2019: In a Nutshell

2019: In a Nutshell

Good Morning and Happy New Year’s (Eve) everybody!

I know that it’s pretty much obligatory at this point for every single person looking back on and/or writing about this past year to say “I can’t believe how quickly time flew by!”– and I’m sure many of you are sick of that sentiment by now with all the recent recaps, revisits and reviews of 2019 that typically pop up between the day after Christmas and now as we shift gears from presents, mistletoe and ugly holiday sweater parties and prepare for 2020- but here we are and yes- I feel that this year was truly accelerated at lightning speed.

It feels like it was only a few days ago that I was standing on the observation deck of Top of The Rock in New York City on January 1st and making grandeur plans for the year ahead. I had very specific goals/resolutions in mind, and I’m happy and proud that twelve months later- I’ve accomplished and achieved nearly everything that was on my list at the end of 2018. It wasn’t easy by any means- and there were plenty of setbacks and hurdles along the way- but where 2018 was the year I became aware of myself as a person and honest about my strengths and weaknesses as a human being- 2019 was all about implementing what I had learned about myself, sharpening my skill set and redefining my goals in a way that better suited me- and then putting my plans into action to achieve what I wanted to gain.

2019 was filled with changes- big and small, personal and professional. The biggest and most significant change in my life this year was that I relocated to the Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts- a move that took me a couple hours away from my family, friends and career- and essentially gave me the opportunity to find new passions and projects in a new community filled with new people (and a few longtime friends that have been established out here for a while now, as well.) It’s been exciting, sometimes and admittedly a little frightening- but overall very rewarding. I love my apartment, I love my neighborhood- and I love the exciting opportunities that lay ahead.

Professionally, I managed to juggle not one, not two- but three jobs- simultaneously and successfully. And, while I had to overcome a brief period of office drama, slander and sabotage at the hands of co-workers at my full-time office job- it is my Saturday show with Indie617 that brought me the most joy and fulfillment- and I cannot wait to continue that into 2020. Additionally, a Summertime stint with a local theater company earned me some extra income and a couple of connections here in the Valley that I hope will have prosperous potential in the future.

And then, personally- and perhaps the thing I’m most proud of this year- was that I kept my promise to myself to not allow negative people to drain me of my energy and spirit and reduce me to a doormat. I put my foot down in 2019- and I severed ties with people who were either toxic or did not have my best interests at heart. In releasing myself and putting needed distance from those negative and often abusive friendships/connections- I became more honest and upfront with what I wanted without fear- and the result was forging stronger, more meaningful and healthy friendships/relationships with those around me.

This past year was also filled with travel (from new and unfamiliar locations here in New England all the way to Las Vegas and San Diego this past Spring), incredible live shows from Boston Calling and Green River Festival in the Summer to Bon Iver and Hozier in the Fall- and big changes for my friends and family- including engagements, new babies, and buying new houses!

And with all the progress and all the changes that have happened in 2019- I feel like I’m better equipped to enter 2020 with new and attainable goals. I have a new list of resolutions- which I’ll share at the end of this post- as well as some exciting blogging news in relation to the future of Blondie Birdie.

But first, as is tradition- I’d like to recap some of the headlines, trends, pop culture phenomenons, memes and everything in-between in what I call 2019: In a Nutshell.

Let’s take a look back, shall we?

(Image via Reuters)

Corruption was the talk of the town: I didn’t want to kick this off with anything related to Donald Trump. I’ve made no attempts to hide my contempt for him or his rabid followers since well before he took office- but this has been *the* news story of late 2019 and as it’s still ongoing- it’s worth the first mention.

Following the revelation via a still-anonymous whistleblower that Donald Trump had enlisted the help of the newly appointed President of the Ukraine to investigate Trump’s 2020 political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden and Joe Biden’s son in exchange for previously approved financial and military aid that would assist the Ukraine in their fight against Russian aggression- all bets were off in late September when an impeachment inquiry was launched by House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

In the weeks/months that followed- a number of witnesses were called to the stand to testify. Some of the testimony remained private to the public while other testimony was televised for days on end. Witnesses included former ambassadors and officials associated with the White House- and what they saw/overhead did not look good for Trump and his associates- who had vehemently denied any wrongdoing. Trump, unable to control his temper tantrums- went as far as to participate in witness intimidation in real time while Diplomat Marie Yovanovitch took the stand.

The Republicans, desperate and grasping at anything throughout the process- ceased to ask pertinent questions and instead began to simply shout over or attempt to degrade the witnesses- often resulting in brutal hashtags and memes on social media poking fun at their expense.

