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 –

Starters: Prosciutto and Fig Salad Board

For the next couple of weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I plan on sharing a brief series of recipes that I handpicked to serve as creative and/or unexpected alternatives to a starter, a side, and a dessert for those gearing up to prepare the big “Turkey Day” meal but who want something a little different than the standard cheese and cracker appetizers, mashed potato side dish, or pumpkin pie finale.

The first recipe of the series I’m putting up on Blondie Birdie is the starter. This sweet and slightly tangy salad is lightweight and delicious- and only takes 10 minutes to prepare. The best part about serving it spread out on a board as opposed to tossed in a large bowl, however- is that all the incredible toppings and dressing don’t sink down to the bottom. Everything stays fresh and spread out evenly over and between the spinach to guarantee a ton of flavor in each and every bite!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces spinach
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces prosciutto
  • 12 figs, quartered
  • ⅓ cup crumbled blue cheese

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and Dijon. Gradually add the olive oil, whisking continuously until the mixture is emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the spinach and shallots. Add the dressing and toss well to coat.
  3. Spread the spinach on a large board and arrange the prosciutto and figs on top of it. Finish with a sprinkling of blue cheese. Serve immediately.

I made extra portions of this salad to bring to work with me this week- that’s how good it was.  The fig gives it an unexpected texture and sweetness while the mixed in Dijon mustard adds a kick to each serving. Depending on your preferences, you can add/reduce certain ingredients- but I really like it the way it is!

xx

– Ashley –

Costumes, Pizzas and Promotions…

You’ll Float Too! Oliver and I (kind of) matching. Halloween 2017.

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! I’m two days into my new position at work and so far, so good. I’ve just been focusing on getting my office in order and staying on top of my caseload as best as I can. My new team has been very welcoming, friendly and helpful so far- and I’m so grateful to them for it!

I am, admittedly, still trying to get out of the Halloween state of mind. It’s tricky, what with having a ton of leftover candy from Trick-Or-Treating the other night and horror movie marathons still going on at local theaters and on television- but I’m doing my best to prepare for Thanksgiving and the last days of Fall. This weekend, I’ll be going hiking with a group of my friends while the not-too-cold-weather holds up- and trying my hand at a couple of recipes I’m hoping will be a smash at the holiday get togethers my family and friends have planned in the coming weeks.

I had said I had two Halloween costumes this year, and my Georgie from ‘IT’ was undoubtedly the universal favorite- but I also went as part of a group costume at work where we all dressed as “Social (Media) Butterflies” that represented different social media apps- and of course I went as Tinder- because why wouldn’t I?

Swipe Right!

The costumes were creative enough to help my team win a company-wide contest- and to celebrate we ordered a bunch of pizzas yesterday and stuffed our faces together. It was worth wearing a scratchy tutu and oversized wings for a couple of hours. We had so much fun!

I’m storing my costume materials away until Halloween 2018 (or until the occasion to wear them again before then arises!) but I’m hoping we can hold onto our championship next Halloween should we all participate again.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I’m going to head off to get my work done so I can get a head start on my Friday night plans!

xx

– Ashley –

October 2017: In a Nutshell

The cupcakes I made for work today. The fingers- made out of sugar- are edible!

Good Morning, everybody- and Happy Halloween! Despite an unusual past 24 hours- which saw a freak storm roll through Massachusetts and down trees, power lines, and cause major power outages across the state- it’s one of my favorite holidays and I’m already having a great time. We’re having a themed party (complete with costumes, decorations, and snacks!) at work today- and then tonight I’ll be taking my niece Trick-Or-Treating before we sit down to watch some classic horror movies and enjoy a pizza- my favorite tradition when Halloween falls on a weekday.

It goes without saying that October is probably my most adored month out of the whole year- and this past October was definitely one to remember. I spent a lot of time with my friends visiting new (as well as longtime favorite) haunted-and-horror-themed attractions around the New England area- like the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo, the annual Rock & Shock Convention in Worcester- and checking out a double-feature screening of Friday the 13th movies ON Friday the 13th! I also got to share some more of my favorite seasonal recipes and show off a couple of treasured, “spooky” pieces from my wardrobe.

This past weekend, I was able to finally unveil one of two Halloween costumes I prepared for this year (I’ll be able to show the second one a little later this week after I get some photos in it today!) at my friend Alyssa’s annual Halloween bash where I got to catch up with some old friends for the first time since the Summer. I went as Georgie from “IT”, including the post-Pennywise-inflicted wound and the S.S. Georgie in my other hand. I didn’t expect it to be as big of a hit as it was- but everyone seemed to really, really love it- which made me happy.

