New Year, New York…

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

What an absolutely fun, exciting and beautiful past few days I’ve had! Even coming back to my office on Wednesday morning to return to my usual weekday grind has been enjoyable- thanks in part to a new scheduling system I’ve been utilizing to better manage my time/tasks. I have to say that starting my 2019 *not* being inundated with cases and loose ends is a nice change of pace.

Of course, I have to talk about my New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day- which was spent between New York City, Western Massachusetts and finally- home sweet home.

I had wanted a cozy, laid-back New Year’s Eve- particularly since the past few celebrations over recent years have involved expensive, extravagant parties, bar-hopping, and/or spending entirely too much time in bitterly frigid New England cold. To see out 2018 and welcome in 2019- I just wanted to be warm, comfortable, have some decent food and a drink- and be somewhere a little different than Massachusetts so I could have a new experience to start the New Year off on the right foot.

And so, I turned to NYC- and entrusted my evening to the fine folks at the Hotel Indigo on the Lower East Side. I’m a frequent guest at their San Diego/Gaslamp Quarter location whenever I travel to the West Coast- so their incredible service, a spacious room with a view, and kick-ass amenities were not surprising. What was surprising was their lobby (with a wrap-around panoramic view of the city via floor to ceiling windows) being located on the 14th floor as opposed to on the ground level. I was a big fan of that twist.

I settled right in, ordered a fantastic cheeseburger from their Mr. Purple restaurant (and some cheesecake! I had to go big and gluttonous for the last night of the year!), grabbed a drink at a dive bar down the street while dodging the rain as much as possible- and then retreated to my room where I texted/video chatted with friends back home and abroad while we waited for the countdown to midnight via various news outlets. I opted to watch Anderson Cooper take shots of tequila and look like he was ready to throw up- and it was worth every minute. Truly.

After midnight, it didn’t take long for my body to give into the cheeseburger, champagne, and a day of train travel to arrive in New York- and I managed to successfully get a full night of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. I awoke on New Year’s Day feeling refreshed, energized- and pleasantly optimistic! Even better? Monday night’s rainstorms and freezing cold had disappeared- and Tuesday saw plenty of sun and temperatures that reached the high fifties/low sixties for most of the day!

To kick off 2019, I wanted to honor a family tradition *and* do something different and daring. When I was a kid, my mother thought lighting a candle and saying a prayer to whatever higher power we believed in to wish our loved ones a blessed new year and express hope for our own happiness/prosperity for the months ahead. After grabbing breakfast- I had navigated my way to Rockefeller Center- and popped by St. Patrick’s Cathedral across the street to honor my mom’s tradition (I called her to let her know afterwards- and she was delighted!) and take in the beautiful architecture.

The city was still very much decked out for Christmas during my brief stay- and it was such a thrill to have a chance to catch a glimpse of some of the over-the-top decor before it gets taken down again. Below are a couple of photos I snapped with my phone. You can click them to enlarge ’em and see!

And, for my “different and daring” to-do for the day- I opted to face my fear of heights and ride an elevator 70 stories up Rockefeller Center to take in the views of New York from atop of the world at the ‘Top of The Rock’ Observation Deck. While the wind made things a little intimidating at first and it took a few minutes for my heart to stop racing- it was such an exhilarating and memorable experience.

The sun made catching photos of the Empire State Building (and snapping the perfect selfie) a little difficult- but I managed to get a few pics I was content with- and would definitely go back and do it again if given the opportunity.

After coming back down to Earth- and knowing I had plans with my friend Troy later on in the evening out in Northampton, Massachusetts- I managed to catch an early afternoon train home before the crowds and traffic got too bad with everyone trying to get out of the city all at once.

Once I was back in my home state a couple of hours later, I closed out New Year’s Day with a cozy night in watching movies and snacking on whatever was in Troy’s kitchen before I headed back to my own place to get another good night’s sleep and prepare for my return to work on Wednesday morning.

And now, only a couple of days later during this short work-week- and I’m ready for the weekend! I have a few things planned- including some local travel/hiking and a recipe post to put together for next week- but before I start all of that- I’m heading over to Allston today to catch a set by The Sheila Divine at Great Scott for Indie617!

If you’re in the area, come say hello! It’s going to be a lot of fun and a great way to kick off live music in Boston for 2019.

I’m off to get some work done before I take off for the rest of the day. I’ll be back on Monday, when my posting schedule returns to normal now that the holidays are done!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

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 –

“Just hear those sleigh bells jingle-ing, ring-ting tingle-ing, too…”

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone!

Today is my usual half at work (the day changes come January 1st for a couple of months- so I’m enjoying these mid-week breaks for now!) before I head home to finish wrapping my Christmas presents and start scheduling their deliveries to friends and family during visits and parties over the next few days.

I’m quite pleased with how I’ve managed to get my decorating, shopping, (most of) my wrapping, baking/cooking and planning done early and/or reasonably hassle-free this year- so much, actually- that I’ve had more time to enjoy seasonal activities and events I may have otherwise missed during last-minute gift shopping panic.

A portion of this past weekend, for example- was spent in an indoor “Winter Wonderland” with my mother during an outing in Western Massachusetts where I helped her finish checking things off her own shopping list and then grabbed a nice lunch together.

While Christmas is positively beautiful in Boston- and there’s so much to see and do- the crowds can get a little overwhelming at times. The Pioneer Valley is a lot more low-key, historic, and quiet. I’ve been spending a lot of time there and it really is just a lovely location to be leading up to the holidays.

