Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Anyone who truly knows me, knows I have a thing for quotes. It could possibly be considered an obsession. A good song lyric can be a quote I hold on to, a simple yet poignant idea heard from a stranger or line from a movie or book can draw the biggest breath of air from my lungs. I’ll write quotes on margins of books or magazines and when I get really desperate (and my Iphone battery has died) I’ve been known to steal pens and napkins or toilet paper just so I don’t loose the quote. Words are huge with me, so when I hear a group of them formed into a wonderful quote I have to have it documented and stored in my vault.

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I started my blog exactly one year ago today, and I’ve acquired so much. The only way I can truly express what I’ve come to find within the year is by writing about it with quotes that I’ve saved. These quotes pinpoint who I am, how I feel and what I have come to find. So here it goes…

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In 2015 I’ve come to terms that I really, really, like to write. It’s very therapeutic and as Ernest Hemingway said “my aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.” I plan on continuing writing for this blog, but also for myself. I love writing short stories and vow to take time in 2016 to continue to write stories on my vintage sea foam green typewriter I’ve named Steinbeck. (If you don’t know how I came up with the name my only advice to you is…read a book.)

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I’ve found that if “I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” [Lord Byron]

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I have grown immensely this year learning about the different people that surround me each and everyday. But mostly I’ve learned about myself, and “like wildflowers; you must allow yourself to grow in all the places people thought you never would.” [E.V.]

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I’ve learned about the law of attraction and successfully put it to use, as funny lady Amy Poehler said, “you attract the right things when you have a sense of who you are.” I was told continuously this year that I’ve always had “that look of otherness, of eyes that see things much too far, and of thoughts that wander off the edge of the world.” [Joanne Harris] and have come to realize that my heart swings back and forth between the need for routine and the urge to run.” [Unknown]

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Thank you to the people who have allowed me to whisper and at times shout my dreams into their ears; always willing to listen to every detail I divulge. To all of you who have stood by my side and have help me grow, even if infinitesimally, thank you for opening my eyes when I’ve wanted to walk blindly onto roads that I didn’t see were that scary. As R.M. Drake wrote; “she could not make sense of the things that were meant for her, but she was drawn to it all, and when she was alone, she felt like the moon; terrified of the sky, but completely in love with the way it held the stars.”

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“I’m very picky with whom I give my energy to. I prefer to reserve my time, intensity and spirit exclusively to those who reflect sincerity” [Dau Voire]—to all those who I’ve spent time with in 2015, thank you. Thank you for simply letting me be me and sharing wonderful experiences and creating lasting memories I’ll cherish forever.

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I’ve learned that “I’m a simple person with a complicated mind”[Anonymous] and sometimes it just easiest to let go because “overthinking kills your happiness.” [Unknown]

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Like everyone in this world, I’m human; imperfect. I’d be lying if I said 2015 has been a year of daisies, cupcakes and rainbows. My road, like so many others, has had some dips and windy curves but they have all become lessons that I will never regret. I can proudly say that in 2015 whatever I’ve done I’ve given it my all and tried my best. As my ultimate heroine of 2015 Ronda Rousey said; “you have to be willing to get your heart broken. That’s just what fucking happens when you try.”12.30.15_019

Looking back there are so many things I wanted to happen that didn’t and vice versa- things that happened that I didn’t want or expect. I’m quite glad things played out the way they did because now I “consider that maybe God closed that door because he knew [I was] worth so much more.” [Unknown]

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So as 2015 comes to an end all I can confess is that it’s been a WILD ride; and as 2016 quickly approaches I can honestly say that it will be year unlike any other, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me. So many firsts, so many opportunities; I hope I take each given to me.

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An open road awaits me…cant wait to see what landmarks I hit, hidden treasures I stumble upon, U-turns I face and exits I’ll take. My wild ride continues and my car is loaded with fuel that will last until I reach 2017. “A lot can happen in a year!” [Anonymous]

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As a writer I’ve learned this year that “ some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity…” [Gilda Radner]

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 So long 2015! … 2016 I’ve buckled my seatbelt and am ready! Take me where you may. I’ll follow, but I’ll tell you now ahead of time, it’s not in my nature to always obey. 😉

 -xo ash

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Places I’ll Remember

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There are places I remember
all my life, though some have changed.
Some forever, not for better.
And some have gone, and some remain.

All these places have their moments
with lovers and friends I still can’t recall.
Some are dead and some are living.
In my life I love them all. [The Beatles]

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You know that experience when you leave a place and “say see you later”, but don’t actually know the next time you’ll be seeing it? Then weeks, months or maybe even years later you go back to that place and it’s as if nothing ever changed; didn’t skip a beat and just continued as if you had never left at all. Is there a word for this? Whatever it is, I simply love it. I love that you’re both so comfortable and know each other so well. I love having that connection, it makes leaving just a bit easier because you know when reunited what you’re coming back to. It’s almost a sense of safety and security.

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Cayucos: Summer of ’96

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Cayucos: Fall of ’15 [we traded in ice cream for ales]

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In this vast world it’s hard to find a place to make you feel comforted and special like this. I’ve traveled to many places and find this experience to be very rare. Two sweet beach towns that lie on the edge of the central coast of California have this very rare quality. Cayucos and Carmel have little pieces of my heart. Each time we meet its as if nothing has ever changed. These places played roles in making me who I am. They watched me grow.

But places aren’t the same as people, because when you leave a person you will not encounter the same one upon reuniting. They’re always slightly different. They’ve changed; even if it’s a minute shift. When we leave people, we take with us visions of how they were; memories that help when that persons gone and far away.

People evolve. They are ever moving. No person will be the same way they were when you left them. They meet new people that open their eyes in ways they never thought possible. New experiences change them and the way they see the world can slowly shift as well. So as I begin to embark on a new phase in my life I can’t promise that when I come back I will be exactly the same person. No, that would be ridiculous to assume. But I can promise to take all that I experience and learn, and make it a beautiful chapter in my growing story. I can only hope that when I return I will be an even better version of myself.

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❝So, what if, instead of thinking about solving your whole life, you just think about adding additional good things. One at a time. Just let your pile of good things grow. ❞Attachments, Rainbow Rowell

 

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To those I love, just know I’ll be back. Like an old Australian Proverb says: “We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home.” Remember this isn’t goodbye; its see you later.

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-xo ash

ps: To those who have helped shape me like the places and people in these pictures, thank you…in my life I love you all. (Anna, my kindred spirit, thank you for giving these places that much more meaning. Promise to let Tommy dance with YOU next time 😉 )Anna and Me


Carmel Favorites:

  • While in Carmel-by-the-Sea save your appetite and check out my favorite little Italian restaurant, Little Napoli. It is seriously the best! I always order the same thing and it never gets old. Be sure to order the crab bisque, steamed manilla clams and of course Chef Pepe’s famous garlic flatbread. Made from a 100 year old family recipe it will transport your taste buds to Italian citys like Rome, Naples, Sorrento or Capri! If there’s still room, have a cappuccino and share the Tiramisu..you wont be sorry.

    Cayucos Favorites

  • Run off all the food you ate at Little Napoli and take a jog on my favorite stretch of beach, Sand Dollars. Perfectly named, this public beach is littered with little white sand dollars early in the morning and has the best view of both Morro Bay and downtown Cayucos. I love getting up early and jogging on the sand, or finishing the day watching the sunset and strolling.

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Road Trippin

8.15.15-JOSHUA TREE
108 degrees Fahrenheit
1 RV
2 rescued dogs
3 desert dwelling darlings that inspired

8.21.15- SAN FRANCISCO
64 degrees Fahrenheit
8 hour drive
1 trusty 2006 Toyota Corolla
5 minutes of uninhabited dancing at fisherman's wharf

Road trippin’ with my two favorite allies
Fully loaded we got snacks and supplies
It’s time to leave this town
It’s time to steal away
Let’s go get lost
Anywhere in the U.S.A.

Two girls in search of adventure. It’s how every one of our trips starts out. But we’re not just two average girls that have a set itinerary and clothes laid out for each day. No; we dance to the songs in our head, over pack as if we’re leaving home for a few months and always tend to meet some crazy characters along the way.

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Life throws us curve balls and usually we hit them out of the park; that or we at least get on base and hope the next at bat brings us home. Our go to road trip snacks include but are not limited to pretzels, chocolate, flaming hot munchies, caffeine of any form and of course vodka (for the Moscow mules we make in celebration of making it to our destination).10.8.15_027

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We each have our distinct roles on the road. I can always count on Meghin to have researched our destination with cool places that we could hit up. A crumpled up piece of paper (our version of an activity sheet) is always on hand. Outdoor swap meets, vintage clothing shops, free musical festivals, food truck gatherings…anything off the grid is written on the paper and stuffed in a purse, always at our disposal.

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We both have similar taste in music but I can always count on Meghin to bring along jams crossing all genres. Everyone knows that an epic road trip cannot be achieved without an outstanding playlist. Our eclectic playlist includes but is not limited to The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Taylor Swift, The Mamas and the Papas, Beyonce, Sublime and many more.

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I am always ready to document our experiences with at least two different types of cameras on hand. I try to shoot anything I find interesting and different; specific things, things that will evoke a memory when I look at them once the trips have ended. Poor Meghin usually has to wait for me to get the right shot and the right angle and heaven forbid someone get in the frame at the wrong time. I “take photos as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone”.

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Big Sur: Bixby Bridge

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When you road trip you find out a lot about the person you’re with. Not everyone makes it out alive. Does the person you’re traveling with sing really loud and off pitch? Do they need to take a million bathroom stops? Can they only stay at five star hotels fit with valet and room service?

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Lucky for Meghin and I we both have perfect pitch (…well almost perfect); we only stop for gas, bathroom stops that are absolutely necessary and in-n-out; and as long as we feel safe and there’s a soft pillow under our heads we’re pretty much fine with staying at any hotel or hostel.

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While road tripping I love to always keep my eyes open. I try not to sleep. You never know what you’ll see. I encourage every wandering soul to drive out onto an open road with a great playlist, a true friend and a mind that is open to whatever the road brings your way.

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good shoes take you good places

Remember it doesn’t matter what road others take, what short cuts they find and how long it took them. Your road is just that: it’s yours. Some people will hop on your road and ride along side you for miles, some for a few short yards. When it’s their time to exit be grateful for your time with them and send them off with positive vibes; who knows you might see them down the road. When you have a hunch listen to it. Stop when you feel you need to. Forget what the right thing would be for someone else and do what’s right for you. Go your own way.

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-xo ash

ps: Meg thanks for being my ally on the road, keeping me awake with deep conversations as we drove down the 1 and for always reminding me to live fearlessly.

Island Vibes

“Aloha! In just a few short minutes we will be landing at Kahului Airport. It is currently 75 degrees in Lahaina, with 68 percent humidity and 10 percent chance of showers. Please keep your seatbelts on until the captain has turned off the fastened seatbelt sign. We hope you’ve enjoyed your flight and once again thank you for flying United Airlines.”

I slid the shade of the window seat open and was greeted by the most beautiful sight; the island of Maui. The beautiful lush island with rocky lava rocks jetting out of the indigo blue water reminded me of Jurassic Parks ‘Isla Nublar’ (which was fitting because as we landed my Ipod began to play John Williams Jurassic Park musical score– it was pure magic!)

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Friendly locals with sincere smiles greeted Lexie and me at the gate; a nice change from the forced plastic grins we were used to day-to-day back at home. We briskly claimed our luggage and walked to a bus that shuttled us to our rental car company. By the time we finished signing wavers and insurance papers the sweet humidity had set in and we couldn’t wait to turn on the cars A/C.

We had made it to Maui, the small island 2,471 miles away from California and a 5-hour plane ride across the Pacific Ocean and now it was our time to explore!8.10.15_053

[While in Hawaii we did so many fun and interesting things it would take me a couple of days to divulge the fun we had, so I chose to share some of the trips highlights]

.:. We had our Blue Crush moment! The minute we booked our trip to Hawaii, Lexie and I discussed the top things we wanted out of our adventure. We both agreed we had to recreate and capture a specific scene from the movie Blue Crush. For those who have never seen Blue Crush…have you been living under a lava rock!? In the movie the main character Anne Marie Chadwick, like many pro surfers, does underwater rock running to improve lung capacity and prepare her for the Pipe Masters Surf competition. We scouted the perfect location- Airport Beach- and combed the beach for the perfect boulder. We grabbed the biggest rock we could find, which honestly wasn’t that big but did the job, and got to work. 8.10.15_075

I wont lie it was difficult positioning ourselves perfectly at the bottom of the sea floor but in the end we got it! We tanned and relaxed on the beach for the rest of the day with not a worry or care in the world. We later celebrated our first day with special concoctions named after Hawaii’s famous exotic fruit, lilikoi, also known as yellow passion fruit.

‘Let’s unwind,
Don’t worry your mind,
There’s paradise waiting for us in summertime.
The warm thoughts set your tension’s aside,
There’s a paradise waiting for us in summertime.’

-Vacationer

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.:. While exploring Lahaina we stopped into a local swim shop and met the first of many down to earth locals; Bonnie. She introduced us to life changing bikinis and helped us find the perfect fitting pieces. We were told we needed to continue to tan in order to get rid of our mainland tans and I wasn’t going to argue with that. We left the store with a variety of different bikini tops and bottoms but also a new appreciation for ourselves. Bonnie explained that the Hawaiians were so relaxed and that they could spot a tourist mainlander from a mile away because they were the ones that tried hard to fit in and really cared about appearance. They were the ones with the flashy colored expensive cars or designer handbags. True locals went with the flow, nothing was ever forced. I loved how straight forward and easy that mentality was. Lexie and I adapted quickly and set out to work on our local bronze tan. We hit the road and found ourselves at Slaughter House beach were we explored and captured some fun photos before the sun went down.

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beach bums


#livelikealocal: the motto I live by when traveling to knew places. I can’t stand tourist attractions with long lines, money traps and loads of teens taking selfies. I yearn for paths very rarely hiked and am open for whatever.

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travel buddys!

