Vlogmas 2016!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Well, well... back once again after a month or two of absence. I swear, this life thing can be hard sometimes. I never used to post on the weekends because I felt like it was time for me to relax and prepare for the week ahead. Now it seems like the weekends might be my only time for blogging. I have such a hard time sitting down to write anymore.

This calls a picture of Bently because everyone needs to see a cute dog sometimes! We'll just go with the sad picture of him though because we are sad I can't keep up with the blog! But don't worry, there is good news!

With my unfortunate lack of time, I decided I would seriously consider getting into the vlogging community. I am starting with Vlogmas (vlogging December 1 through December 25) and seeing how that goes. If it goes well, the vlog may stay more active. I hope y'all will keep up with me over there as well as read up on some of my going-ons around here on this little blog!

Check out Vlogmas Day One here as well as Vlogmas Day 2 below! Don't forget to subscribe and like the videos!

What is something y'all might like to see in future Vlogmas videos?

Fall is Here!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Warm days with cool evening. Apple picking. Pumpkin patches. Warm cider. Football. Scarves. The list could go on and on. Oh Fall, I always dread your arrival but I love you once you get here!

Does anybody else feel that way? I think I dread it because I know that Winter is next and I dread those short days and long nights. But all the perks of fall definitely make up for it.

One of my absolute favorite things about Fall (and Christmas for that matter) is decorating the house! I love being able to transform the house into different looks and feels with the seasons or holidays. And this year I'm all about some pumpkins!

This is actually my first year of decorating the house myself. Before living with my parents, my mom always decorated, but I'm finally getting my hand at it. NPG's mom and sister also used to decorate so we had some of their leftover fall decorations. I loved being able to mix their fun cozy decorations with mine and bring it all together. Plus it is a great chance for me to practice my interior photography! :)


Happy Fall Y'all!

Photography Passion Brought to Life

Friday, September 9, 2016

Photography has always been a passion of mine. I went into high school (so long ago *frown* ) knowing that I wanted to work on the yearbook and take awesome pictures that would be captured forever. I got my first DSLR back sometime around 2008 (maybe before then?!) but you can read more about that and my new camera here. After posting that I saw a Groupon for a walking tour for photography. The photographer would teach you how to use your camera and walk with you through the city showing you how to compose your pictures. 

Hands on help is always better helpful so I bought the Groupon for my mom and I. This Groupon was almost disastrous, but it worked out in the end. I put a sneak peak of some of my pictures in my August Vlog

After getting quite a few shots I really liked I set out to figure out ways to better edit my photos in Photoshop. I was able to figure out some "actions" and got free downloads, score! I was able to make my pictures look brighter and more vibrant with this. For example here is the before and after of my mom and I that the photographer took while we were at the park.

Even since editing this photo I've learned so much more! I want to keep getting better and sharing my photos (and hopefully one day make some money because of it). But right now, I just want to share my photos. So I created an Unsplash account. If you are unfamiliar with them, it is free pictures you can use in any way you want to. I loved using pictures from there for my blog. So now I'm glad I can give back. My goal is to get 20 likes on my photos!

You can check out some of my pictures, like them or use them for whatever you want! Click HERE to go to my Unsplash page! 

Dinner Ideas for Busy People

Friday, September 2, 2016

It gets very hard trying to come up with dinners to cook when you work in the evening. Cooking dinner for me takes place at roughly 7 or 8 am! I proceed to pack it up in to-to containers for myself and put the rest in the fridge for NPG for dinner. It's not easy to ask yourself what you want to eat for dinner when it's nearly 12 hours before dinner time!

I decided the best move for me to make was to make a meal plan for the month (August) and it extremely helped me to know what I was cooking and actually cook it. Plus it saved on grocery bills since we knew exactly what we were going to eat and what we needed to buy. I think one week I spent $40 for the whole week, minus dog food and alcohol.

Some of these recipes I saw on friends pages so I will list the links below so you can also try them out. Some really turned out to be favorites so I switched out some meals to make our favorites again.  

