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Birthday Bliss at BlissDom

Other than Snowcial, which is a different scene entirely, I’ve never been one to engage willingly in the whole conference circuit. You’ll never see me at TBEX, I doubt if I’ll attend the New York Times Travel Show at any point, and while South by Southwest would be a blast, I don’t foresee ever spending that much money to go. But when I first read about BlissDom, I knew once I returned to Nashville I would be there come Hell or high water.

The thing about BlissDom is a) it’s inexpensive as far as conferences go ($199 for three days, which included a number of workshops, plus a helluva lot of food and adult beverages) and b) it’s way more laid back. i.e. Everyone was really nice and welcoming. It has the reputation of being a conference without ego, and it lived up to this. Being a travel blogger among hoards of parenting bloggers, I was a bit worried I was going to feel out of the loop. And I did need Cliffsnotes for a lot of what they were talking about or because I had no clue about the “big bloggers” they referenced, but for the most part, it didn’t matter if you were from Alaska or Alabama, blogged about diapers or coupons, you mattered.

(That said, I was super bummed when I finally met a blogger I’ve read and admired for years, and she was less than friendly, to put it mildly, and couldn’t have given me the time of day…every time I encountered her over the weekend. That will teach me to lower my expectations in the future.)

On the flip side, the best part of my weekend was getting to spend time with Aimee of Greeblemonkey and Angie of 2 Sisters & a Blog. Aimee and I had been Twitter pals for a long time, then spent a sun-soaked afternoon on a roof in Denver a couple weeks ago chatting our heads off. I started following Angie when I decided to attend BlissDom, and I was so glad when we recognized each other during the first afternoon’s activities as it’s really hard going to a conference of such magnitude without a plus one. These two quickly became my conference wingwomen, and I could not have asked for better companions. I also got to put a name with a Twitter avatar and finally meet Jen of Two Kids and a Map, a fellow travel blogging gal from Florida who was just as nice as they come. I hope our paths cross many times in the near future!
Joe Jonas Blissdom 2012-1723

(Photo of Angie, Aimee and me borrowed from the official BlissDom Flickr group.)

Oh right. AND we met Joe Jonas.

On Friday night, Joe Jonas “with special guests” played a private concert for BlissDom goers in the Delta Ballroom. I can’t say I could name a single Joe Jonas song—obviously, I still harbor a grudge toward him for breaking my girl Taylor’s young, naive heart—but it was fun to see a room full of 20- to 50-something women go gaga over a teenybopper. (Is he still a teenager? I honestly have no idea.)

The event was hosted by ConAgra Foods, who is campaigning to end child hunger (they committed to giving out 40,000 meals over the weekend thanks to Tweets by BlissDom attendees), and the “special guests”…turned out to be none other than Rascal Flatts! As a country music lover, this excited me way more than JJ did.

Rascal Flatts wound up being really funny, too, and the keyboardist made us think they weren’t going to play Broken Road, and instead busted out the Charlie Brown theme and Old Time Rock ‘n Roll. (They played Broken Road in the end, of course they did, but they also did Fast Cars and Freedom, Life is a Highway, a song from their new album out in April, and a few other favorites.)

Some other highlights of the weekend included a Lorax party! SVV and I have been obsessed with the Lorax since getting Ella two years ago, as we happen to think she is the spitting image (albeit white, not orange). Universal Pictures hosted a swanky soiree for all conference attendees, and the Lorax himself was there for the fun. And if you happen to think I won’t be going to see it on opening night this Friday, you have another thing coming. (Taylor’s in it; of course I’ll be there.)

The sponsor suites and booths were great, too. Founder Alli Worthington and her events crew are absolute rock stars; I was blown away with the big players they managed to draw such as Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft, especially given that it’s just the conference’s sixth year. While I didn’t check them all out—I hate to be that swag-greedy blogger who moves from booth to booth, juggling as many bags as she can carry—I did score some free Dr. Scholl’s kicks from Famous Footwear, who were generously doling out shoes all weekend. I sent myself a virtual Easter basket courtesy of Hershey’s, which is set to arrive at the end of March (full of Reese’s Eggs, Cadbury and all my other favorite chocolate treats!). I got my hair blown out courtesy of VO5 just in time for my workshop.

