Jet Set Life

Um, can we just talk for a minute about how it’s basically already August? I know people say stuff all the time like, “This month has just flown by!” and “I can’t believe it’s already _____!” but this time it really is true — I am actually having trouble believing that as much time has passed as it has. It feels like the Fourth of July was like, last weekend! Oyyyy.

But I guess that’s what seven days in Ottawa, half-a-day in Montreal, one day in Toronto, and five days in San Francisco will do to you!

Yep, the past couple of weeks have been awesome, if not exhausting, haha. First was a trip down memory lane back in Canada, where I graduated from high school.

My week in Canada was pretty low key aside from all the driving we did between Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto, haha. I saw friends (including one of my bridesmaids, Holly!), ate lots of poutine, got my souvenirs in the form of ketchup chips, and all was well.

Then came the epic once-a-year Community Manager conference at Yelp HQ in San Francisco — what we call CM Week. This year, CM Week was superhero-themed, which really tells you all that you need to know.

I loveloveloved getting the chance to see my fellow Community Managers from around the globe (Yelp is in 32 countries!) and getting to brainstorm and get fired up for more projects to come! But try to imagine what it’s like when you basically put like 160+ Gretchens together in a room — all that energy! All that enthusiasm! I love it, but it is a lot to handle. And these folks really embody the idea of work hard, play hard, so even after a long day of sessions, so many of them were all up for going out all night, too. I tried to keep up, but I also knew that I had to take it relatively easy since…

The travel’s not over yet! As you read this, I am probably waiting in line at security to board yet another flight. I’m on my way back to Savannah, GA, for work. Yep, after being home for like, I dunno, three days? And after an Elite Event last night, to boot!

Don’t worry, the event was awesome. It was at local Falls Church eatery Pizzeria Orso, and there was a whole lot of selfie stick action happening, and I loved it. Buttttt, again, exhausting. Are you noticing a theme here? Hahaha.

So, alas, I’m on my way south and I am already tired of traveling. I don’t mean to sound whiney or ungrateful, don’t get me wrong!  It’s not that I’m not looking forward to GOING to Savannah. It’s a seriously boss city, and I love the Yelp Community Ambassador that I hired there, and it’s awesome that my job sends me there at all. Plus, because Savannah is so close to Macon, GA, I also will get to see my favorite niece (okay, my only niece… for another month or so!) and my sister.

But as much as I love all of those things, and as much as I know I’ll have a great time once I’m there, I just really, really, really don’t want to have to get on another plane.

Now, I’m no stranger to flying. I was on my first airplane at just a few months old. It’s not that flying bothers me or is scary to me or anything, I just am tired of doing it. I don’t know how people who travel all the time for work do it — I guess it just becomes the new normal? Because as much as I love travel and visiting new places (and old places!), visiting this many places in such a relatively short amount of time is exhaaaausting to me.

I just want to lie in my bed with Harry and Daxter for like, three days straight. I want to catch up on my DVR and be able to actually answer an email about my wedding (wedding stuff has taken a definite pause as I’ve been jet-setting around the continent), and I want to sleeeeeep.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m totally one of those people that gets sick basically every time she travels. Last year after CM Week, I got hit with what we call the CM Week Plague. I was basically bedridden for an entire week afterwards. So this year, I took it easy and tried to go to bed early(ish) most nights, and drank a LOT of beverages with extra Vitamin C… but I can still feel it coming. Pretty sure once I get back from this trip, I’ll be in a sad state.

The silver lining there, though, is that I think I will get to do all the aforementioned schnauzer snuggling and TV-watching I’ve been craving! In between the multitude of events I have lined up for August, that is, haahahaha…ha…ha.

Okay, anyway, no point dwelling on all that. C’est la vie, and regardless of whether I whine about it the whole time, I am gonna be plane-bound for just a little bit longer! I should be grateful (and I am!) that I’m afforded the opportunities to get to see old friends (in addition to seeing my Canadian buddies, I caught up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in ELEVEN years while I was in San Francisco!), go to sweet events (which is the reason I’m headed to Savannah in the first place), and eat lots of awesome food (which is really what I’m in all this for, after all.)

So, until next time, my friends!

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…

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):

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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!

Oh Heyyyy, Ottawa!

So I had promised myself that I wouldn’t do a big long recap of my Ottawa trip, since I did exactly that after my last trip back in February. Buuuut, we all know how good I am at sticking to my convictions, hahaha.

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My parents happened to be in town at the same time as me (as part of a big Canadian road trip), so I spent most of Friday hanging out with them and gambling my dad’s money away at the Casino du Lac-Leamy. But the following day, as you may already know from yesterday’s vlog, my friend Ai Rei took me to The Works, my most favoritest burger joint with the most creative topping combinations I’ve seen to this day!

