Nerds!

Good afternoon Blog Friends!

I have returned from Indianapolis with about 10% of the games and things that I wanted to purchase (while still finding a few gems and winning a few sweet freebies.)

Gen Con Games

The Spoils

I can’t wait to pop these babies, ESPECIALLY the Firefly expansion. Of course, I also can’t wait to have a house to display my ridiculous game collection in one beautiful game library so I’ve decided this is the week we’re going to find our house.

All that aside, it’s time for the Gen Con recap.

We, along with 50,000 or so other nerds, geeks, and gamers, descended upon Indianapolis for 4 days of unadulterated gaming.

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What I wore to Gen Con

As with most nerd cons, it’s important to show off your finest geekery. I opted for two days of total geek chic and two days of comfort. Yoga pants dominated on the days that involved driving. But I’m pretty proud of the two full days’ ensembles.

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Spreadshirt Sloth Tee

On Friday, I busted out my brand new sloth tee from Spreadshirt. This shirt was sent to me so that I could tell you how awesome they are. I was actually super impressed with several things that Spreadshirt printed shirts had to offer. First, the collection of tees and designs are pretty vast. I went to the site looking for the perfect shirt to wear to Gen Con. I knew I found it when I saw the big happy sloth who definitely doesn’t run.

Sloth t-shirt

Ironically, Brian really did want to nap instead…and I wanted to get to Gen Con OMGASAPNEEDNEEDNEED.

The shirt took just a few days to ship – two to be exact. Unlike other make-your-own printed stuff sites, I received this shirt in less than a week from the shipping date. Just in time for Gen Con.

The best part about Spreadshirt was the customer service. Each step of the process came with an e-mail letting me know when my shirt would arrive and I received a final feedback request that felt personalized. It was a great experience.

As far as the shirt? I ordered a woman’s V-neck XL. I would order a different style/size next time, as I felt the shirt was a little short for me. Otherwise it was comfy and soft. And got a TON of compliments from other gamers.

TARDIS dress

As I scoured the mall looking for another tee to wear, I stumbled across this dress that pretty much made my day. And FIT ME.

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Upon entering the con that day, I immediately found my Dalek foe and went to wreak havoc on him for existing. Unfortunately, there was no chatting with a Dalek this year.

I did think it was super interesting, as I had never been in one place where so many people were wearing the exact same thing as me (and I went to Cheer Camp!).

On Wil Wheaton

Man! How cool would it be to be as cool as Wil Wheaton?! These are just a few things I saw:

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I failed to purposely accidentally run into him again, but I think I’d be so nervous if I did, I wouldn’t say anything at all.

The Games

I love demoing games. I love demoing games at Gen Con. I didn’t get to play nearly as many games as I would have liked, but here are a few that really stood out to me.

Alpha Bandits

Alpha BanditsThis game from Wiggity Bang Games  was just funded on Kickstarter last month. I love the colors of the tiles, but the play of the game is really fun. It relies on creating words for points, but also sneakily changing up your opponents’ words and ending the round to garner the most points. It’s a really great word game for anyone who loves them some Scrabble/Words With Friends. I actually have a demo print and play version of the game already, but it’s still on my list of to-buy games when it comes out in a few months. Especially since this wordsmith kicked the game designer’s butt in a demo game!

Of course, because I beat the designer, I won a different game from Wiggity Bang games, Mad Quao (which I also got signed by the designer). I’ll let you know how it goes.

Seven Wonders with the upcoming expansion

I love this game as a stand-alone game or with its current expansions, and I really enjoyed playing one part of the new expansion. Each of the add-ons in this expansion offer help and hindrances depending on how you play your game. The one we played added a group card that everyone needed to work together to achieve. With a success, everyone who helped received a sweet bonus and with a fail, anyone who didn’t help was punished (in the game people!)

Run for Your Life Candyman!

Oh. My. God. You should probably own this game. The premise is Candyland. But with the added slogan of Smirk & Dagger Games, “Games are a lot more fun when you can stab a friend in the back.” And it’s amazing. We played in a 2-hour tournament game at 11:00 pm. What made this especially fantastic was the gingerbread cookies and food coloring gel.

You can watch as my cookie, Taunty, slowly loses every part of himself. Playing this with a group of strangers was surprisingly awesome. We had a fantastic group and Smirk & Dagger makes this an amazing experience with their enthusiasm and super fun game.

We spent most of the game in a candy cage match where we basically just ripped at each other until everyone had someone else’s candy limbs. It was fantastic.

There was SO much more, but I figured all you needed was a small glimpse into this year’s Gen Con experience.

Have you ever been to a game or comic con? What’s your favorite board or card game?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Vacation Fashion Fails

Good morning Blog Friends!

I thought today was as good a day as any to tell you of this year’s vacation fashion whoops moments…because I tend to have a lot of them.

I bought several new dresses and outfits to wear on our trip, as vacation seems to be my favorite time to get a new wardrobe. Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t fuck it all up every now and then.

The first fashion fail entails our drive out of San Francisco, which is a wonder since it seemed to take 2 whole days before wrecking myself. This dress was a try-it-on-three-times-before-deciding dress, as I wasn’t quite sure I wanted it. I probably should have left it at Forever 21.

