Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blissdom 2010, Rain Forests and Oatmeal

Blissdom 2010Have you ever been to a conference? You know, where you get to be at a gathering of a million people you probably don't know after traveling far from home to stay in a hotel room where you maybe don't sleep so well? I've been to a few of them and while they're usually informative and helpful I can't wait to get home again to all my familiar comforts.

But going to Nashville for the Blissdom conference last week was different. As in WOW, way better! Why was it so fabulous? I'm glad you asked . . .

The Gaylord Opryland Hotel1. The Opryland Hotel. Usually these things are held in nice hotels--Hilton, Westin, Sheraton, whatever--and while that's all well and good and probably very historical the Gaylord Opryland was better. The rooms were about the same but the hotel itself was like a day at Disneyland--the 2800 rooms are built around this sprawling complex of waterfalls, ponds, fountains and gardens underneath a glass ceiling so even though it's 50 degrees outside and rain (which it was) you could sit by the waterfall and pretend you're hanging out in a rain forest. With your computer.

Because the whole place had upgraded wifi just for the conference--now when was the last time you sat in a rain forest and Skyped your husband? And for those of you who don't know what Skype is that probably sounds rather suspicious but I guess you'll just have to look it up and trust that this is a clean blog.

There are several restaurants right there on the water and it kind of reminded me of the Blue Bayou restaurant at Pirates of the Caribbean. Only it wasn't completely dark and you didn't have mechanical pirates shooting cannonballs at you and the food was half the price and twice the quality. I didn't say it was exactly like the Blue Bayou--only kind of, in a much better way.

2. Complete with a Tea Party. And speaking of the hotel, as proof that it was quite the attraction guess who else was hanging out at Blissdom? Sarah Palin. Apparently she'd heard about a rather questionable piece I'd written and she wanted to speak to me about it. I told her I'd be happy to meet with her after my panels were finished and to wait for me by the iRobot booth but then she got really nervous and decided to ditch me. At least that's the story that's going around.

Of course the other story is that the first ever Tea Party convention was held in the room next door to Blissdom which probably explained all the strangely dressed men in colonial garb and tri-cornered hats. It took me a while to put that one together but then I got it. You've never seen such a long line of people all dressed in various forms of the American flag. Hats, shirts, pants, ties--all with the stars and stripes on it and I felt quite under-dressed.

The Vintage Pearl3. Great Swag. In fact I felt kind of sorry for them, standing for hours in line like that while we were having a lot more fun next door. I didn't want to make them feel bad by showing them all the great swag we'd got because even though they'd paid $550 to get in they didn't seem to have much to show for it.

I got this beautiful pair of earrings from The Vintage Pearl, a gorgeous silver necklace especially designed for the conference speakers at Blissdom from Lisa Leonard Designs and two--count them TWO--pairs of socks and a t-shirt from Hanes. Round that out with cute little personalized tags and stickers for my kids from Mabel's Labels, make-up from Cover Girl and two bags of Hershey's fine Bliss chocolates which have pretty much mysteriously disappeared since last Thursday. Hmmmm . . . wonder what happened to those? Great sponsors who deserve a bit of recognition for helping to make Blissdom so memorable and fun. Maybe the Tea Party can get them to sponsor their next convention?

Harry Connick Jr.4. Make That the Best Swag EVER. Though I have to admit my favorite, most bestest swag ever was the authentic, genuine, personally autographed Harry Connick Jr. CD!!! I already mentioned how great the concert was and how I'm standing there with his arm around my shoulder feeling rather sheepish but later in my bag I discovered this latest album signed by the Man Himself.

Best song on it? "Besamé Mucho" or maybe "Mona Lisa." Gorgeous stuff.

Harry Connick Jr. at BlissdomAs promised, here's the picture of meeting Harry from Darcy at My Three Boybarians and since you're probably wondering who those other women are (top row, left to right) me, Harry, Dana Loesch from Mamalogues, Tannis Miller from Redneck Mommy, Lindsey Ferrier from Suburban Turmoil, (bottom row, left to right) Isabel Kallman from Alpha Mom and Catherine Connors from Her Bad Mother. I believe Tannis threatened him with her cane at some point.

5. Other Tasty Things. All the other conferences I've been to serve food that tastes as if it's been sitting at the Quik-E Mart for several years, gathering bacteria and other flavorful additions but it just goes to show you what happens when you do a conference right. The food was quite good, for lunch on Friday (sponsored by Hunt's) celebrity chef George Duran did a cooking demonstration where he prepared an Italian entree of ricotta-stuffed eggplant and after the show we adjourned to one of the restaurants where we were served the dish to try for ourselves.

