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Posted on Feb 12, 2014 in Dear Diary, Food, Weight Loss | 10 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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Posted on Feb 10, 2014 in Races | 5 comments

I’m With Cupid

Happy Monday, beautiful people!

I had particularly productive weekend, thanks in part to the Third Meeting of Yelp’s Haute Dumpling Club, wherein Yelpers met up to, you know, eat dumplings (my job is really hard to love, guys), but MOSTLY due to the fact that on Saturday I finally hit the pavement for the Cupid Run 5K at Mosaic District!

The wonderful Jessica, who I actually originally met thanks to this very blog, and now is a Brand Ambassador for Yelp, and I both wore our Yelp colors proudly. Perhaps a little tooooo proudly for one of us, actually…

Yes, those are Yelp “hot pants.” Yes, they say “Make me Yelp” on the butt. They are actually quite the hot commodity around these parts, hahaha.

ANYWAY. Part of my job is actually working out cross-promotional marketing partnerships with local events just like this one, so Yelp was actually a partner for this event! It was pretty awesome to get to do something that was both good for me AND good for my job! Plus, seeing all the runners out there with their Yelp sweatbands that we included as part of the race packets was heartwarming (which was good, because it was cold as BALLS out there that morning, hahahaha).

Alas, while I can’t say that it was a particularly triumphant return to the art of racing (I ended up stopping a bunch of times to talk with people about Yelp, plus, you know, there’s that whole thing where I’m pathetically slow anyway), I am still so glad that I did it. I can’t say that I’m still much of an avid fan of running in general, but the whole experience, the race spirit, seeing people of all ages and fitness levels banding together? I remember now why I used to like doing this kind of thing much more often! Plus, there was an extraspecialbonus of running into a blog reader while I was figuring out how to breathe again enjoying my post-race complimentary hot cocoa (Hi Lindsey!).

The only sad part about the day? My Fitbit DIED right after the race was done. So even though I totally smoked all of my Fitbit goals and had like the most active day I’ve had in a long time, it basically just looks like a normal day. And how am I supposed to #humblebrag about my fitness level without being able to Instagram a screenshot of my stats?! Womp womp. But, let’s face it, if that’s the only thing that went wrong this weekend, I’ve got it pretty much made in the shade, don’t I?

It was a great way to remind me that, despite all of my moaning and groaning about how much I hate to work out or run or sweat or whatever, there really are a lot of good parts of being active. And, reading it back, I realize that is probably the most eyeroll-inducing sentence ever, but you know what I mean. Now if only I could bottle up the energy and aura of a race day crowd, mix it with some water, and put it in a spray bottle for when I’m whining and moaning and groaning about going to the gym. That’d be liquid GOLD right there!

Who knows? Maybe this was the jumpstart I needed to make way for another era of actual fitness-related activity for me. I do have this very strange, unfamiliar, foreign feeling right now that I actually — gasp! — want to go to the gym today…

…I don’t even know who I am anymore.

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Posted on Dec 12, 2013 in Uncategorized | 7 comments

The Past 4 Months, As Told By My Hair

WARNING. WARNING. PHOTO OVERLOAD APPROACHING.

So actually, after publishing that last post, I realized it’s not really fair for me just to pop in with a hi, hello, here’s a new recipe, kthxbye, now is it? I mean, you guys need CONTEXT for what I’ve been doing for the past few months, don’t you? Well, even if you don’t, I’m going to give it to you, so there. After all, You’re up to date on the fact that I got LASIK back in October (it’s AWESOME, in case you were wondering), but other than that, I’ve been terribly lacking in details. Well, here’s a brief recap! Fair warning, though my life is like 85% Yelp now.

Powell Family Reunion over the summer

My friends Lara’s and Aileen‘s weddings in September!

Visiting my sister and niece in Macon, GA in October

Yelp’s HallowMEME Elite Event at the State Theatre for Halloween (can you guess which Hipster Disney Princess I was?)