We had been through a whirlwind morning in an almost-failed attempt to acquire a rental car that resulted in a $50 town car ride to the airport and a significantly cheaper car rental than you’d find in Downtown San Francisco. We figured the town car would be nicer than a cab ride and it was the same price.

Of course, I was donning one of my never-before worn dresses, feeling all sorts of fancy. Until I ripped it getting out of the car.

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As you can see, it’s a pretty bold and busy pattern, so you won’t notice that I continue to wear the dress even with a hole in it.

I’d like to tell you that this next fashion fail was a result of shot time with Pocketful of Joules, but I’d be lying.

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And since there is Instagramic proof that I was having problems with this dress from the beginning…you wouldn’t believe me anyways.

This dress was the dress I almost bought a house in. It started the vacation at my mom’s house, where after one wearing, I required a seam fix in the arm pit and a stain removal from that one time I thought it was a good idea to cook with oil while wearing a new dress and a few additional spills…from wearing it once. Mom fixed it up and delivered it to me the day of our flight to San Fran. Best. Mom. Ever.

It was probably bad luck to bring it along as it was, but I’m a big fan of living on the edge.

As you may have seen on Instagram, I had problems from the moment I put the dress on.
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The cutouts at the bottom of my dress were going to be the death of this dress. Somewhere between getting caught in the hair dryer cord and doing shots with Joules, my dress was ripped in q big way that Mama can’t fix…though she did offer to try.

Luckily, it’s a pretty flowy dress amd you can’t TOTALLY see where it’s ripped…so I’ll still be seen wearing it.

My final fashion fail wasn’t so much a rip or tear as it was poor planning on my part. I had planned to wear this saucy little black dress on a fancy dinner night with Brian…but things don’t work out the way you plan and it became my McDonald’s closing party duds.

It was strapless and practically backless, so wearing a bra wasn’t about to happen. Brian thought it looked spectacular, so I rolled out to meet with the Bloopies(a group of bloggers that I’m a part of).

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You can kind of see that the dress didn’t seem to be holding up as much as I would have liked…

Thankfully, I’m often surrounded by people who are smarter than me and one of these delightful women, the brilliant genius that is Lily Connelly, suggested that I use my scarf to hold the dress up after seeing my insecure struggle to keep it from giving all of BlogHer a free show.

So my fashion fail actually turned into a fashion hack, in which I wrapped the scarf through the center tie and back around my neck, thus keeping my boobs in place and out of sight.

Fashion hack: use a scarf to hold a strapless dress up. ALSO, this may be the nicest port-o-potty ever.

Fashion hack: use a scarf to hold a strapless dress up. ALSO, this may be the nicest port-o-potty ever.

Have you ever had a fashion fail? Do you rip holes in clothes as often as I do? What’s the best fashion hack you’ve discovered?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

In Which Petaluma, California Stole a Little Piece of my Heart #PetalumaMade

Words cannot express my gratitude for one of the booziest vacations I’ve ever had. And I’ve been to New Orleans. Twice.

Adobe Road Wines

We began our trip in San Francisco, made our way up to wine country and then down around the bay to San Jose for BlogHer14. (Do I know the way to San Jose? Yes. Yes, I do.)

Of course, I’m planning on going about the details of this ‘cation in a disorderly fashion. I’ve already told you about traveling from Chicago to California, our delayed flight from San Jose to LA, BlogHer14 and shared some beautiful and fun pictures of our Petaluma day trips. But I think the beauty of Petaluma is worth so much more than the thousand+ words from those pictures.

The lovely blogger, Kristi Trimmer, and Petaluma winemaker, Cecilia Enriquez, collaborated to create this stunning tour of Petaluma and the surrounding wineries in the Petaluma Gap. Brian played the part of the token guy and you can see what he really enjoyed by following his Twitter feed.

We started the day at Roast and Vine, the coffee shop next to Hotel Petaluma, where many of the bloggers had stayed or were planning to stay. We had our own accommodations already lined up (and don’t fret, you’ll hear all about those too soon enough) so we drove in that morning from our own little corner of wine country. The lovely Trisha Lyn made adorable wine charms for us to mark our beverages (which of course, I managed to lose mine in the first 5 minutes of the trip.)

Terrific Tours and Azari Wines

Jason from Terrific Tours giving a presentation with the Azari wine maker.

Jason from Terrific Tours picked us up in a large van and played the part of our ‘scape goat, driver, tour guide and overall awesome partner in winery crime (but not really crime. Because this trip was awesome). His knowledge and tidbits of information throughout the trip made it even more educational and interesting. He had a lot to say and he was great company to have on such a fantastic tour. I loved that the website has a “snobbish attitudes not included” comment on their website. And it was true.

Saltonstall Estate Olive Oil and Wine

Saltonstall Estate Olive Oil and Wine

Our first stop was Saltonstall Estate where we sampled a few different wines, olive oils and olives. I couldn’t leave without olives because they were, quite simply, the best olives I have ever had.  Seriously. This certified organic olive orchard produced some incredible olives and olive oils. The wine was equally as delicious.

