Into The Woods…

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone!

I hope you’re all having a wonderful week so far- and are staying strong as we work our way to Friday and another weekend ahead. Just a couple of days left and we’re free!

Tonight after I leave my office, I’ve got to head over to Cambridge where I’m meeting an old friend of mine I haven’t seen since this past Summer and some of his co-workers/business associates for a belated holiday party they had invited me to. The plan is dinner and an escape room experience- which should prove to be interesting. My closest friends and I were at each other’s throats the last time we all got locked in a room together for an hour- so it should be pretty entertaining to see how it goes with a few complete strangers!

This past weekend saw me actually escape the city instead, however- as I headed out to Western Massachusetts (and a bit North into New Hampshire) to jump start my New Year’s fitness regimen and spend a little more time outdoors and in nature- and hiked a good portion of the forest surrounding Mount Grace.

It’s been an odd mix of rain and snow here these past few days- and Saturday was no exception. I ended up bringing an umbrella with me to avoid getting sick because of the low temperatures and on/off sleet. It helped a little, but made some of the navigating and balancing myself as I stepped across wet/icy leaves and steep inclines a little difficult. I admittedly took more than one tumble during my trek- but thankfully no serious damage was done!

Best of all? I captured some really nice photos as the fog rolled in and out. You can click on the photos below to enlarge them!

There’s apparently a guard tower that you can scale to get a better view of the forest and surrounding areas- but I didn’t get an opportunity to locate it. That, and with the sun setting early these days- I also didn’t want to chance getting lost in the woods in the dark!

I’ll definitely have to go back and find it when the weather clears up a bit.

I’m hoping to be outdoors some more this coming Saturday/Sunday, although with everything I have planned- I think most of my time is going to be divided between driving to and from- and being indoors with friends and family as we celebrate belated birthdays and milestones that were overlooked around the holidays.

But I’m off to get some work done before the pandemonium goes down in Cambridge tonight. Here’s wishing you all a great rest of your Wednesday!

I’ll be back on Friday with a peek into my Winter wardrobe- provided I make it out of the escape room, of course!

xx

– Ashley –

My 10 Favorite Photos From 2018

Good Morning and Happy Friday (the last one of 2018), everyone!

Before we break for the weekend and I finish writing my recap of this past year- which will be up on Monday morning- I wanted to take a photographic journey through 2018 and share some of my absolute favorite pictures I’ve snapped over these past twelve months and the stories behind them.

Going through my phone’s camera roll, my tablet’s drive and my Instagram feed over the course of my Christmas break has been a delightful and sometimes nostalgic walk through memory lane. The people I saw! The places I traveled to! The things I got to experience! 2018 was the year I made “getting away” and sightseeing both home and afar a priority- and I was very fortunate to capture many of my journeys in various snapshots.

Of course- and this happens every year I’ve been participating in this fun little tradition across social media and on my blogs, past and present- narrowing down my wide assortment of photos and then putting them in an order I deemed fit or appropriate proved to be a challenge.

But I worked tirelessly- and I think these photos tell a beautiful story about my life this past year- and I hope you all enjoy them as much as I do.

Without further delay, here are my 10 Favorite Photos From 2018!

10. After The Storm (Worcester – October 2018):

During a series of wild weather in the Fall- which included more than one severe thunderstorm, insane hail, and tornado warnings in Central Massachusetts as the weeks wore on- one storm in particular, which hit as the sun was beginning to set on what had been an otherwise uneventful weekday- ended up delivering the most breathtaking visuals.

After being advised to find cover as quarter-sized hail began to fall in Worcester County- the tornado warning was eventually cancelled and I ventured outside to make sure the hail hadn’t damaged my windshield (it thankfully hadn’t!) This semi-intimidating visual of the storm moving away was what I saw, instead.

The dark, ominous clouds against the bright blue sky was one of the coolest- and scariest- things I’d ever seen.

9. Springtime in The City (Boston – April 2018):

Boston is one of those rare and fortunate cities that can look beautiful regardless of the climate or weather. Old cobblestone streets, beautiful brownstones and large, spacious parks filled with pathways and trees are lovely when they’re blanketed in snow, changing foliage or petals during Springtime blooms.

Such was the case this past April when I had ventured to Back Bay to run a couple of errands and happened to have a few moments to admire the trees that line the sidewalks blossoming as the warmer weather stuck around longer and Spring inched it’s way closer to us.

This tree in particular, blooming in front of a chocolate-colored brownstone and spreading pink petals all over the stairs- was my favorite.

