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Posted on Mar 12, 2014 in Dear Diary, Food | 3 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.


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 Feb 4, 2013 in Dear Diary | 15 comments

F U (with an L in the middle)

For those of you who are longtime readers, it comes as no surprise to know that I have a pretty crap immune system. Yes, my ONE flaw in what is an otherwise PERFECT physical specimen (lololololol) is that I get sick. A lot. Lots of 24-hour bugs, stomach viruses, general ickiness… you know the drill. And for the most part, I’ve learned to cope with the fact that 90% of my PTO hours are going to end up being spent as sick leave and it’s nothing that a lot of sleep, some green tea, and a USDA-certified crapload of drugs won’t fix. That said, I still tend to complain a lot when I’m sick because, well, being sick sucks!


I can now tell you this much: after what I have been experiencing over the past 4 days, I really have no license to complain ever again. (That’s not to say that I won’t, just that I really shouldn’t, haha.) I cannot even remember the last time I was this sick for this long. It brings the whole concept of “being sick sucks) to a whole new level. This is misery at it’s finest.

Yep, I’m like 99.8% sure I have the flu. For the first time since I was probably in high school, maybe even before that. And you can blame it on me not getting the flu shot (I never do), or pushing the elevator buttons with my fingers instead of my elbows, or not using enough Purell, or maybe using too much Purell, but the bottom line remains the same: the flu is an a-hole.

Day 1 started out with a sore throat and a dry cough, both of which were uncomfortable but didn’t really seem to be too much a cause for alarm. I had a really hard time getting to sleep that night, so I figured it was a symptom of that. However, quickly upon returning home from work, things took a rapid turn for the worst. Suddenly, I had a headache, my throat was just getting worse and worse, and I felt exhausted and generally awful. And it just kept going downhill from there.

We’ll fast-forward through the weekend, which is pretty boring to talk about anyway since I spent roughly 20 out of 24 hours each day in bed. Some of the super exciting things that happened included the time(s) I started bawling because it hurt so badly each time I coughed, and also when I walked down to the basement then back up to my room and nothing–NOTHING, not my first 5K, my 15K, or my relay race across Eastern Massachussetts–has ever been so exhausting as climbing that last flight of stairs. I had to sit down before I could even reach my bed, just to catch my breath. AWFUL.

Anyway, that brings us to today. And thankfully my throat feels marginally better, though whenever I open my mouth I still sound like a 100-year-old smoker who is also a frog. I’m still exhausted (getting my own cereal from the kitchen felt like completing a half-marathon) and generally feeling poopy, but hopefully things have taken a turn upwards again. And since I’m now realizing that this entire post has essentially just turned into one whinefest and nobody likes to read that, I offer my apologies. Nobody really enjoys attending pity-parties so I’ll cut myself off for now. Thanks for letting me vent. 🙂

Ending on a positive note, the giveaway for one of FIVE signed copies of my book, Terra, is still going strong, so head on over and get your entries in now! Winners will be drawn randomly on Wednesday!

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Posted on Sep 7, 2012 in Food | 6 comments

Pesto Presto

No, my friends. Today’s Friday does not include anything of the fashion persuasion. Though I know how much you were looking forward to me regaling you with my take on sick fashion (which primarily consists of rants against why having to wear a bra sucks so much), I wore pretty much nothing but popsicle-themed PJ-shorts and Hello Kitty t-shirts for the past 3 days. So you’re outta luck.

Instead, I bring you more food! Funny how when I’m stuck at home with nothing to do but whine and sneeze, suddenly all my posts are about cooking again, eh? On today’s menu… pesto!


I mentioned on Wednesday that I had picked up a GINORMOUS bunch of basil at the Farmer’s Market over the weekend, and unfortunately it was started to turn pretty quickly (as fresh herbs tend to do). Having already exhausted my creativity in the form of caprese salad and tomato basil soup, there was really only one other way I could think of to use up the rest of the basil before it went totally south: the magic that is pesto!


