Thanksgiving Recap & Christmas Ahoy!

Happy December, everyone!

I hope you all had an awesome Thanksgiving holiday (though I know I’m already like, 2 weeks late on the well-wishes for that… it’s been busy around here!). Sean, Penny, my parents, and I all joined Sean’s family for Thanksgiving this year, and it was epic. Penny enjoyed turkey but really went wild for the homemade mac ‘n’ cheese that I contributed to dinner, which made me swell with pride.

We also had a mini-second-Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house with Ben, Taylor, and Marnie (who spent actual Turkey Day with Tay’s family) and because of course my mom randomly happened to have an entire second turkey that she needed to cook. Oh well, any excuse for more tryptophan-induced food comas is A-OK by me!

Going back to my parents’ house this week also gave us the opportunity to help my dad pull out some holiday decorations, and had me tripping down memory lane when I found an old photo album filled with baby pictures of yours truly! Which confirmed what lots of strangers stop to tell me anytime I’m out with Penny, which is that she really is my mini!!

 

Well, my strawberry-blonde, blue-eyed mini. 😉

And actually, turns out I got quite a bit of extra time in with my parents over Thanksgiving week, since the weekend after I went with them to the Kennedy Center to see the National Symphony Orchestra’s Decade of Disney concert.

 

Sadly, my Thanksgiving weekend did not end on a tremendously high note, as Sunday I came down with some kind of crazy stomach bug / food poisoning / some kinda something that had me hugging the porcelain throne all night long. UGH. Not sure what happened there, but it had me pretty much out of commission for most of Sunday and Monday. Blech.

I’m feeling much better now, but between getting sick after returning from Atlanta, Thanksgiving, and then that lovely ’bout of illness, it had been a seriously hot minute since I’d been to the gym or worked out at all. I also made the potentially grave error of agreeing to a Christmas Eve 5K with my sister and some friends, however, so I knew that I needed to get back on the horse soon.

I felt better on Tuesday, so I managed to drag myself to the gym and put in a half-hearted workout. Not great, but it was something. And then on Wednesday and Friday, I managed to do some real running and real lifting. Training-wise, even on the mend from being sick, I managed to make it to 1.6 miles, so hopefully by the time 12/24 rolls around I’ll actually be able to do the full 5K.

  

Anyway, that pretty much catches us up to today! And as today is, y’know, December, this officially means we are BRINGING ON THE CHRISTMAS CHEER!!

You can find me (and Penny… and the dogs…) dressed festively for the next 22 days and I’m not even a little bit sorry.

 

On the work-front, I’ve got my regional summit the first half of this upcoming week, so I’ll be camping out at Yelp’s DC office pretty much nonstop for the next couple of days. We all had dinner together last night, and it was great — I love getting to see so many of my coworkers (we all work remotely, so it’s one of the few opportunities each year for all of us to get together), but as I’m sure anyone who’s ever had a work conference derail your daily duties a bit, it’s also for sure going to make for a bit of a crazy week.

And even though I so treasure this time spent with my regional team, it is a teeeeny bit bittersweet. I mean, it’s really only because I’m so spoiled, but even though Penny goes to daycare twice a week, I’ve never had to worry about stuff like traffic and commuting during rush hour — this morning will be my first taste of that. So I’m dropping her off extra early and will just have make peace with the fact that the 20 minutes I spent with her first thing in the morning is the only time I’m gonna get with my girl over the next couple of days (since I’ll be getting home loooooong after she’s gone to bed.) I know, I know, this is the daily reality for tons of parents so I should probably just shut my face. It’s just not my daily reality, so it makes me a little wistful. Also, she hardly eeeeeever naps at daycare so, you know, pray for Sean.

Anyway, on that optimistic note, I’ll bid you adieu for now! Hope everyone has a super fun, festive week as we really start getting into the holiday spirit, and Happy Hanukkah to my friends who are celebrating!

 

POPs

Before I get into my little weekend recap post, I just wanted to take a second to pay homage to the tragedy that occurred last week in Newtown, CT. I would feel like an a-hole if I said absolutely nothing, but, of course, there’s really nothing I can say. It’s a horrific tragedy, and I just… there are simply no words. Anyway, I’m not trying to be a downer, I just think that a tragedy of this magnitude deserves acknowledgement and, of course, remembrance. Not for the monster that did this, but to commemorate and celebrate the lives that were taken.

Okay. So. Now to pluck myself out of the doldrums again, very awkwardly and non sequitur…ly. Eeeeyeah.

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Thanks to my book release as well as the birth of one pretty neat older brother, this weekend was full of little celebrations. Friday night, my boyfriend Sean took me on a date to my beloved Sweetwater Tavern to celebrate the book, then Saturday we had a birthday potluck in honor of Ben’s 29th birthday at the house! Sadly, I took absolutely zero photos of either event. Womp womp fail.

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What I *did* take photos of was Sunday’s excursion. Also, many vain outfit shots. Heh. My whole family gathered together to go see the National Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday POPs concert at the Kennedy Center! Naturally, I found this the perfect excuse to bust out one of my Oh-em-gee-this-dress-is-only-$9-but-when-am-I-ever-going-to-wear-it purchases from when I decimated the Leesburg Outlets with my friend Holly back in October.

