Northeastern cold (seriously- it was actually painful being outdoors for more than a few minutes at a time) to grab dinner and count down to midnight.

After pausing to VERY quickly appreciate some celebratory ice sculptures in downtown Portsmouth- Sean and I headed over to Fat Belly’s Bar & Grille to grab our annual “end of the year, face-stuffing cheat meal” where we just ingest the greasiest/most fattening/carb-loaded dishes, desserts and snacks we can before it’s back to square one on January 1st. I enjoyed a bacon cheeseburger with fries, while Sean had some over-the-top BLT. Fat Belly’s can always be counted on to deliver the goods (hence their name.)

Following dinner, and with a couple of hours to spare- Sean and I did a bit of bar-hopping until we found one that we felt comfortable in, and that wasn’t charging a ridiculously overpriced cover to scam people who were simply looking to come in out of the cold. We popped into The Portsmouth Brewery and ended up staying there for the remainder of our night out on the town- counting down to midnight with a room full of fun, enthusiastic people in their downstairs lounge area.

After milling about for another hour or so, saying our goodnights and best wishes for the New Year to everyone around us- Sean and I bundled up once again to brave the Arctic Tundra temperatures to get back to my car and from there- back to Dover so we could get some much-needed rest and relaxation in our room. I fell asleep almost immediately- the bed was so comfortable.

The next morning, bright and early and feeling rejuvenated- Sean and I enjoyed a breakfast prepared by the innkeeper, Pam. We had initially been a bit indecisive on what we wanted- so Pam made us a little of everything: a Mexican scramble, a buttermilk & strawberry pancake, bacon and English Toffee coffee. It was delicious- and when other guests who had stayed the night eventually came in to join us- we spent the better part of our meal getting to know one another and laughing about our favorite suspenseful TV shows over the years.

It was a really great environment and energy throughout the house- like we were catching up with old friends instead of strangers- and I was admittedly pretty sad when it came time to check out and head back to Massachusetts later on that morning. I’d really love to travel North and stay at the inn again- but definitely for more than just one night next time.

To get back to Melrose, Sean and I opted to drive down the coast as far as it would take us before heading inland to get home. We made a stop at Hampton Beach to enjoy just a couple of minutes of salty, freezing air- and marveled at the braver people who were getting closer and closer to the tide.

I heard every January 1st there’s a “Polar Plunge” (where people jump into the freezing water as a means to ring in the New Year) in Hampton- but I am 100% all set without doing that. I’ll just stick to my heated car and watch from the shore, thank you.

We also made one other stop at the Heart and Soul Cafe in Ipswich for lunch (avocado toast all day, every day!) before we eventually made it home to binge-watch some TV and play some video games before it was time to get my meals and wardrobe in order for the work-week ahead, pencil time into my schedule to hit the gym every day, unpack my bag- and try to get a good night’s sleep.

Overall, I had such an extraordinary and magical experience in New Hampshire for New Year’s- even if it was much colder than I’d expected or hoped for. Everyone remained in good spirits and seemed intent on helping each other out in terms of offering warm places to sit/stay. It was a very pleasant, peaceful way to begin 2018 and I’m very grateful it all worked out on such short notice!

Later on this week, I’m going to be sharing my tips/tricks to overcoming any gym anxiety for those who are looking to get back into the workout game and stick to your resolutions. I’m really excited to be partnering with the creators of a particularly helpful app for that very purpose- and I can’t wait to share the details with you all!

Until then, though- I’ve got to get to work!

Enjoy the rest of your day, everyone!

Ipswich, MA. 1/1/18

xx

– Ashley –