“Walking in a Winter Wonderland…”

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! It’s a short week for me at work- since I took this coming Wednesday-Friday off so that I can get the last of my Christmas shopping and gift wrapping done while spending some time with friends and family leading up to the holiday- so I expect the next 48 hours to be jam-packed with making all my phone calls and sending all my e-mails in advance.

I’m excited, though. It’s always nice to take some time off- especially around Christmastime since it gives me the opportunity to really enjoy all the fun and beauty that comes with the season.

This past weekend marked the first significant snowfall of the Winter season here in New England- totaling about 3-6 inches around various parts of Massachusetts. It was thankfully light and fluffy (and easy to shovel!) instead of the wet, heavy, sleet stuff we typically get. When I was done clearing both my and my neighbor’s driveways and walkways- I took some time to have a late afternoon hike and snap some photos of the aftermath of the storm. It was gorgeous! There’s a couple of my favorite shots below.

I’m sure I’ll be over and sick of the snow within a month, but for now- pre-Christmas- I rather enjoyed it!

After work tonight, I’m having dinner and drinks with some of my girlfriends- where we’re going to have a group therapy session to talk about last night’s mid-season finale of “The Walking Dead”. I NEED a cocktail after that one.

Enjoy your day, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

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Sleigh Bells Ring…

While I have many favorite Holiday traditions I like to participate in year after year with my friends and family- two of them, without fail- always happen earlier in the month when I’m still coming off the fringes of Thanksgiving weekend. I’m talking about visiting the local tree lots and nurseries outside the city- particularly when they’ve only just started putting out their seasonal items and decorations.

To me, it’s the first real taste of Christmas- and the smell of pine needles, mint and spices always puts me in a festive mood and gets me ready to hang up my lights, grab some eggnog, and start wrapping presents. Although I’ve had an artificial tree for as long as I can remember- I’m hoping someday I’ll be able to commit to a real one. I would have done it this year, but I had heard there was a shortage of trees as a result of the recession a few years ago- so spending an insane amount of money on one was out of the question. Maybe next year!

Regardless, I still stopped by Russell’s Garden Center this past weekend to check out their selection (and marvel at their impressive nutcracker collection!)

My other favorite tradition, and the trick is to timing it just right so you can avoid all the pedestrian traffic- is going to see the HUGE Christmas tree in Faneuil Hall and catch one of it’s timed light displays every half hour. Sean and I headed down right before the last display of the evening this past Saturday night- and although there were quite a few people milling around near some of the bars in the area- we were still able to get nice and close to the tree to snap a few uninterrupted photos and videos.

And of course, as is tradition- we met up with our friend Chris and proceeded to start the long walk to and through Boston Common and down the illuminated Commonwealth Avenue. The city always does such an amazing job with the lights- and I know it’s going to look even more beautiful if and when we get the first legitimate snowfall of the season!

I’m looking forward to sharing photos of my own Christmas display after I’ve finished decorating my tree and my windows this coming weekend. They are nowhere near as elaborate as the ones around Boston- but they’re still nice!

But I’ve just got to make it through the rest of this week, first. Halfway there already!

Enjoy your Wednesdays, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Fall in The Emerald Necklace…

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Before I dive into my caseload for the day and prepare for a couple of meetings I have a little later on in the afternoon- I wanted to share some photos from a recent hiking excursion some friends and I went on over the weekend before the weather took a turn for the Winter-esque earlier this week. I heard there’s a possibility for some snow in the forecast within the next couple of days- and I am not ready for it.

On Sunday, prior to the sudden temperature drop- I headed a few miles outside the city to hike a large portion of the The Emerald Necklace Conservancy and drink in the last glimpses of a Fall. Although my legs have been killing me since I got home- it was worth it. I saw an incredible Bonsai garden, some still bright & bold foliage, the city skyline like I’ve never seen it before- and even some wild turkeys who I think were hiding out until after Thanksgiving is over.

Although sections of the Emerald Necklace aren’t far from me at all- I rarely visit. I’m not sure why, really- but I fully intend on making more frequent stops there in the future. It’s breathtaking!