Basically I tried to have something new at least twice a week and have leftovers often so the fridge didn't get too piled up with food since it's only 2 of us eating. I'm thinking for some of the casseroles I may cut them in half next time because I know personally I get tired of a meal after eating it twice. But I can say the dog sure enjoyed the leftovers that we didn't finish. Also, I didn't plan for the weekends because we could be doing anything or going anywhere so they were often quick meals or eating out.

So without further ado, here is my August meal plan:

Recipes linked by date

3. Goulash
8. Stuffed Bell Peppers
9 (23). Skillet Sausage and Veggies
11. Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
12. Cowboy Casserole
15. One Skillet Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta
17. King Ranch Casserole
18. Buffalo Ranch Chicken Quesadillas

If y'all know of any other great recipes please share them!  I'm still filling in my future months calendars!

Highlights of August

Friday, August 26, 2016

I have slowly been getting back into the blogging game. I'm basically a one-day-a-week blogger now (better 1 day than none, right?!) and so a lot of stuff gets left out when I only blog roughly 4 times a month.

So last month I saw how Elizabeth did a cool vlog of her adventures throughout the month and I really liked the idea, so I'm totally stealing her idea and making my own vlog to update y'all when I don't always blog about everyday life. Though everyday life isn't always that interesting, I tried to throw in the highlights.

What have you been up to this month?!

Finding Reading Time in a Busy Schedule

Friday, August 19, 2016

I swear my free time has diminished to about 5 hours a week. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but that's what it feels like. In all honestly though, between working a full time job that sometimes requires Saturday hours, training for the half marathon and just keeping up the house, reading falls somewhere behind blogging on the list of when to get things done.

Every year I create a goal to read 20 books on Goodreads and so far, every year I have fallen short. This year seemed to be the same (see all of my excuses above). I tried multiple times to sit down and read but every time I lost interest in about 2.5 seconds because there were other things I needed to be doing or I was just plain tired and wanted a nap. So far this year I have read 8 books and only one of this has been paperback.

Okay, so how do you read books when you have a busy schedule? Well, my answer has been audiobooks. I rediscovered them in all of their glory. Yes 7 of the 8 books I "read" I actually listened to. Most of them I listened to while driving back and forth to work. But it's also easy for me to listen when I'm cooking or cleaning.

This year I have read: The Girl on Legare Street, Who Moved My Cheese, Low Pressure, Texas Lucky, Lethal, The Heart Goes Last, Demon Rumm, and Rogue Lawyer.

I have also discovered a new favorite author, Sandra Brown. I have fallen in love with her writing style and can't get enough. I've read 4 of her books this year, that doesn't sound like a lot but for me, it is.

I also wanted to revive the Read Across America map! I have started adding a few new books to it.

My two new adds for this year are Texas with Low Pressure by Sandra Brown and also Louisiana with Lethal also by Sandra Brown. Next up in Tennessee with Ford Country by John Grisham.

How do you fit reading into your busy schedule?
What have you been reading?

Hello Half!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Running has never really been my "sport". I really disliked running in high school and I warmed up to it a bit in college. Anybody else feel this way? I am trying to make it my thing. I have now completed the Monument Avenue 10K in 2015 and 2016 plus too many 5ks to count! But it has been my goal to run a half marathon for over 4 years now. It is on number 37 my 101 in 1001 list and I was beginning to get a little worried that I wouldn't complete one. BUT I'm happy to announce that I have signed up for the American Family Fitness Half Marathon on November 12th.
I am fairly nervous about this half, but I am so excited to finally be completing this goal! Sports Backers is holding their 8th year of the half marathon training so I know by the time the Half gets here I will be very prepared for it!

I had my first welcome/introductory training run last Saturday and it just stood to remind me I have a long way to go. We ran 3 miles and they were 3 tough ones. This past week was our first official training week. 3 days at 3 miles each. It has been so hot and humid here in Virginia I hadn't been running. I completely understand why I didn't run any this summer. Those runs this week were pretty killer. I was slow and drinched by the time I finished those 3 miles. But I'm looking at it as just more room for improvement. By the time race day gets here I will have improved greatly, the weather will have cooled down significantly and I know I will be very proud of myself and how far I've come!

