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Posted on Apr 21, 2014 in Dear Diary, Food | 0 comments

A Frozen Birthday

I know that this update is woooooefully overdue, but hey, better late than never, right? My birthday weekend… week… let’s be honest I’m still celebrating… was absolutely wonderful, and a huge part of what made it oh-so-magical was, indeed, the Frozen-themed birthday party that I had!

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I’ll primarily let the photos do the talking, but as you will see, it was most definitely a good (and super delicious!) time.

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Do you wanna build a snowman?

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Hi, I’m Olaf and I like warm hugs!

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We are not so into the warm hugs.

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Well, okay, Harry’s not totally opposed.

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You can’t have a Frozen-themed party without a few touches of Spring. :)

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The spread!

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“I mean, it’s crazy, we finish each other’s–”
“–sandwiches.”
“That’s what I was gonna say!”

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“And maybe it’s the party talking, or the chocolate fondue…”

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These amaaaaazing, adorable, and totally, totally delicious miniature cakes (as well as the finger sammies!) were made by my friend Jessica (who I actually met thanks to this very blog! #fullcircle) They are insanely awesome flavors like “Blueberry Elderflower” and “Raspberry Lavender” — and I still have like three extra ones in my fridge, bwahahaha.

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Daxter singing along to “Let It Go” ;)

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Caketime!

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My friend Megan may or may not have also brought ACTUALLY frozen cake, hehe:

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SUGAR IS THE BEST.

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We also threw a little bit of Tangled into the mix and sent off a wish lantern at the end of the night! Warning to the wise, these things are a huge pain in the butt to light, haha.

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Also, FIRE IS TERRIFYING.

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Make a wish!

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Another wonderful way to usher in my latest turn around the sun! Any suggestions for next year’s theme? Right now I’m leaning towards a Pokemon theme, but that may be fairly heavily influenced by the fact that I attended AwesomeCon over the weekend here in DC, ahahaha.

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Posted on Mar 12, 2014 in Dear Diary, Food | 0 comments

Whirlwind Week

Oh what a week, what a week, what a mighty fine week!

When I last left you, I was on my way to not-quite-sunny-but-wonderfully-temperate San Francisco for a week of Yelptastic shenanigans with the other 150+ Community Managers from ’round the globe. We called it #CMWeek14 and, as you can imagine, it was just as awesome as you’d think.

 

1. Goodies from the hotel welcome bag; 2. Beer + dark chocolate sea salt popsicle at the welcome party

There was a lot of learning, waaaaayyyy too much eating, a decent amount of me trying not to be the awkward “new kid” in front of so many seasoned Yelp vets (obviously I failed at that one, ahaha), and just generally a whole lot of good times.

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1. Sushiritto: IT EXISTS; 2. Personalized latte from the Yelp barista

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I am extremely blessed to have this job. I mean, to not only be able to do things that I love everyday, but to work with such amazing, talented, creative, and awe-inspiring individuals to boot? Those of you who are Yelp Elite Squad members in other states (maybe even countries?) know exactly what I’m talking about.


My Regional Team: NC, DC, MD, PA, and VA in the hooooouse!

Our days pretty much consisted of nonstop sessions, group lunches and dinners, and then me being dragged into the party hardy fray after all of that. Don’t get me wrong, it was a BLAST, but I rarely go that hard on my own turf, let alone with a wonky time difference thrown into the mix. The night we took over a karaoke bar was 100% worth it alone, but believe you me, I suffered afterwards.

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In fact, it seems like the second I set foot back on northern Virginia soil, my body was like, “BWAHAHAHA. AND NOW I SHALL HAVE MY REVENGE.” I got sick, and I got sick harrrrrd. Maybe it’s just the symptoms of CM week withdrawal, but it feels more like bubonic plague.

Of course, the train never stops rolling these days, so I didn’t let a little thing like being on my deathbed stop me from pulling off another swell Yelp Elite Event! On Sunday, just two days after I got back from SF, was Yelp’s Social Petworking!



