28 Years Young

So, I know it’s been a minute since I’ve been back in these parts, and I don’t even have a single excuse (other than, well, y’know, life). I truly, honestly, genuinely meant to get back to blogging much sooner than this, what with all the wedding DIY projects I want to share, various trips I’ve taken, and additional hair colors I’ve gone through.

So I apologize for taking so long to get back to my blogging roots. But today I make my triumphant return to the interwebs and we begin again!

First off, some updates:

  • I chopped off my hair basically the minute I returned from my honeymoon, and have proceeded to dye it varying shades of purple and also shave designs into the back of my head. I’m kind of loving it.

  • I got a new tattoo about a month ago. It’s a vial of Felix Felicis, the liquid luck potion from Harry Potter, and I think it’s pretty rad. I got it done at Patriots Tattoo in Fairfax.

  • Sean’s grandfather sadly passed away at the end of February, so we took a quick trip down to San Antonio to be with his family. We are so grateful that he was able to be at the wedding and that we got as much time with him as we did. <3

  • We had our annual Yelp regional conference a few weeks ago, which not only gave me the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by my coworkers (our team spans from PA to NC), but also to bust out my trusty Pikachu onesie. (#bestjobever)

  • My niece/goddaughter Mia also turned 3 at the end of March! Unghhhh, look how little she used to be…

  • And finally, speaking of birthdays…

Today is mine! Huzzah! I am 28 years young today which means it’s time to update my bio and start thinking about what to put on my before-I-turn-30 bucket list, heh. Fun fact: I don’t know if I’ve already shared this, but Sean’s mom and I actually have the same birthday! So did he luck out or what? He only has to remember the one date for both of us! 😉

I spent this past weekend in Macon, GA with my family for my baby niece Kira’s baptism, but we also snuck in an early birthday celebration while we were all together. We went to Dovetail, this awesome hyper-local farm-to-table concept — my kinda place.

I know I probably say this every year, but I think that 28 is shaping up to be my best year yet! I mean, I’ve already got a blizzard wedding under my belt, so pretty much everything in life seems easy breezy in comparison. I’m still loving my kickass job with Yelp, I’ve got a rad family, a home into which I can pour all my post-wedding extracurricular energy (a post on my obsession with my new bar cart is forthcoming), and my awesome grumpy old man pups (plus I basically timeshare my brother’s dog Pixel).

And as a perfect birthday present, I just received my wedding video! So please, feast your eyes on the wonderful video that the wonderful Doug Stanford created, which really showcases just how awesome and crazy and sentimental and special our wedding day really was.

Those last shots at the end are my favorite. 🙂

With that, I leave you for now — with the promise that much more is to come soon. (Although, I realize that my promises mean essentially nothing to you, since I’ve been promising to blog more for like, a year. Hahahaha…haha…ha.) I fly back to DC tonight (still in Macon for the day), so I’ll catch you on the flip!

40 Days, Baby!

As you read this, Daxter & I are likely high in the skies above, flying back home after spending a few days in Macon, GA with my sister and beautiful nieces, Mia & Kira.

Yeah, we met Elsa & Anna. No big deal. 😉

It was super nice, as always, to get away for a little bit and spend time with my family, but with us nearing the one-month mark for the wedding, plus with all the holiday stuff coming up, I can’t help feeling more anxious than not coming back into everything. My sister has been doing her best to help me tackle things one by one, prioritize, and not freak out, and I’m trying to follow her advice, but I seem to be incapable of de-stressing even as I am crossings things off of my ever-growing to-do list. Le sigh.

Gretchen___Sean_»_Eat__Drink__and_Be_Foxy_

I mean, I know that we’re getting into the home stretch, and at this point even totally normal people who aren’t A) DIY-ing way so much crazy sh*t and B) already prone to being overly anxious, emotionally compromised stressballs are apt to reach their boiling point. I swear, I am trying to keep it all in perspective: I still have 5 – 6 weeks to get everything done, my sister’s coming up in a couple more weeks and will be staying for the entire month before the wedding, and my two other bridesmaids will be in town for the full week prior. But I’m in this weird limbo where I feel like I’m both doing too much and not doing enough, lol.

