On The Mend…

Good Evening and Happy Friday, everyone!

Earlier this week, I talked about working and fighting through a pretty aggressive Summertime flu that struck me over this past weekend and essentially kept me down for the count until about Tuesday night/Wednesday morning when I tried to return to my normal blogging schedule amid coughing fits, sneezing episodes- and much-needed power naps.

I am thankfully nearly 100% better again- with the occasional cough here and there- but I have my energy and motivation back and I’m excited to return to work and my projects without interruption.

I’ve been recovering with the help of lots of rest, plenty of water- and embracing the opportunity to indulge in a few guilt-free “cheat days” with delicious dining out and about in the Pioneer Valley. Wednesday night saw me trying Antonio’s Pizza for the very first time (and I can’t believe I slept on it for so long!) My tortellini and pesto slice, and the chicken nacho slice I pretty much inhaled are pictured above.

Last night, I went a little more upscale with a dear friend during dinner and drinks at Spoleto. Another place I’d only ever driven by but never stopped in- and it was phenomenal. I could have eaten seconds or thirds if I knew I wouldn’t have been in a food coma afterwards.

It’s definitely a perk to living in the Valley now- there’s no shortage of fantastic places to try new dishes!

With July wrapping up next week (already?!) I’ll be sharing some of my favorite things from these past few weeks- and then going through the ups and downs of my Midsummer in my monthly “In a Nutshell” post next Wednesday before we launch into August and the final days of Summer.

Until then- here’s wishing you all a wonderful weekend ahead. Get out there and enjoy yourselves!

xx

– Ashley –

Summer Sweets: Peaches-and-Cream Ice Pops

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

I’ve got another long weekend ahead of me since I took this coming Monday off from work as a bit of a “personal day.” Originally, I had plans in the Cape with some friends- but it ended up not happening due to scheduling conflicts for a few of us so now I’m simply taking the day to rest, recharge- and maybe hit the beach or Ashfield Lake again.

And while temperatures are soaring here in New England- I thought today would be as good a time as any to share a really delicious, super easy-to-make-and-freeze Popsicle treat for yourself and/or your guests to beat the heat with!

If you like real fruit, Greek yogurt and refreshing desserts- then you are going to *love* this recipe!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 pound (453g) peaches, peeled and cut into wedges
  • ⅓ cup (66g) light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1½ cups (340g) plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup (112g) crème fraîche
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon pure almond extract

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Arrange the peaches in an even layer on a baking sheet. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt; toss to combine.
  2. Roast the peaches until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt, crème fraîche, vanilla and almond extract to combine. Transfer about three quarters of the mixture to a container with a pour spout.
  4. Add the cooled peaches to the remaining yogurt mixture in the bowl. Use a potato masher to mash the two together (it’s okay if there are chunks of peaches left)
  5. Pour 2 tablespoons of the yogurt mixture into each ice-pop mold. Follow with 4 tablespoons of the peach mixture, then 4 tablespoons of the yogurt mixture. Continue alternating the two until the molds are full. It’s okay if the layers swirl together.
  6. Place an ice-pop stick in the center of each mold and transfer to the freezer. Freeze until solid, at least 2 hours.
  7. Run the molds under warm water and then unmold the ice pops. Keep frozen until ready to serve.

Honestly, the hardest part of this recipe was the waiting for the ice pops to freeze so I could finally enjoy one in front of my air conditioner! And, once I did- I was so relieved these tasted just as good as they looked.

I love a good ice pop this time of year- and I’m thinking I may try to incorporate pineapple or mango instead of peaches the next time I attempt this one. Something with a little more citrus and sour behind it. We’ll see how it goes!

I’m off to get some work done before I take off for the next few days- but here’s wishing you all a wonderful weekend ahead. I’ll be back- bright and early- on Monday morning. ‘Til then- have fun, wear sunscreen and stay hydrated out there!

xx

– Ashley –

Lazy Sundays…

Good Morning, Happy Monday- and Happy July, everyone!

To call my Sundays “lazy” isn’t entirely accurate. My Sunday mornings are typically pretty busy, filled with errands- like grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning or paying bills- before I launch into plans throughout the afternoon and evening to try and have a little fun before I head back to work each Monday morning (like I’m getting ready to do right now… Ugh.)

Yesterday, though? Absolutely a “Lazy Sunday.” After laundry and grocery shopping- it was all about eating junk food, laying in bed, napping, and doing absolutely nothing except count down the minutes for June (and my subsequent “June Gloom Curse” to end. See my last post for more information on that.)

Granted, in-between errands and prior to my laying down for the count in the late afternoon/evening- I did manage to visit two wonderful local places: one new and one familiar.

The first, en route to Northampton- was this adorable little roadside farm/flower shop called Sunset Acres Farm in Whately (which I snapped a photo of above since it looks like a secret garden!) It was lovely- and I really would have stayed longer of a rather nefarious looking thunderstorm with cloud-to-ground lightning hadn’t rolled through the area while I was perusing tomato plants to purchase.

I’m absolutely going to head back when the weather isn’t so unpredictable!

The second, the place I’m familiar with- was Local Burger. I was starving and craving a cheeseburger (and buffalo/blue cheese fries.) I haven’t been to Local in a long time, but it never changes. The decor and the food is always the same and it’s always really, really good.

With a food coma brewing- I wrapped up my errands before heading home where my last task of a on/off rainy Sunday was finishing the changes to “Blondie Birdie’s” layout! Yes, if you look now- I’ve gone teal and a bit less cluttered with my site. An appropriate way to begin July and the peak of Summer, if I do say so myself.

Obviously, I’m keeping an eye out for any glitches or issues- so if any of you happen to see anything pop up or look out of place- please let me know so I can fix it!

But that just about does it for me today. It’s going to be a busy day at the office- what with the upcoming holiday weekend- so I’ve got to try and get a handle on things before they inevitably go off the rails.

Have a great start to your week, everybody!

xx

– Ashley –

The Summer 2019 Bucket List Is Underway!

Good Evening, everyone!

It’s later than usual for me to update “Blondie Birdie,” and I had wanted to get this post up and running earlier this morning- but life happens, and work happens, and errands- and sometimes my schedule just doesn’t go as planned. I’m here, though- resting comfortably in my air conditioned apartment with a sheet mask and a cold glass of lemonade after a long day at the office.

And I’m happy to report that my Summer 2019 To-Do/Bucket List already has one thing scratched off of it!

When I first moved to the Valley, I had talked about wanting to explore pretty much anything and everything there was to do- from off-the-wall attractions, to theater, to parks and museums- and really good places to eat. I’ve grown familiar with certain spots in Northampton I frequent regularly for coffee or dinner- but this past weekend while I was out running errands I happened to pass by Captain Jack’s Roadside Shack in Easthampton that I’d heard about through the grapevine but had never actually visited before.

The place looked pretty busy but not overcrowded- and I was starving- so I stopped with the intention of ordering some fries and a lemonade or something light to get me through the remainder of my afernoon. But, then I saw their lobster rolls- and I’m pretty sure my jaw hit the floor. I had to have one.

LOOK AT THIS!

It was huge, delicious and worth every penny- and I loved the thin cut fries that came with it, too!

If seafood isn’t your thing, no worries- they also had chicken, burgers, pulled pork, and plenty of sides to choose from! And the portions are massive. I managed to power through the lobster roll and some of the fries but there was no way I could eat all of it on my own in one sitting!

I know I’ll definitely be heading back there soon (they have a crab roll that is calling my name) but for now- I’m just glad I got to scratch “eat a lobster roll” off of my Summer Goals list this early on! Next on the agenda? Hitting the beach, obviously!

A little later on this week I’m going to be sharing my favorite things from this past month. There’s a lot of makeup and hair care included now that the heat and the humidity have arrived here in New England- but I’ve found some great products I’ve been loving and I can’t wait to show them off!

Until then, though- enjoy your night and your Thursday! I’ll see you all again on Friday!

xx

– Ashley –

Backyard BBQ Recipes: Grilled Watermelon-Feta Skewers

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

I am so excited for this weekend- not only because I need a little break from what proved to be a rather busy and hectic work-week- but also because the weather is supposed to be really nice and I’ve got a lot of outdoor stuff I want to do around the Valley!

One of those outdoorsy things may include some grilling- and I recently came across a super simple, super quick backyard BBQ recipe that combines fruit and cheese (a great pairing in itself, really)– but in a fun and unique way.

Meet watermelon and feta skewers- the Summertime recipe you didn’t know you needed in your life ’til now!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • About 40 (1-inch) pieces cubed watermelon
  • About 20 (1-inch) pieces cubed feta cheese
  • ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups arugula (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh basil (optional)

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Set your grill to high heat. Thread a piece of watermelon, a piece of feta and a second piece of watermelon onto a 6-inch skewer. Repeat with the remaining pieces of watermelon and feta.
  2. Once the grill is hot, brush the skewers on all sides with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Grill until lightly charred on all sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and cool slightly.
  3. To serve, mound 1 cup arugula onto each plate and top with 5 skewers per plate. Drizzle each salad with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with chopped basil. Serve immediately.

Even though the original recipe calls for some extra ingredients for presentation purposes- my skewers were well-received even without being placed on a bed of arugula or sprinkled with basil. I put them out with a little bowl of standard cream cheese fruit dip and another little bowl of vanilla Greek yogurt and my friends devoured them just the same!

The sweetness of the watermelon with the saltiness of the feta was an unexpected flavor journey as I ate a couple of these skewers myself- but it was definitely delicious and something I will absolutely make again- although I think the next time I might leave them on the grill for a little longer to get a bit more of a charred surface. I was admittedly afraid of melting the cheese too much during this go at the recipe!

That just about does it for me this week. I’ll be back on Monday with more recaps of my time around the Valley, another look at my Summer wardrobe and maybe- just maybe- a custom-made Summertime soundtrack to share! You’ll have to check back to find out!

Here’s wishing you all a sunny, safe and fun weekend ahead. Be good to yourselves and each other!

xx

– Ashley –