Since having Daxter at an event has pretty much been my goal from the very beginning, it wasn’t too hard for me to rally for this one. That said, I’ve pretty much spent every other moment — both waking and sleeping — in bed, trying to shake this dang plague.

And why is it so important that I will myself back to health? Because tomorrow I’m off AGAIN! This time, it’s back to Macon, GA for my niece Mia’s FIRST BIRTHDAY! (Do you guys remember when SHE WAS BORN?! Yeah, an entire YEAR HAS PASSED SINCE THEN. Crazy.)

Life, man! It’s happening! Oy!

Anyway, that brings you all back up to speed, and with this next trip being hopefully a little less pedal-to-the-medal (I can’t imagine Mia wanting to go balls to the wall on her first birthday, but you never know…) I’ll be able to get back into the groove with blogging, eating, weight loss, and all that good stuff.

On a related note, I gave up potatoes for Lent this year, so let’s see how that goes, shall we?

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Posted on Mar 3, 2014 in Food, Recipes | 0 comments

Great Eggspectations (Giveaway!)

As you guys already know from last week’s egg-cellent post (ha!), I’ve got a small obsession with, well, eggs right now. But I’ve started to realize that it really extends to more than just eggs. It’s a current obsession with breakfast food in general. And just like the period I went through when I watched Pride & Prejudice (the Keira Knightly version) four times in a single weekend once in college (including one time when the credits finished rolling, the start menu came back up, and I just picked up the remote and pressed “Play” again), I’ve been bitten by the obsession bug baaaad. Like, breakfast for dinner every other night for the past couple of weeks-bad.

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It really is a bit of a weird food streak right now, actually, because aside from always wanting bacon (who doesn’t?) and the occasional pancake craving, I’ve never really been THAT into breakfast food. Sure, the novelty of brinner was fun every once in a while, but it’s never been like this. Maybe it’s just all of the years spent not eating breakfast finally catching up with me?

Either way, when an opportunity came along from AllWhites® egg whites egging me on (double ha!) to dive even deeper into my crazy cat lady obsession exploration of these foods, I couldn’t exactly say no!

Here’s a run-down of facts about AllWhites from the good people who make it:

AllWhites is a great source of lean protein, with five grams of lean protein and just 25 calories per serving. AllWhites is a fat-free, cholesterol-free and low-calorie alternative to shell eggs.

And for those of you who participate in the program, AllWhites is endorsed by Weight Watchers® and has 0 PointsPlus value per serving.

For recipe purposes, here are the recommended conversion amounts when substituting AllWhites for shell eggs:

– 3 tbsp of AllWhites = Approx. 1 large egg
– 1/3 cup of AllWhites = Approx. 2 large eggs
– 3/4 cup of AllWhites = Approx. 4 large eggs

Now, as someone who most definitely appreciates a good runny yolk but recognizes that — especially when it comes to cooking — using multiple whole eggs can add up quickly on the caloric scale, I fully appreciate the convenience and calorie-cutting power of egg whites. Plus, as the self-proclaimed master of weirdo breakfast combinations (What? Pasta, guacamole, and leftover steak are a totally legit breakfast combo, right?) it helps to know that at least one of the ingredients that I might be using is actually breakfast appropriate. Plus, hello? I get that egg yolks have their own nutritional value, but at 70 calories per egg vs. 25 calories per serving of egg whites, who says you can’t have your low-fat cake and eat it too?

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Introducing the latest in what has now become a rather lengthy lineup of Gretchen’s Breakfast Food Creations: the smoked salmon crepe-uritto!

This delicious culinary confection combines so very many of my favorite things: crepes, smoked salmon, cream cheese, eating with my hands… it’s like a bagel and lox that you don’t have to feel guilty about! Or a breakfast burrito, only fancy. Delicious, filling, nutritious, and only 150 calories per crepe — WHAT! You could eat both servings and have a totally satisfying, full breakfast… or dinner… for only 300 calories. You are oh so very welcome.

