What a week! I’m officially exhausted but made it through a busy week of filming at our shop. It was pretty exciting being used as the set location for a movie and it’s incredible how much happens behind the scenes to make everything come together. Not sure I’ll look at tv the same way again! Monica and I were at the shop until the wee hours last night after the crew packed up and put things to rights and it’s funny how it suddenly looks as though nothing happened, everything’s back to normal! Well, except for the fine dusting of Christmas glitter that we’re sure to be finding for weeks to come 😉 Spring Break starts now and I need to hustle to plan the next two weeks of family fun for the kiddos. We’re not going away (although I dream of heading for hot sand like the photo below!) but we’ll head out on at least a few day trips and activities to keep us all happy and sane. Here are just a few links I’ve loved this week:
Snow day, anyone? After the warm sunshine of last week, our little blizzard this weekend (although anyone used to real snow would probably laugh at our West Coast idea of a blizzard!) was quite the surprise! The snow won’t last long but it sure is pretty. Despite the snowfall (and a very early 4am wakeup call to watch the big hockey game, GOLD!!!), Brad and I took the kids to Victoria yesterday where we attended a memorial service for a family friend. It was a very sad reason for a trip to the Island but we were so glad to be able to attend and celebrate a life well lived. We had hoped to walk around the city in the afternoon but the weather didn’t cooperate so we decided on a whim to go visit the Royal BC Museum and it turned out to be the perfect way to spend a snowy afternoon as a family:
(Excuse the iPhone pics) I hadn’t been to the museum since a grade 6 field trip but it was awesome! We all loved exploring the exhibits and brushing up on the history of our great province and they just happened to have a number of extra creative things going on for the kids during our visit too. If you’re planning a trip to Vancouver Island anytime soon, I’d highly recommend a visit! It was a looong day and despite some very sad moments, it felt really great to get out of town and do something fun together. Sometimes the best family times are the ones least expected, aren’t they? Life is so funny sometimes but I’ll take little doses of happy anytime I can get ’em 🙂
As many of you know, I jetted away to attend Alt Summit last week, a blogging conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. I’ve been asked numerous times (usually accompanied by a skeptical smile) what on earth a blogging conference actually is (and if there are more than 10 people in attendance!) so thought I’d attempt to sum up my experience for you. Alt was organized specifically for creative lifestyle bloggers like myself and topics each year range from “The Business Of Blogging”, “Personal Branding”, “Pinterest Strategies”, to”Growing Your Community” and many more. I went on my own (yep, that’s right!) and actually feel pretty darn proud of myself for taking the leap! While it would have been super awesome to have gone with a friend, not having a “wingman” really pushed me to introduce myself and yes, it was waaay out of my comfort zone. I definitely had some awkward/sweaty-palm/not-sure-where-to-stand-or-look moments and totally missed out on a couple of good interactions because of my own hesitation/fear/nerves but Que Sera Sera, so goes life. My only agenda (so to speak) was to be myself, meet new people and learn as much as possible to bring back to my Spruce partners and to apply here at Birch + Bird. And I’m happy to say that I feel like I accomplished all of my goals, yay!
If you’re looking to attend Alt Summit or another big conference in your field, I thought I’d share some of my top tips + things that I learned from my own experience in chilly Salt Lake:
Invest in eye-catching business cards: I am so glad that I splurged on mine! They were a great conversation piece and honestly stood out from the rest. I’ve never seen so many beautiful cards in one place so, yes, you definitely want yours to be memorable.
Plan out your outfits ahead of time: Although I’ve amped things up since opening Spruce fashion is an area of design that I have yet to master and I was freaking out the week before Alt. My sister-in-law Amy (who also happens to have been one of my best friends since high school) saved the day, in a very BIG way! We raided her closet (which is to-die-for!) for some key pieces (like blazers and statement jewelry) to mix in with things I already had. I chose outfits for each day (and night) before I left and it literally took all of the stress out of what to wear each day. Everyone at Alt Summit is dressed to the nines, not necessarily fancy, just entirely with it. But, to be totally honest, it all became one big blur by day 2 so don’t stress, just be prepared and wear what you feel makes you looks your best.