And on December 18th, Trump became the third president in U.S. history to be impeached following a long and tedious vote by the House on two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

While pre-trial proceedings remain ongoing and we await the formal decision on whether or not Trump will be removed from office (hopefully forcibly-) it goes without saying that at this point it is glaringly obvious even to the most stubborn MAGA hat-wearer that Trump and everyone has has placed in his inner circle to aid and abet him are criminals.

(via CNBC)

Epstein didn’t kill himself: Jeffrey Epstein has been a known predator for a long time, particularly after a prior conviction in 2008 where he had admitted to soliciting a minor for prostitution- but that didn’t stop the wealthy financier with powerful friends (including politicians and members of the Royal Family) from getting a slap on the wrist and released from his sentence in a minimal amount of time.

Years later, with multitudes of women and young girls coming forward- and after a lengthy and extensive investigation (prompted by a detailed exposé about the crimes being committed under everyone’s noses)– Epstein was arrested again in July of 2019- this time on federal charges of sex trafficking minors in Florida and the state of New York. The arrest brought to light his affiliations with other wealthy and prominent people/institutions- and it was widely speculated that he would name those who had assisted him with his crimes of abusing underage girls as part of a potential deal.

In August, after being placed on suicide watch following a previous attempt/assault within his cell just a few days earlier- Epstein was found dead with a broken neck. The official ruling was suicide by hanging- but many people had speculations and suspicions given the timeline of events and Epstein’s elite connections. Foul play has been widely insinuated- and as recently as November- two prison guards who were responsible for monitoring Epstein have been charged with conspiracy and falsifying records detailing what had happened the night he died.

(via CNN)

The Notre-Dame Fire: In April of 2019, all eyes were on Paris when the famed Notre-Dame cathedral was reportedly engulfed in flames as a result of a structural fire. For hours, onlookers watched in horror as flames destroyed the roof and spire before finally being contained and extinguished. In the interim, security personnel and responding firefighters managed to remove priceless artifacts and artwork from within the cathedral to safety before they could be damaged by the flames or heavy smoke.

The structure of the cathedral proved to be beneficial when remnants of the roof and spire had collapsed- as it helped shield a good amount of the interior from significant destruction- and pieces that were located and found to be damaged were expected to be sent out for repair/restoration.

And perhaps the most miraculous of all was that there were no fatalities and only a couple of minor injuries reported in the aftermath.

It didn’t take long for the donations to begin pouring in from around the globe to assist with the restoration and rebuilding of the damaged sections of the cathedral- and if you happened to be on social media that day- you were no stranger to the endless barrage of Parisian vacation photos paying tribute to the location. We get it, guys- you went to Paris ten years ago. Calm down.

(via NASA)

We got our first look at a black hole: Also in April of this year, the science world and space enthusiasts everywhere got a real treat when the first image of a black hole was released. Using an Event Horizon Telescope- which I have no business trying to explain because that’s how advanced and technical it is- a group of astronomers managed to secure the above photo. NASA went on to explain in their press release:

Using the Event Horizon Telescope, scientists obtained an image of the black hole at the center of the galaxy M87. (There is a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy — the Milky Way.)

The black hole is outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon.

Space has always intrigued and terrified me beyond comprehension (every movie where the plot focuses on people in space has *never* ended well for anyone)– but even I thought this was a fascinating peek into what lies beyond the stars.

(via Boston Herald)

Aunt Becky is probably going to prison: Earlier this Spring, the news broke that a group of celebrities, CEOs and moguls were being charged with conspiracy, money laundering and fraud (among a whole lot of other crimes) in relation to a college admissions bribery ring. The accused- which included Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman, David Sidoo, Gamal Aziz and many, many more- were found to have paid exorbitant amounts of money to have their children’s testing scores and extra curricular credentials changed- if not outright fabricated- in order to essentially buy their way into prestigious universities around the country in what was deemed “Operation Varsity Blues.”

While many of the accused plead guilty over the following months- serving brief sentences and paying hefty fines as punishment for their participation- it was Lori Louglin’s nonchalant attitude towards the whole scandal that caught everyone’s attention. She has outright denied any wrongdoing despite what looks like substantial evidence against her- and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

I have a feeling I’ll be revisiting this one by the end of 2020.

(via HBO)

IT’S FINALLY OVER: As confusing and often convoluted as ‘Game Of Thrones’ could be throughout it’s eight seasons- I enjoyed the show. It was filled with compelling characters, plenty of surprising twists, a LOT of sex and violence- and it’s cast have long since become familiar and household names.

