BlissDom 2013: The Good, The Very Good, and The Awesome

There is something special about spending almost an entire week with people who speak my language. People who speak Online Storytelling and Sparkle. It’s a fairly specific language. Even better is how very different everyone is from each other. How – on paper – we shouldn’t click, shouldn’t like each other; but, somehow through this creative thing we all do, we fit. There are so many things I want to say about BlissDom 2013, but I will try to keep it somewhat simple.

There was so much really great knowledge shared in the sessions I attended and in conversations in the hallway. So much that I think they each deserve a post of their own. I’ll give you an overview of the brain part and then I’ll tell you the heart and spirit part.

Soaking Up Knowledge

There were so many opportunities for learning this year at BlissDom. The keynotes were fantastic and the sessions I attended were well worth my time. The keynote from Scott Stratten was entertaining and affirming (in the, I’m-glad-I’m-doing-it-right kind of way). I look forward to reading his book The Book of Business Awesome (which he gave everyone attending the conference). The next keynote, an interview lead by the wonderful Danielle Smith, was with Susan Cain. You might have heard of Susan’s new book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (which I will be buying soon!) Her discussion about introverts and extroverts was fascinating. I’ve always thought I was more of an extrovert, but I’m finding that I lean toward the introvert side, and listening to Susan and Danielle speak was so interesting. The last keynote was with Jon Accuff, who I saw at last’ year’s BlissDom. He was great as usual, and gifted the BlissDom attendees with a special pre-press copy of his new book, Start.

I was really happy with the breakout sessions I was able to attend. Shelly Kramer gave fantastic tips for writing for the web, Wendy Scherer talked about using data for marketing, CC Chapman shared his view on living an amazing life, Lisa Leonard shared so many ways to tell your story without apology (and let Bridget and me take what may be the best speaker photo every), and Lucrecer Braxton gave us simple and effective tips for better portraits. I learned so many different things from these great people, and I love that I can use Shelly’s and Wendy’s tips at work in some ways. When you listen to CC you can’t help but be inspired, and Lu is the same way. I was really looking forward to Lisa’s session because I do a lot of self-censorship when I write, and it’s something I want to change.

Road Trips & Roomies

You guys. I can’t really put into words how awesome the roadtrip to BlissDom and my roommates were. I drove the 8 or so hours to Dallas. I was supposed to pick up Ellen (@BloomMaternity) in San Antonio, but she had to change her plans at the last minute, it was the only really bad part of the whole week. I did get to pick up Kim (@prairiemama) in Austin, so I got to spend some great time with her the rest of the way. Luckily, Bridget (@iveyleaguemama) was landing as we were getting in to Dallas, so Kim and I decided to swing by and pick her up and then head to the hotel. Y’all, this was the first adventure of the weekend. Pro tip: When you go to DFW, make sure you know the flight and/or airline your friend is coming in on. Because you can’t tell tollbooth guy, “Do you know where flights from Atlanta are coming in? Do you know Bridget? She’s a blogger?” So doesn’t work. The roadtrip back home wasn’t as eventful, but I learned so much from Kim about her faith, and I got to stop in San Antonio and visit with Ellen (and give her the fun bag of goodies from BlissDom).

My roommates were fantastic. I know a lot of people say that, but mine were truly amazing. I met Bridget and Katie (@motherbumper) last year at BlissDom and we connected right away. My abs still hurt from the laughing we did over the four nights we were there. Let me give you this list of words that describes our hotel room for those days: Canadian candy, maple syrup, cupcakes, laugh crying, ADD, cake, men-with-hooks, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Poo-pourri, Single White Female, needless apologies (Katie being Canadian and all), laugh crying, ending blogging, kids, bothering our neighbors with laughter, and awkward introductions to speakers in the hallways. And laughing.

Heads on a stick

There were so many wonderful friends who couldn’t make it to BlissDom, so we made some Heads on A Stick so they would feel like they’d been there. These girls got rowdy y’all. They were drinking and eating and feeling up the other attendees. Out of hand.

Handmade Marketplace, Entertainment and Sponsors

As it was last year, the Handmade Marketplace was fantastic! The lovely Sara Sophia did an amazing job getting all of those vendors together and offering such great stuff for attendees to buy and fall in love with. I have so many of the vendors marked as new favorites. The entertainment at BlissDom was a little different this year. I think I would have enjoyed the interviews with the All My Children cast if there hadn’t been so much talking around us. Chris Mann and Amber Riley did a fantastic job and have incredible voices. As a bonus, the Spazmatics were playing at the Glass Cactus on Girls Night Out after Chris and Amber and I danced my butt off while screamsinging songs from the 80s. At Girls Night In, we got to hear from Jeremy Sisto, Ana Gasteyer, and of the writers (I feel like a jerk for forgetting her name) from Suburgatory. Ana Gasteyer was accosted by Nichole and me while she was innocently trying to watch the episode of the show that was being screened for us. I love Ana. A lot.

As always, the BlissDom folks bring fantastic partners/sponsors who take the time to connect with the attendees. Please take a minute to check out the partners, as they really help make the conference one that I can afford to attend!

Reconnecting & New Friends

I love the time I got to spend reconnecting with people I’d met before and making new friends. I restrained myself from being a total fangirl in that I didn’t actually scream when I met Meagan Francis, Kyran Pittman, Christine Koh, Lisa Leonard and Laura Mayes. I did however, take a minute to get pictures with most of them as they are all women/bloggers/authors/entrepenuers who I admire.

That’s the thing about BlissDom for me, the connections. I met so many people I admire, whether they are a “big deal” or not. I met women who had fought hard to be there, women who were about to launch a new blog or a new business, women who “just” have a little blog whose biggest reader is their mom. I met Nichole who Robin match me with before BlissDom, and who made me snort laugh with her Sling Blade voice; and I met Piper in real life, finally, and she was just as wonderful as I thought she’d be! There are so many more people I wanted to meet, but just didn’t get a chance. I’m hoping to meet them at a future BlissDom, or at least get to know them online this year.

And now, here are way too many photos from BlissDom! And if these aren’t enough for you, I’ll be adding more to my Facebook page!

BlissDomSponsors

Some of the wonderful sponsors: Johnson and Johnson let us make promises; The Minion hung out for photos; and the Office Candy Girls let me drool over pretty office supplies

SherryRobinBridgetBlissDom

Robin O’Bryant makes me laugh. In real life, not just with her words.

SherryChristineLauraBlissDom

Christine Koh and Laura Mayes. A lot of awesome in one picture.

NicholeAnaSherryBlissDom

Nichole and I forcing Ana to take a photo with us.

NewFriends

New friends: Piper, Ellen, Meagan, Megan, Katie, Sara Sophia (last photo courtesy of Jana)

BridgetandSherrySquishLisaBlissDom

Lisa Leonard lets us take what might be the best conference photo of all time.

HeadsOnAStickBlissDom

Greis, Robin, Ellen, and Rachel couldn’t make it, but their heads came on a stick!

FriendsBlissDom

 

 

Dyeing for Easter

Get it? “Dyeing” This is totally a post about dyeing Easter eggs. And having to look up the spelling for “dyeing” because it’s weird. Last year, the boys and I made an Easter Egg Tree, but I haven’t had a chance to get crafty this year (and I don’t anticipate it happening any time soon). But! I saw this fun tutorial for dyeing eggs with Kool-Aid and we decided to try it. The author does a great job of guiding you through the color choices and technique, so check her out.

I just have to say that I really, really liked dyeing eggs this way! I am not a huge lover of the vinegar and tablet method what with the stink and dyed hands and all. The Kool-Aid made a mess on the counter (with some help from N and T), but their hands were stain-free and the kitchen smelled all fake-fruity!

Our favorite colors were blue (Rasperry Ice Blue), green (Lemon Lime) and red (Cherry). The grape-flavored drink makes the eggs a sort of charcoal gray, and if you were doing a sophisticated color scheme, they would look great with yellow eggs.

Photographic evidence of the Kool-Aid dyeing fun!

