Into The Woods…

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone!

I hope you’re all having a wonderful week so far- and are staying strong as we work our way to Friday and another weekend ahead. Just a couple of days left and we’re free!

Tonight after I leave my office, I’ve got to head over to Cambridge where I’m meeting an old friend of mine I haven’t seen since this past Summer and some of his co-workers/business associates for a belated holiday party they had invited me to. The plan is dinner and an escape room experience- which should prove to be interesting. My closest friends and I were at each other’s throats the last time we all got locked in a room together for an hour- so it should be pretty entertaining to see how it goes with a few complete strangers!

This past weekend saw me actually escape the city instead, however- as I headed out to Western Massachusetts (and a bit North into New Hampshire) to jump start my New Year’s fitness regimen and spend a little more time outdoors and in nature- and hiked a good portion of the forest surrounding Mount Grace.

It’s been an odd mix of rain and snow here these past few days- and Saturday was no exception. I ended up bringing an umbrella with me to avoid getting sick because of the low temperatures and on/off sleet. It helped a little, but made some of the navigating and balancing myself as I stepped across wet/icy leaves and steep inclines a little difficult. I admittedly took more than one tumble during my trek- but thankfully no serious damage was done!

Best of all? I captured some really nice photos as the fog rolled in and out. You can click on the photos below to enlarge them!

There’s apparently a guard tower that you can scale to get a better view of the forest and surrounding areas- but I didn’t get an opportunity to locate it. That, and with the sun setting early these days- I also didn’t want to chance getting lost in the woods in the dark!

I’ll definitely have to go back and find it when the weather clears up a bit.

I’m hoping to be outdoors some more this coming Saturday/Sunday, although with everything I have planned- I think most of my time is going to be divided between driving to and from- and being indoors with friends and family as we celebrate belated birthdays and milestones that were overlooked around the holidays.

But I’m off to get some work done before the pandemonium goes down in Cambridge tonight. Here’s wishing you all a great rest of your Wednesday!

I’ll be back on Friday with a peek into my Winter wardrobe- provided I make it out of the escape room, of course!

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 –

The Santa Show!

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

After (very) recently finding out I had a few unused days off at my job that I needed to take before the end of 2018- I opted for a long weekend and took last Friday and today off. I think I’m going to try to take some additional days later on this week or near the end of next week, as well- but we’ll see how it goes as we get closer to Christmas!

This past weekend was a mixed bag- busy and relaxing at various times and intervals! I got a lot of pre-holiday errands done, got some gifts wrapped and ready to be delivered, did a little baking/cooking- and still managed to unwind in my thermal PJs while watching Christmas movies. I indulged in some self-care with much-needed TLC for my hair- and started confirming my New Year’s Eve plans (which are the epitome of pampering and indulgence, really!)

The definite highlight, though- was stopping by the Williston Northampton School to see my friends at Paintbox Theatre put on the last of their holiday shows that ran all weekend!

Seeing one of my dearest, longtime friends dressed up like a dog and singing Christmas carols to kids was pretty fantastic, sure- but the whole cast and crew were so fun, so energetic, so hilarious and animated- and so wonderful in each of their interactions with the children in the audience. It was heartwarming and adorable and just so lovely to sit and watch.

I’m really excited to be partnering with Paintbox for their 2019 Summer season- not only because they are a company I believe in and support 100%- but because it will essentially be like working with friends/family and I know it’s going to be a good fit. I can’t wait to get started after the New Year.

But for today- a day off- I’m going to be spending an afternoon with my mother helping her get some of her Christmas shopping done and grabbing lunch before the late afternoon rush when traffic and the shops get busy!

I’ve got to go pick her up right now, actually! Have a great day, everyone! See you all again on Wednesday!

xx

– Ashley –

Hello, Pumpkin…

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone!

It’s a short work week for me, which is nice- since I’ve got a busy weekend ahead to prepare for (including my hometown’s annual horror convention, my friend’s bachelorette party- and decorating for Halloween!) But the extra day off this past Monday has also given me the opportunity to spend more time outdoors in this lovely and brisk New England Fall weather.

This past three-day weekend was filled with scenic drives, stops at local farms and pumpkin patches, walks through the woods (some of which required umbrellas for unexpected rain!) and plenty of photo ops along the way. The foliage may not have quite reached maximum Autumnal potential just yet- but it’s quickly getting there as the days go on! I’m sure I’ll have the obligatory “rolling in the leaves” pics up on my social media soon enough (I’m not sorry, by the way. I love those!)

What made these past couple of days so special, of course- was that they were spent in the company of my family. I work a lot, and my ten year old niece is in school- so being able to take an afternoon together to sip coffee (and cocoa) and help her find the perfect pumpkin for her front porch, pet goats at the farmer’s market, and grab lunch with her and my mom was the ideal way to spend an October afternoon. Best of all? Oliver came too- and he was the most curious, cuddly, well-behaved pup imaginable!

Below are some of my favorite photos I snapped along the way. Feel free to click to enlarge them!

The rest of this week, leading up to Friday night, at least- will be mostly spent indoors between my office and home (or at the movie theater, since I’m seeing ‘Venom’ with friends from work tonight!) but it’s going to be so nice to be back outdoors in just a few short days! Bring on the rain and the chilly air. I’m here for it and I’ve got my boots ready to wear for the occasion!

But I’ve got to get some work done today before I get head out on the town to stuff my face with popcorn and watch Tom Hardy in IMAX. It’s the only way to watch Tom Hardy, really.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Wednesday and an easy, stress-free transition from your work week into Friday. I’ll have a recipe waiting for you when you get there!

xx

– Ashley –