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.

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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!

129 Days and Counting!

Howdy, folks! It’s been yet another while since my last update, I know, but things have been moving along pretty swimmingly! Between work, wedding planning, and family stuff, I’ve definitely been keeping busy. In fact, I just came back from spending some time down in Macon getting to meet (and take photos of) my new niece, Kira!

Coming back home after spending some time with my adorable nieces meant jumping right back into wedding planning and work stuff. I’m actually hosting an Elite Event tonight, another one on Monday, and another one on the 27th. Whew! And next month brings another three events, three weddings (one of which I’m shooting with Ben & Taylor!), AND a trip up to Pittsburgh to help out at my coworker’s Yelper Party. WHEW.

But, hey, no rest for the wicked, right? And all this work craziness does come at a pretty good time, since I’m sure that as soon as I enter November, the wedding insanity will start to REALLY set in. November brings my bridal shower (squee!), a trip to Houston to visit my grandmother (she won’t be able to attend my wedding, so we’re going to perform the traditional Chinese tea ceremony for her), and, then, of course, the beginning of the Holiday Season! Double whew.

Luckily, I think I’m in pretty good shape with things right now. As far as most of the wedding planning timelines and to-do lists that I’m able to find online, it looks like we’re pretty much on target! Here’s where things stand:

Date: ☑

Venue: ☑

Dress: ☑

Caterer: ☑

Photographer: ☑

Videographer: ☑

Flowers:☑

Centerpieces:☑

Ceremony Musicians: ☑

DJ: ☑

Cake: ☑

Day-of Coordinator: ☑

Save the Dates: ☑

Invitations: ☐

Wait a second… are you seeing what I’m seeing? That’s a lot of checked boxes! Like, almost all of them! And while some of the checks are really more like, half-checks, since I can’t actually complete them juuuust yet, the decisions have been made. So I’m counting it!

After all, we’ve figured out the exact configuration of the centerpieces, the flower count is being calculated, the invitations are being designed, and, best of all, my real, ACTUAL dress came in!

No spoilers for you (that isn’t even my real veil!) BUT, I’m pretty darn excited. And miracle of miracles, it actually fits really well! It will still need some alterations, of course, but those don’t need to start until November.

All of which means that, um, the big things on my wedding checklist are basically complete! CRAZY!

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the planning is over by a long shot.the majority of what I have left to work on right now falls under the whole Death by DIY heading that I’ve already mentioned. You know, making the ceremony backdrop, painting the rest of the centerpiece items, finishing up the dessert bar decor (turns out that making cake stands from thrift store plates and glasses is pretty much the easiest thing ever!), and getting my bridal accessories. And I know that as we get closer to the date of the wedding I’m sure more and more things are sure to pop up.

In fact, here are just a few additional things that weren’t originally included on the “main” list that I think I should probably start keeping track of, even if the deadlines are still a ways off:

Bridesmaid Dresses: ☑

Bridal Accessories: ☐

Wedding Rings: ☐

Groomsmen Tuxes: ☐

Registry: ☑ (Thanks to everyone who told me about Zola, it’s really cool!)

Hotel room blocks: ☑

Shuttle/Transportation: ☐ (The hotels are technically walkable to the GW Masonic Memorial, but it’s January, so I’m trying to figure out is providing transportation is still a good idea.)

Welcome Bags: ☐

Wedding Signage: ☐

Program & Menu: ☐

Seating Chart: ☐ (Obviously this won’t be doable until after the invitations have gone out and RSVPs have come back, but it’s still good to keep in mind, as it’s a pretty important to-do.)

Alcohol: ☐ (We are able to purchase our own for the wedding — yay! — so I need to figure out amounts/types.)

Honeymoon: ☑ (Wheeeee!)

Oh boy. The list just keeps on growing. Heh. Oh well, whatever, you guys know I love this ish.

Speaking of the honeymoon, we finally decided on escaping the winter weather on a cruise out of Miami! It’s a 7-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary on Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Escape! I’ve never cruised Norwegian before, but am a big fan of cruising in general, and am super excited about the prospect of a brand spankin’ new boat (seriously, the ship hasn’t even started sailing yet. Eee!)

We are also going to spend a few days beforehand touring the Florida Keys, which neither Sean nor I have been to before. So if any of you have any tips about which cities in the Keys to visit, where to stay, or honeymoon-y things to do, please let me know!

Okay, I think that just about catches us up. I’m sure that the secondary list will just keep growing and growing, but I am super excited! We are 129 days out, and I am definitely already getting antsy, hehe. Onward we go!

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:

IMG_2825 IMG_2827 IMG_2821 
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…

wedding shoes

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):

IMG_2734 IMG_2748
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.

IMG_2751 IMG_2739
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.

IMG_2770 IMG_2780 
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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IMG_2720 IMG_2808
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!

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.

Yelp-Fire-and-Ice-Ball-2015(151of192) Yelp-Fire-and-Ice-Ball-2015(180of192)

Did I mention it was awesome? 😉

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…

mia big sis

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. 😉

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