Ashley Kolpak photo

Ashley Kolpak, contributing blogger

Born and raised in Buffalo Grove, Ashley’s been a little here, there and everywhere, but is a Chicago girl at heart. She currently works as a writer and editor for fitness, music, cultural blogs and more. She’s a proud Illini (graduated with Bachelor’s in Media Studies in 2009), a dedicated Francophile, a music-lover and a writer always.

Articles by this author
Ashley Kolpak photo_th
I remember this time two years ago like it was yesterday. I was wrapping up my job at a Jewish non-profit office and getting ready to embark on my biggest adventure yet: a seven-month stint in France teaching English. Read More

Leaving on a Jet Plane photo_th
Picking up where I left off, I was last in contact with the local in Chabad in Grenoble, looking for a place to stay prior to the start of a seven-month teaching contract. I'd heard back from a representative, Arie R. and he let me know he would put the word out. Read More

The Frashley Chronicles, Part 3 photo_th
Picking up where I left off…after making my way to France and being introduced to the host family I found through Chabad, I transitioned to living abroad. I flew to Grenoble a few weeks before my contract started and for those first few weeks, I was completely and utterly jet-lagged. The language barrier added to the fatigue. Read More

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Looking in the mirror, I almost didn’t recognize myself. Dressed in black skirt down to my ankles and a long-sleeve black shirt, just a little light blush on my cheeks, I was definitely sporting a new look. I felt subdued, perhaps even a little out of uniform without my usual skinny jeans and fall sweater. I don’t often go to synagogue, but today I was making my first-ever outing to a Modern Orthodox shul with my French hosts. Read More

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One of the conditions of my host stay was seemingly simple: only kosher food allowed in the house. Easy enough, right? However, France is a land filled with delicious traif and endless combinations of milk and meat, and to be honest, I’d never kept kosher before. Read More

Chanukah: At Home and Abroad photo_th
Every day coming home from work, I walk through the Christkindl market, that bastion of holiday cheer and wonder. Above the glittering lights, the mingling aromas of German food and mulled wine, the general buzz of effervescent cheer stands a steel menorah, courtesy of Chabad. Read More

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Ever since my late teens and into my twenties, this motto “New Year, New Me” echoes loudly in my mind this time of year. I’m both a terribly sentimental and superstitious person, so New Year’s also tends to elicit my most ambitious activity seen all year round. It’s simple enough most of the time. Read More

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This post should really be titled, Oy!Suburbia. For work each and every day, I commute out to the north suburbs of this fair city. This is not my first go at the suburban-city shuffle. These days, I brave the downtown-Northbrook route, but just out of college, I journeyed from Buffalo Grove to The Loop for nearly a year. Read More

Taylor Swift versus Tina Fey and Amy Poehler photo_th
As a woman of a certain age (mid-twenties), there's been an oh-so-pressing debate taking place in Hollywood recently that I just can't seem to let go of: Taylor Swift versus Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler. Not to mention the pop culture pitting of Anne Hathaway versus Jennifer Lawrence. Read More

Show Choir Confessions photo_th
The other day, it came up in casual conversation that yes, in my younger days I was a member of a Jewish show choir. As a matter of fact, I was involved in two show choirs during my high school years: one through school, plus the aforementioned crew of lovely singing Jewish boys and girls, all of us aged roughly from 12-18. I was so totally Glee long before Glee ever happened. Oy. Read More

Israel: Just a Skype Call Away photo_th
The other day, a friend brought up something a little out of the ordinary about her brother’s Birthright trip. Just prior to her brother’s group climbing Masada, there was an opportunity for the group participants to place a Skype call with all of their parents at home, who were awaiting their virtual arrival at a predetermined meeting place. Read More

My Favorite Place in Chicago photo_th
My favorite place in Chicago? That’s an easy question to answer. It sits squarely in the center of downtown, presided over by two (not so) imposing lions. The Art Institute has a firm grip on my heart and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Read More

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A couple of weeks ago, I attended a great event celebrating the launch of Living Jewishly, a newly published collection of essays curated by this blog's founding editor, Stefanie Bregman. It was a nice opportunity to mix, mingle and give some thought to how I in fact, "live Jewishly." Read More

