February 2019: In a Nutshell

Good Morning and Happy Thursday, everyone!

Another month down (although February is, of course, the shortest one-) and so much to discuss! These past few weeks have been filled with Super Bowl parties/parades, plenty of snowstorms, time spent with friends visiting from out of state, some love and romance around Valentine’s Day- and quite a bit of traveling around New England!

While there were plenty of things keeping me close to home this past month- like watching the Patriots win another Super Bowl and the subsequent celebrations that came with it (and yes, I’m just as disgusted by Robert Kraft’s behavior as the next person) and getting a surprise visit from my San Diego-turned-Chicago-BFF while he was in town for a job interview- I also made it a point to explore some other areas around my neck of the woods that I either hadn’t visited in a long time- or had never visited at all!

There was touring Louisa May Alcott’s home in Concord near the very beginning of the month, swinging by picturesque Newport, Rhode Island for their annual Winter Festival- and this past weekend I found myself out in Berkshire County where I spotted a Pepto-pink church while out and about (shown above!)

I reflected on dating now that I’m in my thirties, played around with Pantone’s “Color of The Year” and cooked up some amazing recipes to get everyone through the last leg of the colder months. As always, I took you all into my closet and into my Winter makeup routine/collection- and now here we are- getting ready to spring forward into March!

So what do I have planned over the next few weeks? Lots of things! In between my usual food and fashion posts- I’m looking forward to sharing some fun promotional opportunities and partnerships- as well as more stories/photos from the road where I’ll be visiting one of my favorite museums in Boston, a flower show/display in Western Massachusetts, a trip to my favorite seaside village in Connecticut- and a trip to Nantucket I’ve been eagerly preparing for and anticipating!

But of course, I’ve got to wrap up my work week, first- and today and tomorrow is all about tying up loose ends at the office before I head out with friends for the weekend and get ready for the unofficial start of Spring!

My posting schedule will return to normal first thing on Monday morning- but until then- here’s wishing you all an easygoing remainder of your week and a fun, safe weekend!

xx

– Ashley –

Sex and the Single Girl…

Good Morning, Happy Wednesday- and Happy Galentine’s Day, everyone!

As I dig myself out of the aftermath of Winter Storm Maya (the snow actually wasn’t too bad. The freezing rain, however? That’s a whole other story…) and prepare to head back to work for the day- I’m reminded at all sides that tomorrow is actually the “real deal” Valentine’s Day holiday and then I’m subsequently forced to face my current relationship status- or lack thereof- head-on as I navigate my way through glitter-soaked Hallmark cards, boxes of chocolate, bouquets of overpriced flowers and bizarre, couple-inspired offerings at my local restaurants, bars and pubs.

I am unabashed when it comes to my affection for all things sappy and lovey-dovey. “The Notebook” is one of my favorite tearjerker love story movies. I get weepy eyed with joy watching elaborately planned proposal videos on YouTube- and on more than one occasion I’m sure I’ve looked like a living, breathing heart-eye emoji whenever a guy did something unexpected and/or over-the-top sweet for me. As sarcastic and quick-witted and as biting (and dare I say bitchy?) as I can be sometimes- I am a true hopeless romantic.

Which is kind of funny- considering most of, if not all of my past relationships have been anything but something out of a romantic comedy.

I’d like to preface this post by saying I have no intention of dragging or putting any of my ex-boyfriends or ex-lovers on blast here. With every relationship- good AND bad- I’ve gone through, I’ve learned a little something about myself and about what I want/need in my life and from the people I had chosen to surround myself with.

I also learned that through every hardship that came with certain, rockier relationships- I had deep and profound strength and resilience I otherwise never would have known about. I was capable of walking away from situations that were detrimental to me and my well-being. I was capable of finding solace alone, in my own company- and discovered that a relationship wasn’t a defining characteristic and wasn’t a necessity in telling the story of my life- and I also learned the importance of forgiveness when it was justified, reasonable- and actually deserved.

I could and did survive being physically assaulted by an ex in my early twenties. I could and did survive being manipulated and essentially used by a considerably older guy I had gotten mixed up with when I was still pretty young and impressionable. I could and did survive the breakdown (and the gradual, cautious rebuilding) of one of my longest and dearest friendships/relationships when said guy had given into the ways of perpetual, non-stop deception instead of being the honest, upfront and outstanding person he has continually and actively been working towards becoming in the years since things initially crumbled between us.

That last example is where the aforementioned “learning the importance of forgiveness” comes in. While some mistakes and people don’t warrant a second chance- and I’d never tell someone to “get over it” or “move past it” if they’ve been betrayed or hurt- there are still some instances of genuine mistake-making that can be teachable moments for everyone involved. And, depending on the person and situation- sometimes there can be redemption, too.

Ariana Grande wrote a song about being thankful for her exes- and while I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m thankful for past heartbreaks, arguments, messy splits, etc.- I can understand and agree with the sentiment of coming out of the other side of those shitty situations and being a stronger and wiser person for it.