Speaking of…oh right, about that. Well, I think my photography workshop went pretty OK, I did blow through my presentation in just under a half an hour, when it took me 45 to 50 minutes to go through it all in my room. Which either means I left out a whole bunch of stuff or I spoke way too fast. (I wasn’t standing in front of the podium as they filmed each presentation and wanted us in the middle of the stage, so making note cards ended up being a moot point.) Either way, it was an excellent learning opportunity and one more step to conquering my fear of public speaking. If they asked me back in the future, I would definitely do it. I’ll be up in front of a crowd of 75 or so in a few weeks and am not even thinking twice about it. In fact, I’m rather excited. (See how one quick stint on a stage can inject a much-needed dose of confidence?)

My pre-BlissDom birthday celebration on Thursday kicked off with lunch with a Tennessee-born friend Jessie who now lives in Dubai, and just happened to be flying through for work. We checked out Nordstrom’s new diner Sixth and Pine at Green Hills, before I checked into my hotel room and got a birthday massage at the Relache Spa. (Fun tip: Locals get a 20 percent discount. I normally treat myself to a massage every year on my birthday—oftentimes, courtesy of Groupon—so this was just an added incentive.)

The kick-off party by Babble that night was a blast, and I stayed out pretty late (for me), only to return to my room and find champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries waiting for me! (I gobbled them up in under a minute.) At first, I thought it was SVV being super thoughtful, but it turned out being a gift from one of the concierges, Elizabeth. Elizabeth and I grew up together just a couple streets apart, and she now works at the Gaylord Opryland. She saw me on the list of conference speakers and then noticed on Facebook that it was my birthday and wanted to send me up something special. Such a sweet gesture, one that I really appreciated!

My weekend ended with SVV meeting me at the Opryland on Saturday night. BlissDom put up all speakers for three nights, so I had a really comfy room in the Magnolia wing with awesome interior views of the atrium below. I always forget just how massive this hotel is; I got lost many times, and the map was crinkled and worn by the end of the weekend.

SVV and I went on a date for a belated birthday dinner to Kayne Prime in the Gulch, upon my favorite local food blogger Beth’s recommendation. We recently have eaten at two other of MStreet’s enterprises, Tavern and Whiskey Kitchen, so I had high hopes for Kayne, the fanciest of their restaurants. Our bill was a bit hefty—four cocktails, an appetizer, two mains, two sides and a dessert will do that—but it was worth every penny. I would totally return to Kayne for our next special occasion that warrants a fancy dinner; it reminded me a lot of Michael Mina without the attitude. Plus, the complimentary popovers are absolutely divine, and that alone will bring me back in the future.

And because I clearly hadn’t eaten enough over the weekend, we had Bloody Marys and waffles at 55 South in Franklin yesterday on our way home, before celebrating with my parents and granddad last night at our house. (Among other things, my mom gave me a season ticket to the Broadway series at TPAC! So incredibly excited about that.)

All in all, 29 is starting out on an extremely high note. 30, you have a lot to live up to.

 

**Once again, most of these photos were snapped with my iPhone as I was too lazy to haul around my camera gear all weekend! And because I have a ridiculous Instagram addiction, too. (Are we Instagram friends? If not, I’m @LunaticAtLarge. Add me!)
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Comments ( 57 )

  1. Oh I love this post! I feel like I was there! Blissdom was my first blogging conference experience, I had only been blogging 6 months when I went to their 2nd one. Their first one was so small it was in a bar! I felt welcomed and had an amazing experience which is why I went back three more times. I intend to go back next year. You do run into a few snooty peeps, but I seriously think there are less of them at Blissdom than at other conferences I have been to. I love your comment about the “big bloggers” because I always think “big to who” there are so many people and so many blogs and so many pools of communities. I often have to explain what a Mommy-blogger is to people and I think it is funny, because if you are in that world you have no clue that there are people that have no clue (or could care less) about them – hopefully that makes sense! I think Blissdom is well planned out with a good mix of events, versus sponsors, versus panels and activities. I enjoyed the Opryland hotel as well – it is massive. I really hope I get to meet you before next year, but if I don’t I hope to see you at Blissdom 2013!

