Friday, June 23, 2017

A Home Away from Home

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Remember like four months ago when I told y'all that I had finally gotten a job and was finally moving up and out? In case you missed it ... that happened. I moved to D.C.; or rather the D.C. area-ish. I'm currently living with family in Maryland with a fun (read: long) commute into the city every morning. But actually, I won't complain. I'm #blessed to have family here to help me save up money before I venture out on my own. Speaking of which ... I have officially started the search for a new place. That's right! I'm on the hunt for a room with off-street parking—fun fact, I am very much afraid of street parking. :)

Anyway, since I really wasn't sure how long I would be staying with family, I was very unsure of how much of my stuff to bring. I'm not someone who likes to roll in with everything they own in tow ... that seems a bit presumptuous, right?

But at the same time, I did want to feel at home. I was going to be coming back to this bedroom every night after work and needed it to be a place for me to unwind from the stresses of the day. Even though I was told I didn't need to, I brought my own bedding with the encouragement of my mother. There is just something about the Room Essentials brand microfiber sheets from Target that I absolutely love. They are so comfortable!

I brought a bunch of books. Books I haven't read yet, but have had for approximately 1,000 years. Cookbooks since I knew I needed to find new things to keep my appetite up through the week.

After a few months, I went home to visit my parents and came back with my record player, and a few of my favorite records. The room has my scent now; I have candles and sprays everywhere.

I got comfortable buying things for the room that I wanted and knew I would use down the road in future rooms. I bought a cute retro style fan from TJ Maxx, since it is so so hot south of the Mason-Dixon line.

In my next place, I hope to feel a bit stronger a sense of permanence, though I know it won't be permanent. But the kind of permanence where you feel comfortable sticking a few nails in the wall and hanging up fancy wall art like the adult that you are. Of course, I will have to become a collector of such art first.

I do have a ton of photos of family and friends, though! However, I do feel slightly uncomfortable hanging too many pictures of them and having their eyes follow me room to room as I make my daily questionable decisions. Since most of these photos are stored in a digital space (very millennial, I know) and printing them seems a little excessive, I am a fan of placing the files in a digital frame and having it slide photo to photo. Check out these frames from Aura! How cute are they? You better believe the ivory and rose gold colored frame is all up in my shopping cart. And when you think about it, this is a way simpler idea than dealing with hanging frames on the wall and stepping back to see that one is like three inches lower than the rest, and you don't run the risk of people pointing out the aggressive number of picture frames crammed on bookshelves—I obviously have some opinions. Haha!

<3 Ashley

How do you make your space feel like "home?"

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dream Dressing Room

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I have spent many valuable hours (read: work hours) daydreaming lately. Having just moved to a new area and getting ready to enter into the transition of finding my own place, I have been doing a lot of fantasizing about what some of that space might look like. Of course my living room will have cushy seating and lovely wall art. The bathroom will have a distinct color scheme and hip accents. My bedroom will be a literal paradise because, duh ... it's me. Then I imagine opening up a pair of French doors leading from the bedroom into the amazing closet/dressing room. Note: I find that it is easiest to dream when one does not have the adequate funds to make the dream a reality; #firstjobstruggs, amirite?

But let's continue our tour through the closet, shall we? As a child of the MTV Cribs generation, I cannot have a dream closet without a massive shoe wall a la Kimora Lee Simmons—I feel that sentence was very 2005.

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Between the floor to ceiling windows, and the beautiful lighting fixtures, this will be the best lit dressing room ever. The windows will be dressed in soft, sheer drapes. I've been scrolling through the lighting fixtures at Arhaus, which conveniently (or dangerously) has stores located in the D.C. area. Perhaps one of these fabulous pendant fixtures hanging from the ceiling can fit in my dream. Tbh, I like the look of the Annabella light.

There will be paper ... yes there will be wallpaper, my friends. I'm thinking white with a gold pattern—I'd hate to be very plain. The shelving and furniture will be an antique off-white color. Not straight white, because I do not wish to blind myself; that certainly wouldn't be very good when picking out a stylish outfit, would it?

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I want a massive mirror in a tarnished gold frame leaning against the wall. Hardwood floors throughout, with a few soft, rose colored rugs. Of course, there needs to be some seating for the squad to hang out on while we take turns rummaging through the wardrobe before heading out for an incredible night (in this fantasy have a booming social life ... bear with me.) I love those big comfy chairs in the image above. ^

Ideally, despite the size of my dream closet, I would be the kind of person who takes initiative and keeps it up-to-date and organized with the clothes and accessories that I actually wear. That way it wouldn't be too cluttered. But, you can't really trust me with that kind of responsibility; this post is coming from a girl dreaming of the world's nicest dressing room on an approximately $5 budget. :P

<3 Ashley

What does your dream dressing room look like?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Looking for a Little Inspiration

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Every once in awhile I hit a roadblock and am in desperate need for a little inspiration. Now ... because I'm a casual mess of a human, I look for inspiration in multiple areas. Perhaps we will explore all of them down the road. For now, I am focused on just one: food. With the change in the weather and the seasons, so does change my cravings. This makes sense. The seasons change and so too do the foods that are in abundance. For example: strawberries are the only fruit on my mind, and spinach is the base for all of my salads.

But beyond that I feel stuck. Having to plan lunches for the week doesn't make the situation less annoying ... ya feel?

I mean I do little things like buy Greek olives on a whim, or dabble in artichokes. However, every time I cook the result is a pasta/rice dish, eggs, or a flatbread. I essentially take the same salad to work every day interchanging shrimp and chicken as the protein. I would love to switch things up every now and then to keep my diet more exciting—and keep myself from wandering into a restaurant for a $10 salad. Message to the city of D.C.: salads don't need to be $10.

I have amassed quite a collection of cookbooks for a 20-something who only cooks for herself on any given night and does approximately zero entertaining. So I have resolved to flipping through one or two to at least get a list of ingredients for the week that will maybe inspire several dishes. Does anyone else get into a food funk with the season change?

<3 Ashley

What are your favorite dishes to make in the summer?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Summer Wedding Tips

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Tis the season ... wedding season. What better time to tie the knot than under the sun on the beach, or under moonlight of the cool summer nights?

I remember being the flower girl at my aunt and uncle's summer afternoon wedding and then dancing (and eating) the night away under the stars. But when you are not part of the wedding party, what is one to do for dress? Fear not—I have just a few things that I like to consider before the big day:

Consider the invitation. Is there a theme or selected colors for the wedding? What time of year and day are you attending? Is it outside or inside? These are the important questions to ask. Also, take into consideration the location for the reception. The graphic below offers some great quick tips for the different type of wedding celebrations.

Think comfort. I love to find a dress that can easily make the transition from the tradition of the wedding ceremony to the fun that the couple has planned for the reception. Make sure you've selected something that you are comfortable dancing the night away in.

Are you going in a pair? I am by no means insinuating that you go all out prom night and throw on a lime green tie to match your date's lime green dress. However, if you are going as part as a couple, you should aim to complement your partner's look.

Check out this helpful graphic below from The Black Tux, which provides men with a great option for suit/tux rental. Renting is always a great way to curb cost if the item in question is not something you wear regularly. Lord knows I wish my prom dress came from Rent-the-Runway and was sent right back ... instead of being a large midnight blue clump taking up valuable space in my closest.

<3 Ashley

Do you have go-to guidelines for wedding wear? Share in the comments!

Monday, May 29, 2017

We Remember
National World War II Memorial

Today, here in the U.S., is a day of remembrance dedicated to those who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our nation's past, present, and future. I am proud to be a part of a family that boasts a number of dating back to the War for Independence.  Now that I am in D.C., I was able to experience Memorial Day weekend and took the opportunity to visit the Vietnam Memorial yesterday to find the name of a relative lost during the war on the wall there.

Take a moment today to think about those who gave it all in an effort to protect freedom and progress.