During our day out, my mother and I marveled at rooms lined wall to wall with miniature villages, made a pact to someday purchase one of the 30-foot high Christmas trees that touched the ceiling, tried to find the perfect nutcracker to add to her ever growing collection- and resisted the urge to buy every single dessert-themed ornament we spotted on sale (and there were a lot.)

It was a really great, fun, and laid-back day- and we even saw a bit of snow in what was otherwise a rainy week/weekend!

This coming Friday, I have another seasonally and holiday-appropriate recipe to share (this time it’s a dinner entree!) before I break for Christmas. And then, much to my disbelief at how fast time is flying this month- it’s going to be all about looking back at December and at 2018 overall on Blondie Birdie next week- with recaps about some of my favorite products/items/odds and ends to close out the year- and my Top Ten Photos I snapped during my travels and misadventures since January.

It’s a lot to do and prepare for, but I’m excited!

Until then- here’s wishing you all a wonderful Wednesday. I hope the remainder of the day and this week is stress-free and full of festive fun and cheer!

See you all again on Friday!

xx

– Ashley –

October 2018: In a Nutshell

Good Morning, Happy Wednesday- and Happy Halloween, everyone!

With today being one of my favorite holidays, I’m starting things off a bit early this A.M. with a costume party and brunch potluck at my office with my co-workers before I head home to decorate my yard and front porch in preparation for tonight’s Trick-Or-Treaters.

My niece will be dropping by for a candy sweep of my neighborhood before we kick back with some pizza and enjoy a classic horror/slasher movie marathon- as is tradition!

I can’t believe tomorrow is the beginning of November and that Thanksgiving will be just a few short weeks away. I love a good food coma as much as the next person, but I wish October could go on just a little while longer- especially this past one- since it’s been so much fun!

This past month was filled with the usual spooky outings- from haunted pathways in New Hampshire, watching scary flicks in the middle of the woods (and in the middle of the night, no less), checking out Jack O’Lantern festivals with friends visiting from the West Coast and stopping by some of the more notoriously creepy graves in New England- but October was also peppered with plenty of shows, parties (including one of my best friend’s bachelorette party! I can’t believe her wedding is this coming weekend!), pumpkin picking at local farms and random get-togethers, too!

I traveled all over New England in October, including a long overdue trip to Montpelier, Vermont to spend time with family, catching a play at a converted barn in Western Massachusetts- and stopping by the Indie617 HQ to weigh in on music and events around the city not once- but twice.

FYI, if you missed those appearances, HERE’S the first and HERE’S the second! It’s always so much fun hanging out.

This past weekend, I actually braved the storm that rolled through the area to head to the station’s “Boos and Brews” party at Idle Hands Craft Ales in Malden to enjoy some good tunes, some really tasty beer- and PIZZA SKULLS (!!!) courtesy of Fat Boyfriend Bakery They were SO good.

I wore my Freddy Krueger costume to the party, which I’m also sporting today at work and will be wearing tonight while I pass out candy! I should have a decent photo of the whole thing up on my Instagram and here on the blog a little later on today/this week.

So, once all the Halloween excitement is (sadly) over- what do I have planned for November? Well, voting is right up there at the top of my list (and should be for everyone else, too!)– but blog-wise I’ve got plenty more recipes to share, especially with Thanksgiving approaching- as well as more late-Autumn wardrobe staples, early-shopping gift guides for the holidays, a peek inside my Fall makeup collection, and a bit more traveling before it starts snowing around here again!

But for now, I’m going to eat a ton of candy and savor today. Here’s hoping you all have a ghoulish evening! Stay safe out there!

xx

– Ashley –

“But you’re the Pumpkin King!”

Good Evening and Happy Friday, everyone!

While my posts typically go up fairly early in the morning- I opted to sleep in a little late today before work after a night out- and figured I’d update while I was curled up and cozy and getting ready for a much-needed quiet night in.

The World Series is on, and then it’s a late night horror movie marathon before I kick off my weekend bright and early tomorrow morning!

This past week has been wild- in a good way. Shortly after I shared my Game Day recipe for Loaded Baked Potato Chips on Wednesday, I was live on Indie617 during ‘Morning Glory’ with Michael Marotta where we talked Jack White looking miserable at baseball games, the time Ryan Adams baby-sat me, the good ‘ol days of VH1 reality television- and debated which Strokes album was the best. If you missed the segment and want to give it a listen- CLICK HERE.

My time with Indie617 is extending to tomorrow, as well- where I’ll be making an appearance at their Boos & Brews Halloween Party at the Idle Hands Craft Ales in Malden (DETAILS HERE). I’m so excited to listen to some good music, have some drinks, and savor some pizza skulls- yes, you read that right- pizza skulls!

Last night, my good friends visiting from Pasadena for the week met up with me at Franklin Park Zoo so that we could catch up while we walked through their Jack O’Lantern Journey display (which runs through November 4th!) It was really impressive- and definitely made me want to step up my own Jack O’Lantern game!

It was really good seeing them, since it’s been a couple of years- and I’m looking forward to visiting their neighborhood once I’m out on the West Coast again!

But it’s time to watch the Red Sox and get ready for a busy day tomorrow! I’ll be back on Monday with some of my favorite things from October and a recap of this lovely, spooky month come Halloween!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone! Don’t forget to stock up on candy for the Trick-Or-Treaters before the stores run out!

xx

– Ashley –