*Travel Tip– Find a travel buddy that has the same mentality as you. I was lucky enough to have explored Europe with Lexie and know we both have the same travel style. We both are unafraid of jumping off of rocks into unknown water and trying the local fish that looks like it was fished out of a sewer but tastes like absolute heaven. When it comes to food please be open-minded and if you really aren’t willing to take a risk be respectful of the culture that you are submerged in. I was once in Spain traveling with a small group of girls, Lexie being one of them. While in the middle of dinner one of the girls ruined the ambiance and experience because she couldn’t stand the “texture” of the fish we were eating and disrespectfully sent it back making a scene. For most of the trip she went on to eat boring sandwiches and pieces of bread throughout the day. Please don’t be that traveler. Be up for anything! If you don’t like it say thank you and move on, at least you can say you tried something new.

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.:. One of the longest and most exciting days of our trip had to be the day we traveled the famous road to Hana. We woke at 5:00 am and set out for a journey through one of Hawaii’s most scenic drives. The road leading up to the small town of Hana was breath taking. With a speed limit of 25 mph, the 64.4 mile Hana Highway has been noted as being one of the most dangerous stretches of land to drive. We wound in and out of 600 heart-stopping curves along narrow pieces of road and crossed 54 bridges that were architectural miracles/ masterpieces. We used the Gypsy Guide iphone app that used GPS to help direct us on where to go while also educating us on our surroundings. The apps narrator had the most regal yet soothing voice. Lexie fittingly named the man behind the voice Clemens. While traveling the Highway we made a pit stop to Nahiku, a small community off the eastern coast of Maui where George Harrison once lived.8.10.15_070

8.10.15_055We crossed closed bridges while in the town and were bitten by the first mosquitoes of the trip. We went on to swim in waterfalls that lined the road, saw our first black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park and eventually made our way to Haleakalā National Park where we visited the lush Kīpahulu area.

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seven sacred pools

seven sacred pools

We made our way over incredibly slippery mossy rocks to the famous seven sacred pools and took in the surreal views that surrounded us. We went on to hike the Pīpīwai trail; a 4 mile round trip hike that took us through bamboo forests with views of fresh water streams that eventually lead us to the breath taking 400 foot Waimoku falls. I stood still in amazement. The sheer power of nature’s way to alter and define a moment in time was awe-inspiring.

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Hawaiian proverb: He wai makamaka ‘ole. Water that recognizes no friend.

Waimoku- meaning water that cuts, severs, amputates or breaks into two.

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one lane. one car. one cliff.

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abandoned house

We continued through a very dangerous one-lane road down the back of the island. Shhhh don’t tell, but according to our rental car company we weren’t allowed to drive that stretch of land, but being the rule breakers we are we did it anyways. We saw some of the most serene and untouched areas Maui has to offer but it came with a price. As the sun was setting we were visited by some rather annoying drivers that nearly ran us off the cliffs and took their road rage out on us. With no cell phone service we had no way of getting help if we needed it.

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serious case of road rage

I’m so proud of Lexie’s courageous decision to pass them up when confronted with the reckless guys following us. She pushed the gas pedal as hard as she could to escape and we drove as fast as we could. Our eyes locked on the rear view mirrors fearful their headlights would appear. We finally made it back home safely around 10 pm and later found out that the local police never went to that side of the island, which was known for its abandoned houses that meth addicts would escape to. Tourist love to buy shirts that say “I survived the road to Hana” but I personally don’t think those shirts would do our road trip justice. It was an amazing adventure to say the least.

.:.We took the most amazing helicopter ride with Sunshine Helicopters and our pilot Steve who gave us on an unreal areial experience through the islands of Maui, Lanai and Molokai. We saw the waterfalls that were filmed in Jurassic Park and learned the background history of the islands. The colors we saw were so vivid and the mountains were enhanced to another level. I felt like I was living in a dream as we flew above the clouds; one with the birds.8.10.15_049

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.:.We went on multiple snorkel tours and were fortunate enough to swim with green sea turtles and see Hawaiian spinner dolphins. Snorkeling confirmed what we had always known; that we’re basically mermaids!

put on your fins and get ready to swim!

put on your fins and get ready to swim!

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.:.On our last night in Maui we set sail on one of the Pacific Whale Foundations luxury catamarans. Lexie and I sat on nets suspended over the clear blue water, enjoying Mai Tai’s and taking in the pink cotton candy sunset sky. We spoke to one of the boats deckhands and she told us that the island had a way of telling people where they needed to be. I’ve always had a strong connection with the ocean and in that moment I felt like I was home. She said “the island has a way of giving us signs” then winked and walked away. I smiled and turned to look at the horizon and just then a pod of pacific bottlenose dolphins appeared at the bow of the ship. “Ashley!” I heard my name call out behind me, “if that’s not a sign I don’t know what is.” I turned and saw the deckhand grinning. Lexie and I looked at each other in awe. I still get chills thinking about the moment.