    • Ha, hence the quotes around “big bloggers.” I find it so funny as you go to travel events and people reference the “celebrity bloggers” in our field, you go to mommy blogging conferences and they don’t have a clue who the “celebrities” are among the travel world but expect you to know the huge parenting bloggers…it’s all so subjective! What I loved about a lot of the people I met at BlissDom is that there wasn’t as much of that expect-you-to-know-all-the-power-hitters as there was at smaller blogging events I’d been to (such as BlogHer happy hours). And there were 800+ people at BlissDom, too!

  2. Ok, so:

    1. When did Joe Jonas get hot? Because really…um, that pic made me feel illegal things.

    2. Sounds like a nice mellow time…and in your backyard so, hey — awesome!

    3. Who the hell WOULDN’T BE NICE TO YOU? Lame. Their loss.

    4. Happy Belated Birthday, my dear!

    xo

    • Haha, so funny as I knew nothing about him other than his Taylor connection and so many people were absolutely stoked to meet him (the line to get photographed with him wound in and around the room). He definitely isn’t bad-looking, I’ll give you that!

  3. I’m becoming very picky about conferences as well but I know a lot of women who blog for Babble quite successfully and if they were there that is a sign of a great conference – Con Agra aside ;).

    • Babble was the major sponsor! I went to a Babble happy hour one night and met the whole team behind it. They were all SUPER nice, and wow, what a success story selling to Disney and all. Although I’m not a parent, I’m definitely pro-Babble!

  4. Aww happy belated birthday! Sounds like you did it up right :)

  5. Miss you already! I had such a great time with you and Aimee, and now I’m dying to know who the blogger who snubbed you was …..

    As for Joe Jonas, does he not look absolutely thrilled to be hanging with us??? Do you think there’s a chance he overheard me saying Joe WHO? Or did he just know that I was going to turn down a signed photograph of him?

    Seriously though, I did learn a lot and your session was FANTASTIC! Hope to see you again … before BlissDom13 ;)

    • *SNORT* He definitely was showing advanced passive-aggression that we didn’t want his signed photographs. That or he knew we skipped to the front of the line.

      Now that I have a reason to visit Cincinnati–and know that it’s an easy drive!–hopefully our reunion won’t be before 2013 ;-)

  6. Oh Aimee of @greeblemonkey is a spectacular human being :) We’re glad to call her a fellow Coloradoan. Your pictures of Blissdom are really lovely; it looks like you had a really great holiday there! Yay for laid back conferences with fellow passionate bloggers. Come back to CO and visit us up in Boulder too!

    • “Spectacular human being” is an excellent three-word summary of the great Greeblemonkey. That she is, without a doubt.

      And OK! Boulder was not good to me last summer–it rained/snowed the three days I was there in June–so I’m due for a return trip where I can actually enjoy the outdoors =)

  7. Ah :) Glad to hear that! Ping us when you’re on your way back in the summer (or fall, it’s really beautiful here in the fall!)

  8. What a wonderful recap post! With a start like that 29 is bound to be awesome!

    xox

  9. Happy Belated birthday and looked like it was a great birthday week for you!!

    How nice of the concierge to do that for you!! That’s what I call GREAT service. :)

    I have been on a conference diet this year. But reading from your experience I might have to put blissdom on my radar next year. Plus Nashville is an easy drive from Atlanta so it’s more affordable for me.

    If anything, I would love to sit on your session. Hopefully, you will speak again next year? :)

    • I thought I saw your name on a conference list for one in ATL? But yes, this was my first major one and while I can’t promise I will become a regular conference staple, I will definitely do everything in my power to attend BlissDom next year (and I would totally speak again if they asked!).

  10. Sounds like you had a great time celebrating your birthday with a lot of fun things!

    Rascal Flatts! That’s awesome. I love them. Hopefully I’ll see them live some day.

    That sucks that the blogger you admired wasn’t friendly. The only blogger I’ve met so far has been Joy (the Baker) and she was so sweet. I can also tell that some of my other favorites like you and John & Sherry from Younghouselove would be so nice to meet. It is no fun when people don’t live up to our expectations or to how they might appear online!

    • 99.9 percent of the time people have been absolutely lovely, so you’re bound to encounter a dud every now and then (particularly as I have met, literally, hundreds of bloggers in the past couple years). I’m glad Joy was so nice, as she seems like the sweetest person in the world from her blog! And yes, I am very excited to meet someday–we’ll both have to wear our Langston’s boots when that day comes (and simultaneously search for celebs since we’re both not so good at that, ha) =)

  11. Happy birthday! I love Broadway shoes, so that sounds like a fantastic gift.

    I hope to see you NEXT weekend (I also hope to catch Blissdom one of these years. I think it’s awesome we have such a great conference in Tenn., but it’s a horrible time of the year for me, obvs).

