OOTD: Feeling Festive

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! I’m so excited the weekend is here, since it gives me the opportunity to catch up on (and hopefully finish) the last of my Christmas shopping. I took a partial vacation from work next week- but I had wanted to spend those days off doing some baking, a little decorating and visit with friends instead of hopping from store to store and screaming into the void at every horrible parking situation I encounter on the way.

While the next couple of weeks are going to be filled with Holiday parties- including an annual ‘Ugly Sweater’ gathering and a flannel-themed shindig at work before we break for Christmas- I wanted to share one of my semi-festive but more subtle ensembles that incorporate the classic red, white and green color scheme without making me look like I’m wearing an elf costume.

I had initially bought this knee-length red and white knitted sweater to wear on a flight to Vegas last Fall so I could stay warm on the plane, but it’s quickly become one of my go-to cover-ups when I’m out and about and the December temperatures aren’t so frigid here in New England.

Paired with a forest green beanie and I’m ready for any last minute Yankee Swaps, cookie exchanges or tree-lighting ceremonies. I look and feel comfortable- and not over-the-top with too many layers. or too many Holiday-themed patterns or prints.

And when it gets too cold (particularly at night)– I can just throw a heavy coat on over this and show it off whenever I’m back indoors. I wear this a lot at work or when I’m out running errands- or more recently this past weekend when I had headed into Faneuil Hall with friends to check out the Christmas tree.

I’m sure as Christmas gets closer, I’ll be displaying more of the ugly sweaters, the holiday-inspired printed leggings, or the bizarre accessories- but for now- this is a nice, simple Outfit of The Day that keeps me feeling festive on-the-go.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone! I’ll be back on Monday (assuming the mid-season finale of “The Walking Dead” on Sunday night doesn’t break my spirit.)

xx

– Ashley –

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Sleigh Bells Ring…

While I have many favorite Holiday traditions I like to participate in year after year with my friends and family- two of them, without fail- always happen earlier in the month when I’m still coming off the fringes of Thanksgiving weekend. I’m talking about visiting the local tree lots and nurseries outside the city- particularly when they’ve only just started putting out their seasonal items and decorations.

To me, it’s the first real taste of Christmas- and the smell of pine needles, mint and spices always puts me in a festive mood and gets me ready to hang up my lights, grab some eggnog, and start wrapping presents. Although I’ve had an artificial tree for as long as I can remember- I’m hoping someday I’ll be able to commit to a real one. I would have done it this year, but I had heard there was a shortage of trees as a result of the recession a few years ago- so spending an insane amount of money on one was out of the question. Maybe next year!

Regardless, I still stopped by Russell’s Garden Center this past weekend to check out their selection (and marvel at their impressive nutcracker collection!)

My other favorite tradition, and the trick is to timing it just right so you can avoid all the pedestrian traffic- is going to see the HUGE Christmas tree in Faneuil Hall and catch one of it’s timed light displays every half hour. Sean and I headed down right before the last display of the evening this past Saturday night- and although there were quite a few people milling around near some of the bars in the area- we were still able to get nice and close to the tree to snap a few uninterrupted photos and videos.

And of course, as is tradition- we met up with our friend Chris and proceeded to start the long walk to and through Boston Common and down the illuminated Commonwealth Avenue. The city always does such an amazing job with the lights- and I know it’s going to look even more beautiful if and when we get the first legitimate snowfall of the season!

I’m looking forward to sharing photos of my own Christmas display after I’ve finished decorating my tree and my windows this coming weekend. They are nowhere near as elaborate as the ones around Boston- but they’re still nice!

But I’ve just got to make it through the rest of this week, first. Halfway there already!

Enjoy your Wednesdays, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Festive Foodie: Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate

Well hello! It’s another early Monday morning and after a busy few days packed with overtime at my office last week- I’m ready to slow things down a little and get to work at a steadier, calmer pace. The holidays can be crazy enough- what with trying to get holiday shopping done, balancing party plans, and making sure I don’t indulge in too many Christmas-inspired sweets- so I’m trying to keep any work-related stress to a minimum if it’s possible.