Now I have to say that while I was watching him up there he pulled out a long, rubbery, shimmering slice of eggplant and I nearly lost it. I've never been a fan of eggplant and he totally lost all credibility the minute I saw that thing come out but by the time I was sitting at the restaurant, plate in front of me, I was completely starving and I decided to be brave. I took a taste and actually it was very good. And when I say good I mean that you couldn't taste any eggplant at all. Whew! I was nervous there. Anyway, it was great and that's how it was the whole time--good food and plenty of in-between treats.

6. Oatmeal? What Oatmeal? In fact, I really have to give Blissdom credit for all that great food. Orville Reddenbacher, Con Agra, Hunt's--some great sponsors that made for tasty vittles. I'd told Andrew before I left that even with their tv dinners the family would probably be eating better than I would, given the history of conference cuisine, but when I saw the first breakfast spread with that glorious heap of eggs and bacon and all sorts of fattening stuff I was in heaven.

And the best part? They had oatmeal but they put the container at the very end of the banquet table so that by the time I got to it I'd already filled my plate with other tasties. Talk about your good planning! If I'd seen the oatmeal at the beginning of the line I would have felt totally guilty and would have had my sad little bowl of healthy stuff but as it was there wasn't anything I could do--forget the oatmeal, I went right for the good stuff. Thanks Blissdom!

7. Have Some Hot Chocolate! Right outside the conference rooms was the ConAgra Foods booth where they had hot chocolate ready and waiting, complete with aerosol whipped cream. Now that's what I'm talking about. I'd finish a session, run out to the lobby, grab some hot chocolate then lusciously thaw in time for the next round. Though one does have to ask who it was who decided that air conditioning was a good idea in the middle of a Tennessee winter?

8. Great Sessions. Of course I'm probably rather biased here but I thought the sessions were great---enough to give you lots to think about but not so many as to overload you with information.

Saturday morning I was on the "Blogging with the Stars" session where Holly Buchanan moderated Tsh Oxenreider, Melissa Michaels, Dana Loesch and me in a panel discussion about how to grow your blog then later that afternoon I lead the final session of "Memoir Writing: The Power and Mystery of Telling Your Story" and had a great time with Catherine Connors, Tannis Miller and Megan Jordan who are all storytellers that know a thing or two about their craft.

I've been told that the sessions are all going to be transcribed and will soon be available for purchase through the Blissdom site for those who might want to hear what went on.

And as a plug--Megan Jordan, Leslie Flinger and I are looking at putting together a similar panel for the upcoming BlogHer conference in New York this summer called "Controversial v. Commercial: A Cage Match Between Your Independent Blogging Goals and Your Professional Blogging Ambitions" and I'd love you forever if you would go to the link and give it a vote--I believe you have to be logged into the BlogHer site to see the voting links at the top of the page. We'd love to see you there!

And finally--the best part about Blissdom (and I know you'd think it was the food given the way I've gone on about it) was meeting great bloggers and kind people. I tried to write down each person I met so I could give you an idea of the people who were there though I probably missed someone important. I'm afraid the people I knew the best I forgot to write down because I already knew them and even now I keep remembering people I'd forgotten but I'd highly recommend visiting each of them on Twitter and Facebook--if you're looking for people to follow and read here is a great place to start.

Aliza Sherman from Babyfruit
Allison Czarnecki from Petite Elefant
Alli Worthington from Blissfully Domestic
Amanda White from Oh Amanda
Amy Johnson from She Wears Many Hats
Amy Clark from Mom Advice
Amy Turn Sharp from Double-vay
Arianne Segerman from To Think Is To Create
Barbara Jones from The One2One Network
Becky Zemansky from The Violet Fig
Casey Mullins from Moosh in Indy
Catherine Connors from Her Bad Mother
Christine McMenemy from A Mommy Story
Christy Matte at Quirky Fusion
Cynthia from Nap Warden
Dana Loesch from Mamalogues
Danielle Smith from Extraordinary Mommy
Darcie Maranich from Such the Spot
Dawn from My Home Sweet Home
Deanna Garrison from Domestic Chicky
Debba Haupert from Girlfriendology
Ellen Seidman from To the Max
Emily Freeman from Chatting at the Sky
Heather Solos from Home Ec 101
Holly Buchanan from Marketing to Women Online
Isabel Kallman from Alpha Mom
Jamie Reeves from Blonde Mom Blog
Janice Croze from 5 Minutes for Mom
Jenn Fowler from Frugal Upstate
Jennifer Schmidt from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
Jenny Viars from Great Little Stories
Jill Anderson from The Diaper Diaries
Jo-lynne Shane from Musings of a Housewife
@justicefergie from Blogalicious Conferences
Katja Presnal from Skimbaco
Katie Howard from Blissfully Domestic
Kim Christopherson from The DIY Dish
Kim Moldofsky from Hormone Colored Days
Kimba Rugh from A Soft Place to Land
Kristi Mendez from Blogger Black Book
Lora Fanning from Vitae Familiae
Laurie Turk from Tip Junkie
Leisa Hammett from
Linda Sellers from Short Pump Preppy
Lisa Leonard from Lisa Leonard Designs
Liz Strauss from Successful Blog
Liza Berry-Kessler from Liza Was Here
Lucretia Pruitt from Geekmommy
Maggie Whitley from Gussy
Malia from Just Malia
Marie LeBaron from Make and Takes
Megan Jordan from Velveteen Mind
Melanie from A Dramatic Mommy
Melanie Nelson from Blogging Basic 101
Melissa Michaels from The Inspired Room
Melissa Stover from A Familiar Path
Melitsa Avila from Play-Activities
Meredith Pelham from Like Merchant Ships
Molly Sandquist from Cooking with Caitlin
Nell Floyd from My 3 Volvo Life
Nicole Bateman from Apron Strings Aflutter
Robin Dance from Pensieve
Sarah Pinnix from Real Life Sarah
Sarah Bane from
Staci Brown from Simply Staci
Stephanie Precourt from Adventures in Babywearing
Sugar Jones from Sugar Jones TV
Tanis Miller from Attack of the Redneck Mommy
Tsh Oxenreider from Simple Mom
Wendy Piersall from the Sparkplugging network

