Archive for the 'About' Category

Ashley Facts: Part II

As promised in yesterday’s Ashley Facts: Part I, I’m back today with 7 Random and/or Weird Facts about me.  I always find these more fun to read than the standard “I grew up here…went to school there…do this now…” spiel.  They’re both necessary, of course, but revealing your quirks is like getting past the first few dates and letting the other party in on the real you.

So here’s a taste of the “real” me…

Random and/or Weird Facts:

1. I shared a pet gnome with my girlfriends in college.  We found him perched atop a trashcan outside the town Burger King at the beginning of freshman year.  Innocent and lonely, he was clearly waiting for our rescue.  We adopted him immediately and appropriately named him “Nanners” after the large ceramic banana he clutched in his pudgy ceramic arms.  He came on many an adventure with us – to French class, school meetings, the dining hall.  Unfortunately, he tumbled off a cafeteria tray one evening and led the rest of his life completely wrapped in clear packaging tape – the only thing that would safely hold together his fragile wounds.  Still, Nanners stayed with us through graduation and I believe remains on the fireplace mantle where we left him to this day.

2. I do not eat the tops or bottoms of bananas.  If I have a knife, I cut them off.  If there is no knife in sight, I pop them off with my fingers and toss them into the garbage.  It’s become a sort of superstition for me.

3. I am infatuated with puppies.  They have an uncanny ability to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Seeing as I do not have one of my own (see Normal Fact #2), I am forced to live vicariously through other pet owners.  This involves being a regular visitor to via the Daily Puppy widget I placed front and center on my Google homepage.  Dan (see Normal Fact #6) gets instant messages with links whenever an especially cute puppy is featured.  If he is not there to receive an instant message, he gets an e-mail.I would say this happens, oh…four or five times a week.  No one should miss out on that adorableness.

4. My college girlfriends (same ones as above) and I call each other “Mom” instead of going by our first names.  I’m not totally sure how this got started, but I think it had something to do with me always having keys out of the purse and ready to get us into our dorm – a very “mom-like” behavior.  Hey, when you’re walking across campus in below freezing Chicago temperatures, you want to be prepared to get into the warmth ASAP!  However it began, the nicknames stuck, and I now have four moms.

5. I read the comics with breakfast everyday from age 5 to 22.  After that, I no longer received a newspaper at my door each morning, and the tradition sadly came to an end.  But you better believe that the funnies page is the first thing I reach for upon waking whenever I’m visiting my parents.

6. I have an obsession with anything abnormally small or excessively large.  Things like this and this.  Something that’s not the size it’s supposed to be, but is still functional – I’m all over it.

7. I have been told by some that I ask too many questions.  I like to say I have a curious mind and inquisitive nature and enjoy the banter of conversation.  Others like to say I should think about my inquiries before blurting them out because half of them are rhetorical and I can usually figure out the answer to the rest with 14 extra seconds of thought.  I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

So there’s a peak into the random side of me!

I think this tag thing has gone around quite a bit, so rather than risk making the blogging faux pas of re-tagging (gasp!), I’ll just ask anyone who reads this…Do we have anything in common?  Come on, own your weirdness!

Ashley Facts: Part I

Only one week into blogging and I’m already being picked on!  J/k, j/k.  I was tagged this evening by the lovely Andrea of bella eats [and runs] and now feel like the new kid on the playground who’s been chosen for the kickball team.  Hooray!

The dealio:

– Link the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog
– Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself
– Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links
– Let each person know that they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog

Since I am the new kid on the block and don’t want to lose all credibility over here, I figured I’d balance out the 7 random and/or weird facts with 7 normal facts.  Today, I bring you Normal Facts.  Check back tomorrow for Random and/or Weird Facts, which will most likely be more revealing of my true character…

Here goes.

Normal Facts:

1. I’ve lived in New York City for over two years, but grew up in St. Louis, MO.  Whenever I tell people where I’m originally from, I say St. Louis and leave off the Missouri.  It means the difference between suburbia and farmland.  Not that anything’s wrong with farmland, but people mistakenly tend to think that’s all the Midwest’s got going for it.

