Friday, November 14, 2014

I'm Gonna Make This Place Your Home for the Holidays

When you live on an island, your excursions are carefully planned but infrequent. So when I first got the email from Alison and Kate about the Boston Bloggers Home for the Holidays event, I figured there was no way I could make it work, and I filed it away in one of my many email subfolders (because even though it’s been a year and a half, I still can’t bear to delete my beloved Boston Blogger communication). I’ve been suffering from some major blog FOMO since I moved to Nantucket in 2013, and every time I get the notice about a meetup or workshop, I cry a little bit inside knowing that there’s no way I can go.

But the more I thought about, the more I was determined to make it work. I mean, it was a Saturday, so it would be possible to get to the city somehow. Only snafu? My previous commitment to work at the museum until midnight the night before. With fifty fourth-graders. The only solution would be to leave on the 6:30 AM boat on Saturday morning, which would require a 5 AM wakeup. But hey, for the chance to reunite with my Boston Blogger ladies and the potential for other off-island adventures immediately following (Panera, Target... need I say more)? Sign me up.

I’m so glad I went, because I had the best time. With all the craziness I feel I have in my life on a day to day basis, I had been feeling very neglectful of my little blog that I used to spend so much time on. It was invigorating to get back in that mindset and be excited again about the prospect of being inspired to write once again.

When they put the word “holiday” in the title, they were serious. This was a full-on seasonal extravaganza, which I appreciated because it forced me to think about the impending merriment that I have been horribly procrastinating on the last few years (case in point: I bought every single one of Steve’s stocking stuffers on Christmas Eve in Hyannis while I was waiting for him to get off the boat, because I’m like the most thoughtful wife ever). We were lucky to have Wayfair host the Boston Bloggers at their offices in Copley Place, which I arrived at approximately thirty minutes late (but still stopped for a photo, because you know, without it, I was never actually there), which I thought was really good timing for someone that had to take a two hour boat ride and then drive from the Cape.

i have arrived.

I was immediately greeted by an immaculately decorated office full of beautiful furnishings… and no bloggers in sight. Because they were all in the keynote presentation that I had missed half of. Oops. I snuck into a free seat and promptly evaluated my swag:

getting my bloggy swag on

The speakers, Heather Armstrong and Christiane Lemieux seemed to be having a general conversation about the blogging process and how to balance this with your life. I wanted to follow everything they were saying, but I was already so distracted by the session schedule that I had trouble focusing on the discussion since I had entered halfway through.

After that, I embarked with group Mistletoe to our first stop, DIY Pennant Banners with members of the Wayfair team, Shelby and Lindsey. The minute they mentioned that this craft was the hit of the Alt Summit, I was like GIVE ME THE BURLAP. They had precut various colors, fabrics and shapes, and we could pick whatever our hearts desired.

In addition, there were strings, ribbons, paints, stencils – everything we needed to make our own masterpiece, perfect for blog holiday décor photos. I decided that mine would say “Merry Merry,” one of my favorite but not universally known holiday messages (it’s from a page in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, where the Whos are having their feast –it’s hanging in the background). Unfortunately I ran out of time and only made it through one “Merry,” but since I was freehanding it with black paint, I decided I would finish it up at home.

Next we moved on to the highly anticipated Tabletop Decorating session with Abby Larson, the creator of Style Me Pretty, aka, the Bible. You may recall I met Abby once at a signing for the Style Me Pretty book (she did too! She either has an amazing memory or is just perpetually nice to stalkers), and this talk did not disappoint.

With the help of a plethora of Wayfair accessories, volunteers designed their own holiday tablescape and the rest of us spectators gave them a thumbs up or thumbs down (we were kind, plus they did a great job). She also provided us with some great tips and tricks for photographing your holiday décor, which if I decorate more than a week ahead of time this year, I intend to put to use.

After that, we were treated to lunch by Kitchensurfing, who made us gourmet grilled cheeses (I went with the bacon + duck confit variety) and soup and I died a little bit.

As we nibbled, Alison held her own “fireside chat” and talked to us about how to balance your life with your holiday blogging schedule. I don't know if you can tell, but she's pretty much about to deliver a baby, so the fact that she did all this work and looked cute doing it is a testament of how awesome she is.

Next I was excited to move onto DIY Gift Tags with Kate, as I had seen her little creations on everyone’s Instagrams that day and knew that we were in for a treat. Under her amazing craft tutilage, we constructed our own gift tags from the likes of paint swatches, shower curtain rings, burlap, stencils, etc.

My mom was so excited about this that she immediately creeped our local Walmart paint section and snagged handfuls of holiday-colored paint chips and we continued the craft session for the next two days. As you can see, I was quite efficient and proceeded to make enough tags to give a present to basically everyone I’ve ever met. You’re welcome.

Our last session with our group was SEOAwesome with a few of the Wayfair techies that really knew their you know what (and obviously get extra ten points just for that name). I have been so inconsistent with just regular blogging things, that getting into all of the analytics that go along with having a successful blog is not something that I’ve really delved too deep into yet. I liked this session though, because even though everyone else there seemed like they were light years ahead of me, our presenters did their part to cover the basics without clearly talking down to the more advanced bloggers in the group. I didn’t even take any photos during this session because I was so obsessively taking notes on every single thing they said and I didn't want to miss anything. 

Finally, all of the groups convened once again for the final event, Menu Planning with Jeremy Sewall of Island Creek Oyster Bar, Lineage, and Row 34 (none of which I’ve ever been too but I now have an inexplicable craving for). 

I’m not exactly what you would call the “menu planner” in my household, but I enjoyed learning the correct way to shuck an oyster and how to deconstruct a lobster (which I surprisingly haven’t learned on Nantucket). He also has a gorgeous new cookbook out that would convince any non-chef that they could easily throw an entire dinner party of New England favorites made from scratch. Also he brought oysters for us to eat, so yeah, he wins. 

After that, it was time for everyone's favorite - cocktail hour. Bloggers + wine = a damn good time. 

or i guess anyone + wine, but still. this is a fun bunch.

Speaking of wine, our libations for the evening were provided by the new Andegavia Cask Wines, which I was very excited to find out had a major Nantucket connection, meaning that they are available at multiple retailers on the island. Since these fun little packages hold four bottles in one convenient recyclable container, it's idea for picking up a few (red and white!) for holiday gatherings. 

i thoroughly enjoyed the sauvignon blanc, but that's no surprise.

I spent the rest of the time catching up with some of my favorite bloggers, like Sara of Forever and a Recipe (who got married!) and Emily of Shell Chic'd (who got engaged!). And since we live our lives on the internet, a selfie was necessary. 

I saw one of the attendees on Twitter saying that they were going to dress "festively comfortable" for the event (whoever you are, you're brilliant and I'm sorry I didn't immediately follow you - please identify yourself!), and I would say that all of us that showed up in plaid were totally on the same page.

l.l. bean ain't got nothing on me, NatalieSusan

I also spent an unhealthy amount of time exploring the Wayfair office and snapping photos of my favorite areas. It may be my new favorite place. Can I just move in there?

And because they are so amazing (and know the way straight to a blogger's heart) there were gifts. Yep - those presents under the tree weren't just for show. 

alana of the good girl gone blog is very excited about her cheese board.

Because I had my car with me and I am a child at heart, I chose one of the biggest bags and was pleasantly surprised to fine a gorgeous blue pillow that already matched the color scheme in my living room (coincidence? Or is Wayfair just that good?). 

downside: it made me realize how dingy my other pillows are. yikes.

Love this look? You can get your own (it comes in two colors, and it's on sale!) here. I'm already thinking about getting a second one and doing a full update for the couch. I mean, most of the ones I have are from Home Goods circa five years ago, and that orange one is technically an outdoor pillow. #bloggersecrets

It even got the Schooner seal of approval (i.e., he's not ripping it apart, so we have a win). 

All in all, it was such an amazing day, and I'm so thankful that I got to be there. If you just can't get enough of this event (and obviously, I can't), check out the official photos from Third Eye Chic on her blog too.

Thank you to all of the people that were involved in making this such a great experience for all of us bloggers!


P.S. I've had a lot of questions about my outfit (which I love, so keep 'em coming!), so I had to share my official #ootd pic:

I have to admit, I was really stumped on this one. There was no official dress code, but knowing that when you go to these events that it's at least half-full of fashion bloggers, you gotta dress to impress. Also you're not only representing yourself, but your blog too. Since I would be heading their straight from the boat with no time to ravage a Forever 21 or something for a last minute item, I had to call in the big guns, which meant texting my fashionista friend Sarah frantically at 10 P.M. the night before with crazy selfies I had to take standing on a stool in my bathroom because I broke my full length mirror. She gave me some super helpful recommendations of things that I already had, and together, we came up with this. I was so flattered to get complimented many times that day by all these people who have style that I am in awe of. So thank you! Also, here are the outfit details:

TJ Maxx top (circa 2 years ago, similar here) / NY & Company skirt (I feel bad that so many people asked me where to get this, but it's literally from like four years ago. This is the only one I could find online that wasn't $400) / Express tights / Sears booties (old, similar here) / ILY Couture necklace / Forever 21 bow (old, similar here) / Ink Revival nametag (they did all the amazing calligraphy for the event!)

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