2019: In a Nutshell

2019: In a Nutshell

Good Morning and Happy New Year’s (Eve) everybody!

I know that it’s pretty much obligatory at this point for every single person looking back on and/or writing about this past year to say “I can’t believe how quickly time flew by!”– and I’m sure many of you are sick of that sentiment by now with all the recent recaps, revisits and reviews of 2019 that typically pop up between the day after Christmas and now as we shift gears from presents, mistletoe and ugly holiday sweater parties and prepare for 2020- but here we are and yes- I feel that this year was truly accelerated at lightning speed.

It feels like it was only a few days ago that I was standing on the observation deck of Top of The Rock in New York City on January 1st and making grandeur plans for the year ahead. I had very specific goals/resolutions in mind, and I’m happy and proud that twelve months later- I’ve accomplished and achieved nearly everything that was on my list at the end of 2018. It wasn’t easy by any means- and there were plenty of setbacks and hurdles along the way- but where 2018 was the year I became aware of myself as a person and honest about my strengths and weaknesses as a human being- 2019 was all about implementing what I had learned about myself, sharpening my skill set and redefining my goals in a way that better suited me- and then putting my plans into action to achieve what I wanted to gain.

2019 was filled with changes- big and small, personal and professional. The biggest and most significant change in my life this year was that I relocated to the Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts- a move that took me a couple hours away from my family, friends and career- and essentially gave me the opportunity to find new passions and projects in a new community filled with new people (and a few longtime friends that have been established out here for a while now, as well.) It’s been exciting, sometimes and admittedly a little frightening- but overall very rewarding. I love my apartment, I love my neighborhood- and I love the exciting opportunities that lay ahead.

Professionally, I managed to juggle not one, not two- but three jobs- simultaneously and successfully. And, while I had to overcome a brief period of office drama, slander and sabotage at the hands of co-workers at my full-time office job- it is my Saturday show with Indie617 that brought me the most joy and fulfillment- and I cannot wait to continue that into 2020. Additionally, a Summertime stint with a local theater company earned me some extra income and a couple of connections here in the Valley that I hope will have prosperous potential in the future.

And then, personally- and perhaps the thing I’m most proud of this year- was that I kept my promise to myself to not allow negative people to drain me of my energy and spirit and reduce me to a doormat. I put my foot down in 2019- and I severed ties with people who were either toxic or did not have my best interests at heart. In releasing myself and putting needed distance from those negative and often abusive friendships/connections- I became more honest and upfront with what I wanted without fear- and the result was forging stronger, more meaningful and healthy friendships/relationships with those around me.

This past year was also filled with travel (from new and unfamiliar locations here in New England all the way to Las Vegas and San Diego this past Spring), incredible live shows from Boston Calling and Green River Festival in the Summer to Bon Iver and Hozier in the Fall- and big changes for my friends and family- including engagements, new babies, and buying new houses!

And with all the progress and all the changes that have happened in 2019- I feel like I’m better equipped to enter 2020 with new and attainable goals. I have a new list of resolutions- which I’ll share at the end of this post- as well as some exciting blogging news in relation to the future of Blondie Birdie.

But first, as is tradition- I’d like to recap some of the headlines, trends, pop culture phenomenons, memes and everything in-between in what I call 2019: In a Nutshell.

Let’s take a look back, shall we?

(Image via Reuters)

Corruption was the talk of the town: I didn’t want to kick this off with anything related to Donald Trump. I’ve made no attempts to hide my contempt for him or his rabid followers since well before he took office- but this has been *the* news story of late 2019 and as it’s still ongoing- it’s worth the first mention.

Following the revelation via a still-anonymous whistleblower that Donald Trump had enlisted the help of the newly appointed President of the Ukraine to investigate Trump’s 2020 political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden and Joe Biden’s son in exchange for previously approved financial and military aid that would assist the Ukraine in their fight against Russian aggression- all bets were off in late September when an impeachment inquiry was launched by House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

In the weeks/months that followed- a number of witnesses were called to the stand to testify. Some of the testimony remained private to the public while other testimony was televised for days on end. Witnesses included former ambassadors and officials associated with the White House- and what they saw/overhead did not look good for Trump and his associates- who had vehemently denied any wrongdoing. Trump, unable to control his temper tantrums- went as far as to participate in witness intimidation in real time while Diplomat Marie Yovanovitch took the stand.

The Republicans, desperate and grasping at anything throughout the process- ceased to ask pertinent questions and instead began to simply shout over or attempt to degrade the witnesses- often resulting in brutal hashtags and memes on social media poking fun at their expense.

