A Texas Thanksgiving

Howdy, and happy Monday! I hope you all had as great of a Thanksgiving as our little cowgirl! We spent Turkey Day this year in Texas Hill Country where Sean’s uncle has an awesome house, and it was so much fun! We ate barbecue, soaked in the outdoors, had an amazing Thanksgiving meal, ate more barbecue, and spent time with Sean’s whole extended family.

Penny was, naturally, the star of the show, hehe.

 

Penny did great her second time flying (well, at least, she did great on the flight THERE), and I learned the reality that is packing for a week away with an infant (apparently 2 adults + 1 baby = 3 checked bags and 3 carry ons, not including the stroller and carseat.) Even though I’ve traveled with Penny before, going to see my sister and her kiddos is a bit of a different affair when it comes to packing. That big blue suitcase picture above? That’s JUST Penny’s crap, and I still didn’t pack enough burp cloths. -_-

It was all more than worth it though, of course! Sean’s uncle’s place is located in Dripping Springs, Texas, and happens to be a mere stone’s throw away from one of the best barbecue places in aaaaaall the realm: The Salt Lick!

 

This place is pretty famous for its deliciousness (just ask its almost 3,500 Yelp reviews!) and for good reason — their barbecue is serious gold! It’s so good, in fact, that we ended up going twice during our stay, hehe.

Now, I’m sure this comes as a HUGE SHOCK to you all, but I am not exactly what you’d call a country gal. That said, this city slicker can certainly appreciate the beauty of the great outdoors every now and then, and this was definitely one of those times! Sean’s uncle’s house sits on a huge slice of land with walking trails and a great lake and whatnot, and it was really nice taking Penny around the property — I mean, even if she did just sleep through it all, at least she was getting lots of fresh air.

Sean’s brother is a photographer, and snapped tons of great shots in addition to the zillion I have on my phone, so we definitely have our first REAL family trip appropriately documented!

And it was definitely a special week indeed, because aside from it being Penny’s first Thanksgiving, it was also her first time meeting all of Sean’s extended family — her great-grandmother included! She did awesomely meeting so many people and experiencing so many new sights and sounds. Everyone kept telling us what a good baby she is, which we are very aware of and is definitely one of the things we are super thankful for (in addition to, you know, just being thankful for her existence in general!)

 

Yep, that makes for four generations of Foxes represented at the Thanksgiving table. 🙂

And speaking of Thanksgiving itself, let’s talk about the fooooood!

There were TWENTY-FOUR people altogether for Thanksgiving this year, which made for a crazy amount of food. The spread was so intense and impressive that I didn’t even remember to take a picture of the entire smorgasbord, which included not one, not two, but THREE different kinds of turkey (roasted, smoked, and deep-fried, heheheheheh.) I did, however, at least manage to snag some snaps of the three dishes that Sean and I contributed: maple & bacon roasted brussels sprouts, mac ‘n’ cheese, and loaded mashed potatoes.

  

There was also stuffing, bourbon glazed carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, Irish beer rolls, and pies galore: apple, chocolate, coconut creme, pumpkin, and pecan if I’m not mistaken. I KNOW. My mouth is literally filling up with saliva just thinking back on it all. ::drool::

Sean’s aunt, who was crazy generous with us all weekend (she gifted us with the amazing cowgirl outfit pictured above, amongst many other amazing things to honor Penny’s quarter-Texan roots, heh), also thought to bring a reclinable high chair to the ranch so that Penny could join us at the table on Thanksgiving.

 

Turns out, Penny found the chair so comfortable, she napped straight through the meal in it! Kiiiinda makes me want to buy this specific highchair for her now, even though we totally already have one. Because what we need is more baby junk, right?

But hey, turns out some of that baby junk was absolutely ESSENTIAL on this trip! After getting to 5-6 hour stretches of sleep pretty regularly at home, I was convinced that it would all go to hell and Penny would sleep horribly on the trip. I mean, with the travel, being in a new place, there being so many new people, etc, who would’ve blamed her, right?

