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!
(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.