And on December 18th, Trump became the third president in U.S. history to be impeached following a long and tedious vote by the House on two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

While pre-trial proceedings remain ongoing and we await the formal decision on whether or not Trump will be removed from office (hopefully forcibly-) it goes without saying that at this point it is glaringly obvious even to the most stubborn MAGA hat-wearer that Trump and everyone has has placed in his inner circle to aid and abet him are criminals.

(via CNBC)

Epstein didn’t kill himself: Jeffrey Epstein has been a known predator for a long time, particularly after a prior conviction in 2008 where he had admitted to soliciting a minor for prostitution- but that didn’t stop the wealthy financier with powerful friends (including politicians and members of the Royal Family) from getting a slap on the wrist and released from his sentence in a minimal amount of time.

Years later, with multitudes of women and young girls coming forward- and after a lengthy and extensive investigation (prompted by a detailed exposé about the crimes being committed under everyone’s noses)– Epstein was arrested again in July of 2019- this time on federal charges of sex trafficking minors in Florida and the state of New York. The arrest brought to light his affiliations with other wealthy and prominent people/institutions- and it was widely speculated that he would name those who had assisted him with his crimes of abusing underage girls as part of a potential deal.

In August, after being placed on suicide watch following a previous attempt/assault within his cell just a few days earlier- Epstein was found dead with a broken neck. The official ruling was suicide by hanging- but many people had speculations and suspicions given the timeline of events and Epstein’s elite connections. Foul play has been widely insinuated- and as recently as November- two prison guards who were responsible for monitoring Epstein have been charged with conspiracy and falsifying records detailing what had happened the night he died.

(via CNN)

The Notre-Dame Fire: In April of 2019, all eyes were on Paris when the famed Notre-Dame cathedral was reportedly engulfed in flames as a result of a structural fire. For hours, onlookers watched in horror as flames destroyed the roof and spire before finally being contained and extinguished. In the interim, security personnel and responding firefighters managed to remove priceless artifacts and artwork from within the cathedral to safety before they could be damaged by the flames or heavy smoke.

The structure of the cathedral proved to be beneficial when remnants of the roof and spire had collapsed- as it helped shield a good amount of the interior from significant destruction- and pieces that were located and found to be damaged were expected to be sent out for repair/restoration.

And perhaps the most miraculous of all was that there were no fatalities and only a couple of minor injuries reported in the aftermath.

It didn’t take long for the donations to begin pouring in from around the globe to assist with the restoration and rebuilding of the damaged sections of the cathedral- and if you happened to be on social media that day- you were no stranger to the endless barrage of Parisian vacation photos paying tribute to the location. We get it, guys- you went to Paris ten years ago. Calm down.

(via NASA)

We got our first look at a black hole: Also in April of this year, the science world and space enthusiasts everywhere got a real treat when the first image of a black hole was released. Using an Event Horizon Telescope- which I have no business trying to explain because that’s how advanced and technical it is- a group of astronomers managed to secure the above photo. NASA went on to explain in their press release:

Using the Event Horizon Telescope, scientists obtained an image of the black hole at the center of the galaxy M87. (There is a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy — the Milky Way.)

The black hole is outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon.

Space has always intrigued and terrified me beyond comprehension (every movie where the plot focuses on people in space has *never* ended well for anyone)– but even I thought this was a fascinating peek into what lies beyond the stars.

(via Boston Herald)

Aunt Becky is probably going to prison: Earlier this Spring, the news broke that a group of celebrities, CEOs and moguls were being charged with conspiracy, money laundering and fraud (among a whole lot of other crimes) in relation to a college admissions bribery ring. The accused- which included Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman, David Sidoo, Gamal Aziz and many, many more- were found to have paid exorbitant amounts of money to have their children’s testing scores and extra curricular credentials changed- if not outright fabricated- in order to essentially buy their way into prestigious universities around the country in what was deemed “Operation Varsity Blues.”

While many of the accused plead guilty over the following months- serving brief sentences and paying hefty fines as punishment for their participation- it was Lori Louglin’s nonchalant attitude towards the whole scandal that caught everyone’s attention. She has outright denied any wrongdoing despite what looks like substantial evidence against her- and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

I have a feeling I’ll be revisiting this one by the end of 2020.

(via HBO)

IT’S FINALLY OVER: As confusing and often convoluted as ‘Game Of Thrones’ could be throughout it’s eight seasons- I enjoyed the show. It was filled with compelling characters, plenty of surprising twists, a LOT of sex and violence- and it’s cast have long since become familiar and household names.

By it’s final season this past year, however- things began to unravel- which was not surprising since the series did not have sturdy source material to follow as it had outpaced the published novels in which it was based on. The story became predictable and dull- and multiple gaffes throughout the season (including visible Starbucks cups and water bottles in various scenes) brought heavy criticism against the directors’ perceived “laziness”- as well as plenty of memes.

In May, the final episode of the last season aired- and the ending divided longtime fans between those who thought it was an appropriate and well-rounded finale- and others (like me!) who were left underwhelmed and disappointed.

Here’s hoping whenever “The Walking Dead” wraps up that the writers take some notes on what to do and not do in terms of setting off a social media frenzy.

(via BBC)

The Climate Crisis Crusaders: If there was still any speculation by cynical and overly harsh Baby Boomers that the world was going to be left in the hands of lazy or self-indulgent children/teenagers- they need not worry. The future generations proved that they have a lot more on their minds than social media and getting”likes” these days- particularly in 2019 when the ongoing climate crisis became the central focus of youths around the world who were/are actively working to reverse and prevent years’ worth of damages that are threatening the only home we have.

With Sweden’s Greta Thunberg at the front lines- taking the brunt of unfair criticism and mockery from adult climate change deniers (like President Trump, for example-) the 16-year old inspired countless others of all ages to reevaluate their carbon footprint, make significant changes to their lifestyles to prevent further damages to the environment while supporting/providing funding for projects looking to do the same on larger scales.

And despite attempts to detract her message or silence her- Greta’s efforts paid off- as she was named TIME Magazine’s “Person of The Year” in 2019.

Not bad at all.

(via Reuters)

The Hong Kong and Santiago Protests: Additionally, all generations took to the streets in wide scale fashion in 2019. In Hong Kong, protesters continue to fight back to show their disapproval following the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders Amendment Bill as it could have potentially lead to direct violations of citizens’ and those visiting the country’s civil liberties if it had been put into effect. The protests have resulted in multiple clashes between protesters and the police, as well as between protesters and counter-protesters- with two deaths reported to date. Thousands of injuries and arrests have also taken place.

However, the protests (that sometimes turned into riots) appeared to be effective- with the bill being withdrawn in the Fall.

Additionally, Santiago saw it’s own share of protests/rioting that began in October following increases to the city’s public transportation and overall cost of living. Citizens took to the streets to show their frustrations with perceived inequality and demanded reform in their wages, healthcare and education. These protests, however- resulted in many more deaths and injuries- mostly due to fires set around the city.

Both protests remain ongoing.

(via The Weather Channel)

Hurricane Dorian and the Australian Bushfires: Like every year before it, 2019 was no stranger to natural disasters- some more severe than others and some still happening as we speak. One of the worst and most catastrophic events took place back in September when Hurricane Dorian- a Category 5 hurricane with recorded wind speeds of 185 MPH hit the Bahamas head on- resulting in over 70 fatalities (and counting, as hundreds are still missing) and billions of dollars worth of damages.

And presently ongoing in Australia, deadly and dangerous bushfires continue to sweep through the area- worsened with dry conditions and little to no rain. As homes are destroyed and acres of land are reduced to nothing- eyes have been on the koala population- which suffered a significant hit and resulted in a rise in donations to local koala hospitals that have been working round the clock to tend to dehydrated and injured bears who have no habitat to return to.

We lost people along the way: And, like every year before it- we had to say goodbye to a few beloved names and faces in 2019, too. Some losses, while not necessarily anticipated- were easier to bear given old age or ongoing illnesses- as was the case with Doris Day or Albert Finney.

Some passings, however- were completely unexpected. Luke Perry, who died of a stroke at the age of 52 in March- comes to mind almost immediately. As does The Cars’ Ric Ocasek, who died unexpectedly following complications from surgery in September.

We also lost internet legend and the base of so many memes in May when Tardar Sauce, AKA “Grumpy Cat”- passed away following an infection. I’m still insanely sad about that one, really.

________________________________

Now, as is the tradition with all of my yearly reviews- there are a few things I wanted to include but wasn’t quite sure where to place them- and as a result they’ve ended up here in the “Honorable Mentions” section. Important moments, events, pop culture trends- but not quite as extensive, intricate and detailed as politics, global movements, scandals and scientific breakthroughs.

Nonetheless- they helped shape 2019!

– Baby Archie!!: When Meghan Markle and Prince Harry tied the knot, it was definitely a big moment and a highlight of 2018- and the birth of their first child earlier this year was certainly cause for celebration. With tabloids being unnecessarily cruel and invasive towards Markle for the duration of her pregnancy and well after she had given birth- there were concerns the new mother may crack under the pressure of the non-stop scrutiny that had plagued her mother-in-law for years leading up to her death. But the Duchess persevered with a strong showing of grace and class- and the newest addition to the Royal Family is absolutely adorable.

