26 and Livin’ Large

Soooo, today is my twenty-sixth nameday/cakeday/birthday. Hip, hip, huzzah!

Those of you who have been long-time readers of this blog know that I’m kiiiiiiind of into my birthday.




To say the least.

And while 26 certainly has less pomp and circumstance attached to it than, say, my Quarter Quell did, I’m still pretty excited to usher in another faaabulous year.

After all, 25 has been pretty great to me! I started my dream job (I actually got the official offer letter ON my birthday last year — talk about a great present!), helped my beautiful niece usher in her very first birthday, and oh so much other great stuff in between. So here’s to another year of loving my job, spending time with my loved ones, AND rocking out this whole weight loss thing to boot, eh?

On the docket for this birthday weekend is:

Birthday brunch today with my brother Ben (how d’ya like that alliteration?)
Birthday dinner with Sean at an as-yet undisclosed location
My FROZEN-themed birthday party tomorrow (Let it goooo, let it goooo, you’re not 25 anymoooore…)
And a birthday dinner with my whole family on Sunday night!

Let the festivities commence!

See you never, 25. It’s been real.

Mia Turns One!

Howdy neighbors!

I’m back from Macon, GA after a wonderful few days with my sister, brother-in-law, and baby niece, Mia (short for Amelia). I even got to see my mom for like two hours on Sunday (we overlapped with her flying into town and me flying out, haha) and, most importantly, got to ring in Mia’s FIRST YEAR OF LIVING with an amazing party that my sister and I put together for her. Apologies in advance for the proud Auntie Gretchen photo overload that’s about to happen, hehe.

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I’ll let the photos primarily speak for themselves, but since you guys already know my penchant for throwing big birthday parties, it should come as no surprise that this was themed out the wazoo… owl-style!

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Owls

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The smash cake in particular I really am quite proud of, hehe.

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My sister, Jenny, did all the planning and I think Miss Amelia ended up with quite the Pinterest-worthy first birthday party! Owls, owls, everywhere, plus cake and cakepops and cookies and chocolate and, well, just lots and lots of sugar. I think that this may have been the sugar OVERbinge I needed to set me back on the right path, diet-wise, because I honestly cannot even THINK of eating another dessert item until Mia’s second birthday, hahaha.

Noms

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Jenny made Mia a SUPER adorable tutu to wear around on her special day and we got an iron-on patch to put a big ol’ “1” on her butt. She was most certainly the belle of the ball in my toooootally unbiased opinion.

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Pretty Mia

And girl can EAT (she *is* part-Powell, after all), so the smash cake part was really fun. She had noooo trouble digging into that thing!

CAKE!

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Clearly, ’twas a most excellent party. I just love this little nugget!

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Her actual birthday isn’t until Thursday, so hopefully this is the start of her carrying on my longstanding tradition of celebrating my birthday AAAAALL week long.

Mia Hug & Run

Speaking of which, my birthday’s coming up! What the heck am I gonna do for it?! I usually have it all planned out by now, but since my job is pretty much planning epic parties all year round, I haven’t had time to give it much thought. Hmmm…

In other news, my CM Week plague has ALMOST left my sister, just a few sniffles and coughs left over. But daaaang, I haven’t been sick like that in a looooong time. I tend to get stomach/digestive sick over head/sinus/chest sick, so I actually was pretty miserable. Who’d have ever thought there’d be a day where I’d rather be throwing up if it meant I didn’t have to sneeze another 80,000 times in a row?

Anyway, being (almost) back to full health, and FINALLY back in one place (no more traveling pleeeeeease) means that hopefully things will be a lot smoother with my diet and exercise routine now. See you on the flip!

PassionFish

Herro. So, now that I’ve adequately covered the many emotions that came out of schnauzer poisoning scare from this past weekend, let’s tune back into our regularly scheduled programming, eh?

Friday, my family and I put the final pin in my birthweek celebrationgs (as opposed to birthday, since the events stretched quite a bit past the actual date, haha). My mom has been in Houston attending to my sister and niece for the past month, so we delayed our family celebration until she got back. The whole family headed out to the Reston Town Center to eat at PassionFish, a seriously delicious (but ‘spensive!) seafood restaurant with an Asian flair.

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When I made the reservation on Open Table, I did put in a note that we were celebrating my birthday dins, but I didn’t expect PassionFish to really do much with that info — maybe put a candle in my dessert or something? Well, imagine my surprise when we sat down and opened our menus, and this was inside:

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They had specially printed menus for our table that said “Happy Birthday, Gretchen!!!” on the left page! Totally unexpected and a really, really awesome touch.

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And they even packaged it up for me to take one home as a souvenir! I felt special. Heeeee.