By it’s final season this past year, however- things began to unravel- which was not surprising since the series did not have sturdy source material to follow as it had outpaced the published novels in which it was based on. The story became predictable and dull- and multiple gaffes throughout the season (including visible Starbucks cups and water bottles in various scenes) brought heavy criticism against the directors’ perceived “laziness”- as well as plenty of memes.

In May, the final episode of the last season aired- and the ending divided longtime fans between those who thought it was an appropriate and well-rounded finale- and others (like me!) who were left underwhelmed and disappointed.

Here’s hoping whenever “The Walking Dead” wraps up that the writers take some notes on what to do and not do in terms of setting off a social media frenzy.

(via BBC)

The Climate Crisis Crusaders: If there was still any speculation by cynical and overly harsh Baby Boomers that the world was going to be left in the hands of lazy or self-indulgent children/teenagers- they need not worry. The future generations proved that they have a lot more on their minds than social media and getting”likes” these days- particularly in 2019 when the ongoing climate crisis became the central focus of youths around the world who were/are actively working to reverse and prevent years’ worth of damages that are threatening the only home we have.

With Sweden’s Greta Thunberg at the front lines- taking the brunt of unfair criticism and mockery from adult climate change deniers (like President Trump, for example-) the 16-year old inspired countless others of all ages to reevaluate their carbon footprint, make significant changes to their lifestyles to prevent further damages to the environment while supporting/providing funding for projects looking to do the same on larger scales.

And despite attempts to detract her message or silence her- Greta’s efforts paid off- as she was named TIME Magazine’s “Person of The Year” in 2019.

Not bad at all.

(via Reuters)

The Hong Kong and Santiago Protests: Additionally, all generations took to the streets in wide scale fashion in 2019. In Hong Kong, protesters continue to fight back to show their disapproval following the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders Amendment Bill as it could have potentially lead to direct violations of citizens’ and those visiting the country’s civil liberties if it had been put into effect. The protests have resulted in multiple clashes between protesters and the police, as well as between protesters and counter-protesters- with two deaths reported to date. Thousands of injuries and arrests have also taken place.

However, the protests (that sometimes turned into riots) appeared to be effective- with the bill being withdrawn in the Fall.

Additionally, Santiago saw it’s own share of protests/rioting that began in October following increases to the city’s public transportation and overall cost of living. Citizens took to the streets to show their frustrations with perceived inequality and demanded reform in their wages, healthcare and education. These protests, however- resulted in many more deaths and injuries- mostly due to fires set around the city.

Both protests remain ongoing.

(via The Weather Channel)

Hurricane Dorian and the Australian Bushfires: Like every year before it, 2019 was no stranger to natural disasters- some more severe than others and some still happening as we speak. One of the worst and most catastrophic events took place back in September when Hurricane Dorian- a Category 5 hurricane with recorded wind speeds of 185 MPH hit the Bahamas head on- resulting in over 70 fatalities (and counting, as hundreds are still missing) and billions of dollars worth of damages.

And presently ongoing in Australia, deadly and dangerous bushfires continue to sweep through the area- worsened with dry conditions and little to no rain. As homes are destroyed and acres of land are reduced to nothing- eyes have been on the koala population- which suffered a significant hit and resulted in a rise in donations to local koala hospitals that have been working round the clock to tend to dehydrated and injured bears who have no habitat to return to.

We lost people along the way: And, like every year before it- we had to say goodbye to a few beloved names and faces in 2019, too. Some losses, while not necessarily anticipated- were easier to bear given old age or ongoing illnesses- as was the case with Doris Day or Albert Finney.

Some passings, however- were completely unexpected. Luke Perry, who died of a stroke at the age of 52 in March- comes to mind almost immediately. As does The Cars’ Ric Ocasek, who died unexpectedly following complications from surgery in September.

We also lost internet legend and the base of so many memes in May when Tardar Sauce, AKA “Grumpy Cat”- passed away following an infection. I’m still insanely sad about that one, really.

________________________________

Now, as is the tradition with all of my yearly reviews- there are a few things I wanted to include but wasn’t quite sure where to place them- and as a result they’ve ended up here in the “Honorable Mentions” section. Important moments, events, pop culture trends- but not quite as extensive, intricate and detailed as politics, global movements, scandals and scientific breakthroughs.

Nonetheless- they helped shape 2019!

– Baby Archie!!: When Meghan Markle and Prince Harry tied the knot, it was definitely a big moment and a highlight of 2018- and the birth of their first child earlier this year was certainly cause for celebration. With tabloids being unnecessarily cruel and invasive towards Markle for the duration of her pregnancy and well after she had given birth- there were concerns the new mother may crack under the pressure of the non-stop scrutiny that had plagued her mother-in-law for years leading up to her death. But the Duchess persevered with a strong showing of grace and class- and the newest addition to the Royal Family is absolutely adorable.

