Jet Set Life

Um, can we just talk for a minute about how it’s basically already August? I know people say stuff all the time like, “This month has just flown by!” and “I can’t believe it’s already _____!” but this time it really is true — I am actually having trouble believing that as much time has passed as it has. It feels like the Fourth of July was like, last weekend! Oyyyy.

But I guess that’s what seven days in Ottawa, half-a-day in Montreal, one day in Toronto, and five days in San Francisco will do to you!

Yep, the past couple of weeks have been awesome, if not exhausting, haha. First was a trip down memory lane back in Canada, where I graduated from high school.

My week in Canada was pretty low key aside from all the driving we did between Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto, haha. I saw friends (including one of my bridesmaids, Holly!), ate lots of poutine, got my souvenirs in the form of ketchup chips, and all was well.

Then came the epic once-a-year Community Manager conference at Yelp HQ in San Francisco — what we call CM Week. This year, CM Week was superhero-themed, which really tells you all that you need to know.

I loveloveloved getting the chance to see my fellow Community Managers from around the globe (Yelp is in 32 countries!) and getting to brainstorm and get fired up for more projects to come! But try to imagine what it’s like when you basically put like 160+ Gretchens together in a room — all that energy! All that enthusiasm! I love it, but it is a lot to handle. And these folks really embody the idea of work hard, play hard, so even after a long day of sessions, so many of them were all up for going out all night, too. I tried to keep up, but I also knew that I had to take it relatively easy since…

The travel’s not over yet! As you read this, I am probably waiting in line at security to board yet another flight. I’m on my way back to Savannah, GA, for work. Yep, after being home for like, I dunno, three days? And after an Elite Event last night, to boot!

Don’t worry, the event was awesome. It was at local Falls Church eatery Pizzeria Orso, and there was a whole lot of selfie stick action happening, and I loved it. Buttttt, again, exhausting. Are you noticing a theme here? Hahaha.

So, alas, I’m on my way south and I am already tired of traveling. I don’t mean to sound whiney or ungrateful, don’t get me wrong!  It’s not that I’m not looking forward to GOING to Savannah. It’s a seriously boss city, and I love the Yelp Community Ambassador that I hired there, and it’s awesome that my job sends me there at all. Plus, because Savannah is so close to Macon, GA, I also will get to see my favorite niece (okay, my only niece… for another month or so!) and my sister.

But as much as I love all of those things, and as much as I know I’ll have a great time once I’m there, I just really, really, really don’t want to have to get on another plane.

Now, I’m no stranger to flying. I was on my first airplane at just a few months old. It’s not that flying bothers me or is scary to me or anything, I just am tired of doing it. I don’t know how people who travel all the time for work do it — I guess it just becomes the new normal? Because as much as I love travel and visiting new places (and old places!), visiting this many places in such a relatively short amount of time is exhaaaausting to me.

I just want to lie in my bed with Harry and Daxter for like, three days straight. I want to catch up on my DVR and be able to actually answer an email about my wedding (wedding stuff has taken a definite pause as I’ve been jet-setting around the continent), and I want to sleeeeeep.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m totally one of those people that gets sick basically every time she travels. Last year after CM Week, I got hit with what we call the CM Week Plague. I was basically bedridden for an entire week afterwards. So this year, I took it easy and tried to go to bed early(ish) most nights, and drank a LOT of beverages with extra Vitamin C… but I can still feel it coming. Pretty sure once I get back from this trip, I’ll be in a sad state.

The silver lining there, though, is that I think I will get to do all the aforementioned schnauzer snuggling and TV-watching I’ve been craving! In between the multitude of events I have lined up for August, that is, haahahaha…ha…ha.

Okay, anyway, no point dwelling on all that. C’est la vie, and regardless of whether I whine about it the whole time, I am gonna be plane-bound for just a little bit longer! I should be grateful (and I am!) that I’m afforded the opportunities to get to see old friends (in addition to seeing my Canadian buddies, I caught up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in ELEVEN years while I was in San Francisco!), go to sweet events (which is the reason I’m headed to Savannah in the first place), and eat lots of awesome food (which is really what I’m in all this for, after all.)

So, until next time, my friends!

Off to Ottawa + Some Updates!

Aloha!