– Baby Yoda: The only other baby to make his way into the wrap-up with potential royal status. Everyone knew Disney+’s new series, “The Mandalorian,” was going to be great- but nobody expected that the breakout star of the show and fan favorite would be a puppet. Baby Yoda (aka, “The Child,”)– has sparked countless memes, merchandise and conversations- and for good reason. It just might be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I couldn’t even tell you what happened in the most recent episode because I spent the whole time worrying about Baby Yoda.

And I’m perfectly content with Baby Yoda continuing his reign of cuteness into 2020, honestly.

– Jussie Smollett: In January of 2019, “Empire” star Jussie Smollett made headlines after he sustained injuries in an early morning attack that was investigated as a possible hate crime given the actor’s race and sexual orientation. As preliminary details emerged- there was an outpouring of support for Smollett and a call for those responsible to be found and face justice.

Things took a turn for the strange, however- when the completed investigation revealed that Smollett himself was responsible for orchestrating the attack in an apparent attempt to increase his pay on “Empire.” After hiring two men to stage the assault- Smollett was charged with filing a false police report- a felony.

The charges were later dropped, but it’s unlikely Smollett’s reputation and career will ever recover.

– The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final: I am admittedly not too into soccer, but even I had a blast watching the Women’s World Cup Finals earlier this Summer when the United States secured a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands. It was impossible not to get swept up into the frenzy of it all- especially considering the ongoing struggle for women athletes to be paid as much as their male counterparts was still very much a hot issue that was brought up over the course of the finals as the team gave it everything they had.

With Megan Rapinoe as the standout star of the team for her efficiency on the field and both her outspokenness and philanthropy off of it- she was later named as Sports Illustrated’s 2019 Sportsperson of the Year.

– Comic Book Movies Continued Their Momentum: After years of comic/superhero juggernauts Marvel and DC reining supreme at the Box Office- 2019 was the year of the blockbuster finales and highly anticipated re-imaginings of notorious characters/stories.

Whether it was Marvel’s ambitious conclusion to their Avengers series with “Endgame” or DC’s darker, grittier and more violent interpretation of how The Joker came to be- crowds flocked to the theaters and records were once again broken over the course of the films’ respective opening weekends.

With more comic/superhero movies expected to be coming down the pipeline over the next few years- I don’t think any will compare to the cinematic showdown we saw happen in 2019.

________________________________

And there you have it- 2019: In a Nutshell!

I know there were plenty of other headlines, trends, memes, and wild/bizarre moments I more than likely missed- but those are the things that stood out to me when I began reflecting on this past year about a month or so ago. I’d like to think I did a pretty good job covering some of the prominently discussed things,

For New Year’s Eve tonight, Troy and I are venturing back to Boston for dinner and a quiet night in the Theater District with some champagne and what I’m hoping will be a spectacular view of the city to close out the decade and usher in 2020.

And I’m sure I’ll have plenty of photos from the evening.

But, before I depart to get dolled up and ready to go- I wanted to share some of my resolutions for 2020. It’s a pretty standard, typical list- the type you’d see from nearly anyone making resolutions- but I’m ambitious and eager to see if I can accomplish any of them by the time 2021 rolls around.

Get Healthier/Take Better Care of Myself: This is the one that makes the rounds on everyone’s resolutions list- but for me it’s a necessity. While I make conscious efforts to eat right, work out regularly and sleep fully and undisturbed at night- I have admittedly become a bit more lax about it since my move to the new apartment this past Spring and it shows. I don’t think I look as great as I could and I certainly don’t feel as great as I *should*– and I’m more depressed and lethargic as a result. It’s all connected and can turn into a pretty vicious cycle.

In 2020 I want to continue my efforts in the gym, be more mindful of what I’m eating (instead of “bored snacking”) and make it a point to get a full night’s rest so I’m not dragging myself to work every day. Additionally, I want to be more strict about my skincare, more mindful of the makeup I use, and treat myself to occasional small, relaxing luxuries- like facials or massages- to better improve my mood and reduce unnecessary stress and tension instead of letting it interfere with taking care of myself properly.

Budget Better: Living alone has taught me many things- most of them how to fix appliances via YouTube tutorials or the wonders of decorating more than just a bedroom or a bathroom at a time- but it’s also taught me to be more wise and considerate of my spending.

Gone are the days of frivolous shopping sprees and extravagant gift-giving- and in are the days of monitoring my accounts/credit score regularly, making wise and thought out purchases instead of impulse buys- and setting a weekly/monthly budget for myself to ensure my priority bills are taken care of and that there’s still enough left over to enjoy myself from time to time.

Travel/Experience More: The money that I save to treat myself will not be used on purchasing a brand new wardrobe or a closet full of shoes- but on experiences. I want to travel more in 2020- including to places that have been on my longtime bucket list like New Orleans or Nashville.

