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 –

“Cause every place I go- I take another place with me…”

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

It feels weird to be back at my office after having two days off during the week and then working from home for a half day yesterday- but I’m here and determined to get some stuff accomplished and get ready for the weekend after a planned dinner with my family a little later on tonight.

What an interesting few days it’s been, though!

As most of you already knew since I was pretty much gushing about it on social media- Tuesday was when Troy and I headed into Boston for the day to enjoy the weather (pre-bomb cyclone) and catch a set from Bon Iver at TD Garden from the front row. We had everything planned well in advance- but as most of you know and probably attest to yourselves- rarely do things ever go exactly as expected.

Things were off to a rough start when our AirBnB (which I will refrain from linking to on here even though all my instincts are telling me to put our host on blast) was not only not at all as it was advertised- but was also incredibly risky to both our health and privacy. We didn’t feel safe leaving our personal belongings there or sleeping there- so we opted to drive back to the Pioneer Valley after the show, instead.

For those of you who may not be aware- that is a LONG drive.

I was admittedly gutted- since I had been looking forward to being in the city for a couple of days- but when life gives you lemons and all that. Instead, we made as much as we could with the time we *did* have- including grabbing dinner and drinks in the North End at Assaggio and strolling around the city prior to the show starting.

Bon Iver was, of course- brilliant- and our seats were fantastic. Feist opened the show (and played “My Moon My Man”- which absolutely made my night) so I was very, very happy. I remain so grateful to everyone who facilitated getting us the seats after I had phoned in a favor. The chain of people is still a little foggy- but I’m hoping to get the specifics so I can send the proper thank yous accordingly.

On Wednesday, having returned to the Valley in lieu of tolerating unsatisfactory AirBnB accommodations- we opted to spend a lazy, rainy day dining out, driving, and catching peak foliage from Poet’s Seat Tower- which is just a short drive/hike away from my apartment and looks over all of Greenfield.

You bet I took photos. Click to enlarge!

Closing out the evening, before having to get ready for some work yesterday morning- Troy and I swung by the West End Pub in Shelburne Falls- right near the Bridge of Flowers- right before the night’s storm rolled through and took down most of the leaves (and a few trees, as well.)

Maple cheesecake is apparently a thing there- and I am filled with regret that I didn’t know about it sooner because it ruled.

And now, a couple days later and still a little groggy and in “mini-vacation mode-” here I am. Reluctantly getting back into a work state of mind.

Next week on the blog I’ll have some more creepy, kooky (mysterious and spooky) locations around the New England area to share, a return visit to one of my favorite Halloween attractions in Rhode Island to dissect- and maybe another peek into my closet before it comes down to the final hours ’til Halloween!

Until then, though- enjoy your weekend, everybody! Stay safe out there and be good to each other!

xx

– Ashley –

Late Night Watch…

Good Evening and Happy Friday, everyone! We made it to another weekend!

Today’s post is, obviously, being published much later in the day than usual- and for good reason. I pulled a (near) all-nighter last night that was simply sensational and worth the current groggy, foggy feeling I’ve got going on. I’m going to sleep beautifully tonight!

After dodging some late-afternoon/early-evening thunderstorms and micro-bursts in the Valley yesterday on my way home from my office- it was off to another delicious and beautiful meal with Troy at Galaxy in Easthampton– which is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to hang out and stuff my face.

And, I won’t lie- I got a little tipsy-topsy on the most delicious rum and coconut cocktail ever. I’m going to miss all the Summer-themed drinks come September/October!

Hours later, long after I sobered up and well past midnight- I headed around the corner from my apartment to drop by and visit friends who were hosting an all-night art/photography exhibit in Bank Row in Greenfield.

Over the weekend, someone(s) ripped down and destroyed stunning portraits that were hanging downtown of local legend, drag queen- and absolutely wonderful and talented human being- Joe Dulude II. The portraits were bright, fun, and livened up the area- and their destruction caused a lot of distress to those who know/knew Joe and are familiar with the work he does for, and the joy he brings to the community.

Last night, as a sign of resilience- multiple portraits of Joe in drag (all done by the same incredible photographer who had taken the ones that had been vandalized) were projected on the side of the former First National Bank where the originals had once hung. The impromptu art installation lasted all night- wrapping up this morning- and when I stopped by at nearly 1 a.m. the party was still going strong.

It was wonderful to see everyone, talk, laugh, admire the photos- and say hello to other night owls that were passing by. It was such a positive outcome for such a negative and destructive act.

Next week on the blog, I’m talking Summer Slam, makeup, and recapping an upcoming visit to one of my favorite New England stops during the Summer!

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful weekend ahead. I’ll see you all again on Monday!

xx

– Ashley –

July 2019: In a Nutshell

Good Afternoon and Happy Wednesday, everyone!

