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 –

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 –