It’s easy to take an amazing trip without spending a fortune these days with help from things like AirBnB and the airline points I’ve racked up over the years- so my next adventure is hopefully right around the corner and one for the books!

Channel My Passions: I love, love, love working at Indie617. It’s a job that brings me genuine joy- so in 2020 I’d like to focus more on what I can do to become more involved- as well as finding other side hustles/jobs that spark my creativity and leave me feeling inspired and fulfilled.

It’s good I’m living in the Pioneer Valley- where so many artists with so many ideas flock to leave their mark on the world.

And I just may be one of them in 2020!

And that just about does it for me, everyone. I’m off to Boston and I’ll be back with big blog news bright and early on Thursday morning after I get back!

I wish you all the happiest of New Years and I hope that 2020 is better, or more peaceful, or more adventurous, or more kind and gentle- to anyone out there who needs it. I’m rooting for you!

See you all soon!

xx

– Ashley –

Taking a Bite Out of Season 9 of ‘The Walking Dead’…

Well, well, well- look where we are again!

Good Morning, everyone! I had originally planned this post for Thursday- thinking I’d need a couple of days to process the finale to the most recent season of “The Walking Dead”, but considering how much I loved Sunday night’s episode and this season overall- I sat down to start writing and the words just flowed and flowed! Before I knew it, I had a full recap ready to go.

I’ve always been vocal about my grievances with past seasons of what is undoubtedly one of my favorite, “never miss an episode” shows since the TWD’s writing seemed to get lazier as the years wore on. Stories became repetitive, sluggish, and drawn out. The moments that were surprising and meant to catch people off guard felt like cheap ploys for ratings and “shock value” reactions on social media. More and more characters were brought in and then nothing of interest or value was ever done with them until they sort of faded into the background and out of people’s collective memory.

A lot of this downfall I blamed on Scott M. Gimple- the showrunner through seasons 4-8 (which were hands down the weakest)– and I didn’t have the highest hopes for season nine since he was still at the helm and rumors were flying very early on that many of the series’ main cast were in the process of parting ways due to personal reasons, salary disputes, etc.

… But then Angela Kang took over, and although she was essentially left with a years’ worth of messes to sort through and clean up- she rose to the challenge, took what could have been a total disaster- and gave us a string of some of the greatest episodes of ‘The Walking Dead’ since seasons 2 and 3. For the first time in a long time- it felt like someone actually cared about the show, the characters, and the fans who had been watching this entire time.

And yes, while a huge chunk of the main cast jumped ship by the time Season 9 premiered last October- Kang had been careful and creative- and had made it work where the show still functioned just as strongly, maybe even better- without key players to the series’ core.

I’m going to go more in depth after the cut- but this is the part where I warn people that AHEAD BE SPOILERS. If you haven’t caught up, are still binge-watching, or otherwise don’t want to know what happens- DO NOT PROCEED.

Otherwise, let a moment where Negan was actually sweet and heroic WELCOME YOU IN…

Continue reading “Taking a Bite Out of Season 9 of ‘The Walking Dead’…”

Taking a Bite Out of Season 8 of ‘The Walking Dead’…

For anyone who knows me fairly well, or at the least followed me over here from ‘Legally Redhead’– you’ll know I’m a HUGE fan of ‘The Walking Dead’. While I’ve admittedly fallen a bit behind on the comics as of late (I blame work!)– I’ve never missed an episode of the AMC series since it premiered on Halloween night back in 2010.

Every Sunday night the show is on is like a mini-party at my place- complete with themed-snacks (Michonne-ion rings? Fried CARL-mari? Oh yeah. I’ve made ’em all), Walker-inspired decor, and official merchandise like t-shirts and pajama pants. I’ve speculated, debated, and predicated plot-points and characters’ motives at work, family functions, parties, online- and pretty much any place/outlet where the show is discussed. I’ve cosplayed as Daryl and Negan, I’ve hung out with some of the cast (who are all lovely)– and I’ve made friends and met kindred spirits with other fans from around the globe.

To say this show/franchise changed my life would be an understatement.

Every year, around this time- I always review the season that just wrapped up and make predictions for the season to come in the Fall. In this case, Season 8- which ended on a more sinister note this past Sunday night and included the show’s highly anticipated 100th episode- was a doozy of a nail-biter from start to finish. There’s a lot of unanswered questions- and although I’ve taken issues with the show’s writing/creative direction in recent seasons- I was pretty satisfied with Season 8 overall- save for a couple of major things here and there.

But I know there’s quite a few people who haven’t had the chance to catch up yet- and I don’t want to spoil anything for them- so I’m placing my review/guesses for the 9th season behind a “READ MORE/KEEP READING” cut to prevent ruining any twists/turns/shocking moments for those who still need some time to work their way to the Season 8 finale.

Again, last warning- unless you want to read spoilers for Season 8- DO NOT CLICK THE “READ MORE/KEEP READING” cut.

Otherwise, let Negan’s pained expression invite you in.

Same, dude. Same.

Continue reading “Taking a Bite Out of Season 8 of ‘The Walking Dead’…”

Favorites: January 2018!

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! I am officially in “Countdown to Vegas and The Super Bowl” mode right now- frantically finishing up some work at my office and attempting to re-pack my suitcase in preparation for my (second) departure to the West Coast within a month. I head out bright and early Saturday morning- having only recently fully recovered from my birthday trip to San Diego just this past weekend when I had the chance to sleep in and late for the first time since I’ve been back home.

Before I dive back into my e-mails and itinerary, though- I wanted to share some of the odds and ends that have made January 2018 one for the books. Fashion? Cosmetics? Cozy and warm Winter essentials? Incredible music and compelling television? I can’t think of better things to kick off the first month of a brand new year with!

As is tradition, I’ll be sharing the things that were able to be laid out and photographed with ease before I dive into some of the other miscellaneous things that I couldn’t quite capture with my camera.

Let’s take a look at what has been giving me serious heart-eyes for the past few weeks!

Kicking things off with my wardrobe- January was all about statement pieces that have withstood the test of time and were easy to match with pretty much anything in my closet. Keeping me warm in the frigid New England temperatures (and numerous snowstorms we’ve had since New Year’s) was important, too- so this leopard print faux-fur coat from Primark was both a lifesaver and a head turner whenever I wore it out and about with high heeled boots or sequined dresses and chandelier earrings. This is just one of those universally chic items that you can keep forever and still wear it- and look good- anytime you put it on.

And on those cold mornings where my hair isn’t quite dry or my roots aren’t looking on point to my liking- I toss on this millennial pink knitted beret (with a fun little poof ball) from Bed Bath & Beyond to keep my scalp warm and/or hidden from the general public. This is another accessory that matches pretty much anything and can be worn with anything- like a fancier pantsuit on my way into work or with jeans and a chunky sweater on the weekends while I’m running errands.

I particularly love the color of the beret, too- and I hope it stays on trend for a long time!

January has been all about protecting my skin and hair until Winter finally gives up and retreats for a few months- but with frequent travel over these past few weeks (including flying to warmer climates)– it was easy for things to get thrown off-balance a bit. Luckily, I had some help along the way to keep everything exfoliated, smooth, conditioned and hydrated.

First and foremost, I have been using this vegan facial scrub from Garnier every morning in the shower and it sets the stage for my serums and moisturizers. The formula- which is 96% vegan and infused with green tea- gently buffs away pore-clogging dirt and excess oil without stripping my skin of it’s natural hydrating components the way some other scrubs (particularly the ones with apricot seeds or whatever) do. My skin is left smooth and soft and ready for the rest of my regimen.

Last week I had talked about what was packed in my carry-on bag at the airport- and the biggest essential was Caudalie’s spray-on beauty elixir. This stuff has single-handedly saved my complexion this past month. So much, in fact- that I’ve felt completely comfortable stepping out into the world without any makeup on more than once (I spent a good portion of my time in San Diego makeup-free- which is huge for me!) It shrinks my pores, tightens my skin, refreshes any dry spots on my face- and lasts all day.

Of course, that’s not to say I’ve simply stopped moisturizing- because that’s really important, too- and for the past few weeks I’ve turned to an old favorite and an overall classic in Clinique’s ‘Dramatically Different’ Lotion. Lightweight and non-greasy- I’ve just been slathering this on in the mornings and then again at night to even out my combination skin. This tube is travel-sized (naturally) and comes in handy if I feel like I’m starting to have a dry spell mid-flight.

Naturally, I can’t neglect my hair. Since I’ve gone blonde, I have to make sure my curls get as much hydration as possible to keep them from looking frizzy or damaged. Throughout this month, prior to applying my regular styling products- I’ve applied generous amounts of this argan oil from OGX from root to tip. This formula deeply penetrates my hair to soften my curls and give them a healthy shine that may have otherwise not been possible given the current climate in Massachusetts that is essentially sucking the moisture out of everything. I rely on this product- and I don’t know what I’d do without it!

For makeup this month, two products really stood out for me- and I’ve been using them daily. The first, a minty green eye shadow from Make Up For Ever– has become my go-to eye look at work and on nights out.  When splashed against the usual dark and neutral hues in my Winter wardrobe and accessories- this makes my eyes pop and gives me a bit of much-needed color. I typically brush on some shimmery highlighter over the shadow, too- just to lighten it a bit and enhance the green more- but it’s a simple one-step color that makes my morning makeup routine so much easier.

