New Year, New York…

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

What an absolutely fun, exciting and beautiful past few days I’ve had! Even coming back to my office on Wednesday morning to return to my usual weekday grind has been enjoyable- thanks in part to a new scheduling system I’ve been utilizing to better manage my time/tasks. I have to say that starting my 2019 *not* being inundated with cases and loose ends is a nice change of pace.

Of course, I have to talk about my New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day- which was spent between New York City, Western Massachusetts and finally- home sweet home.

I had wanted a cozy, laid-back New Year’s Eve- particularly since the past few celebrations over recent years have involved expensive, extravagant parties, bar-hopping, and/or spending entirely too much time in bitterly frigid New England cold. To see out 2018 and welcome in 2019- I just wanted to be warm, comfortable, have some decent food and a drink- and be somewhere a little different than Massachusetts so I could have a new experience to start the New Year off on the right foot.

And so, I turned to NYC- and entrusted my evening to the fine folks at the Hotel Indigo on the Lower East Side. I’m a frequent guest at their San Diego/Gaslamp Quarter location whenever I travel to the West Coast- so their incredible service, a spacious room with a view, and kick-ass amenities were not surprising. What was surprising was their lobby (with a wrap-around panoramic view of the city via floor to ceiling windows) being located on the 14th floor as opposed to on the ground level. I was a big fan of that twist.

I settled right in, ordered a fantastic cheeseburger from their Mr. Purple restaurant (and some cheesecake! I had to go big and gluttonous for the last night of the year!), grabbed a drink at a dive bar down the street while dodging the rain as much as possible- and then retreated to my room where I texted/video chatted with friends back home and abroad while we waited for the countdown to midnight via various news outlets. I opted to watch Anderson Cooper take shots of tequila and look like he was ready to throw up- and it was worth every minute. Truly.

After midnight, it didn’t take long for my body to give into the cheeseburger, champagne, and a day of train travel to arrive in New York- and I managed to successfully get a full night of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. I awoke on New Year’s Day feeling refreshed, energized- and pleasantly optimistic! Even better? Monday night’s rainstorms and freezing cold had disappeared- and Tuesday saw plenty of sun and temperatures that reached the high fifties/low sixties for most of the day!

To kick off 2019, I wanted to honor a family tradition *and* do something different and daring. When I was a kid, my mother thought lighting a candle and saying a prayer to whatever higher power we believed in to wish our loved ones a blessed new year and express hope for our own happiness/prosperity for the months ahead. After grabbing breakfast- I had navigated my way to Rockefeller Center- and popped by St. Patrick’s Cathedral across the street to honor my mom’s tradition (I called her to let her know afterwards- and she was delighted!) and take in the beautiful architecture.

The city was still very much decked out for Christmas during my brief stay- and it was such a thrill to have a chance to catch a glimpse of some of the over-the-top decor before it gets taken down again. Below are a couple of photos I snapped with my phone. You can click them to enlarge ’em and see!

And, for my “different and daring” to-do for the day- I opted to face my fear of heights and ride an elevator 70 stories up Rockefeller Center to take in the views of New York from atop of the world at the ‘Top of The Rock’ Observation Deck. While the wind made things a little intimidating at first and it took a few minutes for my heart to stop racing- it was such an exhilarating and memorable experience.

The sun made catching photos of the Empire State Building (and snapping the perfect selfie) a little difficult- but I managed to get a few pics I was content with- and would definitely go back and do it again if given the opportunity.

After coming back down to Earth- and knowing I had plans with my friend Troy later on in the evening out in Northampton, Massachusetts- I managed to catch an early afternoon train home before the crowds and traffic got too bad with everyone trying to get out of the city all at once.

Once I was back in my home state a couple of hours later, I closed out New Year’s Day with a cozy night in watching movies and snacking on whatever was in Troy’s kitchen before I headed back to my own place to get another good night’s sleep and prepare for my return to work on Wednesday morning.

And now, only a couple of days later during this short work-week- and I’m ready for the weekend! I have a few things planned- including some local travel/hiking and a recipe post to put together for next week- but before I start all of that- I’m heading over to Allston today to catch a set by The Sheila Divine at Great Scott for Indie617!

If you’re in the area, come say hello! It’s going to be a lot of fun and a great way to kick off live music in Boston for 2019.

