“Walking in a Winter Wonderland…”

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! It’s a short week for me at work- since I took this coming Wednesday-Friday off so that I can get the last of my Christmas shopping and gift wrapping done while spending some time with friends and family leading up to the holiday- so I expect the next 48 hours to be jam-packed with making all my phone calls and sending all my e-mails in advance.

I’m excited, though. It’s always nice to take some time off- especially around Christmastime since it gives me the opportunity to really enjoy all the fun and beauty that comes with the season.

This past weekend marked the first significant snowfall of the Winter season here in New England- totaling about 3-6 inches around various parts of Massachusetts. It was thankfully light and fluffy (and easy to shovel!) instead of the wet, heavy, sleet stuff we typically get. When I was done clearing both my and my neighbor’s driveways and walkways- I took some time to have a late afternoon hike and snap some photos of the aftermath of the storm. It was gorgeous! There’s a couple of my favorite shots below.

I’m sure I’ll be over and sick of the snow within a month, but for now- pre-Christmas- I rather enjoyed it!

After work tonight, I’m having dinner and drinks with some of my girlfriends- where we’re going to have a group therapy session to talk about last night’s mid-season finale of “The Walking Dead”. I NEED a cocktail after that one.

Enjoy your day, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

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OOTD: Feeling Festive

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! I’m so excited the weekend is here, since it gives me the opportunity to catch up on (and hopefully finish) the last of my Christmas shopping. I took a partial vacation from work next week- but I had wanted to spend those days off doing some baking, a little decorating and visit with friends instead of hopping from store to store and screaming into the void at every horrible parking situation I encounter on the way.

While the next couple of weeks are going to be filled with Holiday parties- including an annual ‘Ugly Sweater’ gathering and a flannel-themed shindig at work before we break for Christmas- I wanted to share one of my semi-festive but more subtle ensembles that incorporate the classic red, white and green color scheme without making me look like I’m wearing an elf costume.

I had initially bought this knee-length red and white knitted sweater to wear on a flight to Vegas last Fall so I could stay warm on the plane, but it’s quickly become one of my go-to cover-ups when I’m out and about and the December temperatures aren’t so frigid here in New England.

Paired with a forest green beanie and I’m ready for any last minute Yankee Swaps, cookie exchanges or tree-lighting ceremonies. I look and feel comfortable- and not over-the-top with too many layers. or too many Holiday-themed patterns or prints.

And when it gets too cold (particularly at night)– I can just throw a heavy coat on over this and show it off whenever I’m back indoors. I wear this a lot at work or when I’m out running errands- or more recently this past weekend when I had headed into Faneuil Hall with friends to check out the Christmas tree.

I’m sure as Christmas gets closer, I’ll be displaying more of the ugly sweaters, the holiday-inspired printed leggings, or the bizarre accessories- but for now- this is a nice, simple Outfit of The Day that keeps me feeling festive on-the-go.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone! I’ll be back on Monday (assuming the mid-season finale of “The Walking Dead” on Sunday night doesn’t break my spirit.)

xx

– Ashley –

Sleigh Bells Ring…

While I have many favorite Holiday traditions I like to participate in year after year with my friends and family- two of them, without fail- always happen earlier in the month when I’m still coming off the fringes of Thanksgiving weekend. I’m talking about visiting the local tree lots and nurseries outside the city- particularly when they’ve only just started putting out their seasonal items and decorations.

To me, it’s the first real taste of Christmas- and the smell of pine needles, mint and spices always puts me in a festive mood and gets me ready to hang up my lights, grab some eggnog, and start wrapping presents. Although I’ve had an artificial tree for as long as I can remember- I’m hoping someday I’ll be able to commit to a real one. I would have done it this year, but I had heard there was a shortage of trees as a result of the recession a few years ago- so spending an insane amount of money on one was out of the question. Maybe next year!

Regardless, I still stopped by Russell’s Garden Center this past weekend to check out their selection (and marvel at their impressive nutcracker collection!)

My other favorite tradition, and the trick is to timing it just right so you can avoid all the pedestrian traffic- is going to see the HUGE Christmas tree in Faneuil Hall and catch one of it’s timed light displays every half hour. Sean and I headed down right before the last display of the evening this past Saturday night- and although there were quite a few people milling around near some of the bars in the area- we were still able to get nice and close to the tree to snap a few uninterrupted photos and videos.

And of course, as is tradition- we met up with our friend Chris and proceeded to start the long walk to and through Boston Common and down the illuminated Commonwealth Avenue. The city always does such an amazing job with the lights- and I know it’s going to look even more beautiful if and when we get the first legitimate snowfall of the season!

I’m looking forward to sharing photos of my own Christmas display after I’ve finished decorating my tree and my windows this coming weekend. They are nowhere near as elaborate as the ones around Boston- but they’re still nice!

But I’ve just got to make it through the rest of this week, first. Halfway there already!