By now, we know that I am fully committed to Fenty Beauty– so another one of their products popping up in my monthly “Favorites” collection shouldn’t be a surprise. For January, it was the MATTEMOISELLE matte lipstick in ‘Single’. Soft, long-lasting, and super-flattering- I wore this everywhere in San Diego- where it remained drink-proof, taco-proof AND kiss-proof for days on end. I cannot wait for Spring so I can grab the lilac-version of this formula- because I know it’s going to look amazing paired with floral prints and lots of pinks!

Another one of my “Carry-On Essentials” items that also made my Favorites list in January? My nautical-themed weekly planner for 2018- which I take with me everywhere in my bag. I jot down my work schedule, meetings, trips/destinations, appointments and blog-related to-dos in this book every other day and it helps me stay on top of everything.

A lot of my friends use electronic planners on their phones/tablets- which I know is probably more convenient- but I’ve seen their phones break or glitch out on them multiple times. Having a good ol’ fashioned paper planner I can rely on all the time is just so much less stressful for me. Plus- how cute is the design?

And finally- let’s give it up for cozy socks- AKA what I’m wearing inside of my snow boots 99.9% of the time this month. I’ve been coveting the aloe-infused pairs lately since the cold weather is murder on my heels- and not only do these keep my toes toasty and warm even when I’m out shoveling for hours on end- but my skin stays soft and smooth, too! There’s no need for an emergency pedicure after every blizzard when I have these things within reach!

When I was a kid, getting socks for the holidays was unthinkable- but now that I’m an adult- I’ll happily accept more of these, thanks.

And there are just some of my favorites for the month of January, 2018- the things that I could take photos of, anyway. But there’s still a few more things I really loved this month!

– MUSIC/MOVIES/TELEVISION –

“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” – I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Ryan Murphy. While shows like “American Horror Story” or “Scream Queens” never quite did it for me (too many characters  to follow in a limited amount of time = sloppy writing)– he’s pulled off some incredible dramas ala “Feud: Bette & Joan” and his most recent installment of American Crime Story which follows the events leading up to and following the murder of fashion icon Gianni Versace outside of his home in Miami Beach.

Unlike it’s O.J. Simpson ‘Crime Story’ predecessor- the casting in the Versace version is spot-on and it’s been so incredibly interesting to watch. I’m hooked!

The Redwoods Music – My friend Daniel in San Diego is an incredibly gifted, unbelievably talented musician and singer/songwriter who is an active member of some of the most fantastic local acts in Southern California. I absolutely adore him- and was finally able to catch up with him during my recent visit (after just missing each other around various gigs and venues for the past few months!) where he was kind enough to play me some of the things he’s been working on lately. With acts signed onto The Redwoods Music Label like The Midnight Pine and Birdy Bardot- the doors have been opened for me to discover more incredible acts and expand my current playlists substantially. You gotta’ go give these artists a listen!

– GAMES/APPS –

“Oxenfree” – Released in 2016, I was actually unaware of Oxenfree’s existence until earlier this month when a friend rigged up Steam at a party to show a group of us who had gathered for a night of pizza and board games. With a graphic novel-esque design and a sci-fi/mystery-inspired story that felt reminiscent to teen movies from the 80s- it didn’t take long at all for those of us who took turns playing it to become fully invested in the characters and the plot. It was a really fun and really unique gaming experience- and one that I highly recommend if you love a good, supernatural trip!

– MISCELLANEOUS –

Flannel Sheets – Perhaps the one comfort from home that I missed the most (apart from my dog) while I was away last week were my flannel sheets. I’ve stockpiled a few sets to get me through the Winter since it’s always freezing at night- and I’ve grown so accustomed to nodding off in them that I actually had a bit of trouble getting rest on the West Coast because anything else just felt weird by comparison. Now that I’m back and bundled up again- I’ve been sleeping like a rock (on dachshund printed ones at the moment, FYI!)

And I think that’s everything for January 2018. I’ll be talking about my trip to San Diego, the month in review, etc. a little later on this week in my “In a Nutshell” post- but these were my favorites and I’m sticking to them!

xx

– Ashley –

Favorites: October 2017!

Is it Monday again already? Ew. This past weekend sure flew by quickly! The bright side (there’s always a bright side) is that tomorrow is Halloween, of course- which means we all still have a couple of days left to squeeze in some last minute scares and sweets before we hang up our costumes and usher in November and the impending Holiday Season. I’m a bit overwhelmed just thinking about it already!

Before that, though- I wanted to share some of my favorite products/items/miscellaneous odds and ends that helped to make October the fabulous fright-fest that it was. Most of the things that made the list are silly finds I picked up along the way these past few weeks, while others are some my favorite kinds of entertainment- but all of it holds a special place in my heart when I look back on October of 2017.