So, as a presently single but casually dating thirty-something year old female with a less-than-ideal dating history- Valentine’s Day elicits a lot of mixed reactions from me and those closest to me.

My happily dating/engaged/married and otherwise enamored friends will say it’s a holiday that serves as a reminder that you should be actively celebrating the one you love. A lovely thought, no?

My single friends- some of whom are deliciously cynical and still plenty of others who are not- will tell you it’s a marketing strategy. A made-up “Greeting Card” holiday to get consumers to spend more money on frivolous things- and that celebrating people you love shouldn’t be reduced to a once-a-year reminder as you’re buying them a heart-shaped box of candy- which also makes some sense when you think about it.

To me, and it took years for me to reach this level of self-assurance and confidence- Valentine’s Day is a day to remind myself of everything I’ve been through in my love-life, express gratitude for the person it has made me into and the lessons I’ve learned throughout the process- and acknowledge that while I’m not jaded enough to think that finding a healthy, soul-strengthening and world-enhancing love with someone else isn’t a possibility- that loving myself is the priority and that my wants/needs should never be placed on a back burner or forgotten about.

One of my favorite quotes from Lucille Ball comes to mind almost immediately as I type that:

It’s simple and oh so true. The most important relationship you can have is the one with yourself- and if you’re not happy or satisfied with yourself as an independent person and where you’re at in your life right now- finding happiness and contentment with another individual will prove to be incredibly difficult. You really have to learn how to stand on your own- and enjoy your own company- before you can truly open the door to allow others into your life and your head-space and to potentially become a part of your world in a big and meaningful way.

Valentine’s Day also serves as a reminder that despite the pressure many single people face to “couple up,” “settle down,” and “find that special someone RIGHT NOW!“- that there is no time frame, no time limit, and no expiration date when it comes to not only meeting someone you’d want to possibly share parts of your life with and/or face milestones and adventures together- but meeting wonderful people, friends and connections in general.

Twenty-something year old me- who was still struggling to learn all of this and felt crippling pressure to be in the right relationship then and there- would be miserable on a day like Valentine’s Day (I’d also be buying a completely unnecessary gift for a guy, I’m sure…) whereas now- thirty-something year old me writes all this with a grin and is looking forward to the cheesy-ness- wearing red and pink and buying 50% off candy first thing on Friday- and is in a  much clearer, even-keeled frame of mind when it comes to sex, dating, and love.

And yes, I’ll still be watching “The Notebook” or “Sex and the Single Girl” (my favorite Natalie Wood/Tony Curtis rom-com!) within the next 48 hours. I have my traditions, after all.

Now get out there and enjoy yourselves, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Post-Birthday Recovery…

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

My posting schedule has been a little off this week (and will be next week, as well- given February kicks off next Friday!) The days leading up to and following my birthday are always a little crazy and hectic since I have such a big family and my friends are scattered around Massachusetts and New England. My time is always stretched a bit thin since people come and visit, I’m going out to meet friends for birthday-related fun- and also working full-time. It leaves little time for blogging this time of year!

Tonight is one of the last birthday celebrations planned for me as far as I know- and it involves eating lots of Chinese Food and cake with my mom, my older brothers, my sister-in-law and my niece! Then it’s nothing but sleep, catching up on e-mails, touching up my hair on Saturday- and heading to Salem on Sunday for my friend Phill’s annual ‘Royal Rumble’ party. Always such a good time.

The past few days have been a lot of fun- with the exception of a crazy snowstorm, single digit temperatures and a lot of rain. My actual birthday was a really relaxing affair- mainly because after I had left my office for the day- Troy treated me to dinner and a “Spa Night” at East Heaven in Northampton. I got to completely unwind during a soak in an outdoor hot tub (and despite the cold weather- it wasn’t bad at all) and an hour long massage. Absolute bliss!

He’s a gem.

My co-workers surprised me with a dozen of my favorite doughnuts, my best friend surprised me with a pink frosted cake (pictured above) and other friends loaded me up with carbs earlier this week during a surprise luncheon. If people thought the holidays were the time of year where everyone threw their diets out the window- they haven’t seen anything yet!

With January winding down next week (already?!)– I’m in the process of putting together my favorite things from this month to share next week, as well as writing up a summary of the beginning of the year for my “In a Nutshell” post that should be up next Thursday. I’ve also got a Super Bowl to prepare for following that absolutely INSANE Patriots/Chiefs game this past Sunday- so expect some fun, party-friendly recipes in the coming days.

I want to thank everyone again who texted, called, e-mailed, or dropped me a line on social media for my birthday! I know Tuesdays are pretty much the worst day of the week by default- but my birthday was still wonderful and I’m very appreciative of all the love and warm wishes!

By the way- there’s still time to enter my birthday giveaway!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone! I’ll see you all next week!

xx

– Ashley –

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!

__________________________________________

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.

__________________________________________

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 –