So this being my 3rd straight BlogHer conference I felt I should really be an old pro at it by now. However, with my birthday and all my Jon Hamm fan-girl activity proceeding BlogHer Chicago, I was a bit behind in my preparations. But since I had written a detailed post about the essential things to bring to BlogHer and had the experience from my past excursions, I was pretty sure I’d be okay.
Of course, whenever I leave my family I start to feel some trepidation. I packed the night before (making sure to be out of sight of my emo-dog), having already planned out the outfits I would take. I did use my trip to justify a last-minute dash to Kohl’s and Nordstrom Rack to find cute tops and shoes.
I arrived in Chicago on Wednesday, a full day and a half before the conference began. I had procrastinated until the last few days before my departure to try to find a roommate. I probably sounded pretty desperate on twitter and felt a bit of a loser – but, truth be told, by the end of the weekend, I actually enjoyed having the entire room to myself.
After settling in and unpacking, I headed downstairs for a Welcome Reception, hosted by the Sheraton called, “A Taste of Chicago”. Although I didn’t know any bloggers that would be in attendance (if any) I set out to brave the mean streets of the Sheraton lobby on my own. It was a nice (and FREE!) event with pairings of different wines with complimentary appetizers. I’m not big on seafood but I did manage to finish a lobster roll and something with crab. The accompanying wines probably didn’t hurt!
Sitting by myself, I was approached by a couple from Turkey who were visiting their son that was receiving his PhD at John Hopkins in Baltimore. They were visiting Chicago for the weekend and I guess they felt sorry for me sitting all alone. We talked about their travels and their son. And I tried to explain what a blogger is. That’s always fun … I was so thankful that I had someone to talk to.
Before I drank too much wine I went back to my room to make dinner plans. Had I been smart, I would have made plans in advance…(I’m blaming you, Jon Hamm!) I texted and tweeted my friends who had just arrived but was unable to connect with them.
I turned to twitter and asked:
Anyone at #blogher13 want to meet for dinner? If not I'm room servicing it…
— AllThoseThingsILove™ (@ThoseThingsILov) July 25, 2013
I was thrilled to have a reply from Mary of Franny Cakes.
— Mary Fran Wiley (@frannycakesblog) July 25, 2013
After a few tweets back and forth we found each other in the lobby. I had taken a glance at her blog to see what her niche is – turns out she is a gluten-free blogger. I am not gluten free so this could be a bit interesting! I was happy to have someone to go out to dinner with and she didn’t appear to be a gluten-free serial killer and I was open to trying new things.
Using an iPhone App called Find Me Gluten Free that helps gluten-free diners find restaurants, we settled on Volare, an Italian restaurant on East Grand Street. Over a bottle of wine and half orders of pasta, Mary and I got to know each other and talk about the trials and tribulations of blogging. If you’re searching for gluten free recipes and more information on a gluten-free lifestyle, check out FrannyCake‘s blog.
When I woke Thursday and checked my schedule, I realized that I had not signed up for the Pathfinder Day (a pre-BlogHer conference) as I had thought and was instead rewarded with a relaxing morning before the controversial private parties began. I met up with my friend Jenni from Sweet Pennies From Heaven and her roommates Amanda Joy from The Kids Did It and Becky from The Mommy Island. All of us are in the frugal lifestyle niche so we already have that in common. The four of us became constant companions during the rest of the BlogHer conference and I like to think I have 3 new friends!
We headed out to our first private party, The Fresh & Clean SocialLuxe Lounge sponsored by Cottonelle. When we arrived, we saw a line of ladies waiting to get in. The space was beautifully lit in their signature SocialLuxe pink. Great music, passed apps, French macarons (my Kryptonite) and lovely wines to wash it all down. Attendees were also treated to beauty services downstairs! You could choose from a henna tattoo, a quick up-do or a polish change. I went with the up-do since I am somewhat hair-style challenged.
As I was getting dolled up, another bloggy buddy came up to me and said, “you won!” Evidently I had placed my business card into a drawing and won a Wii console along with Just Dance volumes 1-4 courtesy of UbiSoft!
Amanda, Jenni and Becky had already left to attend another private event for Whirlpool so I decided that me, the Wii and my up-do would walk back to the hotel. My girl, Siri told me that the Sheraton was less than half a mile away, but to my surprise, Siri doesn’t “do” walking directions as well as she does with travel by car. With the Wii console in one hand, the swag bag in the other and trying to figure out Siri’s directions I landed flat. on. my. face.
The bottle of organic lemonade in the swag bag didn’t survive. My phone case separated from my precious iPhone (thankfully no damage) To add to my humiliation, a group of bloggers across the street called out to make sure I was okay. I was sore and shaking. To be upright one moment and on the ground the next is just not right. I was stunned. I pulled up my pant leg to see if I was bleeding and found that all was good, but I could see the start of the bruises to come. With my up-do all a shamble and my body still trembling, I made my way around the corner to the Conrad Hotel and asked the doorman to call me a cab. (Hi, Gracie – you’re a cab.) I didn’t care if the Sheraton was on the next block. I was just a little too shaken to continue.
Safely back in my room, I assessed the damage, rested for a few moments, took some Advil Liqui-Gels, attempted to fix my hair, and checked my schedule to see where I was supposed to be. Oh! The Big Toy Book Sweet Suite Event 2013 – I gingerly made my way to the River East Arts Center on foot. This was a fun event to showcase the latest toys from Skylanders, Lego, Boogie Board, Disney, Beatrix, K’nex and more. You’ll be hearing more about these brands and others as we get closer to the holiday season.
Next was Social Soiree Chicago 2013 sponsored by Personal Shopper by Shop Your Way, HandCraft Artisan Wines and Lands’ End. I wish we had gotten there sooner, but I was getting a bit limpy as the night wore on. The food at Yolk! was amazing. If you’re ever in Chicago and looking for breakfast, Yolk on East Ohio Street is the place to go. We were invited to indulge in some substantial appetizers that included eggs, cheese, sausage, and bacon. Breakfast for dinner! (One thing to know about a BlogHer conference, you may have to subsist on appetizers for about four days – unless you budget dinner into your plan, but still…who has time?)
The sponsors were great – one thing I love about these private parties is having the time to really connect with the sponsoring brands and the ability to present your message and learn more about what they’re looking for in a blogger relationship.
We ended the night at “The Awesome Party” hosted by One2One Network and Yappem – a new social review mobile app. The space was quite lovely at the Crystal Gardens at the end of Chicago’s Navy Pier. (Up a huge flight of stairs…) Maybe it was just the name, but for some reason I was expecting the scene from Hello Dolly in the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant. But, the Crystal Gardens is more of a giant modern greenhouse-like structure with water features over your head, three-story high ceilings with beautiful twinkling lights all surrounded by lush green foliage.
I wish we had arrived earlier as Yappem had planned a bunch of of cool events using their app and I heard the food stations were to die for. One blogger friend, Chloe of The Chloe Chronicles won a pair of gorgeous Manolo Blahnik heels (She traded another blogger her Manolo’s for a pair of Christian Louboutin’s – nice trade there, Chloe!) Another blogger won $12,000! Pretty impressive! I think I may have made it on time had it not been for my tumble earlier in the day. I was starting to feel the bruises coming to fruition. So it was off by taxi back to our hotel. where I found a silly surprise in my room from The Steve Harvey Show …
— AllThoseThingsILove™ (@ThoseThingsILov) July 26, 2013
Next up on my BlogHer13 Chicago recap…. Lucy & Ethel and their evil twins visit Eli’s Cheesecake, more parties, and the BlogHer Expo! Stay tuned!