– Baby Yoda: The only other baby to make his way into the wrap-up with potential royal status. Everyone knew Disney+’s new series, “The Mandalorian,” was going to be great- but nobody expected that the breakout star of the show and fan favorite would be a puppet. Baby Yoda (aka, “The Child,”)– has sparked countless memes, merchandise and conversations- and for good reason. It just might be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I couldn’t even tell you what happened in the most recent episode because I spent the whole time worrying about Baby Yoda.

And I’m perfectly content with Baby Yoda continuing his reign of cuteness into 2020, honestly.

– Jussie Smollett: In January of 2019, “Empire” star Jussie Smollett made headlines after he sustained injuries in an early morning attack that was investigated as a possible hate crime given the actor’s race and sexual orientation. As preliminary details emerged- there was an outpouring of support for Smollett and a call for those responsible to be found and face justice.

Things took a turn for the strange, however- when the completed investigation revealed that Smollett himself was responsible for orchestrating the attack in an apparent attempt to increase his pay on “Empire.” After hiring two men to stage the assault- Smollett was charged with filing a false police report- a felony.

The charges were later dropped, but it’s unlikely Smollett’s reputation and career will ever recover.

– The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final: I am admittedly not too into soccer, but even I had a blast watching the Women’s World Cup Finals earlier this Summer when the United States secured a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands. It was impossible not to get swept up into the frenzy of it all- especially considering the ongoing struggle for women athletes to be paid as much as their male counterparts was still very much a hot issue that was brought up over the course of the finals as the team gave it everything they had.

With Megan Rapinoe as the standout star of the team for her efficiency on the field and both her outspokenness and philanthropy off of it- she was later named as Sports Illustrated’s 2019 Sportsperson of the Year.

– Comic Book Movies Continued Their Momentum: After years of comic/superhero juggernauts Marvel and DC reining supreme at the Box Office- 2019 was the year of the blockbuster finales and highly anticipated re-imaginings of notorious characters/stories.

Whether it was Marvel’s ambitious conclusion to their Avengers series with “Endgame” or DC’s darker, grittier and more violent interpretation of how The Joker came to be- crowds flocked to the theaters and records were once again broken over the course of the films’ respective opening weekends.

With more comic/superhero movies expected to be coming down the pipeline over the next few years- I don’t think any will compare to the cinematic showdown we saw happen in 2019.

________________________________

And there you have it- 2019: In a Nutshell!

I know there were plenty of other headlines, trends, memes, and wild/bizarre moments I more than likely missed- but those are the things that stood out to me when I began reflecting on this past year about a month or so ago. I’d like to think I did a pretty good job covering some of the prominently discussed things,

For New Year’s Eve tonight, Troy and I are venturing back to Boston for dinner and a quiet night in the Theater District with some champagne and what I’m hoping will be a spectacular view of the city to close out the decade and usher in 2020.

And I’m sure I’ll have plenty of photos from the evening.

But, before I depart to get dolled up and ready to go- I wanted to share some of my resolutions for 2020. It’s a pretty standard, typical list- the type you’d see from nearly anyone making resolutions- but I’m ambitious and eager to see if I can accomplish any of them by the time 2021 rolls around.

Get Healthier/Take Better Care of Myself: This is the one that makes the rounds on everyone’s resolutions list- but for me it’s a necessity. While I make conscious efforts to eat right, work out regularly and sleep fully and undisturbed at night- I have admittedly become a bit more lax about it since my move to the new apartment this past Spring and it shows. I don’t think I look as great as I could and I certainly don’t feel as great as I *should*– and I’m more depressed and lethargic as a result. It’s all connected and can turn into a pretty vicious cycle.

In 2020 I want to continue my efforts in the gym, be more mindful of what I’m eating (instead of “bored snacking”) and make it a point to get a full night’s rest so I’m not dragging myself to work every day. Additionally, I want to be more strict about my skincare, more mindful of the makeup I use, and treat myself to occasional small, relaxing luxuries- like facials or massages- to better improve my mood and reduce unnecessary stress and tension instead of letting it interfere with taking care of myself properly.

Budget Better: Living alone has taught me many things- most of them how to fix appliances via YouTube tutorials or the wonders of decorating more than just a bedroom or a bathroom at a time- but it’s also taught me to be more wise and considerate of my spending.

Gone are the days of frivolous shopping sprees and extravagant gift-giving- and in are the days of monitoring my accounts/credit score regularly, making wise and thought out purchases instead of impulse buys- and setting a weekly/monthly budget for myself to ensure my priority bills are taken care of and that there’s still enough left over to enjoy myself from time to time.