Briefly met celebrity chef Mike Isabella in November (spoiler alert: we did NOT become best friends and he’s kiiiind of a dbag…)

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Shot engagement pics for the enchanting Carly and her fiance, Alex

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Threw a superhero-themed birthday bash for my dad’s 60th cakeday!

And, most recently, threw Yelp’s Ho-Ho-Holiday Party Elite Event!

Oh, and just in case you haven’t been able to see in these photos, or haven’t been keeping track via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, here is a specific timeline of what my hair has gone through over the past few months. Because I like to have a chronicle of these things, and also since, you know, that’s what this blog is REALLY all about. 😉

I feel like the last time I checked in on the coiffure-front might have been when my hair looked like this:

Buuuut that was back in… August. Soooo, eventually all that blue-pink-purple hotness faded out, and I ended up finding a new hairdresser/soulmate in Linh from Be Scene Hair Studio in Bethesda. And back in early October, he turned my punked out, turned up hair into this:

Mmmm, ombre…

Of course, as I’ve now had a taste for the wonders of dramatically colored hair (and because I can get away with it now due to my rocksome job with Yelp), eventually I had to have MORE.

So now my hair looks like this:

HAHAHAHAHAHA, just kidding! That was just phase one in getting it to look like THIS:

Oooor, if you put me in a photobooth at a Yelp event and turn the flash on, it looks like I’m wearing a ridiculous purple wig:

Bahahaha.

Regardless of what particular shade it looks like in whatever the current light situation is, I love it, love it, LOVE IT, and I’m pretty sure I’m never going to stop. Now, that said, I’m taking suggestions on what color I should go for next. I mean, it’s kind of big decision, trying to figure out what shade should I end up kicking off 2014 with! So feel free to leave a comment with your choice du jour, and have an amaaazing night.

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Posted on Aug 17, 2013 in Dear Diary | 15 comments

The Pros and Cons of Working From Home

So, as you guys know, my new job has altered my life quite a bit. Not in any kind of bad way, kind of the opposite — for once in my life, I absolutely LOVE my job! (Though I don’t scream it from the rooftop toooooo much, since I don’t want a mob of angry government contractors chasing after me with pitchforks for being immodest, haha.)

But even though I seriously love it, it has come with a LOT of changes to my lifestyle. For one thing, I’m busier now than I have EVER been. Which means, as you already know, blogging has had to take a backseat, and progress on my sequel to Terra has been much, much slower than I anticipated. Probably the biggest way that things have changed, however, is that I’m now working from home, which is simultaneously the best and worst thing to have happened.

I’m sure that those of you who have never worked from home probably think I’m crazy for even thinking the word “worst” right now, but just hear me out. There are a lot of pros to not having to go into an office every day, absolutely. But there are quite a few cons as well. Let me ‘splain:

Pro: No alarm clock.

Well, no alarm clock other than the fluffy white schnauzer who wakes me up around 9:30 every morning, that is. But still, it is REALLY nice not having to schedule my morning around how long it’s going to take me to battle DC traffic into the city.

Con: No bedtime.

Of course, the other side of this is that I also don’t have any reason to force myself into bed at night. Which means oftentimes, I’m working late and staying up even later. A 2 AM or later bedtime is not uncommon ’round these parts nowadays.

Pro: I set my own schedule.

Need to go the grocery store? Have a doctor’s appointment? Want to go meet some friends for happy hour? Want to take the schnauzies to the dog park? I can do ALL of that! Which is honestly probably the best part of this whole kit ‘n’ caboodle. I don’t have to schedule PTO if I need to run an errand or take care of something, I can just go do it. I set my own schedule, and as long as I’m getting crap done on a weekly basis, it’s all good in the hood. Now, if only I could actually force myself to make working out part of this schedule o’ mine. I really have NO excuse anymore, other than that this new job hasn’t made me magically hate exercising any less, hahahaha. But hey, at least I’m walking the dogs a lot more!

Con: I am working pretty much non-stop.

So here’s the thing: When I’m not running errands or going to get my car’s safety inspection done or taking the dogs for a walk, I am probably working. I still have NOT figured out a way to shut my brain off from working, even when I really should be “done” for the day. I see a work email notification ping up on my iPhone and I simply MUST CHECK IT.

