New Year, New York…

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

What an absolutely fun, exciting and beautiful past few days I’ve had! Even coming back to my office on Wednesday morning to return to my usual weekday grind has been enjoyable- thanks in part to a new scheduling system I’ve been utilizing to better manage my time/tasks. I have to say that starting my 2019 *not* being inundated with cases and loose ends is a nice change of pace.

Of course, I have to talk about my New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day- which was spent between New York City, Western Massachusetts and finally- home sweet home.

I had wanted a cozy, laid-back New Year’s Eve- particularly since the past few celebrations over recent years have involved expensive, extravagant parties, bar-hopping, and/or spending entirely too much time in bitterly frigid New England cold. To see out 2018 and welcome in 2019- I just wanted to be warm, comfortable, have some decent food and a drink- and be somewhere a little different than Massachusetts so I could have a new experience to start the New Year off on the right foot.

And so, I turned to NYC- and entrusted my evening to the fine folks at the Hotel Indigo on the Lower East Side. I’m a frequent guest at their San Diego/Gaslamp Quarter location whenever I travel to the West Coast- so their incredible service, a spacious room with a view, and kick-ass amenities were not surprising. What was surprising was their lobby (with a wrap-around panoramic view of the city via floor to ceiling windows) being located on the 14th floor as opposed to on the ground level. I was a big fan of that twist.

I settled right in, ordered a fantastic cheeseburger from their Mr. Purple restaurant (and some cheesecake! I had to go big and gluttonous for the last night of the year!), grabbed a drink at a dive bar down the street while dodging the rain as much as possible- and then retreated to my room where I texted/video chatted with friends back home and abroad while we waited for the countdown to midnight via various news outlets. I opted to watch Anderson Cooper take shots of tequila and look like he was ready to throw up- and it was worth every minute. Truly.

After midnight, it didn’t take long for my body to give into the cheeseburger, champagne, and a day of train travel to arrive in New York- and I managed to successfully get a full night of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. I awoke on New Year’s Day feeling refreshed, energized- and pleasantly optimistic! Even better? Monday night’s rainstorms and freezing cold had disappeared- and Tuesday saw plenty of sun and temperatures that reached the high fifties/low sixties for most of the day!

To kick off 2019, I wanted to honor a family tradition *and* do something different and daring. When I was a kid, my mother thought lighting a candle and saying a prayer to whatever higher power we believed in to wish our loved ones a blessed new year and express hope for our own happiness/prosperity for the months ahead. After grabbing breakfast- I had navigated my way to Rockefeller Center- and popped by St. Patrick’s Cathedral across the street to honor my mom’s tradition (I called her to let her know afterwards- and she was delighted!) and take in the beautiful architecture.

The city was still very much decked out for Christmas during my brief stay- and it was such a thrill to have a chance to catch a glimpse of some of the over-the-top decor before it gets taken down again. Below are a couple of photos I snapped with my phone. You can click them to enlarge ’em and see!

And, for my “different and daring” to-do for the day- I opted to face my fear of heights and ride an elevator 70 stories up Rockefeller Center to take in the views of New York from atop of the world at the ‘Top of The Rock’ Observation Deck. While the wind made things a little intimidating at first and it took a few minutes for my heart to stop racing- it was such an exhilarating and memorable experience.

The sun made catching photos of the Empire State Building (and snapping the perfect selfie) a little difficult- but I managed to get a few pics I was content with- and would definitely go back and do it again if given the opportunity.

After coming back down to Earth- and knowing I had plans with my friend Troy later on in the evening out in Northampton, Massachusetts- I managed to catch an early afternoon train home before the crowds and traffic got too bad with everyone trying to get out of the city all at once.

Once I was back in my home state a couple of hours later, I closed out New Year’s Day with a cozy night in watching movies and snacking on whatever was in Troy’s kitchen before I headed back to my own place to get another good night’s sleep and prepare for my return to work on Wednesday morning.

And now, only a couple of days later during this short work-week- and I’m ready for the weekend! I have a few things planned- including some local travel/hiking and a recipe post to put together for next week- but before I start all of that- I’m heading over to Allston today to catch a set by The Sheila Divine at Great Scott for Indie617!

If you’re in the area, come say hello! It’s going to be a lot of fun and a great way to kick off live music in Boston for 2019.

I’m off to get some work done before I take off for the rest of the day. I’ll be back on Monday, when my posting schedule returns to normal now that the holidays are done!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

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 –

Festive Foodie: No-Bake Sugar Cookie Truffles

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

Today’s post is coming at you all a little later on in the day than usual- since this morning and mid-afternoon were pretty busy for me. For starters, I was live on-air for “Morning Glory” at Indie617 bright and early this A.M. talking about some of my favorite albums, shows and indie music headlines from 2018. There was a lot of good music and a lot of laughs. If you missed the action or want to hear the audio- CLICK HERE.

Following the segment, I headed back towards Central Massachusetts to have a pre-holiday luncheon with some of my friends/co-workers from the office, where we had a mini gift exchange and got a chance to talk about normal, non-work related things.

Now that I’m home and able to catch up on some e-mails (and touch up my makeup) before I get together with my family to have a little Tree Trimming party- I thought I’d share one of the bites I’m preparing for tonight. With limited ingredients and no baking required for this quick, easy dessert- these truffles are a go-to during the hectic holiday season.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 cups sugar-cookie crumbs (from about 15 medium cookies)
  • 6 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 cups white chocolate chips
  • Sprinkles, for finishing

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the cookies until they are fine crumbs. Add the cream cheese and mix well to combine. The mixture should hold together when pressed.
  2. Scoop the mixture into heaping tablespoon-size portions and roll into balls. Transfer the balls to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  3. Add the white chocolate chips to a medium-size microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, until chocolate is smooth and melted.
  4. Dip the cookie truffles into the melted white chocolate to coat fully, returning to the baking sheet as you go. Before the chocolate sets, decorate with sprinkles.
  5. Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator until the chocolate is set. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

These truffles are delicious- and can be tweaked a bit for those with different tastes (using dark chocolate instead of white chocolate, for example)– but the’re festive and fun- and no hassle at all!

This coming weekend is going to be filled with time with family and friends (and a long overdue touchup of my hair for the season) as Christmas continues to draw closer.

On Sunday, I’ll be heading out to Easthampton to catch a holiday performance from one of my favorite theater groups- Paintbox Theatre– who will be putting on their annual ‘Santa Show’ for adults and kids alike! Tonight’s first performance is at 7:30 PM, while Saturday and Sundays’ performances are at 10:30 AM and 1 PM.

You can purchase tickets directly through Paintbox’s website or at the Williston Theater- but be sure to get there early to snag a good seat!

And be prepared to sing along to a lot of holiday classics and laugh along to a lot of crazy antics!

But for now- I’m off to prepare for tonight. Here’s wishing you all a wonderful and safe weekend. I’ll be back on Monday!

xx

– Ashley –