Summer 2013 to-do list.

July 5th, 2013 | Posted by Ashley in Food | Musings - (Comments Off)

summertodolist

OK, I know … it’s been a while. A very long while. I have been failing trying at balancing the work/life/play/blog situation, without much success. I have about 27 #tallgirlproblems posts half-written and waiting to be shared, plus a dozen other blog post ideas that haven’t made their way to my fingertips and onto the keyboard. Sigh. But, as an avid blog reader, I was inspired by Emily’s recent Summer To-Do List post, and thought, hey, that’s an easy way to get back in the blogging game – make a to-do list! Considering, as a full-on Type-A-is-for-Ashley personality, making to-do lists is something I do for myself on the daily, I dusted off the Blog tab on my browser and got to writing. And while it may be a little late (summer actually started on June 21), who really feels like it’s summer until July 4th anyway?

1. Take 15 minutes every morning to read the newspaper (I’m a digital NY Times subscriber).
2. Sample some delicious food-truck eats at Off the Grid.
3. Make real, unadulterated, flame-charred s’mores.
4. Get my tan on – with proper SPF, of course.
5. Go for a run outside at least once a week.
6. Watch a movie under the stars in Dolores Park.
7. Read! I would love to commit to finishing a book every month. I’m starting with this Julia Child book I bought at Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in Paris.
8. Create my favorite summer cocktail for friends – it’s simply fresh watermelon muddled with some sugar and lemon, then finished off with ice and a generous splash of vodka. Refreshing and delicious.
9. Revive my hiking club and explore a new hiking trail in the Bay Area
10. Revisit a local classic and spend a few hours at the Alameda County Fair.

What’s on your summer to-do list?

Always,
Ashley

No, but seriously, I have had no time for that – that meaning documenting my thoughts and experiences and crazy observations on this blog.

Yup, that about sums it up.

Yup, that about sums it up.

I haven’t forgotten about you, though! I have been living in a whirlwind of change over the past three months. My 2013 so far has consisted of:

- Moving (back) in with my parents

- Taking a fabulous trip to Maui with my family – we ate at Top Chef contestant Sheldon Simeon’s amazing restaurant Star Noodle in Lahaina, plus had maybe one too many fresh ice cream cones

Maui family

Star Noodle

Legs

Ice cream

- Starting my dream job career !!!

- Reconnecting with old friends (and making new ones).

With Kyra

With April

UCLA

- And, helping my little sister plan her wedding (eeeek!)

Sam

Plus, a lot in between! It feels great to be back here, and I’m excited to return to posting and sharing my ridiculous, sometimes genius, sometimes nonsensical musings with you. Hope you’re having a great year so far!

Always,

Ashley

End of the year(book).

December 14th, 2012 | Posted by Ashley in Family and Friends | Musings - (1 Comments)

As 2012 comes to a close, I am pleased to announce that I am officially finished with graduate school! The three-semester program went by in a flash, but I have so many memories. And yet, at times like this one, I struggle with how to organize and preserve those memories. I remember completing my first year as an undergrad at UCLA, and I was left with so many open-ended questions, experiences, and relationships that I worried would fade after we all went to our respective hometowns for the summer. Since then, after every year of school, I’ve wondered, Why can’t I get a yearbook?

Remember signing people’s yearbooks at the end of every school year growing up? I have such fond memories of exchanging yearbooks with my best friends so we could draw pictures and decorate and write the most thoughtful message possible. I remember writing yearbook entries in people’s yearbooks with whom I wasn’t necessarily close and feeling a sense of closure and happiness that I was able to tell them how I really felt about them after seeing them every day for a whole year (all good things!) Yearbooks literally close the book on a year gone by, allowing you to reflect and reminisce, but then put the past behind you and move on to the next exciting year. Yearbooks show you how you’ve grown up – they’re time capsules that will always remind you of where you’ve been and who you are. And how much fun is it to look back at old yearbooks and see who your friends were and what people had to say about you? Especially when you realize you’re probably the exact same person you were back then, if not with a totally different body, longer hair, and straighter teeth. Not to mention a learned propensity toward not drinking six cans of Coke a day or eating an entire box of Frosted Flakes in one sitting. (The cookie dough thing is still going strong though.)

At UCLA, I longed for that closure, and I’d get so disappointed when I realized I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to everyone I wanted to before summer break. Then I got my yearbook senior year and realized the only thing a college yearbook is good for is adding extra dead weight to your packages while you’re boxing up your apartment. In the end though, I guess yearbooks are a thing of our youth. Since we cannot get people to write down what they think of us at the end of each year or every milestone in our lives, maybe we can learn from the yearbook philosophy. When big events in our lives come to a close, we should try to reflect on the journey, realize how far we’ve come, and more importantly, whom we met along the way.