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Right, so. Food. Instead of a bread basket, every table at PassionFish gets a plate of crostini with a crab/fish spread. I’m not actually sure what was in the spread, only that it was yummy.

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We also ordered shrimp & crab spring rolls and the kung pao calimari for apps. The appetizer list was really where you saw the Asian influence in the menu.

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Oh, yes, and obvs there were drinks, too. Tay got the “Dirty CEO” martini, and the rest of us shared a bottle of vino. Mmm.

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I also got a beet salad, with pecans, goat cheese, and greens, and a few other people got soups (my dad got this butternut squash & lobster bisque which was uhhhhhmazing!)

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My entree was a plate of seared scallops over a bed of corn polenta, these little spaetzel-like noodle things, and with super crispy ham (think basically bacon) on top. The scallops were cooked perfectly, and the combination of flavors were so, so, so on point. I tried everyone else’s dishes too (duh!), and whlie they were all really good, I still think mine was the best. Win!

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Even though we were all pretty much stuffed at this point, and we had cake waiting at home, our waiter informed me that I got a free dessert for my birthday. Never one to pass up free food, I selected the donut holes, which came in an adorable little mini fry basket and were hot and delicious. Just enough for the 6 of us all to share a bite or two! And they did, as you can see, come with that birthday candle. šŸ˜‰

As mentioned, the evening wasn’t quiiiiite over yet though, as there was a cake at home for me!

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So the night ended with my family all sharing ice cream cake. My mom also gave me her present — a super gorgeous ring with diamonds from her jewelry collection! It’s really beautiful, I’m a little scared to actually wear it, hahahaha. You guys already know the unbelievable present Sean got me, and I had also already received my present from my dad, sister, and brother earlier — a Nike Fuelband! Which I’ve been wearing every day and it really is a great reminder of exactly how sedentary I am on an average day. I never really got the point of fuel tracker things before, but I definitely get it now — it’s actually fun to make sure you meet your goals and can track your activity!

Whew. So that does it. Thus, my week of birthday celebrations (and obvious gluttony) officially comes to a close. (Sad panda!) Wellps, guess now I can start planning out birthday #26 now, eh? Hehehe.

Before I go, I just have two quick things:

Caitlin from Cait Strides has put together a t-shirt fundraiser in the wake of what happened in Boston. 100% of their proceeds are going to One Fund Boston, and their goal is to raise $1,000 for the victims’ families! Check it out: http://skreened.com/janeofsometrades/keep-running-bahston

Lastly, the winner of the Shabby Apple giveaway is being chosen tomorrow, so get your entries in now!

Happy Tuesday, friendos! <3

The 25th Annual Hunger Games

This past Saturday, the citizens of Panem gathered for a celebration.

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The 25th Annual Hungers Games–my very own Quarter Quell–took place. Needless to say, it was glorious.

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But I figure, why tell you when I can show you?

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May the odds be ever in your favor… to get through the smorgasbord of photos you are about to be subjected to.

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Let the Games begin!

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First up: SUSTENANCE!

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Choose your weapon.

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Georgetown Cupcake!

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Cherry blossom district cupcakes and red velvet mockingjays.

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Lamb stew with dried plums (my own recipe!) and Caesar (Flickerman) salad. Get it? GET IT?!

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Fruit cornucopias and crostini with goat cheese & apples.

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Peeta Pita chips & hummus.

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Next up: LIBATIONS! (Sidebar: My cousin Nicky–Reaping Katniss–hand-drew the mockingjay pins on those shot glasses. Amazing, right?)

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Nightlock punch. Drink at your own risk.

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So. Many. Jello shots. From left to right, those are mosaic jello shots, strawberry champagne, and cupcake jello shots. Yep, you read that correctly. CUPCAKE jello shots. Let’s take a closer look:

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Aaaand one more time:

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So. Effie-ing. Good.

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And finally, the most important part: THE GUESTS! (Or, at least as many photos of the guests as I could take before I got too, ehm, libation…ed. Heh.)

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Katniss Everdeen, the Girl on Fire. šŸ˜‰

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Reaping Katniss and Seneca Crane(‘s beard).

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TRACKER JACKERS!!

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District 2’s Tribute vs. The Capitol.

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Citizens of the Capitol came out to PLAY.

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(Another sidebar: I would absolutely sacrifice my dignity and become a citizen of the Capitol if it meant I got to wear lashes like Megan’s everyday.)

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Katnisses of the world unite!

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Even the pets of Panem came out to say hi.

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And I could not have done a thing without these two beautiful ladies by my side: Aileen & Ai Rei.

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The Ai’s have it! (That’s never gonna get old, by the way. Nope. Not a chance.)

