“Hippity, Hoppity…”

Good Morning and Happy Hump Day, everyone!

It’s worth asking “is it Friday yet?” even though I already know the answer. This week feels like it’s dragging- and the on/off again snow and rain isn’t particularly helping things around here. That’s right- we’re still getting flurries here in Massachusetts- and it’s enough to make me want to just scream into the abyss at this point!

Sunday, however- was lovely- and not just in terms of the weather (which was sunny and warm most of the morning/afternoon.) My family- immediate and extended- gathered for a huge Easter dinner together and it was so much fun since the last time all of us were together was on Thanksgiving!

Being able to catch up with everyone all at once was refreshing. One of my cousins announced he was expecting a baby with his longtime girlfriend, while another cousin is heading down to New Orleans for a vacation through this coming weekend. The food was fantastic, the Sox won, and my mom surprised everyone with mini Easter baskets/presents loaded with candy- which was a huge hit with my niece and my cousin’s younger step-sons.

And while there was definitely tons of snacks/desserts- my mom planned ahead and stocked up on some cheap Tupperware so she could send each and every single person home with plenty of leftovers at the end of the night! Smart thinking- since none of the food will go to waste- and also because she had a lot less to clean up the following day!

But I’ve got to get to work. Today is filled with meetings and phone calls- so I’m really looking forward to getting home tonight and being able to decompress (and work on perfecting a recipe that I’m hoping to share this coming Friday!)

Hang in there, everyone! We’re almost to the weekend!

xx

– Ashley –

OOTD: … And a Happy New Year!

Good Morning, everyone! I’m getting ready to pop by my job to send some last-minute e-mails and participate in what will be day 3 of “Office-Holiday-Hijinks” (today is cookie swap and cocoa day!) before I break for a long, extended Christmas weekend to spend time with my family and friends while delivering the last of the gifts I’ve put together, drinking almond milk eggnog, and preparing to watch “A Christmas Story” over and over in a nice, cozy pair of flannel pajamas.

This coming weekend also marks both my mother and my older brother’s birthdays- so there’s going to be a lot of cake and Chinese food involved in the next couple of days too, I’m sure.

For most of this week I’ve been dressing festive- including but not limited to Rudolph leggings, snowball-inspired sweaters and Santa socks- but one of my favorite ensembles I’ve gotten to wear at a recent Holiday party was my ‘Home Alone’ knitted sweater (which I’ve had for a few years now) with a comfortable pair of black jeggings- and this light-up Christmas light necklace I picked up at a local dollar store. It has a couple of different settings that make it blink at various speeds, too!

While I was sporting this outfit in Back Bay, I actually had people coming up to me to ask where I had purchased parts of it. The sweater is easy enough to find at most online shops- and comes in a ton of different colors, too!

And of course, I couldn’t resist posing for some photos in front of the beautiful display that was set up in the front corridor of the Prudential Center while I had this on. That wreath hanging from the ceiling was gorgeous!

Also, if you don’t think the lights on the necklace look bright enough- may I present Exhibit A?

There I am outside- getting ready to go find my car. That necklace pretty much lit my way the entire walk! Not bad for a buck!

Alright- I’ve got to wrap things up at work before I head out to kick-start my holiday. For everyone who celebrates it- I hope you all have a wonderful, beautiful, warm and cozy Christmas surrounded by good food, good friends, and family. I hope you all stay safe if you’re traveling- and stress-free if you’re keeping your celebration local this year. I hope any gifts you’re giving are loved, and cherished by whoever is receiving them- and I hope you all get something that surprises and delights you, too!

I also hope none of you get coal or a fruit cake or anything like that.

I’ll be back to blogging next week- where I’ll be wrapping up 2017 to the best of my abilities before we usher in 2018. I’m so excited to look back on these past 12 months!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

xx

Ashley

Christmas in The Country…

Good Morning! The blogging schedule is going to be a bit off this week, what with the upcoming Christmas (long) weekend. My time over the next few days is going to be divided up between work, holiday parties, visiting with family and delivering gifts to friends across all corners of Massachusetts- so I won’t be able to be online much until it’s time to wrap things up and bid adieu to 2017 in a series of year-end celebration/reflection posts throughout next week leading up to New Year’s Eve!

Some people might think that holiday travel can be daunting- and I’m sure for those who have to fly to multiple destinations- it can be, but I typically drive everywhere- and I love it! I especially enjoy heading out to Western Massachusetts where the scenery is much more rural, old-fashioned, or “rustic”. The old houses, farms, mom & pop shops, bed and breakfasts- and chic little places to stop and eat or hang your hat for a few hours. It’s a breath of fresh air (literally) from the busy, crowded and noisy way of life that comes with city living.

And of course, such a beautiful part of New England never fails to deliver spectacular views when it comes to decorating for the holidays. The photo above was taken in the small town square outside of New Salem, Mass while I was en route (on the back roads, of course!)– heading towards Deerfield this past weekend. It had just snowed a bit, and the lights looked especially beautiful- but beyond the square were rows of barns, churches, and businesses that were all lit up with traditional white lights, tinsel, garland, candles and bows.

If it hadn’t been so cold out- I probably could have walked the streets for hours!

Of course, the city has one thing the country doesn’t- and that’s gigantic Christmas ornaments on the sidewalks- like the one I posed next to on Sunday night after a quick stop at the Prudential Center where I met up with friends for dinner and some shopping!

I’ve got to head into work and prepare for an office lunch with some of my co-workers a little later on this afternoon (and we’re having another party tomorrow!)– but I’ve got another post planned for Thursday morning before I officially break for Christmas.

See you all soon!

xx

– Ashley –

Festive Foodie: Cheesecake Thumbprint Cookies

When I was a kid, my mother used to have a handful of recipes she’d fall back on around the holidays to serve guests or bring with us when we attended family Christmas parties. One of those recipes were thumbprint cookies. My mom would typically make a couple dozen of them at a time and then proceed to fill in the center indentation with melted chocolate or lemon custard. They were always popular and were always one of the first snacks/desserts to disappear once our actual dinner was finished.

And now, years later- I’ve found an updated version of the recipe that incorporates two popular desserts into one bite-sized treat: sugar cookies and cheesecake. With 30 minutes of prep/cook time total- this recipe makes 24 cookies in all- which means you’ll have plenty of them to feed everybody and not have to worry about spending all day in your kitchen!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 crackers)
  • 1¾ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

FILLING:

  • 5 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup jam

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. MAKE THE COOKIES: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the egg and mix to combine, 1 to 2 minutes more.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir the flour with the graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt to combine. Add to the mixer and mix just until fully incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Scoop 2 tablespoons of dough and roll it into a ball; repeat with the remaining dough. Transfer the balls to the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each one slightly, then use your thumb to make a deepimpression in the center of each cookie.
  5. MAKE THE FILLING: In a medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese with the sugar, egg white and vanilla extract to combine.
  6. Spoon 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of each cookie. Top each cookie with 1 teaspoon jam and then use the tip of a knife or a toothpick to swirl the jam into the cream cheese filling.
  7. Bake until the cookies are lightly golden brown at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely before serving.
  8. Enjoy!

Not only were these cookies really pretty when they were done, but they tasted incredible, too- and definitely took me back to my childhood while I was eating them. I’m really looking forward to surprising my mother with a batch of these for her birthday this coming Christmas Eve. I know she’ll appreciate the tradition being passed down!

Enjoy your Friday and your weekend, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

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 –