September 2018: In a Nutshell

Good Morning and Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you’re all having a fantastic weekend so far!

October is pretty much here, and I couldn’t be more excited since it is undoubtedly and unquestionably my favorite month out of the entire year. Fall is in full swing- apples and pumpkins are ready to be picked, the leaves are glowing orange, red, and yellow- and when you add in the thrill of all things spooky and Halloween? I’m sold. It’s the best.

And while I have plenty of things planned for the coming weeks- I wanted to take a look back on September- a month where Autumn had just started to peek out shyly and slowly from behind the Summer and a month that was filled with travel, good food, and lots of time with friends and family.

The month kicked off the way nearly every September in New England does- with people scrambling to savor those last bits of Summer before the temperatures dropped. I, personally, honored this tradition by heading to the beach to wear shorts by the surf one last time to enjoy Hampton Beach’s annual Seafood Festival with my mom, cousin and my dog. I stuffed my face with lobster, successfully located some great deals during the three-day sidewalk sale, and enjoyed the scenery of the boardwalk before it closes up for the season.

Mid-way through the month, I was able to see a band that means the world to me- and whose songs have helped me through some really challenging, difficult times throughout my life. Interpol played the Orpheum Theatre and it was a breathtaking performance from start to finish. I definitely cried a couple of times, but thankfully the people standing around me were incredibly kind and fun and made the experience even better. It was right up there in my top favorite shows I’ve ever been to (side note? The Orpheum is an amazing venue!)

Prior to my planned trip to the West Coast closer to the end of the month, I had celebrated two milestones for my family and friends. my cousin’s girlfriend, who is due to pop with their first child (a boy!) any day now- had her baby shower on one of the warmer, sunnier days here- and the following day marked my longtime friend Stef’s Autumnal themed bridal shower/brunch. She’s getting married in early November- so we’re in the final stretch of parties and planning before her big day.

And of course, my trip to Vegas and San Diego was a fitting way to wrap things up by the end of September. It was absolutely wonderful to see my BFF Kelsey and her beautiful, sweet, perfect little baby for the first time in months. It was invigorating to spend time both in and around Vegas, familiarizing myself with the counties and suburbs away from the strip since it recharged my batteries and reignited the spark I needed to continue to motivate me to take steps to get out there after a couple of financial setbacks had pulled the rug out from under me earlier this year and had me feeling a bit down.

And even though our journey through the desert to San Diego had ended with one of my friends I’ve known for years hurting my deeply- it was an eye-opening experience I think I needed to put some things into perspective. That revelation, coupled with other friends in the area going above and beyond for me to make sure my stay was salvaged- was worth it. I did ultimately have a really good time.

I can’t wait to be back there.

And now, with September over- I’m preparing for October and Halloween and all the fun I’m sure will be prominent in-between tomorrow and the 31st. Sure, I’ve got plenty of haunted houses and horror movies planned- but there’s a lot more, too! My friend from Ireland is coming to town for work within the next few hours. Stef’s bachelorette party is within a couple of weeks. There’s apples to be picked, pumpkins to be carved, and costumes to be put together. I’ve got foliage to photograph, Fall-inspired recipes to bake, and chilly weather-approved outfits to show off!

So here’s to September, a roller coaster of a month if I’ve ever seen one- and a lovely way to welcome Autumn.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone! I’ll be back tomorrow- bright and early- with the first official pumpkin recipe of the season!

xx

– Ashley –

Notes From the Desert…

Good Morning (and Good Afternoon to everyone back home!) and greetings from fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada!

I’m popping in to check my e-mails and keep this blog going in-between vigorously applying moisturizer and chap stick (it’s very, very dry here) before I get ready to go get some food and enjoy my final hours in the desert before my friend Kelsey and I pack up to head out to San Diego tomorrow morning for the second leg of my West Coast trip.

I think a common misconception about spending any length of time in Vegas is that the bulk of things to do revolves around the Strip- and when you’ve done all the drinking, gambling and sight-seeing you can- there’s not much else left for Vegas to offer. But, this is untrue- because while the Strip is certainly the heartbeat of the city- there’s still so much to do/see and enjoy well beyond the rows and rows of casinos, showgirls, and $9 margarita stands.

For example, Kelsey and I have been keeping it local around the surrounding suburbs of Henderson and Summerlin. I’m getting to know areas I’ll be residing in/near shortly- including restaurants, bars, shops and roadside attractions. Yesterday, after driving a few miles and well into the desert- we stopped at Seven Magic Mountains- an art installation in the middle of nowhere. The “mountains”, spray-painted boulders stacked up on top of each other- are a “blink and you’ll miss them” attraction from the roadside.

