Reader’s Choice 2019!

Good Morning and Happy Thursday, everyone!

As we ready ourselves for Friday and the weekend- I wanted to take a moment to talk about some super fun developments with the family theater company I’m involved in- and ask for your help (and it’ll only take 2 minutes of your time- I promise!)

As some of you (most of you?) know- I signed on earlier this year to work with my friends at PaintBox Theatre based out of the Pioneer Valley. I’m their current marketing and publicity director, and even though the season doesn’t officially kick off until the end of June- it’s been a really fun journey so far!

A little background information on PaintBox: they are a family theater company, gearing up for their 16th (!!!) season. They take beloved children’s’ stories and give them an updated, modern twist on stage with enough subtle humor to keep the adults laughing, as well- all while encouraging literacy, self-expression, creativity, inclusiveness, kindness and play. The costumes and props are easy to replicate and made with simple materials- so children can utilize things they have at home while letting their imaginations take care of the rest.

And all of this is done with a talented cast, a dedicated crew- and the love and support of our community and sponsors who keep us going!

All that being said, we’ve been nominated for “Best Summer Theater” in the Daily Hampshire Gazette– an honor we won last year and a title we hope to hold onto this year, as well!

Voting takes- legitimately– a minute, and it would mean the world to me, the company and everyone PaintBox has made smile over the years if you could take the time to vote for us. Our category is under “Arts & Entertainment.”

CLICK HERE TO VOTE

If you did- thank you so, so, SO much!

And if not, the voting is open until 5/19/19 at 5 PM (EST.) Please consider helping out!

And of course, if you’d like to learn more about the company and our impending Summer season- please feel free to visit our website (linked above) or our social media accounts (you’ll see my designs on each!) It’s going to be a wonderful season of really great shows the whole family can enjoy!

I’m off to work for the day, and then keeping busy tomorrow through the weekend. I’m going to be back on Monday when the posting schedule returns to normal- and right before I leave for my trip to the West Coast!

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful rest of your week and a warm, safe, fun weekend!

xx

– Ashley –

The Santa Show!

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

After (very) recently finding out I had a few unused days off at my job that I needed to take before the end of 2018- I opted for a long weekend and took last Friday and today off. I think I’m going to try to take some additional days later on this week or near the end of next week, as well- but we’ll see how it goes as we get closer to Christmas!

This past weekend was a mixed bag- busy and relaxing at various times and intervals! I got a lot of pre-holiday errands done, got some gifts wrapped and ready to be delivered, did a little baking/cooking- and still managed to unwind in my thermal PJs while watching Christmas movies. I indulged in some self-care with much-needed TLC for my hair- and started confirming my New Year’s Eve plans (which are the epitome of pampering and indulgence, really!)

The definite highlight, though- was stopping by the Williston Northampton School to see my friends at Paintbox Theatre put on the last of their holiday shows that ran all weekend!

Seeing one of my dearest, longtime friends dressed up like a dog and singing Christmas carols to kids was pretty fantastic, sure- but the whole cast and crew were so fun, so energetic, so hilarious and animated- and so wonderful in each of their interactions with the children in the audience. It was heartwarming and adorable and just so lovely to sit and watch.

I’m really excited to be partnering with Paintbox for their 2019 Summer season- not only because they are a company I believe in and support 100%- but because it will essentially be like working with friends/family and I know it’s going to be a good fit. I can’t wait to get started after the New Year.

But for today- a day off- I’m going to be spending an afternoon with my mother helping her get some of her Christmas shopping done and grabbing lunch before the late afternoon rush when traffic and the shops get busy!

I’ve got to go pick her up right now, actually! Have a great day, everyone! See you all again on Wednesday!

xx

– Ashley –

Killer Clowns and Bachelorette Bliss…

Good Morning and Happy Wednesday, everyone! We’re nearly to the weekend! Are you excited?

This coming Saturday is shaping up to be a relaxing one, spent in the countryside of Vermont (weather permitting) where I’ll be visiting some of my family, photographing the foliage/scenery- and enjoying some of Montpelier’s finest dining. I’m excited to visit some old spots I haven’t had the opportunity to stop by in years- and discover some new places, too!

The trip will undoubtedly be vastly different to the craziness of this past weekend, of course- which kicked off on Friday night when friends and I bundled up and headed out to the Rocky Woods Reservation to catch a late evening screening of ‘It’ (the 1990 one) in the middle of the woods, courtesy of the Coolidge Corner Theater’s “After Midnight” program.