I know, many more weeks have passed since my last update, and I’m pretty much the worst blogger ever. But let’s just go ahead and breeze on past that, because I’m making a point to get this post up today!

Why today? A Sunday of all days? Well, because by the time you are reading this, I am likely many miles above, flying on my merry way up to Ottawa, Ontario!

For those of you who don’t know, I actually graduated from high school in merry Canada, and I still have some very good friends who live there — one of whom is a bridesmaid in my wedding! They are such good friends, in fact, that they have come to visit me more than I’ve been back to visit them! The last time I was in Ottawa was back in 2011… yipes!

Anyway, needless to say, I’m more than overdue for a return “home.” I have to put the word home in quotation marks, of course, because I have like six “homes” — the result of being the daughter of a diplomat and moving every 3 – 4 years throughout childhood. Regardless, I’m super excited to check out my old stomping grounds and reflect on exactly how old I’ve gotten, hahaha.

Actually, I’ll be out and about for quite a while, as I’m going directly from my Ottawa vacation to San Francisco for our annual Yelp Community Manager Conference! #CMWeek15 I’ll be gone for about 12 days, which is a whole lot of time to be on the road for someone who’s got a job that’s totally locally-focused. But I’m excited to see old friends and catch up with my coworkers from around the globe, so it’s all good in the ‘hood.

Now, to catch you up quickly on what’s been a-going on ’round these here parts lately, first off, I had the pleasure of another wonderful visit from my sister, Jenny, and niece, Mia! Having Mia here for her first “real” Fourth of July was pretty fun! She did like the fireworks… for about five minutes. And then got scared. And then got over being scared, but got bored. Oh well, maybe next year she’ll be more into the spectacle?

 
I know it probably seems like I am spoiled because between their trips up here and my trips to Georgia (I luckily have a work obligation that brings me to Savannah every once in a while, which is only 2 hours from Macon, where they live), I actually see them a lot. But hey, I’m like weirdly obsessed with being an aunt, so it really works for me, ahaha! And it’s like extra bad right now, because I’m about to be an aunt x2, as Jenny is due with baby #2 at the end of August! Wheeeeee!

Anyway, Jenny was in town to attend the wedding of her best friend Lara, whose hair & makeup I was honored to be able to do for the big day. And with Taylor & Ben doing the wedding photography, it was a real Powell family affair, hehe!

It was a beautiful wedding, and the rain held off juuuust long enough, which was perfect (it’s been a really wet summer around here this year!) I will say, attending weddings as an engaged person is even more fun than it was before, btw. And I really liked going to weddings as a non-engaged person, hehehe.

Oh, also, my hair is blue as of Friday:

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Finally, we’ve been making some progress on the wedding planning progress! Here’s where the “Big List” stands right now:

Date: ☑

Venue: ☑

Dress: ☑ (no spoilers!)

Caterer: ☑

Photographer: ☑

Videographer: ☑

Flowers: ☐ (halfway there!)

Centerpieces: ☐ (Done in that we figured out exactly what they’ll be, not done in that much crafting is still to take place)

Ceremony Musicians: ☑

DJ: ☐

Cake: ☑

Day-of Coordinator: ☑

Save the Dates: ☑

Invitations: ☐

We officially have our caterer chosen and locked down, and after having our final cake tasting today, I think we’ve settled on a baker as well! Just need to do some paperwork on that front. And now I’m just waiting on getting a quote for DJ/lighting, getting some more floral quotes, and working my crafty little DIY-fingers to the bone on centerpiece elements and our ceremony backdrop. I am also starting to look at invitation options. And unfortunately, I don’t think that Sean is going to jump at my Marauder’s Map Invitation Suite suggestion, haha.

Although I do solemnly swear I am up to no good when it comes to my wedding shoes…

wedding shoes

Kekekekekeke. 😀

Anyway, jumping back to flowers for a hot sec, as you may remember, I was quite torn on whether we should attempt to DIY our flowers, or hire a professional like most sane people do. Well, because I like to think I exist in that space in-between insanity and sanity, we have decided to do at least half of the flowers ourselves. Our centerpiece flowers, that is!

See, I’ve never envisioned having big floral centerpieces — like, one vase with dozens of carefully and artfully arranged flowers. I think they’re beautiful, and if I had a dream wedding budget, I’m sure I’d want ’em, but as it stands… well, anyway, our centerpieces are going to mainly consist of some crafted wine bottles and glasses that will be used as vases.