Sponsored by Dimples and Dandelions


Becky said...

Awesome recap! Thanks for mentioning me *blush*

Ellen said...

I thought it should have been called Opry Universe, that place was HUGE. Happily, I think all that walking around offset my newfound addiction to those Allegra Fried Onion Sticks. Eek.

Can I tell you that my favorite freebie, aside from Lisa's lovely necklace, was the pair of Hanes socks? Nothing like getting a nice pair of soft white socks.

Wonderful to meet you! I love your idea for the BlogHer panel, and will run (not walk) my little fingers to go vote. I will be there, it's my neck of the woods!

Adventures In Babywearing said...

I love this recap, Michelle! You've told a great Blissdom story here. So good to see you and you were fabulous on your panel!!!


Katja of Skimbaco said...

It was so great to meet you!! I had such a great time at Blissdom, even though didn't get to hang out with everyone as much as I wanted to.

Kim Moldofsky said...

What a recap! It was nice meeting and I appreciate the mention. I love your proposed BlogHer workshop; might even be enough to get me to attend this year.

amy turn sharp of doobleh-vay said...

that was great baby! Thanks for the shout out- I blush! xo

Jendi said...

I got to meet you too! We didn't talk much, but I can say that I met Scribbit. :)

I miss Blissdom.

Melissa @ The Inspired Room said...

Hi Michelle! It was great meeting and chatting with you during our session!

Blissdom was amazing and I loved reading your recap!


Denise said...

I have never heard about Blissdom before but the way everyone seems to be raving, I so want to go. But I want to go at the Grand Hotel there in Nashville. LOVELY! My sister and best friend have been there and I hope to one day make it....

I found your blog thru Our Crazy Boys which then sent me to check out Such the Spot that then sent me here. This is the first I have read of it, and I have to say, I loved this post.

So, you did NOT get to meet Sarah Palin? How sad. Cracked me up to hear about all the tea partiers, and loved the hot cocoa story and laughed aloud at the oatmeal at the end of the table. I will be checking out your blog, I can tell this will be fun!

Thanks for posting so much about blissdom!

Headless Mom said...

Excellent list! I know that getting that all together takes a sweet forever! I'm soooo glad you had fun-I know that you needed the break AND the positive blog experience. Hopefully I'll see you in NYC!

emily said...

This was a great recap, Michelle. So glad I got to meet you in person and I hope I didn't freak you out in the elevator, but I just couldn't help it. Scribbit! In the elevator!

Hillary @ The Other Mama said...

Great recap! I had a WONDERFUL time at Blissdom and can't believe I didn't get to meet you. After I have fully recovered (my feet that it) from the awesomeness that was blissdom, I have GOT to finish my post about it today! So glad to have the pics with Harry now, as proof. Not that I've washed my hand since, but I like a little photographic evidence.

Maggie Whitley {Gussy} said...

hi there :) you are so sweet for including me on your list! :)

My friend lives in Buckland, AK. She's a teacher in the village. Just a little random FYI from Gussy ;)

Sandi said...

Such an amazing event. I am an almost empty nester who would have loved this community of women as a young mother! Love your "pink book" and the collaborative spirit of sharing behind it.

Marie {Make and Takes} said...

What a list! Thanks for including me. It was great to meet you. Glad they finally let you in to see Harry ;)

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

We are actually thinking of doing a "staycation" spring break next month and taking our girls for an overnight stay at Opryland Hotel. Even though I live in Nashville I NEVER go there! It is gorgeous, isns't it?