Stay at the hotel: By the time I bought my conference ticket, the Grand America was sold out so I booked another hotel nearby. Thankfully, some blogger friends had booked an extra room and I was able to cancel my other booking but I think my entire experience would have been much different if I’d stayed offsite. First off, the Grand America is gorgeous so I lived it up for 4 nights, mega perk! Also, I didn’t leave the hotel for 2.5 days. Like, ever. Sure, I felt mildly claustrophobic and Vitamin-D-deprived by Friday night but it was so great to be able to pop up to my room between sessions to drop off swag (there’s lots of it!), freshen up or simply take a break from the masses.
Go with your gut: I did my best to pre-plan what sessions I attended and had a good idea of what I wanted to learn before setting foot in Salt Lake. That being said, a couple of my favourite speakers were ones that I switched to literally 5 minutes before they started, based entirely on recommendations by past-attendees that I sat beside at lunch. So have a plan but be flexible.
Take what you need: On a similar note as going with your gut, if you start a session and realize that you’re not getting as much as you think you should out of it, leave and move onto another one, even if it’s halfway through. I did this twice and was so glad that I did. If you find yourself checking Instagram or catching up on emails, it’s time to move on. Not that what the speakers are saying isn’t awesome, it just might not be what you need.
Get around: Sure, you may go with friends or blogging/business partners but chatting with people you know every meal or break isn’t going to expand your horizons. I made a conscious effort not to cling-on to people I’d talked to before (it was hard!) and to sit next to new people at each meal. But I was lucky enough to know 4 awesome gals from Abbotsford though (hooray for Helinda + Lucy of Vitala and Laurel + Pam of The Sugarplum Sisters) which really made the parties a lot more fun! I had several moments outside of the Alt schedule that I wish I’d had the nerve to pull up a chair with a group of other bloggers but, sigh, I didn’t. Which brings me to my next tip. . .
Don’t get down on yourself: Seriously. The voices in our heads can make us crazy, can’t they? I’ll never be the most fashionable girl at the party or the funniest or the most outgoing etc, etc, etc. But I am me. Mom, wife, friend, store owner, blogger, over-achiever-extraordinaire. Yep, that’s right, I’m awesome and so are you! Sure, moments at big events like Alt may bring you right back to to high school and the cool girls but so what. We’re all nervous and insecure but we also all have a lot to bring to the party. So bring it! “Be yourself and nothing less”, which just so happened to be our “cool girl’s” motto in high school (it’s true, ask Amy 😉
Take time for yourself: Staying at the Grand America was a vacation in itself but I splurged and booked myself in for an extra day. My brain was so full by the end of the conference and I really needed some time to decompress. I also didn’t want to leave Salt Lake without taking a look around so I walked the downtown area on Saturday and was lucky enough to get the grand tour of Park City by my friend’s daughter later that afternoon. We just so happened to see Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd sitting directly behind us at dinner too ? NO JOKE! Overall, it was really relaxing to have so much alone time (I had more baths in 4 days than I usually have in 2 months!) but I do wish that I’d brought some workout gear along with me. I feel like it would have really energized me to hit the gym at least a couple of times during such a information-heavy event. Next time!
I left filled to the brim with ideas but also feeling confident, knowing that great things are ahead for me personally and especially for Spruce Collective. I also realized that the measure of success is very different to different people, and that for me, creating ideas and writing is truly what I am good at so I can’t waver and let self-doubt get in the way. A positive way to kick off the weekend, don’t you think? I’d love to hear your own experiences from Alt Summit or similar conventions so please share!
Hey there! I’m back from my first Alt Summit in Salt Lake City and returned home completely filled to the brim with information, plans and goals for the year ahead. It was a whirlwind experience and I feel like I’m still absorbing what I learned in the seminars, discussed at the round-tables and chatted about with countless other bloggers and attendees. Not to mention the fashion, thank goodness for my sis-in-law Amy’s help in that department! The word overwhelming puts it mildly for a conference like this one. For those of you wondering what in the world Alt is all about, you can find more info here but (in a nutshell) its basically a meeting of the minds for approx 700 bloggers, designers and creative thinkers from all over North America. Here’s just a teensy glimpse at what my time in Salt Lake looked like:
Can I just mention how incredibly stunning the Grand America Hotel is? Sooo beautiful (with chandeliers like the one above absolutely everywhere!) and I found it extremely sad to leave my suite (especially turndown service!) after 4 luxurious nights on my own, sniff sniff! The entire convention took place in the hotel and staying there, while a splurge, definitely made the experience all the easier and I had many a conversation in the elevator and lobby going to and from seminars and quite possibly several more over cocktails in the lounge 😉
The sponsors really pulled out all of the stops with lounges, DIY stations and swag for everyone and there was always something delicious to sip or nibble on in between sessions. To be honest, looking through the rest of the pictures I feel like I didn’t see nearly half of the displays or interactive DIY’s happening, there was simply too much to take in!