Along with snacks and beer from local breweries, the screening also included a live Q&A with the film’s screenwriter, Lawrence D. Cohen and a look at Pennywise’s original costume prototype. And- of course- there were red balloons everywhere. Despite the chill in the air by the end of the 4+ hour event- it was a lot of fun.

Saturday saw me out of the woods and back in the city for my longtime friend Stef’s bachelorette party. She’s getting married in a few short weeks, and this past weekend was the only real chance that we- and a bunch of our hometown friends- could get together to celebrate and see her off properly!

Now, while there were plenty of penis-shaped party favors (and a cake) and an appearance by a blowup doll at one point during the evening- as is the tradition of many, if not all bachelorette parties- we actually did things a bit different and opted for entertainment that would keep all of us on our toes and guessing with our alcohol-fogged brains.

The first stop of the night was Boston’s “Escape The Room” experience. Most of us being avid gamers thought this would be a breeze to get through if we worked together as a team- and we opted for the “Clock Tower” escape sequence. Having done a couple of smaller, less intricate escape rooms in the past- I was *not* expecting the level of detail, complexity, and difficulty of the puzzles required for us to maneuver from room to room. It was hard!

With just under ten minutes on the clock to spare, we did eventually make it out before the buzzer- but I thought the #FAIL sign was too funny not to hold up during our group photo.

If you ever get the opportunity to participate in one of these escape rooms- make sure you’re well-rested and on top of your game! It’s really fun- but you’re going to need to stay sharp during it!

Following our victory, we headed down the street to Papagayo’s for a quick snack and a few delicious margaritas that were mixed up by the bartender, Adele- who was lovely and super accommodating to our party.

After getting a little tipsy, our group walked (see: stumbled) through Downtown Crossing to Elephant & Castle to participate in a mob-themed murder mystery dinner- something Stef has always wanted to join in on. The actors/wait staff were adorable, and while dinner was alright- the dessert ruled and the comedy in the show was worth coming back for seconds.

Oddly enough, I guessed the killer correctly for the “who dunnit?” portion of the evening- and won two tickets to any of their upcoming events- so I guess I really will be coming back for more!

Following dinner (and a few more drinks)– the lot of us hit a couple more bars before we retreated to the hotel room that some of the bridal party had got for the night for some late-night conversation and photo ops with “Standy”- the blow-up doll that was supposed to represent Stef’s fiancé, Andy.

We eventually dispersed when exhaustion started to take over- but it was a night spent well. We don’t get many opportunities to spend time together as a whole group since we all have careers or families- so events like this and/or holidays are particularly special and something to really be cherished and looked forward to. I had so much fun- and it was so great seeing everyone in one place again. I’m really excited for the wedding!

Sunday was, thankfully, a day of rest- brunch and football, really- and a chance to catch up on some much-needed sleep before I returned to work on Monday morning. The weekend, overall- was one for the record books, however. It was truly a blast! A little crazy at times- but a blast nonetheless.

But before I start preparing for this coming weekend, I’ve got to get some work done at my office (and I gotta’ take off early today, since it’s my half day!)

Enjoy your “Hump Day”, everyone! I’ll be back on Friday with a true sweater weather-inspired OOTD post!

xx

– Ashley –

Pirates and Piglets…

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

Before I begin another week at work and try to stay dry during what is shaping up to be a rainy few days ahead- I wanted to dial it back a bit and share some of my favorite moments from this past weekend! There was a lot of driving, a considerable amount of delicious food- and a little bit of theater!

On Saturday, I had made the mini-trek down to Mystic, Connecticut for the first time in a couple of years. My original plan was to do a little shopping in Olde Mistick Village (a series of shops, boutiques and restaurants set within a 1700s style-inspired Colonial village) and then grab a slice of pizza over at Mystic Pizza over on Main Street. Yes, *the* Mystic Pizza.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the traffic- both road-wise and pedestrian. When I was a kid, my family typically visited/stayed in Mystic during the Fall- and it was never particularly busy. That all changes in the Summer, however- when tourists flock from all over to get a taste of that small, quaint, seaside New England charm. Not only was getting from point A to B a hassle in itself- but parking was pretty much impossible. After doing some shopping in the village and driving by Mystic Pizza (sadly, may I add-) I eventually returned home to get rested up for yesterday.

I did manage to buy my mother and my dog each a cute present while I was in town, though- so not all was lost.

Yesterday morning, with coffee in hand- I swung by Easthampton to catch my friend Troy in his performance for Paintbox Theatre’s “Pirates!” (which I blogged about last week!) The show was, I believe, sold out- and the auditorium appeared packed to capacity with very excited children and amused adults as they watched the pandemonium take place on stage, in the aisles, and even in the audience.