<3 Ashley

Sunday, May 21, 2017

So How About That Weather

 Just another artsy shot taken outside of a Starbucks

Ya'll ... what is this weather lately? We are now living in a world where 90 degree days happen and then the world bounces back to a casual 70 degrees.

This would be the way I start a blog post after so much silence, right? Talking about the weather.  I'm sorry that I am the actual embodiment of "the worst."

But real talk: since it's been so hot, I decided to lift the ban on spending outside of gas and groceries and bought a few dresses that I can wear to work. Let me tell you, the District was hot and humid those 90 degree days last week. So I bought these super cute dresses and I was feeling super great about it. Then I saw the forecast for the week and I will probably wear these dress zero times this week.

Am I the only one who gets super bummed when I can't debut an outfit to the world immediately? Am I the only psycho here?

Then I went and bought myself some new flats and sandals because walking around D.C. the excessive amount I do has made my shoes so gross! So I guess the good news here is my wardrobe has gotten a little refresh before we reach the depths of these warm months.

As an update while I'm here: I am so happy right now. My job is great, and I am loving the chance to get to know this city outside of what I got to know as a tourist growing up. I also find myself staring longingly into expensive bars and restaurants cuz I'm not quite cool enough to walk in and fit in - something about me still screams "rural Pennsylvania!" So, my D.C. alter-ego is still a work in progress. ;)

<3 Ashley

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Adventures of a First Time Adult

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As of yesterday I have considered myself an adult for about two months. For me, obtaining a full time, salaried job makes me a grown-up. It wasn't graduating college. I wasn't the first bill for my student loan repayment adventures—check-in with me in 20 years!—it was the day I walked into the office in my "trying too hard" professional outfit and faux confident smile. Granted, that first day turned into the most hectic and awkward day, which set the tone for my time in this position. Yesterday marked two full years as a working adult.

During those two months I navigated my way through selecting all the insurances, dedicated myself to packing healthy lunches everyday, committing to continuing my fitness regime, thinking about my bank account constantly, and making sure that I speak with my parents at least once a week...I seem to have developed the habit of calling my mother every night.  She misses me right? ;P

College was like adulthood-lite. Of course, in college we are responsible for getting ourselves up and to class. It was up to us to maintain motivation to do well and get to the finish line. But there was the familiar safety net: my parents handled the hard stuff. Now I'm getting my car inspected and setting appointments to make adjustments so I can keep it running for another year. I am planning my meals through the week so that I buy just what I need at the store and don't shop without a plan. I am incredibly restrained and no longer make whim purchases. I think about the dentist more than I would like.

Here I am now. Getting my thoughts together before heading into a very busy week, drinking a glass of white, watching a special on Princess Diana, avoiding the basket of laundry that is looking at me expecting me to act responsibly and against my own habits; I have a tendency to let the clothes just sit in the basket until the next laundry day. This is real. This is me. (This is me quoting Camp Rock.)

Thank you for reading the latest installment of "Late Night Thoughts with a Young Woman Who Really Should Go to Bed Now."

- Ashley

Are you finding "adulting" to be an amiable experience?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Getting (Spring) Colorful

Those cherry blossoms though! via

Spring seems to be (fingers crossed, knocking on all of the wood within reach) finally in full bloom. Walking out in the sun during lunch has me dreaming about skirts, dresses, and sandals. There are so many aspects of spring that inspire my love for the season: Easter, blooming flowers, and my new appreciation for the cherry blossoms that outline the Tidal Basin in D.C.