Azari Vineyards and Corkscrew Wines

The patio and wood-fire oven at Azari Vineyards and Corkscrew Wines

Our next stop was Azari Vineyards, home to Azari and Corkscrew Wines. We toured the beautiful location with the winemaker, enjoyed wood-fire oven pizza, and several amazing wines. Brian and I bought a shiner (a bottle of wine without a label) of Luma Blanc to take home and consume and I can’t wait to drink it with him!

Petaluma grapes

Cheese Pairing at Sonoma Portworkds

Gratuitous cheese and chocolate photo: Pairing at Sonoma Portworks

For our next stop, we made our way back into town to visit Sonoma Portworks, where we were delighted with cheese, chocolate truffles, port, and this amazing sonomic (which resembles a really high-quality balsamic vinegar but SO. MUCH. BETTER).

Sonoma Portworks

We then made our way to Cecilia’s Enriquez Estates, where she welcomed us into her home, shared her wines and brought an amazing cheese monger to pair more cheese with the wine. I was pretty much in heaven.

Enriquez Estates

Enriquez Estates: I think we drank it all…

Enriquez Estates

The view from Enriquez Estates

After tasting the various wines from Enriquez (and picking up a bottle of her tempernillo) and the delicious cheese from Achadinha Creamery (and picking up a large chunk of cheese), we relaxed in Cecilia’s backyard and stared out at the vineyard and the hills.

Achadinha Cheese

This might be my happy place…

Our final stop on the Petaluma tour of the day was Seared for a paired dinner with the winemakers and sponsors. Representatives  from the Petaluma Gap spoke about Petaluma, and the part it plays in Sonoma county wine. Because of the fog and the wind, wines from Petaluma have a distinction all their own. I’ll have an entire post about the delight and treat this dinner was, but for now, I’ll leave you with a wine selfie.

Wine Selfie

The next day we started our trip at Adobe Road Vineyards, where we had a few photo shoots with wine and fast cars, as Adobe Road also houses a great deal of racing cars, including a few Aston Martins.

Aston Martins

Aston Martin at Adobe Road

The Kristas, Kristi and Chrissy

The Kristas, Kristi and Chrissy: All you had to do was say, “Kris or Chris” and someone or four someones would answer.

Adobe Road

The last winery and vineyard that we visited was Keller Estates, which was a surprise addition to our tour after dining with owner, Anna, the previous evening. I was lucky enough to sit beside her at dinner, and she was absolutely wonderful. Her wines and stunning property were also fantastic. For my Chicago area friends, you can find Keller wines at Standard Market!

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The beautiful tasting room at Keller Estates was impressive and comfortable. I could have stayed here for hours!IMG_0924

Alas, our tour had to come to an end, but I can’t wait to visit again and check out the rest of the wines, spirits, beers, cheese and olive oils that Petaluma has to offer!

Have you been to wine country? What would be your favorite part of visiting this beautiful region in California? Are you more of a beer, wine or cheese person?

Full disclosure: The tour and wine tastings were complimentary to our little group, but I received no compensation to write this post. We also received a discount on our meal at Seared. All opinions are very much my own. 

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

BlogHer Conference: Not Just for Mommy Bloggers

I recently discovered that BlogHer in the media is labeled as the biggest mom-blogger conference in the country.

This is news to me. As a second-year attendee, with no children to speak of, it really bothers me.

BlogHer is an all-encompassing conference for people who blog. Men. Women. Parents. Writers. Humorists. Storytellers. Young. Old. Gay. Straight. We are unified by our desire to write and to share our stories.

Sure the HER part of BlogHer makes it a conference comprised of mostly women, but men are welcome and WELCOMED.

So here’s my wrap-up. The good, the bad and the ugly. But I gained so much more immediately following this conference than what I thought I got out of BlogHer13.

I didn’t go for the speakers or the sessions…though Jenny Lawson was fabulous, some of the things Kerry Washington  had to say resonated with me, and I learned some valuable information about publication.

I didn’t go for the swag…though I was happy to add to my board game collection thanks to Chuck E Cheese, Skype blew it out of the park with branded stuff my co-workers may be a bit jealous of, and I’m pretty excited (Read: OMG had a freakout in the hallway with another ginger blogger) about trying out the new Keurig when it comes out.

I went for the people.

The writers, the women, the friends that I’ve made in the blogosphere and the people I met on our Californiadventure. I was lucky to have met a fantastic group of women from around the world before I even made it to BlogHer, so I went into the conference with a beautiful group of new friends. I got to hang out with Joules again and Jenny (my bestie’s adorable and wonderful SIL) and so many others that I met last year (I loved that so many of us kept bumping into each other)!

I met the AMAZING Lillian Connelly finally. She was my first fan that wasn’t obligated by friendship or blood to like me. And she was my first blog friend to really welcome me into this digital community. I also met a large group of women that I spend a lot time reading and interacting with on the Book of Face. We had dinner/snacks/drinks before the closing party and they were all ABSOLUTELY wonderful. And hysterical.

