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 –

Advertisements

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.

____________________________

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 –

Desserts: Snickerdoodle Chocolate-Chunk Bundt Cake

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! It’s a short work week for me, what with the upcoming holiday- so I’ll be tying up some loose ends and staying glued to my desk for the next couple of days so I can return to my office next week and not be completely swamped or overwhelmed. It’s all about prioritizing my tasks and my time properly!

To wrap up my series of Thanksgiving-inspired recipes before this Thursday arrives, I wanted to share one of my favorite dishes for one of my favorite parts of the meal- dessert, of course! This cake, a twist on the classic cookie- incorporates the expected flavors: brown sugar and cinnamon- but adds some chewy, gooey chocolate goodness to make it a rich, decadent finale to the one meal out of the year where it’s okay to be a little gluttonous.

While it may look like a lot of steps- I assure you that this recipe is surprisingly easy to pull off!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 2⅓ cups chocolate chunks, divided
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick spray.
  2. MAKE THE CAKE: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, light brown sugar and ¾ cup of the granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the mixture to the wet ingredients in three additions, mixing until just combined after each and alternating with the buttermilk until both are fully incorporated. Fold in 1⅓ cups of the chocolate chunks.
  5. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining granulated sugar and the cinnamon. Pour half the cake batter into the prepared pan and top with half the cinnamon-sugar. Pour the remaining batter on top and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-sugar.
  6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 60 to 80 minutes. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then invert the cake onto a rack and cool completely.
  7. MAKE THE GLAZE: Place the remaining chocolate and cream in a medium-size heat-safe bowl. Microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring in between until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
  8. Pour the chocolate glaze over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides and set for at least 15 minutes before serving.

This cake is packed full of flavor- chocolate, cinnamon, toasted brown sugar and a pinch of salt to balance everything out- and every bite is absolutely delicious. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a hot cup of coffee and you’ve got yourself the perfect way to draw a conclusion to the meal for your family and friends.

Enjoy your day, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Side Dish: Stuffin’ Muffins

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! We’ve made it through another week and it’s time for the final stretch before the holiday season is officially underway. You know the markets and grocery stores are going to be packed this weekend with people picking up their last minute Turkey Day necessities- so be careful out there!

Continuing with my brief series of Thanksgiving-inspired recipes leading up to next Thursday, I wanted to move on from the starters/appetizers and onto a fun and easy side dish you can serve your guests that is not only full of flavor- but is also perfectly proportioned where everyone will get a fair amount, too!

Meet “Stuffin’ Muffins”- the mess-free, compact and convenient way to enjoy a classic recipe.

These measurements make 12 muffins- so adjust accordingly depending on how many people you plan to feed!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • ½ loaf crusty bread, cut into small (⅓-inch) cubes
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter, divided
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 4 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2½ cups turkey, chicken or vegetable broth

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the bread with 4 tablespoons of the melted butter.
  3. Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter into a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and celery, and cook until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Stir in the parsley, thyme, rosemary and sage. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
  5. Pour the onion and celery mixture over the bread and toss well to combine. Add the broth and toss well to coat. Let the mixture sit 10 to 15 minutes to absorb the liquid, tossing occasionally.
  6. Divide the stuffing evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Bake until the tops are golden brown and crusty, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving warm.

Warm, buttery, and crumbly with a kick of spice- these muffins are the perfect pairing to your ham/turkey/tofurkey and vegetables. They’re just the right amount of stuffing to keep you from feeling overly- well, stuffed- and they’re just as great to store for leftovers, too!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone! Next week I’ll be sharing a really fantastic dessert recipe to wrap up my Thanksgiving series- and I’ve got some fun changes coming to Blondie Birdie, too!

xx

– Ashley –

OOTD: Blanket Statement

Good Morning, everyone! Happy Wednesday! Here’s hoping you’re all hanging in there ’til the weekend gets here.

Well, it’s official- Winter is on it’s way. We’ve had a couple of snow flurries over the past couple of days here in Massachusetts- thankfully nothing that has stuck on the roads or anything- but it’s become significantly colder outside with recent temperature drops. Now’s the time to layer on and bundle up with all the frigid-and-frost-proof necessities: heavier jackets, scarves, hats, gloves, wool socks, etc. etc.

Me, on the other hand? I’ve embraced over-sized, bulkier fabrics that can be draped over my regular ensembles and serve as wearable (and fashionable!) blankets/Winter-ready ponchos. This wool, brown and gray checkered number I’ve owned for a couple of years is one of my favorites- because it not only matches so many things in my wardrobe which makes it more versatile to wear out and about- but because it keeps me toasty warm, too.

I posed in this blanket/poncho over the weekend before enjoying a home-cooked meal and a long night of playing board games and Mario Party with some friends that had come over to keep out of the cold. Even though I was outside for a while taking a walk and watching the sunset over the trees- the wool kept my shoulders, arms and torso protected from the elements. I was so comfortable and felt like I really looked chic and appropriate for the incoming season!