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I love a good reason to get dressed up! We had dinner at the Terrace Restaurant in the Kennedy Center before the show, which was delicious and extravagant.

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I started with a salad that had bibb lettuce, blue cheese, candied cashews, apples, and an apple vinaigrette (and helped myself to not a small amount of Sean’s seafood chowder, hahaha). I got the mussels & frites for my entree, which was actually listed as an appetizer so I got an OBSCENE amount of mussels. Not that I’m complaining. But yeah, literally, I had a cauldron full of mussels. Om nom nom.

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Then it was time for the show! The concert itself was wonderful. It was a lot more jazzy than I expected — the NSO collaborated with an a cappella quartet called “New York Voices” and the result was a lot of complex harmonies and jazz interpretations of our favorite traditional holiday tunes.

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Okay, fine, it was mostly Christmas tunes (they even had Santa come out at the end, haha), but they DID play one non-Christmas song (O, Chanukah) so I guess that’s what makes it a “Holiday” concert, hahaha. Either way, it was super enjoyable, very impressive, and really got my holiday gears cranking (’cause… you know… I have such a difficult time getting excited for Christmas… lololol). GUYS. THIS IS THE LAST WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS WEEK. AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!

What’s your favorite thing about the holiday season? You know, pre-actual Christmas, what’s your favorite thing about this Decemberiffic time? The decorations, the baked goods constantly available, the tacky sweater parties…?

PS: Quick note. Just in case any of you are looking for me on Twitter moving forward, I’ve updated my handle to @gretchenpowell!

5 Favorite Holiday Films

Keeping on with this theme of random lists of 5 things I evidently have going this week, we move onto… HOLIDAY MOVIES!

This is a countdown of all my Christmas-y & holiday-y faves. I absolutely LOVE this time of year, and part of the reason for that is because it’s acceptable for me to watch these movies pretty much nonstop (and back to back). First up…

5.The Nightmare Before Christmas

What with ditties like, “This is Halloween” and all, you might think this is actually a Halloween movie. YOU WOULD BE WRONG. This movie is Christmas through-and-through, and is so much fun to watch year after year. It’s charming, heartwarming, funny, and just so, so good. Oh, claymation. I miss you.

I’m going to assume that everyone who is anyone has seen it already, but if you’re part of the no one group at the moment, I think you know what needs to be done.

4. Holiday Inn

You might not know that “Holiday Inn” wasn’t always a reference to economic hotel stays. In fact, it was first a 1942 movie starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Yes. Both of them, in one movie. Epic. I’m a sucker for old movies in general (“Singin’ in the Rain” is still my all-time favorite movie!) and this is no exception. This is THE movie where “White Christmas” first originated (well, the song, not the concept), and is such a delight. It’s about an inn that’s only opened on the holidays (go figure), and is chock-full of singing, dancing, and amazing 40s-style writing.

Fair warning, there is an entire part of the movie that centers around the characters wearing blackface (in commemoration of Lincoln’s Birthday). I mean… it was the 40s. So yeah. But that aside, the movie really does hold up!

3. Love, Actually

As if I’d have a holiday movie without “Love, Actually.” I’m sure there aren’t too many of you out there who haven’t seen this delightful Christmas-themed British film of interwoven vignettes. It is THE ORIGINAL (and without fail, the best) of all the subsequent vignette-ridden holiday-themed movies that have come out (Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, blah blah blah).

If nothing else, the movie is worth it just to see Rick from The Walking Dead pour his adorabe cue-carded heart out to Keira Knightley. I think it’s safe to assume that this film takes place pre-zombie apocalypse.

2. The Holiday

I’m a sucker for the rom coms, it’s true. And I’m a sucker for Jude Law in… just about anything (though I have to admit, the way he’s styled in Anna Karenina doesn’t do much for me, hahaha). And since the first time I saw this movie, I have loved it.

The basic summary is this: Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) are two equally unlucky-in-love women, who trade houses with each other over Christmas in an attempt to shake up/escape their lives. Hilarity, friendship, and romance ensues. OH, and the score is AMAZING. Like, seriously. Hans Zimmer wrote the score (he is also the amazing composer responsible for Pirates of the Caribbean, and other huge blockbuster films) and it is just wonderful. Like, makes you want to fly up out of your seat and go chase after the one you love.

1. ELF!

And yes, to put the cap on this cake of delicious holiday festiveness, we have the piece de resistance: ELF! I don’t care how many people think Will Ferrel is annoying or this movie is over-quoted or whatever. To me, it is perfect. And I will watch and laugh and quote ’til my heart spilleth over!

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it’s got Zooey Deschenel in it (do you guys watch New Girl? UGH I DIE LAUGHING EVERY WEEK). Of course, she is blonde in Elf, which is kind of weird, but she sings, so it makes up for it. (If you’re looking for Christmas music to get into, by the way, the She & Him Christmas album stars Ms. Deschenel’s sultry tones and is really delightful.)