Selfie with Lily

Selfie with Lily

The brands, connections and companies that help me keep this blog running. Networking with businesses that fit with my brand of crazy and meeting writers and social media mavens who offer advice, experience and contacts was an unexpected highlight of my first conference and definitely something I found yet again. You never know who you’re going to sit next to at breakfast or run into at a party.

It was awesome to hang out with my hosting company, DreamHost. Because they. Are. Awesome.

It was awesome to hang out with my hosting company, DreamHost. Because they. Are. Awesome. (Shameless plug: if you use my affiliate code, QuirkyHost, you can save $10 on a one- or two-year contract.)

On tribes, cliques and cool kids

I am lucky enough to have several groups of blog friends. I am a part of groups and tribes. But I don’t think that any one group was the be all end all of this conference. I think they were all unbelievable and better in real life than ever I imagined. I bounced around as I tend to do, flitting from event to group hangout to solo time to a little one-on-one with my honey. And still I missed whole groups of people that I wanted to spend time with.

The best part, though, is that every group I sat down in, every person I talked to, every cool kid table I moseyed my way into was cool. I learned from veterans and educated newbies. Some saw me as a relative newbie while others looked to me for advice and acceptance. But as Aussa Lorens mentioned, there’s always that .8% of people who aren’t quite as awesome. My .8% happened to be a single person who reminded me of my grandmother-though not in a bad way at all-(her personality, the way she spoke, her love of sparkly things), assumed I was a plus-size fashion blogger before even making eye-contact with me or shaking my hand, and didn’t want to exchange business cards with anyone who wasn’t a fashion blogger. But she may have been nervous. Or annoyed at the session we were in. Or having a bad day. So I don’t fault her.

Every group seemed like the “cool kids”  and almost every time they welcomed me with open arms. It was lovely.

On the expo hall, sessions, food, and parties

While the expo hall was smaller this year than last, I felt as though I didn’t have enough time to navigate to all the places I wanted to. Sure, there wasn’t as much swag free-flowing, but I feel like I made better connections with brands that I really want to work with.

The sessions were MUCH longer than last year, and thus less to my liking. I would rather have more options, and less lengthy panels with a lot of information that isn’t relevant to me. The publishing session offered a lot of information, but I think it could have been broken down into separate sessions about the different ways to publish. I made it to the style session, but it didn’t really seem to be what I thought it was, so I bounced.

The conference food was okay. I didn’t starve this time. I’m REALLY glad I’m not gluten-free this year (though I have found I feel a little better when I avoid bread and potatoes) because everything was all the bread.

Yoga and wine. At the same time.

Yoga and wine. At the same time.

The parties that I did attend were great. Eppa and One2One threw a killer yoga and sangria party. Keurig fed me the most delicious breakfast complete with Kcup coffee from the new Keurig 2.0. I also attended a beautiful and powerful panel discussing late-stage breast cancer. I tried to get into the suite parties, but they were SO crowded that I just. couldn’t. do it. Plus Brian was with me (and actually up for partying) so I couldn’t not find a less-crowded spot to hang. We met up with the lovely Joules from Pocketful of Joules and a few other ladies for karaoke and Twisted Shotz. All. The. Shotz.

Don’t worry. I’ll share the karaoke video at some point.

I was a little disappointed in the lack of a swag drop/exchange on Saturday night/Sunday when I was packing up my swag and found a few items that weren’t super relevant to me. I had no place to drop them off to be donated or snagged by someone who WOULD use them. Bummer.

On candy in a pill bottle

One of the brands at BlogHer was giving out swag with Red Hots inside of a prescription bottle with a label designed to make adults laugh. I was unlucky enough to miss this before they shut down the “drug ring.” Because this brand was a company that produces baby products, the media blew up with the mom-blogger conference sponsor that did a bad thing.

While I don’t have children (thus likely discounting my opinion, apparently), I don’t think the company made a huge mistake. First, no one complained last year when a pharmacy gave out all the drugs. Actual drugs. Because those were for grown ups. I’m pretty sure the Red Hots were for grown ups too. The swag here isn’t all for toddlers to play with.

Second, when I was about 8 or 9, I used to play with candies (usually Pez) as “pills” in used prescription bottles, while smoking my gum and powdered sugar cigarettes and swiping Mom’s expired credit cards to purchase used lotto tickets while playing bartender. Granted, I was old enough to know the difference between play and real. Maybe you think poorly of me. Or my parents. But I turned out to be a successful, smart, independent woman who never ODed on pills, picked up a smoking habit or gambled my way into Gamblers’ Anonymous.

In the same token, I don’t think poorly of the parents who disliked the swag. That’s their prerogative.

But in the end, I was a little sad I didn’t get a bottle of laughter medicine.

Thankfully, I surrounded myself with BlogHers who made me laugh.

Did you go to BlogHer? Have you been to BlogHer? Would you go to BlogHer next year? Have you been to a conference similar to this? What experiences did/would you hope to have at a conference of this magnitude?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

This Could Probably be a Real Post if I Wasn’t Drunk and Delayed at the Airport

Just thought you might appreciate a quick update while I’m cocktailing (or beering…I mean…whining…err wining…FINE cidering at the airport). Whatever. I’m drinking.