So nice to finally meet you in person and to hear your panel.

Oh and I'm mad at myself for never trying that delicious hot chocolate!

Kaz and Amy said...

Great recap! I wish I could have met you in person also at Blissdom:) Maybe next time..

Priscilla - Wheelchair Mommy said...

Awesome post and thanks for all the links . I plan to look up some of these new bloggers --

The Texas Bakers said...

How fun that you were invited to speak at a conference! And to meet Harry on top of all that swag and hot chocolate?!?!?! Well, it just doesn't get much better than that.

Staci said...

The hot chocolate was my fave too! Especially since some of those conference rooms were cold enough to hang meat in!!

You are too sweet to include me in that list of awesome bloggers!! I feel like a little peon (is that a word?) next to some of those big time bloggers!

You are awesome!!

Petit Elefant said...

Thanks for the link love, man! It was great to finally meet you in real life, to hang out with someone taller than me.

Ditto on the hot chocolate. I love that they provided that for those of us who don't drink coffee! Little touches.

ParkerMama said...

There is the CBC conference here in Utah in May. I'm speaking. Can you come? :D

Heather Solos said...

I enjoyed meeting you and I admire your ability to put together a fantastic recap. I got as far as logging into the admin panel of my personal site and then said, forget this. I think Blissdom will be it for me until Type A, but after that, I'll be a conference attending fool (which is just a slightly more giddy / exhausted version of my usual foolish self).
I'm glad I had a chance to meet you.

Suzi Dow said...

Michelle - Your week was way more fun than mine. I'm doing jury duty =< Can't wait to hear about all the good stuff you learned. FYI - we've been dealing with a bunch of spammers too. Guess they don't get out much.

Daisy said...

Sarah Palin ditched you?! How tacky. But quitting was tacky, too.

Anonymous said...

I was totally bummed I couldn't get to Blissdom, but I'm so FREAKING EXCITED that I'll finally get to meet you at BlogHer in NYC.

What a fantastic list you compiled and a great recap.

Lori said...

Sounds like it was a Disneyland experience and a half! Beautiful hotel, yummy food, awesome swag, and amazing entertainment.

Musings of a Housewife said...

Meeting you was one of the highlights of my trip! I'm so glad we got to chat for a few minutes after Tastemakers. You were every bit as lovely as I expected. :-) What a fun recap!

Melitsa @ Playactivities said...

Great recap. What a workout each day and what a nice way to do it. No complaints here :)
It was nice to meet you. Thanks for the mention.

Jen@balancing beauty and bedlam said...

It's so fun to put a face and name together. Ally introduced us as we briefly walked to lunch and then someone how I lost you (which was NOT hard to do in that place). :) So thrilled you were able to come and share at Blissdom.

Stephanie said...

An excellent recap!

I want to know how much of that Sarah Palin story is true. ;)

Also: I would have been pretty excited about the Hanes socks too. I really like that brand - affordable, durable. Tim and I have been wearing our Hanes zip-up sweatshirts all over the place this winter.

Last Thing: I love the hot chocolate idea. Especially with whipped cream. Mmmm.

Alice Wills Gold said...

If I thought of myself as a real blogger, I would have forked over the cash to come. And I would have waited in line to meet you. Really. Not because I am star struck, but just because I consider you a friend.

I love the Opry Land hotel. If you would have seen the tree lady, you would have mentioned it. she walks around the garden and is very freaky. I am serious.

And I LOVE that they had hot chocolate..that is not really a southern thing though. It is hard to find hot chocolate normally. I would think that would be more of a Utah thing, but I would never argue with the gloriousness we call canned whipped cream.

Maybe next time. glad you enjoyed. Next time get them to put up some of us little people for free and I will be there. :)

Linda S said...

Meeting you was definitely a highlight! Opryland was fabulous, and I can't imagine a better place to have a conference. Surely hope to see you next year!!

casual friday every day said...

Yours is, by far, the best recap!


MelADramatic Mommy said...

I'm glad I got to experience Blissdom. I've only been to BlogHer and this is a nice contrast (smaller). I enjoyed your panel. :D Thanks for including me on the list. I'm honored to be in such great company.

Leisa Hammett said...

Oh, my?! Where have I been? Blush. What a great new redesign! I was self-googling trying to find a post I'd written (yeah, you probably have a system for that!) and found the mention of my blog here. Thank you so much! It was great meeting you! Probably one of the Blissdom highlights for me!

ExtraordinaryMommy said...

Oh my, I am so late to visit you :) It was wonderful to finally meet you in person (even for a few moments) Thank you so much for including me in your list - I'm delighted to be in such amazing company!