Smoked Salmon Crepe-uritto
Makes 2 crepes

Ingredients:
For the crepe:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
1 pinch salt
3 tbsp AllWhites® egg whites or 1 whole egg
2 tbsp almond milk, milk, soy milk, whatevs.
Very small pat butter or nonstick spray

For the filling:
3 oz smoked salmon
2 tbsp whipped cream cheese
1 tsp green onion, finely chopped

Instructions:

1. Combine flour, salt, and sugar (if using) in a bowl. Add egg whites and milk, and mix with a small whisk or fork.

2. Heat pan (preferably nonstick) to medium heat. Spray liberally with nonstick spray or melt butter in pan, then add half of the crepe batter. Swirl the batter quickly and evenly around the pan, then allow to cook for ~30 seconds (you have to work pretty fast!). Flip to the other side, cook for another 20 – 30 seconds, then remove from heat. Repeat for the second crepe.

3. Spread one tablespoon of cream cheese on each open crepe and add half of the smoked salmon and green onion. Roll up and enjoy!

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Nutritional info per crepe: 151 calories, 4.7 grams fat (healthy fat!), 13 grams carbs, 12.5 grams protein.

It’s the perfect grab-n-go breakfast if you still have to worry about that sort of thing (mwahaha), and it’s much better for you than an egg mcmuffin (and fancier, too!). I know crepes are kind of scary to think about making, but I promise, they are the easiest and quickest thing in the world! You could even add in some spinach or other greens into the wrap if you wanted to up the nutritional ante even further! Make it now, thank me later!

So not only do you now have this delicious new recipe in your arsenal, but you’re about to get your chance to win some monaaaay! AllWhites and BlogHer are generously offering you guys the opportunity to win a $100 Visa gift card (!!) as part of this campaign!

To enter, just comment on this blog answering the following question: How do you fuel the way to a healthier you?

Sweepstakes Rules:
No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 3/3/2014-3/31/2014.
Be sure to visit the AllWhites® egg whites brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

This post was sponsored by AllWhites® egg whites and I received compensation for my content. But all words, photos, and opinions are my own!)

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Posted on Feb 19, 2014 in Dear Diary, Food | 0 comments

Eggs & Lightning

As you may already suspect based on the title of this post, this is very likely to end up as a bit of a haphazard and non-sequiter post. But seeing as how it’s been quite a few days since my last post, and I find myself slipping dangerously into non-blogging mode, I figured I’d at least update you on a few things.

So, obviously Valentine’s Day was Friday. Let’s talk about that. Sean took me to Me Jana, a lebanese restaurant in Arlington, and dinner was delicious – you probably know very well by now that I love sharing food! So tapas, mezze, small plates, family-style dining, sushi… anything sharable is pretty much the key to my heart. I know, I know. I’m sure that some of you are shaking your heads at me talking about yet another occasion where I went out to eat and indulged, and I’d totally come up with some sort of justification or provide my reasoning (which is basically just that it was Valentine’s Day, duh) but ehhhh, at this point, what am I really gonna say?

I’m always gonna go out to eat, I’m always gonna want to celebrate occasions at restaurants. But I promise, I really am learning. I mean, sure, there was not a small amount of cheese involved in dinner that night, as well as a glass of delicious and sweet white wine sangria, but aside from that I was actually quite restrained and ate relatively well. Seared scallops, a salad with salmon on it, I resisted the siren call of the pita bread basket (well, I mostly resisted it)… really I think I did quite well! Snaps for me, hehe.

The other bonus points for the evening, of course, come from the fact that it was the perfect occasion to wear my latest Stitch Fix acquisition:

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I really love the wrap dress that I was sent in my box this month — the neckline is kind of vintage/forties-inspired, and the pattern is like part-chevron, part-Mike & Ike. Plus it went perfectly with the Seychelles heart shoes that have been hanging in my closet, yearning for their V-day release.

ANYWAY, back to the food thing: Aside from Valentine’s Day dinner, as well as a late-night post-Valentine’s dinner grocery store run to get dessert which resulted in me purchasing two things of Lunchables, I’ve actually been feeling pretty good on the food front! I’m really into eggs lately, which is semi-weird for me, because I used to hate eggs (except the fried egg sandwich that only my mom knows how to make perfectly, of course). But I pretty much throw an egg on errrrverything now, which is an amazing way to turn any kind of leftovers into breakfast food, by the way. I’m really not sure why I went so long living without thinking of breakfast pasta.