And although I had originally made plans to go camping/”glam”ping as well as visit the real town of Sleepy Hollow this past month- my friends’ schedules, and my own schedule- made actually being able to put those plans into motion a little difficult. I’m not fretting too much about it, though- since there’s always November (or December- weather permitting!)– and I had a lot of impromptu fun regardless!

Why was my schedule a little tricky to maneuver around? Well- the big, work-related news from this past month is that I got promoted at my job! I start with a new team in a new area of the company beginning next week- and I’m so excited to get started! I’ve put everything I have into my career, and it’s so thrilling to see my hard work pay off as I advance myself. I’m truly grateful and appreciative and eager to continue challenging myself as I set new goals to work towards.

So, what do I have planned in November (apart from moving my office?)– well, I’ve got a few Thanksgiving recipes to share, some travel days ahead of me before I get too preoccupied with the impending holidays, some colder-weather ensembles I’ve put together to pose in and some miscellaneous reviews of various products I’m putting together to post up here on Blondie Birdie.

But before I jump into that- it’s time to party!

Have a safe and kick-ass Halloween, everyone! I can’t wait to see all of your costumes!

xx

– Ashley –

Favorites: October 2017!

Is it Monday again already? Ew. This past weekend sure flew by quickly! The bright side (there’s always a bright side) is that tomorrow is Halloween, of course- which means we all still have a couple of days left to squeeze in some last minute scares and sweets before we hang up our costumes and usher in November and the impending Holiday Season. I’m a bit overwhelmed just thinking about it already!

Before that, though- I wanted to share some of my favorite products/items/miscellaneous odds and ends that helped to make October the fabulous fright-fest that it was. Most of the things that made the list are silly finds I picked up along the way these past few weeks, while others are some my favorite kinds of entertainment- but all of it holds a special place in my heart when I look back on October of 2017.

Up first are the things I was able to photograph in one place!

A couple of weeks ago, while at the Rock and Shock Horror Convention in my hometown- I picked up one of these ‘Stranger Things’-inspired natural soaps from the booth that had been set up for Fiona’s Fright Soap. This bar in particular smells like a pretty amazing combination of pancakes and maple syrup- and with the second season of ‘Stranger Things’ premiering on Netflix a few days ago (spoiler alert: it’s awesome so far)– it felt like an appropriate time to start using it.

The soap not only makes me smell like a delicious breakfast- but it makes my skin feel really soft and smooth, too. I know this was a limited edition product but I’m hoping Fiona’s eventually makes it a regular item so I can order more of them!

One of my girlfriends, Stef, recently got into canning goods/food with her fiancé- and she’s been kind enough to give me enough food to get me through the zombie apocalypse every time we hang out. Her most recent concoction- and probably my favorite- is this vanilla & whiskey infused apple sauce. She makes it from scratch, air-seals it so it doesn’t go bad- and passes it around like Halloween candy- and it’s AMAZING. It tastes like apple pie filling with a little bit of a boozy kick.

I’ve been hounding Stef for the recipe so I can put it up here for everyone to enjoy. That’s a foodie post I’m really, really going to like putting together!

Speaking of food and sweets- one of my favorite things about Halloween is cooking/baking some seriously macabre snacks for my friends and co-workers. I’ve been loving these edible cupcake/cake toppers from Wilton. They make everything so much more funny- and I REALLY love seeing people’s reactions when they realize that they’re edible and bite into them for the first time. It’s priceless.

I’ll be turning to them when I start baking for next Halloween, too! (Side Note: I love the little edible hatchets you can buy as cupcake toppers. A little bit of red icing and you’ve got a sweet, delicious murder-themed dessert!)

With all of my Halloween stuff going on this past month, it was easy to neglect my nails sometimes. Thankfully, Saks Fifth Avenue had my back- and were nice enough to ship this milk chocolate-inspired shade of nail lacquer from Smith and Cult to me. The color (called “Tenderoni”)– which has quickly become my signature hue on my nails, eyes and lips- is going to be perfect for the remainder of the Fall through the Winter.

It’s smooth, long-lasting, and I’ll be posting a swatch of it soon on Instagram!

Finally, this was another find at the Rock and Shock Convention that I’m completely in love with! I’ve been wearing this Ouija pendant necklace non-stop since I got it- since it’s not only seasonally appropriate- but it looks pretty damned cool, too. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments from people who have leaned in close enough to get a good look at it- and I’m thinking I may keep on wearing it even after Halloween is over!

And that is everything I was able to photograph for my October favorites.

Of course, some other things made the list, too!

– MUSIC/MOVIES/TELEVISION –

“The Walking Dead” – OOOOOH, IT’S BACK, BABY- AND IT FEELS SO GOOD. Although we’re only a couple of episodes into the eighth season of my number one obsession- the pace of the show has been incredible. Rick Grimes is straight up murdering people. Daryl looks like he actually showered for once. Carol remains my flawless Queen- and Ezekiel still won’t break character. It’s everything I hoped for and more and I’m praying this season makes up for all the heartbreak viewers experienced around this time last year!

“Broad City” – On the opposite end of the spectrum, one of my favorite comedies is back and I couldn’t be happier. One of the things I love most (and there’s a lot I love about it) about “Broad City” is that it focuses on common issues for women everywhere- but it does it in a funny, and often touching or poignant way. The most recent episode, where Ilana admits she’s having trouble finding sexual gratification since Election Night while Abbi comes to terms with aging after finding her first grey hair- was some of the best writing I’ve ever seen on the show. I want to be BFFs with those girls.

– GAMES/APPS –

“South Park: The Fractured, But Whole” – I’m a longtime ‘South Park’ fan (it’s social commentary is spot. on.) and the last game that came out, “The Stick of Truth” is one of my favorites. While “Stick of Truth” was like a ‘Lord of The Rings’ parody- “The Fractured, But Whole” is geared towards making fun of the successful string of superhero movies that have come out in recent years. Featuring more predominant characters in the latest seasons- my friends and I have been pretty much dying laughing while we take turns playing this at get-togethers. It’s a riot- and really, really fun!

And I think that’s everything for the month of October. Most of it was Halloween and Horror-related, sure- but it’s the one time of year where it’s universally appropriate! I’m sure I’ll come back around to less gory and scary things come November.

Try to enjoy your Monday, everyone! I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about October 2017 overall before we pass out some candy and kiss this month goodbye!

xx

– Ashley –

OOTD: Crime Scene Couture

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! With Halloween just a few short days away- this weekend is set to be one of my busiest yet! Filled with party-hopping, haunted houses, pumpkin carving, some treat baking and last minute decorating to prepare for Tuesday night’s festivities- I’m going to be moving non-stop over the next 48 hours- and I couldn’t be more excited for it. Halloween is my favorite holiday for a reason, after all!

I’ve been sporting some of my favorite Halloween & Horror-inspired threads and jewelry in recent weeks- and this past week seemed as good a time as any to break out my blood spatter dress from Black Milk Clothing. I picked up this gory number a couple of years ago and it’s become one of my favorite staples to wear to office Halloween parties or when I’m heading out to catch a midnight horror movie marathon with my friends.

The dress is made mostly of polyester, so it’s very comfortable to move around in- and the fabric has a smooth feel and almost shiny appearance at first glance. What makes this dress so fun (to me, anyway!) is that if you look closely enough, you can see the word “HELP” written and bloodied hand prints scattered around the front and back. It’s morbid, for sure- but it always gets people talking whenever I wear it!

It’s been chilly and rainy out these past few days- so I’ve been layering up as much as possible. With this dress, I kept it pretty simple with a pair of black, fleece-lined tights, a faux-leather jacket and black, buckled biker boots. If it were warmer out or if I was wearing this anywhere that I could show some leg- I’d probably pair it with a pair of blood red heels and call it a night.

Add a cherry red lipstick (I’m wearing NARS’ Satin Lip Pencil in Luxembourg in these photos!) and a swipe of black eye liner and I am pretty much ready to go!

This is one of those ensembles I wish I could wear year-round and have it be appropriate- but alas, Halloween is sadly not a monthly occurrence. Instead, I’ve had a lot of fun getting as much usage out of this dress as I can before I have to tuck it away in a storage bin until next October rolls around.

And so, I’ve got to finish up some work for today. Enjoy your weekend, everyone! I’m looking forward to sharing my costumes (yes, I’ve got more than one to wear this year!), my monthly favorites- and my look back and this positively de-FRIGHT-ful October in my posts next week.

See you all then!

xx

– Ashley –