Travel/Experience More: The money that I save to treat myself will not be used on purchasing a brand new wardrobe or a closet full of shoes- but on experiences. I want to travel more in 2020- including to places that have been on my longtime bucket list like New Orleans or Nashville.

It’s easy to take an amazing trip without spending a fortune these days with help from things like AirBnB and the airline points I’ve racked up over the years- so my next adventure is hopefully right around the corner and one for the books!

Channel My Passions: I love, love, love working at Indie617. It’s a job that brings me genuine joy- so in 2020 I’d like to focus more on what I can do to become more involved- as well as finding other side hustles/jobs that spark my creativity and leave me feeling inspired and fulfilled.

It’s good I’m living in the Pioneer Valley- where so many artists with so many ideas flock to leave their mark on the world.

And I just may be one of them in 2020!

And that just about does it for me, everyone. I’m off to Boston and I’ll be back with big blog news bright and early on Thursday morning after I get back!

I wish you all the happiest of New Years and I hope that 2020 is better, or more peaceful, or more adventurous, or more kind and gentle- to anyone out there who needs it. I’m rooting for you!

See you all soon!

xx

– Ashley –

My 10 Favorite Photos From 2019

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! It’s the last “TGIF” of the decade!

I cannot believe that in a few days 2019 will be on it’s way out and we will be welcoming 2020. I am still in the process of *trying* to finalize my New Year’s Eve plans with minimal success- but there’s still a couple of days left to make reservations and book accommodations- so I’m struggling not to lose my mind too much.

I’ll have my annual “Year in Review” post up bright and early on Tuesday morning before I head off to wherever my date for the evening and I end up choosing as our champagne and countdown location- but before I do- I wanted to revisit some of my favorite photographs I’ve snapped over these past twelve months and give a little backstory on each of them!

Narrowing down hundreds of photos from 2019 to just ten was no easy feat- and in-between marveling at just how many interesting places I visited and how many surreal experiences I had this year- I agonized over what pictures to include and what ones to keep in the digital scrapbook.

But I DID emerge with ten photos I am very, very fond of- and am excited to share before I head off for the last round of holiday parties this weekend!

10. Green River Festival (Greenfield – July 2019):

Shortly after moving to the Pioneer Valley in the Spring, I discovered that the famed Green River Festival took place within a short walking/driving distance from my apartment. Having never been but hearing nothing but good things from the locals- I decided to head down on it’s last day to check it out.

I had a great time watching live, local bands/artists perform- eating plenty of snacks from surrounding food trucks and shopping small business vendors who had set up impromptu tented storefronts on the grounds- but the fields itself were vast, rolling, and very picturesque. While looking for some shade so I could sit and listen to the music without getting sunburnt- I snapped this photo of a gigantic tree in the middle of everything- just looming in the distance against the blue sky.

I thought it was absolutely lovely.

9. “Bad Bitch Falls” (New York – August 2019):

When Troy tells you he has a surprise for you and that he’s picking you up for an adventure- you just roll with it. Such was the case in August when, after a successful dance performance in Salem the day before- he thought he’d take me somewhere new and beautiful to celebrate.

Over an hour in the car and one grueling uphill hike over the Massachusetts/New York State Line later- it paid off. Bash Bish Falls remains one of *the* highlights of my Summer and 2019 overall. It was breathtaking, refreshing- and despite there being a ton of people with the same idea coming and going- for a little while it felt like Troy and I were the only two people there.

And that feeling was divine.

8. Hozier, Boston Calling (Boston – May 2019):

After joining the Indie617 on-air team in March- I never in my life expected it would lead to me being considered “MEDIA” at the biggest Boston-based festival of the year. But, sure enough- I was all over the place that weekend- hosting my show from a nearby hotel/restaurant, running around the press area, having drinks with friends and watching some of my favorite artists perform insanely good sets.

I snapped this photo of Hozier from the lighting rig just as the sun was setting- and right before I had to run across the field to catch the opening of Tame Impala’s set from a different stage.

I got plenty of sun, cardio, and possible alcohol poisoning during Boston Calling ’19- and I hope I get to do it again for 2020.

7. Now It’s All Covered in Flowers (Shelburne Falls – June 2019):

The only selfie of 2019 comes courtesy of my best friend Sean, who snapped this photo of me while visiting my new place one weekend during the Summer. While showing him around my neighborhood and surrounding attractions- we stopped at the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls to take photos and dodge a LOT of bees.

While walking near a moss/leaf covered building just across the street from the bridge on our way back to my car- Sean snapped this photo of me in my little black and pink floral dress with the impressive backdrop behind me.

I always liked how bright and vibrant the colors were in this picture- and I wish I could have made it back in the Fall  to see the difference the season made.

6. Spider Gates (Leicester – October 2019):

While highlighting some of the creepier, more notorious areas in New England this past Fall- I made a stop at the famed Spider Gates cemetery as I was en route to visit my mom. One of the oldest Quaker cemeteries in Massachusetts- Spider Gates has a chilling (but long since debunked) history of the supernatural.

When I visited in October, however- I was the only one there- which is highly unusual given it’s a popular attraction leading up to Halloween. The grounds were- admittedly- a little eerie, and I ended up getting out of there a little quicker than normal after I’d snapped some photos.

This one, showing the entrance gates and the alleged “hanging tree” overhead- was one of my favorites.

5. Hiking Mount Grace (Warwick – January 2019):

A few days after New Year’s of 2019, Massachusetts experienced our annual “January Thaw”- where the temperatures get a little warmer than usual and any accumulated snow begins to melt. The result is typically rainy, foggy mornings/afternoons.

I went hiking that weekend at Mount Grace- and captured this photo of myself crossing a rather rickety wooden bridge over a rising stream of melted snow and rainwater with the remnants of the Fall leaves passing through. Out of all the pictures of snow-covered trees, mossy rocks and storm clouds I had managed to collect- this one was my favorite- because it reminds me of my favorite king of weather here in New England.

4. Orchard House (Concord – February 2019):

I haven’t seen the new adaptation of “Little Women” yet (although I’ll probably catch it tonight after work or later on this weekend)– but back in February I decided to visit Louisa May Alcott’s home on a whim for a tour and to snap some photos of it’s gorgeous and historic exterior.

If you’re ever in Concord- which is a beautiful town all on it’s own- this cozy little home is a must see. I’m sure with the success of the revamped movie it’ll see an influx of tourists flocking into town to experience it for themselves- but don’t let that stop you. It’s a piece of history and the staff there are extremely friendly and kind.

3. The Eyrie House Ruins (Holyoke – October 2019):

I love this photo for a lot of reasons. Not only because I love abandoned and creepy places- and not only because the story of how this hotel burned down to nothing but ruins in 1901 is a borderline comedy- but because I almost died hiking to get there and this photo is a sort of testament to my own strength and resilience.

Following a heavy rainfall in October, I began the longest and steepest hike of my life to the summit of Mount Tom to photograph the ruins. Soaked, slipping, and out of breath by the time I got there- I was ready to just collapse and curl up- but the ruins were worth the trouble and I had the best time exploring them and taking photos.

Next time I’m wearing proper hiking boots, though.

2. The Stolen Artwork (Boston – March 2019):

There are a lot of places in the Greater Boston area that I have yet to visit- and in 2019 I wanted to scratch a few of them off my Bucket List- starting with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum where I got to see the empty frames that held still missing artwork- stolen from the museum back in 1990.

Although the museum was absolutely packed the day that I went- I had a wonderful time- and caught this photo without interruption despite the crowds. The galleries are beautiful and I could have easily spent hours longer in there admiring the art and the indoor courtyard- which made even a frigid March day feel like the middle of May.

1. MASS MoCA (North Adams – October 2019):

And finally, on another one of my “Troy said we’re going on an adventure” outings- this shot was taken in the stairwell of MASS MoCA on a rainy October afternoon. Despite all the art, all the intricate paintings and sculptures and prints and designs around the museum- this shot of the building while I stood in the stairwell with Troy was one of my favorite moments of that day and of 2019 because I was so indescribably happy at the time.

That, and MASS MoCA is a beautiful building in a beautiful town.

It had been a perfect day.

________________________________________

And there you have it- my ten favorite photos from 2019!

I’m hoping to have even more photos to choose from in 2020, since I intend to take my camera with me wherever I go- but for now I’m just going to reflect on these ones I’ve chosen for this year and remember how many good times and good trips I’ve had so far.

I’m off to get some work done and prepare for the very, very busy days ahead. Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

I’ll see you all again on New Year’s Eve!

xx

– Ashley –

October 2019: In a Nutshell

Good Morning, Happy Thursday- and Happy Halloween, everyone!

Today is looking like it’s going to be a cold, rainy and windy one outside- but that hasn’t stopped me from reaching peak spooky spirit for tonight’s festivities! My apartment is decorated, I’ve got my bowl of candy prepared to put out for my neighbors- I’m dressed in something bone-chilling (but in actuality is quite warm for the weather!) and I’m ready to watch scary movies, eat pizza, and pass out candy to the trick-or-treaters with family and friends later on- as is tradition!