So when I stumbled across this “set it and forget it” style crock-pot recipe for cocoa late last week- I knew it was something I wanted to try during my downtime over the weekend. Anything that is advertised as a “drinkable brownie” is right up my alley!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • A dash of vanilla extract

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Pour all of your ingredients into your slow cooker/crock pot. Lightly stir.
  2. Cook the ingredients on low for 2 hours.
  3. Whisk everything really, really well.
  4. Add marshmallows, whipped cream (or both!), sit back in your footie pajamas by the Christmas tree- sip and enjoy!

Creamy, super-chocolatey and indulgent- this cocoa hit the spot after a long afternoon out in the cold with my friends on Saturday. I think the next time I prepare this, I might use mint-chocolate to give it a more seasonally-appropriate taste- but this is definitely going to be my go-to recipe when we start having some serious blizzards here in New England, because I couldn’t think of anything better to enjoy while I’m bundled in blankets and warming up after shoveling the snow!

xx

– Ashley –

November 2017: In a Nutshell

Good Morning, everyone! I can’t believe that today is the last day of November and Christmas (and a whole new year!) are right around the corner! Like every Holiday season, I know the next few weeks are going to be pretty hectic and crazy- but I’m looking forward to spending some more time with my family and friends doing all sorts of fun, festive things during one of the prettiest times of the year here in New England- right up until 2018 arrives!

But I have to tip my hat to November, because this past month was pretty spectacular. A good portion of it was spent outdoors with friends taking in the late Autumn scenery at local state parks and trails- even when it was bitterly cold out (or flurrying!) at times- while the days leading up to Thanksgiving Weekend revolved around lots of cooking and baking in the kitchen and gathering around the dining room table. I mean, look at the spread my family put together this year- and this was only a portion of it!

When not hiking, stuffing my face, or working crazy amounts of overtime this past month to stay on top of the year-end caseload at my office (and to get some extra Holiday cash!)– I was watching Blondie Birdie undergo a much-needed and fabulous makeover. I’m still getting used to my new layout, and I’m still in absolute awe at how beautiful it turned out. I feel like a true professional now!

So what do I have up my sleeve for December? Well, apart from finishing up my holiday shopping and finalizing plans for New Years Eve (and early 2018- since I intend on doing some traveling right away!) I have some Christmas-inspired recipes to share, a peek into the more festive pieces in my wardrobe, and a look at some of my favorite local Holiday hot-spots I like to visit every year. I’m also thinking of coming up with a little gift-guide for those last minute shoppers who need some inspiration to make it to that home stretch- so stay tuned!

Enjoy the rest of your week, everyone! I’ll be back next Monday with one of my favorite recipes for the most divine hot chocolate you’ll ever drink!

 

xx

– Ashley –

Food Comas and Makeovers by Blogerize!

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! It’s back to work for me (and a lot of other people, I’m sure!) after what was an extended weekend spent with family, friends, an overabundance of delicious, filling food and a little bit of holiday shopping. Although the time off was nice- and I wish it lasted just a little longer- I’m ready to dive back into my cases and try to begin a productive week.

I truly hope that all of you in the States who celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday had a wonderful time and were surrounded by people you love and cherish- and I hope those of you who participated in the Black Friday shenanigans were able to get some decent deals (and I especially hope those of you who work retail got to catch up on some much deserved sleep when it was all over!)

Although Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier every year, I was pleasantly surprised that many people in my community- both residential areas and businesses- waited until the days following Thanksgiving to start setting up their holiday decorations and displays. A local radio station, who typically start playing 24/7 Christmas music the day after Halloween- even waited until Thanksgiving was over before the heavy rotation of “Last Christmas” began, and I gotta’ say- it’s really refreshing! I don’t see myself getting burnt out on the holidays before they even arrive this year.

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Something else that’s refreshing? Blondie Birdie’s new layout! A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by Laura from Blogerize– who was looking to take on the task of giving my blog a complete and long overdue makeover- free of charge. It seemed a little too good to be true, but after doing some research- Laura and her team of professional designers provided me with a preview of what they had in mind- and it was so close to the vision I’d originally had for Blondie Birdie but, to date, hadn’t quite been able to achieve on my own.

