Five tips for attending a blogging conference: #BlogHer14

Blog conference tips: #BlogHer14It’s summer blog conference time! One of the bigger conferences bloggers attend is BlogHer.  This year it’s in San Jose, California. Ah, the Silicon Valley, such an amazing place. If you are going to BlogHer for the first time, I’ve got some tips to help you ease through your nervousness.  While most of my blog conference tips are centered around my experiences at BlogHer, they can be applied to just about any blogging conference.

Blog conference tips #1: Be friendly.

Honestly, most of the gals there are welcoming and friendly. Just say hi and start chatting. You have an opening line. You all have a blog. Ask them what they write about…that always breaks the ice because bloggers love talking about their blogs. Other things to talk about: Where they are from? Have they been to BlogHer before? Have they been to California before? How long have they been blogging? What sessions/parties are they going to attend?

See? I’ve given you tons of things to talk about with people you haven’t even met yet! Where can you use this blog conference tip? The meals are a great place to break the ice. Seating is usually at tables with 10 chairs, so sit down next to someone and say hello. Continue reading

How do you Independence Day? July 4th it!

Independence Day: July 4th decor, songs, and food.One week from today is July 4th. Is it just me or does this feel like the summit of summer? After Independence Day it feels like summer is on the down slope. We are all coasting into fall.

Oh the barbeques! In some places they are called cookouts. Whatever you call the gathering of people eating char-grilled meat, it’s a hell of a time. Folks bring out as much red, white, and blue decorations as they can handle. If you’re feeling especially patriotic, check out these July 4th photo booth props I made. Social media and the birth of the United State never looked so good! Continue reading

Minnesota State Fair: Stimulation overload

Nothing can really prepare you for the Minnesota State Fair if you’ve never been to it.

It’s not like just any state fair. There is crazy shit everywhere and I’m not even talking about the random people. There was so much to look at that I barely noticed the people. It might be the “Great Minnesota Get-Together,” but I was too busy being in awe of the stuff that I’d heard tales of over the past few months.

Seriously, I think I’ll just post a ton of photos, kind of like a vacation video:

MN State FairThe butter sculptures were fascinating, much like everything else at the fair. I thought there was just one, but as you can see from the above photo, there is a mini rotunda of them. In fact, you can watch one poor soul getting her image created while she sits for 8 hours in the 40 degree box.  Of course, that might not be too bad when it’s 95 degrees outside with a heat index of 105.

The Dairy Building had all things dairy and meat in it.  And yes, that’s a picture of me as a turkey.

There was a building dedicated to the pioneers of Minnesota, some of whom were my ancestors. They had a full bedroom and living room set up. It was a little eerie, but educational at the same time.

Speaking of education, we had to stop at the University of Minnesota building and ensconce ourselves in all things Golden Gopher.  If you didn’t want to buy a shirt, you could learn about rockets or medieval studies from the kids as well as checking out all of the trophies won by their various sports teams.

The Creative Arts building gave us a look into the baked goods of tomorrow. Well, they looked like they’d been baked yesterday and were well past their prime, but I was still in awe of all that cake and jam.

Oh, did I mention the mini-donuts? Yum!  The scent of deep fried dough hangs heavily around the fairgrounds, luring you in like a siren. Also, I had been hearing people talk about cronuts. Apparently, they are croissants cooked like donuts.  I found something similar at the State Fair:

state fair, food, fried, baked goodPersonally, I prefer cake donuts, specifically the old fashioned ones, so the hype is lost on me.

Minnesota State Fair, boozeWhat is not lost on me is the beer!  For $8 you get to taste four beers. I kept seeing people with these little boxes of cups and finally figured out they were drinking flights of beer. Somewhere I saw a sign that said “Land of 10,000 Beers” that sounds way more fun than lakes.

Seriously, the food stands were center stage for me.  I don’t know what Spam curds are and I wasn’t about to find out. The ball of brie dipped in wine batter, shoved on a stick and fried was pretty good. The weirdest stick food was the spaghetti & meatballs and ostrich.  Of course, there had to be a salted nut roll.  I mean they are made here in Saint Paul.

We did see some non-food stuff like the Lego Road Trip exhibit which was pretty much children let loose on Legos.  They had some interesting models like the guy who stepped in gum.

And Paul wanted to see the John Deere exhibit.  He tried to get in that big tractor, but luckily, it was locked.

I don’t remember where the American Gothic picture was taken, but I think it had to do with farmers or something.  Either way, the hole was too big and the image was out of scale, but it didn’t deter me from sticking my head in there.

A tradition is to go to Sweet Martha’s for a giant pail of mini chocolate chip cookies.  We went there last because they pile that sucker up pretty high with those tasty treats and we didn’t feel like carrying them around the fairgrounds.

It’s a jungle in there…

One of the things I like about Minneapolis is the Skyway. Why? Mostly because I don’t like to go outside. Plus, you don’t have to stop for traffic. Granted, today when I was starving to death and searching for food, I felt like a main character in a zombie movie. You know the zombies who move fast like a tidal wave of undead? Everywhere I went there were PEOPLE! Herds of them everywhere! I was constantly in someone’s way. It took all of my willpower not to “accidentally” punch everyone.

It’s possible that I’m PMSing, but odds are it’s just a reaction to high stress and low blood sugar.

Note to self: Stay out of the Skyway between 12:00 Noon and 1:00 PM unless it’s an emergency or you want to face your crowd phobia and possibly start randomly punching strangers.