But it turns out our fears were all for nothing. In addition to the high chair, Sean’s aunt was also kind enough to bring a pack ‘n’ play up to the ranch for Penny, so we just tucked her into her Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit, and she slept like a rockstar! She didn’t sleep quite as long as she had been at home, but she did 4.5 hours the first night and then 5-5.5 each night after that, which was far better than I could’ve hoped.

 

We also brought the DockATot with us, and I was really glad we did even though she didn’t sleep in it at night. It was soooo convenient being able to tote it around the house and be able to have a place to put her down. After all, we were without all the rest of our baby containers — her swing, her floor seat, her activity gym — so it was great to just be able to bring the DAT with us from room to room as needed.

 

So yes, a fabulous trip where Penny was able to get in touch with her Texan roots and I was able to eat my bodyweight in various kinds of meat. A successful trip, wouldn’t you say?

 

Alas, the fun had to stop at some point, and Penny was unfortunately a lot fussier on the plane ride home from Texas than she was on the way there. I also developed quite a nasty cold on the last day of our trip, and sadly it looks like Penny has gotten sick too! She is quite congested and has a runny nose that I’ve been NoseFrida-ing like crazy, and she had a low-grade fever last night. This morning she’s back to her happy little self and her fever’s back down though, so fingers crossed things remain that way…!

Hope everyone has an easy week getting back into the swing of things work-wise. I have just under three weeks until I’m back at work myself! Hopefully I can kick this cold soon so that I can enjoy every last minute of my maternity leave. And at least if I have to be going back to work, I’m going back during the BEST TIME OF THE YEAR!

Yep, we had a great trip, and Thanksgiving is fun and delicious and all, but let’s be real: in the end isn’t it really just the final barrier standing between me and Christmas?

So let the holiday music play, folks, it’s CHRISTMAS SEASON! And I gotta tell you, if you thought I was being extra with Penny’s first Thanksgiving or Halloween… just you wait, just you wait.

My Best Birthday Yet

Today is my 29th birthday! Which, since Baby Foxlet will be making its way into the world before my next turn ’round the sun, basically means it’s the last birthday I’m planning on celebrating, uh, ever. I pretty much plan on just staying this age for the rest of my life if that’s cool, ahahahaha.

I spent the weekend celebrating, and oooooooh man, WHAT a weekend! It was full of family, fun, and feasting… and a little something extra special, which obviously means it was pretty much the best.

My sister, Jenny, was up for a visit from the ATL, so I got a lot of QT in with my little nieces. We also spent some sister-sister bonding time Saturday morning by heading to the salon for a little beautification. Since chopping off my hair, I’d just been letting it grow kinda wild… and it was heading dangerously into mullet-territory.

 

 

I was in desperate need for a little shape-up as it grows out, and I’m feeling much happier now that my locks have been tamed! Jenny lightened up for summer with some refreshed highlights, too. Huzzah!

 

 

Before Jenny and the girls had to skidaddle back to Atlanta yesterday, we had an early family birthday celebration for meeeeee! We headed to one of my favorite restaurants, Chasin’ Tails, and had a regular ol’ seafood feast. I was ecstatic for many reasons (y’all know how much I love my birthday!), but in particular because I was actually able to eat a good amount at dinner! I finally seem to be getting my appetite back (at certain times of day, at least), which after 4 straight months of nausea has been straight-up amazing.

 

 
 

After dinner, we headed back to my parents’ house for presents, dessert, and an extra fun bonus surprise… finding out the sex of the baby!

 

 

Yep, as what I’m sure comes as a surprise to absolutely no one, I totally caved, and ended up getting an elective ultrasound to find out early. I just couldn’t take not knowing any longer! Don’t judge me.

 

 

I had my ultrasound on Friday, just one day before the big reveal, and amazing bakery agreed to whip up some reveal cakepops on super short notice for me. the ultrasound tech called them to tell them the result, so I genuinely found out along with everyone else! And, well… just watch the video below to see! (My brother has a super cool 360-degree cam so we were able to capture everybody’s reactions all at once!)

 

 

Ooooor, if you ain’t got time for that, this oughta do the trick:

 

 

It’s a GIRL!!!!!!!!