  12. Reason #532 you’re a badass: You have your own workshop at a major blogging conference and you’re all like, “Oh, yeah, I had a thing.” Seriously?

    • Haha, well, it didn’t go AS well as I hoped it would (in that, I left a bunch of stuff out I had wanted to talk about and fumbled a bit on the Q&A), but I’m chalking it up to experience and trying not to beat myself up too much ;-)

  13. Because I am gossip obsessed I am absolutely dying with the need to know who the snub-blogger was. Email me your secret and I will express mail you a box of fresh pad thai.

    Also, that swag sounds amaaaazing.

    • No one you know (or know of), I assure you! A very different crowd than the travel scene =)

      • You’d be surprised… I’m probably embarrassing myself by revealing the depths of my blogging addiction but my Google Reader holds home renovation blogs (I have no house) mommy blogs (I have no kids) personal finance blogs (I have no money)… and more! I’ve even got a few mormon blogger friends :) I just love reading about people’s lives!

  14. I loved your updates all weekend! Glad you had a great time and a lovely birthday :)

  15. This appears to be a great venue. Especially as it got you past the fear of talking to crowds. Deep breaths, pause and slow down.
    I’m going to have to look into a bloggers conference.

    Happy Belated Birthday!

    • Thanks, Gaelyn! They need an RV bloggers conference, and it should take place somewhere awesome like in the middle of Lamar Valley or at the bottom of the canyon =)

  16. Rascall Flatts???! I am sooo jealous!

    • They were way better than I was expecting! Very funny and a whole lot of fun live. I’d sort of lost my fangirldom for them the past few years, but it’s definitely back after Friday!

  17. Your photos are incredible! I am STILL trying to figure out why I think I’ve met you before in some time in my life! (we connected in the Babble suite on Thursday night, I think?) Happy Birthday, btw.

    Steph

    • Thanks, Steph! One day, we’ll figure it out =)

      And it was nice to meet you and the rest of the Babble party-goers! I really hope I’m in town for BlissDom ’13, as not only was this year SO FUN but I feel like I only really got to interact with a very small handful of people (and for a limited amount of time), and next year I need to remedy that!

  18. Sounds like it was an absolutely fabulous weekend!!! Awesome pics and congrats on facing your public speaking fear!

  19. I am so glad that I got a chance to meet you and SVV. It was truly one of the highlights of my trip to Nashville. I only wish we were able to hang out more. I kept trying to find you (in a non-creepy way of course!) but we were never in the same spot. I hope the timing will work so that we can meet up when I make it back up to Nashville this summer.

    These things make me feel like I am in high school all over again (not that I have attended very many conferences)! Having someone there that I knew in real life for 20 years made it very easy to latch on to her like a blood sucking leech and not put myself out there. I had a similar “big blogger” incident too…maybe it was the same person. ;-) Although, in the long run, I know it doesn’t matter, it really did put my guard up for the rest of the conference.

    • Ahhh, I wish we’d texted to meet up at some point! Honestly, being one of the last workshops, I spent a lot of my Friday and Saturday a bit out of it as I was rehearsing much of the time in my head (or in my room) =)

      And, you were lucky to have your friend. I felt equally as lucky to have met Aimee before BlissDom and to have found Angie on the first afternoon–makes it a lot less intimidating if you have someone to pal around with! (Next time, we should totally pal around together.) But you’re right, it’s harder to meet people that way.

  20. This sounds soooo cool! I was looking at that photo of you and the attendees and JJ, and the first thing I noticed was your purple tights. Then, my eyes wandered to the guy. I thought he was cute and looked familiar. Then, ding! JJ.Hilarious you got to meet him and he played a special show!!! All in all, I’m pretty sure I want to go to this event next year!!

    • I like that plan! Grab Erica and Abby and come on out! Hopefully, we’ll have a house by then and can be a temporary blogger hotel =)

  21. I still need to make it to a blogger conference – this one looks so cute and cool. We’re attempting to go to TBEX but don’t really have the funds at the moment nor the tickets lol. Must go to at least one!