So I took a trip to a local floral wholesaler last week with my sister and mom to pick up some flowers and play around, and this is what we came up with (as a mockup):

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The lighting isn’t the best (we took these pics late at night), but considering it’s my first time dealing with floral centerpiece stuff, it’s not half bad, right? This isn’t exactly what they’ll look like on the day, of course, but it definitely gives us an idea!

I’m planning for the flowers will all be a variety of whites, creams, blushes, and maybe some peach (that bright pink hydrangea is just an extra one my mom had for us to play around with). And I do plan on going into more detail on how I crafted the bottles and glasses (with some better pics of those), so stay tuned for that.

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I also played around with making a bouquet, and while I actually think my practice one turned out pretty nice (I mean, it was my first bouquet ever!), it also ended up being more difficult than I actually anticipated. (Guess watching all those Youtube tutorials really isn’t the same as having, you know, like, experience, hahaha.) So, at this point I am thinking that I’ll probably want to leave the bouquets, bouts, and corsages to the professionals.

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If it doesn’t sound too pompous to say so, however, I do think I did a pretty boss job of making a floral crown for myself my flower girl, though! All it took was some floral wire, floral tape, and wax flowers, and maybe like 40 minutes (much of which was spent being distracted watching Sophia the First with Mia, hahaha.) And since I got quoted $110 from a florist for a floral crown made by them, I think I feel pretty confident gifting Mia with a crown of my own creation, hahaha.

So there you have the latest & the greatest in terms of wedding updates and what’s been going on in the Life of Gretchen. I mean, not including the various Yelp events I’ve been planning (I’m doing a SUPER fun dog-friendly series of events in August — check it out, local peeps!), wedding hair trials, spending time with friends (also, Jenny and I went to see Book of Mormon and it was ridiculous and awesome), spending time with my betrothed (well, duh), and trying to decide between a Royal Caribbean cruise and a Norwegian cruise for our honeymoon. Anyone have opinions on that last one? :)

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Alas, but for now, I must bid you adieu! As I am headed to Canada, I shall now utilize as much French as I know… which is, admittedly, extremely limited and mosty picked up from one-liners in The Devil Wears Prada. (“Je suis très, très désolé.” “Oh, you’re not désolé at all.”)

Ahem, anyway! À bientôt and au revoir!

A Rose By Any Other Name

Hola!

Sorry for the long hiatus, party people! Things have gotten a little bit crazy ’round the neighborhood lately (I’ve had four Yelp events already this month, and another two to go!), and so both my blogging AND my wedding planning have been pushed to the side for a bit.

But my parents are returning from their amazing 3-week vacation in France (lucky sons of…) which finally means that a lot of the things I was waiting to do with my mom can finally get done! So I’ve got a full week of catering tastings, floral meetings, and the like set up. Hooray!

For those of you who were wondering, by the way, I did end up deciding on that Save the Date. By overwhelming response, the winner is…

So yes, Save the Dates are done and have been sent out (to all the folks whose addresses I was actually able to get, haha), which means the rest of planning is going full-steam ahead! My Big Item Wedding Checklist now looks like this:

Date: ☑

Venue: ☑

Dress: ☑ (and I ordered my veil, too!)

Caterer: ☐ (tastings this week!)

Photographer: ☑

Videographer: ☑

Flowers: ☐ (consultation this week, and see below)

Centerpieces: ☐ (in-progress)

Ceremony Musicians: ☑

DJ: ☐

Cake: ☐ (tastings scheduled)

Day-of Coordinator: ☑

Save the Dates: ☑

Invitations: ☐

Lol, notice how the list keeps growing? Hahaha. I hope to have DJ (and lighting) locked up soon, and I also have scheduled a couple of cake tastings, which, along with the catering tastings happening later this week, officially marks the start of the “fun” stuff, I’m told! Our wedding website is also live (although not 100% complete, as I’m meeting with potential hotels to book room blocks this week), which is fun (and gives me a use for all those engagement pictures, hehe.

I also am continuing to deliberate on what to do with flowers. When I first blogged about trying to figure out my priorities for the wedding, I had flowers pretty far down on the list. In fact, I didn’t even think I was going to have any flowers in my centerpieces at all! But, of course, the more planning and research (and Pinning!) I do, the more I do want some fresh blooms at the wedding, haha.