With tomorrow being the first day of November, and- sadly- it marking the beginning of the end of this most lovely of Fall seasons as Winter and the holidays draw closer and closer- I wanted to take some time to show my appreciation for my favorite month out of the year! October has always been one of the busier, more action-packed times of the year for me- and 2019 was no exception to that!

To keep things at peak-creepy when I wasn’t working- I made it a point to visit/photograph plenty of unusual (and potentially haunted) locations in New England/Massachusetts throughout October. Like this one, or this one, and this one, too– but I made sure to leave the poltergeists where I found them when it came time to share new recipe posts or peeks into some of my favorite mid-Fall finds in the depths of my closet.

I enjoyed capturing the New England foliage at it’s peak, spending a couple of days in Boston with someone beloved to see Bon Iver together– and hanging out with friends from work to marvel at thousands (literally) of jack-o-lanterns! And, of course- I enjoyed movies, meals and quality time with the people I care about when I could.

So, what’s in store for November? After the Halloween-related events wind down this weekend- it’s all bout preparing for Thanksgiving, Winter and beginning the process of reflecting on 2019 and my hopes for 2020 as the holidays are right around the corner!

I’ve got some more Autumn-inspired recipes to share, more cold weather outfits to pose in, and a little more local travel planned within the coming weeks (with some more live shows in my future!)– and I’m so excited to share it all here!

But for now, I’m going to get some work done from home- make sure I’ve got my backup candy on hand- and get ready for tonight! I’ll be back next week on my normal blogging schedule (Monday, Wednesday and Friday)– so be sure to check in!

Have a fun, safe, and thrilling Halloween, everybody! Go get that candy!

xx

– Ashley –

September 2019: In a Nutshell

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

I’ve never made any attempts to hide or downplay the fact that Autumn is my favorite season and that I enjoy stereotypical “basic” Fall-related activities to the fullest. Apple picking? Pumpkin patches? Leaf peeping? Hay rides and s’mores over bonfires? I’m all about it and I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to admit it.

Needless to say, September through early November is my favorite time of year (after that- Winter, Christmas and coldness tend to take over!) and with this year being my first Fall living in the Pioneer Valley- I’ve been doing my best to make the most of it and indulge in every local Autumnal activity I can.

October is undoubtedly the month/time of year I look forward to the most- but I have to show some love to September, too- especially this past one since it was filled with beauty, travel, good food and time with loved ones!

September started off in true Fall fashion with a visit to the Appleseed County Fair where I got a head start on stocking up on apple cider doughnuts and kettle corn popcorn while browsing local vendors and farm stands. I was so enamored with my time at Red Apple Farm in Phillipston that I returned there a couple of weeks later with my mother and Oliver to partake in our traditional apple and pumpkin picking!

That wasn’t the only tradition I honored in September. My family and I also made our annual pilgrimage to Hampton Beach at the end of the Summer season to shop great deals and chow down on crab cakes, lobster rolls, and savor some fresh squeezed lemonade at their Seafood Festival.

And of course- no early Fall days in New England are complete without a stop at The Big E. I swung by there a couple of weeks ago to grab my favorite fair food (fried Oreos!) and take in the sights and sounds of the best New England restaurants, small businesses and farms had to offer!

And in-between all the travel, taste testing, decorating my place to look like my very own Fall-inspired farmhouse and unpacking my sweaters for the season- I was still able to put together a pretty dreamy Fall playlist, too!

All in all, this past September felt like the perfect way to bid a final farewell to Summer 2019 and usher in the Fall! There’s still a few things on my Autumnal “To-Do” list, of course- but that’s what October is for!

Speaking of- what do I have planned for the coming month ahead? Well, I’d like to photograph the foliage (which usually reaches it’s peak prettiness within the next couple of weeks,) cook up some more Fall-inspired recipes, put together a great Halloween costume and savor all the spookiness that comes with living in Western Massachusetts this time of year! Expect a lot of creepiness and macabre in October! It’s my specialty, after all!

But before I get too ahead of myself- there’s still a few hours of September left to savor- and I’ve got to get some work done at the office.

Enjoy the start of this week, everybody. I’ll be back with a quick, easy and delicious dessert recipe on Wednesday morning!

xx

– Ashley –

Favorites: September 2019!

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

It goes without saying that I’m thrilled the weekend is here. After a particularly busy few days at work- I’m looking forward to some downtime back home in Central Massachusetts with my family and friends over the next couple of days before we bid farewell to September (!!!) and welcome in my favorite month of the year- October!

As always, I’ll have my review and recap of this past month up and running first thing on Monday morning since it’s the last day of September- but my blogging tradition is to share my favorite finds/products/random odds and ends, first. Today seemed like just as good a day as any with it being a casual Friday- and I’ve got a lot of things I’ve been obsessing over these past few weeks!

I’ll start off with the things I was able to photograph, first- before I dive into the random things that made September so memorable this year.

Let’s take a look!

In the Fall, my makeup looks take a fun and daring direction. I like to play up the neutral shades that frequent my wardrobe this time of year with rich golds, deep berry tones- and bright reds. This past month, I kept my nails shimmering with this shimmery polish (“What’s Gold Is New”) by essie. The shade is long-lasting and super flattering with pretty much anything I wear- and should carry me right through the holiday season!

For my lips, I pregame before applying any color with this exfoliating brown sugar scrub by e.l.f. cosmetics (which tastes delicious, too!) to buff away any dead or dry patches before I either go with a moisturizing berry-toned balm by Milk Makeup (Kush Lip Balm in “Plushberry.”) or get a little more extreme with a bright red matte lip with my NARS duo of  “Holy Red” lip liner and “Inappropriate Red” lipstick.

I’ve been loving these shades and how head-turning they are whenever I wear them out and about!

Of course, I can’t update my Fall makeup collection and not give my bath & fragrance choices a bit of a seasonal makeover, too! For my shower gel, body lotion and lightweight spray-on fragrance- I turned to Bath & Body Works‘ Autumn line and picked up the “Champagne Apple & Honey” trio earlier this month instead of the usual pumpkin or cinnamon scents I reach for this time of year. I figured it was time to try something a little different!

What I’ve always loved about Bath & Body Works products- apart from their awesome prices and sales- is that the fragrances are pretty much spot-on in relation to their name/description and are never overwhelming or nauseating.

This trio makes me smell like I’ve spent a day at the orchard- it’s sweet and seasonal without being overpowering. I love it!

Finally, I have been in full-blown Fall decor mode at my new apartment- eager to cover and fill in spaces with rustic and cute decorations inspired by my favorite season. In recent weeks I’ve found a *lot* of gems at my local Big Lots and HomeGoods– including but not limited to these fun wooden pumpkins and “Happy Harvest” sign that is displayed prominently on my center console at the front of my living room and around my bedroom.

Not pictured is my “Hello Autumn” wreath and multiple strings of maple leaf and pumpkin lights- which I’m still arranging to my liking. You can check out my INSTAGRAM for the final look when it’s done!

And I think that’s it for the photogenic favorites- but a few more things made the list, too!

– MUSIC/MOVIES/TELEVISION –

“It: Chapter 2” – I was pretty much at the front of the line of people who were excited about the long-anticipated sequel to the 2017 reboot- and it didn’t disappoint. “It: Chapter 2” had everything I loved about the first one- plenty of scares, poignant moments, and a believable cast that you truly thought had known each other their whole lives.

It also had Bill Hader- who stole every single scene he was in. Absolute Oscar-contender right there!

“Back To Autumn: A Fall 2019 Playlist” – So, a little shameless self-promotion here- but earlier this week I launched my playlist for the season and I’m really quite pleased with it. The 16-track soundtrack for pumpkin picking features some newer tracks from a few of my favorite artists- as well as some treasured older songs thrown in there, too.

Feel free to give it a listen and tell me what you think!

– MISCELLANEOUS –

“My Dad Wrote a Porno…” – A friend recently recommended this podcast to me, and after listening to the first few episodes- I was hooked and ended up binging the entire thing in a matter of weeks. Now in it’s fifth season, MDWAP follows Jamie and his two friends- Alice and James- as they struggle to read through a series of erotic novels Jamie’s dad wrote over the course of a few weeks a couple of years ago.

Hilarious, insane, and at times- really, really gross- I end up laughing to the point of crying whenever I tune in. I’m excited to see the Podcast’s live show when it comes to Boston next year!

Pumpkin Pie Chai – A Fall staple at Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters– this has become my go-to beverage here in the Valley since it tastes like a liquid dessert (without the calorie count.) A hot version is comforting on a chilly day- and an iced version is beyond refreshing when the temperatures tiptoe back into the mid-80s as they’ve done in recent days. I’m hooked!

And that just about does it for my September favorites, y’all! A pretty good early-Autumnal list if I do say so myself!

Of course, if you’d like to share your favorite things from this past month- feel free to get in contact or leave a comment! I’d love to hear all about them!

I’ll be back on Monday to say goodbye to September- but here’s wishing you all a lovely weekend ahead before I sneak back into to work for the morning!

xx

– Ashley –