I’ve made pesto maybe twice before in my life, so I am definitely no pro. I am a true aficionado, however, of EATING the stuff. I loooooove pesto. It’s so, so, so delicious. And for perhaps the first time ever, I just happened to have all the necessary ingredients at home. So there wasn’t even any need for me to go out and infect any of the poor checkout clerks at Giant. Not to mention, my sister also happened to send me a recipe for pesto salmon earlier that very day. Fate, I tell you! Fate!


For those of you who have never made pesto before, it’s really quite simple. It’s typically made with pine nuts, but raw walnuts or pecans can be used as a substitute. I had the latter on hand, so that’s what I went with. The other ingredients are as follows:

Fresh basil (duh)
Parmesan reggiano cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Lemon/lime juice
Salt & pepper

Just toss it all into a food processor (or high speed blender) and go nuts! I don’t have exact measured amounts for you, since I’m a wing-it-in-the-kitch kinda cook, but in my experience the ratio kind of goes like this:

A CRAP TON OF BASIL: smaller amounts of everything else



Eventually, with a little tweaking (a little more basil here, a little more oil there, etc, etc), you end up with something that looks moderately passable:


Then, you spoon it over whatever pesto-carrier you choose (while I would have loved to try the salmon recipe my sister sent me, I opted for the much easier whole wheat pasta option instead):


And no, your eyes do not deceive about that side dish.


My beloved roasted brussels sprouts are BACK IN BUSINESS! Huzzah!


I topped it with a few pieces of leftover chicken from a couple of nights ago, and voila! Now your only job will be to fend off hungry beggars at the feast…



I was noting as I was nomming gleefully on my meal that pesto pasta is MUCH more filling to me than pasta with marinara. I don’t know if I just wasn’t as hungry, but one portion of pasta (which is usually not enough for me) topped with some pesto totally did me in. I wonder if it’s because of the higher fat content of the pesto (due to the olive oil). Either way, I ended up totally satisfied AND have enough leftovers for lunch today.

On the sickness front: I am back at work today but still relatively miserable. I sneezed approximately 7,000 times on my drive in this AM. Luckily, it’s Friday and it’s DC so there’s basically nobody here today to see my watery-eyed, sniffling, sad-looking self. Here’s hoping that this weekend will finally drive me back over the edge into full health mode!

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Posted on Sep 6, 2012 in Food | 15 comments

Sick Eats

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I am sick. Again. Stupid immune system. Unfortunately, SINCE Tuesday, my sickness has only progressed from bad to worse. I’m on Day 2 of using up my precious PTO stores and staying at home in my jim-jams, trying to minimize as much of the sneezing, sniffling, congestion, and general misery as I can. Sigh.

I suppose that at least there’s the benefit for you in that I don’t really have an excuse not to post my daily eats, eh? And I even used the good camera to boot. So here’s a photo smorgasbord of what a day in the life of sick Gretchen looks like from a food perspective… in between Sudafed-fueled naps.


I started off my morning attempting to make Tina’s (from Carrots ‘n’ Cake) 2-ingredient pancake.

In theory, it’s a very simple recipe: 1 banana + 1 egg = a pancake. Well, in reality, I evidently don’t have the requisite patience to make it happen quite perfectly. But considering it was my first try, I don’t think it turned out too poorly! It was more like half-pancake, half-scramble, but I’ll take it! I added cinnamon to the “pancake” mix, and topped it with crunchy peanut butter. Bacon on the side.


Mid-morning I munched on some glorious cashews. Pistachios had better watch out, the spot for favorite nut (hehe) could quite possibly be in contention soon.


Then, lunch. I wanted soup, since I am sick, and being sick is the only time I want soup (I actually kind of have a thing against soup most of the time, hahaha). The only non-spicy soup in my pantry was a can of Campbell’s Tomato so I snagged that. Then I became a freakin’ genius, and decided to make the soup not with skim milk like I usually do, nor with water like the WEAK, but with Trader Joe’s Light Coconut Milk instead. LIKE A BOSS.