2. I am the oldest of three children, one Labrador retriever and one Persian cat.  Past members of our family have included a lop-eared rabbit, a hamster and a multitude of fish.  I unfortunately have no pets of my own right now – roommate is allergic!

3. My parents are empty nesters as of one year ago – minus the dog and cat of course.  They now spend their days throwing wild dance parties in the backyard, learning to fly jumbo jets and traveling to exotic locales.  Just kidding!  But they did go to Chicago last weekend.

4. I graduated from Northwestern University in 2006 with a double major in art history and psychology.  I am neither an art historian nor a psychologist.

5. So what do you do?!  I work as an Account Planner for an advertising agency.  Basically, this means I’m in charge of figuring out what makes consumers tick and using that knowledge to guide the strategic direction of a brand.  You can often find me sitting behind a one-way mirror watching and analyzing focus groups for market research.  I’m currently assigned to a soon-to-be-launched women’s health product that will be getting a LOT of media attention once it’s on the market.  Suspenseful, right?

6. I am lucky to have a wonderful boyfriend who serves as my very willing taste tester.  I would say he’s my critic too, but he’s pretty easy to please.  Hi Dan!

7. Besides baking, some of my [normal] hobbies include reading, wining and dining, doing crossword puzzles and hitting the gym.  My younger self played volleyball and racquetball – it’s not just for old men anymore! – and took a lot of art classes.

And that’s my normal side.  Get excited for the random and/or weird Ashley to come.

In the meantime, how about all of you share some Normal Facts about yourself?

Welcome To A Naturally Sweet World

Hi!  My name is Ashley. I’m a 20-something food lover living in New York City.  I have a passion for baking that is rivaled only by my passion for nutritious foods.  I believe in real food – whole, unprocessed, healthy. Food that comes as close to nature as possible.  I also believe in sweet treats – brownies, muffins, cookies. Who says these can’t be one in the same?

The baking bug hit me at an early age.  I remember the excitement I’d feel when Grandma came to our house each year during the holidays to make Christmas cookies.  We’d spend an entire day rolling sugar dough and cutting out reindeer, wreaths, ornaments and Santas.  Into the oven they’d go while we mixed red and green icing from scratch and organized different colored sprinkles into bowls.  Then came the decorating!  Grandma had these great time-worn metal piping tools that helped me create fun designs and made me feel like a very professional little baker.  We’d make hundreds of cookies.  It was wonderful.

As I got older, I started to bake on my own.  I scoured cookbooks and websites for recipes and was always eager to try a new baking creation.  We constantly had dessert in the house because as soon as one was getting low, I’d make another.  Caramel-filled chocolate cookies.  Pumpkin streusel bars.  Gooey butter cake.  Peanut butter-honey brownies.  I sometimes wonder if my family ever got tired of all the sugar!

When my interest in nutrition was sparked, I became more aware of what I was eating.  I wanted to fuel my body with wholesome food to keep me healthy and give me energy.  I began looking for healthier recipes and adapting the not-so-healthy ones.  It all started with the classic applesauce for oil substitution.  From there it was using whole-wheat flour in place of all-purpose.  And now I’ve entered the worlds of agave nectar, date sugar, whole-wheat pastry flour.  I’ve learned about a lot of good tricks and new ingredients over the years and can’t wait to expand my baking repertoire by learning more.

I created Sweet + Natural as a way for me to combine and explore my passions for baking and nutrition. I’ll be testing recipes, creating my own and musing on related thoughts along the way – sort of like an interactive cookbook.  Everything I bake on Sweet + Natural will be made from whole foods.  No refined flours or sugars.  And no butter or unhealthy oils.  Just wholesome ingredients.  Deliciously sweet and all natural.

Hope you join in on my baking fun!  I’d love to hear about your healthy baking tips or favorite recipes as I share mine.  And feel free to contact me at with any questions or comments.  Happy baking!


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