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We started out with some small shakes – chocolate almond for me, and avocado (!!) for her. Both were uhhhhmazing. Unfortunately, the waiter didn’t ask how we wanted our burgers cooked, and I forgot to offer the information voluntarily, so they came out well-done. SOB.

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Luckily, the patty was covered in approximately 6.3 pounds of cheese, so it still tasted pretty good!

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Proof.

Aaaaand, sweet potato fries on the side. I know, I know. But this was pretty much the only heinously unhealthy meal I had while in Ottawa, so take that as you will.

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All of downtown Ottawa is very reasonably walkable, and we needed to get some movement in after that lunch anyway. So we traipsed down to Glitz Cupcakes and Company and split a few mini cupcakes. Then we just wandered around the Byward Market area for a while, taking in the shops and fun Fall sights!

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I am saddened by the fact that I never paid attention to all the amazing fresh produce stands and local butchers and fishmongers back when I lived here! Oh hindsight, you rose-colored devil.

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Oddly enough, I have yet to find a bubble milk tea place down here that matches the kind that I can get up in Ottawa (though, of course, even that is NOTHING compared to the real stuff from Taipei!) And though our wandering probably seemed pretty aimless, we did have an eventual goal.

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BEAVERTAIL TIME!!!

My beloved beavertail (fried dough smothered in cinnamon sugar, gwahaha) was waiting for me! But, because I really am trying to be “good”, we split this sucker in half. You can even see the line down the middle, hehe.

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If ever there were an appropriate time for this: NOMNOMNOM. So much deliciousness. And more was to come, since that same night was the Halloween-themed wedding shower for my friend Holly and her fiance Scott!

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Lovebirds.

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I spent the night catching up with old friends, drinking wine poured from bottles labeled “Spider Venom” and “Toxic Waste” (mmm, so deliciously deadly…), and eating my fill of strange Canadian candy.

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Smarties down here are NOT the same as Smarties up there! (Fact: theirs are better.)

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There was a pumpkin carving competition too. Our team (Rei, Michael, Lucas, and moi) brought our A-game, and did NOT produce a vomiting pumpkin.

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Nope, instead we ended up with…

Whasian Pumpkin
A Whasian Pumpkin!

Bahahaha, and can you believe we didn’t WIN?! It was rigged! Rigged, I tell you!

Team Whasian

I also took pity on a poor, uncarved pumpkin (there ended up being more pumpkins than teams) and made a sad (literally!) attempt at carving it on my own.

Sad Pumpkin is Sad
Sad pumpkin is sad.

Other festivities included a toilet paper ZOMBIE-bride game, and the most inventive themed dinner EVER.

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Seriously, however they came up with this dinner concept, I was impressed. It took a lot of effort for the hosts to coordinate, that’s for sure!

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Let me try to explain how it worked. We were each given a list of spooky dishes, then told to number them in the order we would want to receive our courses. Then we had to trade lists with the person across from us. THEN we find out that our napkin and cutlery were included in the list!

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What this meant, of course, is that not only did most of us end up receiving pumpkin pie as our appetizer, many of us didn’t have anything to eat it with but our hands! I ate my main course with just a knife. Skillz, I tell you. Everything was actually quite manageable and hilarious until it was time for the “dessert course”.

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Which, for me, ended up being a fork, a spoon, and my napkin. Womp wommmmmp. Ah well, at least everyone else thought it was funny. So I ate up their attention for dessert instead. Also, popcorn that I stole from the living room.

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The trip ended with Lucas, Ai Rei, Michael and me back together and brunching it up at the Mayflower Pub with an incredibly healthy and not-at-all artery-clogging eggs florentine. Then before long, it was time to say goodbye yet again! These trips always seem to go by so fast. I attribute that to having had so much fun with my friends, as well as to The Hunger Games books. Which I started on the plane up to Ottawa, and had finished by the time the plane back had touched down. So, yeah. Another thing meant for teenagers that I am now inappropriately obsessed with. We’ll have to talk about that.

When you visit home (or college, or just a place you’ve lived before), what are your priorities? See old friends? Eat at your favorite restaurants? Check out the changes that have been made in your absence? I tried to do all of these things, but as a result felt like there wasn’t a lot of time to enjoy each thing. Guess that just means I’ll have to go back soon. 🙂

I’m Back, Eh?

Bonjour and Happy Halloween!! I have returned from the Great White North!

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It was great to see old friends and revisit my old haunts in Ottawa over the weekend. As I’ve mentioned before, I graduated from high school there so I love being able to get back occasionally and make sure those fires of friendship ain’t dying.