It. was. flipping. fantastic.

Seriously. Do it, do it, do it, do it. It’s like, 1000x creamier, just a hint coconutty, and seriously SO much more filling. I only made it through less than half of the bowl.


Though granted, that may have been partially due to the slice of Martin’s potato bread and the deeeelicious cob of corn I had on the side. But still! Coconut tomato soup — who knew?!


Afternoon snacks were my last packet of Annie’s bunny gummies…


And a bowl of peanut butter puffins with almond milk. Yes, when I’m sick (slash always), evidently I have the eating habits of a 6-year-old.


By the time dinnertime rolled around, I was literally devoid of any energy to make more food. Ergo, a combo of leftover pizza with a couple of leftover caprese salad discs from the night before. Kind of a crazy delicious combination, actually!

And lest we forget all the many, many, many glasses of water (and subsequent bathroom trips, bahaha) there were in between all the meals. Oy. Staying hydrated has never seemed so tedious.

And with that, I’m going back to bed. Or going to exchange my whole head for a new, non-congested one. Whatever takes less effort.


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Posted on Oct 18, 2011 in Dear Diary, Fail | 37 comments

Kidney vs. Stone: Round 2

Oh hey! Remember when this happened? Well, apparently life decided that one kidney stone epidemic in 11 months was simply not enough. Enter the excruciating pain that began Sunday on the drive back from the wedding and, despite all my best efforts, would not quit.

At first I thought the pain was simply due to gas (you’re welcome for that) but after waking up in the middle of the night desperately clutching my abdomen I figured something was slightly more amiss. Unlike last time, I didn’t go to the ER this time around. Therefore, I can’t be 100% certain that it’s a kidney stone (er, not that the hospital was actually able to make a timely diagnosis last time anyway. Awkward.) But what I do know is that it’s in the same spot and it’s the same kind of pain (though, blessedly, slightly less severe than last time) so I think I can pretty safely assume. Unfortunately, armed with the knowledge from my last unfortunate experience, I know that there’s really nothing to do but wait to pass it.

It’s hard to describe kidney stone pain. Its severity ebbs and flows, comes and goes in intensity. But at its worst, I would say it kind of feels like a small, serrated knife is slowly slicing through the walls of your gut. You’re extra welcome for that imagery. Having a kidney stone is often compared to childbirth (though I obviously wouldn’t know on a personal level) and is legitimately the most excruciating thing I have ever experienced. Needless to say, it’s a pain (har har… ow, laughing hurts.)

So yesterday I spent an awful lot of time laying prostrate on the bed, streaming episode after episode of The Vampire Diaries on Netflix:


While dressed in my super flattering PJs:

God, I’m cool.

Alternating between these two faces:


With these thoroughly unsympathetic mongrels by my side:


Harry even had the audacity to roll around in what I have to assume was poop while out in the backyard. Let me tell you: trying to wash a dog when you have kidney stones?

I feel conflicted, because as much as I was hoping the stone would have passed by now and I’d be off scott-free, I’m kind of relieved I haven’t yet. I know that sounds crazy, but you know the saying, “it gets worse before it gets better”? Or how about, “it is always darkest before the dawn”? Well, they especially apply to kidney stones. As bad as it hurts right now, I vividly remember the extraordinary pain that came right before passing the stone, and I am NOT anxious to relive it.

Pity me. Pity me good.

But either way, I know it’s inevitable. So until then… I’m trying to manage the pain as best I can with the over-the-counter drugs in my medicine cabinet, and taking in as much fluid as possible. I have a doctor’s appointment later this morning, and while I know there’s nothing that he can really DO, I’m hoping that he might have some insight as to WHY this is happening. Again. I mean, this is really putting a literal cramp in my race training as well as my PTO balance.

Ever had to deal with kid-nay stooooones of your own? If not, you are a lucky, lucky son of a gun. If so, pray tell. Misery loves company, after all.

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