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Mahalo Maui for opening my eyes and reminding me of something I really needed to hear again: the world is too big to stay in one place & life is too short to do just one thing.

A hui kaua!

-xo ash

PS: Penny get up! It’s double overhead. It’s perfect pipe! The waves are calling, they’re going off. Can’t wait to jump in and see where the sea takes us. Thanks for being my tour guide partner. Remember “no leakies!” Haha– Brenan thanks for being our local guide to the island!

Week of the Shark!

It started like any other cloudy day in Cayucos. I was visiting my aunt and cousins like I had done every summer for the past couple of years, but this summer had been different. It was the first time we were allowed to stay home alone during the day. Neighbors were informed we were unaccompanied, so we were checked in on from time to time. I woke this morning with a need for adventure. I ran to my cousin Brian’s room and hurled myself onto his bed. “Brian! Let’s go to the beach! Please!!!” He quickly hid underneath his cave of blankets; “Get out Ashley! I’m sleeping!” I asked multiple times, whining and complaining until he finally got up. He told me that the weather wasn’t suitable to swim in the ocean, plus he didn’t feel like going in the water. The water on the central coast is especially cold and murky and he didn’t feel like pulling on his tight wet suit. Suddenly a small smirk appeared on his face, (I should have known he was up to no good). He was unusually nice as he poured us both bowls of cereal. “I have a better idea. Lets watch a movie! Have you ever seen “Jaws”?” I paused, thought about it for a second, “Nope.” He ran to the television set and pushed in a VHS tape. As the story unraveled my eyes we’re glued to the screen. I remember my heart speeding up and going along with the music each time the shark appeared in the water. Once the movie ended I slowly turned and looked out the window. A large stretch of uninhibited beach that lay directly across the street from the house sat quietly. It’s only a movie I thought to myself.

As I turned to walk the long hallway to the back room Brian who was dressed in black board shorts, a black O’Neill rash guard with his blue boogie board in hand greeted me. “What are you doing?!” I asked with hesitation. “We’re going to the beach and you have to go in the water! I’m older and watching you so you have to do what I say” he exclaimed. “No! Please, Brian! I don’t want to go to the beach anymore!” Knowing I was deathly afraid of being left alone he told me I had five minutes to get ready or he’d leave without me. I ran to my room, threw on a bathing suit and rash guard, and met up with Brian as he was walking out the door. The whole walk to the beach all Brian talked about was the movie. “Did you see the rows of teeth on that shark?! It bit that girl right in half, crazy huh?” As we approached the beach I told myself to be brave. Brian ran into the water “Come on you chicken!” I’m tired of being called a chicken, I can go in just like you, I thought. As we swam and time went on my fear of what lied beneath on the ocean floor vanished. It was that day I became infatuated with the ocean AND sharks!

Each year I geek out and mark my calendar for the best week of the year…SHARK WEEK! I’m fascinated with the biggest predators of the sea, (so much so that cage diving with Great Whites is on the top of my bucket list.)

For many, watching Shark Week each year has turned sharks from what used to be man-eating monsters into majestic creatures. I applaud the marine biologist and researchers that put so much time and effort into creating educational yet exciting episodes for viewers to enjoy. They’ve helped changed the opinions of so many people. I’ve learned sharks don’t purposefully swim rampantly looking to consume humans. Ultimately, we must remember when entering the ocean we are no longer guaranteed anything, we have entered their home. We must learn to respect these amazing creatures, their habitat and continue to educate ourselves with the hope that attacks on humans AND the capturing and inhumane slaughtering of sharks decrease over time.

My gold leaf shark tooth necklace is my favorite!

My gold leaf shark tooth necklace is my favorite!

Unfortunately, the practice of killing sharks for their fins has put these amazing creatures at risk. Shark fin soup is a delicacy in China and finning sharks, leaving more than 95% of their dead bodies to waste away and sink to the bottom of the ocean floor, has become a very serious and sad reality for many sharks. The shark population around the world has begun to steadily decline, with 100 million sharks being slaughtered each year to meet the markets demand. What most people don’t know is that shark fins have no nutritional value and contain high levels of mercury and BMAA, a neurotoxin linked to neurodegenerative diseases in humans; like Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig disease. With programs like Shark Week and the help of people around the world we can continue to educate ourselves and help our fish friends.