Bros for Life

Luckily, I don’t think that’ll be happening anytime soon. I tried to maximize my time as much as possible, so I flew back in on the later side last night. I tell you this so you potentially forgive the fact that I’ve only gotten through editing about half of the zillion photos I took (who, me?). Ergo, the full recap of the weekend may have to wait until tomorrow.

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I did, however, get the chance to edit together the sweet, sweet, Canadian vlog that my friend Ai Rei helped me film! So hopefully another classic Gretchen vlog will tide you over until then. If you’re viewing this post via email subscription, be sure to click through to see the video!

Fair warning: this may or may not but definitely does showcase me at my lamest. It’s also a little disjunct since it was shot over the course of several days. So, y’know, no judging.

Okay fine, judge a little. 😉

For those of you who aren’t able to watch until after work (womp womp), here’s a little something in picture-form, too. Remember my desperate plea for help in the Halloween costume department in my last vlog? I was looking for something cheap, easy, portable, and ideally kinda cute too. Well, the costume also gets revealed in the video above, but here’s what I ultimately landed on:

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Get it?

PJs + Tiara = “Sleeping Beauty”!!

Haaaaahahahahaha. Okay, okay, kinda lame, I know. But it cost me exactly $0 since I already owned everything (what, you don’t have a tiara just laying around?) and I think I pulled off the punny-ness. I was also given the title of “Sushi Princess” that night, so you can roll with that if you like it better. I’m good either way.

I miss my friends already, but it’s always nice to come home. Well, to be honest, it wasn’t “home” that I missed as much as these guys:

home sweet home

What did you dress up as for Halloween?

It’s Friday, Friday

So, somewhere in the blur that was yesterday, I remember getting a really good idea for today’s post. Of course, after my MIND WAS BLOWN by yesterday’s episode of The Vampire Diaries (which I got to watch nearly live for once thanks to a well-timed family dinner and my parents’ DVR), I can’t actually remember WHAT that idea was. Fail. Amazing, heart-stoppingly intense fail.

I’m sure that said brilliant idea will come to me eventually, but in the meantime please enjoy the fact that you probably now have Rebecca Black’s “Friday” stuck in your head after reading the title of this post, bwahaha. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if for any reason you might have forgotten that yesterday was Thursday, tomorrow is Saturday, or that Sunday comes afterwards.

We so excited

Haaaaahahahaha. Okay, sorry for that. To make it up to you, here’s an incredibly embarrassing picture of me from dinner last night. We had burritos.

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Can you tell I’m having a little too much fun playing with layout templates?

Urrrrk. I think we’re even.

More of me telling you things I like, under the assumption that you actually care.


1. Vlogging

Still hate the word itself, but I am really digging turning on the video charm (HA!) for you guys. Be sure to let me know if the videos are too much or whatever, but they’re fun for me to make so I’m going to assume they’re fun for at least some of you to watch. Consider this your warning that more will be coming, hahaha.

2. 90s Television

If you are 21 or younger, you might not remember the amazing programming that was available for our impressionable minds to absorb. Boy Meets World, Clarissa Explains It All, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Hey Arnold!, The Secret World of Alex Mack, Pinky & the Brain… the list goes on. When Nickelodeon announced they were bringing back some of my favorite childhood shows, I immediately went to seek them out for myself since we don’t have TV anymore (SOB.) Thank goodness for Netflix and the interwebs!

Butternut Squash
(source)

3. Autumn Vegetables

After yesterday’s post, you are probably well-aware of my current obsession with spaghetti squash, but the truth is that I’m excited for all the autumn vegetables that are hitting the Farmer’s Market! Brussels sprouts on the stalk, butternut squash, carrots, beets… I have all sorts of recipe ideas stirring. I’m trying to put more of an emphasis on seasonal eating, so hopefully this excitement about colder-weather veggies will last through the winter, too!

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4. Canada

Ottawa, specifically! I’ve mentioned a few times now that I’m taking a trip up there soon. Well, by this time next week, I’ll be back in the Great White North (where I graduated from high school). I’m so excited to hit up all my old stomping grounds!

5. Kidney Stones

PSYCH! (Another 90s throwback for you with that particular word, haha.) This week’s kidney stone episode was NOT a pleasant part of my week. Luckily, they passed without issue (y’know, other than the blinding pain and whatnot), and things have turned around quickly since then. I even managed to pound out two excruciatingly slow miles on the tready yesterday! Be proud. Be very proud.

Anything new you’ve been digging on this week? Colder weather sweeping in? Scarves, hats, and boots taking back the streets? Gaddafi’s death? Oh yeah, we just got all political up in hurr. Sidenote: I was going to make Vampire Diaries part of the original list, but then figured it doesn’t really require a mention. I’m pretty sure my obsession there has been made abundantly clear, hahaha.

Have a great weekend!