I’m off to get some work done before I take off for the rest of the day. I’ll be back on Monday, when my posting schedule returns to normal now that the holidays are done!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

2018: In a Nutshell

Good Morning, Happy Monday- and Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone!

I’m completely stunned that we’ve reached this point again- the day/night when we bid adieu to another year in the books and prepare to welcome in a brand new year (with champagne and confetti, I’m sure!) filled with endless possibilities, new hopes, dreams and goals- maybe a little anxiety at the idea of any uncertainties that lay ahead, too- but hopefully a whole lot of optimism!

That’s right, my dear friends and readers- 2018 is just hours away from being over, and 2019 is ready to glide into our lives and sweep us off our feet! Can you believe it? Time flies by so quickly.

I’ve always enjoyed New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day- not only because I’m fortunate enough to spend it in typically beautiful, picturesque or just plain wild locations, either surrounded by friends or- sometimes- on my own with some much-needed peace and quiet- but also because I like the idea of a clean slate. How, after just a brief countdown to midnight- you can begin to forge a pathway to a future you want and take those first steps to reaching goals for the coming weeks/months ahead.

New Year’s Eve is a celebration of who you were during the previous twelve months leading up to now- while New Year’s Day feels like a whole new beginning and a chance to become the person you want to be. It’s refreshing, isn’t it?

I fully intend to share my plans for the evening and my deeply reflected-upon resolutions for 2019 momentarily- but I absolutely have to look back on and pay my respects to 2018, first. It was a bizarre year- filled with plenty of ups and downs and some memorable headlines, pop culture events and good ol’ memes (which I’ll also get to shortly.)

Now in my early thirties, 2018 was the year I became *painfully* aware of myself as a person- my strengths and weaknesses. My good qualities and my flaws. My past mistakes- some repeated without my even realizing it until recently- and the type of woman I want to be and what I want for myself while moving forward in this more “grown up”, somewhat more stable (but still semi-unpredictable at times), very fun and sometimes treacherous decade I’m clumsily working my way through with the best of my ability.

Professionally, I took on more responsibilities at my full-time job and rose to the challenges that came with those responsibilities- as exhausting as it could be sometimes. I put in plenty of time and effort over the year- and my dedication and careful eye to details were rewarded sporadically and, at times- when I most needed the pick-me-up to stay motivated. My work ethic and positive, professional attitude didn’t just stay within my office, however- but also trickled into my blogging side hustle as I partnered with different brands and fellow bloggers for promotions and products- and even landed me a soon-to-be-part-time-gig at my favorite local independent radio station in Boston. I’m going to have more info on that moving forward!

My personal life and love life, however- took a bit of a hit in 2018 and I suffered emotional and psychological setbacks that really put a lot of things into perspective for me. One of those things, specifically- is that I need to stop being *so* forgiving to people (particularly men) who do me wrong or hurt me. Almost everyone deserves a second chance- depending on the infraction, of course- but I found myself giving second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth chances to some fair-weather friends or men I’d dated for repeated terrible behavior because they had either manipulated/twisted the situation and me into thinking everything was my fault, I didn’t want to come across as a heartless or callous monster- or because I was too afraid of being alone to put my foot down and demand respect and to be treated better.

As someone who preaches self-love, not taking bullshit from anyone and never being afraid of your own independence to everyone and anyone- catching myself being reduced into a quiet, demure, overly apologetic and timid little doormat over the course of the Summer and Fall of 2018 was horrifying and, frankly- disgusting. I am not that woman. I never want to be that woman again.

It wasn’t until these recent holidays where I mustered up the courage to not only tell myself but actually *believe* that I deserved the world and I wasn’t going to stop or back down until I got it- and to hell with anyone who disagreed or tried to tell me otherwise. It’s a frame of mind, an attitude and a mood I intend to carry with me into 2019.

Apart from dating/self-esteem setbacks- 2018 was filled with travel and time spent with good friends and family. I spent my birthday in San Diego, the Super Bowl in Vegas, multiple Spring weekends away in NYC, Memorial Day in Washington D.C.- and an extended vacation driving through the desert during the Summer.

I survived a tornado (and a car accident), caught plenty of incredible shows/festivals (and a couple of weddings!)– and explored parts of New England I didn’t even know existed. I also continued to change my hair color, experiment in the kitchen, watched loads of bad movies (and loved them, of course!) and even found time to read a couple of great books, too!

And for all those reasons- good and bad- that’s why 2018 was a year of personal growth and reflection- while simultaneously having a lot of impulsive, lovely and very fun moments to keep me on my toes and balance out the serious stuff with joy and happiness, as well. I’m humbled and grateful for this past year. Truly.

But, before I get into my list of resolutions and a final farewell prior to taking off for the evening and returning a little later on this week to recap my New Year’s Eve/Day- it’s time to look back on some of the absolutely insane, awe-inspiring headlines, pop culture sensations and social media/internet memes that took the world by storm this year.

Ladies and Gentlemen- This is 2018: In a Nutshell.

(Image via ABC)

Robert Mueller handed out indictments like Oprah used to hand out cars: As we drearily move forward through Trump’s tenure as President, heads typically in our hands on a daily basis in disbelief at his stupidity, recklessness, hypocrisy, narcissism or compulsive lying (I could go on, really…), Special Counsel Robert Mueller had himself quite a year as he continued his investigation into the Trump Administration and the Russian government’s interference with our 2016 Presidential election.

Late 2017 and throughout 2018 saw indictments being passed around left and right to former campaign heads and aides to Trump, including former campaign chair Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and so on. As the year progressed, some were sentenced to prison while others have struck plea deals.

Court documents released earlier this month from both Mueller’s office and prosecutors for the Southern District of New York have now implicated Trump in at least one federal crime- and as the world waits to see what will happen next- it’s no surprise that many of us are hoping Mueller will wrap things up in this coming year and finally put an end to this nightmare of ignorance and corruption running (and ruining) our country.

(Image via The Today Show)

The Stoneman Douglas High School students showed us that you can do more than offer “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of gun violence: Following a Valentine’s Day shooting at their high school in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead and many more injured- the survivors at Stoneman Douglas High School turned into some of the most efficient and eloquent gun control activists many had ever seen.

Tired of simply being swept away as another senseless statistic after the initial influx of “thoughts and prayers” ran their usual course until the next mass shooting took place- and not wanting their concerns to be dismissed simply because the topic was uncomfortable or inconvenient for officials to tackle head-on- many students rallied, petitioned, utilized social media and eventually took on politicians and the NRA in televised debates that showed the world they knew what they were talking about and weren’t going to be bullied or bought into silence.

The march, it’s purpose being to raise awareness and push for common sense gun laws and a change in political climate- took place globally on March 24th and included speeches from survivors of gun violence and celebrities who stood in solidarity. While some policies have changed as a result- there’s still a lot to be done- but the march got people to pay attention for what felt like the first time in a very, very long time.

(Image via CBS)

Thousands of children were separated from their families, and all eyes were on the U.S.-Mexico border: Under Trump’s “Zero-Tolerance” immigration policy, which looks to criminally prosecute any person(s) attempting to enter the country illegally- it came to light in the late Spring/early Summer that thousands of children, many whose first language is not English- had been separated from their parents by Border Patrol over the course of a six-week span and were residing in detention centers- or, in some cases- “tent cities.”

Outrage was amplified when reports of neglect/child abuse in the detention centers began to surface- and a call for reunification and an outpouring of support/donations to assist families seeking asylum (which is *not* illegal) followed shortly thereafter.

While some children have been fortunate enough to be reunited with their families- many are still in need of help. Back in June I shared some links to organizations that have been working round-the-clock to assist these children and their parents with the immigration process- and there’s still time to donate time/money!

(Image via CBS)

This man-child loves beer- and throwing temper tantrums: When Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated by Trump for the Supreme Court in July- accusations of sexual misconduct and sexual assault were not far behind. At the center of the scandal was Christine Blasey Ford, a Professor at Palo Alto University who alleged that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a house party in the early 1980s with writer Mark Judge present.

Following an initial investigation which included the review of therapist notes where Ford had discussed the assault as early as 2012, her passing a polygraph test and the emergence of two other victims who shared their own experiences with Kavanaugh throughout high school and college- both he and Ford testified in front of the The Senate Judiciary Committee in September in order to determine if he was fit for the lifetime position he had been nominated for.

Ford- calm and collected during her televised testimony- answered questions and faced interruptions and outright misogynistic commentary from fossilized white men with grace. Kavanaugh, on the other hand- had a meltdown- going off the rails about his love of beer and getting confrontational with questioning. Despite all this, Kavanaugh’s nomination was confirmed by a vote of 50–48 in early October and Ford was continually harassed, threatened, and insulted by Trump & Associates, conservative news pundits- and MAGA-bots on social media.

And for survivors of sexual assault (myself included)– nothing made us realize the #MeToo movement still has more work to do than watching this unfold.

(Image via VOX)

The ‘War on Journalists’ was a very real, very violent one: On October 2nd, Saudi Arabian journalist and author Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his marriage- and never came out. Khashoggi, who had been highly critical of the crowned King and Prince of Saudi Arabia and was subsequently censored as a result- had been living in a self-imposed exile before reporting to the consulate.

When reports began to emerge that Khashoggi had been killed and dismembered within the building- the Saudi Arabian government did their best to shift the blame and deny the allegations being made. Following a CIA investigation, it was reported that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the killing- presumably due to Khashoggi’s vocal opposition to both the Prince and the King, Salman of Saudi Arabia.

In the aftermath, Trump- notorious for his hatred of the press and journalists- refused to condemn the assassination, resulting in even more backlash against him. Time Magazine, on the other hand- opting to defend a free press- made Khashoggi and other journalists who faced recent violence or imprisonment for their reporting their 2018 ‘Person of the Year’.

(Images via MSNBC and ABC)

Mother Nature made sure to cover all the bases- including a 4-month long volcanic eruption: No year passes without at least a few natural disasters or weather phenomenons- and 2018 was no exception to that rule. Apart from the aforementioned tornado that struck my hometown over the Summer (while I was visiting, mind you. THAT was fun)– this past year saw powerful earthquakes in Alaska, intense and deadly wildfires in Southern California, and a four-month long volcanic eruption in Hawaii that injured dozens and caused over $800 million in damage.

Most recently, the eruption of Mount Anak Krakatau last weekend triggered a nighttime tsunami that caught Indonesia off guard. Hundreds have been killed, many are injured, and search/recovery and cleanup efforts are still underway. CNN compiled a list of non-profit organizations that are assisting the affected areas- and you can review their efforts and make contributions/donations by CLICKING HERE.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed and wishing us all a tamer, safer 2019 when it comes to the weather and climate change.

(Image via Vanity Fair)

It wasn’t all bad news this year. We got another Royal Wedding!: I love a good fairy tale love story as much as the next person- especially when at least one (if not both) of the people are real and relatable. Such was the case when everyone’s favorite ginger Prince married down-to-Earth American actress Meghan Markle in a lovely (and televised) ceremony in the Spring.

Meghan- stylish, beautiful, charitable and outspoken- particularly when it comes to gender equality- was a breath of fresh air from the usual Royal Family headlines (i.e.- Kate Middleton is expecting quintuplets and Princess Diana has been spotted alive and well n Barbados, apparently.)

Although the tabloids were pretty much ready to pounce on her from the get-go- and more than one bitter old racist attempted to take shots at Meghan’s multi-race heritage and a prior divorce- the Duchess of Sussex continued to look flawless and happy throughout the remainder of 2018- and announced her pregnancy this past Fall. The baby (seventh in line to the throne) is due in the Spring of 2019.

(Image via ABC)

And some people were held accountable for terrible and predatory behavior: 2018 was the year that rapists, racists/bigots and brainless internet celebrities finally saw some comeuppance for problematic and downright vile behavior- some of it long overdue after years of abusing their power and celebrity status.

One of the biggest stories was Bill Cosby, after years of evading justice for drugging and sexually assaulting multiple women over the span of his career- was found guilty of three counts of aggravated and indecent assault in April, stemming from a 2004 incident that was still within the statute of limitations. He was sentenced to three to ten years in state prison this past September.

In May, comedian Roseanne Barr, no stranger to controversy and poor taste- tweeted a racist remark to Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to former President Barack Obama- a comment she later blamed on using/abusing Ambien. A vocal Trump supporter, many of the President’s die hard followers came to her defense (many of them the same people who called for the public execution of Kathy Griffin after her equally awful “beheading” video, by the way)– but their efforts were of no use. Barr was kicked off of her own ‘Roseanne’ reboot, later re-named ‘The Conners’- and publicly shunned.