Nights? Weekends? Fageddaboutit. I have constant, unfettered access to my work email at all times, and I have events and festivals to either attend or work most a lot of the time. Ergo, it really does seem like I am ALWAYS working. It is not uncommon for me to pull my laptop onto my lap first thing in the morning, while still in bed, and not really close it until late at night. I check my phone to make sure there aren’t any new emails right before I go to bed a lot of the time. And it’s not that I do these things because I have to, I know logically that the email will still be there in the morning, that people will be okay if I don’t take care of something OMGRIGHTNOW. But I just can’t help it. It’s a bit of a sickness, really.

One of the tips I got when I was in San Francisco last week for training is to initiate a “laptops down” rule, which I think I definitely need to do. I know this is something I actively need to work on, especially since there are other things happening in my life that I want — and NEED — to devote time to… sigh.

Pro: No more dress code!

Okay, let’s end this on a high note, since I really don’t want anyone to think that this isn’t an awesome situation for me. As mentioned, I sincerely love this job, it’s perfect for me, and I am also still new to working from home, so I’m sure that I’ll get a better handle on things the longer I do it. Plus, there’s still at least one more pretty awesome pro left for me to discuss!

While this is also sort of a con, since my dress code is now pretty much just “pajamas,” I won’t lie, I really, really like not having to think about what I’m going to wear from a business or business casual perspective. Plus, I can do stuff like this now:

And really, having purple and pink hair is a pro that kinda outweighs everything else. 😉

Do you work from home? What are your tips/tricks for establishing a regular schedule and not working ALL THE TIME?

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Posted on Jun 4, 2013 in Food | 9 comments

Iron Chef Gretchen

Hey, hey, hey! I hope everyone had a great weekend! I most certainly did, thanks to a myriad of reasons, really, but a big part of that was attending Taste of Georgetown on Saturday!

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I love “Taste of” events because they really appeal to that part of me that is never satisfied only being able to order one thing off a menu. I’m too indecisive! I’d always rather get a bunch of things to share (or at least steal food from my friends’ plates, hehe) because I am greedy like to sample lots of different things.

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In addition to getting to nom on great foods from some of Georgetown’s hottest restaurants, I also participated in a chef showdown challenge at the festival with the Yelp DC Community Manager, Kimberly, and her fiance, Rob!

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It was crazy fun, albeit it SUPER hot (just check out how red my face is in the pics above, hahaha), and I got Sean to come along and play photographer. Each team was paired with a local chef — ours was Chef Bryan from Paolo’s restaurant — and came up with a master chef meal that included our secret ingredient…

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Rhubarb!

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I’d never even eaten rhubarb in anything but a pie before, so it definitely proved challenging to incorporate into a savory meal. Under Chef Bryan’s tutelage, however, we came up with a surf-and-turf plate that my mama would’ve been proud of.

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Drumroll please….

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Ta-da! Not too bad for a butane burner meal, eh?

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We made a red snapper with a raw rhubarb and asparagus slaw on top, and a filet atop a corn and asparagus succotash with red wine rhubarb compote on top. The filet was AWESOME, and the fish turned out great, although I was a little iffy about the use of raw rhubarb in the slaw. It’s just got a very naturally sour/tart flavor, and is really fibrous, so I don’t know if I’m such a fan of it raw. Cooked, though, it’s delicious, and I have so many ideas for incorporating it into savory meals now!

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Unfortunately, I guess the judges agreed with my assessment because we came in second (though the judges said it was super close!) but I still think Team Yelp were all winners that day. It definitely makes me want to start showing off my knife skills (I really am quite proud of my quick-chop prowess!) on a more regular basis. I think between this and watching marathons of Food Network Star, I’ve been bitten by the bug…

If you had a cooking show, what kind of show would it be? Or, as they say on Food Network Star, what would you “Culinary POV” be? I like to think I’d be able to have some sort of Whasian-related hook, but the truth is I actually know how to cook very little Chinese food! Hahaha. Guess I’d actually stick with my healthified comfort food thing.

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