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Thanks for all the birthday love, super fun times, and, of course, birthday wine, friends! Happy Hunger Games INDEED. <3 <3 <3

Birthday Dinner

Hi dee ho, chickadees (and, uh, chicka…dudes?)! Happy Friday! It’s an especially happy Friday for me, given that I had an absolutely wonderful birthday yesterday — thanks in large part to all the wonderful messages I received from you all! You guys really know how to make a girl feel special. šŸ™‚

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So, as you might have guessed, Sean did not in fact end up taking me Taco Bell for my birthday. No, he surprised me by taking me to 2941–a truly awesome (and swanky!) restaurant that I actually visited for the first time last year for my Mom’s birthday.

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2941 is in the Fairview Park area in greater Falls Church. It’s a bit off the beaten path, but in a really beautiful location because of it. It’s on the edge of a lake, and has waterfalls and stone paths and koi ponds (oh my!). It was February the last time I came, so it was already super dark when we arrived. This time, I got to appreciate the scenery for a bit before the sun went down!

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To start, I ordered a glass of Oregon pinot noir (the best!) before we tucked in.

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The restaurant focuses on french/italian-style haute cuisine. It was a real FEAST! Everything I tried was sol, so delicious–just see for yourself!

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The bread basket included three kinds of bread: a classic french bread, a soft wheat, and an olive loaf. The olive was my favorite! I totally ended up picking out the extra kalamata olives from the leftover pieces of uneaten bread, hehe.

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We also ordered an appetizer of calimari. I know it seems a little random, but honestly this may have been the best calimari I have ever, EVER had. The breading wasn’t heavy, but was super crisp (I’m thinking it must have been panko) and the sauces were just delightful–a tomato coulis and a light honey mustard that I think were supposed to be a play on ketchup & mustard. I demolished these little squiddos.

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2941 also orders both 2nd course-sizes and full-entree sizes of their pasta dishes. This Hawaiian prawn risotto just sounds too incredible NOT to try, so Sean and I ordered a small size to share. Oh. My. Lanta. The risotto was perfect–creamy and lemony and tangy and delicious–and the prawns were absolutely to die for. I almost–almost!–wish I had just ordered a full-sized version for myself. Luckily, what I did end up choosing as my entree was without a doubt the right choice.

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I got the roasted duck breast, served with zucchini and asparagus, and it was PHENOMENAL. Perfectly cooked, tender, flavorful… I was getting pretty full by this point (for obvious reasons, haha) so I ended up taking half home. Which means I GET TO EAT IT AGAIN FOR LUNCH AND I’M SO FRAKKING EXCITED OMG.

Aaaand recomposing myself… yes, I obviously loved this dish. I think it’s a tie between the duck and the risotto for best dish of the night.

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In true Gretchen form, I also insisted we order a side of Brussels sprouts, because evidently I am incapable of seeing them on a menu without ordering them. They were quite good, but I still think I make ’em better. šŸ˜‰

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Of course, since it was my birthday and all, we couldn’t NOT sample a dessert! We got the crema fritta, which was a rich cream inside little crisp triangles, with root beer caramel (!!) and a cocoa nib ice cream. Really rich and tasty, and the perfect size to share.

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I had forgotten from my last visit here that you get complimentary beignets at the end of your meal, so Sean and I each had one little lemony donut hole to polish things off.

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And I capped off the night with a delicious cup of Earl Grey tea. Whew.

So, as you can see, the night’s meal was pretty incredible, though I’m sure I’m MORE than paying for it today. Hahahaha, between last night’s dinner, tonight’s Melting Pot excursion with Ai Rei and Aileen, and my birthday party tomorrow, I’m pretty sure I’m never going to want to weigh myself again. Lololol.

Oh! And I can’t forget to tell you the BEST PART OF THE ENTIRE DAY! Yes, better than dinner last night, better than the free birthday scoop of pistachio almond ice cream I got from Baskin Robbins… check out the present my boyfriend gave me:

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Yep.

He got me a Vitamix.

*cue my complete and total freakout*

I am so flipping spoiled. I love it I love it I love it I love him I love him I love him. AHHHH!! And yes, I totally cried when I opened the box and saw what it was. Straight up burst into tears, just like I did when my brother got me my KitchenAid mixer for Christmas a few years back. What can I say? Evidently extravagant kitchen appliances are the true way to my heart.

There may be some of you who are shaking your heads or scratching your chins in confusion. What’s so special about a blender? you’re thinking. Well, to start, this is no mere blender. Sure, it blends. But it does so much more. You can COOK SOUP in this blender. You can make ICE CREAM with this blender. This blender can CHURN BUTTER. IT CHURNS BUTTER PEOPLE.

So, yeah. All in all, I’d say that 25 is shaping up to be one of my best years yet. Thanks again for all the birthday love, friendos! See you on the (post-Quarter Quell) flipside!