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.


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!


– Ashley –

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!


– 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!


– 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!


– Ashley –

Viva Las Vegas

Taken earlier this Summer.

On Monday morning, I was planning on sharing some beautiful photographs I had taken over the weekend during a long hike through the forest and a visit to a local pumpkin patch and farmer’s market. Instead, I was woken up by a series of texts and calls from friends in Las Vegas who were making the rounds to let as many people as they could know that they were okay and not to panic. It was pretty early in the morning- earlier than I usually wake up during the week- and I wasn’t sure what was happening until I checked social media on my phone and my heart sank at the news.

59 lives lost and over 500 people injured in what is now, to date, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The people I know who live and/or work in the area are all thankfully safe, sound, and unharmed- but it has shaken me to my core that 59 families cannot experience that relief and that hundreds and hundreds of people will never quite be the same again.

I love Las Vegas. Not only because of the people I know there but because it is just a stifling hot, glitzy, kinda’ crazy, non-stop circus and it’s perfect in every way because if you need a break from it all- you can head out to the desert and enjoy the calm- and everything will still be waiting for you when you head back to the strip- just as bright and as busy as ever. The only other place I can think of that is like that is NYC- but at least Vegas doesn’t get snow.

Vegas is where I plan to relocate. It holds a special place in my heart.

I digress. I try not to get too political on Blondie Birdie- since I’ve stated in the past that this is my escape from the harsh realities of the world and I want to keep it as lighthearted as possible- but enough is enough. How many more people have to die? How many more families have to be ripped apart and how many more friendships have to be altered forever because we, as a Nation, cannot get it together when it comes to proper gun control?

I am by no means saying that I want SWAT teams going door to door and seizing everyone’s guns- and I get that’s a popular misconception when talking about enforcing stricter gun control laws and regulations- but there is absolutely no legitimate reason why people should have access to military style, semi-automatic weapons and to be able to stock pile ammunition. I don’t understand how people fail to comprehend how utterly insane that is. You don’t need an AK-47 to go hunting and you certainly don’t need to fire 100 bullets in under 30 seconds to protect your home or your family. Those weapons are designed for one thing and one thing only- killing as many targets as possible in the shortest amount of time. They serve NO other purpose apart from that.

The Second Amendment was written when muskets were still a thing. Muskets. The gun that takes practically 45 minutes to load and another several to fire properly- and it was first enforced during a time in our history when having the hiccups could kill you. Isn’t it time we update those things- even if it’s just a little bit- to fit in with our current day and age?

The most common argument (that I’ve seen, anyway) to that suggestion is “well, people will just get them illegally anyway-” and sure- that’s very much a possibility- but that’s like saying “well, there’s a million other ways I could get cancer so I’m just going to keep smoking.” Wouldn’t you want to at least TRY to lessen your chances of death and destruction by restricting access to a thing that could potentially kill you? Wouldn’t you want that for your loved ones?

Like universal healthcare, so many other countries have figured out gun control and have not suffered loss, after loss, after loss, after loss, etc. the way that we have here in the United States. Isn’t it time we join the rest of the world’s example and become a country that takes the necessary actions to protect it’s citizens from harm? Can’t we all tell our leaders that we want to be able to go to school, or work, or church, or a movie theater, or a concert- and NOT risk our lives every time we do?

Sandy Hook should have been the wake up call. Small children being slaughtered in their classrooms should have been the final straw. Why is this still happening?

I’m just tired. I’m tired of awful things happening to innocent people and nobody doing a damned thing about it. I’m tired of “thoughts and prayers” when they have solved nothing in the aftermath of each of these tragedies. I’m tired of watching coverage of people describing their lost loved ones as they fight back tears.

I guess that most of all- I’m tired that this will be the worst mass shooting in U.S. history until the next one, and then the next one, and then the next one- because we are failing to act, and ultimately- we are failing each other.

I’m sorry for this. I’m sorry I had to write this. I hope I’ll never have to write anything like it ever again. I hope that things can finally change in America- because I want to live a nice, long life and be happy- and I want all of you to live nice, long lives and be happy, too.

Hug your loved ones. Be good to each other- and stay safe. I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled blog posts shortly.


– Ashley –