IDS Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota The crazy thing is that 45 minutes earlier and later, the 2nd story pathways are practically empty. Thank goodness my job is flexible and I can go get lunch whenever. What really sucks is when I get busy and can’t get away to one of the five places I get lunch. I’m trying to expand my horizons, but I feel like I’ve found most of the decent eateries. Plus it seems like everything is laden with tomatoes, which are my digestive nemesis.

Then again, it’s possible that the people volume could get worse in the winter. I mean today was a pretty yucky day weather-wise, so people were scrambling for air conditioning. It was like a sau-na out there. And I don’t care what anyone says. 87 degrees and 63% humidity is just as shitty as 105 and 5% humidity. Dry heat, wet heat, it’s all crappy because I hate sweating.

It is however that time of year when school starts and everyone decides to look busy. I mean there aren’t any schools in downtown Minneapolis, but of course that doesn’t stop people from changing their routines.

Seriously, if it wasn’t for people, I’d probably be in a better mood.

Parading Pianos in Saint Paul

POPblackHave you seen the colorful pianos around town? One of the interesting things about living in the Twin Cities are the creative ways art is incorporated into what seems to be every day life.  The Peanuts Statues are one example, another is the Pianos on Parade project that benefits Keys 4/4 Kids, a local nonprofit organization that sells donated pianos and uses the profits to fund charitable programs.

In various locations around the Saint Paul area, beautifully decorated pianos have been placed for your pleasure.  Some of them can even be played.  I just love the idea of a piano as a piece of public art. It’s interesting to look at and to hear.

There is a regular piano in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul airport and once in a while, you are treated to the sound of tinkling notes amongst the rumble of travel.  Hearing live music is always a pleasant surprise in an unexpected place.  There’s just something about the sound of a piano. To me, it’s soothing and inspiring.

The pianos will only be parading for a limited time.  When September arrives, the parading ends. But don’t fret, there is still plenty of time to seek out these pieces of musical art.  There are even some events where the pianos will pop up. Hint: find one at the State Fair.

BlogHer13: Party Recap

What was up with the People’s Party? Why so small? It didn’t look like they had any sponsors. My comparison is the one in San Diego. It was in a ballroom and was an interesting place to walk around. I remember there being a Raising Hope booth which had special drinks available. I think there was a Rio (you know that movie based on Angry Birds) booth. This year? Not so much. It was in a bar in the hotel. Paul & I walked in and I was disappointed. We were there early, so no one had shown up yet. It felt like any faceless/corporate networking event in your hometown.

“Hey, Bob! How is this year’s sales goal? Can you believe Brenda in Accounting got a promotion? Did you get the memo?”

We grabbed an adult beverage and headed back to the room. I heard later that the place got so packed you couldn’t hear or move. I wonder at the logic of having the only official party in such a small area.

Multi-Culti Party, BlogHer13The second night’s progressive parties were much better. I didn’t go to the Voices of the Year or reception. I’m not one of those women who enjoys crying. Sure once in a random (PMS driven) while I’ll read those “25 Reasons to Have Faith in Humanity” buzzfeed.com things, but mostly, I’d rather laugh. As far as I can tell, those VOTY things are too weepy for me.

I loved the “red solo cup” at the Aiming Low party and I got a bunch of flags at the Multi-Culti party.  They are the flags of my people because I am multi-culti myself.

I was initially confused as to how they might be “progressive,” but once I saw the suite, I understood. You were not meant to hang out in the suites for very long. I mean they were smaller than the hotel bar downstairs. You came, you drank, you ate, you talked, you moved on. Again, we went to these parties as soon as they opened, so maybe later on in the evening it was a crush, but I don’t know. I am still a little confused about the whole suite thing. In 2011, everything was in a ball or board room or rooftop terrace. Maybe area is just at a premium here in Chicago, so getting a space is pricey. I don’t know. I’m just guessing.

The fashion show after party was pretty good. They had a decent selection of food and booze. It was in a big room and there was a place to dance. THAT’S what was wrong with the previous parties! No dance floor and I am a gal who likes to boogie, even if I look like Elaine Bennis when I do it.

BurgersAs always the CheeseburgHer party was the best. As always means two different years for me. Regardless, this party is always a good time. I went alone because I’d worn out my date by dinner time…get your mind out of the gutter. But, I wasn’t fretting. For some reason I keep running into people I met for like two seconds during the conference. The booze I’d had made me more outgoing than usual (shocker) so I had someone to talk to while the music engulfed us (Sing it, Whitney!)

Bags

I was a little disappointed that the burgers weren’t from McDonald’s. My guess is the hotel made them use their catering or gave them a really good discount on it. However, I did enjoy customizing the bags. It’s always funny to me to see the people who are too cool to wear a decorated paper bags on their head. Have another drink and loosen up, honey!

Movie Review: Austenland

movie, swagAt BlogHer13, I was lucky enough to see a special screening of Austenland. Being a fan of Jane Austen, I was so excited to see this movie. First of all, the reason I enjoyed this movie was Jennifer Coolidge. She has some great ridiculous lines.

The movie is pretty much a chick flick, but you kind of know that going in.  The whole time I kept trying to find plot comparisons between the movie and an Austen novel.

Don’t go into this movie looking for something deep. Go into it looking for a light piece of entertainment.

Basically, it’s about a single woman in her 30s who is obsessed with all things Jane Austen. She’s not exactly thrilled with her life, so she spends her life savings on a trip to Austenland, a resort in England that takes you back to the Regency period and all of its mannerisms. They even have actors who will romance you right up to the big ball on the last evening of the excursion.

It was a little slow to start, but if you can get past the cliches, it is a pretty good movie. It’s not a tear jerker. It’s not an action thriller. It’s a light, escape.