Enjoy your Wednesdays, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Festive Foodie: Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate

Well hello! It’s another early Monday morning and after a busy few days packed with overtime at my office last week- I’m ready to slow things down a little and get to work at a steadier, calmer pace. The holidays can be crazy enough- what with trying to get holiday shopping done, balancing party plans, and making sure I don’t indulge in too many Christmas-inspired sweets- so I’m trying to keep any work-related stress to a minimum if it’s possible.

So when I stumbled across this “set it and forget it” style crock-pot recipe for cocoa late last week- I knew it was something I wanted to try during my downtime over the weekend. Anything that is advertised as a “drinkable brownie” is right up my alley!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • A dash of vanilla extract

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Pour all of your ingredients into your slow cooker/crock pot. Lightly stir.
  2. Cook the ingredients on low for 2 hours.
  3. Whisk everything really, really well.
  4. Add marshmallows, whipped cream (or both!), sit back in your footie pajamas by the Christmas tree- sip and enjoy!

Creamy, super-chocolatey and indulgent- this cocoa hit the spot after a long afternoon out in the cold with my friends on Saturday. I think the next time I prepare this, I might use mint-chocolate to give it a more seasonally-appropriate taste- but this is definitely going to be my go-to recipe when we start having some serious blizzards here in New England, because I couldn’t think of anything better to enjoy while I’m bundled in blankets and warming up after shoveling the snow!

xx

– Ashley –

November 2017: In a Nutshell

Good Morning, everyone! I can’t believe that today is the last day of November and Christmas (and a whole new year!) are right around the corner! Like every Holiday season, I know the next few weeks are going to be pretty hectic and crazy- but I’m looking forward to spending some more time with my family and friends doing all sorts of fun, festive things during one of the prettiest times of the year here in New England- right up until 2018 arrives!

But I have to tip my hat to November, because this past month was pretty spectacular. A good portion of it was spent outdoors with friends taking in the late Autumn scenery at local state parks and trails- even when it was bitterly cold out (or flurrying!) at times- while the days leading up to Thanksgiving Weekend revolved around lots of cooking and baking in the kitchen and gathering around the dining room table. I mean, look at the spread my family put together this year- and this was only a portion of it!

When not hiking, stuffing my face, or working crazy amounts of overtime this past month to stay on top of the year-end caseload at my office (and to get some extra Holiday cash!)– I was watching Blondie Birdie undergo a much-needed and fabulous makeover. I’m still getting used to my new layout, and I’m still in absolute awe at how beautiful it turned out. I feel like a true professional now!

So what do I have up my sleeve for December? Well, apart from finishing up my holiday shopping and finalizing plans for New Years Eve (and early 2018- since I intend on doing some traveling right away!) I have some Christmas-inspired recipes to share, a peek into the more festive pieces in my wardrobe, and a look at some of my favorite local Holiday hot-spots I like to visit every year. I’m also thinking of coming up with a little gift-guide for those last minute shoppers who need some inspiration to make it to that home stretch- so stay tuned!

Enjoy the rest of your week, everyone! I’ll be back next Monday with one of my favorite recipes for the most divine hot chocolate you’ll ever drink!

 

xx

– Ashley –

Favorites: November 2017!

Good Morning and Happy Wednesday, everyone! Is it the weekend yet? It’s been so unbelievably busy at work these past couple of days that I’m really just looking forward to a lazy Saturday afternoon where I can stay in my pajamas, sip come cocoa, listen to some Christmas music and get a bit of my holiday shopping done online without having to leave the comfort of my bed.

I figure I just have to tough it out through Friday and then I’m free to be as unapologetically unproductive as I want- and with December just a couple of days away- I thought now was a good time to share some of the things I really loved this past month before I get too sidetracked in my office (or fall asleep under my desk!)

My overall reflection of this November will be up tomorrow morning- but here are the products, entertainment, and odds & ends that made this month even better!

Although I didn’t participate in the 12:01 a.m. “Doorbuster” Black Friday pandemonium- that doesn’t mean I didn’t go out later on in the afternoon to pick up a couple of things. While most of my shopping was for my loved ones- I also squeezed in just a tiny splurge for myself, too- specifically by stocking up on huge bottles of my favorite shampoo and conditioning treatment by Loma Hair Care at my usual salon.

Ever since I went blonde, I’ve had to take extra special care of my curls to make sure they stay hydrated and strong. This is the stuff my stylist uses on me when I pop by for treatments and touch-ups- and it works wonderfully! My hair is always silky smooth and shiny after every use.

Best of all? It smells amazing!

Speaking of smelling amazing: I always try to set the seasonal mood with candles around my place- switching things up every few months- but this cocoa-scented one from Bath & Body Works might be the most delicious, mouthwatering and festive one I’ve found yet!

I bought multiple jars of this hot chocolate and whipped cream candle because it smells like the real deal and I think these would make incredible gifts- but I even feel warmer having it burning near me. It’s that convincing!