My vision of spring is marked by specific colors as well. If you wandered into my brain right now you would encounter a changing sea of lavender, mint, and soft pink. I wanted to put together an inspiration board with a few of my favorite pieces in my favorite spring palette right now, and even throw in some ideas for the guys—do you know how hard it is to incorporate these colors into men's looks and avoid suffering from traumatic flashbacks frat guys in the spring? But I think I officially lost control of that when I wandered onto the Sperry site. ;)

But let's get back to the present. Spring is upon us and it's time to put our closets to the test and add some of the season's newest trends. In my time searching the Internet when I should have been working (oops!) I made the happy discovery that the '80s have returned. Of course, doesn't always feel like the '70s and '80s are coming back? I guess that speaks well on the behalf of those decades. This is me defending the easy reach using a polo shirt in my men's look. :P Rayban-style sunglasses also felt incredibly appropriate in achieving an '80s-inspired look. When it came to a women's look, the decade trend comes through via aviator sunglasses (a la Top Gun) and an off-the-shoulder top. An argument can be made for the skinny jeans as well being a call back to the big hair days. Here is the result of taking this trend and injecting it with my favorite spring color palette—forgive the varying shades, a consistent pink is apparently very difficult to get one's hands around!

I'm no menswear specialist; I feel like not being a man works against me on that. :) But I know what looks I like to see on them. When putting these looks together, I liked scrolling through the web store, Bonobos. I particularly like their shorts; not to baggy and long, and also not terrifyingly short! In the words of my girl, Goldilocks, "They're just right."

- Ashley

What does your spring palette look like? 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Life Lately

Was fortunate to get a few hours off work to wander and hang out at my favorite monument

So it's been a minute, right? Let me tell you, a lot has happened in that minute.

It should please everyone who has had the misfortune of being around me the last 10 months, I finally got a job! Yes-sir-ee! I've packed my bags and hustled on down to D.C. to finally start my bid for greatness. Maybe not greatness...but you get the idea.

Falling into routine has been kind of a pain in the behind since I started. While I work in D.C., I certainly don't live in the city—I have to save money somehow, right? No, I actually live a nice 30-minute metro ride away. Plus the additional 20-minute walk from the station to the office. But I will spare you the complaints. Such is life for someone just starting out, I guess.

I am starting to adjust to my surroundings and am very excited about what the next year (at least) holds for me. It's so amazing to not have the stress of job hunting weighing down on me anymore. Now I get to plow forward and take advantage of the amazing opportunities and location that I have in front of me.

<3 Ashley

How's your life lately?

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Weekend The Sun Shone

The South Central Steam at Molly Pitcher Brewing Co. was too good

We are just entering the last stretch of February, and this weekend Mother Nature gave us a small preview of what spring holds for us. Seriously, ya' was in the 60s ALL WEEKEND! I don't think I've ever spent so much time outside consistently.

Saturday saw me consuming some very yummy fish tacos—does anyone else eat just a little bit lighter when it's warm out?—before taking a warm jaunt through probably the largest park in the area. Lesson learned: when you're walking an extended period in 65 degree weather, shorts are acceptable; I was burning up a bit in my leggings! Sunday was even more full of exploration in Downtown Carlisle. This time around, instead of passing by the Molly Pitcher Brewing Co. (as I usually do!) we stepped inside for a glass and were pleasantly surprised by how nice the setup was. Next time, I will be sure to also order a plate of, I'm thinking, the pulled pork nachos? Yeah that sounds good!

Looking ahead, this week doesn't look so bad either. Don't get me wrong: I do love this weather since it motivates me to get out more and be active. However, it's not even the end of February. Does this seem ominous to anyone else? Does this mean we are going to get destroyed by snow and cold temps in March?

I guess time will tell!

<3 Ashley

How did you spend this gorgeous weekend?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Current View: A Snowy Scene

Current view

If you live in the northeast, you also are looking at a fresh coat of snow in your front yards. This is the first good, healthy snow that we have gotten all winter (I think?) and I have to say that I am super excited about it. It's just so pretty! If I could go out and roll around in it, I would. However, it may not be super cool for a 22-year-old woman to do so; I'm not trying to attract concerned looks from neighbors.

Growing up in PA, I have become resigned to winter being a season and snow being a reality for at least 3-4 months. Complaining about the cold and the snow just doesn't help. There are very few things I love more than opening the drapes up wide, kicking back with a big blanket on the sofa with a cup of coffee/glass of wine—whatever beverage is appropriate for the time—and watching the flakes fall. 