EasterEggSetupPSK TobinStirringPSKNMixesPSKDyedEasterEggsKoolAidPSK

 

As I did last year, I got to make a super-fun Easter basket for the boys using awesome treats from Hershey’s Chocolate*. You can get all kinds of fun ideas for crafts, baking, and treats at Celebrate with Hershey’s.

*I got the Easter basket and goodies free from Hershey’s Chocolate, but the egg dyeing was all us :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BlissDom Roundup

So many really smart and talented women are writing posts about the upcoming awesome that is BlissDom. I am not one of them, because why duplicate the already good stuff that’s out there? But! I decided to put as many as I could in one spot. For you. Because I love you.

Prepping for BlissDom

All About BlissDom

  • Cookies for Breakfast talks about being scared to go to BlissDom for the first time (I had so many of the same fears last year!)
  • Jody over on the Blissfully Domestic blog tells you all about staying at the Gaylord Texan for BlissDom
  • Tips for Newcomers to BlissDom from Ashleigh on the BlissDom blog
  • How to Rock BlissDom from Shannon on the BlissDom blog
  • Ashley at Ashley Lately is a Community Leader and second-time attendee sharing some of her tips about what happens at BlissDom

Babies At BlissDom

Your Blog and BlissDom

  • Make your blog sparkle before the conference with these tips from Becca over on the BlissDom conference blog (although these are great tips any time)

 

If you posted about BlissDom (or general conference tips) and want to share, please post your link in the comments! Also? I can’t wait for BlissDom!!!!!

Headed to BlissDom 2013!

 

I am so very excited to get to go to BlissDom again this year! Last year (my first BlissDom) was such a great experience, and I met so many amazing people, I couldn’t wait to find out whether I’d get to go to the 2013 conference.

Three things happened to make it possible for me to go this year:

  1. BlissDom is in Dallas this year, so I can drive! This also provides a chance to make stops on my way North to pick up my friends Ellen (in SA) and Kim (in Austin). Road tripping is cheaper than flying! Plus I’m free to overpack guilt-free!
  2. My awesome husband. The timing of BlissDom 2013 isn’t great for William (more to the point, it isn’t a great time for me to be out of town); but, he’s working with me to make it possible. Because: Awesome.
  3. Katie, Bridget, and Ellen with whom I’m sharing a hotel room. I’m fully expecting pillow fights. Or at least help putting on makeup. I don’t really know how this stuff works. (4) I’m going to be a Community Leader again this year! Hopefully I’ll have some community to lead in the sessions.

As for the conference itself, I am so excited for the speakers who have already been announced, including Shelly Kramer , Meagan Jordan, Lucrecer Braxton and so very many more. I know I am going to learn a ton. And hopefully score some Dr. Smith’s butt cream from their booth. What? T is still in diapers.

In all seriousness, there was a real and significant change in my life after last years’ conference. Real and lasting friends were made, I learned more about myself as a person, and I claimed the title “writer” for the first time. I didn’t expect to make the friendships I made. I expected to meet some nice people and have fun while learning, but to make the instant and powerful connections that I did was a happy surprise. I learned more about myself and my abilities during BlissDom than I expected. Again, I just thought it would be fun; but, I found myself in situations where I had to make conversations with people I wouldn’t usually meet (I know I don’t come off that way, but I’m fairly shy) and diplomatically removing myself from situations where I just didn’t need to be. As for the title, “Writer”? It’s easy for me to say, “oh, I just write for myself, my mom and my three other readers, I’m not a writer.” And while the first part of that thought is true, I am a writer. I tell stories, I share my life, I work things out with words. I’m a Writer.

Fairly impactful few days, I would say.

Will you be at BlissDom? Have we met? Link your blog in the comments so I can get to know you before March!

Some awesomeness from 2012:

Bridget, Greis, Kim and Elliott making me feel giant...

Bridget, Greis, Kim and Elliott making me feel giant…

Kat, Bridget, Heather, and me!

Kat, Bridget, Heather, and me!

 

Ellen, Shasher, Me and Tara. Shasher and Tara taught me all about Canadian money!

Ellen, Shasher, Me and Tara. Shasher and Tara taught me all about Canadian money!

What’s In It For Me? Or Why I Have A Blog

When I was getting ready for BlissDom ’12, one of the many questions that came up was what my blog was about. There are people who write on blogs who have very specific niches, and some, like me, who don’t (although I have more of a niche than a lot of people). I have a little blog, I don’t have advertising, I haven’t done any sponsored writing, and the giveaways I’ve done have been wonderful things from friends. I think all of those things are fine, I just haven’t done them.

The other version of “what is your blog about” is what my goal is for my blog. Perhaps because I’m not selling anything or supporting my family with revenue from my blog, I answer, “to have a place to write.” That’s what I want from my blog. If the stories or posts touch someone, then I’m good. If they don’t? And only my mom has seen the post? Then I’m good there too. I feel better in my mind and my spirit when I’ve gotten some words down on paper or screen. One of the things I loved about BlissDom was finding other writers who still use their blogs as a place to write (whether they made money from their blogs or not). I was glad to find that I wasn’t the only one without a big ol’ goal for my blog.

Do you have a creative outlet? Write, craft, sing, dance? Why do you do it? What’s in it for you?

Easter Tradition: Making An Easter Egg Tree

My Mom did Easter decorating right. On Easter morning we woke to find our big dining table turned into a spring wonderland. Our baskets were full of goodies and maybe a couple of toys, the table was covered with a pretty white table cloth, crotchet bunnies made by my Grandmother dotted the table, and in the center of the table was the Easter Egg Tree.

I loved the Easter Egg Tree. Mom would let me help to empty raw eggs so we could dye the eggs and put ribbon on one end. The tree was simple, just a branch in a pretty container with our eggs on it. But the tree, surrounded by all the other Easter stuff? Magic. I loved it.

Even though we don’t really have a place to put it in our small apartment, I thought I’d make an Easter Egg Tree. It was really simple and doesn’t take too many supplies.

Supply list:

  • 1 Smallish Tree Branch (with as many little branches as you need/want to hang eggs),
  • 1 squirt of acrylic paint (if you want to paint your branch),
  • a sponge paintbrush
  • 1 small block of florist foam (big enough to stick the branch into without it falling over),
  • a container for the foam and branch (I used a small silver bucket I already had),
  • Easter eggs for hanging (mine are styrofoam eggs I bought at the hospital gift shop, but you could make real ones if you’re ambitious),
  • enough Easter grass to hide the foam around the tree.

My friend, Linda, brought me the branch and after de-thorning it (it was mesquite), I dabbed yellow paint on it. I wanted it to look rustic, so I didn’t coat the branch too thickly. If you want it to be a more solid color let the paint dry between coats and keep painting until you’re happy with the color.

Before the paint:

After the paint:

Foam in the bucket, branch in the foam, magazine pages wedged between bucket & foam for stability.

Hang the eggs on the tree, put extra on the grass, add a little bird friend and you’re done!

I hadn’t thought about my Mom’s Easter Egg Tree in years. Then, last month at BlissDom, some fabulous folks from Hershey’s had a fantastic booth. Attendees got to choose an Easter basket and some awesome goodies and then it was shipped to our homes. Y’all, this was a seriously fun booth. We got our basket the other day and meant to keep all the goodies for Easter. That didn’t happen, but we enjoyed them while they lasted! You can check out some cool tips and read about other family’s Easter traditions on the Hershey site’s Easter section.

Fabulous Easter Basket from Hershey’s

 

What is your favorite Easter tradition?

*This is not a sponsored post, but the lovely Easter basket was sent to BlissDom attendees at no cost to us. Because Hershey’s is sweet. Get it? Sweet. Heh.

Birthday Party Fun: Dr. Seuss Style!

Just like every post when I talk about my sons’ ages, I want to start it saying, “I can’t believe they are [insert age here] already!” I can’t believe Tobin is two already! I feel better now. Let’s talk about his birthday party! You may remember from last year that Tobin shares a birthday with Dr. Seuss and Texas. With all the Lorax fun happening right now and our general love of Dr. Seuss, we decided to go with the good Dr. for theme inspiration this year.