    • There were a whole lot of tattoos (and quite a bit of pink hair, too) at BlissDom this year, so you would have fit in seamlessly, mommy blogger or not ;-)

  22. LOVED meeting you – especially in the last hour of your birthday ;-) I would never have known you were nervous, you are an absolutely charming and adorable person.

    I can’t wait until next year AND to keep up with you here and on twitter and FB ;-) going to find you NOW! :)

    • Ditto! I love me a fellow Southern belle with a stellar boot collection =) Aimee had told me before the conference that you were definitely one to meet, and I’m so happy that happened! See you online until the next BlissDom (or until I happen to be in CC for some reason or another!).

      • I don’t know if in my life I’ve ever said, “Bless My Soul” but I just did :-)
        I’m truly honored that Aimee, someone whom I respect and adore, said that. <3 <3

        We Southern girls who love our boots must stick together :-) especially ones who rock purple tights like you did. I have a pair I've never worn, and now I am inspired to because of you.

        PLEASE let me know if you head down to Corpus Christi or thereabouts and we'll meet up!

  23. This sounds like a blast! What a bummer that someone you thought would be fab turned out to be a real a**hole in person. I met one of the biggest travel bloggers at SXSW last year and couldn’t believe how much of a jerk he was. It wasn’t a big deal because I hadn’t really interacted with him much online, but he basically sat in a corner and ignored all the “little people” who tried to talk to him. It was ridiculous.

    • I think I know exactly who you’re referencing, too (as you haven’t been the only one to say exactly that)!

  24. Sounds like you had quite the fun adventure!

    And I totally wouldn’t recognize a Jonas brother if he bumped into me. I’m totally boy band illiterate at this point.

    • You and me both, sista. Which is why I found the whole evening (and our photo opp) all the more humorous! I couldn’t name a song the Jonas Brothers sang (and nothing Joe performed even rang a bell!).

  25. Looks like lots of fun! And what a great name for a conference.

  26. Hey, happy (belated) birthday! 29 is a good year, from what I remember. :)

    Also, I’m really glad to hear that Blissdom was so inclusive. I’ve never been to a blogging conference, and I’ve always shied away from even considering attending any conferences because they always seem geared toward….not me. If you’re a mommyblogger or a straight up food blogger, then yes, you’re golden. But someone like me, who can’t really put a finger on how to classify her blog (food? Life? Humor?), well, I always feel like “What would I get from this conference anyway?” It’s good to know that Blissdom reaches everyone–I may have to think about it for next year!

  27. Also, congrats on tackling your fear of public speaking!

  28. Way to throw some confusion my way as I try to ring in the new year lady. Last month I was thinking “yes, I will go to Blissdom 2013 to see what else is out there besides TBEX.” Then I saw that Type A is having a one day workshop in Philly that is covering a lot of what I hoped to check out at Blissdom. I’ve got fam there I can crash with and they can take the kids. Seemed ideal. Now you are making me think maybe Blissdom would be a smart move! Argh! Course I could just chuck it all and head to the beach somewhere. That sounds nice too ;-)
    Keryn @ walking on travels recently posted..2012: A Year of Travel, A Year of ChangeMy Profile

    • I guess it depends on what you want to get out of it. I won’t be going to BlissDom this year since it’s not in Nashville but it *was* a really fun experience. Personally, I’m not into the TBEX concept as it doesn’t seem the conference ever teaches anything new. But I might have a really cool event for you in another month or so, so I’ll keep your email handy for when the details of that are released!

      • Blissdom or Type A would be to dive a little more into the business of blogging and how to make it a financially viable business. I really just want to know if I want to head down that road or not, even though I know it’s tough and very slim chances that a blog is financially successful.

        I go to TBEX mostly for the connections. I’m hoping now that BlogWorld bought it I might get a little more out of the sessions and a different set of people will be speaking this year. Plus it’s my one weekend off from the kids a year ;-)

        Definitely keep me posted on this future event coming up. Would love to know more!
        Keryn @ walking on travels recently posted..What to Expect in 2013My Profile

        • I really enjoyed the conference for all the parties, but I will say I was disappointed that the only workshops I went to were all in the business track and I didn’t walk away having learned a single thing I didn’t already know. Just FYI!

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  1. [...] of the main focuses of the photography workshop I taught at BlissDom this year was how to capture well-known landmarks and scenes in a new light. When we were in D.C. [...]

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