SPREAD THE WORD:

  • A little goes a long way! Help sharks around the world by donating to organizations committed to help save sharks. There are multiple great shark conservation groups but my ultimate favorite is Sea Shepard and United Conservationist. By donating to these marine and shark conservationist you to can help decrease the number of finned sharks in our oceans waters.
  • Buy #finfree products. Lucky for me one of my favorite stores LUSH partnered up with Discovery Channels Shark Week and has given us all the opportunity to connect and help our finned friends. With every purchase of the specially made, vegan free shark fin soap, LUSH will give 100% of the proceeds to United Conservationist. If soaps not your thing, you can purchase this months charity pot; a hand and body lotion that smells like heaven. All proceeds go to PangeaSeed; whose main focus is to “raise awareness and education for the conservation and preservation of oceans and marine species.”
  • Use your voice! Help sharks by simply talking about them. Defend them with the facts you know when they are talked about in a negative light. [FACT: Cows kill more than five times the number of humans than sharks do! I’m staying away from cows!] Educate yourself about these stunning animals and voice the need for a #finfree ocean! Knowledge is power!

Have an amazing shark week, and please don’t be afraid to jump in the water! Respect the ocean and its sharks, and remember, we’re their biggest threat AND their only hope! “Fish are friends NOT food!”

Get in the water!

-xo ash

PS: Thanks Bri for making me go into the water that day! Hope you’re making a splash in the land of maple leaves and hockey. Love and miss you!—Shout out to the Norling Aquarium for allowing me to shoot with their sharks. Danielle you’re the best!

Thanks John Williams- two notes and you made a villain! Totally brilliant!

Made in the U.S.A.

Be young, be dope, be proud-like an American!

Be young, be dope, be proud-like an American!

“Cause people will tune in how many train wrecks do we need to see before we loose touch. We thought this was low, well its bad, getting worse. Where’d all the good people go? I’ve been changing channels I don’t see them on the TV shows.”-Jack Johnson

There’s a rise in divorce, unsettling images of war, children suffering from hunger, disease and poverty, mass shootings, robberies; sadly the list goes on and on. In today’s world it can be easy to read an online article or turn on the television and watch with anguish as to where our world is heading. It seems more and more these days I see a bunch of negative stories being broadcasted.

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I watch with a heavy heart, hoping maybe, just maybe there might be a small positive story that becomes my glimpse of light and hope for the world. Some say the state that our country is in, is questionable. I’ve found it hard to quickly argue back. It can be easy to take the cynical and negative road when talking about our country and that in my opinion is never good. So, I’ve decided to spin things around and have us look at the positives our country has achieved and been through. I’ve composed a list of things that make me proud to be an American. I hope this list will spark a small dose of patriotism and make you just as proud to live in our special country!

Made in the U.S.A.

Made in the U.S.A.


  • (Probably my favorite reason I can proudly say I am an American) The USA is a nation founded by a bunch of true rebels! 239 years ago these renegades built 13 colonies and eventually won their independence standing up to a King. Freedom-Sweet freedom! As time passed our country transformed into a melting pot of diverse cultures and people who were created EQUAL with the unalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!”

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  • We landed on the moon! This still trips me out. In 1969, while in a race with the Soviet Union, a bunch of space geniuses at NASA found a way to put astronauts in a space shuttle, took them into outer space and made an American the first and only human to land on the moon! That’s out of this world if you ask me!
  • We started the best musical genres ever! Rock n Roll and Blues! The Blues was primarily started by the African American population and started a wave of influence in the musical world; eventually creating Rock n Roll! We have some of the worlds best Blues and Rock n Roll artists! B.B. King, Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Stevie Wonder…(I could continue for a very long time) the list goes on and on. Sure the Brits get credit for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who but we take all the credit for putting those groups on the map. How could anyone forget February 9th, 1969; Ed Sullivan introduced the world to the Beatles. America to the world: “You’re welcome!”
  • Baseball! Sure the game might be a bit slow but it’s still our sport and I couldn’t be prouder when singing the national anthem at the ballpark! Enjoy some peanuts and cracker jacks and have the US Air Force Thunderbirds fly over the stadium and you’re sure to have chills race down your back! We can thank our good ‘ole US of A for legends like Babe Ruth, Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson and Joe Dimaggio.
  • United we stand! I’ve never seen a group of people come together in the midst of chaos and confusion as fast as Americans can. Through trials and tribulations, although our views and opinions vastly differ, we always seem to put our differences aside during important times in our nations history and stand together as one!
  • The next time you get off a long plane ride and call or text your loved ones that you touched down safely you can thank American Wright Bros for inventing flying and Alexander Grand Bell for inventing the telephone.
  • Southern Charm! Where else in the world can you enjoy a piece of fried chicken, corn bread, a cold beer and apple pie a la mode on a hot summer afternoon, America!-that’s where! Add a country tune on the speakers and you can basically transport yourself to any southern state.

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  • America the beautiful! We are so incredibly lucky to live in a country that has some of the world’s most beautiful natural landscapes! While traveling Europe I was on the tube in London listening to some young Brits talk about their “holidays” to the States. I smiled with a sense of pride as I heard them boast about their experiences in Yellow Stone National Park, The Grand Canyon, Zion and Yosemite. We’re so lucky to live in a country under beautiful spacious skies with majestic views from ‘sea to shining sea’.

