I Found the Gown

Soooo, quite a bit of exciting stuff¬†has been happening in the Powell household over the past few days. First off, Sunday night was Yelp’s Fire & Ice Ball, the HUGE 1000+ person event that I’ve been planning for the past couple of months!

It was, in a word, AWESOME. So many amazing businesses were there offering delicious food, sips, hair styling, massages, tarot card readings, painting classes, and more. Entertainment ranged from a string quartet to a rockin’ DJ to parkour performances to a FIRE DANCER (true story!), and it was just an awesome, awesome time.

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Did I mention it was awesome? ūüėČ

Plus, in addition to getting to promote awesome businesses from all across Northern VA, we raised almost $3500 for the SPCA of Northern Virginia!

And as if surviving¬†throwing Yelp Northern VA’s¬†biggest event of the year wasn’t enough excitement for one week, a couple of other fun things have been happening around the Powell household. For example…

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I am super happy to announce that my sister, Jen, is pregnant again! My beautiful niece Mia is going to be a big sister (to another little girl, yayyyyy!) come the end of August/early September, and our family could not be more thrilled.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen that Jen and Mia are in town visiting, so we were¬†finally were able to snap a photo¬†of this adorable pregnancy announcement. And by “we,” I mean, Ben, our brother and actual professional photographer. I call the above¬†photo, “Skeptical Mia.”

A picture from tea on Thursday that Jenny wouldn’t let me post on social media because she hadn’t officially announced yet, haha.

I’ve actually been trying (and probably failing) to keep this news under wraps since DECEMBER, if you can believe it. My family all found out about Jen’s new bun in the oven when we were down in Macon for Christmas. I KNOW. Clearly my sister does not share my desperate need to¬†put my entire life up on the interwebs in realtime, haha.

Speaking of which… the third piece of exciting news from the past few days is that… I purchased my wedding dress!

Spoiler alert: this is NOT my dress, hahaha. Fit & Flare = not my friend.

Unflattering silhouettes did not stop me from finding The One, and I totally said yes to the dress. And my credit card statement next month will remind me of it dearly, I’m sure.

Now, let it be said that I did not PLAN to have my dress be the¬†first¬†thing that I’d be crossing¬†off my wedding checklist. After all, I¬†haven’t even chosen¬†my¬†wedding venue¬†yet (I’m pretty close to making a decision though), which means I¬†technically don’t even have a date yet (although I’m pretty sure what it’s going to be.)

So, yes, I know that venue/date is usually the first (and, um, most important) step in wedding planning. But¬†I really wanted to go dress shopping while my sister was in town, given that she’s my Matron (ha!) of Honor and general goodtime bestie.

My dress shopping entourage: Taylor, Jen, Anne, and my fabulously hatted mom!

So, we crammed in various bridal appointments over a few days before the Fire & Ice Ball took place, and I tried on a LOT of dresses. Turns out that while I do have a particular style I gravitate towards, within that style I basically like everything. So making a decision was actually very challening for me! Anyway, after I was able to try on all the dresses I was interested in (and I was interested in a lot of them, bahaha), I agonizingly narrowed it down to a couple of top contenders. Then, after the madness of my Yelper Party had died down, I went back to the bridal salon to finalize my decision!

I plan on going into more detail about my whole dress shopping experience later (I have some tidbits to share on what it’s like to go dress shopping as a plus-size bride, how my embarassing love for all things wedding¬†kept me from having what I’d considering a¬†“traditional” dress shopping experience, and how I didn’t have a “this is the one” ugly crying moment… well, not at first, anyway) but for now, let us just rejoice in the first official wedding decision having been made!

It works out that I took care of this early, anyway, since my dress is going to take up to six (SIX!) months to come in. Womp womp. At least I have lots of beautiful photos of it to keep me warm at night, right?

So, there you have it! Quite some exciting happenings, um, happening around these parts lately! And they’re just going to keep, er, happening, because this weekend I’m off to Texas for Sean’s cousin’s wedding in Dripping Springs (between Austin and San Antonio, as I understand it).¬†The first wedding I’ll be attending as an engaged lady!

The rehearsal dinner is taking place at¬†The Salt Lick, which is a famous BBQ place that Sean has¬†literally been telling me about since we started dating. Needless to say, I am PSYCHED about that (pre-wedding diet, what?), oh yeah, and I guess there’s also the whole meeting the rest of Sean’s family and going to a celebration of love thing. ūüėČ

Hopefully I’ll get to check in here again before I leave for the Lonestar State, but either way, I’ll see you soon!

Yelp’s Fit Club Wrapup

It’s March! Which not only means that we can (hopefully) look forward to some of this ice and snow melting, but it means that Yelp’s Fit Club is officially finito! For those of you who don’t know, all last month I was working on a fitness promotion for Yelp that included a ton of different fitness and nutrition events.

It ended up being a lot of work to fit in 8 different events myself, plus squeeze in a trip to Savannah, AND have my annual Regional Summit for work all within the same (very, very short) month, but I gotta say, coming out on the other side of things makes me feel like 2015 has already been a pretty rockin’ year. After all, it’s only Day 2¬†of Month 3, and I already feel like I’ve accomplished A LOT.

Plus, I’m not gonna lie, it was kinda nice shifting my focus from the foodie side of Yelp to the fitness side of Yelp, at least for a little while. Of course, as soon as I got together with my Yelp coworkers from my regional team, things reverted back to normal, hehe. But more on that in a second. First, let me tell you a little bit about two of the super interesting workouts that I got to try through Fitclub!

[solidcore]

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[solidcore] isn’t lying on their website when they say that this is the hardest workout you’ll ever do in your life. I did this workout LAST Saturday and I’m pretty sure my abs are STILL sore from it. It is 50 straight minutes of core work on megareformer pilates machines, and duuuuuuuude. It was SO intense. But CLEARLY a great workout — it’s all about working your muscles to failure and letting the calories keep burning long after the class is over.

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Luckily, all the ridiculous hard work paid off in the form of an exclusive breakfast at sweetgreen right afterwards! They prepped us special parfaits made with their yogurt, rolled oats, quinoa, nuts, honey, blackberries, and mint, as well as avocado and cashew butter toasts.

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So even though this was definitely one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever done, it was also one of the most rewarding. Figuratively and realistically, heh.

Orangetheory Fitness

So after I finally recovered from [solidcore], I had the opportunity to work out at Orangetheory Fitness, which is a studio that utilizes heart rate monitoring to pump up our workout efficiency.

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Everyone gets a Polar heart rate monitor attached, and then your statistics are put up on a screen throughout the class so you can keep yourself in check. It’s also kind of fun, because it has you working like a team with your fellow workoutters — you get “badges” and stuff for everyone being in the right zone and whatnot.

The workout outself is a lot like a personal training session or CrossFit WOD — we would spend a certain amount of time/distance on the treadmill, then move over to the rowing machines, and did that cycle three times. Then we did weight training sets for the rest of the hour.

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In the end, they summarize your heartrate info on the monitors AND email you a summary from Polar afterwards! Pretty cool! I actually did a lot better than I thought I would — I was sure that my heartrate would be in the red zone like, 70% of the time, but I guess all that P90 has been a little bit useful after all! If anything, I could have been pushing myself harder, I guess? I dunno, I sure felt like I was working it!

There was also a couple of yoga classes, a dance workout, and a nutrition workshop tossed into the mix too, but these two were definitely the workouts that I found most interesting from a learning standpoint — I’d definitely go back to Orangetheory, although I’m not sure if I’m really cut out for [solidcore] juuust yet. But hey, it did make me feel just a little bit less guilty about all that insanely delicious food I ate during my Regional Summit.

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Errrrr, then again… there’s probably not enough [solidcore] in the world to offset the insanely delicious meals we had at Zaytinya, Tico, and Acadiana last week. I’m drooling just thinking about them! Plus, the company wasn’t too bad either, hehe. My coworkers are the best!

As part of our Regional Summit, we also had a team off-site at Escape Room DC, which is this CRAZY fun Clue-like mystery game. You get locked in a room that is rife with clues, and you have 45 minutes to escape. It was an insanely fun teambuilding activity (spoiler alert: we did NOT escape, but we sure had fun trying!) and I’m already thinking about going back for my birthday!

I heard they’re actually building an even bigger location in Alexandria set to open in the Spring, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that!

And that just about brings us up to speed! I’m off to Savannah AGAIN tomorrow (crazy!) which means I’ll get to spend a little more QT with my sister and niece on the way over. Hooray! So I’ll be back here in a few to update you guys on that, hopefully with some extra cute Mia pics in tow, hehe.

See you on the flipside!

You’re Invited to: Yelp’s Fit Club!

Soooo, I know it might not seem like it, but I¬†try not to brag about my super awesome job all the time. Even though working for Yelp as a Community Manager here in Northern Virginia is literally the most perfect thing that has ever happened¬†to me,¬†I really do try to restrain myself from, say, recapping every single Elite Event that I host. ‘Cause, you know, I can kinda see how that’d get annoying, heh.

But, every now and then, something comes along that’s so awesome that I just can’t quite hold it in. And it just so happens that one of those¬†awesome things is, well, happening next month… and you’re invited!

Introducing¬†Yelp’s Fit Club!

Yelp's Fit Club DMV

Yelp’s Fit Club is a promotion that I’ve been working on with my fantabulous coworkers Kimberly (DC) and Mike (Maryland) to bring together an entire month of super fun health + fitness events all across the DMV! We’ve partnered with really great local businesses to put together a¬†full schedule of greatness: we’re talking yoga classes, nutrition challenges, dance workouts, healthy eats meetups, and more!

And the very best part? It’s all F-R-E-E!

Thaaat’s right! All you have to do is RSVP on Yelp.com via¬†your (also free) Yelp account. Want to bring friends? The more, the merrier! Just have them do the same thing on their own Yelp accounts. You’ll receive email confirmations after you RSVP to each event with further instructions and details.

Since most New Year’s resolutions¬†tend to start to wane (shocker!) by the time February rolls around, we¬†figured that it’d the perfect time to do something big health- and fitness-wise. Plus, given that February is American Heart Month, even if you’re not looking to slim down or tone up, coming out to a Fit Club event is just¬†a great way¬†to get your blood pumping!

Blood, Yelp, and Tears!

 

If you live in the DMV area, I would lovelovelove to get my sweat on (or healthy eats on) with you at one of these events! I’ll be at every event that’s taking place in¬†Northern VA (guess it’s a good thing I’ve been working out so much lately, eh?), so¬†I hope to see you there! You can check out the entire list of events here.

Oh, and even if you’re not local to the DC Metro region, you should check¬†Yelp Events¬†to see if Yelp’s Fit Club is happening where you live!¬†Other¬†Community Managers across the country are also hosting¬†Yelp’s Fit Club (or a variation¬†of it) around now, including¬†Orange County, Tampa Bay, NC Triangle, Cleveland, Detroit, Ottawa, and even Honolulu!

In the meantime, I hope everyone has an awesome weekend! Personally, I’m pretty pumped for what this weekend has in store: tonight I’m seeing The Tempest at GMU with my pops, tomorrow Sean and I are celebrating our 3-year anniversary (a few days early), and on Sunday, well, I plan on playing a loooooot of Little Big Planet 3. ūüėČ

See you guys on the flipside!

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Last night I celebrated an early Halloween with my 2nd Halloween-themed Yelp event since I’ve been in this (totally rad, rocking, still-can’t-believe-it’s-real) job. Soooo many folks on my Elite Squad brought some serious costume game to the table — Shrek & Fiona! Flo from Progressive! Cleopatra and gypsies and pirates, oh my! — and it was a rockin’ good time.

Personally, I decided to design my costume around my latest hair color, and graced the event as none other than Elphaba, aka the wholly misunderstood Wicked Witch of the West! (Elphaba is her name in Wicked — the book and the musical — for those who don’t know. Fun fact: the name is a play off of the intials of L. Frank Baum, the original author of the Wizard of Oz!)

I think the costume was a big hit (be proud of me, guys, I only burst into song once throughout the whoooole party!), but I gotta admit, I really share Elphaba’s pain in wishing desperately for de-greenification. Even after my shower last night, I’m still finding residual green… everywhere. However, given that Halloween is right around the corner, and all things considered, this was a pretty easy costume to pull off, I did document¬†the greenifying process in case anyone wants to try and replicate it for themselves!

I did a little research and found out that the actual makeup they use in the Broadway production of Wicked is from MAC! The product is MAC Chromacake in Landscape Green. Just a little bit of online shopping and — just like magic — I found it!

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The chromacake is the main component of this makeup/costume look, of course, but I did need a few other things as well. Luckily, I already owned everything else I needed to complete this look — primer, green eyeshadow, purple eyeshadow (for contouring), and red lipstick!

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Primer is the first step, which just happens to also be green. My primer is formulated to counteract redness (I have suuuuper red cheeks!), but doesn’t actually go on green, just to be clear, haha. Anyway, knowing that I was in for a full night of running around at the event, I wanted to make sure the green makeup was able to stay put as much as possible. Then it was just a matter of getting green!

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In order to apply the chromacake, you just add a tiny bit of water and paint it on. It’s like watercolor! The more water you use, the less concentrated the color and consistency. I used a little too much water at first, so as you can see, it took several layers. Make sure to let the makeup dry in between each application!

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Once the final layer of green is dry on your face, you can apply additional makeup. I used a green eyeliner stick to line the inside rim of my lower eyelid, and a shimmery dark green shadow on top. I also did an exaggerated winged eye using black liquid eyeliner and add false eyelashes later (not pictured in these photos though.)

I also used purple eyeshadow to contour my cheeks — adding some to the hollows of my cheeks, and around my forehead and chin line to make my face shape a little more enhanced. When you paint your whole face green, is loses a lot of its natural dimension, so I highly recommend this step.

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Finally, I did a bright red lip to finish off the look. In the musical, Elphaba’s makeup is actually done with a dark green lipstick on the lips, but I didn’t want to A) buy another product I’d only use once and B) you KNOW I love a good red lip. ūüėČ

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Once the face is done, it’s time to paint up the rest of you! Neck, ears, chest, hands, and arms. I didn’t do as many layers on my hands and arms since, well, it takes a loooong time to paint your whole body with a foundation brush. I’m just saying.

Once you’re all painted up (and down and all around), just toss on the rest of your ensemble! Again, this was using clothing items I already owned (except the hat). I wore a black dress, black tights, black booties (from¬†Seychelles), and, of course, my witch’s hat! My one tip is to PUT YOUR TIGHTS BEFORE YOU PAINT YOUR HANDS GREEN. Just take my word on that one, k?

So there you go! Green Gretchen, for all the world to see. I think the general idea behind this makeup would also work for a Hulk or She-Hulk costume, Shrek or Fiona (as two of my Elites did last night!), Poison Ivy, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, the Green Giant, or, of course, other green thing you can think of. Just be prepared to take multiple showers to get it all off.

Even though Elphaba may be gone for now, though, the witchiness of this week is not over quite yet! Tomorrow Sean and I¬†head down to Orlando, FL for the trip of a lifetime! We’re meeting my sister, bro-in-law, and niece to visit¬†Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Disney World, and then the two¬†of us head out on a 3-day cruise out of Port Canaveral over the weekend to celebrate Sean’s big 3-0!

Stay tuned to my Instagram if you want to keep up with our Floridian adventures, otherwise I’ll be¬†seeing¬†you after a week of Butterbeers, Bernie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Minnie Mouse ears, endless eats, sunshine, and happiness. ūüôā

A Shift in Perspective

Happy Monday, folks!

Hopefully you all had rockin’ weekends — mine was pretty busy with not one, but two different events that I worked on Saturday. First up was the Taste of Falls Church, where Intern Sean (heh) and I manned the Yelp booth and challenged many a folk to some rousing rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors in exchange for rockin’ swag.

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I know it doesn’t seem like rock, paper, scissors would be that fun at first glance, but people got really into it! Full credit goes to my beautiful coworker (and fellow blogger!) Kimberly for thinking it up. Plus it’s always a huge hit at family friendly events like this one, because it’s A) free and B) kids know how to play it. Really well, actually. Most of them kicked my butt.

The second event of the day was an Elite Event at Glynn Jones hair salon in Old Town Alexandria. It was my very first salon event so I was admittedly a wee bit nervous, but it turned out so fabulously! Elites got to nosh, sip, and watch (and if they were lucky, get selected for!) demonstrations on blow dry technique, updos, airbrush makeup, and more.

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So Saturday was a tiring day for sure, but a lot of fun at the same time. And I got to make up for it yesterday with just about the laziest Sunday I’ve had in a loooooong time. All I did yesterday was sleep, cuddle with schnauzers, cook, sleep some more, and then give all my money to Target. In my defense, I think I’m a little bit under the weather — Mia was sick pretty much the whole time I was visiting her in Macon, and given her penchant for sharing food (aww!) and my penchant for being a sucker and letting her shove said food into my mouth, I think it’d be more surprising if I didn’t catch whatever she had.

Sickness be damned, though! I’m not feeling too terrible (thanks to the probably 15 hours of collective sleep I got yesterday), so this week I’m determined to continue the good gym habits that my sister helped me start to establish on what shall henceforth be known as the Healthiest Vacation Ever. I’ve marked some classes at my gym that looks interesting and have booked time in my actual calendar to make sure I don’t book any calls or meetings during those times. So now it’s just a matter of actually, well, going!

Now, if any of you are skeptical as to my ability to keep my enthusiasm for working out up, well… I don’t blame you. After all, I don’t exactly have the best track record. I’ve never been shy to admit my utter hatred of working out, getting sweaty (ironic, because I’m probably the sweatiest person on the planet even just standing still and breathing), and just generally exerting myself. I wasn’t a particularly active kid — I played basketball in middle school because I was tall. And I wasn’t very good at it. Growing up, my family never put a real focus on fitness or being active, so I never thought of it as an important thing to incorporate into my daily routine. (This, I have to say, is somewhat funny to me now given that my sister is a marathoner who teaches fitness classes and my dad bikes like 20 miles every single day.)

So I never learned to find the joy in being active, and, obviously, that translated into my adult life. It wasn’t for lack of trying, though. When I first started out on my weight loss journey and found myself immersed in the world of healthy living blogging, I definitely tried. Everyone tells you that you just have to find an activity you like doing, and then you’ll¬†want to that thing and, by default, you’ll want to be active. So I really did try to find something I liked.

I went to the gym. I walked. I ran. I swam. I did yoga. I did hot yoga. I did Zumba. I did CrossFit. Nothing stuck. I never got myself into a regular routine, and when I did go, I still found I was forcing myself to, and only because I knew that it would help me burn XX amount of calories.

Of course, as I discussed in my last post, I’ve also only ever thought of fitness being a means to an end for weight loss.

But hey, it did work for a while! I mean, even if it was unwilling and forced, I still did get myself into gear long enough to help me shed some weight, tone up, and be fit enough to accomplish quite a few fitness milestones. I was running 5Ks and 5 milers and 200-mile team relays, after all. It’s just that even when I was doing those things, even when I was legitimately in shape (well, in shape for me, at least), weight loss was still my primary focus.

But, obviously, using weight loss as a motivator for fitness can only last as long as you are losing weight. So when I stopped actively losing weight, I stopped feeling a need to dedicate time to fitness, and that, amongst other things, meant I ended up gaining back a lot of the weight I had lost.

Which is why I can say, even with my track record of failing at maintaining a regular fitness routine, I’m actually feeling fairly confident about seeing this through this time around. Because I really do feel like my motivation, and my perspective, has shifted. Do I still find myself thinking about my weight, thinking about how I look, comparing myself against the standards that the media has set forth? Of course I do. I’m only human, and I’ve got over twenty years of negative body image and weight obsession to fight against.

That being said, it takes up only a minimal, miniscule amount of my thoughtspace now. And without all those negative thoughts weighing me down, without the constant, continual focus on how any activity, any food, any choice will ultimately affect my weight loss…well, who knows if all the things I thought I felt about working out and being active and being fit weren’t wrong all along?

I sometimes feel that within the body positive/fat acceptance culture, there’s almost an expectation that you shouldn’t want to work out or eat healthily or whatever, because doing so means you must still want to change yourself. And, more specifically, you must still want to be thin. You must still secretly be working towards conforming to society’s standards or whatever. And I know that most people don’t think that way, and it’s not indicative of the entire movement in any way, but I do believe it is a sentiment that exists.

And so I have struggled with the idea of whether or not I’m really, truly, honestly rededicating myself to fitness because I want to, or because I still feel like I need to. Am I honestly doing this because it helps me sleep better and it boosts my energy and it is healthy? Or is it just because it will help me look better?

I guess only time will truly tell since, based on past precedence, we already know that if it’s the latter, this current burst of motivation won’t stick for long. But I do know that it does feel different. I’m not weighing myself. I’m not counting calories. I’m not using food as a reward system. I’m not limiting myself to not buying clothing because I want to wait until I’m smaller, or purposely buying clothes in a smaller size to “motivate” myself.

I’m just loving myself. And as much as I used to only think of it in relation to my weight and size, I know that being active in some form or another is just one more way to love myself. So that my body — curves and flesh and fat and muscles and stomach rolls and ligaments and stretch marks and all — will be around for me to love as long as possible.