I am so excited to share little tid bits of helpful hints along my journey that can hopefully help y'all with whatever race you are preparing for. The first one being, if you know there is a camera man nearby taking pictures always smile! You hate to be caught in an aweful face like I was. I will know better next time!

PS check out my coach friend who is looking quite stunning in his orange and penguin hat!

Smile, it's just one more mile!

What tips do you have for running a half marathon?

What's Up?! I'm SUPing!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Welcome back to Earth, Ashley! I have been going about enjoying my summer and missing this little blog of mine! I never felt like I had time to sit down and write about what was going on and what I have been doing and such. If I ever get a free moment, I feel like I need to be doing something productive, like cleaning... yuck! I would rather by blogging, believe me but the messy house says different!

I have been trying to take a bit of my free time for myself though! Way back at the beginning of July (that feels like so long ago, where has summer gone?!) I really wanted to try out SUPing. Stand-up Paddle boarding has been one of those things that I thought was so cool and I really wanted to do but never thought I could. So I bit the bullet and went to rent one when NPG and I were vacationing in the Outer Banks.

We took the rental paddle board back to where we were staying and played around in the canal a bit. It felt like it took me a good 5 minutes to stand up. I tried doing like the girl said by getting into downard dog and just getting a good feeling of how the board moves under you. I must have looked like an idiot with my butt stuck up in the air screaming how it was wobbling too much! I hope it wasn't as bad as I imagined it looking from anybody who might have caught a glance. Eventually I got up and moving and I had such a good time!

I took it out a few times while we were down there. NPG even took it for a spin once, though he had a little too much confidence trying it out for the first time and tried just stepping from the dock onto the board. He got a refreshing dip in the water before he got on the board for good. He got back on with a little more caution the second attempt and finally got to paddling.

But basically after attempting it I knew I wanted one! So I set out on the hunt to buy one. I didn't want to spend an outrageous amount of money on an every so often weekend adventure board. But when we went to Myrtle Beach for my birthday I visited a few board shops and almost lost hope until we visited an upscale "Wings" type of place and they had one that met the specs I wanted and was well within my price range! So I bought it as a birthday present to myself.

PS getting this thing home from Myrtle Beach was very fun... except not really...

I went out the first weekend I had free. NPG took me to a boat ramp about half a mile from our house and I paddled about a half a mile but it was so hot I was dripping with sweat by the time I got half way out. I had so much fun but I hurt my wrist in the process. I let it heal during the week and then went out this past weekend with one of my girl friends.

She has a kayak so she met me and we went out together. It is so much more fun when you have somebody to paddle with! We went to try to explore some man-made islands from where they dug up dirt to build up for I-95 but unfortunately the tide was way out and we couldn't make it into the area too far. We also feared snakes a little bit as well as alligators. We weren't sure if they are in Virginia but decided it was best not to look that up until after we got safely back on dry land. (We did look it up and they haven't made it up into Virginia yet) We ended up staying out on the water about 2 hours just paddling a little and talking. I think we probably paddled a little over a mile. It was so much fun. I can't wait to go out again!

Paddling into where all the little islands started.

You can find me on the water from here until it's too cold to go out!

5 Places I'm Dying to Visit

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I will be the first person to admit I'm an introvert and I enjoy staying home. But every now and again I get the desire to step out of my usual boundaries and a trip out into the unknown to see what the world has to offer. I've often pondered if I had unlimited funds and ample time off of work, where would I go?! Well, I've thought it through and here are 5 places I'm dying to visit rated by distance from me.

5. Washington, DC

As the nation’s capital, it’s hard for this not to make the list. At a whopping 110 miles away, this is easily a day trip by car or train. The last time I’ve been was over decade ago and my interests weren’t quite what they are today. This is a trip that will surely be full of historic information, rich masonry and unique photography!

4. Savannah, Georgia

Known for its Southern antebellum charm, there’s no way this wouldn’t be on my list! Plus, it’s home to Paula Dean’s restaurant. I’m booking my vacation there around when I can get reservations into her restaurant for sure! This comes in at my second closest must travel place at only 468 miles from Richmond.

3. New Orleans, Louisiana

Nightlife and the bayou aren’t all this city has to offer. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the rich culture and odd dialects of this French-persuaded city. This trip has to be little more planned as it is 1000 miles away from home!

2. Arlington, Texas

Everything’s better in Texas, right?! This might seem a little odd on my list as most of the places have historical value or Southern charm. Well this historical value is more personal as it holds the history of NPG. Born and raised a Texan, I would love to see where his roots originally formed. We are out of driving distance at a long 1300 miles from our current home!

1. Dublin, Ireland

Only a small leap across the pond, this is my ultimate place to visit before I die! Being half Irish, I would love to visit where my ancestors came from and learn more about my heritage firsthand. One day I will be on a plane to visit my roots only 3500 miles from home.

Where are you dying to visit?

Raise 'Em Up

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What a mess the weather has been the past few weeks. Virginia has gotten over 7 inches of rain this month so far! While I know we need the rain, only having 6 sunny days in May just puts me in a really down mood. Last week as I was driving home in the rain, I was listening to the Storme Warren show and they were doing a segment on who/what you would raise up trophy high. Basically it's a nice way of giving people or things a pat on the back that don't normally get a big thanks. 

When I've heard this segment in the past they raise up the teachers and firefighters, the people that matter on a daily basis, but may not get the thanks everyday. And while hearing Storme and his cohost talk about joy and praising others that deserve a little pat on the back, I started to feel my mood shift from gloomy much like the weather to bright and cheerful.

I started to realize that life (for me at least) has gotten so push and shove that there isn't time to stop and smell the roses anymore. It feels like it's all about progress and no time to enjoy what I have. It's really nice to take 5 minutes to stop and think about what or who is important and raise them up trophy high. 

When we are all focused so much on making progress and money it's easy to get greedy and lose sight of the important things. I hate to sound like your typical country song, but things are moving too fast, I feel like people have forgotten what patients and kindness are all about. 

So I have a challenge for you this week. I challenge you to take 5 minutes to slow down. Take those 5 minutes and think about who or what you would lift trophy high. This week try to spread joy instead of greed. Don't let the weather or something your boss said get you down. Hold the door for somebody behind you. Say thank you when somebody does something kind for you. Or even say "Hello" or "Good morning" to somebody you pass in the hallway. Let that joy you spread to others raise you up! You'll be surprised how much it will improve your mood and attitude as well!

Wedding Weekend With Confidence

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Where did the weekend go?! I swear it was just Thursday and I was getting up at 4:30 in the morning to go to work so I could get ready for tons of fun wedding stuff! This weekend was my best friends wedding and I just can't believe it went by so quickly!

My best friend Suzanne and her now husband got married on Saturday. They had dated for around 8 years so everybody is extremely happy they finally tied the knot! Suzanne was a beautiful bride and their wedding was super cute! She did a whole DIY wedding! I don't know how she managed to do it all herself!

I was fortunate to be able to stand up with Suzanne and support her as a bridesmaid on her wedding day! But my parents as well as NPG attended the wedding. It means so much when family and friends can get together and support new love.

The wedding took place on the river and it was the perfect spot for a wedding! I can't wait to see how those professional sunset pictures turned out! I snapped a few with my phone and even those were really pretty!

And what would a wedding be without a few selfies! NPG and I couldn't resist!

But on a serious note, I never was too self-conscious about wearing strapless dresses, but since gaining weight again I have become much more hesitant to put on a strapless shirt or dress. I now find myself trying to be careful about how I stand in pictures. But this past weekend, I didn't even think about it. I felt pretty and I just tried to let that feeling radiate through me. I think that helped my overall confidence level through the evening and into my normal life this week! Sometimes it just takes getting out of your everyday life and spicing things up a bit to find a bit of courage just to be you!

Following my Dreams of Photography

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

I have been one of those people who were envious of photographers and their beautiful pictures. I got a Nikon DSLR back in 2008 but never really took the time to learn how to use it for more than just a really fancy point and shoot. For about a year I had my eye on a DSLR that took pictures and recorded video. So finally around Christmas I bought it. Finally nearly 5 months later I'm starting to learn. 

Bare with me a little, I'll get back to talking about photography, a tangent is about to commence.