I know there are plenty of other reasons of why I can say I am proud to be an American but quiet frankly there isn’t enough time. I know tomorrow as I’m sitting on the beach watching fireworks glisten in the summer night sky I’ll refer back to this list. I’ll remember with a thankful heart what the first American rebels did to ensure my freedom and as the Zac Brown Band sings “thank God for my life, for the stars and stripes. May freedom forever fly, let it ring! Salute the ones who’ve died, the ones that give their lives, so we don’t have to sacrifice all the things we love…”

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Blessed to share this country with awesome friends like those seen in the pictures above. I can proudly say the girls pictured are young, free, beautiful, intelligent, independent, funny modern day American women. I’m so lucky to call them my friends! I hope you all have a wonderful and safe July 4th and remember “be young, be dope, be proud-like an American!”

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-xo ash

P.S.- Meg and Lex you’re both amazing! Can’t thank you enough for a fun shoot. Trying to light sparklers at sunset on the beach while the wind was whirling past us and nearly burning our thumbs with that lighter will forever go down in history as the funniest photo shoot moment to date! Thanks for making me laugh so hard that I couldn’t breathe! Who need to workout when you’ve got the funniest friends to give you a fun ab workout laughing the afternoon away?! Oh-and special thanks to our four legged friend Nova (aka Novary!) a real sport!

Processed with VSCOcam with p5 presetCouldn’t decide on one song so for the hip crowd I picked Lana and for the traditionalist I picked Zac Brown. Enjoy!

Everyone’s Irish on March 17th

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My journey to the serene and magical isle of Ireland didn’t start on the best foot. As I traveled to my last destination on my three-month journey I awoke excited but slightly groggy. London threw a temper tantrum as I left the city, making everything in sight damp and cold and giving me a parting gift I didn’t want. I sat on a train destined for Wales where I would catch a ferry and pass through St. George’s Channel and sail across the Irish Sea to dock in a small town minutes from Dublin.

I maneuvered through passengers and took a seat near a window. Kids of all ages ran through the halls of the boat, giddy to explore the different rooms and space that surrounded them. As I sat on the ferry the temperature from my fever had increased, and I found it hard to get rid of the worse migraine I’d ever experienced in my life. The loud screams and laughter of the children echoed through my head. All I wanted was a quiet room with a soft bed and a cup of tea. I was upset that I had allowed myself to get sick. I racked my brain trying to figure out what I had done wrong. I had been keeping hydrated, I was washing my hands and staying clear of germs, but as I yawned I was reminded that I was not getting enough sleep. I had stayed up the nights prior, trying to organize and make room for the clothes and souvenirs I had purchased in London. (Thanks to London, I have come to realize that I can’t be trusted on a street full of amazing shops.)

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I never fall asleep in public, I have this real fear that I will start sleepwalking or talking in my sleep and that I’ll be videotaped and whined up being YouTube’s next big Internet sensation. (Don’t get me wrong I’d love to be famous and remembered for something great, but I wouldn’t want sleepwalking to be my claim to fame.) I pushed through my silly fear and made a pillow out of my 25-pound backpack that was bursting at the seams with a collection of clothes and keepsakes from my travels through Europe. I slept for 45 minutes, long enough to catch my breath. When I woke my fever had subsided and my migraine settled into a good ole fashion headache. The luck of the Irish had already started to rub off. I heard the captain announce through the overhead speakers, with the most amazing Irish accent, that we could begin to see the island on the starboard side. (For those that aren’t well versed with sailing terms, like me, the starboard side is the right side) Finally, we had reached Ireland and it was just as I had envisioned it. Clouds rolled passed lush green hills and choppy water splashed onto jagged rocks that hugged the shore. I had made it and couldn’t wait to get on shore to begin my explorations!

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We stayed in Dublin while visiting Ireland and explored the city. I am not much of a beer drinker. I usually stick to vodka based drinks, margaritas and wine but will occasionally step out of my comfort zone and try something new. I had promised myself that on my travels I would do my best to live like a local, really capturing their culture and adjusting to their way of life. Drinking is definitely the Irishman’s way of life and I wasn’t complaining. I knew I had to visit two places in particular while in Dublin: The old Jameson Distillery and the famous Guinness beer factory.

Before heading to the Jameson Distillery I decided it would be great to visit Trinity College. What was it like for students in Dublin to attend such a famous and beautiful campus full of history and prestige I thought? Trinity Library was a place that was quick to put on my bucket list the minute I found out I would visit Ireland. The bookworm inside me was doing back flips and shouting at the top of its lungs as I step foot into the legendary building. I saw the Book of Kells and was forced to lift my jaw off the floor as I made my way through the Long Room, an old chamber of the old library that held thousands of books. Books, everywhere, as far as the eye could see! Ladders laid against shelves of books begging me to climb up and pick one to read. This mecca for book enthusiast was filled with 200,000 of the library’s oldest books and smelled of must and old wood. Large white marble busts lined both sides of the enormous room. I could sit and relax; I could check this off my list of things I had been dreaming of doing.