I did some searching for Dr. Seuss-themed parties and came up with some great examples (which I quickly pinned). As with all the celebrations we have, I try to stick to the theme mostly in solid colors and some accents. I don’t like to have everything too matchy and I don’t like to spend money on all the theme plates, cups, etc. That stuff can get pricey (I’m talking to you  Party City). This year I used Dr. Seuss’ robin’s egg blue and red (with some orange and other primaries thrown in for good measure). I also used red and white stripes when I could.

My favorite place to find cool Dr. Seuss stuff is the Official Dr. Seuss Website. I compared prices on the official site with ones from Oriental Trading and other go-to party sites and they were similar (and in a few cases, lower). I did get a couple of the items from Oriental Trading, but the majority of the theme stuff is from the Dr. Seuss site. The beauty of sticking with so many solid colors (or the stripes in this case) is that you can reuse or buy from local stores.

Enough background, here are some of my favorite details from Tobin’s Second Birthday Party!

Tables, colors & balloons. Except for the light blue table covers and the red and white striped skirts, all the table covers, plastic ware, cups, plates and napkins were red ones from Nicholas’ party last summer. I got too many then, but didn’t have to buy those things this time, so I call it a win! I got four Green Eggs & Ham mylar balloons for dotting around the rooms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The banner. I really like this year’s banner. The supplies were simple: letters from the Dr. Seuss site (they are meant for school bulletin boards), blue card stock from Hobby Lobby, white circles cut from copy paper, black ink for the edges, double-sided tape for adhering all the layers, red acrylic paint for the plain wooden dowel rods, florist foam for holding the dowel rods in place, cord left over from Tobin’s party last year, and purple Easter grass. I cut out the blue squares, rounded the corners, inked the edges of the white circles, and did all the sticking in about 10 minutes. After I adhered the letters, I traced them with a fine-point black Sharpie for some extra emphasis. I punched holes and threaded with the cord and the banner part was done. The whole project, including painting the dowel rods, took about 30 minutes. I had the pots from last year’s party, so with all the stuff I bought, the banner set up might have cost $5.00.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cat’s marshmallow hats. I found them on Babble first and really love how they turned out. They were simple to make and were a great addition to the decorations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The food. Because I am trying to simplify my world and not stress so much about every detail, I decided to order the food. Nothing crazy, sandwiches (PB&J for the kids), a veggie tray, a fruit tray, chips, goldfish (One Fish, Two Fish, etc.), and drinks. The one item I had to make after seeing it on so many other sites was Green Eggs (regular deviled eggs with a few drops of bright green food coloring).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cake. Originally, the cake was going to be a top hat with red and white stripes, but the South Texas heat and humidity made it impossible. The fantastic Jennifer of Sweet Thangs by Dragon made a super tasty, really cute cake. Next year, we’ll defy gravity and humidity!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture time! My awesome colleague, Linda, drew the Lorax for us and I added details with acrylic paint and orange felt. I got the big Cat In The Hat and Thing hair from the Dr. Seuss site. I had planned for the kids to play pin-the-whiskers-on-the-Lorax and to get a picture of all of them together wearing their Thing hair on next to the Cat and the Lorax. That didn’t happen because they stayed in the jump house outside almost the entire time. I’m good with that too. I also love that we’re giving the cat, the Lorax and the leftover Thing hair to T’s daycare for the library section of his classroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodie bags. The bags themselves are recycled bags with Dr. Seuss characters on the front and a quote from the corresponding story on the back. These are sturdy bags, and I felt like the bags themselves were really the goodies for the kids. There was also a Lorax bag that didn’t make the picture somehow. The set came with three per design and the kids had fun choosing which character they took home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodie bag insides. I did want the bags to have something in them since the younger kids at least would be looking for something inside! I included a blank white bookmark with red and white striped ribbon on top; Dr. Seuss stickers to decorate the bookmarks (or whatever); a couple of Dr. Seuss temporary tattoos; and a cute sucker. I was also excited to be able to add some of the fun Lorax goodies that the wonderful rep at BlissDom shared with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodie bag tags. I used the same red and white striped ribbon for the tags that I used for the bookmark. I also used the same blue card stock for the background paper as I used for the banner. I cut and rounded the corners of the tags like I did for the banner, stamped a white circle with my favorite “Thank You” stamp, adhered and done!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had such a fun time with Dr. Seuss and our friends again this year. What was your favorite detail?