Brian was just on the phone with his dad when I told him that our flight was (SURPRISE) delayed.

He relayed this information to his dad, who may be picking us up at an ungoldly hour in the morning. All I heard was Brian’s end of the conversation.

“Yeah, we HAD a direct flight. At a reasonable time…but it was the for the wrong day.”

Whoops. For those of you who missed that Facebook update…

I may have booked our flight for Saturday instead of Sunday. Luckily, I caught it in enough time to change it…we just don’t have a direct flight…or an early evening arrival.

In order to entertain you/me, I’ve decided to share the end of our trip before the rest of it.

Things that happened at the airport so far:

Traveling with booze is expensive

At luggage check, we were informed that my classy packaging of wine was not acceptable to airport standards. I learned a very valuable lesson about packing and traveling with booze today. Apparently, wine inside tied hotel laundry bags inside grocery bags wrapped with a hoodie does not constitute well-protected. $30 and an embarrassing scene of opening and rearranging our luggage later, my wine, beer, and olive oil is now safely bubble wrapped.

TSA felt up my cheese

At security check, my California cheese and sausage was determined a dangerous set of weapon and greedily manhandled by TSA. (And you remember how I feel about TSA.) This concerned Brian…not the part about the manhandling, but the part where I reacted to the manhandling. Apparently, you’re not supposed to touch your stuff unless they ask.

That’s it… so far. We’re boarding a flight to LAX now, so who knows what could happen next.

PS: If you read the comments below, you’ll discover what DID happen next. *facepalm*

What are your flying nightmares? Real or potential?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Touring Wine Country with #PetalumaMade

A lovely group of influencers and Brian got together in California. This is the midday result in photos.

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Blog Friends, I’m LOVING Petaluma! Have you been to Petaluma? What are your favorite California wines?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Meanwhile, a Little Awkwardness in the Ladies’ Room…

Holy crap, you guys. Brian and I are safely in California, checked into hotel number one of three for the first leg of our trip, and I already have 27 thousand things to tell you.

The Pros and Cons of Midol

I pack VERY light when it comes to my carry-on luggage, if I can help it. Not so much with the checked luggage, though…I check everything, thanks to Southwest’s Bags Fly Free policy.

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Yes, my suitcases are that big...and that girly.

So when I realized my sinus infection headache was not going away after Allegra, Sudafed, and an antibiotic, I also realized I had packed the Advil in my suitcase. I ran to the shop for a quick headache relief solution, only to be appalled by the gouging prices of everything…except Midol.

I hadn’t used Midol since college, before I started the pill to help dull the effects of my period. But a dude-friend of mine swore by it in college, for obviously non-feminine reasons.

I swear to God, you guys, it was a magic little half-priced pill. I started feeling it break up my headache within minutes. Within an hour, it was gone.

Of course, three hours into our flight, I had to pee…in the teeny tiny bathroom. Insert expletives about the size of my hips here.

I can’t claim that this is 100% correlation so much as coincidence, but I’m telling you…Midol brought my monthly curse right there on the plane. And also a weird dream about my lady eggs. Fucking Midol.

My Whoops Moment in the Airport Bathroom

After our hour plus delay at Midway Airport in Chicago, we arrived safely at SFO. Having only used that sorry excuse for a bathroom on the plane once in a 4 hour trip, I had to pee immediately.

I went into the ladies’ room where there was a crowd of women and just one older woman with a little guy in front of me. She was checking a door to see if someone was in there, but it didn’t open, so she told the little boy, “Nope. Someone is in there.” I noticed that the first stall was empty by peering into the little door hole, and instead of taking it for myself, I pulled it wide open for the little boy and his mom or grandma (not sure which), while I stood behind the door, proudly being helpful. She looked at me, horrified. “Nope. Someone is in there.”

I slowly closed the door, and looked around, nervously. A sweet teenage girl tried to reassure me that it was probably no big deal, but I considered running out of the bathroom faster than I had ever run in my entire life. But thrn my overwhelming urge to pee won, and I stared at every stall waiting for one to open.

The toilet flushed in the stall I had opened. It was now a race between 7 other stalls and this lady. I just needed one to open so I could quickly duck inside. Her stall was about to open, when another miraculously became available. I dashed in, just as the woman was about to walk out. I saw a flash of color from her skirt before I was safely in my own stall.

When I walked out to wash my hands, I’m pretty sure she was still there, taller and scarier than I hoped…she could totally beat the crap out of me…but I walked (or slinked…one of those) to the sink next to her with my head down, avoiding all eye contact with anyone. I washed my hands and raced out of there, paper towels still in hand. I gave Brian the look that says OMG let’s go go go.

“Awkwardness in the bathroom?”
“Yup.”
“OK then.”

And we moved on to baggage claim.

What are your thoughts on Midol? Have you ever accidentally opened a bathroom stall? Have you been walked in on?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

The BlogHer Conference Questions You’re Afraid to Ask…Answered

Greetings! If you’re not a blogger or you’re not going to the BlogHer Conference and don’t want to read about bloggy things, might I recommend you travel down a rabbit hole of random and ridiculous by reading about that one time I went skiing and didn’t listen to my mom? (Even if you are going to BlogHer…and you haven’t read that-and the subsequent two posts–go forth and enjoy when you’re done reading about BlogHer).