<3 Ashley

Do you like the snow?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Week Links

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Stumbled upon a Facebook ad for these sweet smelling candles for those homesick for their home state. Chocolate and molasses for PA...pretty accurate, I think.

This article totally speaks to the kind of person I am. I've never been nervous about spending time by myself. Sometimes I can actually get frustrated if that alone time is interrupted!

The year's top B&Bs list has been released and No. 1 is this adorable English location in Dorset.

Check out this cozy pajama set from J. Crew! I can just picture myself lounging around all day in these.

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, some of us still don't know what to do. Why not whip up a romantic meal at home? Saveur has a list of some delicious dishes to consider.

<3 Ashley

Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Recipe Box: My Grilled Cheese

There are certain foods that people can get very defensive and opinionated about. One such food item I am sharing today—grilled cheese. It is the classic sidekick of soups of all varieties and itself can come in a few different forms. I read an article a few years ago asserting that buttered white bread and two slices of American cheese was the true formula resulting in the perfect cheesy sammy (excuse me while I channel my inner Rachael Ray!)

I have my own opinions on the matter. Since I have been such an active grilled cheese consumer from youth to adulthood midnight snacking, I feel I have room to speak. I am not a white bread eater and when it comes to American cheese, I have to admit that I am a hater. can't tell me that it is the yummiest cheese in the case.

Recently, I was lazily constructing a soup and grilled cheese lunch and through slight alterations discovered my new favorite way to eat this timeless sandwich:

- Na'an (wheat preferred)
- 2 slices of pepper jack cheese
- butter melted in the skillet

Still simple, yet different enough to be a little exciting. Note: It may be sad that right now this feels like the most daredevil move of my life. I broke some na'an into pieces sized to my desired portion and to accommodate the cheese slices. Melt butter down in the skillet; I feel weird spreading it directly on the na'an. Then proceed as normal. Enjoy!

<3 Ashley

How do you take your grilled cheese?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Making College the Best for You

I'm clearly not on the same page as everyone else!

I'm still fresh off the heels of graduating college and am still in the transition period between graduate and adult—or so I feel I am. While I am certainly very much just kicking off a wonderful, lengthy life with many years to go, college will go down as some of the best four. I will never regret the decision I made to attend a four year college despite the fact that I will be paying for it for the foreseeable future.

While the education was quite pricey, the experiences that I had outside of the classroom were priceless and made the time so much better. I was blessed with amazing people and got to fall in love with the amazing city that is Pittsburgh. Side note: peek this HarpersBazaar article listing PGH as one of the top 10 places to visit in 2017!

If I were to give some kind of advice to those just entering college (like the old wise person I am!) it would be, simply put, to go to class and also go places outside of class. In more specific terms:

Take advantage of what your school offers. Pitt was wonderful place to explore. Our student IDs could be used on public transportation throughout the Pittsburgh area. Anytime we needed or wanted to get to a different neighborhood or spend a day downtown, there was nothing keeping us from doing so. Our IDs also granted us access at most of the museums around the city. Let me tell you, it didn't suck to spend a rainy day wandering around the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, which was right across the street from our campus.

Benefit from the free stuff on campus. I loved the plethora of free stuff that was available around campus throughout the year. On campus concerts, wellness classes and events, and alumni events were frequently on the calendar to ensure that we were never totally bored. I was also a huge fan of Pitt Arts, which provided the opportunity for students to attend film screenings and performances by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Ballet, and the Opera with discussion and food included. I may or may not have appreciated the fabulous desserts and rich conversation at the Orchestra (and the beautiful architecture at Heinz Hall!)

Stay on top of your mental and physical health. Another benefit that I was very much grateful for was the 24-hour fitness centers around campus. Each residence hall included a private gym just for those students living in that particular hall. There were all two other fitness centers in the basketball arena and in the student union if you had time to set aside to sweat between classes! Mental health is also important. "Walk away" was a frequent text from my mom late at night when I was clearly burning out from information/work overload. Warning: those moments can be frequent in college; learn to identify the stress early and learn how to best handle it. I would close my laptop and devote at least one night during the weekend totally to my friends and good times. Maybe hit up karaoke night?