 

 

I’d had a total of four separate and different dreams that the baby was a girl, but I wasn’t sure if that was just my own wishful thinking, since I’d always said I really wanted a girl, hehe. Turns out, it must have been my mother’s intuition!

Sean and I are both SO excited to be welcoming a baby girl into the world this September! I feel like I haven’t stopped smiling since Saturday evening (well, except for the hour I spent bent over the toilet around midnight that same night. Apparently baby girl does NOT like it when I take my prenatal vitamin on an empty stomach.) And I’ve already gotten to work adding lots of pink, fluff, and bows to my baby registry, ahahaha.

I know, I know, it’s not hip to be so gender-normative these days, but c’mon. It’s not like I wouldn’t love it if she ends up being all about trains, sports, and rocket ships instead of dancing, princesses, and tea parties! Okay, maybe not sports because I literally don’t care about one iota about sports, but how awesome would it be if she wants to be an astronaut when she grows up?! I just know myself, and know that I’m an annoyingly girly girl at heart. So are we really that surprised that I’m looking forward to filling my world with lots of pink, purple, and polka dots for the time being?

I will say, it is crazy how suddenly REAL things feel now that I know the sex of this little one. I mean, aside from learning this one little fact, nothing else has really changed all that much since my last update. And yet, when I think about the future, the picture is now all that much clearer! Trying to come up with her name suddenly has a real purpose, I can actually envision what it’ll be like to change her diaper, etc.

All of which is exciting, of course, but also mildly terrifying. In my excitement (and impatience) to learn the sex, I didn’t really think about how doing so would sharpen my image of the future, and thus make it all the more real that I am going to be responsible for an actual human life very, very soon. Like, responsible for her not dying on a daily basis. And when you think about it like that, 29 really just doesn’t seem all that old.

Pups & Mezze

Well, I hope that you’re all caught up with Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, and if you’re not, what in the Seven Kingdoms are you doing on the internet?! Get out of here! No, but seriously, GoT is pretty much the one show where you just cannot afford not to watch it live if you really care about spoilers. To be clear, I’m not putting any spoilers out there myself rn, I’m just offering this as a general observation and Game of Thrones fangirl. I just feel like I’ve read so many interweb comments today about how spoilers have ruined folks’ lives, and well, shouldn’t they know better?

Anyway, now that I’ve dived headfirst into this post with a random non sequitur (hey, I’m still getting my blogging legs back, okay?), let’s talk Monday! Yesterday started off with a vet visit for Harry & Daxter to give away all my money get their annual checkups, shots, and whatnot. They’re both still healthy as, well, as miniature schnauzers, since that’s what they are. And despite Harry getting on in years and Daxter being literally the most accident-prone dog to ever exist, they both passed with flying colors. High five!

Sidenote: Anyone living in the Burke/Springfield area who might be looking for a vet, I highly, HIGHLY recommend Dr. Alt at Burke Veterinary Clinic. He’s the bee’s knees. Second sidenote: are you impressed that I finally figured out how to make my own gifs? Let’s hope Daxter gets internet-famous! 😉

After the vet it was back home to do some work, then off for some blissful “me time” as I went and got a massage. Then back to the house again to cuddle with my vaccine-booster-laden animals and work some more, before heading out into what ended up being a ridonkulous thunderstorm to meet the lovely Anne for dinner!

We went to Yayla Bistro for dinner, which had been on my bookmarks list for-freaking-ever (4.5 star average on Yelp!) and it did not disappoint. It’s a Turkish/Lebanese mezze-style restaurant, and everything we ordered was seriously delicious.

We got a smorgasbord of Mediterranean treats, including hummus (duh), dolmas (huge and outstanding!), a beet & orange salad (served over potato salad mmmm), and grilled squid (SO good.) We also got kofte, which was super flavorful ,and Anne ordered an arugala salad. Plus they brought out bread with house-made olive tapenade. We did a pretty good job tackling the feast, though I do have a small box of leftovers to dig into tomorrow, hehe.

In an exciting turn of events (if “exciting” really means “awkwarrrrrrd”), we get to the end of the meal and… turns out I’d forgotten my wallet at home. Not. Kidding. It was literally the first time this had ever happened to me, and I felt terrible! Thank goodness for Anne being a far more responsible adult than me, or I’d have had to ask if this adorable little locally-owned restaurant accepted Apple Pay. I mean, obviously I shot Anne some digital cashola on the spot to pay her back for my half of the meal, but still, ::cringe::

I was also super paranoid driving home from the restaurant because I was suddenly so aware that I didn’t have my license on me! Guess that’ll teach me to leave my wallet lying around at home. Sorry again, Annie Bananie, but thanks for the great evening! I should have given you my leftovers as penance. <3

Aaaaand, that catches us up to today! As you’re reading this, I’m probably at the dermatologist’s office getting a bump on my noggin looked at. I suspect it’s a pilar cyst, but hopefully I’ll find out more tomorrow! And with that, I’ll stop talking about it, because we’re probably pretty close to venturing into TMI territory. And as I suspect most of you are not as interested in dermatological issues as I am (I actually watch Dr. Pimple Popper’s videos on Youtube like, all the time. She is awesome and the human body is weeeeeeird), I’ll keep the rest of the dermo-chatter to a minimum for now.

Have an awesome Tuesday, and I’ll be back tomorrow with my first “official” weigh-in of the (weight loss) season. Yipes!

Weekend Update: It’s May!

Happy May, friends! (*cue obligatory JT-meme*) (*cue trite-but-very-real freakout over how quickly this year is flying by*)

So, my first official weekend back “on” the weight loss boat is over, and I think I came out the other side pretty well! Friday night was Sean’s company’s 50th anniversary party, so we got dolled up and spent our evening at the National Building Museum.

They really went all out for this party — it was amazing! We’re talking all gold errrrythang, 360-degree photobooth (!!), delicious dinner, live band, and boozy chocolate-dipped popsicle station. (I know. What!)

 
 
 

I loved getting a chance to visit the National Building Museum before. What an incredible place for an event! There’s a legit fountain INSIDE the main ballroom. Definitely glad we attended this event after our wedding, because blizzard or no blizzard, there was no way our Big Day was gonna be able to compete.

 
 

Speeeeeaking of the wedding, in what ended up being the best coincidence ever, I actually ran into my wonderful, fabulous, life-saving coordinator Caitlin at the party! Turns out her husband works for the same company as Sean — small world! Funny how while we were dealing with 24-inches of snow and hurricane-force winds, our husbands’ mutual place of work just didn’t come up… 😉

Other than our big night out, the weekend was actually pretty relaxing (a sad rarity these days.). Spent a bit of time getting my house in order, catching up on my video gaming, and grocery shopping, before ending the weekend with a lovely visit from my cousin Nicky and her boyfriend.

Even with the party Friday, I actually didn’t was able to manage my eating pretty well throughout the weekend! We obviously indulged in a little extra deliciousness at the party, and I also went out for breakfast Sunday, but otherwise I cooked up some healthy deliciousness throughout the weekend (and made sure I made extras for getting me through the week. Maybe I’m weird, but I love eating leftovers!)

Dinner last night – brown sugar & soy marinated salmon, zoodles, and cilantro-lime rice.

So, that catches us up! I haven’t quite figured out what day I’ll be officially reporting my weigh-ins, but stay tuned to see if I actually did as well this weekend as I think I did, haha. Here’s to kicking off the month of May right, I hope?

Gretchen vs. The Need to Meal Plan

So, I work for Yelp. I’m the Northern Virginia Community Manager, and, yes, it’s the raddest, most bomb-diggity job ever. I get paid to do things like write, put together fun events that make me feel uber-popular, and love on local businesses — all things I do on the reg anyway. Plus, I work from home, have amazing local coworkers, and have access to all the free mints and chapstick a girl could ever need.

It rocks. Now, to be clear, this really was not meant to be a bragging session about how great my job is. It’s great, and it’s a really good fit for me. But it also presents a challenge when it comes to my new lease on trying to lose weight.

Lemme ‘splain. See, while Yelp can help you find pretty much anything from a new doctor to a place to get your bike fixed, as you can all probably attest, it is most well-known for being a resource when it comes to food & restaurants. And the fact of the matter is that the majority of businesses with whom I work and the majority of places where I throw events are restaurants. So, yeah, I’m around food and thinking about food and looking at food a lot.