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Nervous as can be, I rattle off carefully reasoned responses to a myriad of questions. Sitting in a job interview, what more can you do? The interviewer then surprises me with a question I haven’t heard in quite some time. He takes a breath in and inquires,“So, why do you like to write?” Read More

“Be Brave”. photo_th
In my mind, the words circle in a constant loop as I look out onto the river, look across at the Marina City towers. Everything is calm, save for the butterflies in my stomach. Every change is a leap of faith, big or small. You trust you’ll land on your feet. Read More

Art for a Cause photo_th
This past weekend, I attended a Chicago Ideas Week talk entitled “Instigators: The Good Fight,” featuring speakers who see the evil and hurt in the world and take a personal stand to make it better. This included Chicago native (and fellow University of Illinois alum!) Dan Savage, the incredibly courageous and poised Elizabeth Smart, and a few other speakers who addressed the audience with eloquence and inspired the crowd with their fierce passion. Read More

Writing Material photo_th
Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Phew, we got that out of the way. I'm thankful for so much. It's been a year full of so, so much change. You know that old cliché/John Lennon lyric, "life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans?" For the first time in a while, I thought my ducks were in a row. Read More

Dispatches from the Sofa photo_th
So, the Polar Vortex got the best of me, though really – I got the best of me. After months of whining about the incessant winter chill, I slipped on my way home from work. Read More

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What a month it has been. It’s been a month, hasn’t it? The days simultaneously fly by and crawl past when forced to sit out on the sidelines. Last month I wrote about breaking my ankle. Today, I get my cast off. Read More

Being a Tourist in Your Own City photo_th
Waiting in bumper to bumper traffic, our car creeps towards O’Hare. It’s the first weekend of summer, but it doesn’t feel like it. We are collecting my little sister (though I don’t know if I can call 24 “little”) from the airport after her Birthright Israel adventure. As she sleepily launches into her trip details, the better part of me intently listens while the daydreamer within wakes right up. Read More

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The other night I was enjoying a delightful date at a great pizza place in the Loop. In between sparkling conversation and stellar food (shout out to Pizano’s), something other than the cute guy across the table stole my attention. Flickering on big screen TV screen were the latest dispatches from Gaza. Read More

My Grandma’s Super Sweet 90th Birthday Bat Mitzvah Bash photo_th
A few weeks ago, my wonderful, hilarious, sassy grandma reached the incredible milestone of 90. Nonee Ethel has always been an integral part in all of our lives, “our” referring to my sprawling extended family. Like most grandmas, she is infinitely special to us. Read More

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There’s something about the stories we share – from person to person, taking part in one of the world’s oldest traditions. A few weeks ago, I was reminded of the power stories have to captivate, to illuminate. What am I going on about? Let me start at the beginning. Read More

The Write Goal photo_th
Resolutions come and go, but at the start of 2015, I side-stepped my traditional resolutions for a straight-up GOAL – an enormous yet startlingly simple goal to guide my way through 2015; something to hang my hat on whilst wading through my 28th year. Mixed metaphors aside, I promised myself 2015 would be the year dedicated to “Writing More.” Read More

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At a recent event I came across a vibrant, expressive man in the midst of a “mid-life opportunity,” surely not be confounded with a “mid-life crisis.” Ears perked, I asked him directly what brought him to this event. His eyes were perfectly still and fixated on mine as the words left his mouth.” After spending my whole life in the church, I’m leaving. I left. I’m making a clean break.” Read More

Living Jewishly Lately photo_th
The last gasp of summer is upon us, so I’m making it my business to get outside and enjoy as many activities “al fresco” as I can before the blustery winter weather inevitably makes its sinister return (Sorry, not a winter fan). Read More

The Making of A Personal Statement photo_th
This past weekend, I ventured down to my alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and for 36 hours clumsily made my best attempt at re-living my college days. Read More

My Heart (Still) Belongs to Birthright photo 1
I took my Shorashim trip to Israel in the summer of 2007 and the memories of that adventure still flicker brightly in the back of my mind. Read More

New play ‘A Splintered Soul’ photo_mth
A Splintered Soul brings a unique interpretation to the traditional Holocaust stories shared on stage. Read More

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