8. One-On-One with Obama (Washington D.C. – May 2018):

While recovering from a night-out during a weekend trip to Washington D.C.- I found myself at the National Portrait Gallery while on a quest to find coffee- approximately ten minutes before the gallery opened to visitors for the day. Wanting to see the newly acquired portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama- I opted to put my caffeine fix on hold and check them out…

… And ended up being the first one in the building *and* the first one at Obama’s portrait. There was momentarily no line, and I got to really admire just how cool this painting was/is and how fitting it was for my (still) favorite President.

Side Note: Michelle’s portrait was beautiful, too!

7. The Bridge of Flowers (Shelburne Falls – June 2018);

During one of my Summer weekends out in the Pioneer Valley where I got involved with theater and dance and embraced nature and the laid-back Western Massachusetts way of life- I also made a stop at the famous Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls to soak up the scenery and snap some photos of the hundreds of blooms left undisturbed along the waterside footbridge.

Out of all the pictures I snapped that day- this one was my favorite. Between the flowers, the river, and the old houses and mills along the waterside- there’s a reason I spend so much time out in that area and I think this photo captures it perfectly. It’s a little piece of heaven.

6. Birthday By The Beach (San Diego – January 2018):

This past year I had wanted to spend my birthday someplace warm and sunny since nearly every single one leading up to now had been spent in bitter New England cold, sleet and snow. I wanted to celebrate another year on this Earth on a beach with my feet in the sand and the sun on my face.

I got my wish- and then some- with this beautiful sunset at Ocean Beach in San Diego the night before my birthday while I was out getting tacos and beer with longtime friends that live in the area.

What you can’t see in this photograph are how big the waves were as they crashed against the rocks. It was awe-inspiring and took my breath away,

5. Shadowplay (George’s Island – July 2018):

During a Summer outing on the water and a few miles away from Boston Harbor, my best friend and I made a quick stop at Georges Island where we explored Fort Warren and hoped to have an encounter with the infamous ‘Lady in Black’ ghost while crawling through darkened corridors and long-abandoned living quarters.

While we didn’t find any supernatural entities- we did find an old gunpowder storage room which was nearly pitch black if not for a small bit of sunlight that poured in through the entrance way. My friend snapped this photo of my silhouette while I was dancing around and otherwise making an ass out of myself- and I loved how it came out.

Note to self: spend more time out by the Harbor next Summer.

4. In the Hot, Hot Sun (Nevada – September 2018):

While spending a week divided between Nevada and California back in September- my WCW (West Coast Wife) and dearest friend, Kelsey, and I headed out to the desert to check out the Seven Magic Mountains roadside attraction/art installation miles outside the Las Vegas strip and to roast under the sun for a little while.

Sure, the art installation was pretty neat- and provided some shade at different angles-but the surrounding desert itself wowed me, too. I snapped this photo while disregarding a rattlesnake warning sign since it felt like we were truly in the middle of nowhere- and it was pretty awesome.

3. Takashi Murakami Exhibit (Boston – January 2018):

Trying to escape Boston’s snow, ice and bitter cold earlier this year- I ducked into the Museum of Fine Arts one lazy Saturday to catch a peek of the Takashi Murakami exhibit- among other works. The pieces- bright and fun and more than a little crazy- warmed me right up and were such an experience to look at as I went from room to room in the gallery.

This photo, where I had attempted to capture one of the larger illustrations on display in the gallery- was made even better by the family who ended up crossing and eventually standing in front of me. I thought their silhouettes, dark in contrast to the bright colors in the Murakami piece- ended up creating a very cool photo.

2. High Rolling in Vegas (Las Vegas – February 2018):

During 2018’s Super Bowl (which I don’t want to talk about…)– I was staying in Vegas for a brief vacation to visit friends and check out real estate. Splurging a bit, I booked a room at The Cosmopolitan- and the view from my room was nothing short of incredible. This photo, snapped in the middle of the night- looked like something off of a postcard- and was what I showed everyone and anyone who asked about the highlights from my trip.

The only downside is that after having such an amazing view of the Strip- I don’t think I can stay at any other hotel in Vegas ever again! I mean, how do you top something like this?!

1. Love of My Life (Colby Farm – August 2018):

In August, wanting to spend a perfect and Sunny ‘National Dog Day’ with my beloved Oliver (and my mom, who I also love very much)– the three of us piled into my car and headed to the famed Colby Farm to see their vast and endless fields of sunflowers while they were at peak bloom.

