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.

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Did I mention it was awesome? ūüėČ

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…

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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. ūüėČ

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

Slytherin Hair, Hufflepuff Spirit

Those of you who have been longtime readers of this blog know that at one point in time, I was a daily blogger. Yes, every single weekday, and even some weekends if there was anything particularly exciting to report, I would open up a fresh post page in WordPress and type, type, type my heart out. I would detail everything from my latest weigh-in what I made for dinner the night before, to what I had been up to that weekend, to just all of the random thoughts that ran through my noggin.

Of course, part of the reason for that daily blogging was the accountability I so desperately needed to keep myself on track with weight loss, but¬†another (rather sizeable) contributing factor was the fact that my job, well, let’s just say it didn’t exactly keep me busy 100% of the time. And during the rare¬†times when I was busy, I was doing things I wasn’t exactly jazzed about having to do. So¬†what better way to keep myself from going cuckoo behind a cubicle than to take to the magic of the world wide interwebs, right?

Well, as it turns out, me running to this very blog on an almost-daily basis was the very thing that honed my writing and social media skills to the point where I was able to land a full-time job that took advantage of those very things. A job that honestly felt tailor-made for me. My dream job. (I know how obnoxious it is that I still say stuff like that, but, hey, honest is as honest does!)

But, of course, suddenly having a job that not only required more of my time, but that I also¬†wanted to devote time to, meant that I found myself starkly lacking in that ho-hum, what-to-do-what-to-do downtime where I was able to do a lot of my blogging. And so, those daily posts suddenly dropped to a few times a week. Then maybe once a week. And now… well, I think we all know I’m not the greatest at updating frequently.

And the funny thing about blogging, for me, at least, is that the longer you stay away, the harder it is to jump back. Logically, you’d think it’d be the opposite scenario. I mean, I have so much to report on, so many things to tell you about, so many photos to embed, I¬†should¬†be cranking out post after post, right? But it’s actually more like, there’s so much to say, I don’t really know where to start.

Funny, right? When I was writing at least 5 times a week, I rarely struggled to come up with content, and yet here I am with a multi-part dream vacation, a very stressful and frightening¬†hospital stay¬†for my dog Harry (don’t worry, he’s okay now, thank goodness), a friend’s wedding,¬†and tons of events, cooking expeditions, and restaurant recaps stirring around in my brain, and I hardly even know where to start.

Well, I guess I should follow¬†Fraulein Maria’s¬†advice and start at the very beginning, eh?

A couple of weeks ago, Sean and I headed down to sunny Florida for a vacation¬†that basically consisted of all the best possible things in life: my niece Mia, Harry Potter, Disney, a cruise, Sean’s birthday, the Kennedy Space Center, and, of course, more Harry Potter. (Duh.)

It was a pretty long trip and as you can see, we did quite a few different things, so I’ll try to tackle this chronologically.¬†The trip can essentially be broken up into thirds. Part I consisted of being together with my sister, brother-in-law, and Mia, who drove over from Georgia to visit¬†Universal Studios and Disney’s Magic Kingdom with us!

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Mia’s first trip to Disney, though she will not in any way, shape, or form remember it, was so much fun! I’m sure I would have still had fun even if it was just us “grown ups” touring Magic Kingdom, but I have to admit that it’s all the more special with a little princess in tow.

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And even though I’m sure parts of it were really overwhelming, I think Mia really had a great time! We basically had to pry her off of the teacups, and she was so excited to meet Belle, well, see for yourself. She was literally head over heels for her. ūüėČ

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I will, of course, do a much, much (much much much much) more detailed post on Diagon Alley, the newest part of the Universal Studios Theme Park and literally the most magical place on Earth, but for now, suffice it to say that it was absolutely amazing and perfect and wonderful and I almost cried but didn’t quite so be proud of me.

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Just a couple of gals hanging out on Sirius Black’s flying motorbike, nbd.
Sean absolutely gets full marks for being so wonderful through all my insane fangirling, of course. For someone who has only read the first three Harry Potter books, has only seen like movies 1, 2, and 8 (or something equally as ridiculous), and doesn’t exactly have the Disney-obsessed gene that tends to run in my bloodline, he was an incredibly good sport.

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I did not actually end up buying him the “Best Boyfriend” award pictured above, but those of you fearing for Sean’s sanity after what he went through on this trip, don’t worry. Part 2 of our trip was a lot more fun for him, I promise. ūüôā

After we said goodbye to Jenny, Dan, and Mia, it was time for Part II of our trip! Sean and I took the world’s most expensive Uber ride about an hour east from Orlando to Port Canaveral — we were going on a cruise! See, my old man’s 30th birthday just happened to coincide with this trip, so I figured that a nice, relaxing 3-day Bahamian cruise was just the ticket to make sure he got a chance to really enjoy this vacation too.

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PS: Traveling as a couple and trying to get pictures together = having to choose between taking yet another selfie OR¬†awkwardly asking other couples if they’ll take a picture of you, since only they truly know your plight.
We were on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas, and the cruise was very nice — lots of downtime, relaxing, and, of course, eating! Oh boy, so much food… it’s really a good thing the cruise was only three days, I tell you what. We left from Port Canaveral and stopped in Nassau, Bahamas, and then we were also set to stop at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s “private island,” but unfortunately some really bad winds meant we had to skip it, as the water was too choppy to risk taking tender boats to the shore.

Oh well, being on the boat is where most of the fun in cruising is at, anyway, right? I mean, I managed to win $20 in the casino off of a $5 initial investment, so I’m thinking things went preeeeetty well for us. ūüėČ

We actually ended up returning to Florida ON Sean’s birthday, so we headed just a few miles out from Port Canaveral to the Kennedy Space Center’s Vistor Complex and spent most of the day nerding out about space. (Sidenote: we also just saw Interstellar over this past weekend and I tell ya, it was a good combination to have just visited the Space Center, heh.)

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Sean’s a big space nut, so he had a great time checking out the old rockets, the space shuttle Atlantis, and all other sorts of nifty space-race history stuff while we were there. And as for me? Well, I may be¬†as much of a space enthusiast as Sean, but I definitely learned a lot…

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Finally, we ended the day with Sean’s birthday dinner at Luma on Park, a fantastic restaurant that came recommended by my coworker and the Orlando Community Manager for Yelp (she does what I do here, only there.)

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And that successfully wraps up both Parts I and II of our trip! Whew! For those of you still reading, I’m pretty impressed that you made it. And fear not, I shall save Part III for another day, since it pretty much just consists of going back to Harry Potter World, shamelessly geeking out, and totally, utterly, completely loving my life.

Slytherin hair, Hufflepuff spirit.

Hopefully at least getting a significant chunk of my big trip down on paper (so to speak) will help me funnel my blogging mojo back into some semblance of normalcy. I definitely have more to report on, so stay tuned! Especially those of you who are looking for more of an in-depth look at the new Diagon Alley part of Universal Studios, hehe. Oh man, there are so many more ridiculous pictures to come…

‘Til next time!

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. ūüėÄ

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

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.

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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!

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Owls

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

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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

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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!

Squeeeee!

So remember how yesterday I said that I had nothing exciting to report? Well, that may have been true at the time, but little did I know that as I typed those very words…

…my sister was going into LABOR!!!!!

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Say hello to my perfect niece, Amelia Alice Robinson. Born 7 pounds, 13 ounces, on March 20th, 2013.

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Mia, for short!

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I can honestly say that’s it is SO true what they say, I feel so differently about this baby, knowing she’s part of my family. I mean, I’ve always liked babies. You know, I think they are cute and I really like being able to follow my friends’ adventures in parenthood on Facebook and whatnot. But I’ve never really been one to have baby fever, or go head over heels over for other peoples’ kids. I like them, but I don’t loooooove them. I CAN say, though, that the very second I saw Mia’s picture, it felt like my heart just swallowed her up. Here I was, worrying about all the changes that are happening to our family dynamic, and now I can’t even imagine what things would be like without her here. I LOVE her, and I haven’t even met her yet!

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Seriously, you can ask Sean. He can verify that there was Kristen Bell vs. The Sloth level of happy crying.

Jenny and baby (and grandma, hehe) are all doing great. I already love her so much, and I am seriously chomping at the bit to head to Houston.

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My dad and I (and Daxter, hehe) leave to start the drive down tomorrow. I’ll be in Texas for the week, and then flying back next weekend. I can’t wait!!