Some of my bloggy friends have LOTS of questions and since I’m now a veteran, I have some answers…so I figured you might want answers, as well. In no particular order…Here are your BlogHer Conference questions answered.

The Expo Hall

Can I bring my kids? Do you have to buy them a ticket?

While I don’t have kiddos of my own, I did a little research for you. Tiny humans are totally welcome, according to BlogHer. Of course, if they’re walking and talking, I believe they need a conference pass (or an expo/networking pass) to play. Conferences in the past have offered childcare, though I couldn’t seem to find any information for this year.

Do you know how much the expo hall and party pass is?

$149 gives you access to all expo hall stuff and cocktail hours/parties, but not breakfast, lunch, speakers or sessions.

Is the expo hall really fun?

I loved being on the expo floor. Not only did I get to try out all sorts of tasty snacks (My favorites last year were Love with Food, Keurig Brew Over Ice, SodaStream, and Kozy Shack pudding) play games, meet cool people and interact with brands, but also I got to meet with a lot of sponsors and brand reps that I got to work with over the past year.
Keurig Brew Over Ice

Do you spend a lot of time (on the expo floor)?

Last year, I did. I got to meet Travis Stork and interview him, courtesy of Simply Saline. I was able to network with a variety of PR professionals and brands that led to sponsored posts, product reviews and other things that are helping me to monetize my blog.

Technology

Should I bring a laptop?

I brought my laptop last year and didn’t open it once. I also didn’t blog during the conference. All of my social media-ing happened on my Android phone and that worked out perfectly. This year, I’m traveling for 9 days, so I’ll bring my small laptop (it’s seriously TINY) for use in the hotels and my tablet and phone will do everything else.

Should I bring my fancy camera or is my phone enough?

I’m totally a fan of my fancy phone because it does most of what I want it to do. That being said, I finally have a camera that I love and bought specifically for blogging, so I’ll probably bring both.

Does everyone sit around with their laptops open?

Some do. Some don’t. Are you the type of person that needs their laptops to take notes? If not, stick with a pen and note pad. Type up details later if you are so inclined. You’re not going to want to cart the heavy stuff around. If you have a tablet or phone, that’s likely to be enough.

I heard the internet can be spotty with so many people trying to use it.

I didn’t have a huge problem with that, but I was also using my phone for most of my internetting.

Party Time

Are the parties really fun?

I think a lot of the parties are what you make of them. Go with your people and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself, or even better, to introduce yourself to other bloggers. I didn’t talk to many people outside of my comfort circle, and I missed out on opportunities to meet up with and hang out with bloggers like Lisa Newlin and Kate Whine Hall.

Did you love the official parties?

Some of them. I didn’t go to all of the official parties, but I really enjoyed a few. Expo on Thursday night was awesome with appetizers and beverages, a small crowd and some of my favorite bloggers. One of the Friday night parties we went to was totally stellar with lots of fun activities.

Do some people get way too drunk?

Probably. I didn’t last year, nor did I really see many people stumbling…but there are always a few.

How do you know if you should accept an invitation to a party or not?

If it’s something you’re really interested in, accept. If you’re not sure, wait it out and think about it. You don’t want to over-book yourself and miss lunch…

Do you stay for the whole party or just pop in for a while?

That depends on the party. Some have speakers and agendas, while others are more come-and-go as you please type parties.

Food

Is it hard to eat in time to get back to the classes?

So lunch is a part of the agenda, and the keynotes are during breakfast and lunch. You should have PLENTY of time to eat those meals. Bring snacks if you get that 3 PM drop in energy, because dinners are not part of the conference, so you may be waiting a while to eat. That being said, make sure you take care of yourself and eat enough to get you through the day. One of my biggest problems was over-booking myself last year and not eating enough so that I was beyond HANGRY by the time the evening festivities rolled around. So if you’re like me, plan the con around your dinner not the other way around.

The Pioneer Woman at BlogHer13

After breakfast with Ree Drummond

So dinner is on your own?

Yes.

I better pack snacks then.

Me too. Om nom nom.

Take Care of You

Do you find yourself exhausted at one point and just hide out in your room for a while?

Definitely. That’s why I opted for the hotel that was attached to the conference hall.

If I leave early and don’t stay out until 2 am will I be a total loser/old lady?

Nope. Some people revel in the party all night conference attitude and others are ready for bed by 10 pm. There’s no one right way to rock this place. One night I was up until midnight. The other night I was asleep by 10:30. It’s your conference. Make of it what you want.

General Conference Tips

How do you keep track of parties and sessions and events?

I used my Google calendar to arrange my schedule.

Should I blog about the conference while I am at the conference?

You can. I’m sure your bloggy friends at home would love the play by play, but you may miss some of the fun if you’re busy writing about it.

Do you stay in touch with new people you have met at the conference after the conference?

Isn’t that what this is all about? For me, the best part of blogging conferences and networking with other bloggers is meeting new people who really fit into your tribe. I’ve started attending a lot of events in the Chicago area and I love running into other bloggers that I’ve met and followed.