Between the flowers, the huge fields to run around in, and playing with other dogs who were also there that day- Oliver looked positively ecstatic. This was taken while my mom was holding him so I could adjust his leash- and I couldn’t stop laughing over how it looked like he was smiling.

I’ve since printed and framed this picture- both for myself and for my mom- and it is hands down my favorite photo from 2018.

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And that, my dear readers- is my Top Ten Photos of this year. So many fond memories and wonderful moments that I will look back on and cherish forever.

If you’d like to share some of your own favorite photos or memories from 2018- feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line! I’d love to hear about them!

But, for now- I’ve got to get some work done since it’s my last day at the office for the remainder of this year. I’ll be off on Monday and Tuesday- and I’ve got one grand finale of a post to share bright and early first thing on New Year’s Eve!

Enjoy your Friday and your weekend, everyone! Make it count!

xx

– Ashley –

November 2018: In a Nutshell

Good Morning, Happy Friday- and Hello (Almost) December, everyone!

Christmas and New Year’s Eve are practically here- and there’s still so much to be done before we deck the halls and prepare to ring in 2019! Yes, it’s officially the busiest and one of the most beautiful times of year again- and I’m both excited and anxious (mostly excited, though!) It feels like I can’t sit still!

Before I tumble into December with my Christmas decorations, various gingerbread recipes and gift shopping lists in tow- I wanted to take a look back on November and all the late-Autumn fun that came with it. In a year filled with months that seemed to come and go in the blink of an eye- November actually felt much longer than usual- which had it’s ups and downs, of course.

November started off with a celebratory bang- with one of my dearest long-time friends getting married in a beautiful ceremony (with an equally gorgeous reception) a few days after the month had kicked off. This was followed-up by a different kind of celebration as one of my other friends celebrated their 35th birthday and then yet another friend announced her engagement! It was a solid 72 hours filled with laughter, ecstatic squealing- and cake…

… So much cake, you guys.

With Daylight Savings Time and the first significant snowfall of the season taking place this month and pretty much sending the message that Winter was well on it’s way- November became less about pumpkin spice and crunchy leaves and more about hot chocolate and bundling up. By the end of last week- temperatures had dropped significantly enough to where I needed a hat, a scarf, and an ice scraper for my windshield.

Only in New England, I suppose- but I love living here- and have to take the bad with the good.

Of course, as November began to wind down- it was all about the food. Multiple Friendsgivings and the actual Thanksgiving meal itself left me stuffed and overly lazy these past few days- but the quality time spent with family and friends was worth having to practically crawl to my couch by the time dessert was done.

Admittedly, November had it’s not-so-great parts, too. With the holiday(s) came stress, and with the decreased sunlight came that first wave of Vitamin D deficiency (and seasonal depression.) Late last week and then earlier this week I had a bit of a falling out with a guy friend of mine I’d been spending a lot of time with for most of the year and leading up to now. He’s overwhelmed. I’m overworked and exhausted- and now our future heading into December is a bit uncertain.

It’s not a great feeling, especially with things like Christmas approaching- but I’m trying to stay busy and optimistic. Whatever is meant to happen will happen on it’s own and in due time. The silver lining is that the experience gave me some much-needed perspective and now, as I prepare to draft my resolutions for the New Year- I’ll have some tangible goals to put into motion.

All that being said, what do I have planned for December? A *ton* of holiday stuff, obviously! That includes recipes, festive OOTDs, plenty of parties, travel to some of New England’s most beautiful and picturesque Christmas-y locations and attractions- a few retrospectives and recaps on the more memorable moments of 2018- and a lot of shopping and preparations!

I’m determined to make December one of the most fun months ever- and to see 2018 off properly! And I’ll be blogging as I do it, of course.

But for now- it’s time to get to work before I head off for the weekend!

Enjoy your Friday and the coming days ahead, everyone! See you all again on Monday!

xx

– Ashley –

Hello, Pumpkin…

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone!

It’s a short work week for me, which is nice- since I’ve got a busy weekend ahead to prepare for (including my hometown’s annual horror convention, my friend’s bachelorette party- and decorating for Halloween!) But the extra day off this past Monday has also given me the opportunity to spend more time outdoors in this lovely and brisk New England Fall weather.