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I continued my journey, walking around the campus. I sat on the steps of a lecture hall and studied the campus, imagining for a split second that I was a student at the college. I would ride my bike to class, attend long lectures, have discussions with professors and analyze old Irish novels. Of course I would spend hours quietly studying in my favorite library. I had just graduated from Cal State Fullerton but I suddenly had the urge to get back into the classroom.3.17.15_028

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As I sat across from some guys hooting and hollering I wondered what a crazy college party was like in Dublin. Did they have keg stands, play beer pong except with Guinness or was that something only Americans did? I decided the best way to end a day of touring a college campus was to pretend I had just finished all of my imaginary final exams and celebrate by sipping on Ireland’s oldest and finest whiskey.

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I made my way through the streets of Dublin and found the Old Jameson Distillery. I purchased a ticket to tour the distillery and watched a short yet entertaining movie about John Jameson. We walked the grounds and learned about how the famous whiskey was created. I can honestly say the tour guide didn’t have my full attention. I love learning, but listening about barley, yeast, milling and malting bored me to death. I’d rather drink the whiskey than hear about how it was made.

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My ears however weren’t quite tuned out because I do remember hearing the guide say that “Jameson was the only whiskey that was tripled distilled and that’s what made it so special.” I could take it no longer! I had to get my hands on the highly talked about smooth, gold libation! I was asked if I’d like to enjoy the whiskey neat as the connoisseurs of the drink usually drank it or if I wanted to try it with ginger ale, preferred for those not so used to drinking whiskey. Ginger ale? Yea and I’ll take it in a kids cup…No thank you! I drank the whiskey neat. I was told to swish it around in the glass, smell it and then take a swig. Oh My Goodness! The whiskey was strong, but I can say with complete confidence that it was smooth… and I liked it.

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It was better than other whiskeys I had tried in the states. Thanks to John Jameson, Jack Daniel’s and Makers Mark would never have a place on my table. I had chills every time I took a sip, but that soon slipped away and was a memory. I made my way through Irish bars continuing with my study on the triple distilled liquid gold. It had always been on my bucket list to stand along side the people of Dublin trying my best to keep up with popular Irish jigs and pub songs being sang. I could officially check it off my list! I had the best time, and Jameson was the perfect pub partner!

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Days later I decided I would visit another Dublin landmark; the greatness that was the Guinness beer factory. Like Jameson, I took a tour of the factory, but this time it was self guided meaning I could fly past the boring stuff and get to the beer! I did manage to stop and read, and learned that in 1759 Arthur Guinness had signed a 9,000 year lease on the ground the factory laid on ensuring that Guinness would be around for years to come. Arthur had to be very confident in his product to sign that type of agreement, and after trying his famous beer I understood where the confidence lied.3.17.15_011

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I made my way to the Guinness Storehouse academy bar where I was officially trained on how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. I received a certificate, proof that I had graduated with flying colors through the intense academy. Guinness had a very specific way of pouring his beer and felt that if it wasn’t poured correctly it wouldn’t taste the way it was intended making it an undrinkable failure. Lucky for me the pint I had poured was deemed perfect!

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I made my way up to the top of the Guinness sky bar, a bar surrounded by large glass walls giving patrons a 360 degree view of Dublin and the factory’s surrounding area. It was the perfect place to enjoy my pint. I had never tried Guinness and was surprised with how much I liked it. It was rich and quite heavy but it was delicious! I’m not sure if it was the altitude in the sky bar or my general excitement being in the factory drinking with the Irish but the beer hit me quickly. I took a seat and sipped the beer slowly; I couldn’t let it go to waste. Visiting the beer factory was definitely an experience of a lifetime.

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Throughout the coming days during my visit to Ireland I continued occasionally drinking Jameson and Guinness with my meals. I don’t regularly drink alcohol with my meals but was reminded that life was short. I paired the drinks with famous Irish meals. I tried Jameson with salmon and potato pie while looking out onto the Dublin river and I enjoyed Guinness with beer braised lamb stew on a cold rainy day sitting inside a old pub watching rugby. Dublin was filled with amazing memories and some of the most warm-hearted people I have ever met. I am definitely lucky to have been able to visit such a beautiful country. I can just imagine the crazy fun that is being had in Dublin on this St. Patrick’s Day. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, remember everyone’s Irish on March 17th!

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-ash xo

PS: After enjoying my time at a pub I was walking down street and saw a feathered friend who had consumed one too many drinks. Note: Please drink responsibly!

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short video I shot in the middle of an Irish pub!