Saturday, my mom and I ran in a 5k to support NPG's college alma mater. I had never actually been to his campus even though it is only about 15 minutes away from where we live. It is really a neat little community. The campus is located on an old pecan plantation, so there are roughly 75 pecan trees planted in the middle of campus. The 5k actually ran though the pecan grove! They let the students and community pick the pecans when they are in season, which I think is super cool. Pecan pie anyone?!

Running through the grove - photo credit RBC 5k Staff Member

Crossing the finish line - photo credit RBC 5k Staff Member

I'm sure you see where I'm going with this...

Aside from graduating from there, the college is where NPG got his love of landscaping so he took me to one of his favorite and the most beautiful place on campus. Now let's get back on topic. I got really excited about this stunning little pond because it gave me a chance to enhance my new love of photography. I brought my Nikon D5500 camera with me to the race and set out to take some pictures and practice a little. I first started trying to shoot in manual mode roughly 3 weeks ago. My first try at manual mode on my camera didn't turn out quite how I wanted it to.

The next time I attempted shooting in manual mode I changed a few settings and I've slowly been getting the hang of it ever since. My Gerber Daisies have been the subject of most of my photography.

Now that NPG has introduced me to this wonderful garden at his college, I will be wanting to go back there to practice more. I got a few shots while we were there before I got too cold and wanted to go warm up. 

I am so excited to continue learning about photography and enhancing my skills. This has always been a dream of mine and sometimes you just have to follow your dreams and know that you can achieve them if you put your mind to it. 

What is something you have always wanted to learn to do?

Fitness Friday

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Happy Friday Eve! I always love when the end of the work week rolls around! Recently I've had amazing plans for the weekends! Spring always means I am out and about doing things with friends, but this week I have great plans for Friday! Okay, so I don’t actually plan to go out and do anything, but I have something great I want to share with y’all!
I have been participating in the ConfidenceKini Challenge for almost 4 weeks now (say what?! time has gone by too fast!). And I bought this fancy new camera that records video, so I wanted to record my workouts for my own personal benefit to see my form and observe myself progressing. But since I am going to be documenting my workouts, I should hold myself a little extra accountable as well. So y’all are officially my accountability outside of the Instagram challenge with my #LGSisters.

Starting tomorrow, I am posting Fitness Friday the last Friday of every month on my YouTube channel. I will smash together little snippets of my workouts in a short little video for y’all to check out. My hope is that this will motivate me to get my rear in gear and workout with the camera rolling every morning. BUT I also hope it will inspire you to get your weight lifting on if that is the kind of fitness you want to get into!

So be sure to head over to my YouTube channel tomorrow to check out the first Fitness Friday video!

Proper Planning

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Have y'all ever meant to do something and then things life gets in the way?! That's what happened for me last week. I had been planning to unveil this cool new project, but it took longer than I expected to get ready and my friends wanted to go out to eat and well you get the picture. Life happens.

PS you'll get the whole scoop on the cool new project this coming Thursday!

I always feel like I have the best intentions of doing things. Doesn't everybody though? My friend's dog died a few weeks ago and I went out and got her a doggie sympathy card, but forgot to look up her address to send it to her. Now weeks later, I feel like it would just be a sad reminder. Your best intentions don't really get you very far when it comes to action.

NPG has this saying that made me go "huh" when he first said it. It's the 6-Ps you should always remember! Proper planning prevents piss-poor performance. I'm a planner. Like I always like to have a plan especially when it comes to meeting up with people or even just going though my work day, but I had never thought of planning in that way. It really is true and a good phrase to remember.

NPG says it to his crew at work. When they don't plan properly, their mistakes cost the company millions. Granted, my improper planning of not sending a sympathy card or not writing a blog post ahead of time isn't that bad, but had I of planned a little better and been a little more organized, I could have gotten the card in the mail and posted about my new project last Thursday. 

Planning is good for more than just being reliable. It helps me to feel that I know what's going on in my life and don't leave anything or anybody out. Or you can use planning and preparing on a larger scale such as saving for your future. I know both of those make me a much more confident person.

Proper planning people!

Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of your pants?