It was beyond adorable- and I’m so, so proud of the incredible cast and crew who were involved in what ended up being Easthampton’s official Pirate Day- per the mayor- who also happened to be in attendance!

After the show, I headed out so Troy could get going on the planned activities for the kids for the remainder of the afternoon- heading back out towards Central Massachusetts and dodging sunshowers (that turned into thunderstorms) that rolled through the area. Famished before I could reach my destination, I saw signs for Stone Cow Brewery in Barre and decided to stop and indulge in some of their BBQ, a beer, and the scenery. I’ve passed by the place so many times in the past but never had the time to stop- but I’m sure glad I did!

Not only was the food amazing (their corn bread is some of the best I’ve ever tasted)- but the surrounding farmland was beautiful and seeing some baby animals while I strolled the area was the cherry on top of a perfect afternoon.

Although I did feel a little bad when I came across the baby piglets. Especially since I had just eaten a pulled pork sandwich. Yikes.

Overall it was a pretty fun weekend- and being back at work is definitely a downer!

This week I’ve got a fun grilling recipe I’m excited to share with everyone, as well as a peek into some of my favorite products, items, odds & ends from July- so keep an eye out!

Until then, though- I hope you all have a fantastic start to your week. Let’s get through it together!

xx

– Ashley –

Ahoy, Mateys!

When it comes to theater and the arts- I wouldn’t exactly call myself a refined, sophisticated know-it-all- and I like what I like without apology. I was a trained ballet dancer through my teens and a Fine Arts major in NYC for all of thirty seconds in my early twenties before I made the switch to wide-eyed traveler, tenacious law student and tireless writer. But my interest in performances and painting never waned.

I like immersive theater the best- and anything dark, broody or supernatural and spooky is right up my alley given my self-proclaimed “Halloween Queen” title- but sometimes family-friendly and downright silly can be an unexpected delight that I treat myself to from time to time. When that type of theater happens to take place right in the heart of Western Massachusetts- an area I frequent often and truly enjoy spending time in- it’s even better.

My first introduction to Paintbox Theater was in the Summer of 2014 after a return trip from San Diego Comic-Con (speaking of- I hope everyone attending this week has a great time and uploads an obscene amount of photos so I can keep up!) My longtime friend, Troy- an actor with an almost intimidating resume and now company manager at Paintbox- had picked me up at the airport and invited me to come along to a rehearsal so I could see firsthand what it is that they do.

He was also borrowing my car that week- which I’m sure impacted his decision to invite me to some degree- but that’s neither here nor there.

Paintbox- founded by Tom McCabe, a celebrated storyteller (who also serves as a writer and director of the company’s productions)– puts on three shows every Summer that not only interact heavily with it’s teeny-tiny audience members- but simultaneously encourages literacy, kindness, and friendship with each performance. All the things this world so desperately needs right now, really.

They do this by incorporating audience participation and allowing children to add their own artwork to the set- drawings that are shown via a projection screen over the stage that are used to depict scenery, characters, points in the story, etc. It’s a nice and adorable way for kids to feel like they’re *in* on the play and included in the shenanigans and sometimes absolute pandemonium (in a controlled, safe way of course) happening with the actors onstage.

And if you’re worried that there isn’t anything to keep the adults entertained during all of this- think again. Some of the jokes, which are subtle enough to go way above a toddler’s head- are pretty perfect for any parent or grown-up patron who needs a good chuckle.

I was completely moved by the company’s efforts to reach and entertain children back in 2014- and have popped by performances now and then through the years to say hello. Now, in it’s celebratory 15th season- Paintbox is getting ready for their second show of the Summer: “Pirates!” and since I’m always looking to share fun things to do around New England- I thought this would be perfect for those of you reading this (with or without younger ones) who might want to travel to one of the more beautiful areas of Massachusetts and catch a show while supporting a great group of hardworking people.

I, myself, have been a proud supporter of Paintbox for years now- and think you’d all enjoy it!

Saturday- July 21, 2018 @ 10:30 AM & 1:00 PM – Sunday- July 22, 2018 @ 10:30 AM

Williston Theater @ 18 Payson Ave, Easthampton, MA. 01027

(the Sunday show will immediately be followed by a 2nd annual “Pirate Day” with games and activities.)

Wednesday- July 25, 2018 @ 10:30 AM (Rain Date: Thursday, July 26, 2018 @ 10:30 AM)

Millside Park @ 2 Ferry Street along the Manhan Rail Trail

Tickets can be purchased at the website linked above, or by CLICKING HERE.

Enjoy your Wednesday, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –