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?

Feelin’ Texan and a Date Dilemma

Howdy!

So, as you know, I spent the weekend in the Lonestar State! We did a bit of city hopping (Dallas to Austin to San Antonio), but the main reason for going was to celebrate the wedding of Sean’s cousin, Andrew, in Dripping Springs (which meant a visit to Texas Hill Country!).

The day before the wedding, we spent some time in the adorable town of Wimberly, TX. Sean says I stick out like a sore thumb in Texas, but I’m okay with that. After all, you can take the gal out of Northern Virginia, but you can’t take the NoVA out of this gal, hehe.

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Wimberly is a really cute town, with these giant cowboy boots decorated by various local artists set up throughout the entire area. I also fell in love with this popcorn place that seriously changed my life. Dill Pickle and Jalapeno Cheddar popcorn?! Cinnamon Toast Kettle Corn? Be still my snack-loving heart! Good thing they ship nationwide, because I may or may not be making serious plans for a popcorn bar at the wedding…

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Aaanyway, as I mentioned in my previous post, the rehearsal dinner was at the world-famous BBQ joint, The Salt Lick. I was so excited to finally get to try this place out, I couldn’t even hide it (hence my excited face posted above.) I knew 2,200+ Yelp reviews couldn’t be wrong about this place, and thankfully, it all lived up to the hype.

It. Was. Awesome. I ate my body weight in delicious smoked meat and it was everything I thought it would be. The brisket? Moist and juicy. The pork ribs? Fall-off-the-bone tender. Even the house-made pickles knocked my socks off! Oh, if only there was barbeque like this in Northern VA!

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The next day, we had some time to kill before the wedding, so we spent some time exploring Dripping Springs (they were having a festival), and also visiting the Deep Eddy Vodka Distillery, which apparently just recently moved out of Austin to set up shop in Dripping Springs.

Then, it was wedding time! The whole thing was incredibly beautiful — all country chic (Catelyn, the bride wore an allover lace dress with cowboy boots) and rustic elegance. The venue was gorgeous and they got super lucky with the weather, too — it rained, stormed, and was intensely humid every day EXCEPT for the day of the wedding, which was temperate (still hot, of course — I mean, it is Texas — but not muggy) and sunny.

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Of course, with a wedding of my own around the corner, I was taking some mental notes on all of the amazing and beautiful things that they did to celebrate Andrew & Catelyn’s big day. I particularly loved that the bride & groom were already seated for dinner when everyone else came in from cocktail hour. That way, they were able to actually eat and enjoy each other’s company before the hubbub of being announced and launching into their first dance, etc.

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Just from these terrible iPhone photos alone, you can probably tell what a gorgeous venue and setup it was. Aside from the beautiful ambiance, great food, and ridiculously good band, however, it was also just wonderful to meet all of the extended family on Sean’s dad’s side. The Foxes are an awesome group! Now I’m even more excited to take on that moniker myself someday, hehe.

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Speaking of which… after much visitation and deliberation, I have finally chosen my wedding venue! Sean and I will be getting married at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial!

You know that humongous tower that sticks straight up out of Old Town Alexandria when you drive by? Well, that’s the place! It’s gorgeous and grand and has a ton of history — both generally (George Washington was the Charter Master of this lodge), and personally (turns out my grandfather and great-grandfather were both lifelong Masons!).

It’s got a very iconic DC-feel, while still being in Northern Virginia (huzzah!), and the interior is full of high ceilings, marble floors, grand staircases, and enormous columns. I love it! It has a beautiful theatre inside (where the opening scene of National Treasure 2 was filmed!) which will be the ceremony space, and then this cool sunken ballroom on the ground floor to host the reception. It also has a wicked observation deck at the very tippity top that offers incredible views of the surrounding area.

Funnily enough, the Masonic Memorial wasn’t even originally on my list of potential venues, but after I wrote my post about my venue search, my friend Clare mentioned that I should take a look at it (her sister got married there), and I ended up making a super impromptu visit and simply fell in love!

Unfortunately, while I do have a venue picked out, I still haven’t decided what to do as far as the actual wedding date. Maybe you guys can actually help out in that regard. See, for a long time now, I’ve had visions of a winter wedding dancing in my head. You know, crisp winter air, cool winter light, long dresses with faux fur stoles, deep colors and warm drinks, lights, snow, the whole shebang.

So when the time came to pick a date, I thought that a January wedding was pretty much a no-brainer. After all, Sean’s and my anniversary is already in January, plus it does have additional advantages, like being in the wedding off-season (vendors sometimes offer off-season discounts), being during Ben and Taylor‘s downtime (my brother and sister-in-law are wedding photographers), and not competing with a zillion other brides getting married the same weekend. Seriously, I think I saw at least half-a-dozen different weddings on Facebook from this past weekend in addition to Sean’s cousin’s!

So, January 23rd became my golden date, just a few days before our four-year anniversary.

However, as you can see, here I am, venue selected but still dateless. Turns out, I’m a bit gunshy when it comes to actually pulling the trigger on the date. The major reason has to do with the fact that Sean is concerned (understandably!) about how weather will affect people traveling from out of town. He makes some good points about people potentially not being able to attend because of it, and I think that’s become my biggest hangup. So I did inquire about some early Spring dates that the venue has available, and now March 12th and April 2nd are under consideration as well. (I’ve definitely ruled out anything remotely close to Summer — I’m sure I’ll be sweaty enough without the help of 90-degree weather, thanks — and Fall is out due to timing — this Fall is way too soon, next Fall is too far away.)

See, on the one hand, I don’t want anybody to be straight-up unable to attend my wedding due to something as silly as weather. And there’s just no telling what it’ll be like on the day of, and that is pretty stressful. (Not that I haven’t tried — guess how many times I Googled some variation of “January wedding weather predictor,” hahaha.)

I mean, if it were to snow on the day of, I’d actually be totally fine with it (I love snow!) but if it were to snow a crapton? This area just doesn’t do very well with snow, and even local people might have trouble getting around. And what if, Heaven forbid, it’s icy? I feel like it doesn’t tend to snow as heavily or get quite as icy in January around here but you never know…

On the other hand, weather is unpredictable no matter when you get married, especially in this area. We’ve had freak snowstorms in October and March, we get plane-delaying thunderstorms in April, and the like. Plus, I mean, it’s not like people don’t ever travel during January… and at least flights/hotels would probably be cheaper in the DC area in winter vs. in Spring. And then, of course, a Spring wedding doesn’t exactly fit into my whole wedding vision…

Butttt, like I said. Torn.

Anyway, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter — I know that asking for opinions when it comes to wedding planning can be overwhelming (especially because people tend to have a LOT of opinions when it comes to weddings, hahaha), but I’m honestly so torn right now I think it’d be helpful to hear from other people.

What time of year did you get married? Would you be hesitant to attend a winter wedding?