Up first are the things I was able to photograph in one place!

A couple of weeks ago, while at the Rock and Shock Horror Convention in my hometown- I picked up one of these ‘Stranger Things’-inspired natural soaps from the booth that had been set up for Fiona’s Fright Soap. This bar in particular smells like a pretty amazing combination of pancakes and maple syrup- and with the second season of ‘Stranger Things’ premiering on Netflix a few days ago (spoiler alert: it’s awesome so far)– it felt like an appropriate time to start using it.

The soap not only makes me smell like a delicious breakfast- but it makes my skin feel really soft and smooth, too. I know this was a limited edition product but I’m hoping Fiona’s eventually makes it a regular item so I can order more of them!

One of my girlfriends, Stef, recently got into canning goods/food with her fiancé- and she’s been kind enough to give me enough food to get me through the zombie apocalypse every time we hang out. Her most recent concoction- and probably my favorite- is this vanilla & whiskey infused apple sauce. She makes it from scratch, air-seals it so it doesn’t go bad- and passes it around like Halloween candy- and it’s AMAZING. It tastes like apple pie filling with a little bit of a boozy kick.

I’ve been hounding Stef for the recipe so I can put it up here for everyone to enjoy. That’s a foodie post I’m really, really going to like putting together!

Speaking of food and sweets- one of my favorite things about Halloween is cooking/baking some seriously macabre snacks for my friends and co-workers. I’ve been loving these edible cupcake/cake toppers from Wilton. They make everything so much more funny- and I REALLY love seeing people’s reactions when they realize that they’re edible and bite into them for the first time. It’s priceless.

I’ll be turning to them when I start baking for next Halloween, too! (Side Note: I love the little edible hatchets you can buy as cupcake toppers. A little bit of red icing and you’ve got a sweet, delicious murder-themed dessert!)

With all of my Halloween stuff going on this past month, it was easy to neglect my nails sometimes. Thankfully, Saks Fifth Avenue had my back- and were nice enough to ship this milk chocolate-inspired shade of nail lacquer from Smith and Cult to me. The color (called “Tenderoni”)– which has quickly become my signature hue on my nails, eyes and lips- is going to be perfect for the remainder of the Fall through the Winter.

It’s smooth, long-lasting, and I’ll be posting a swatch of it soon on Instagram!

Finally, this was another find at the Rock and Shock Convention that I’m completely in love with! I’ve been wearing this Ouija pendant necklace non-stop since I got it- since it’s not only seasonally appropriate- but it looks pretty damned cool, too. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments from people who have leaned in close enough to get a good look at it- and I’m thinking I may keep on wearing it even after Halloween is over!

And that is everything I was able to photograph for my October favorites.

Of course, some other things made the list, too!

– MUSIC/MOVIES/TELEVISION –

“The Walking Dead” – OOOOOH, IT’S BACK, BABY- AND IT FEELS SO GOOD. Although we’re only a couple of episodes into the eighth season of my number one obsession- the pace of the show has been incredible. Rick Grimes is straight up murdering people. Daryl looks like he actually showered for once. Carol remains my flawless Queen- and Ezekiel still won’t break character. It’s everything I hoped for and more and I’m praying this season makes up for all the heartbreak viewers experienced around this time last year!

“Broad City” – On the opposite end of the spectrum, one of my favorite comedies is back and I couldn’t be happier. One of the things I love most (and there’s a lot I love about it) about “Broad City” is that it focuses on common issues for women everywhere- but it does it in a funny, and often touching or poignant way. The most recent episode, where Ilana admits she’s having trouble finding sexual gratification since Election Night while Abbi comes to terms with aging after finding her first grey hair- was some of the best writing I’ve ever seen on the show. I want to be BFFs with those girls.

– GAMES/APPS –

“South Park: The Fractured, But Whole” – I’m a longtime ‘South Park’ fan (it’s social commentary is spot. on.) and the last game that came out, “The Stick of Truth” is one of my favorites. While “Stick of Truth” was like a ‘Lord of The Rings’ parody- “The Fractured, But Whole” is geared towards making fun of the successful string of superhero movies that have come out in recent years. Featuring more predominant characters in the latest seasons- my friends and I have been pretty much dying laughing while we take turns playing this at get-togethers. It’s a riot- and really, really fun!

And I think that’s everything for the month of October. Most of it was Halloween and Horror-related, sure- but it’s the one time of year where it’s universally appropriate! I’m sure I’ll come back around to less gory and scary things come November.

Try to enjoy your Monday, everyone! I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about October 2017 overall before we pass out some candy and kiss this month goodbye!

xx

– Ashley –