“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 –

Food Comas and Makeovers by Blogerize!

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! It’s back to work for me (and a lot of other people, I’m sure!) after what was an extended weekend spent with family, friends, an overabundance of delicious, filling food and a little bit of holiday shopping. Although the time off was nice- and I wish it lasted just a little longer- I’m ready to dive back into my cases and try to begin a productive week.

I truly hope that all of you in the States who celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday had a wonderful time and were surrounded by people you love and cherish- and I hope those of you who participated in the Black Friday shenanigans were able to get some decent deals (and I especially hope those of you who work retail got to catch up on some much deserved sleep when it was all over!)

Although Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier every year, I was pleasantly surprised that many people in my community- both residential areas and businesses- waited until the days following Thanksgiving to start setting up their holiday decorations and displays. A local radio station, who typically start playing 24/7 Christmas music the day after Halloween- even waited until Thanksgiving was over before the heavy rotation of “Last Christmas” began, and I gotta’ say- it’s really refreshing! I don’t see myself getting burnt out on the holidays before they even arrive this year.

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Something else that’s refreshing? Blondie Birdie’s new layout! A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by Laura from Blogerize– who was looking to take on the task of giving my blog a complete and long overdue makeover- free of charge. It seemed a little too good to be true, but after doing some research- Laura and her team of professional designers provided me with a preview of what they had in mind- and it was so close to the vision I’d originally had for Blondie Birdie but, to date, hadn’t quite been able to achieve on my own.

With my go-head, the Blogerize crew re-vamped and breathed some serious life into my layout- giving me a seamless way to share my content and my readers/followers a chic and easy-to-navigate homepage that better connects them to posts, my social media, and offers a search function in case they’re looking for something specific within Blondie Birdie.

If you’re a blogger and you’re looking to spruce up your space on the internet- I highly recommend enlisting Blogerize’s services. They’re talented, fun, and create completely custom and unique designs tailored specifically to your blog’s content/topics/audience. They also offer online courses for beginners to the blogosphere to help with branding, designing and marketing- and 24/7 support for those who may need a helping hand in their designing/writing endeavors.

I cannot thank Laura and her team enough for their hard work and assistance as I made the transition to the new layout and hosting site. It’s truly appreciated and I couldn’t ask for a better early-Christmas present. I hope everyone enjoys the new layout as much as I am!

And with all that being said, I’ve got to get to work. Good luck getting through your Monday, everybody!

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 –

Medieval Times

When I was a kid, one of the the unanimous favorite places for field trips and birthday parties was the Higgins Armory Museum in my hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts. The building- overwhelmingly huge in size and overlooking most of the city- was a showcase for medieval armor and weaponry, as well as art and literature. Even more impressive was that a good portion of the interior was designed to look like the inside of a castle- complete with stone pillars, balconies, alters and stained glass.

Years ago, the museum also hosted an annual beer-tasting festival where breweries from all over New England would come down for a couple of days and my friends and I would go get tipsy off of endless Dixie cups filled with various wine and beer samples before we stumbled back to our friend’s nearby (former) apartment a few blocks away and ordered pizzas. Those trips were always a lot of fun.

Higgins unfortunately closed down a while ago, and most of the armory was shipped to Worcester’s Art Museum for display- rendering the big, beautiful and spacious building where majestic suits of armor, shields and swords once sat- empty and unattended for quite some time.

Until recently, anyway.

My friend Anita got married over the weekend to her now-husband, Brandon- and the reception was held in what was previously the castle-themed room at Higgins- which had been renovated and decorated absolutely and breathtakingly gorgeous. My cell phone photos simply don’t do it justice.

Now, admittedly- I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I first walked into the museum. The castle room is on the third floor of the building- and when Sean and I first entered the main hall on the first floor and were greeted by rows upon rows of empty hallways and cleaned out display cases- we weren’t sure we were in the right place. The second floor, which appeared to house a couple of offices but not much else- had us in a panic, but when we reached the third floor and saw what had been done with the space- we were ecstatic. Not only did it accommodate everyone comfortably- but we could play the music and cheer as loud as we wanted for as late as we pleased- and we didn’t have to worry about disturbing anyone!

The ceremony was lovely, laid-back, and a lot of fun. You could tell that Anita and Brandon just wanted everyone to have a good time and made it as free-spirited and wild as they are. I was also appreciative of how Anita included a lot of her culture in the ceremony (and the food!)– from her dress changes to the music choices to the decor. It was fascinating and I had a blast meeting and mingling with her family. They were all extremely nice- and they definitely know how to party!

Anita also happens to know a lot of people I used to hang out with in high school and during my early twenties- some of whom I hadn’t seen in a long time- so there were quite a few happy reunions and a lot of catching up going on during the course of the night.

I had an amazing time, and I would seriously consider throwing a Halloween party in that space someday!

Keeping up with the theme of Knights and fair maidens- on Sunday I headed over to Carver, Massachusetts with a group of my friends to check out King Richard’s Faire for the first time. Open on the weekends, the Faire runs from now through October 22nd and is essentially a large collection of vendors, shows and attractions in the middle of the woods. It’s a pretty neat setup- one that I had a lot of fun exploring- but the place is definitely on the pricier side. General admission tickets were $32 each and that doesn’t include the price of food or beverages (all considerably marked up, of course)– and if you’re thinking about buying any kind of authentic steel or leather goods- you better have your wallet and a lot of cash on you!

Astronomical prices aside- it’s an interesting way to spend an afternoon- especially to catch some of the jousting tournaments they have throughout the day. A lot of people went in costume, naturally- so I opted to go as Cersei Lannister from’Game of Thrones’- just for fun!

I love that wig so, so much.

Overall- I had a great weekend. It was action-packed and exciting- and I was really happy I got to see and spend time with so many of my friends all at once. Work can get a little crazy sometimes, and the weekends are often pretty hectic- but it’s awesome when we can all find the time to hang out together- even if it’s just for a couple of hours.

Here’s to Wednesday and the work week almost being over! Hang in there, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –