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 –

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 –

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 –

“Sunsets and Neon Lights…”

The view from my hotel room!

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! It’s great to be back on the East Coast!

… Just kidding. It’s been an icy, snowy, freezing cold mess since I landed back home in Boston on Tuesday night- and all I want to do is just return to Nevada and bask in the sunshine and perfect temperatures again. 72 degrees and not a cloud in the sky in early February? Yeah- sign me up for that. I’ll take ten of those.

Actually, I have every intention of packing up and moving out to good ol’ Henderson, Nevada (just 20-30 minutes away from the bright lights and the excitement of the Strip) as early as this Fall if circumstances permit- so I figure I just have to tough it out for a few more weeks until Spring gets here, and then hold on tight through the Summer. I’ve already been re-evaluating my budget and actively researching real estate in the area- and looking at some pretty promising prospects!- so I’m not left rushing through any life-changing decisions at the last possible minute come September/October.

But I digress! This most recent trip was purely for fun and to get away from the snow and the sleet for a few days. I only had a couple of things on my itinerary- leaving the rest up to fate. The most important thing was spending time with my West Coast Wife, Kelsey- who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. She’s wonderful and amazing and gorgeous- and she has the sweetest husband and the cutest baby girl I’ve ever seen in my life. It was an absolute joy to spend so much time with them all this past weekend. I miss them tons already.

Kelsey and I first met through The Killers, so it was only fitting we went to their hometown show at MGM Grand together this past Saturday night as their ‘Wonderful Wonderful’ U.S. tour was coming to an end. The guys knocked it out of the park as usual- even throwing in a really fun cover of “Viva Las Vegas” and mixing up the setlist a bit for the occasion.

I’m still in awe of their stage setup- and having been a few whiskey sours in by the time the show wrapped up- I’m pretty sure I gushed to my friend Steven about how much I loved it in excess. He’s brilliant- and both sober me and inebriated me feels it’s necessary to tell him once in a while!

The boys are back in Boston for our Boston Calling Festival in May- and I can’t wait!

During this most recent stay, I hung my hat at The Cosmopolitan– which offered the best view I’ve ever had of the Vegas strip (my room overlooked the Bellagio fountain!) as well as plenty of unique and incredible dining options. I didn’t have to venture too far to eat well and affordably. Breakfasts were typically at Eggslut, while post-drink carbs could be found- with a little searching- at the secret pizza place hidden within the hotel.

At one point during the weekend, Kelsey and I headed to one of my favorite neon and gaudy restaurants/lounges- Peppermill– where I had the greatest biscuits and gravy I’ve ever tasted and a mimosa that was strong enough to almost take the sting out of the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss later on that night.

I never went hungry- or broke!

Peppermill!

I spent some of my downtime during my stay perusing and people-watching on the Strip- and I gambled a little- although I admittedly didn’t win anything. A lot of the casinos had Chinese New Year themed decorations everywhere- and since the impending holiday marks the Year of The Dog- I was all about the adorable stuffed dogs and statues of canines they had in lobbies and throughout the hallways of places like The Venetian, The Bellagio, and Caesar’s Palace.

I bet the actual celebration in the city is insanely fun. I wish I could have been there for it!

Overall, I had an amazing time- and this trip really gave me something to look forward to when it comes to relocating. It was great catching up with old friends, seeing one of my favorite bands in their element, being able to actually relax and have fun while simultaneously enjoying some decent drinks and delicious food- and being nice and warm throughout the day (and even after the sun had set!)

I’d love to head out to the area again sooner rather than later- even if it’s just to look at some apartments or houses up close!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone. I’ve got to get some work done at my office- and the regular posting schedule will be back up next week!

xx

– Ashley –