Unrelated, but my Smith & Cult “Tenderoni” nail polish (which I included in my October Favorites last month!) matches this blanket/poncho PERFECTLY. It’s like they were made for each other! I wasn’t the only one who noticed, either. More than one person stopped me while I had this on to take a second, closer look at either the material my poncho was made out of or my long-overdue manicure I managed to treat myself to on Saturday morning.

I think this shade is going to carry me through the Winter and into the Spring, honestly. I love it so much.

I’d really like to do another post- soon- to share some of the other variations of this trend/wardrobe staple I have tucked away in my closet. I have so many different color combinations, fabrics and cuts/shapes of wearable blankets/ponchos that I’m looking forward to rocking around town and to work over the next couple of weeks!

‘Til next time. Stay warm out there!

xx

– Ashley –

POPSUGAR Must Have Box Review: November 2017

Good Evening, everyone! I hope you all made it through your Mondays unscathed. It feels a bit odd to be updating my blog at night as opposed to first thing in the morning, but I experienced a bit of technical difficulty this past weekend when my laptop- the one I’ve had and have been using since I started college (I’m a firm believer in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”)– finally died out on me for good.

After my initial freak-out, followed by a proper burial and a stunning rendition of “Taps” on trumpet (just kidding- I just packaged it up to have it taken apart by the manufacturer)– I had to make the switch over to my trusty little tablet for all my e-mail and blogging purposes. Of course, transferring all of my stuff took a little bit of time- hence this semi-late night post!

To start off this week of scheduled posts, I wanted to share what I received in this month’s POPSUGAR “Must Have” Box- which arrived at my doorstep late last week and prior to the aforementioned laptop implosion. It was another good one, which should come as a surprise to no one who has been actively reading my reviews of the service.

But let’s take a look inside!

This month’s theme/inspirations go hand-in-hand with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday: SWEET, GATHER, GRATEFUL, FAMILY and HOST. I only knew one spoiler for this month’s box thanks to POPSUGAR’s e-mail list- so I’ll go ahead and share that, first!

I don’t typically get invested in celebrity couples and never understood the media’s obsession with them- but I fully admit I thought Anna Faris and Chris Pratt were adorable- if only because they’re both so incredibly likable individually, as well. I was thrilled when I found out I’d be receiving a hardcover copy of Anna’s new book, “Unqualified”, where she offers up relationship advice based on her own awkward encounters and hilarious history over the years.

The foreword, penned by Pratt- is sweet and equally funny in it’s own way. I’m really looking forward to sitting down with this during the coming weekend to read it cover to cover!

One of my favorite items in this month’s “Must Have” box is this simple, chic and sturdy rose gold metal headband by Chloe + Isabel (in partnership with celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin). Forgive how messy my hair looks in the above-photo. I’d been out in that oh-so-wonderful Massachusetts rain/fog right before I’d taken it- but the headband still looks lovely, doesn’t it? It’s very comfortable and classes up even the messiest of ponytails!

I love, love LOVE Tarte products- so receiving their ‘PRO Glow To Go Highlight Contour Palette’ was like having Christmas come early this year! I’m a big fan of natural, subtle shimmer lately- and the shades in this palette are so pretty and complimentary against my skin tone. They’re easy to blend and create both bold and everyday looks with ease.

But wait- there’s more!

Time for a snack break! It’s that time of year when peppermint reigns supreme- so I’m really looking forward to munching on these dark chocolate and peppermint covered pretzel rods from Fatty Sundays at work this week when I take a much-needed break in the afternoons. I’m already confident they taste amazing- but it needs to be mentioned that they also look so pretty, too! Talk about Instagram-worthy.

Anytime I get gift wrap around the holidays is a time when I’m thankful indeed- especially when it’s a unique and interesting print that sets my presents for my friends and loved ones apart. Case in point- this newspaper gift wrap (where the pattern sort of reminds me of a rock climbing wall for some reason!) from Knot & Bow which I’ll be using for some of my upcoming Christmas shopping now that I’m getting more and more into the holiday spirit!

Finally, one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in a POPSUGAR “Must Have” Box (and are sure to be a hit at Thanksgiving!) are these chalkboard style paper placemat setting pieces from Hester & Cook– with the appropriate pencils to allow for freestyle doodling. My niece- who often sets the table at my family’s get togethers- is going to LOVE these. Designing the seating for some of the guests at Thanksgiving this year is going to be a dream come true for her considering how artistic she is.

I’m so excited to see the look on her face when she realizes what these are!

Now, I never really have problems with POPSUGAR because they almost always hit it out of the park with their “Must Have” boxes, but unfortunately- there was one hiccup with November’s assortment of items- and that was that something was missing. Apparently, I was supposed to receive a $25 voucher to BloomThat– but it was nowhere to be found- even after I turned the box upside down looking for it.

The voucher must have slipped through the cracks. It’s not the end of the world, of course- but it is a little disappointing since it would have been useful to pick up a lovely bouquet to set at my mother’s table for Thanksgiving.

Oh well.

Apart from that teeny, tiny setback- I loved November’s “Must Have” Box. It was fun, festive, and full of lovely surprises. Next month will be the annual Christmas box- and I can’t wait!

Enjoy the rest of your night, everyone! My posting schedule will be back to normal on Wednesday morning!

xx

– Ashley-