Off to Ottawa + Some Updates!

Aloha!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: ☑

Venue: ☑

Dress: ☑ (no spoilers!)

Caterer: ☑

Photographer: ☑

Videographer: ☑

Flowers: ☐ (halfway there!)

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

Ceremony Musicians: ☑

DJ: ☐

Cake: ☑

Day-of Coordinator: ☑

Save the Dates: ☑

Invitations: ☐

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

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

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Kekekekekeke. 😀

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahem, anyway! À bientôt and au revoir!

Babies, Black Eyes, and Bobs

Hello!

I know, another week+ long blogging hiatus has occurred. My only defense is that I was pretty much permanently camped out at my parents’ house the entire time my sister and niece were visiting, which meant zero access to my desktop, which is where I edit all my DSLR photos.

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The good news there, however, is that this means I actually took a lot of REAL photos over the past week! Which really worked out since, as you already know, Mia is pretty much the best thing to take pictures of ever.

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I rest my case.

Although, I do have to admit now that I have an iPhone 6, my phone photo game has stepped up significantly anyway. Guess that means my excuse really doesn’t fly, ahaha.

So, as tends to happen when life is, well, being lived, lots of stuff happened over the past week. First and most importantly, as you already know,  Jen and Mia came up for a visit. This meant lots of time spent hanging with my family, listening to baby babble (it’s the bessssst!), and emotionally reverting to my sixteen-year-old self. (Oh, and if you were wondering, Mia LOVED the Elsa doll I got her!)

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Also, I managed to slam my eye socket into the corner of a chair and give myself a black eye.

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I actually think it makes a much better story if I just say that Mia punched me in the face, so let’s pretend that’s what happened. You know, instead of me getting into fisticuffs with an inanimate object, mmkay?

All kidding aside, it actually was pretty awful. I’ll spare you some of the much uglier, nastier pictures I took, but suffice it to say that my whole eye was hugely swollen for a couple of days, and the bruise on my eyelid is just finally starting to lighten up now. (Thankfully, it just kinda looks like I’m wearing purple eyeshadow, and also that I must be reeeeeeeeally tired… in one eye.) I definitely realize how lucky I am not to have damaged my actual eye or vision though, especially given the $4K I spent on LASIK not too long ago.

Aaaaanyway, self-inflicted injuries aside, we all tried to cram in lots of hometown nostalgia for my sister while she was here, but I couldn’t let her leave without introducing her to something new, too. Specifically, my absolutely wonderful hair stylist, Linh at Be Scene Studios. I booked her an appointment so Linh and I could both try to convince her to do something fun and fashionable with her hair. And the result of our persuasive effort?

A fabulous, chic bob — Linh’s specialty! And it looks even better in person, and is nice and low-maintenance for someone who doesn’t even own a blowdryer… like Jen.

Sadly, though, ultimately my sister and my beautiful niece did have to return home. How did I soften the blow of their departure?

Why, by volunteering to groom Sully from Monsters, Inc, of course.

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Er, I mean, by hunting down a unicorn and cutting off its tail.

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Jk, jk. Obviously, I went ahead and let my own hair go under the knife, as it were. Yes, merely days after Jen got her rad new ‘do, I headed straight back to Be Scene for some new locks of my own. I guess seeing my sister’s stylin’ new haircut just made me crave one too badly to wait!

For good measure, here are a few final pics to remember my (faded) hair as it once was:

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The during:

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And, the after:

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As it turns out, it is actually really easy being green!

It’s funny, every time I’ve gone to see Linh in the past, I’ve always been that girl, all “Keep the length! Not too much off the bottom!” even though I was more than game for pretty much any color on the rainbow spectrum. Also, it’s a little weird that I was so stubborn about the length for so long, since it’s not like my hair has never been short, right? I mean, my hair’s been everything from pixie-short blonde to super-long rainbow. Oh well, at least I finally got to a place where I was willing to shed more than an inch or two, ’cause I’m loving it!

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Plus, this color, man. It’s beautiful! It’s like a super vibrant emerald green, and I am having SO much fun with it! We’ll have to see how it ends up fading (hopefully it’ll still be pretty), but for now it is so bright, so flouncy, and it actually shimmers in the right light! I’m thinking… Elphaba for Halloween?

Wellps, that about catches us up with what’s been a-going on over the past week or so. While camping at my parents’ place, I did get to do a lot of fun cooking, including a sous vide dinner with Sean that I actually managed to document in photos for once! So keep an (unbruised, unblackened) eye out for that, amongst other things, and I’ll see you on the flip side!

Happy Times Are Here Again

HAPPY VAMPIRE DIARIES DAY! Here is a gif of Ian Somerhalder to get you in the right spirit:

Shirtless Damon is best Damon.

Don’t worry, for those of you who aren’t caught up on The Vampire Diaries, all five previous seasons are on Netflix. Start it now, thank me later!

A-hem. Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, of course, we can move on. I’m feeling much better, thankfully, because by the time you read this I am hopefully already deep in Mia-land. My sister and niece arrived late last night, so from here on out it’s going to be pretty much all Mia, all the time.

In case you need a reminder as to why, despite having just been to Macon to visit a few weeks ago, this is still so exciting, I present the following:

I mean, COME ON. It’s just not FAIR for one to be so cute, right?? Okay, I know I’m slightly biased, but… still.

I’m actually especially excited because I got her a present the other day when I was at Potomac Mills, and based on the 987298432857 times I watched Frozen in the single week I was visiting, I think she’s gonna like it:

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I mean, personally I think this particular Elsa’s face falls a little bit on the creepy side, but I’m still hoping it’ll be a big hit. I’m gunning hard for the Favorite Aunt award (suck it, Uncle Ben and Aunt Taylor!) after all.

All in all, it’s shaping up to be a pretty great week while Jenny and Mia are here! I’m feeling better (still not completely at 100%, but I’m pretty sure I’m not contagious at least, haha), and I’ve got some fun things lined up over the next few days. Hooray for things happening!

Mia-cation and the Evolution of Balance

I’m back, baby!

Well, actually, I’m back from visiting the baby!

I returned yesterday from my trip to Macon wherein I spent a crapton of time with my wonderful 17-month-old niece, Mia.

It was awesome. What did we do while I was there, you ask? Well, let me tell you!

We played…

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We read books…

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We were extremely fashionable…

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Her, not me, obviously.

We also snuggled…

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And celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival with Mia’s first moon cake…

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And we watched Frozen.

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Every day.

Sometimes twice a day.

I mean, I fall asleep and wake up with “Love is an Open Door” stuck in my head.

But those of you who know me also know that I am totally, 100% okay with that. 😀

Of course, since my sister teaches fitness classes, I also ended up doing a few other things. Most of which can be summed up by these extremely attractive pictures:

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She. Destroyed. Me.

In a very positive way, of course.

I went to the gym and was thoroughly worked not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES IN A ROW during my so-called “vacation.” Given how ridiculously lazy I am, you should be pretty proud of me. And on the second day, she taught back-to-back classes, and I DID THEM BOTH. Who am I?!

Actually, if I’m being honest (and aren’t I always?), getting my work out on with Jenny really was a bit of a wake-up call in terms of my fitness. I know that in the (many) months since I quit running and working out regularly, my fitness level has really tanked. And nothing brought that to my immediate attention more than the outrageous pain my muscles were in the morning after I attended Jenny’s first Ab Crunch class. Oy.

IMG_7794-1.JPGOne of these things is not like the other…

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, staying active is a real struggle of mine. If given the choice between going to the gym or going on a hike or going for a swim OR watching a Gilmore Girls marathon on TV (DID YOU HEAR THAT THEY’RE RELEASING THE ENTIRE SERIES ON NETFLIX?!?!), it’s not hard to guess what I’m always going to pick.

I mean, even when I was on the rockin’ weight-loss train, it was still really hard to motivate myself just to be active. I had to bribe myself with races just so I had some reason to go to the gym, to hit the pavement, to get moving. And, really, even though I was running and racing and talking a lot about my health and fitness levels (which were, obviously, much improved over what they are now), the main reason I was doing all those things was to aid in my weight loss.

So it’s not too much of a stretch to understand that when I stopped actively focusing on losing weight, my sole motivation for being active pretty much went out the window, too. It is just so, so, so easy to live a sedentary lifestyle. Between my computer, TV, PlayStation, and books, I spend a lot more time sitting than anything else. And while I really do enjoy taking Harry and Daxter out for walks, those fluffernutters are even lazier than I am.

  

Seriously, try going more than a mile with them and see what happens. (Spoiler alert: it involves carrying Daxter home.)

So yes, anyway, the wakeup call. It comes as no shock to you, I’m sure, that I am suuuuper out of shape right now. Even if you take the whole weight factor out of the equation (and I am not truly that oblivious, I do realize they’re associated to a certain extent, but let’s just put that conversation off for another day), I simply recognize that I’m not currently at my most energetic or my peppiest or my most well-rested…est. I’m sure that on some level I’ve known these things for a while, but I haven’t been motivated to do anything about it because, well, I didn’t want to. Simple as that.

As you know, I’ve been taking some time to try and separate myself from my former identity as Someone Who Is Losing Weight, as Someone Who Needs To Be Thin, as Someone Who Is At War With Her Body. Instead, I’ve been honestly trying to embrace and love myself as-is. And that truly means embracing everything — from my large frame, height, and thighs that will always, always touch, to my tiny ears, widow’s peak hairline, and double-jointed elbows.

But life is all about give and take. And as my focus shifted away from the number on the scale, giving me the confidence to feel better about myself, it also was taking a lot (okay, all) of my motivation for maintaining the healthy habits that I had originally cultivated to help me lose weight. Which led to a serious backslide in terms of my overall fitness level.

So, yes, unsurprisingly, when I actually did find myself back at the gym, I got my ass handed to me. But you know what the surprising part was? I really felt so accomplished for getting through those workouts. For going back the next day. For working hard enough to really get sore. I mean, the soreness wasn’t great in that it was a literally painful indicator of how out of shape I’ve gotten (it seriously feels like a totally different person ran Reach the Beach back in 2012), but it still felt good in a weird, semi-masochistic way.

So I started to think about why that was — after all, it’s not like I’ve never worked out before. I’ve done plenty of challenging classes, I’ve been CRAZY sore after a workout before (my brief stint with CrossFit in particular comes to mind). But I’ve never been, like, happy about feeling like I got schooled by a workout. And I realized, sad as this sounds, that’s probably because I’ve never really known what it’s like to go to the gym or try a class or take up a exertion-based activity without the question constantly stirring in the back of mind, “How will this help me lose weight?”

Which I guess actually probably isn’t shocking given that I’ve been basically obsessed with my weight for most of my life, and it’s admittedly really hard to break free of that kind of thinking. But… I think I’m starting to get there. Just maybe. I think I might just be getting to a place where I can see myself taking steps to be active and fit because of how it makes me feel, not because of how I want to look.

So that’s pretty neat. We just have to hope that this feeling will last long enough for me to get into the rhythm of things even without my super fit, crazy active sister here to drag me to class with her, haha. This is new territory for me, after all! I mean, exercise for the sake of… exercise?! Not just with the aim of losing weight?! Egads!

Let’s see how this goes, shall we? I think the main thing I want to bear in mind moving forward is this: embracing my body and loving myself shouldn’t be an excuse for me to be lazy. Loving myself should mean taking care of myself, right? Just because I’m not trying to be thin doesn’t mean I get a pass on making an effort to be healthy, happy, whole, and balanced.

So, all this is really just to say that next time I get a craving to binge-watch back-to-back-to-back-to-back episodes of Revenge, I’ll most definitely still be doing so. I’ll just try to make sure I’m gasping aloud from major plot twist shock from atop a treadmill instead of my couch. #balance

Cabo Wabo

Soooo, as some of you might remember me having mentioned, I recently went on a big family vacation to Cabo San Lucas. It. Was. Awesome. And RIDICULOUSLY hot. But mostly just awesome.

And I realize that this recap is coming super belatedly, but it’s taken me about this long just to dig myself back out from the week-long email build-up that occurred while I was out. Funny how this backlog is really never something I experienced back when I was doing government work, hahahaha.

Also contributing to the delay is the massive amount of schnauzer sickness that I have also been handling since my return. Whether it was due to the stress of being at the sitter’s, or something he ate, Harry chose last week to become quite sick, resulting in a totally ruined rug, $500 in vet bills, and lots of used cleaning supplies. I’m happy to report that he is both eating and pooping normally again now… but Harry feeling better apparently means that now it’s Daxter’s turn to be sick, of course.

 
I gotta say, I did miss those faces though. Anyway, I AM back now, and I have some fun photos of the trip to share! I am very happy to announce, first of all, that Sean has officially survived his first Powell Family Vacation ® — Hooray!

Since dating me means pretty much means also dating my family, this was an important milestone in our relationship. The vacation on a whole was really quite successful. It was beautiful there, of course, with clear water and clear skies (though, as mentioned, it was soooooo hot. I’m pretty sure I lost weight just from the sheer volume of how much I sweat throughout the week, and the poolwater felt like bathwater, it was so hot.)

But, still, beautiful.

We stayed in an awesome resort (the Playa Grande, where my brother-in-law’s parents own a timeshare), and there was much pool-lounging, beach-going, and eating. Oh man, the eating. We cooked the majority of dinners in the suite where my parents, sister & bro-in-law, and his parents were staying, as they had a full kitchen and there’s a Costco and a WalMart not too far outside of the resort area. This was hugely cost-saving and also a really fun way to make sure everyone had time together most days even if we wanted to do our own things otherwise.

We did get to eat lots of our lunches out, though, which was great because the seafood in Cabo is SO fresh and delicious. We explored several of the restaurants in the marina and beach areas, and on our very last day, Sean and I even managed to track down the best shrimp tacos that probably exist in the entire planet. They’re at Los Claros, in case you were wondering, and here is my Yelp review that backs up my claim.

Aside from the food though, the real star of this trip was this little nugget:

Mia is SO much fun now! She’s starting to really learn how to communicate and use words (well, a couple of ’em, anyway), she has the best facial expressions, and she is a little waterbaby — she loves to swim! This trip was like 85% about spending time with my beautiful niece and 15% about working on my tan, let’s be honest.

ANYWAY. The fact that these are pretty much all the photos I have to show from the trip should be a testament to how great a time I had. I guess I was just too busy having fun and reading three of the many, many books that have been sitting sadly on my Kindle for so, so long.

And now that I’ve officially broken my blogging hiatus, I’ll be back soon to share some of the other things that have been going on in my little life over the past couple of weeks, one of which is the world’s longest and most awful car trip to Richmond, and another being a killer recipe for peanut sesame noodles. Mm-mmm!