“Love is a great beautifier…”

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! We made it to another weekend (thank goodness!)

Today marks another later-than-usual afternoon post and what I hope will serve as the period or otherwise final punctuation mark on what has been a pretty busy week for me! I had mentioned it on Wednesday right before sharing my Mozzarella-Stuffed Pizza Bread/Super Bowl recipe, but the beginning of this week was packed with work (as usual,) the Patriots celebration parade, and my dear friend Duncan visiting from San Diego/Chicago while he was in town for a job interview and conference.

Additionally, shortly after receiving my car back last week following the repairs for the hit and run accident I had been involved in last month right before my birthday- I had to turn right back around and return my poor Hyundai to my mechanic again for unrelated brake repairs/replacement.

If I never have to drive a rental car again, it’ll be too soon!

I digress- as tired and sleepy as I am right now- I’m grateful that my car is fixed and that I’ve been able to stay active and productive- all things considered! I *definitely* earned the mani/pedi I’m going to treat myself to this weekend, though. At least that’s how I’m justifying it!

Despite a hectic schedule these past few days, I did manage to take some time for a relaxing day trip to picturesque Concord, Massachusetts- where I visited Louisa May Alcott’s house to scratch yet another historic New England location/landmark off of my 2019 travel bucket list!

I love historic homes, Concord in general, and “Little Women,” so to be able to learn more about all three and about a much beloved author from my state in the same place and at the same time was an exquisite way to spend an afternoon off.

Although photography inside the Alcott home is prohibited given how old some of the artwork and relics are- photos of the exterior are encouraged and I was able to get the loveliest pictures just as the sun was starting to set.

Now that things seem to thankfully be calming down and returning to normal (someone, anyone reading this right now knock on wood for me, please!) I can try to relax and focus on the evening and days ahead. I’m having dinner with my family tonight as part of our planned bi-weekly get-togethers- and next week is all about Gal-entine’s Day, Valentine’s Day- and my latest take on the celebrations- Pal-entine’s Day (for your pals, of course!)

I’ll have a recipe for a romantic dinner fit for two you can cook up in 30 minutes or less to share, a look at one of my favorite holiday-appropriate-but-still-casual date night outfits- and some photos from planned weekend travel and day trips I have coming up within the next 48 hours!

But for now, I’m off to eat a quick lunch and head back to work and meetings for a couple more hours.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful and relaxing weekend! See you all again on Monday!

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 –

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 –

Notes From the Desert…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you all soon!

xx

– Ashley –

Moose Crossings and Ice Cream Sundaes…

Good Morning and Happy Hump Day, everyone!

Every year, when Father’s Day rolls around- I like to take a day or two to just get out of town for a little while and visit new places, try new dishes, or see new art and otherwise keep myself preoccupied for a little while. My own father passed away from chemotherapy complications nearly six years ago- and while I don’t fall into a deep depression the way I did during the first couple of Father’s Days after he was gone- I still tend to get sad/emotional from time to time.

Thankfully, the weather was lovely this past weekend- which made taking a mini road trip up to Brattleboro, Vermont on Saturday all the more enjoyable since I could spend time outdoors in the sunshine. And, since I naturally took the back roads to get there- I was able to stop along the way at different farms and along trails and river edges to squeal at cute animals or dip my toes in the water to cool off.

I put a lot of miles on my cars, for sure- but it’s worth it. I love to explore, and on warm Summer days- nothing beats driving through the countryside with the windows down, listening to music, and sipping iced coffee or tea. It’s very therapeutic for me.

And with all the hiking I did on Saturday when I wasn’t behind the wheel- I made sure to treat myself with a little hot fudge sundae at Northfield Creamie. I pass by it a lot whenever I’m in Western Massachusetts, but had never actually had the chance to stop and savor their delicious desserts until now! It was well worth the pit stop.

On Sunday, one of my longtime and dearest friends out in Western Massachusetts invited me out to Turners Falls for an afternoon to get a behind-the-scenes look at a show he’s performing through this weekend at the Shea Theatre. It’s an immersive theater experience- which is right up my alley- and I’m excited to see the play in it’s completion this coming weekend. It was really interesting to see all the work and preparation that goes into it- and I had a lot of fun meeting everyone since they were all so unbelievably friendly.

After a dinner at Riff’s (their goat cheese and avocado quesadilla is the best, by the way) and doing a little street art tour by some of the building sides and alley ways- I had to bid my dudebro adieu and head home so I could get a good night’s sleep in me before sliding into work bright and early on Monday morning.

Overall, I had a beautiful, relaxing and food-filled weekend- and I knew my dad was there with me in spirit. He would have loved the scenery- since he was a fan of taking long and aimless drives, too. That’s where I get it from, after all!

Many thanks to the friends who took time from their days with their own fathers to check in and send good vibes (and more than one funny joke or meme to keep me in good spirits) and to the new faces I met along my travels who made me feel welcome and cherished. It means more than you’ll ever know!

But I’ve got to get to work and make sure I’m staying on top of my tasks today!

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful mid-week!

And, with only a couple days left to go- there’s still some to enter my Beach-themed giveaway! Get on that!
Turners Falls, MA. 6/17/18

xx

– Ashley –