I thought it would be fun to turn this post into a sort of informal yearbook by posting some of the most memorable photos from my past three semesters/year and a half in Boston. It had a million ups and downs, but I made some incredible friends along the way with whom I know I’ll be in touch for a long time coming. Thank you to everyone who made the completion of my master’s degree possible – whether scholastically, or just contributing to my mental wellbeing. I can’t wait to reunite and re-experience Boston in May for graduation!

Watching the Red Sox play at Fenway for the first time.

Watching the Red Sox play at Fenway for the first time.

Octoberfest with Nicole at Harpoon Brewery.

Octoberfest with Nicole at Harpoon Brewery.

Visiting my cousin, Carlye, in NYC.

Visiting my cousin, Carlye, in NYC.

Halloween dress-up.

Halloween dress-up.

Visit from Mom.

Visit from Mom.

Meeting my nephew, Tyler, for the first time.

Meeting my nephew, Tyler, for the first time.

Getting out of hand at the Bell in Hand with Gabby and Kyra.

Getting out of hand at the Bell in Hand with Gabby and Kyra.

I went to Israel! My sister and I did Birthright - amazing place, amazing people!

I went to Israel! My sister and I did Birthright – amazing place, amazing people!

Snow in Boston with my sister, Sam.

Snow in Boston with my sister, Sam.

Fun times out to dinner with Emily.

Fun times out to dinner with Emily.

Celebrating Kendal's birthday with the girls.

Celebrating Kendal’s birthday with the girls.

I saw Van Halen LIVE!!

I saw Van Halen LIVE!!

I ran a zombie 5K race with Kendal and Gabby. And I'll never do it again.

I ran a zombie 5K race with Kendal and Gabby. And I’ll never do it again.

My 27th (eek!) birthday celebration was so much fun! So many of my favorite people came out to party!

My 27th (eek!) birthday celebration was so much fun! So many of my favorite people came out to party!

I had the opportunity to visit Philly with Nicole, who was a phenomenal tour guide. Here I am doing the Rocky pose.

I had the opportunity to visit Philly with Nicole, who was a phenomenal tour guide. Here I am doing the Rocky pose.

I went on a weekend trip to Maine with some of my best Boston friends.

I went on a weekend trip to Maine with some of my best Boston friends.

Aaanndd a year later, back at the Bell in Hand with Gabby and Pamela.

Aaanndd a year later, back at the Bell in Hand with Gabby and Pamela.

I’m looking forward to wrapping up my time in Boston celebrating a few birthdays, going to a few holiday parties, and boxing up my memories to be shipped back to the city by the bay. I’ll be back soon, Boston! XO

Always,

Ashley

Teach me how to fly.

November 21st, 2012 | Posted by Ashley in Travel - (Comments Off)

As I write this post, I am sitting in the Boston airport, hoping my very delayed flight to San Francisco changes to only slightly delayed. Then again, I shouldn’t have expected anything less complicated when flying during Thanksgiving week. I also shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up that SFO would be cooperative (how is it that Boston in late fall has calm, sunny weather, but San Francisco is plagued with wind?) I love to travel, and I don’t mind flying, but boring, unanticipated waits at the airport make me realize how important it is to be prepared. I’ve been flying since I was in the womb, and over time, I’ve developed a routine that’s become second-nature to me. These tips keep me sane during what can often be hectic travel experiences:

Photo from Masterfile.

1. Two plus one. No matter how long your flight is, delays are commonplace nowadays, and you don’t want to be stuck bored and agitated. I always bring at least two things to do on the plane, plus one backup. The backup can simply be another magazine or project to work on. Alternatively, bring your phone or computer charger so that when you’re draining your battery trying to keep yourself engaged while waiting for your flight, you don’t have to worry that fun time is limited.

2. Food first. Airport and airplane food not only tends to lead to the unhealthy side, but it’s also expensive. Even if you’re only taking an hour-long flight, the collective time it takes to travel to the airport, go through security, fly, and head to your final destination will be at least a few hours. Face it – you’re going to get hungry. I typically purchase a healthy sandwich or hearty salad from my favorite cafe on my way to the airport, plus a few dry snacks like nuts and granola bars. Planning ahead will help you not only save money, but also to make healthy decisions when hunger strikes (and you know it will).