Here’s a few snapshots I took along the way during my afternoon:

After such a long and strenuous hike, our group managed to keep on walking from the park all the way to Centre Street in Jamaica Plain to grab dinner and coffee at City Feed and Supply– a market and eatery that prides itself on staying local and supporting neighborhood farms/businesses- and which also make some really great sandwiches (the turkey and brie one is my favorite right now!)

If you’re ever in the area- you should definitely drop in and grab a bite to take on the go with you. It’s worth it!

And now, I’ve got some work to do while I bundle up at my desk in my sweaters and jackets!

Have a good one, everybody! We’re almost near the weekend!

xx

– Ashley –

It’s the Great Pumpkin…

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! I’m still recovering from last night’s season premiere (and 100th episode- if you can believe it!) of ‘The Walking Dead’- so my apologies for any typos in this post and on my social media today- or for falling asleep mid-conversation should anyone run into me at any point throughout this afternoon. I promise I’ll be rested up and normal again by tomorrow!

Apart from gearing up for the return of Rick Grimes & Co. this weekend- I also stopped by Rhode Island this past Saturday night. Specifically, I headed to Roger Williams Park Zoo for their annual “Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular”. I haven’t been in a couple of years due to scheduling conflicts- so it was really nice to be able to go again- especially since the weather was beautiful throughout the weekend!

Featuring over 5,000 intricately carved Jack-O-Lanterns that cover both sides (and above visitors in the trees!) of a long, winding trail through a section of the zoo/wildlife conservatory- this year’s display had a trip through time and/or time-travel theme. Featuring dinosaurs, Ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, through the Renaissance- and a pretty entertaining walk through the the decades spanning from the 1920s through now- each section included music/sound effects fitting of the time period. There were also vendors along the path (as well as at the entrance/exit of the park) that were selling hot apple cider, kettlecorn popcorn, sweets- and light-up accessories for the kids.

Tickets are pretty cheap and there’s a lot more to do in the area, as well- like the ski-lift style ride that carries passengers over the exhibit (and the park)– and glow-in-the-dark swan boats that circle an adjacent pond just outside the zoo’s perimeter. It’s a really fun, laid-back seasonal activity that is perfect for all ages and has become a “must do” for my friends and I every October.

Below are a few of the photos I snapped along the trail!

The “Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular” runs through November 5th- and prime night tickets (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) have to be ordered in advance online while tickets on Monday-Thursday can be purchased on-site- but I highly recommend going as soon as possible before the pumpkins start getting mushy and lose their shape. Also, you definitely want to go before it gets too cold out to fully enjoy everything!

And now, I’m heading off to get some work done and try to make it through the day without taking a nap under my desk.

Here’s hoping we all power through this week!

xx

– Ashley –

Ghost Hunting…

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone! For those of you who are superstitious- be extra careful while you’re out and about today! As for me? Well, after work- I’ll be heading out with friends to catch honorary screenings of the first two “Friday the 13th” movies at Rocky Woods Reservation in Medfield.

Speaking of Medfield, by the way…

One of my favorite places to visit in Massachusetts (and it’s only about 45 minutes away from me)– is Medfield State Hospital- a long abandoned former mental institution that was first opened in 1892 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. Although the interiors of the numerous buildings spread out across the area are off limits due to asbestos and hazardous conditions after decades without routine maintenance, the grounds are still open to the public for those looking for a unique place to go hiking, biking, or- as my most recent OOTD post proves- want a semi-creepy backdrop for photos.

I’ve gone up to the grounds countless times over the years, and I’ve found that this time of the year is usually when it’s the best to visit- and not just because the place is pretty spooky- but because it’s not too hot (or too cold!) to be spending a significant amount of time outdoors, and even though much of the area is overgrown- the bugs aren’t nearly as distracting as they are during May or June, for example.

Usually when I’m visiting- I’m the only one there. On a couple of occasions I’ve been one of maybe a handful of visitors- but Medfield State Hospital is almost always eerily quiet- so imagine my surprise when I went up to take a look around with friends this past weekend and was greeted by an entire Boy Scout Troop who were camping on the grounds overnight as part of a Halloween-themed excursion.

(Side Note: That’s actually an insanely cool idea and I wish I’d thought of it!)

