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 –

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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-

Thanks AND Giving…

(via Pinterest)

One of my favorite things about my job is that my office believes very strongly in giving back to our community. Whether it’s holding fundraisers for local non-profits, sponsoring local businesses and teams in their charitable endeavors or educating and encouraging growth and development within our neighborhoods- it’s always rewarding (and fun!) to pitch in and work together as a team to help others and make our city a cleaner, safer and more compassionate place.

With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, my company’s focus has shifted to the pending holiday season- and that includes helping those less fortunate stay fed and warm in the frigid New England temperatures. We’re currently holding a food drive and coat collection to benefit our local shelters and pantries. The holidays can be rough- even on the most fortunate and happy people in the world. Imagine how much worse it is for those who are down on their luck this time of year?

Inspired by the overwhelming outpouring of support and eagerness my co-workers have displayed when it comes to lending a helping hand to strangers- I wanted to share some links for non-profit organizations who are truly saving lives this time of year for anyone who reads Blondie Birdie and might want to do something to help out, too.

Find Your Local Food Bank – Head on over to Feeding America’s website, tap in your location, and voila! You’ll be connected to the food bank closest to you. From there, you can bring non-perishable goods to be delivered and/or distributed to those in need. For a full-list of appropriate non-perishable foods, simply CLICK HERE.

Send Some Love to Our Troops & Their Families – Our neighborhoods include plenty of military families, as well- many of whom are spending the holidays while their loved ones are overseas. Homefront America is taking donations to provide hundreds of military families with the groceries necessary to feed their loved ones without the worry or the hassle that comes with preparing a meal.

Don’t Forget Our Elders – During the holidays, we spend time with family and friends from all over and from all walks of life- but there are some elderly men and women who don’t have the luxury of being able to sit around a table for Thanksgiving dinner with their loved ones. Meals on Wheels is taking up volunteers to bring food and groceries to the elderly who are unable to get to their local grocery stores or prepare their meals themselves. Not only are you keeping our older generations from going hungry- but it’s a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends, too!

Help Someone Keep Warm – Growing up in Massachusetts, I can attest that we never really fully adapt to the cold. We just wear as many layers as possible and try to put up with it as best we can until Spring rolls back around. That being said, I can’t imagine not having an adequate coat this time of year. Sadly, many people go without proper protective wear to shield them from the harsher elements.

If you have a gently worn coat that either doesn’t fir you anymore, or has been replaced with something new- you can donate your older coat to places like the previously linked Burlington Coat Factory, New York Cares or, if you’d rather just purchase a new coat for someone in need- Operation Warm.

Even just a little bit of support and willingness to take action can do SO much and change someone’s whole life. You can make a difference- and now is the perfect time to do it!

And for those in the Boston area: My office is taking donations through next Friday (11/17/17). If you’d like to help out- drop me a line and we can coordinate a day and time for me to swing by and pick up your donation!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone. Try to stay warm out there!

xx

– Ashley –

Fall in The Emerald Necklace…

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Before I dive into my caseload for the day and prepare for a couple of meetings I have a little later on in the afternoon- I wanted to share some photos from a recent hiking excursion some friends and I went on over the weekend before the weather took a turn for the Winter-esque earlier this week. I heard there’s a possibility for some snow in the forecast within the next couple of days- and I am not ready for it.

On Sunday, prior to the sudden temperature drop- I headed a few miles outside the city to hike a large portion of the The Emerald Necklace Conservancy and drink in the last glimpses of a Fall. Although my legs have been killing me since I got home- it was worth it. I saw an incredible Bonsai garden, some still bright & bold foliage, the city skyline like I’ve never seen it before- and even some wild turkeys who I think were hiding out until after Thanksgiving is over.

Although sections of the Emerald Necklace aren’t far from me at all- I rarely visit. I’m not sure why, really- but I fully intend on making more frequent stops there in the future. It’s breathtaking!

Here’s a few snapshots I took along the way during my afternoon:

After such a long and strenuous hike, our group managed to keep on walking from the park all the way to Centre Street in Jamaica Plain to grab dinner and coffee at City Feed and Supply– a market and eatery that prides itself on staying local and supporting neighborhood farms/businesses- and which also make some really great sandwiches (the turkey and brie one is my favorite right now!)

If you’re ever in the area- you should definitely drop in and grab a bite to take on the go with you. It’s worth it!

And now, I’ve got some work to do while I bundle up at my desk in my sweaters and jackets!

Have a good one, everybody! We’re almost near the weekend!

xx

– Ashley –