Fenty Beauty makes another appearance on one of my monthly Favorites lists- this time with two products! The first is the universally flattering, long-lasting and moisturizing ‘Gloss Bomb’ Lip Gloss- which makes my lips look plumper and smoother while giving me some much-needed, subtle color.

The second is the lightest shade of the ‘Pro Filt’r’ Matte Foundation- which matches my skin tone PERFECTLY. There’s no weird, orange tint after it dries or uneven coverage. This stuff blends in flawlessly and stays in place all day until it’s time for me to wash it off at the end of the night. I’ve never felt so confident and comfortable wearing a moderate-to-full coverage foundation before- but I swear by this.

I bow down to Rihanna for these! Thank you, Queen!

And lastly for the photogenic items/products- one of my guilty snacking pleasures this past month came courtesy of Trader Joe’s (so I really shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying these as much as I do!) These chocolate-covered marshmallows are so, so good- and I’m embarrassed to admit how many boxes I’ve gone through- especially during the holidays when they seemed to just appear in my kitchen over and over!

If anyone is looking for a Christmas present for me and is thinking buying these in bulk sounds like a good idea- I won’t complain!

Moving onto some of the other things I loved this month that I couldn’t quite snap photos of so easily…

– MUSIC/MOVIES/TELEVISION –

“The Punisher” – When Netflix announced they were going to not only increase my monthly billing fee, but were also pulling the plug on streaming a ton of shows I enjoy within the coming months- I opted to cancel my subscription having binge-watched the latest episodes of some of their original series, first. I figure when it’s time to catch up on a new season of ‘Stranger Things’- I’ll re-join for a month or so. Until then, there’s no sense in continuing to pay for something I’ll rarely use.

But first, I wanted to take in Jon Bernthal’s version of Frank Castle in the new season of ‘The Punisher’- and I’m glad I did- because it’s an incredible combination of drama, action and suspense. Bernthal is so unbelievably talented- and I’m glad he was chosen for the role following what felt like his far-too-premature departure from ‘The Walking Dead’.

– GAMES/APPS –

“The Hallmark Christmas Movie Drinking Game” – Have you all seen THIS? It’s been making the rounds in my office over the past couple of days and it’s pretty brilliant. I have a feeling my girlfriends and I are going to be attempting this when we have our weekly dinner/movie night.

If you read about me dying from alcohol poisoning anytime soon- you’ll know I died doing what I loved- watching bad movies.

Alright everyone- I think that’s it for my November Favorites. There’s a few things that I thought about putting on this month’s assortment of items- but I have a feeling they’ll carry over into December.

Enjoy the rest of your day!

xx

– Ashley –

Food Comas and Makeovers by Blogerize!

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! It’s back to work for me (and a lot of other people, I’m sure!) after what was an extended weekend spent with family, friends, an overabundance of delicious, filling food and a little bit of holiday shopping. Although the time off was nice- and I wish it lasted just a little longer- I’m ready to dive back into my cases and try to begin a productive week.

I truly hope that all of you in the States who celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday had a wonderful time and were surrounded by people you love and cherish- and I hope those of you who participated in the Black Friday shenanigans were able to get some decent deals (and I especially hope those of you who work retail got to catch up on some much deserved sleep when it was all over!)

Although Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier every year, I was pleasantly surprised that many people in my community- both residential areas and businesses- waited until the days following Thanksgiving to start setting up their holiday decorations and displays. A local radio station, who typically start playing 24/7 Christmas music the day after Halloween- even waited until Thanksgiving was over before the heavy rotation of “Last Christmas” began, and I gotta’ say- it’s really refreshing! I don’t see myself getting burnt out on the holidays before they even arrive this year.

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Something else that’s refreshing? Blondie Birdie’s new layout! A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by Laura from Blogerize– who was looking to take on the task of giving my blog a complete and long overdue makeover- free of charge. It seemed a little too good to be true, but after doing some research- Laura and her team of professional designers provided me with a preview of what they had in mind- and it was so close to the vision I’d originally had for Blondie Birdie but, to date, hadn’t quite been able to achieve on my own.

With my go-head, the Blogerize crew re-vamped and breathed some serious life into my layout- giving me a seamless way to share my content and my readers/followers a chic and easy-to-navigate homepage that better connects them to posts, my social media, and offers a search function in case they’re looking for something specific within Blondie Birdie.

If you’re a blogger and you’re looking to spruce up your space on the internet- I highly recommend enlisting Blogerize’s services. They’re talented, fun, and create completely custom and unique designs tailored specifically to your blog’s content/topics/audience. They also offer online courses for beginners to the blogosphere to help with branding, designing and marketing- and 24/7 support for those who may need a helping hand in their designing/writing endeavors.

I cannot thank Laura and her team enough for their hard work and assistance as I made the transition to the new layout and hosting site. It’s truly appreciated and I couldn’t ask for a better early-Christmas present. I hope everyone enjoys the new layout as much as I am!

And with all that being said, I’ve got to get to work. Good luck getting through your Monday, everybody!

xx

– Ashley –