The kids were very sweet and were thankfully respectful of the buildings. Although they were all running around during the entirety of our stay- not once did I see them doing anything potentially dangerous or destructive. They actually carved Jack-o-Lanterns to place on the exterior steps to a few of the former wards and administrative buildings- which added a little something extra in a few of my pictures. It was pretty cool.

There are security personnel on-site 24/7 who do occasional drive-bys to monitor the property- and even they seemed excited about the appearance of a few unexpected pumpkins scattered around.

If you’re ever in New England- this is definitely a neat place to drop by. Just make sure you bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes and a fully charged camera/phone with you!

And now, it’s time to get some work done. Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

October Sky

Good almost-afternoon, everyone (I slept a little late today!) I can’t believe my vacation is coming to an end and tomorrow morning I’ll be back at work bright and early- ready to play catch-up on all the calls and e-mails I’ve missed while I was taking a much-needed break. As anxiety-inducing as that thought can be- I’m looking forward to seeing my co-workers again and being productive- especially since I’ve been pretty lazy these past few days!

While today will consist of keeping out of the rain, binge-watching some TV shows I’ve fallen behind on, baking cookies (and maybe enjoying a bubble bath!), I spent most of my vacation outdoors- hiking trails in places like Sudbury, Medfield, Concord and Rutland- just to name a few. The weather has been a bit unpredictable lately- some days were overly humid and sticky while others were more cool and refreshing- but regardless of the temperatures, the leaves in my section of New England have pretty much reached their peak color for the season- so to say I’ve had the best views during my days off is an understatement!

Here’s a small gallery of some of my favorite photos I snapped along the trails:

Fall in Massachusetts really is something you have to experience for yourself. The photos (and even my descriptions of how wonderful it is) simply don’t do it enough justice. It has to be witnessed first-hand for the beauty and the magic to really make sense- especially to those who aren’t from around here.

With Halloween approaching, I have a few “scarier” events coming up with my friends over the course of the next couple of weeks that I can’t wait to post about- and I’ve been actively putting together my costume for the year- but it was nice to stop and enjoy some simple, pumpkin, foliage & apple cider-filled relaxing days before horror movies, haunted houses and getting doused in fake blood make their long-awaited comeback.

Here’s to a good week!

xx

– Ashley –

September 2017: In a Nutshell

It’s starting! 9/28/17

Well Good Morning! It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve posted on a weekend- but here we are! I’m getting ready to go enjoy this grey, breezy, not-quite-rainy morning at a pumpkin patch- right after I get my roots touched up with a long overdue visit with my stylist, Barbara.

It feels like September only just started- and a part of me is sad to see it go since I had such a wonderful time these past few weeks- but I’m also really excited to dive into October because it is- without question- my favorite month of the year. The weather is perfect. the foliage reaches peak prettiness, “The Walking Dead” comes back, and the absolute best holiday of them all arrives. I’m talking about Halloween, of course!

But before I practically back-flip into October in my state of elation- I have to tip my hat (or in this case, beanie) to September. I started the very beginning of the month with an extended weekend getaway in one of the most beautiful parts of Vermont- which set the pace for what was to come in the following weeks. Since then, I visited Salem right before it gets crazy with all the Halloween-related events and attractions, spent time with friends I hadn’t seen in ages at my friend’s breathtaking wedding in our hometown, got my “Game of Thrones” on at King Richard’s Faire for the very first time- and last weekend I took an impromptu trip to NYC to attend the Global Citizens Festival- where I got to spend time in and around Central Park with one of my best friends and catch sets from The Killers, The Lumineers, Green Day and Stevie Wonder!

It was incredible. I had such a good time.

So what do I have planned for October? A possible camping trip, plenty of scary shenanigans for Friday the 13th, a weekend at the annual horror movie convention in my hometown, more recipes and OOTDs to share- and I may be heading to a more peaceful section of New York to visit the real Sleepy Hollow for a few days- just in time for Halloween! October has always been a really busy month for me, so I’m excited to bring all the adventure to Blondie Birdie.

But Fall is in full-swing- and if you need any inspiration to get into the spirit of the season, I’ve got a couple of helpful links to get you started!

And I think that’s it for me today and for this fantastic month of September.

Enjoy your weekend and I’ll see you in October, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –