Notes From Slay-Cation…

Good Morning (it’s still the A.M. where I am) and Happy Friday, everyone!

I’m updating Blondie Birdie from a broken tablet, courtesy of Logan Airport’s TSA staff who felt it was necessary to not only empty nearly all of the contents of my liquid toiletries from my checked bag all over my clean, dry clothes- but also crack the screen of one of my most important electronics, too- before they carelessly tossed it back into my suitcase.

I digress, that huge inconvenience aside- I’m enjoying the last of my time here in San Diego before I return to Las Vegas a little later on this afternoon with Kelsey. While my previous trip to Southern California last Fall had been disastrous to the point where I had debated returning here this time around for fear it would be just as awful- I’ve actually been having a wonderful time- AND I’ve been able to relax like a real, true vacation for once!

The journey here was a long one, but the view sure was nice. After picking me up in Vegas Wednesday morning- Kelsey and I made a quick stop for breakfast at our favorite spot further up the strip, Peppermill– before we packed up our bags and her daughter and started on the long, six hour drive through the desert to San Diego.

I had forgotten that this time of year is typically referred to as “Grey May” in Southern California, so as the hours ticked by on the road and the sun gradually vanished while we drove- being overtaken by clouds and fog- I knew it was going to be a chilly stay. Admittedly, the temperatures here have been considerably better than they have been back home- so I can’t say I minded much. San Diego is beautiful any time of year, really.

And one of the perks of this trip is that it has been all about food. Kelsey and I have been trying new places around Downtown San Diego- including a French Toast sampler from Breakfast Republic and a blondie mocha latte from Spill The Beans Coffee.

We have a few foodie places we’re going to be hitting up once we return to Vegas, as well- so I’m sure I’ll be taking more photos along the way.

Of course, our main reason for this little pilgrimage to and from the desert was to see White Lies last night at The Music Box. We love the band so, so much- but their Boston show had sold out and the San Diego one was the closest to Kelsey- so I opted to fly out to see it with her and get away from work for a few days!

The show was incredible, and the band sound just as fantastic live as they do on their albums- which is a rarity these days. We had the perfect setup from a balcony above the stage where we could see and hear everything crystal clear. It was AWESOME.

Post-show, we made a quick stop at Gaslamp Pizza (the best pizza you’ll ever have in SoCal- and right around the corner from the hotel we’ve been staying) before we passed out. I think it’s safe to say we’re officially in our thirties now. There’s no after-parties anymore. At least not any I can stay awake for!

But we’re getting ready to head out for brunch/lunch and pack up the last of our things for our drive this afternoon. I’ll be updating through the weekend on my INSTAGRAM, as usual- and then I’ll be back on Monday with some more recaps from the journey before I return home Tuesday evening.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful weekend ahead! Have fun!

xx

– Ashley –

“Vacation, all I ever wanted…”

Good Morning and Happy Wednesday, everyone!

By the time you read this, I’ll be up in the air and en route to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada for a week away with my West Coast Wife, Kelsey! We’re grabbing lunch at our favorite spot on the strip before we make our way even further West to San Diego for a couple of days to catch a White Lies show and relax by the beach.

It’s a few days of sunshine, rest and relaxation that are long overdue for me given how busy I’ve been lately with my job(s) and my upcoming move to the Valley within the next week. I just need a little bit of time to unwind and not worry about things at the office, packing my things, replacing furniture, etc. I’m so excited!

I’m always packed early, and people have asked me how I’m able to prepare for a trip so efficiently given how busy I am most of the time- and I always say it’s because of a three-day, pre-travel packing/preparation plan I developed after years and years of waiting until the last minute and frantically throwing whatever I could grab into a suitcase the morning of a cross-country trip.

I just couldn’t keep doing it like that anymore- especially since I would almost always forget something important- so the system I developed (with plenty of practice) has been a life-saver! I thought I’d share it here, as well- in case anyone else has ever found themselves in the procrastination boat.

72 Hours Before Your Trip:
  1. Check the forecast where you’re going to keep track of any last minute changes in the temperatures, impending storms, weather advisories, etc.
  2. Begin planning your wardrobe/accessories (if possible, on a day-by-day basis) with consideration to the weather and start doing laundry to make sure everything is clean, dry, ironed or folded by the time it comes to pack!
  3. Make a checklist of toiletries, makeup or skin/hair care that you might be running low on and make an effort to replenish those items within the next 48 hours!
48 Hours Before Your Trip:
  1. Begin packing your shoes, clothes and accessories so you’ll be aware of how much space you have in your suitcase- as well as how much it weights- since some airlines will charge extra for oversize/heavier luggage.
  2. Prepare a travel itinerary to forward to a family member/loved one- just in case of an emergency or if you find yourself stranded during a layover or at your destination for whatever reason. It’s always a good idea to let someone know where you’ll be/where you’re supposed to be in case you need help!
  3. Notify your bank/credit card companies that you’re traveling so you’ll be able to access your funds without issue. The sooner, the better- since it may take a bank/financial institution 24-48 hours to place a notice on your account(s.)
24 Hours Before Your Trip:
  1. If possible, check into your flight to save yourself wait time at the airport/gate. It may also help you secure priority boarding, or in some instances- a better seat!
  2. Pack up your toiletries, skin/hair care in a waterproof bag (just in case!) to put into your suitcase with your previously packed clothes, shoes and accessories. By the way- don’t forget any chargers for your devices!
  3. Lay out the COMFORTABLE outfit you intend to wear to the airport the day of travel- that way you’re not stuck tearing apart your suitcase filled with freshly folded clothing!
  4. Be sure to take a little cash to carry with you while you’re en route to your destination. It doesn’t have to be an obscene, extravagant amount- but enough to cover a cup of coffee or some chap stick so you don’t have to use your credit/debit card at layovers. These sorts of purchases can trigger a security alert on your account and cause issues moving forward.
  5. Pack your carry-on with the essentials- moisturizer, earbuds, sunglasses, a phone charger, a good book/magazine and some gum. All TSA-approved!
  6. Get some sleep! There’s nothing worse than having to go to the airport when you’ve pulled an all-nighter and the exhaustion is creeping up on you while you’re waiting to have your shoes screened by security.

And that’s my guide for a relatively stress-free pre-travel prep! I hope it helps any of you the way it’s helped me over these past couple of years!

I’ll be sure to check in a little later on this week during some downtime from my, well- other downtime- and I’ll have plenty of photos to share here and on my social media (like my Instagram!) so be sure to check back!

Enjoy the rest of your “Hump Day”, everyone! See you all soon!

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 –

September 2018: In a Nutshell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t wait to be back there.

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

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

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

xx

– Ashley –

Notes From the 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 –