While posting this late in the day always makes me feel a bit unproductive- I’ve actually been anything but. I’ve been working from home since 7:30 this morning after a super fun (but super late) night out last night. I’ve been running on fumes but getting SO much done today!

Not bad for someone who hasn’t even had coffee or a shower yet, right? Gross, I know- but that’s next on my “To Do” list for today.

Speaking of “To Do” lists- my Summer 2019 Bucket List is still chock full of things I want to accomplish in these final hazy, humid August weeks ahead before September and Fall creep up on us as they always do. Autumn may be my favorite season, but that’s not to say I don’t love the Summertime, too!

With tomorrow marking the first day of a new month, it’s that time where I look back on the last few weeks and recap the highs and lows of the month that was- and July was full of them.

I started the month by meeting my neighbors and making new friends at a community potluck for the 4th of July– and cooling off at what has quickly become one of my favorite spots in the Valley after I was introduced to it by a friend last Summer while I was visiting the area. I’ve returned to Ashfield Lake multiple times this month- especially when New England was being gripped day after day by heatwaves and scorching temperatures.

I also began to further plant some roots in my community as I embraced and attended the Green River Festival– which takes place a short walking distance (and drive) away from my apartment. Although I had only gone for the day- I had a wonderful time in the sunshine listening to music, eating fun food and buying cute clothes.

Of course, July isn’t without sad memories and reflection. This past month marked seven long years since my father passed away, and I opened up to pen a tell-all about the aftermath, the trauma, and the recovery with losing someone you’re close with so abruptly.

Additionally, work was difficult this month- both at my full-time job where tensions are running higher than the temperatures outside between co-workers, supervisors and at times- myself- but also within the Pioneer Valley theater community where I am preparing to ride out the last few shows of my contracted season while simultaneously juggling a plethora of other responsibilities.

And to top it all off- I got an insane flu during what have been the hottest days of the year to date. I was miserable- but thankfully was able to bounce back without a trip to the ER.

All in all? July left me TIRED, y’all!

But August is just a few hours away, and I’ve edited/re-tweaked my Summer Bucket List to better balance with my still hectic schedule. There’s a lot of fun things I’m determined to do/see and I’m excited to finally get around to it- starting this coming weekend- and of course I’ll take plenty of pictures along the way!

So although July was an emotional, physical, and mental roller coaster at times- it wasn’t all bad. It had it’s wonderful moments between sticky days, sweaty nights, sunburns and sneezing fits. I’ll cheers to the good times, for sure!

But I’m also going to toast to August- a new month filled with new possibilities that I hope is good to us all and doesn’t require nearly as much air conditioning to feel comfortable as July did.

And If you’re in need of some late Summer assistance- don’t forget to:

GIVE MY SUMMER 2019 PLAYLIST A LISTEN!

TRY SOME OF MY RECENT SUMMER-INSPIRED RECIPES!

And also go see a movie because there’s so many good things playing right now. Popcorn AND A/C? Yes please!

I’ll be back on Friday with a look at last night’s shenanigans. Enjoy your “Hump Day”, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

A Day at Green River Festival…

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

I’ve taken a personal day from work today. Originally, I had plans with some friends to head down to the Cape for the morning/afternoon- however our schedules and respective obligations caused a delay and the trip is now postponed until further notice.

Today also happens to be the anniversary of my dad’s passing- which is always a pretty difficult day to get through- so I’m opting to keep busy and spend the day with my mom so we don’t have to be alone in our memories and grief. We’re going to do some shopping and dining out in my neighborhood- which I’m excited for.

I’m also low-key recovering from stopping by the Green River Festival yesterday and roasting under the sun for a few hours. The festival, a 3-day music/art/cultural celebration- is only a couple of miles away from my new apartment- so parking and reaching the festival on foot were no problem at all. It was a beautiful and sunny Sunday afternoon- and while I’d heard of the festival in the past- I’ve never had to opportunity to go and enjoy it for myself until now.

I saw some fantastic performances, ate some great food, and shopped some local vendors in-between ducking into the shade and snapping some photos.

If you’d like to see bigger versions, simply click!

My favorite find of the day came courtesy of Taproot Threads, based out of my town. All of the artwork featured on their pieces is hand-drawn, and printed on fair-trade garments with water-based ink. The material is soft, lightweight and cozy- and I’m wearing this t-shirt today when I go to spend time with my mom!

Look at how lovely the illustration is up-close!

It was such a great day, and next year I may try to go for all three days (Friday-Sunday. With my work schedule this year, yesterday was the only day I could pull off!)

With many local businesses now going into post-festival “recovery mode”- I anticipate it will be quiet day around the neighborhood. The perfect opportunity to rest and relax.

But I need coffee and I need it now- so I’m off! Here’s wishing you all a good start to your work-week. I’ll be back on Wednesday!

xx

– Ashley –