Make some money. Of course you can't commit yourself to working too many hours when you're already devoting so many to your studies; however, you can definitely fit in 10-12 hours a week to make some money for groceries! I got a job my junior year when I went off the campus meal plan since we had a kitchen in our apartment-style dorm. I was able to support my appetite (an accomplishment) and start squirreling away some cash for senior year when we would be moving totally off-campus. Additional financial tip: shop for things only as you need them. You may find yourself in the store more than once a week, but if you know what you need and you stick to that list it should be no problem.

Plan ahead. Understanding how you are going to pay for your education before you get into it is important. You need to know before you get started where you are getting your money from. I familiarized myself with the repayment packages before graduated so that I could prioritize my spending. I went strictly federal on my loans—I feel like pursuing other private loans might have stressed me out a bit more. There are also many services out there, like Earnest, that give you the opportunity to refinance and rework your loans to fit a model that you are more comfortable paying off and possibly paying off faster. And that's the goal isn't it? To pay it all off as fast as possible.

<3 Ashley

What are your college survival tips? Or if you're going to be attending, what are your concerns?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Holiday Sweets

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The holidays are over, but there are still some aspects that linger. Example: the bags of cookies, containers of fudge, and my brother's birthday cake. I imagine that my blood sugar is so far past the roof at this point. Tell me I'm not the only one with this struggle. We all want to start the year off right and get those veggies and treadmill miles logged, but how can we do that we the temptations of the season still hanging around?

My solution? Shove it off on others. I've been harping on my family to help themselves and even offered to bring along bags of sweets to meet-ups with friends (they said no because "2017 is the year I take control") THIS IS NO TIME FOR DISCIPLINE!

I truly do not feel I can commit myself to my new year health kick until the sweets have left my fridge. Plus, half of the cookies and all of the fudge were made by me—and there is no way I am throwing out all of my hard work. I will hit the pavement running again and will certainly work on making healthy meals (with the new cookbooks I got for Christmas!) but I will still be snacking and working on getting those holiday sweets outta here!

<3 Ashley

Are you still being haunted by the ghost of Christmas sweets?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

On A New Year

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Hello, and welcome to 2017! 

I for one am incredibly excited to see the turnover in years and celebrated accordingly; my friends and I traveled to NYC to attend a very fun and fabulous Great Gatsby party. You better believe that I went full flapper in my outfit.

The final 10-second countdown to midnight at the party was so full of excitement and relief. I think that we can all agree that overall 2016 has been the not-so-good, very bad year. This year has been marked with international conflict, personal issues (myself included), and far too many Hollywood deaths for a girl to handle. Seriously, who will entertain me now?

While I certainly will not look back at this past year fondly, I will remember everything it taught me. It taught me to be strong in the face of incredibly difficult moments; it taught me how to lean on my friends when I need to; and it taught me how friends come and many times they go. This has certainly been a year that has forced me to grow up in a lot of ways.

I do not know what 2017 will hold for me—hopefully a full time job? But I do have just a few small things that I would like to get out of this year:
  • I want to read a lot more. Much of my attention in 2016, especially the second half, was on the computer screen. I received a number of fantastic reads for Christmas that I would love to devote my free time to this year.
  • Organize my thoughts and my life better. 2016 was a very forgetful year for me. I frequently found myself in a panic trying to get things done that really should have been done maybe a week earlier. I will see you daily, agenda.
  • Multi-task less. Let's face it. We all claim to be great multi-taskers, but at what point can we admit that the products of this multi-tasking are not as great as if we had focused all of our attention on them. I aim to focus my time better so that I am able to do my absolute best.
  • Take a breath and think before I speak. Maybe it was just the climate of this last election, but 2016 saw me spouting off at the mouth frequently without much thought or consideration.
Let's see if I can actually stick to this plan and make at least two of these hopes reality.

<3 Ashley

What are some of things you want to accomplish in 2017?