I read to skip the classes and mingle with people because that’s better for your blog than the classes are; is that true?

This TOTALLY depends on the workshops and how they relate to you. If it sounds like information you already know? Don’t go. If it sounds like something you don’t want to know about? Don’t go. If you want to learn about the topic or improve yourself on the topic, then go. I didn’t go to many of the sessions, but this year there are more that appeal to me. So you may see me in a session or two.

Does going to BlogHer make you a better blogger or is more about seeing people you are friends with?

I think everything we do makes us better bloggers. Whether we’re actively attending workshops or reading new bloggers to get some inspiration or meeting your blog friends for hilarious blog fodder, you’re going to get something out of this conference to improve your blog.

If you’re not really into brands or doing product reviews, is it worth going to BlogHer? Will you make other types of connections that will make it all worthwhile?

I think so. Last year, I stayed in a little bubble of bloggers I knew, but ventured out a smidge. I wanted to network with brands and see where that could take me, but I think there’s a lot of opportunities for bloggers who don’t want to monetize with brands. If you’re an artist or Etsy seller, showcase wearable products. Design a bag on Zazzle with your art that you can carry your stuff in. Make friends. Exchange business cards.

Is voices of the year something I’d want to miss part of?

I think it really depends on you. I also think that last year I had a very unusual experience because Queen Latifah was REALLY late and they wouldn’t start without her. And I had missed lunch. And I was starving. And crabby. Beyond Hangry. So you might see me there. With a snack pack.

Should I really pack an extra suitcase for all of the free stuff? Will it really be that much stuff?

I don’t want the bloggers who hate girls who love free stuff to hate me…
But that’s what I’m doing. (I’m also going to be in San Francisco and Sonoma the week before the conference and bringing home souvenirs, so there’s that.)

Brands

Do brands ask you to do reviews, etc at the expo or is it more like they take your info and get back to you later?

Some of the brands will ask you to use social media at the expo, but for reviews on your blog or sponsored posts will likely be later.

Did you see any artsy-type brands at the expo, last time?

You can actually go check out who the past and future brand sponsors are!
BlogHer 2012 sponsors
BlogHer 2013 sponsors
BlogHer 2014 sponsors

What to Pack

What should I wear?

Seriously–BE comfortable. You can look professional and be comfortable at the same time. There was a point one day last year where I had worn a strapless bra and was so miserable that I hid behind a wall in the expo hall, pulled it off, and continued with the rest of my day. I’m a fan of cropped yoga pants with nice shirts, skirts and comfortable, but clean and adorable, sandals most of the time. (I wear yoga shorts and crops under skirts for fear that I’m going to fall down and show everyone my lady bits.)

What about shoes?

I bought several pairs of shoes from brands I know and trust in order to be comfortable while still looking cute and showing off the pedicure I’m going to get…I made you a little Amazon widget with the shoes I’ll be sporting. (Yes, I’ll get a teensy tiny affiliate commission if you buy them, but they’re really awesome shoes.) I swear by Merrell and Naturalizer. The Bare Trap shoes aren’t as supportive, so I had to add arch support to keep them comfortable.

Should I wear a fancy dress to the cocktail parties?

I ended up wearing dresses and outfits that could easily transition from day to night. Some people were wearing jeans; others wore dresses. I still say stick with your comfort zone.

Blog Friends, do you have other questions? How can I help you get ready for BlogHer? BlogHer veterans, what tips do you have? If you’re going, look for me and say hi!

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Heading to BlogHer 2014 in San Jose and Things I’m Going to Con Brian into Doing

Guys, I am SO stoked to be heading to my second BlogHer convention. Last year, it was in Chicago–just 5 minute cab ride from my office, so I made my way over there after work on the first day of the conference. This year, I’ll be traveling to California for the first time ever and heading to San Jose to meet up with some of my bloggie friends, mentors and heroes for 4 days of joy.

Of course, I figured if I were heading out there for a conference, I might as well enjoy a few days of sightseeing before the big event. So Brian decided to join me on the upcoming adventure.

wpid-img_20140607_134227.jpg

This is Brian and I on adventures

We’ll be flying into San Francisco for a couple of days, then making our way up to wine country, and finishing our journey with BlogHer in San Jose (and flying out of San Jose. I REALLY love Southwest. Bags fly free and you can easily book one-way trips.)

While I’m conferencing with my bloggie friends, Brian will have a few days of down time to do…well…whatever he wants. Without me dragging him all over hell and high water.  Because that’s TOTALLY going to happen. I’ve created a little wishlist of things that I REALLY feel are an important part of our west coast journey.

1. Pictures in front of the Full House house. Yes. I know that people live there. But you know what? They moved into the Full House house. I’m going to be a covert creeper and make that shit happen.

2. Picnic in Alamo Square Park (bonus: Play the Full House theme song from a boom box.) This kind of goes along with San Fran goal #1. But seriously guys… FULL HOUSE. It was like…the epitome of childhood.

3. Sea-shelling on the Pacific coast. I read that one of the top ten shelling beaches in the United States is just north of San Francisco…so I pretty much HAVE to make my way over there to check it out. You know how much I love shelling!