I do feel better after meeting with Caitlin, my awesome day-of coordinator. She’s really ending up as more of a month-of coordinator, and I am so, so glad that I have someone there to reassure me that everything will work out (that I’m not related to, that is), and who is there to specifically help me execute all of my ridonkulous ideas. It makes the fact that I’m putting all these man-hours into details that barely anyone will actually notice much less suicide-inducing, hahaha.

I also have a walkthrough with our caterer scheduled for next week, which I’m sure will also put me more at ease, since it’ll give me the opportunity to ask all of the zillion questions I have on how exactly everything’s going to work. #notabridezillaiswear

I mean, don’t get me wrong: it’s really not all bad. I mean, one of the things that I crossed off my list while in Macon was taste-testing specialty cocktails for the wedding!

Hey, it was a tough job, but somebody had to do it!

Check out that Asian glow! 😉

And speaking of crossing things off my list… let’s take another look at that, shall we? (Are we super annoyed with this incessant list-updating yet?)

Date: ☑

Venue: ☑

Dress: ☑

Caterer: ☑

Photographer: ☑

Videographer: ☑

Flowers: ☑

Ceremony Musicians: ☑

Makeup Artist: ☑

Hair Stylist: ☑

DJ: ☑

Cake: ☑

Day-of Coordinator: ☑

Save the Dates: ☑

Invitations: ☑

Bridesmaid Dresses: ☑

Bridal Accessories: ☑

Wedding Rings: ☑

Groomsmen Tuxes: ☑

Dress Fittings: ☑

Registry: ☑

Hotel room blocks: ☑

Wedding-Day Transportation: ☑

Welcome Bags: ☐

Wedding Signage: ☑

Program & Menu: ☐

Seating Chart: ☐

Alcohol: ☐

Signature Cocktail: ☑

Centerpiece Bottles: ☑

Table Numbers: ☐

Ceremony Backdrop: ☐

Card Box: ☐

Keys to Success: ☐

Popcorn Bar: ☐

Wedding-Day Surprise Element ;): ☐

Guestbook: ☑

Write Vows: ☐

Marriage License: ☐

Create Timeline: ☑

Order Thank You Cards: ☐

Select Ceremony Music: ☐

Wedding Week Beauty Appts – Hair: ☑ Brows: ☑ Nails: ☑

Honeymoon: ☑

Book Honeymoon Excursions: ☐

Book Honeymoon Return Flight: ☐

I actually had to reneg and un-check the popcorn bar one, because I was getting a little ahead of myself. I have all the containers and whatnot, but haven’t placed an order for the actual popcorn yet, oops.

Still makin’ pretty good progress, but since this week is super busy for me work-wise, and the following week is, uh, Christmas week, I don’t really know how much I’ll get done until after Christmas… guess we’ll just have to see how the next couple of weeks go!

If I don’t make it back to update you guys before then, I hope you have the most amaaaaaaah-zing holiday season!

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…

IMG_7790.JPG

We read books…

IMG_7760.JPG

We were extremely fashionable…

IMG_7737.JPG IMG_7765.JPG
IMG_7850.JPG IMG_7856.JPG

Her, not me, obviously.

We also snuggled…

IMG_7806.JPG

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

IMG_7853.JPG

And we watched Frozen.

IMG_7845.JPG

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:

IMG_7837-1.JPG

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

Let’s Rock and Roll

Tomorrow, I’m leaving on a jet (yet again) to visit my beautiful sister, Jen, and even beautifuller niece, Mia! (“I mean, not FULLER, you don’t look fuller, but more beautiful…”) in Macon, GA. And the reason for this trip? Well, there is no real specific reason, actually! It’s a visit for the sake of visiting. And yes, I did just see them a month ago in Cabo, but hey, when it comes to little minions like this, can you really ever get enough?

IMG_7708.PNG IMG_7709.PNG
So this is kind of a random visit, but it’s also a visit that came at almost no personal expense because of the ridiculous deal that I got on my planet ticket. See, when Frontier Airlines launched their service to and from IAD, they had a crazy 12-hour flash sale where flights were as low as $15 each way. So I spent like three hair-pullingly frustrating hours on Frontier’s constantly crashing website, refreshing, refreshing, and refreshing some more, until I finally succeeded in securing a $30 roundtrip flight to Atlanta to visit Jenny.

That is not a typo.

THIRTY DOLLARS.

So yeah, it’s pretty sweet. Alas, Frontier is one of those nickel-and-diming airlines that charges for EVERYTHING, including in-flight beverages, choosing your seat assignment, and putting your carry-on bag in the overhead bin. Not just checking your bag, but actually putting it overhead. Womp womp. So I’ve decided that I’m going to try to fit everything I need for my entire trip in my single duffel bag and squish it under the seat.

I mean, if I’m not successful in cramming it under there, of course I’ll just pay the extra $25 or whatever to put it up top since all things considered, it’s still waaaaaayyyyy cheaper than a regular plane ticket anyway, but who doesn’t love a challenge, amiright?

So let’s discuss my action plan to fit all of this:

332A9107.jpg 332A9108.jpg
Into this:

332A9109.jpg
There are a few different packing ideologies out there — traditional stacking, bundle wrapping, stuff ‘n’ go — but the one I personally subscribe to is rolling.

332A9114.jpg 332A9116.jpg
332A9118.jpg 332A9119.jpg
Rolling not only makes your clothing super compact and easy to arrange, but also leaves you with far fewer creases than traditional packing. Somewhat ironically, the t-shirt I used in the example above was actually already kinda wrinkly to start with (oops), so it’ll actually end up coming out of my suitcase nicer than when it went in, haha!

And how is this space-saving packing mastery achieved, you ask? Here are the easy-peasy steps, as demonstrated in the photos above.

  1. Lay out your clothing item flat, then fold the bottom hem over about two inches.
  2. Fold the item into even thirds.
  3. From the opposite end, begin tightly rolling the t-shirt.
  4. Pull the folded part of the hem over the roll to lock it into place. Done!

The last bit’s a little bit hard to explain in words, but when you actually do it it makes perfect sense. Just make sure that the folded-over band is wide enough.

Rolling’s not just for t-shirts, of course. You can roll up everything from maxi skirts to workout shorts…

332A9126.jpg 332A9129.jpg
332A9131.jpg 332A9134.jpg
…and even underwear! Although since they already take up so little room, I don’t bother with the fold-over band part when doing my undies.

332A9124.jpg 332A9125.jpg
Sidenote: these eBags Slim Packing Cubes are the bomb.com. They make compartmentalizing your packing and keeping all your littler items together soooo easy. I use them for my delicates, for makeup/toiletries/brushes, for electronics, all that good stuff.

332A9136.jpg
So that’s how I roll (pun intended) when it comes to packing! As you can see, things are generally more compact, and it’s organized, too! Another plus for rolling is that each item is still clearly identifiable, even when wrapped (provided you actually know what your clothes look like), so if you really needed to grab something out at the last minute, it’d be easy enough to do so.

Some items, like my long maxi dress and romper I just kept folded, since they are made out of that thin, non-wrinkle material and I haven’t decided if I’m going to wear one or the other on the plane there.

332A9140.jpg
I’m happy to report that once I loaded all my clothing (shoes included!) into the duffel, there was still plenty of room to move and jive and squishhhhh. I maintain high hopes that this will indeed be underseat-crammable.

332A9143.jpg
Of course, this is excluding one more packing cube of makeup and toiletries, as well as the fact that I need to fit my purse in here as well, but I’m sure I can make it work. And, again, if not, I’ll suck up the bag fee, no big deal. Either way, hopefully at least one person will have found this tutorial on clothes rolling informative!

To finish out this post, here are some shots of my packing helpers (you might have already noticed Harry chilling in one of the photos above, hehe.) If only I could roll these fuzzballs up into my bag and bring them with me, too!

332A9133.jpg
332A9138.jpg

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.

332A9786

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!

332A9799

Owls

332A9810

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

332A9778

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

332A9794

332A9808

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.

332A9824

332A9836

332A9860

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!

332A9924

332A9941

332A9977

332A0005

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

332A0063

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!