It actually really works out that pretty much every time I wander into the kitchen looking for something to eat, I just end up putting a bird an egg on it, since eggs are good for you (protein!), crazy easy to make (microwaved egg sandwich, anyone?), and easy to fit into my daily intake (70 calories per egg).

The protein thing is particularly important, since I am basically clawing my eyes out trying to maintain a good protein ratio in my diet. Even on days when I feel like I’ve eaten really balanced meals, my protein percentage is still at like… 20%. I don’t get it! Aside from having like an entire steak for dinner every night, I don’t know what else I can do to increase my protein ratio. Aside from, well, eating less carbs to lower that part of the formula, I guess…. hahahahahaha. Please. C’mon, serious suggestions only.

Other updates from this past weekend include starting and, subsequently, finishing my newest video game — Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. (Just in case you guys forgot, I am a HUGE nerd.) And I somewhat suspect that all that binge-playing may have had something to do with my other news, which is that I changed my hair color… again. And I did it aaaall by myself this time.

Don’t tell my hairdresser.

Lol, JK, he already knows because we are friends on Facebook and there is obviously no way I can prevent myself from posting every single thing I do on social media. He said it looks good. :) Anyway, it’s kind of hard to see with the bad bathroom lighting, but I bleached the purple out of my hair (bye for now! I’ll be back!) and now it’s a super pastel, soft pink. Just like Lightning.

Going about dyeing my hair on my own this time was very interesting, incredibly educational, and SUPER scary. This is probably deserving of a longer post at some point, but suffice it to say that I had no idea what bleaching the already bleached-then-purpled parts of my hair would do. Well, as it turns out, putting bleach on already bleached hair, even if it has color over it, takes like half a second to get it back to the pre-colored blonde. Seriously, it seemed like the SECOND I put the bleach over my lengths, the color lifted out. Which kind of made me freak out, because I didn’t want my hair to snap and fall out from being over-bleached, so I ended up washing it out after only like 10 or 15 minutes, and so my roots only lightened a tiny bit. But oh well — consider my lesson learned! #themoreyouknow

Aaaanyway, and that about catches us up! In addition to a post on the necessary magic needed to dye yourself some pastel locks, I also owe you an update about how my lingual braces are going (they are MUCH, much, much, much, much better), as well as some exciting things that will be happening soon for my job. Plus, you know, all the regular weight loss stuff and pictures of my food and definitely some humblebragging about how many times I made it to the gym this week (twice so far!). So, you know, good stuff ahead… stay tuned!

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Posted on Feb 12, 2014 in Dear Diary, Food, Weight Loss | 0 comments

Time Management, or the Complete Lack Thereof

As I sit here on my bed in my Harry Potter leggings with two sleepy schnauzers curled up around me, I fully admit that I’ve got quite the cherry gig going. I’m sure you’re all super tired of hearing me drone on and on about how much I love my new job, but I promise that bringing it back up is simply a way of introducing the main crux of this here post. Because yes, I now work for Yelp and being that Yelp’s HQ is located roughly 2,500 miles away in San Francisco, this means I have all the comforts AND challenges associated with being a remote employee.

Now, I realize I’ve already dedicated an entire post to the pros and cons of working from home, but I figure that it’s a useful enough topic (not to mention pretty crucially relevant to my life and stuff) that it warrants a little more focus. Particularly pertaining to how this epic change to my lifestyle is affecting my health and weight loss efforts. Because, lest we forget, the first time we played this game I had a standard (read: boring) eight-to-four-style government contracting job, which kept me on a very regular work schedule with a LOT of free time both at and after work.

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And now? Well, I’ve already mentioned how time-consuming this job is. In a good way, kind of, considering the fact that I love what I’m doing. But the fact of the matter is that it is just SO easy to spend all of my time these days, well, working! You already know that my job involves planning and participating in lots of nighttime and weekend events, in addition to the many calls and meetings that I have with local businesses throughout the week.