This past three-day weekend was filled with scenic drives, stops at local farms and pumpkin patches, walks through the woods (some of which required umbrellas for unexpected rain!) and plenty of photo ops along the way. The foliage may not have quite reached maximum Autumnal potential just yet- but it’s quickly getting there as the days go on! I’m sure I’ll have the obligatory “rolling in the leaves” pics up on my social media soon enough (I’m not sorry, by the way. I love those!)

What made these past couple of days so special, of course- was that they were spent in the company of my family. I work a lot, and my ten year old niece is in school- so being able to take an afternoon together to sip coffee (and cocoa) and help her find the perfect pumpkin for her front porch, pet goats at the farmer’s market, and grab lunch with her and my mom was the ideal way to spend an October afternoon. Best of all? Oliver came too- and he was the most curious, cuddly, well-behaved pup imaginable!

Below are some of my favorite photos I snapped along the way. Feel free to click to enlarge them!

The rest of this week, leading up to Friday night, at least- will be mostly spent indoors between my office and home (or at the movie theater, since I’m seeing ‘Venom’ with friends from work tonight!) but it’s going to be so nice to be back outdoors in just a few short days! Bring on the rain and the chilly air. I’m here for it and I’ve got my boots ready to wear for the occasion!

But I’ve got to get some work done today before I get head out on the town to stuff my face with popcorn and watch Tom Hardy in IMAX. It’s the only way to watch Tom Hardy, really.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Wednesday and an easy, stress-free transition from your work week into Friday. I’ll have a recipe waiting for you when you get there!

xx

– Ashley –

Notes From the West Coast…

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone!

So admittedly,  I am no longer on the West Coast. After quite a few flight delays and cancellations- I found myself back in Boston early yesterday morning at approximately 2 a.m.- just a few hours shy of when I was supposed to be heading back to work!

Naturally, I called out- something I rarely do- and took an opportunity to sleep late, get myself adjusted to the Time Zone change, unpack my suitcase and do laundry, etc. And now I’m back in my office- bright and early as per usual- and getting ready to catch up on over a week’s worth of e-mails, voicemails, cases, etc.

How soon is “too soon” to take another vacation?

Anyway, prior to my airport debacle when I was trying to get home on Monday- I had been in San Diego since Thursday afternoon after Kelsey and I packed up our things (and her baby!) and started the 4+ hour drive through the desert- which was really awesome, by the way. If you’re into abandoned places as much as I am- then all the long-since-shuttered gas stations, diners, roadside shacks and houses is pretty incredible. I’d love to make that trip again- but definitely stop at quite a few of those places on the way!

Once in San Diego, Kelsey and the baby stayed with her mother and grandmother while I took up residence at a cute little AirBnB in Golden Hill at a friend’s recommendation after he’d located the listing and sent it my way so I’d be within walking distance of both his home and his job.

Unfortunately, this longtime friend then proceeded to ghost me for most of my stay due to his not being particularly forthcoming about some things going on in his life- which put a damper on my trip and a considerable strain on our friendship- which I’m presently re-considering and reflecting on. Without getting too detailed and “snarky” about it- if you’re going to invite a friend from just under 3,000 miles away to visit- maybe try to *not* to be a dick when they get there. It’s just good manners.

I digress. Kelsey swooped in to make sure I had at least SOME fun in SoCal- and other friends in the area were so kind and eager to grab a drink, catch up, and hang out. So it wasn’t a total loss- but between the frustration and seeing the traffic leaving the city firsthand as we were first arriving on Thursday- Kelsey and I opted to cut our stay a little short and return to Vegas on Sunday night as opposed to unreasonably early on Monday morning. We made excellent time- and it was ultimately the best decision.

I had been told early Monday morning that there were issues with my flights, and as the delays gradually increased from one hour, to two, to three- and then to four- I spent the final hours on the strip and thrifting in Downtown Vegas before it was time to head to the airport and begin the grueling, uncomfortable process of TSA pat-downs and layovers.

But here I am- relatively unscathed and only a little tired- although I’m sure by the end of today I’ll want to curl up and nap for another day and a half.

Overall, I had a really laid-back, relaxing and fun trip- filled with good friends, good food, and no sunburns. My determination in moving to the Las Vegas area has only increased given how hot, dry, and beautiful the climate and scenery is- and how it’s been pouring out and freezing here in Massachusetts since I got home. The decision to leave seems pretty obvious at this point!

I’ve got some posts planned to wrap up the month of September later on this week before we launch into October and I reach maximum spooky power- but I’ve got to get some work done here, first!

Enjoy your Wednesday, everyone! Let’s get through this week together!

xx

– Ashley –