3. Bring a bottle, keep a bottle. It always surprises me when I see so many people on planes who don’t drink any water. Sometimes on a six-hour flight! Airplanes are incredibly dehydrating, and it doesn’t help that we aren’t allowed to bring liquids in containers exceeding 3.4 ounces. The prices of bottled water at the airport are marked up so much, it can feel like you’re better off buying a beer. However, if you bring a large bottle of water with you to the airport and dump out any remaining water before you go through security, you can fill the bottle back up via a drinking fountain – for free! No excuse not to stay healthy and wealthy on your next trip.

4. Slather up. Water isn’t the only cure for dehydration while flying. Your skin needs love too! I find that when I fly, my hands tend to get super dry. Therefore, I always carry a travel-sized bottle of hand lotion in my carry-on, and I slather it on often. Keeping your skin and body hydrated will help you to look fresh when you land, instead of worn down.

5. Gate-check an extra bag. A lot of people hate the idea of paying for the airline to check their bag, so they only take carry-ons. However, once you’re through security, all those bags can be daunting (especially if you follow #6, below). One trick I’ve learned is that airlines often offer to gate-check bags for free. When the flight is full, there won’t be enough room in the overhead compartment. Use this to your advantage, and get rid of the baggage! You’ll have a much easier time getting on and off the plane, and you’ll be helping to make the boarding process go smoother.

6. Get moving. One thing I can’t stand is sitting in the airport waiting for my flight, then sitting on a plane for hours. Moving your body will keep you energized and break up the long period of rest (oftentimes in uncomfortable seats without adequate legroom!) I like to walk back and forth down the terminal before boarding. An added plus is all the bags you may be carrying will only help you to burn more calories. I also get up every hour or so during the flight to stretch and get my blood pumping. If your flight isn’t too early in the morning, try to get in a workout before heading to the airport – even just 15 minutes will do. Your body will thank you.

7. We’re all in the same boat. Lastly, flying can be hectic and people can be crazed, so it’s important to be nice. It sounds clich├ęd, but flight delays and other mishaps are not the fault of the airline personnel at the gate. Having a positive and grateful attitude will make everyone else calmer, and who knows, it may get you a free bag checked or an extra snack on the plane. Remember that you are not the only person affected by the many annoyances that occur when traveling. Don’t hate, commiserate (together)!

Safe travels today on the biggest travel day of the year! And have a very happy, food- and fun-filled Thanksgiving.

Always,

Ashley

‘Tis (always) the season.

November 1st, 2012 | Posted by Ashley in Musings - (1 Comments)

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s devastating effects on the East Coast, many photos and stories have surfaced of kind-hearted civilians helping people in need. With half of New York City, and much of states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania, without power (or water), many people who do have power have been leaving surge protectors outside of their homes allowing those without electricity to charge their phones/laptops/whathaveyou. One small act of kindness, yes, but it makes a big difference when we realize that so much of our daily livelihood relies on electricity.

Photo from USA Today.

When I first saw these photos, I thought about how good it would feel if I were one of the people with power who was able to give back to my neighbors and fellow city-dwellers. After all, the people who do have electricity at this time are just lucky; I can’t imagine blaming anyone but Sandy for people’s struggles. We were prepared for the worst, as instructed. Anyway, I realized how strange it is to have a fleeting daydream about being a victim of a natural disaster, yet being able to help others. Who would want that?

But then I understood the deeper meaning of my desire. It feels good to help people. And while no one in Boston is in need of a surge protector coming out of my apartment to charge their phones, there are millions upon millions of other people around the world who need more than just electricity. I feel I am happily being drawn into philanthropy, and with the holiday season rapidly approaching, what better time to start truly giving back?

I spend so much time during the year buying things I don’t really need – but I really, really want – and I spend so much money during the holidays on ingredients to bake cookies and on gifts for friends and family. And after all that, I never feel I am truly happy or fulfilled. I need to give back. I see people in need on the street every day, yet I often feel like I just don’t have time to help. But the time has come to find the time.

Maybe I’ll start small, donating some food or giving money to a philanthropic organization. Maybe one day, I’ll travel on a humanitarian mission, giving all of myself to a worthy cause. Who knows. All I know is that I need to do something outside of myself. If I’ve learned anything from Sandy, it’s that shit happens, no matter who you are, and no matter how much you prepare. So help your neighbors, help your friends, help the people on the street you don’t know but who could really use a hand. In the end, we’ll all feel better. Let’s show Sandy who’s boss. As the first day of November, ’tis the season of giving, after all.

Always,

Ashley