Tip Junkie handmade projects

 

 

 

 

 

The Post-BlissDom Swirl

There are a lot of things swirling in my brain post-BlissDom. Not comparing my beginning to someone else’s middle (@JonAccuff). The difference between popularity and likeability…and not having to choose between being likeable and being respected (@ssmirnav). The amazing connections and brilliant women I met. Being asked if I was bi-racial (@mrlady). At least I thought that was Shannon’s question. And looking for my hinge moment.

And here’s the one that I really need to get into my head: I’m a writer (@JeffGoins). I tell people I like to tell stories, but I shy away from saying I’m a writer. But Jeff seems to think I’m a writer. Maybe I just need some more practice.

I think it’s interesting that both Jeff and Jon talked about using the hours that nobody else wants to do what *I* want. So (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), I’m going to get up early to write and read and scrap. Because the time when my family is awake and I am home? That shouldn’t be the time when my face is lit up by the screen.

In the middle of the glitter and the laughing and the celebrity sightings (I’m talking about you, Lorax), these seeds of change found their way into my brain and my heart. It’s up to me now to nourish them. And, apparently, that nourishment will be happening at 5:00 a.m.

Jumping In To Bliss

I’m finally doing it. And I can’t believe it. And I wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t for Ellen. I’m going to Blissdom ’12! I’ve been watching other blogging folk talk about, cry about, laugh about and tweet about Blissdom for four years. And this year, I get to be one of them!

Here’s the deal about Blissdom, it’s about inclusion. Inclusion of new bloggers, experienced bloggers, women who use blogging to express a hobby, women who make a living with their blogs, all races, all abilities, and more. Since the conference started the speakers have been invited because they are inspirational and educational. Blissdom attendees learn and network and grow. Partnerships are built and friendships are made. And, like other blogging conferences, Blissdom is often the only time when some online friends see each other in real life. Basically, Blissdom is awesome covered in glitter.

What do I hope to get out of Blissdom? It’s not as lofty an aspiration as some attendees have, but I’m most excited about meeting some of the people I’ve been talking with and reading about for years. I’m really hoping I’m not a total fangirl who completely flips out and makes a fool of herself. Or, if I can’t manage to keep it together, that my victims will take it in the spirit in which I flip out.

I also have a goal of learning. Many of the other attendees have been writing and blogging a significant amount of time and I am anxious to learn from them. Mistakes, lessons learned, whatever they want to offer, I’ll soak it up! The speakers this year are writers, lawyers, public relations counselors, life coaches, photographers, artists and business people. If there is a topic I could possibly want to learn about, it’s in this one (giant) conference area.

Like any good organization that learns from the years before, the Blissdom ladies change things up to improve the current year’s event. This year’s big change is the addition of Community Leaders.  From the Blissdom Conference site:

This year Community Leaders will help facilitate hands-on, small-group discussions during each session within all four tracks. They will use their extensive experience to lead round-table workshops based on the top-level professional advice given by speakers so attendees leave with practical take-aways that relate to a variety of niches.

Why is it a big deal to have Community Leaders? To me the answer is simple, to help take some fairly high-level information from the speakers and help attendees understand how they can apply it to their lives. I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where we’re trying to absorb a lot of information (especially if it’s particularly inspiring) and we feel sort of overwhelmed. I love that in the same session where attendees have heard all this fantastic information they’ll have a chance to digest it, brainstorm it and talk it out in a facilitated discussion with a small group and a Community Leader. Genius!

I’m honored that I’ve been asked to be a Community Leader in the Entrepreneur/Business/Social Media/Tech Niche. I’m excited at the prospect of helping other attendees (especially those who may be newer to blogging or social media) digest and absorb the information they’ve gotten. I hope I can make the Bliss Chicks proud!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’m also excited about getting to stay at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville; excited about getting to hang out with Ellen (an old friend from San Antonio who I haven’t seen for years); and excited about the Handmade Marketplace which will be at Blissdom for the first time.

I would love to hear about your conference experiences (whether work or fun). What should I make sure to do?