“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 –

OOTD: Lizzie Borden Took an Ax…

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

Although today marks a holiday I don’t necessarily believe in celebrating- my office is still closed and I still have to make the best of having a Monday off. My plans today include apple/pumpkin picking with my mother and my niece out in rural Massachusetts, peeping some foliage, and enjoying a lunch outdoors in the beautiful splendor of Autumnal New England!

This time of year, I like to highlight some of the “spookier” pieces in my wardrobe- from Wednesday Addams-inspired tops, dresses with bloody hand prints all over them, and stockings designed to look simply skeletal. It’s a really fun time for fashion in October- and that also includes some unique jewelry, too!

I’m very fortunate in that I have friends and family who understand and encourage my love of all things horror/macabre- so they haven’t blinked twice when I started showing up to get-togethers in recent days with this large Lizzie Borden pendant necklace I had picked up during a Winter visit to her family’s home (now a museum) a couple of years ago! To them, it’s perfectly normal.

Apart from the large brooch featuring Lizzie’s portrait, the necklace also includes a cheeky sterling silver ax/hatchet charm that is noticeable to those who take a long enough glance.

I typically don’t wear this necklace with anything fancy or flashy since it’s big and attention-grabbing enough on it’s own- but it’s a nice addition to my usual October daytime ensembles which consist of (mostly) all black tops, jeans and boots. I aim to look like a vampire as much as possible through Halloween, really.

The necklace is available at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast website (and the inn itself is a pretty fascinating visit if you ever find yourself in Fall River!) which also has a bunch of other really interesting and morbid souvenirs available for purchase. I mean, who wouldn’t want a magnet with crime scene photos of Mr. & Mrs. Borden’s bodies on their refrigerator, right? Definitely a conversation piece for sure.

I have even more oddities to share in the coming weeks, but a local legend seemed like a good place to start when diving into the “Halloween Corner” of my closet!

I’m off to grab coffee and doughnuts (it’s a cheat day!) with my family before we head off to our fun-filled Fall day together. I’ll have plenty of pics to post later on this week- and on Friday I’ve got a pretty quick and easy take on a classic recipe to share with everyone!

Here’s hoping you all have a terrific Monday- and if you’ve got it off from work- make the most of it!

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 –

Summer Wind Down…

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! Today couldn’t have come fast enough for me!

It’s been a busy and, admittedly- pretty stressful week at work- with a lot of overtime, late nights, and earlier-than-I-care-to-think-about mornings. I’m excited to have a half day at my office today, and am rather looking forward to getting a proper night’s sleep over the course of this weekend. I really, really need it!

I hate to say it, but Summer is coming to an end- and in a couple of weeks we’re going to be into September, Labor Day, and the beginning of all things Fall. Although it’s my favorite season and I have plenty planned around New England to savor every moment of it- I’m a little sad to be saying farewell to the Summertime. I’m going to miss long days, late nights at the beach, bonfires and BBQs.

Of course, the pressure is on to squeeze as much last-minute Summertime fun into the schedule as possible- which can cause some serious stress and FOMO to those, like me- who work a lot- so I’ve compiled a handy little guide that has benefited me over the past few years when it comes time to put the flip flops away and start shopping for cute boots and sweaters again.

KEEP TRACK OF YOUR VACATION TIME/PTO

If you’re itching to take a few days off from work, plan a trip, etc. and you know you’ve got earned (and owed!) vacation time left to use up at your job- ask for a print-out or a written record of how many hours/days/weeks you have for your personal file and reference- and go from there!

In my case, I have about 3 weeks of unused time at my company that I can take- whenever I want- before the end of the year, and although I’d been saving a good chunk of that time for October and Halloween-related festivities- I plan on using a couple of days within the next 2-3 weeks for some stress-free beach days and pool lounging.

Once you have a better idea of how much time you have at your disposal, making plans is a *lot* easier!

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THOSE LATE SUMMER FARES

With students heading back to school and classes starting up shortly (if they haven’t done so already!) many popular tourist destinations and vacation hot spots are going to be a lot less crowded than they were throughout June and July. If you’re thinking of taking a day trip, a weekend away- or a full-blown vacation- now is the time!

And when it comes to saving some money for booking flights or hotels- you’re in luck- because September is typically when fares are at the lowest (especially for those trying to book trips around the holidays!) so keep an eye out for weekly sales- they typically go into effect on Tuesdays and run through Thursdays- to compare prices and save some serious cash.

MAKE A LIST- AND CHECK IT TWICE

No, not the type of list where you’re keeping track of nice and naughty kids- I’m talking about a list of the places/things/activities you want to do before the end of the Summer. I use my notepad app on my phone to help me out when I’m planning day trips. I list what I want to do/see- ranked from what I absolutely and 100% have to get done before Fall arrives to what I can wait to do ’til next Summer- and where each of these places/things are located.

Then, when I’m on the road of planning my day off adventures- I can check the list, see what’s left, and go from there! For example, the other night while traveling to Easthampton- I crossed “get a milkshake at Cindy’s Drive-In” off my list. It’s a little roadside 50s style food stand that remains open throughout the Spring and Summertime only- and I had been dying to go since passing by it last month!

I had one of their German Chocolate Milkshakes- and it was awesome.

GET A HEAD START ON THE FALL DE-CLUTTER

I’m not saying you have to pack up your swimsuits and put your shorts in storage right this minute- but now is the perfect time to begin easing your way into your Fall wardrobe and/or makeup as painlessly as possible.

Those wedge sandals you wore to your cousin’s wedding last month but haven’t touched since? Those can be packed up. The Patriotic tee you tossed on for the 4th of July festivities? Into the closet it can go. How about the aqua eyeliner you’ve been wearing every day since Memorial Day that has been worn down to nearly nothing? Yeah, that can get tossed until you buy a new one next Summer.

As you wear your late Summer outfits- ask yourself when you plan to wear them again before the Fall. If there’s no definitive answer- wash them or have them dry-cleaned and pack them away ’til next year!

This doesn’t just apply to clothing/makeup, either. Every year around this time, I go through my e-mail inbox to unsubscribe from mailing lists and advertisements from companies/businesses I haven’t bought anything from/visited in a long time. That restaurant I made an online reservation with back in June but haven’t returned to since? That clothing company I bought a couple of sundresses from for backyard BBQs and who have been e-mailing me 5 times a day ever since? Yeah. No thanks.

As I get the alerts- I’ll go in, so who the e-mail is from- and if it’s not anything I’m interested in, I unsubscribe. If a company/business is persistent, even after I’ve requested they cease e-mailing me promotions- the trusty block feature works wonders!

This sort of de-cluttering is especially helpful leading up to the holidays, when e-mail advertisements go into hyperactive mode. I like to get it done early!

STAY HYDRATED AND WEAR SPF.

I think this one goes without saying. Summer might be ending- but that doesn’t mean the hotter days are going to be over and done with anytime soon. Remember to drink lots of water and wear lots of sunscreen.

And finally-

DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP IF YOU DON’T ACCOMPLISH ALL YOUR PLANS

So that camping trip in the mountains didn’t pan out as expected and you didn’t get around to signing up for those surfing lessons you swore you’d try way back in the Spring. Relax. Life happens and not everything we want to do or plan to do can go right 100% of the time. We may have the best intentions- but that doesn’t mean work or family or personal matters are going to just go along with those intentions.

If you didn’t accomplish everything on your Summer ’18 “To-Do” list- it’s okay. A lot of outdoor activities are just as much fun in the Fall (maybe even moreso since it won’t be so hot out and there won’t be as many bugs!) and worst case scenario? You add it to the top of your list for Summer 2019! It’s not the end of the world.

Just grab a final scoop of ice cream before it’s gone and enjoy the last of these long, late and lazy days!

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Those are just some of my tips/tricks to making the most out of these final days of Summer. As always, if you have tips of your own- feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment and share what you do to wind down for the end of the Summer!

But that does it for me this week. I’m going to wrap up a few things at my office and then head out to hit the town- and the coast!

Enjoy your Friday, everyone- and have a safe and wonderful weekend! I’ll see you all on Monday!

xx

– Ashley –