And up close? They were pretty cool- even when we were baking in the sun while taking photos of them.

Of course, last night saw us at Peppermill (my favorite!) for burgers and drinks, followed by a quick stop at Fremont Street and at the Cosmopolitan for a nightcap- but even spending the afternoon away from slot machines and club promoters was a welcomed change of pace and a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to finally moving here and doing more exploring. A couple of days never feels like enough time!

But I’m starving and in need of a shower and some sunscreen. More updates from the road will follow- and be sure to check out my INSTAGRAM for more!

See you all soon!

xx

– Ashley –

February 2018: In a Nutshell

Good Morning, everyone! Can you believe it’s the end of February already and that March- and Spring!- are right around the corner? I sure can’t. It feels like this month flew by- although I’m sure my traveling and long-term-plan-making kept me pretty occupied (and maybe a little distracted!) as the days went right by me!

February- as short and sweet a month as it is- had it’s fair share of incredible, memorable moments that I’ll carry with me through the rest of 2018. I kicked things off with some of my dearest friends in Las Vegas where I got to catch up with people I love and who I hadn’t seen in what felt like the longest time, enjoy a hometown show from one of my favorite bands (The Killers, obviously!) and ultimately made the decision to move to Henderson, Nevada later on this Fall. Talk about a busy weekend, right?

While I was in Vegas, The Patriots sadly lost the Super Bowl in what was really one of the only low points this past month- which was a bummer, for sure- but what an incredible season they had! I had so much fun reigniting longtime rivalries with friends who support other teams, going to multiple tailgating parties, and enjoying all the amazing game day food- and I’m looking forward to next season where I’m sure my boys are going to dominate again.

But until then- it’s almost time for the Red Sox resurgence!

I was surprised with a Belated-Birthday-Party by my friends this past month, as well as a semi-surprise dinner date for Galentine’s Day courtesy of a guy friend of mine who went above and beyond to cook me a homemade meal (I’m still a little heart-eyed over that one, to be honest!) and rang in the ‘Year of The Dog’ with my own puppers and some Chinese takeout for the Lunar New Year.

With hints of warmer weather teasing us here in New England every so often over these past few weeks- some days were spent out in the sunshine, savoring the rising temperatures- while other, chillier days were spent driving through places in Western Massachusetts and Vermont with the heat cranked up and some hot coffee within reach to decompress and unwind.

And then, of course- there was this past weekend- where I took my friend from work- Bryan- with me down to Mohegan Sun to catch an impromptu show from some of my favorite local boys and longtime friends- the Dropkick Murphys! The guys were nice enough to hook Bryan and I up with an All Access pass so we could roam backstage and stage-side freely- and what a view we had of the show!

The show was the kickoff to their annual Saint Patrick’s Day celebration- and what an incredible performance it was! The crowd was awesome, the setlist was pretty perfect- and we had such an amazing time. Bryan hadn’t seen the guys in years, so I was really glad that he could come along and watch it from what was undoubtedly the best spot in the entire arena with me!

And afterwards, of course- I had to thank Ken- who has been so lovely to me over the years since we first met back in my early (like, really early) twenties. We made sure to take an updated photo, too- since the last one was from circa 2013.

It was truly one of the best ways to wrap up the month, and I hope I get to see the guys again in a couple of weeks at any of their Boston shows. They’re so much fun!

Speaking of- what else do I have in store for March? A long overdue trip to NYC, stopping by the South Boston Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, breaking out some of my Spring wardrobe to share with you all- as well as some new recipes I’ve been experimenting with- and a few other tricks I have up my sleeve!

Enjoy the rest of your day, everyone- and be sure to tip your hat to February. It was a good one!

xx

– Ashley –

“It only takes two hours to Nevada…”

Since my early twenties, when I first began venturing out to the West Coast for days- and then weeks- at a time, I always said the same thing right before it came time for me to grab my suitcase and return home: “I need to live here.” The weather, the scenery, the music and art scenes, the food and the nightlife? Everything about places like California, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada resonated deeply with me- and it didn’t hurt that so many of my friends were/are peppered throughout different cities and States out that way.

I never feel alone when I travel out West- and given how much more active I am in warmer weather as opposed to being cooped up here in New England during the Winter months- meeting new people when I’m out and about is always pretty easy for me.

Over the years, different friends have tried to convince me to take the plunge, make the commitment- and move to places like San Diego or Los Angeles- and although I would have loved to. I really, really would have loved to- personal circumstances and the inevitable financial strain were unavoidable and caused multiple delays in potential plans to relocate for over a decade.

For example: plans to move years ago were abruptly halted when my father was diagnosed with cancer and later passed away during his post-surgery chemo and radiation treatments. Spending time with him and taking care of both him and my mother while she tried to remain strong for my entire family were understandably the priority- and nothing else mattered at the time.

A couple of years following his death and my recovery from the grief and brief anxiety disorder that I developed in the aftermath of the trauma- an attempt to head out to SoCal for the long haul were once again cut short when the law firm I worked for closed abruptly and I was subsequently laid off months before my scheduled departure without warning- resulting in a HUGE hit to my finances as I scrambled to find work and try to figure out my next step that wouldn’t leave me drowning in debt as I attempted to pay bills and afford transport/travel expenses that would ultimately get me to my destination.

And then, of course- there was the messy, devastating breakup with a long-term love of mine near the end of 2016. A split that left me so dazed and confused that I eventually just put moving on the back burner all together so I could focus on my career, my personal life with my friends and family, and piecing myself back into a person I knew and recognized bit by bit until I felt whole again. I’ve been rooted here in Boston and Massachusetts ever since- occasionally popping by various areas out West every so often to say hello and work on my tan.

But, it looks like things are changing in 2018.

After careful consideration, weighing the pros/cons of the decision, and discussing it at length and in-depth with my immediate family and close friends- I’ve decided that the time is right and the time is now: I’ll be re-locating to Henderson, Nevada later on this Fall to give myself a year-long trial of living my life out West- in the desert- to see how it goes.¬†Everyone I’ve spoken to about this plan has given me their blessing- as well as some friendly advice, of course.

Why Henderson? Well, for starters- it’s a nice, safe area about 20-30 minutes outside of the Vegas Strip. Close enough to go have fun, see a show, gamble and drink if I truly felt like it- but far enough away from the action where I can avoid drunk people who are getting sloppy by the end of the night and get a full night’s rest without being disturbed by bright lights and loud voices/music. I love Vegas, but being *IN* Vegas full-time would be utterly overwhelming and exhausting for me!

My West Coast Wife, Kelsey, also lives in Henderson- as well- so being able to spend more time with her instead of only seeing her a couple of times a year is definitely a bonus!

But one of the biggest perks to moving to Nevada is the cost of living vs. anywhere else- including where I live now. Real estate is incredibly reasonable in Henderson. You can buy a home, or rent a beautiful and spacious apartment/condo without having to work four different jobs or sacrifice your time or sanity to make ends meet. That sort of freedom- and being able to have actual options on where you live and what you can do for work- is a luxury these days. With Vegas being a bustling, tourist-filled city- you can find work pretty much anywhere and everywhere- and not feel boxed in or forced to choose something just for the sake of earning a paycheck.

Listen- I love San Diego- and if I could live anywhere in the world, it’d be there– but it is financially impossible for me. The same way it’s nearly impossible for a lot of people I know out there who are really struggling and working themselves to the bone in order to afford the ever increasing cost of living. I want to enjoy my time in the sunshine- and not work 3-4 jobs just so I can pay rent for an apartment that is essentially the size of a broom closet. That’s not the type of life I want- and in Henderson- that isn’t the type of life I’d be forced to have.

Besides, if I REALLY get lonesome for Ocean Beach? San Diego is a 4 hour drive from Vegas (and a 45 minute flight!)– which is a lot better and a lot more convenient than being 3,000 miles away like I currently am!

So, what’s the plan?

While no set or specific move date has been established- I’m pushing towards a mid-November date to pack up and head out of Massachusetts. Not just because it’ll be right before we start getting slammed with snow again so I can dodge that nightmare in time, but also because my friend Stef is getting married right after Halloween- and moving furniture and heavy objects in breezy Fall weather sounds a LOT more appealing than moving it in the middle of the Summer.

I’ve been cutting expenses and saving as much money as I can as of late to make sure I’m prepared- and have been actively reaching out to and talking with knowledgeable folks in Henderson about renting an apartment/condo. I have a trip planned sometime in the Spring to go and look at some property in-person (as well as meet with some local businesses in regards to starting a career out there.)

It definitely helps that my friends in the Vegas area are so eager and willing to assist, as well. I’ve been offered work opportunities and places to stay until I’m on my feet- which is comforting when I remember I’ll be a lot farther away from all that I’m familiar with here in New England.

And, of course- I’m savoring each moment I have with my family, my friends here at home, and even at work- since I know I’m going to miss it all like crazy once I head out and start driving West.

I fully intend on updating with my progress as things begin and continue moving along- but I’m excited, nervous, anxious, and hopeful to begin this new chapter of my life in a new location and surrounded by different scenery. It’s going to be interesting- that’s for sure!

Enjoy your Friday and your weekend, everyone! I’ll be back next week with my favorites from this past month, a look back at all the highs and lows throughout February- and will have a fun recipe to share with all of you, too!

xx

– Ashley –

“Sunsets and Neon Lights…”

The view from my hotel room!

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! It’s great to be back on the East Coast!

… Just kidding. It’s been an icy, snowy, freezing cold mess since I landed back home in Boston on Tuesday night- and all I want to do is just return to Nevada and bask in the sunshine and perfect temperatures again. 72 degrees and not a cloud in the sky in early February? Yeah- sign me up for that. I’ll take ten of those.

Actually, I have every intention of packing up and moving out to good ol’ Henderson, Nevada¬†(just 20-30 minutes away from the bright lights and the excitement of the Strip) as early as this Fall if circumstances permit- so I figure I just have to tough it out for a few more weeks until Spring gets here, and then hold on tight through the Summer. I’ve already been re-evaluating my budget and actively researching real estate in the area- and looking at some pretty promising prospects!- so I’m not left rushing through any life-changing decisions at the last possible minute come September/October.

But I digress! This most recent trip was purely for fun and to get away from the snow and the sleet for a few days. I only had a couple of things on my itinerary- leaving the rest up to fate. The most important thing was spending time with my West Coast Wife, Kelsey- who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. She’s wonderful and amazing and gorgeous- and she has the sweetest husband and the cutest baby girl I’ve ever seen in my life. It was an absolute joy to spend so much time with them all this past weekend. I miss them tons already.

Kelsey and I first met through The Killers, so it was only fitting we went to their hometown show at MGM Grand together this past Saturday night as their ‘Wonderful Wonderful’ U.S. tour was coming to an end. The guys knocked it out of the park as usual- even throwing in a really fun cover of “Viva Las Vegas” and mixing up the setlist a bit for the occasion.

I’m still in awe of their stage setup- and having been a few whiskey sours in by the time the show wrapped up- I’m pretty sure I gushed to my friend Steven about how much I loved it in excess. He’s brilliant- and both sober me and inebriated me feels it’s necessary to tell him once in a while!

The boys are back in Boston for our Boston Calling Festival in May- and I can’t wait!

During this most recent stay, I hung my hat at The Cosmopolitan– which offered the best view I’ve ever had of the Vegas strip (my room overlooked the Bellagio fountain!) as well as plenty of unique and incredible dining options. I didn’t have to venture too far to eat well and affordably. Breakfasts were typically at Eggslut, while post-drink carbs could be found- with a little searching- at the secret pizza place hidden within the hotel.

At one point during the weekend, Kelsey and I headed to one of my favorite neon and gaudy restaurants/lounges- Peppermill– where I had the greatest biscuits and gravy I’ve ever tasted and a mimosa that was strong enough to almost take the sting out of the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss later on that night.

I never went hungry- or broke!

Peppermill!

I spent some of my downtime during my stay perusing and people-watching on the Strip- and I gambled a little- although I admittedly didn’t win anything. A lot of the casinos had Chinese New Year themed decorations everywhere- and since the impending holiday marks the Year of The Dog- I was all about the adorable stuffed dogs and statues of canines they had in lobbies and throughout the hallways of places like The Venetian, The Bellagio, and Caesar’s Palace.

I bet the actual celebration in the city is insanely fun. I wish I could have been there for it!

Overall, I had an amazing time- and this trip really gave me something to look forward to when it comes to relocating. It was great catching up with old friends, seeing one of my favorite bands in their element, being able to actually relax and have fun while simultaneously enjoying some decent drinks and delicious food- and being nice and warm throughout the day (and even after the sun had set!)

I’d love to head out to the area again sooner rather than later- even if it’s just to look at some apartments or houses up close!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone. I’ve got to get some work done at my office- and the regular posting schedule will be back up next week!

xx

– Ashley –