Tree Lighting and Pre-Blizzard Bridges…

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

I’m getting a late start this A.M.- due in part to it being a post-holiday-weekend-Monday and also because we have been getting absolutely buried under snow here in Massachusetts. The first significant Winter storm of the season began rolling in through the area late yesterday afternoon/evening- and has been going strong ever since. All forecasts are showing it won’t let up until tomorrow morning- so I’ve been taking it slow and steady today. Shoveling, driving, working- I don’t see the need in rushing myself and risking my safety (or sanity.)

Prior to the storm, I had a chilly- but fun weekend- where I finalized my holiday shopping list and participated in a few festive activities as well- including a ceremonial tree lighting in South Deerfield and a mini-road trip to Vermont where I managed to capture an authentic covered bridge en-route.

I thankfully had my camera with me during my journey(s) and caught some lovely photos along the way. As always, you can simply click any of the images below to enlarge!

I will undoubtedly be taking some photos of the aftermath of this storm, as well- since snow is always the prettiest in December. Anytime after that and it’s just a major inconvenience!

I’ll be back on Wednesday after I dig myself out from beneath the snow and ice and return home to my nice, warm apartment. If you live in the area- stay safe! And, if you don’t- wish us luck as we power through what I’m sure will be the first of many blizzards in the months to come!

xx

– Ashley –

Pre-Thanksgiving Thanks…

Good Morning and Happy Tuesday, everyone!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around my neighborhood- with decorations and lights going up in all the storefronts and the common at breakneck speed. I believe there’s more than one tree lighting ceremony being kicked off this coming weekend around the Valley- whereas I’m still shopping for my own little tree to commemorate my first Christmas in my new apartment. I haven’t found the perfect one yet- but there’s still time and I’m getting closer, I think!

Of course, Thanksgiving is going down in a couple of days- and I’ll be packing up the apple dumplings I recently picked up at Red Apple Farm and the salted chocolate pie I pre-ordered from Florence Pie Bar before I head over to my mom’s house to mingle and eat- but I have my monthly “Favorites” post lined up in the morning, too! It’s a short but sweet one!

I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude and what I’m thankful for this year. My friends and family, of course- it goes without saying- and as crazy as my full-time job can make me at times, I’m thankful I’m gainfully employed since I know so many others are out there struggling to find steady work/income right now. I’m thankful to Indie617 for giving me a show on Saturdays and allowing me to grow and learn in a field outside what I’m normally used to- and have an immense amount of fun while I do it.

I’m grateful for my health, my beautiful apartment, my kindhearted and artistic community for welcoming me with open arms- and the deepening friendships/relationships I’ve forged since moving out here.

I’m also beyond thankful for the time I’ve been able to spend with someone near and dear to me. He’s moving for a job opportunity in early 2020 and I’m going to miss him very, very much- but I’m so grateful he’s been such a major part of my life for so long and that we’ve been able to make such wonderful memories together this past year.

I’m especially grateful to this blog and it’s followers/subscribers- who have made 2019 one of my most productive and successful to date. There’s big changes coming to “Blondie Birdie” in early 2020 that I’m excited to share- and I hope you’ll all be excited, too!

But before I get ready to get some pre-holiday work done at my office- here’s some helpful links for those of you who might need a little backup as the day of unapologetic gluttony and super comfy elastic-waist pants draws closer and closer!

Need a last minute recipe? I got you!

Need some holiday outfit inspiration? I got you there, too!

Need a soundtrack for dinner? Oh, you know I got you!

Enjoy the rest of your day, everybody!

xx

– Ashley –

Festive Foodie: Balsamic Cranberry Roast Chicken

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! (Also- Happy First day of Winter!)

We’ve made it to another weekend- and it’s the one right before Christmas- which means a lot of people are more than likely going to be getting a bit bonkers with last minute gift shopping and/or preparing for travel and visits with friends and family!

Tonight I’ll be having a pre-holiday pasta dinner with my mom, brothers, sister-in-law and niece so we can eat all the carbs we want and watch a couple of classic Christmas movies together before it’s time to pack up the car and travel ’round the state throughout Saturday and Sunday to deliver presents to my cousins, aunts, uncles, best friends, etc.

Before I do that, though- I wanted to share one last festive recipe for those of you who may be in need of a quick, easy, packed-with-flavor entree to serve any guests you’re expecting over the next couple of days! If you like chicken and cranberry (and who doesn’t?)– this one is going to give you plenty of holiday cheer.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1½ cups cranberries, divided
  • 8 pieces chicken (thighs, drumsticks or a mixture)
  • Nonstick spray, as needed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, plus extra sprigs for finishing
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus extra sprigs for finishing

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, process the garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, soy sauce and ½ cup of the cranberries until smooth.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in a large zip-top plastic bag and pour the marinade over the chicken. Close the bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a large oven-safe skillet or casserole dish with nonstick spray.
  4. Remove the chicken from the bag, reserving the marinade. Place the chicken pieces in the skillet or dish, skin side down, and season with salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cranberries around the pan.
  5. Roast the chicken until the skin begins to brown and the meat is nearly cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Flip the chicken and brush each piece generously with the reserved marinade. Discard the remaining marinade.
  6. Raise the oven temperature to 425°F and cook until the chicken skin is crispy, 5 to 8 more minutes. Serve immediately.

I love a good chicken roast- and this one had just the right amount of sweet, tangy deliciousness to give it an extra kick of unexpected- but savory- flavor!

Christmas Eve is my mom’s birthday- where my family and I will be having yet another big, celebratory dinner- so I’ll be taking the day off from posting content to decompress and enjoy my time with loved ones.

I *will* be back on Wednesday, though- since it’ll officially be the countdown to New Year’s from there! I’ve got a few more posts to share before we enter 2019, after all.

I hope those of you celebrating Christmas have a wonderful, fun, safe and happy holiday filled with good friends, loving family, warmth and laughter.

And I hope Santa is extra good to you all this year!

See you next week!

xx

– Ashley –

“Just hear those sleigh bells jingle-ing, ring-ting tingle-ing, too…”

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone!

Today is my usual half at work (the day changes come January 1st for a couple of months- so I’m enjoying these mid-week breaks for now!) before I head home to finish wrapping my Christmas presents and start scheduling their deliveries to friends and family during visits and parties over the next few days.

I’m quite pleased with how I’ve managed to get my decorating, shopping, (most of) my wrapping, baking/cooking and planning done early and/or reasonably hassle-free this year- so much, actually- that I’ve had more time to enjoy seasonal activities and events I may have otherwise missed during last-minute gift shopping panic.

A portion of this past weekend, for example- was spent in an indoor “Winter Wonderland” with my mother during an outing in Western Massachusetts where I helped her finish checking things off her own shopping list and then grabbed a nice lunch together.

While Christmas is positively beautiful in Boston- and there’s so much to see and do- the crowds can get a little overwhelming at times. The Pioneer Valley is a lot more low-key, historic, and quiet. I’ve been spending a lot of time there and it really is just a lovely location to be leading up to the holidays.

During our day out, my mother and I marveled at rooms lined wall to wall with miniature villages, made a pact to someday purchase one of the 30-foot high Christmas trees that touched the ceiling, tried to find the perfect nutcracker to add to her ever growing collection- and resisted the urge to buy every single dessert-themed ornament we spotted on sale (and there were a lot.)

It was a really great, fun, and laid-back day- and we even saw a bit of snow in what was otherwise a rainy week/weekend!

This coming Friday, I have another seasonally and holiday-appropriate recipe to share (this time it’s a dinner entree!) before I break for Christmas. And then, much to my disbelief at how fast time is flying this month- it’s going to be all about looking back at December and at 2018 overall on Blondie Birdie next week- with recaps about some of my favorite products/items/odds and ends to close out the year- and my Top Ten Photos I snapped during my travels and misadventures since January.

It’s a lot to do and prepare for, but I’m excited!

Until then- here’s wishing you all a wonderful Wednesday. I hope the remainder of the day and this week is stress-free and full of festive fun and cheer!

See you all again on Friday!

xx

– Ashley –

The Santa Show!

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

After (very) recently finding out I had a few unused days off at my job that I needed to take before the end of 2018- I opted for a long weekend and took last Friday and today off. I think I’m going to try to take some additional days later on this week or near the end of next week, as well- but we’ll see how it goes as we get closer to Christmas!

This past weekend was a mixed bag- busy and relaxing at various times and intervals! I got a lot of pre-holiday errands done, got some gifts wrapped and ready to be delivered, did a little baking/cooking- and still managed to unwind in my thermal PJs while watching Christmas movies. I indulged in some self-care with much-needed TLC for my hair- and started confirming my New Year’s Eve plans (which are the epitome of pampering and indulgence, really!)

The definite highlight, though- was stopping by the Williston Northampton School to see my friends at Paintbox Theatre put on the last of their holiday shows that ran all weekend!

Seeing one of my dearest, longtime friends dressed up like a dog and singing Christmas carols to kids was pretty fantastic, sure- but the whole cast and crew were so fun, so energetic, so hilarious and animated- and so wonderful in each of their interactions with the children in the audience. It was heartwarming and adorable and just so lovely to sit and watch.

I’m really excited to be partnering with Paintbox for their 2019 Summer season- not only because they are a company I believe in and support 100%- but because it will essentially be like working with friends/family and I know it’s going to be a good fit. I can’t wait to get started after the New Year.

But for today- a day off- I’m going to be spending an afternoon with my mother helping her get some of her Christmas shopping done and grabbing lunch before the late afternoon rush when traffic and the shops get busy!

I’ve got to go pick her up right now, actually! Have a great day, everyone! See you all again on Wednesday!

xx

– Ashley –