4.  Visit the Winchester Mansion. If you haven’t heard of it, look it up. Sarah Winchester thought the ghosts of every person who ever died from a Winchester rifle was haunting her. So she built this crazy house and kept building until the day she died. Doors that lead to walls, hallways to nowhere, windows in the middle of the house…Crazy shit. I CAN’T WAIT.

5. Attend some blogger party or event. I don’t expect him to want to partake in the entire conference, but I think it will be fun to intro him to some of the bloggers of my “tribe.” (Hint: That’s you guys)

There are other things on the list, but those are my top 5.

Have you been to northern California? What would be on your don’t-miss list? Are you going to BlogHer?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Chrissy and the Hot Dog Factory

I seriously had the best day ever. So I’m not sure if you remember that one time I walked head first into a pole because I was busy excitedly Skyping my co-workers? (If you haven’t read that, you probably should. Because it’s a prelude to this tale. Plus it’s funny. I’ll wait.)

Okay, fine. If you didn’t read it, long story short: I got on a 3-year waitlist for the Vienna Beef factory tour.

So fast forward to January when the company e-mails me to say, “Oh hey, by the way…you can’t come in September of 2016 because we’re moving to the Southside. So why don’t you come in April instead?”

Less than a year wait for something that people wait an entire lifetime (the lifetime of toddler, but a lifetime nonetheless) for?! Hell. Yes.

A brief look at the Chicago hot dog dynasty from the eyes of me

I grew up in a mom-and-pop Chicago suburb pub. My parents owned a bar from before my birth until shortly after my 25th birthday. My father prided himself on the highest quality Chicago-style hot dog and beef sandwiches. And they were the best. Because he used Vienna beef. I learned early on that the only hot dog is a Vienna beef hot dog.

The Vienna Beef Factory Tour

I knew it would be just like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…only with the Willy Wonka of Meat Candy instead. And I would end the tour with a lifetime’s supply of hot dogs. (As it turned out, it was again a lifetime supply for a toddler, but a lifetime nonetheless. Okay fine it was a hot dog and fries, but the best hot dog and fries ever…with RED cream soda).

We were greeted at the back office by Danny, our Willy Wonka for the day.

Willy Wonka Welcome

He handed us hard hats and coats…hair nets and beard nets (I was not given a beard net for the 17 hairs on my chin).

Vienna Important Person - Vienna Beef Factory Tour

From the get-go, Danny seemed to know everything and anything about the factory. As we walked through the place, he greeted every. single. person. by name.

 

He told us that he had been working there since he was 16 and that it was most definitely a family operation. He explained that they tried as often as possible to hire friends and family members of employees, though they did of course have an application process for others, as well. I asked if he had family working their, and he gave us a knowing grin. I obviously assumed he had a parent or aunt/uncle who worked on the assembly line or in the offices.  As he said, “Pressing on,” I imagined he was wearing a purple coat and brown hat instead of the Vienna Beef jacket and hard hat. I was calling him Willy in my head, instead of Danny.

Willy Wonka Tour

Prior to attending this most-exciting event, I was told that it was a crazy idea. I was told I’d never want to eat a hot dog again. I was told about pink slime. But I was confident that these 100% beef hot dogs were made from the purest of cows.

As we made our way through the tour, we learned of their incredibly clean factory practices, including our required handwashing as we entered the factory (even though we didn’t touch anything), feet washing as we progressed from raw to prepared food, and the daily quality assurance taste test.

Willy Wonka Taste Test

At the end of the packaging process, once items are sealed, but before they’re boxed, there’s a metal detector to make sure that not even a single speck of metal from the machinery made it into the meat. It really felt like we were with Willy Wonka when we saw the conveyor belt slide open and drop a package of hot dogs into a bin after passing through the metal detector. Apparently that was a bad egg.

Bad Egg

 

Of course, we learned a lot about the process, too. The factory is pretty cold because obviously there’s the meat to think about. They also add ice to keep meat at the right temp-which is where the added water content comes from in the product ingredients. The strip off the external fat (which could have bacteria and stuff you don’t want in your hot dog or beef sandwich) from the meat that comes in, and dye it green right away so that it doesn’t end up in your food.

They make different meat products on different days, based on the demand and seasonality of certain products. Everything is designed to have complete uniformity, right down to the fat content. We got to check out the gigantic smoker with the hickory chips that they use in the smoking process just as the hot dogs were being removed. It smelled like heaven. Legitimately. During the daily taste-testing, employees taste products to ensure quality and maintain that uniformity. When we joined the tasting team, they asked us how we were enjoying ourselves, and of course, I looked at this guy and told him, “THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE.”

I think he thought I was joking. But I wasn’t. Mostly.

We got to check out the gigantic smoker with the hickory chips that they use in the smoking process. It smelled like heaven. Legitimately.

And the tour ended with a free hot dog, fries and a drink from the Vienna Beef Factory Cafe.

Vienna Beef Hot dog and fries

It was magical and wonderful, and I’ll never eat a hot dog that isn’t from Vienna Beef again.

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!