ANYWAY. SO there you have it! My top 5. And if you are like Sean, and find yourself surprised that A Christmas Story wasn’t on this list, I have some potentially shocking news for you. I… don’t actually like A Christmas Story very much. I mean, I can appreciate it from a cultural perspective, and I’ve seen it enough times to get all the references, of course. But, as a movie, I’m just kinda like, ehhhhh? Don’t hate me!

Favorite holiday film: GO!

PS: Final reminder about the Blue Diamond Almonds giveaway! I’m drawing the winners tomorrow AM, so get your last minute entries in now!

Get Your Good Going (Giveaway!)

GOOD MORNING! Er, I mean, good afternoon. Ha! I got a little behind on my posting schedule today, but I promise that I’ll make it up to you because I’ve got an AWEXOME (yes, it’s so awesome that the S has been replaced by an X) giveaway for you all!

Now, this probably bears discussing in more detail later, but the reason for my tardiness is because I spent the morning at the orthodontist. Yep, I am considering joining the adult braces club. I had braces when I was 12 – 13, but my teeth have still shifted a ton since I got them off way back when (much to my parents’ chagrin). So, I went in for a consultation.

What came out of this consultation, you ask? Why, the knowledge that braces are HOLY CRAP SO EXPENSIVE OMG. But I got a few different options, with different prices attached to those options, so I basically just need to decide how much my vanity is really worth. But given how many self-portrait photos I post to this here blog, I’m gonna guess it’s probably worth a lot. Hahahahaha.

Hokay. So. With the holidays approaching, and all the changes going on in my life right now (my book, a new position at my (day)job, exciting changes in my family, all that stuff!) I’ve got a lot of good going on right now. But keeping all the good stuff in the forefront of my mind when it’s cold and dreary and our heating bills are skyrocketing and my weight loss efforts are going turtle-slow… it’s not always the easiest thing.

Which is why it’s extra important for me to ensure I’m doing all that I can to make those not-as-good things better. There’s not much I can do about the weather, but I can certainly combat the cold with my fuzzy sweaters, Santa hat, and miniature schnauzer bedwarmers. In terms of my weight loss, well, it’s the holidays, and I’ve already admitted that maintenance–not loss–is my main priority right now. But that doesn’t mean I want to lapse out of control completely (I don’t want a repeat of last year’s 10-pound holiday gain!).

Doing things like ensuring I’ve got appropriate foods to eat in between cookie exchanges and holiday parties is a pretty important part of that process. Lucky for me, I’ve got that covered right now, too. I was contacted by Blue Diamond Almonds a couple of weeks ago to see if I was interested in doing a sponsored post and giveaway! Naturally, as someone who is already a huge fan of their products (Blue Diamond Coconut Almondmilk FTW!!!!!) I gave them a RESOUNDING yes! Their current campaign is all about “Get Your Good Going,” and, well, here we are!

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They sent me a can each of their brand new flavors: Rosemary & Black Pepper, and TOASTED COCONUT. Firstoff, let me just say that these are literally like crack almonds. Like, almonds that are equivolent to crack cocaine. (Granted, I’ve never actually done cocaine, but I imagine that it evokes a similar feeling… and addiction.) I have always been a huge proponent of nuts (haaaaaaaaahahahaha, please never take that line out of context, bahaha) as a healthy snack component. They are SO good for you, SUPER filling, and, um, oh yeah, delicious. These two flavors are certainly no exception.

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You get 28 almonds for 160/170 calories (depending on which flavor), which is actually a lot of nuts (yes, I’m laughing again, and yes, I’m a 14-year-old boy). The pic above depicts 28 if you combine both flavors… unless I can’t count. Which might be possible. Both of new flavors are sold exclusively at Target, and I swear. They are just, urrrrrgh, so good. SO GOOD! And in order to help get YOUR good going, too, we have a fun giveaway! Huzzah!

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Two (yes, two!) of you will receive one can each of the Rosemary & Black Pepper AND Toasted Coconut almonds. To enter, simply leave a comment saying how you get your good going during the winter months!

As always, you get extra entries for liking my blog on Facebook, following me on Twitter, and tweeting/posting/blogging about this giveaway.

And hey, since we’re in book-release-countdown-mode too, you get an additional entry if you go like my author page on Facebook as well!

Entries for all! Make sure you come leave separate comments on this post for each thing you do, cause that’s how the giveaway selector plugin thing I use determines who wins. Two random winners will be selected on Wednesday, December 12th (book release day!)

The above post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds, but the photos, words, and, most importantly, opinions are all my own.

One last thing: since we’re in the season of giving and all, I wanted to throw out a quick mention: reader Nicole recently reached out to me with a request that I think is really wonderful. Nicole’s friend, Rhonda, has a grandmother who was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. The doctor says that this Christmas will be her last, and so Rhonda is asking for people to send holiday cards to her grandparents for Christmas. I thought this was a really sweet, touching thing, and wanted to spread the word. If you’re interested in sending a Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanza/Christmahanukwanzakkah card to Rhonda’s grandparents, the address is here. Mine went in the mail yesterday!