Throw in the fact that even in my personal world, I love dining out — trying new restaurants, getting the scoop on the latest food trends, satisfying my unquenchable thirst for bubble tea — and you can see where we might hit a few road blocks, weight loss-wise. Now, losing weight and eating out are not mutually exclusive things, of course. I’ve written many posts in the past about being able eat in restaurants while in weight-loss mode, and I never really gave up my love for dining out when I lost weight before.

But even with the frequency of which I was going out to eat back then (I did it quite a bit), it’s not the same as it is now. Back when I was working my old government contracting jobs, I was in a routine where I was eating breakfast before work, then usually bringing in a healthy lunch. So even if I went out to dinner, I had still set myself up well to be able to indulge a little more than evening. But in this job, every day is so different from the next, and I don’t always know exactly how things are going to play out, meal-wise.

Some days I’m home all day and have the flexibility to be able to cook and make whatever I want, but other days I might be out flitting from meeting to meeting all day long. This week alone, I had a dinner event Monday, met my coworker for lunch Tuesday, had all-day calls Wednesday, and I have another event tonight.

I don’t mean to make it seem like I blame my weight gain on this job. I really don’t! But it would be naive of me not to recognize the additional temptations and challenges that come with having a food-centric job. It makes planning things out in advance all the harder… and at the same time all the more necessary. The problem is, I’ve never been great at meal planning, prepping, or any of that stuff. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pantry kind of home cook, and I like being inspired in the kitchen.

So my current challenge is to get better about planning out my week in advance, so that I take full advantage of the times when I can eat at home, and so that I make good, thoughtful choices when I’m out. I know that this will involve not a small amount of pre-planning grocery lists and whatnot, so that I make sure that A) I always have good options to eat when I am home, and B) the food I do get at the store doesn’t go bad before I can use it. I admit, I am notoriously awful at overdoing it at the grocery store and then letting food go bad in our fridge because I didn’t think about how many events or commitments I had that week.

But with a little bit of extra planning, I know that I can be successful. Take last night, for example. I have dinner with my family every week (aww/gross, I know ;)), and we started doing a new thing where we rotate between my parents’ house, Ben & Taylor’s house, and my house. Since last night was Sean’s & my first time hosting, I took full advantage of being able to cook something healthy for the whole fam.

I made a large batch of turkey chili with beans (with all the fixin’s!) and some baked sweet potato fries. It ended up being a delicious and filling meal for everyone (well, at least I sure hope they didn’t leave hungry!) and I got to stay on track. And all it took was a tiiiiny bit of forethought — I mean, maybe this is a bad example because obviously I wasn’t going to just play pantry roulette when I knew I had a large group of people to feed, but you kind of get where I’m going with this, right?

And once I get the hang of planning the week out better, hopefully it will also help alleviate my automatic default setting of wanting to go out (or order in) whenever I don’t really know what I want to eat. The trick will, of course, be continually planning meals that are exciting and relatively culinarily challenging since I like to pretend like I’m on Top Chef every time I’m in the kitchen. That’s why I really loved meal boxes like Hello Fresh — the meals they sent were so interesting and everything I needed was already RIGHT THERE. Except that, too, fell victim to ingredients going bad in the fridge because I didn’t use them in time due to various other dinnertime commitments of one kind or another. Plus, it was just a little too expensive to maintain on the reg.

Aaaanyway, all this babbling has really just been to say that I’m going to try meal planning a little better from now on. So all you super organized folks, let me know the secrets to your success! Do you use a planner, do you have a whiteboard, are you putting your meals into Google Calendar… is there an app for that?

Be proud of me, guys. As Alexander Hamilton/Lin-Manuel Miranda says, “For the first time I’m thinking past tomorrow!” (Ohhhh yeah, I’m SUUUUPER Hamilton obsessed by the way) and genuinely trying to take a grown-up approach to this ish. Because, while dining out is an inevitability for me (even if work wasn’t a factor, I just love restaurants, man!), there is absolutely no excuse not to make the most of the time I do get to spend in my own kitchen, right?