While technology, social media and the internet have opened doors and changed the way in which we consume and deliver content forever- some of the unfortunate risks that come with the ease and speed of communication is that really awful, insufferable people can develop a following and go on to do some really stupid things. Such was the case with “YouTube/Vlogging” star Logan Paul (I’ll let you take a minute to look him up and cringe accordingly)– who faced backlash after a video uploaded on New Year’s Day depicted himself and friends coming across a dead body in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest.

Paul’s amused reaction to the scene resulted in advertisers cutting ties and his projects being put on hold. It also sparked a conversation about the type of content and role models younger teens/children were consuming and looking up to.

“Be Better 2019” is a motto I’m hoping more people embrace this coming year.

(Image via ABC)

We also witnessed a miracle in Thailand: While exploring a cave with their coach during a post-practice outing and birthday celebration for one of their team members in June of 2018, twelve youth soccer players from the local ‘Wild Boars’ team in Thailand found themselves trapped within the labyrinth-like caverns after heavy rainfall caused substantial flooding in the area and rising waters blocked their way out.

After a comprehensive search and rescue mission was developed, a team of skilled divers went into the waters in July to extract the boys (and their coach) one by one- each mission lasting approximately three hours as the children were fitted with wetsuits, oxygen masks and sedated to prevent panic- and maneuvered through narrow corridors with low visibility from checkpoint to checkpoint until they reached the exit to the cave and were transported to local hospitals for evaluations and recovery. The extraction of the team took approximately two days total.

Leading up to the execution of the rescue mission, a 37 year old rescue diver died after losing consciousness underwater while delivering oxygen tanks to one of the proposed checkpoints in preparation for the boys’ extraction.

On the brighter side- all of the children and their coach ended up being just fine. They have since gone on to make appearances on Ellen and were invited to the opening ceremony of the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires- and there’s rumors of a possible movie deal is in the works.

(Images compiled via multiple news sources.)

Unfortunately, we did lose our fair share of beloved and influential familiar faces this year: Just like wild and unpredictable weather- no year passes without the loss of cherished actors/actresses, musicians, public figures and influential icons- and in 2018 we said goodbye to some of the best.

Some deaths, like Stan Lee, Aretha Franklin and Stephen Hawking- came from natural causes or succumbing to longtime illnesses- while others, including a string of suicides by Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and Frightened Rabbits’ singer Scott Hutchison- shocked and devastated the world and brought discussions of better mental health awareness and support systems to the forefront.

May their work and their legacies carry on into 2019 and beyond.

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Of course, there’s so much more that happened this year- but those were the headlines and the highlights from 2018 that really stuck out to me and made a lasting impression when I first began putting this post together a few weeks ago!

But for some of the pop culture phenomenons, memes, and funnier moments from this past year that still make me grin- I created another HONORABLE MENTIONS section- much like I did in 2017!

– Wakanda Forever: Following the February release of Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’- the movie quickly became one of the most successful and acclaimed comic-book movies to date- and the ninth highest-grossing movie of all time. While there were plenty of memes to follow, the film’s “Wakanda Forever” quote and salute were inescapable- with everyone from athletes, schoolchildren and news pundits jumping on board. At one point, Michael B. Jordan- who plays Killmonger in the film- urged people to stop asking his co-star Chadwick Boseman to do the salute.  That’s how popular it was.

– Gritty was the hero we needed and deserved: When the Philadelphia Flyers revealed their new mascot- Gritty- in September 2018, it was met with mixed reactions. The tall, furry orange… thing- which looks like a googly eyed muppet- was initially mocked until crowds began to warm up to his appearances at games, antics at events, and how savvy his official social media account was being run. It didn’t take long for Gritty to become an unexpected socialist and antifa icon- with his likeness appearing on multiple signs/banners at protests against racism and bigotry around Philadelphia. More Gritty 2019, please!

– We were briefly entranced by a boy yodeling in Walmart: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” Andy Warhol once said- and I think 2018 showed how true a statement that was when Mason Ramsey, a young boy from Illinois- was filmed yodeling Hank Williams Sr.’s “Lovesick Blues” while donning a bow tie and boots in the middle of a Walmart. Once the video went viral- Mason was everywhere- from Ellen to Coachella. He recently released a Christmas music video, and was on tour (yes, really…)

– Toys-R-Us joined Blockbuster Video as a relic of the past: Although Toys-R-Us announced their intentions to close all of their retail stores back in March of this year after filing for bankruptcy in 2017- it wasn’t until the actual completion of the process and the closing of the final store on August 5th where the nostalgia really hit home for many people (myself included) who remembered buying our toys there in a pre-Amazon era. As more and more chain and/or department stores start to become outdated with the convenience of online shopping- I’m left wondering who will be next on the chopping block.

– ‘Queer Eye’ is back and better than ever: I was late to the ‘Queer Eye’ revival party since I’m currently binge-watching so many shows and trying to catch up on multiple seasons when I’m able- but I’m so glad I finally got around to watching ‘Queer Eye’ because the new cast and the heartwarming tone of the show is seriously a much-needed break from the insanity going on in the world these days. I’m already doing the “grabby hands” motion while I wait for new episodes in the coming new year. Yassss!

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And there you have it, everyone! 2018 in a nutshell!

Now, to say a fond farewell to this past year and welcome 2019 in style- I’ll be heading to NYC a little later on this afternoon. No, I’m not going to be freezing in Times Square with thousands of other people, thank you very much- but I *am* going to be watching the ball drop from my TV in a penthouse suite I booked in the Lower East Side that boasts an incredible view of the New York City skyline!

It’s going to be thermal pajamas, room service, and champagne being sipped in a California King bed for me tonight- and then tomorrow, before I head back to frigid Massachusetts once again- I’m going to be doing a bit of sight-seeing and shopping around the city.

Treat Yo’Self 2018 might trickle into 2019, I think.

Of course, I have resolutions- since I actually like to set both short and long-term goals for myself and enjoy the process of working towards them, tracking my progress, and seeing my results- but while my resolutions for 2018 were mostly about getting organized and budgeting/improving my financial planning a bit more (both of which I accomplished!)– 2019 is all about self-care.

Here’s what I got:

Get Healthier/Get Into Better Shape – Let’s just get this resolution we’ve all got in our minds and on our lists out of the way first since it’s pretty much mandatory at this point. The holidays are, as always- brutal- when it comes to sticking to diets and fitness regimens. After Thanksgiving, I pretty much said “screw it” and started eating whatever I wanted, sleeping all sorts of odd hours, and tried to convince myself that getting up to get the remote control counted as a form of cardio.

In 2019, it’s back to the grind- eating better, actually exercising the correct way(s), sleeping like a normal adult, drinking more water- and even taking multivitamins regularly. I’ve downloaded helpful apps to keep me on track, have nutritional (and delicious) recipes on deck to hold my interests- and have enlisted friends and family who also want to get into better shape as motivational partners during our respective journeys.

I’m really excited to see how different I feel (and look) by the end of next year compared to now!

Stop Putting Up With Bullshit – And Command Respect: I had mentioned earlier that by the end of 2018, I noticed I was being overtly forgiving to fair-weather friends and men I dated who were routinely flaky or downright awful towards me and disrespectful to whatever relationship/bond we had. Whether it was lowered self-esteem, my just trying to be polite and show kindness/understanding, or fear of coming across as heartless for simply “cutting people out”- all that changes in 2019.

I’ve already started the phase of distancing myself from people who have been detrimental to me, my mental health, and my growth as a person- and so far it’s been pretty great and really refreshing not to have negativity clouding my life or to feel as though I’m giving everything I have, stretching myself too thin- and not getting any sort of emotional support or respect in return.

2019 is the year I finally start loving/respecting myself again- and not wasting time on people who can’t appreciate me or the good I bring into this world.

Hit Up Some of The Places on My Bucket List: Nashville, New Orleans, Joshua Tree- all places I’ve longed to visit and explore- but up until now have never really had the opportunity to do so. While I still budget responsibly and make sure all my bills are paid on time- it’d be nice to scratch some of these locations off of my bucket list in 2019.

Even if it’s not all of them- one or two would be great! And now, with my recent accumulation of travel points from past vacations/excursions- getting to/from these places is looking like it might be a lot easier than before- and much less expensive, too!

The question is- where do I go first?

Get Back Into the Arts: You all probably know I love taking pictures and photography in general- but did you know I also love to paint? And dance? And design? All passions of mine that unfortunately fell to the wayside as I started to focus more on my legal career over the past few years- but with my recent work with the radio and with the theater in Pioneer Valley- I think 2019 will be the year there is a resurgence of my creativity and more opportunities to do the things I love and am passionate about while simultaneously helping others.

I’m so very, very excited to get started with everything! It’s been so long and I have so many ideas swirling around in my head!

And with all that being said- I think that does it for me! I’ve got to pack a bag and get ready to catch my train to New York. I’ll be taking the next few days off before I’m back on Friday morning with a full re-cap of my NYC/NYE adventure- but you can also follow along over at MY INSTAGRAM.

Before I get going, I just wanted to thank you- all of you- who have been reading/subscribing to Blondie Birdie this past year. I try my best to put out content that showcases or highlights my interests/talents and that will entertain or inspire like-minded individuals. It’s been an absolute pleasure reading your e-mails, comments, social media posts, etc. and I’m thankful that this little hobby of mine has connected me with people from all over.

I look forward to posting more in 2019 and I hope that you’ll all continue reading and corresponding with me along the way as we traverse the coming months ahead!

Here’s wishing you all a fun, safe and wonderful New Year! See you all in 2019!

xx

– Ashley –

Wedding Cake, Haunted Mansions and Post-Election Naps…

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone!

Listen, I am admittedly pretty tired after watching election coverage last night from the edge of my seat- and being at work (even just for a half day) is not something I’m particularly up for physically, mentally or emotionally right now- but I’m an adult and there’s a lot to do at my office this morning.

I’m just *really* looking forward to catching a nap at home later on this afternoon before I head out for the evening.

I had taken yesterday off from work- just because- and although I now have a lot of missed calls, e-mails, regular mail and general out-of-office maintenance to go over and catch up on- I wanted to share some photos from my longtime friend Stef’s wedding this past weekend.

Stef and I met when I was about 16/17 and we were both working at the same crummy after-school job at a local grocery. I told her a joke I’d heard in one of my classes earlier in the day- just a painfully unfunny, borderline “dad” joke- but she laughed and we became instant friends. That friendship has carried on- through good times and bad- over the course of 16 years. We’re both now in our thirties and are in very different places in our lives than we were back when we’d met- but we’re still just as close as ever.

On Saturday, Stef married her longtime boyfriend, Andy- in a lovely little ceremony in Linwood, Massachusetts. Although neither she or Andy are particularly religious, the church portion of the evening was more for their older family members who had wanted to bear witness to a a more traditional union between the two.

The reception, on the other hand… Well, that was all Stef and Andy. 100%.

Stef had picked out the Asa Waters Mansion in Millbury as her venue. Formerly inhabited by the family behind the Waters & Co. Armory in the mid-to-late 1800s- the house was reportedly a stop on the Underground Railroad and has since been turned into a function hall, community gathering spot, and museum. It’s a beautiful house- more than likely haunted- and very cozy. Although dinner and the dance floor were a bit of a tight squeeze given how old the home is- we had a blast cutting loose and taking a tour of the grounds provided by some of the helpful staff on hand.

Stef’s wedding cake and cupcakes were crafted with love and care by our dear friend Holly- who I’m hiring for any future events I host because everything looked and tasted amazing.

It was so good catching up with old friends, making new ones, dancing and dining and laughing at the same inside jokes the lot of us have been cracking up at for over a decade now. I’m so happy for Stef and Andy and I know they’re going to have a lifetime of happiness ahead of them. I’m so grateful I got to be a part of the celebration.

I’m actually supposed to see Stef, Andy and a couple of friends visiting from out of the country later on today for a while- so I’m pretty excited to recap all the excitement with them and get a look at some of the photos that were snapped throughout the evening.

But, alas- I’ve got work to do, first. Here’s hoping you all have an easy, stress-free Wednesday! Let’s push through to the weekend!

xx

– 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!

xx

– Ashley –

July 2018: In a Nutshell

Good Morning and Happy Monday 2.0, everyone!

This week’s posting schedule is a short one (today and Thursday only)– not only because the last day of July happened to land on a Tuesday- but because I’ve got a pretty busy few days ahead of me and have been coordinating different events, meet-ups, errands and deadlines around an already packed work-week!

Can you all believe we’re getting ready to dive into August? That means there’s only one solid month of Summer left before we start to gradually transition into the Fall. Cooler temperatures, shorter days, changing foliage- and the return of pumpkin spiced everything. It’s pretty wild- and I, for one- intend to savor the next few hot and sunny weeks ahead as much as possible!

But before I get ready to change my calendar and start planning as many beach days as I can get away with- I thought I’d take a look back on the month of July- and all the fun (and sometimes insanity) that came with it!

The beginning of this past month was marked by tragedy, unfortunately. Following the suicide of an old friend near the end of June, the first few days of July saw me return to my hometown in Central Massachusetts to pay my respects and spend some much-needed time with mutual friends I hadn’t seen in many years who were also in mourning.

While the circumstances were indeed grim, being able to catch up with so many people I’d missed and care about- and both laugh and cry as we shared memories from a long time ago- was pretty cathartic. I’m making more of an effort to find time to see these friends more often, despite our busy schedules and home lives- because it shouldn’t only be tragedies that bring people back together.

By the time July 4th rolled around, I was also getting back in touch with nature- hiking, swimming beneath waterfalls and in lakes, and catching ferries around Boston Harbor’s islands to get a taste of the ocean and get out of the city for a few hours at a time. By the time Friday the 13th rolled around, I was a pro at packing backpacks filled with SPF, bug spray, and snacks- and had no issues camping out in the middle of the woods for a Jason Vorhees-inspired film festival at Rocky Woods Reservation!

And despite quite a few scattered thunderstorms and sun showers- I caught plenty of outdoor cookouts and backyard BBQs with friends and family (take a peek at some of my SUMMER RECIPES posts for a few of my favorite dishes!) as well as taking in some local children’s theater to support one of my best friends and enjoying some Summer blockbuster action flicks in air conditioned theaters!

This past weekend, with July winding down- I kept things closer to home. Friday night was the Arctic Monkeys show at TD Garden. I love those brilliant boys from Sheffield- and it was a real trip to see them play for thousands at the Garden when I can remember so clearly watching them play for about 100 people in small venues throughout New York and London in our early twenties! Alex may have shaved off his beautiful hair last week, but he was still just as dashing and charming as ever- and hearing some of the bangers I love best reverberate off the walls of the arena was such an incredible feeling.

Live music can make you feel invincible sometimes. I swear.

Following the gig, friends and I took the after party to the Coolidge Corner Theater for their midnight screening of “The Room” (AKA the best worst movie ever made) ala “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Within three minutes- the entire crowd was laughing hysterically- and by ten minutes in, we were throwing plastic spoons at the screen after being given handfuls of them by the staff upon entry. If you’ve never had the opportunity to go to a midnight screening, don’t even hesitate to buy tickets if one is available near you. Grab your friends and go. It’s a riot.

By the early afternoon on Saturday, my friends and I- having gone to bed around 4 a.m.- needed to recharge and sleepily walked to downtown Melrose to get brunch at our favorite weekend spot- Cappa’s Trackside Kitchen. We all split omelettes, toast, hash, home fries- and my personal favorite- banana Nutella French toast- before grabbing coffees to go and heading out into the sunshine to wake ourselves up a little.

Sunday was my day to rest, although I did take a bit of time to get a few errands for the week accomplished- but the majority of the day was spent in pajamas, surfing the web, watching trashy reality TV, and eating nachos. Sometimes you just really, really need a lazy Sunday- and it seemed like a fitting way to bid farewell to an otherwise jam-packed and busy month! Decompressing and getting ready for the next one!

So what do I have planned for August? Well, as I mentioned earlier- definitely as many beach days as possible! I’m also hoping to spend a little more time in some of my favorite seaside towns before that tricky New England weather starts to change again.

I’ve got Boston Comic-Con and Summer Slam coming up within the next couple of weeks, too- which is going to require some creativity and dressing up on my part!

And, of course- I’ll have plenty of recipes, outfits and recaps to share as Summer 2018 begins to draw to a close!

But I’ve got a meeting at work this morning before I get right back into my daily grind- so here’s wishing you all a wonderful end to your own July- and a lovely rest of your Tuesday!

xx

– Ashley –