I’m meeting with a florist on Thursday, but am also still heavily considering DIY-ing the flowers, especially since I have hired a day-of coordinator to help get everything set up, AND I found out from the venue that I will be able to store things overnight on-site (though we won’t be able to set up until a few hours beforehand.)

Everyone I talk to thinks I am a bona fide crazy person for even considering DIY-ing the flowers, but I just honestly don’t think it’ll be that bad! Costco sells bulk flowers (and, as you can see above, their roses are gorgeous, I bought some off their flowers the last time I was there and they were beautiful and lasted a week!) and I am fortunate to have access to more than one wholesale flower market in this area as well. I’ve also found a site that will portion out flowers in smaller amounts than you’d be able to order online, so you can get a wider variety of flowers instead of having to buy like 200 of one kind.

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I’ve also already DIY-ed some brooch flowers to include in my bouquet anyway (more detail to come on this in a later post), and I’ve watched a lot of tutorials on putting together bouquets, which can be done the day before. And my centerpieces are not going to be big floral centerpieces in a vase like you see at a lot of weddings, but instead will only require about a dozen loose flowers per table, which I think will be pretty easy to set up (esp. if we can stage them the night before and just have the coordinator transport them from the storage room to the tables.)

But, again, I don’t know if I may be taking on too much. At this point, it’s still easy for me to evaluate all the various DIY projects I have going on (centerpieces, ceremony backdrop, flowers) and say “I’ve got plenty of time!” but since flowers cannot be done in advance, I may be taking on more than I’ll really be able, or even want, to handle in the days before the wedding.

I dunno. I guess I’ll have a much clearer idea after I speak with the florist later this week — maybe her prices will be fairer than I’ve been seeing from other florists in the area. Who knows?

Did you DIY your flowers, or do you know anybody who has? How much did you end up spending on wedding flowers?

Engagement Paparazzi

I gotta say, one of the real perks of having a wedding photographer duo as your brother and sister-in-law is a lightning quick turnaround time on your engagement photos, hehe.

 

That’s riiiiight, our engagement photos from Taylor & Ben are back, and I’m in lovelovelove! So many great shots of Sean and me together!

See, whereas I basically put my entire life on the interwebs for all to watch, observer, and comment on, Sean, um, doesn’t. He changes his Facebook profile photo like once every other year, the only thing even close to social media that he participates in is Reddit (and even then, he mainly lurks, never comments). What this all equates to is a high level of resistance to the number of selfies I try to take of us. In fact, trying to get him to pose for a photo with me often results in, well:

Heh. So, imagine how wonderful it was for me to have a built-in excuse to take a plethora of pictures together with him! He was a very good sport about the entire thing, putting up with an outfit change (we literally changed in the street, hahaha) and multiple locations. Although, to be fair, he certainly got his jollies out of the whole experience too — telling me I had an imaginary bug in my hair, or bear-hugging the crap outta me, for example.

Of course, that being said, I was not without a few bloopers of my own, hehe:

Is it weird that these are some of my favorite ones? 😛

We shot our photos outside the US Botanical Gardens, as well as at Blind Whino, this really cool old church-turned-art gallery/event space in SE DC.

 
Now, it’s admittedly very difficult for me not to be super critical of myself in every photo, zeroing in on flaws that I imagine nobody else really cares about. Even with all of my preaching about loving thyself no matter your pant size, body love, and whatnot (all of which I really do believe!), I am still my own worst critic.

But I think having these photos taken is genuinely helping me live those things. I love these pictures — I love what they represent, what they portray, and I even love the way I look in them. I feel like they really showcase how truly happy I feel (cheesy, I know, but true!). Do I still wish that I didn’t have a back roll in one picture, or that my chin was jutted a little further out in another? Sure, but not enough to make me stop loving each photo nonetheless.

These pictures are a true, perfectly imperfect account of who I am now. The me that is getting to marry the man that I love. And I would much rather show the photos off than hide them away just because I don’t like the way a certain specific part of my body might be looking.

Anyway, enough with the heavy. Back to how much I freaking love the photos we took at Blind Whino! So colorful, despite the chain-link fence surrounding the building that I definitely did not realize would be there, hahaha.