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And since Northern Virginia as a region is actually quite large, it isn’t unheard of for me to end up driving out to meet with someone in Centreville and then head into Arlington and then back out to Fairfax in a single day.

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So between all of that, plus the fact that the rest of my job resides primarily in the online realm and thus I can literally be doing work ALL THE TIME, even when I’m just on my phone, means it’s really, really hard to break away. And so here, in a nutshell, is simultaneously the best AND worst part about working from home:

You set your own schedule.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. And yes, it’s absolutely rad that while I sometimes may spend an entire day running all over Northern VA, popping in and out of meetings, I also can schedule massage appointments for 2 PM in the afternoon or can spend half a day getting purple-ified at the hair salon on a random Tuesday. But having that much freedom also makes it pretty difficult for me, someone with admittedly weak self-discipline in the first place, to prioritize things like going to the gym or eating at regular intervals.

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Because of the aforementioned HQ being on the West Coast thing, many of my colleagues and coworkers don’t get cracking until it’s noon over here. Which means it’s not uncommon for me to receive emails and notices as late as 9 or 10 PM. Which you wouldn’t inherently think is a bad thing, since I’ve never really been much of a morning person anyway and I do love being able to operate without an alarm clock, but it really does screw with my schedule, since the other people I work with here — my Yelpers, business owners, PR companies, media folks and whatnot — are obviously operating on Eastern Standard Time.

So by the time I roll out of bed around 9:30 AM or so (don’t hate me!), let the dogs out, feed them, brush my teeth, etc, there may already be a pile of work issues that need attention. So I immediately open my laptop and set to work on there, only to realize a few hours later (when my stomach finally starts to rumble) that I should probably eat something. Urk. Not so great, especially for someone who is a steadfast believer that eating breakfast is a key tenant of successful weight management.

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And I know what you’re thinking. Just get up earlier, dummy! If I got up earlier, I’d be able to take care of all that morning stuff AND eat breakfast before getting slammed with emails and having to dig into my calls for the day, right? Weeeeell, kind of. As mentioned, I’m gonna have stuff to deal with until fairly late into the night anyway, so getting up earlier really just ends up extending my workday even further. So, therein lies the REAL solution: I need to learn how to STOP WORKING. To close my laptop at a certain time, to stop checking my email, to realize that there is like a 0.1% chance that something is going to come up at 9:30 PM that needs IMMEDIATE resolution and can’t wait until morning. Because if I mastered the art of not working, it would probably be pretty easy to get myself back on a regular home office schedule, the kind where I start and stop work at normal times. (At least on non-event days, which would be better than nothing!)

Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done, especially when you not only like what you do but really, truly want to be amazing at doing it. I mean, I’ve been trying for 10 months at this point to figure out the secret to shutting my mind off, flipping the “work” switch, and being able to find that delicious work/life balance, and so far… nada.

Alas, I’m just awful at self-regulating my work hours, and that is why I end up doing things like working on Sundays and obsessively checking my email before I go to bed. And just like I obviously stay on track with my weight loss best when I have the accountability of this blog and calorie counters like My Fitness Pal and a fitness tracker like my new Fitbit, I know that I need something to provide accountability for ensuring I don’t work myself into the ground. Maybe I should just set like 10 different silent alarms on my Fitbit so that it buzzes and scares the crap out of me (it does!) every time I should be doing something other than working, like eating breakfast or getting up from my desk to walk around.

I’ll be the first one to tell you that my lack of time management skills is one of the main reasons that blogging fell off the radar last year. And it’s definitely the reason that I still haven’t finished my second book (sorry guys…). And it is one of my go-to excuse for days I don’t make it to the gym or end up making some not so great food choices. “I’m too busy! I don’t have the time!”

I mean, even I know that’s BS. I just don’t know how to make the time. But I am working on it, promise. Maybe in another 10 months I’ll have made some progress, hahaha.

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