With my go-head, the Blogerize crew re-vamped and breathed some serious life into my layout- giving me a seamless way to share my content and my readers/followers a chic and easy-to-navigate homepage that better connects them to posts, my social media, and offers a search function in case they’re looking for something specific within Blondie Birdie.

If you’re a blogger and you’re looking to spruce up your space on the internet- I highly recommend enlisting Blogerize’s services. They’re talented, fun, and create completely custom and unique designs tailored specifically to your blog’s content/topics/audience. They also offer online courses for beginners to the blogosphere to help with branding, designing and marketing- and 24/7 support for those who may need a helping hand in their designing/writing endeavors.

I cannot thank Laura and her team enough for their hard work and assistance as I made the transition to the new layout and hosting site. It’s truly appreciated and I couldn’t ask for a better early-Christmas present. I hope everyone enjoys the new layout as much as I am!

And with all that being said, I’ve got to get to work. Good luck getting through your Monday, everybody!

xx

– Ashley –

Thanks AND Giving…

(via Pinterest)

One of my favorite things about my job is that my office believes very strongly in giving back to our community. Whether it’s holding fundraisers for local non-profits, sponsoring local businesses and teams in their charitable endeavors or educating and encouraging growth and development within our neighborhoods- it’s always rewarding (and fun!) to pitch in and work together as a team to help others and make our city a cleaner, safer and more compassionate place.

With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, my company’s focus has shifted to the pending holiday season- and that includes helping those less fortunate stay fed and warm in the frigid New England temperatures. We’re currently holding a food drive and coat collection to benefit our local shelters and pantries. The holidays can be rough- even on the most fortunate and happy people in the world. Imagine how much worse it is for those who are down on their luck this time of year?

Inspired by the overwhelming outpouring of support and eagerness my co-workers have displayed when it comes to lending a helping hand to strangers- I wanted to share some links for non-profit organizations who are truly saving lives this time of year for anyone who reads Blondie Birdie and might want to do something to help out, too.

Find Your Local Food Bank – Head on over to Feeding America’s website, tap in your location, and voila! You’ll be connected to the food bank closest to you. From there, you can bring non-perishable goods to be delivered and/or distributed to those in need. For a full-list of appropriate non-perishable foods, simply CLICK HERE.

Send Some Love to Our Troops & Their Families – Our neighborhoods include plenty of military families, as well- many of whom are spending the holidays while their loved ones are overseas. Homefront America is taking donations to provide hundreds of military families with the groceries necessary to feed their loved ones without the worry or the hassle that comes with preparing a meal.

Don’t Forget Our Elders – During the holidays, we spend time with family and friends from all over and from all walks of life- but there are some elderly men and women who don’t have the luxury of being able to sit around a table for Thanksgiving dinner with their loved ones. Meals on Wheels is taking up volunteers to bring food and groceries to the elderly who are unable to get to their local grocery stores or prepare their meals themselves. Not only are you keeping our older generations from going hungry- but it’s a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends, too!

Help Someone Keep Warm – Growing up in Massachusetts, I can attest that we never really fully adapt to the cold. We just wear as many layers as possible and try to put up with it as best we can until Spring rolls back around. That being said, I can’t imagine not having an adequate coat this time of year. Sadly, many people go without proper protective wear to shield them from the harsher elements.

If you have a gently worn coat that either doesn’t fir you anymore, or has been replaced with something new- you can donate your older coat to places like the previously linked Burlington Coat Factory, New York Cares or, if you’d rather just purchase a new coat for someone in need- Operation Warm.

Even just a little bit of support and willingness to take action can do SO much and change someone’s whole life. You can make a difference- and now is the perfect time to do it!

And for those in the Boston area: My office is taking donations through next Friday (11/17/17). If you’d like to help out- drop me a line and we can coordinate a day and time for me to swing by and pick up your donation!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone. Try to stay warm out there!

xx

– Ashley –