 

As an extra bonus, the building is located in this really quiet neighborhood in DC, so we were able to get a few street/crosswalk shots as well! I loved the way the trees arched over this street. Made for a pretty perfect picture, I tell ya.

Also, a fun thing about shooting photos in the middle of the street is that you will get people shouting “Congratulations!” from their cars as they drive by, hahaha!

Engagement Shoot solo pictures together

I was superextraspecial excited (hard to imagine something beyond my normal level of excitement, I know, but it’s true!) to get these photos back because I have been chomping at the bit to send out our Save the Dates!

I know that January is still relatively far off, but since we have a lot of friends and family from out of town, plus with the proximity to the holidays, I want to give people as much notice as possible. Plus, I think I’m just looking to how official it’ll feel to have something printed with our wedding date on it, y’know?

Not without difficulty, we have narrowed down the Save the Date photo to these three, and I’d love your input! I definitely want to use a photo with the ampersand in it, so what do you think of the following? 1, 2, or 3?

I love all color going on in #1, but the overall image of #2 seems more striking. And while part of me thinks that #3 might be a little silly, well, so I am. So it’s definitely the most personality-ish one. Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts! I’m like 99% positive we’ll be doing a magnet Save the Date if that makes any difference.

I also can’t wait to get some of these photos uploaded to the wedding website that I’ve been working on! And to replace basically every profile photo I’ve ever had on any website ever. And to make it my phone wallpaper. And computer screensaver. And basically just pore over them obsessively forever and ever and ever and… okay, I should really go.

‘Til next time!

Make Me Over

Happy Monday, folks!

I hope you all had a stellar weekend. Mine was wonderful but busy!

It started with Sean and I taking engagement photos with Ben and Taylor:

This is a preview photo, and I am SO excited to see the rest of the shots! We went down to DC and took some pictures by the Botanical Gardens and then some in another part of DC that I can’t waaaaaait for you to see.

And the weekend ended with a seriously baller workout as part of my Yelp Elite Event yesterday:

The event was at The Worx by Maia, and it was a bootcamp-style workout that had us doing everything from battle ropes (pictured above) to tire flips to wall sits to box jumps to… whoosh!

Suffice it to say, it was cray, and I can already feel my muscles hating me (which admittedly doesn’t make me super excited for how I’m gonna feel TOMORROW, haha.)

Anyway, in between those two bookending weekend events, I did some bridal makeup for blog reader Ashley’s big day!

 
Her wedding looked so beautiful! I feel like I have so much appreciation for all the little things that go into weddings now that I’m planning one of my own. And the whole time we were helping her and her bridal party get ready, I just kept thinking how much fun it’s going to be when it’s my turn, hehe!

Of course, while I was there doing makeup for Ashley and her bridesmaids, the inevitable question came up as to whether or not I was going to do my own makeup for my wedding. In the beginning, I thought it would be a no-brainer that, yes, I would definitely want to do my own makeup, but now I’m actually a little torn!

See, the dilemma comes from this: I love makeup, doing makeup, prettifying myself, and prettifying others. I own a lot of makeup (a LOT, hahahaha), and I’ve done makeup for quite a few bridesmaids and a couple of brides at this point.

But, that being said, I feel like most women want their wedding day to feel special and different. And having someone else do your makeup most definitely gives you that pampered feeling. Plus, this way I would definitely have someone there to do the makeup for my bridesmaids who might not want or know how to do it themselves (since I probably won’t really have time to do everyone else’s makeup on my own wedding day, haha.)

Plus, face makeup is not really my specialty (I’d say eye makeup is where I’m strongest), and I especially like the idea of getting airbrushed foundation, especially since I get red-faced suuuuper easily.

But! On the other hand, it obviously costs money to hire someone to do makeup, so there are budgetary concerns. Plus, you hear these stories about women who get their makeup done professional and don’t like it, so they end up redoing it all themselves anyway. I mean, I’d do a trial to make sure I was happy, of course, but there’s still that risk.

Anyway, so this is my current dilemma. I know it’s probably nothing I need to decide RIGHT now, but since I just did bridal makeup this weekend, what can I say? It’s on my mind. I’ll let it percolate a little bit more, but I’d love to hear from you guys on what you did or didn’t do with regard to your wedding day makeup!

Did you get your makeup done on your wedding day? Or did you do your own?