Although I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was really impressed by all of the speakers, starting with keynote Garance Dore and capped off at the end with Ben Silbermann, founder of Pinterest. You can see a list of the rest of the star power here too:
I’ll share more about my Alt experience very soon, including a few tips I learned and a several things I’d do differently next time. But overall, I had an amazing time and am so thrilled that I had the opportunity to go this year. My brain is already full to capacity and I haven’t even started sorting through the gazillion gorgeous business cards that I collected along the way! I’m looking forward to checking out many new blogs and websites and will definitely share a recap of my favourite card designs too. Talk to you soon!
Well, hello strangers! Sorry for abandoning ship…I took a little blogging break last week and ended up in wine country, go figure! I turned 34 on Saturday and got whisked away by a couple of girlfriends for a birthday weekend of wine, no cooking, vineyards and heart-to-hearts…a fab way to kick off the year ahead! Here’s a little peek at our shenanigans and you can see more if you follow me on Instagram…
Jennie, Aprille and I stayed for 3 carefree nights at Walnut Beach resort in Osoyoos, and it was so great have so much uninterrupted time together…just enough time to miss our families 🙂 Our only plan for the weekend was to hop on the wine shuttle so that’s where you could have found us, bright and early Saturday morning! It was a long day of tastings but we made time for a delicious lunch at Hester Creek (which we may or may not have repeated the next day) and we met plenty of entertaining folks along the tour. Charlotte from OK Wine Shuttle kept us on track and was the perfect chaperone for the day!
And what’s any birthday without a double rainbow?!? We were lucky enough to see this pair while watching an outdoor concert at Tinhorn Creek. The views in the Okanagan were pretty incredible and we enjoyed plenty of sunshine and pool time in between the clouds. While my liver could use some time to recover, I’m already counting down to our next trip to wine country and feel pretty blessed to have such fantastic friends, not to mention an amazing hubby to man the home-front while I was gone. Hope you’re having a great week so far!
We usually have family movie night on Friday nights but since the opening ceremonies for the London 2012 Olympics is this evening, we’ll be watching! How about you? Here is some Olympic inspiration for you on this lovely Friday.
Happy Monday to you! Was your weekend full of sunshine? I sure hope so. Summer is taking her sweet time getting serious here on the West Coast and it’s hard to believe that we’re in the final countdown until school’s out. Finger’s crossed that the sunshine will be here to stay as soon as that final school bell rings!
I’m fresh from a weekend away with some fab friends. We headed off, away from children and in search of the sun, to Osoyoos on Thursday afternoon but not without a major glitch in our plans soon after we left town. I volunteered to drive but shortly after we entered Chilliwack’s vicinity, my ride started chugging along in a very bad way. It turned out to be my fuel pump, perfect timing right? Long story short, my dad (who happened to be working in Chilliwack at that very moment) pulled into our truck stop, gave Sarrah a lift back to her house to get her car, and had my poor car towed to the mechanic with his towing account…crisis averted! Yay for my super dad and double yay that we broke down so close to home! A couple of hours later, we were back on our merry way. We made a lovely stop in Okanagan Falls for a delicious home cooked feast (courtesy of some of Jody’s sweet clients) before arriving at our Walnut Beach Resort destination. And here’s the view from our patio…ahhhhh!
Here’s where our weekend got interesting. We were pretty surprised that no one working in our resort or at the restaurant where we had breakfast seemed to have any idea about the dozens of local wineries surrounding our resort. It is wine country, after all, and we passed scads of familiar wineries on our drive between Oliver and Osoyoos alone! We really wanted to visit at least a couple if the weather stayed cloudy so we made a trip over to the Tourism Osoyoos building….our best decision of the weekend! While there, Jody managed to “recruit” a super knowledgable fellow to guide us on our tour of local wines the following day…little did we know how lucky we were! We had one quick wine tasting at Nk’Mip Cellars (pronounced ink-a-meep) before heading poolside to enjoy a couple precious hours of warm sun. We returned to Nk’Mip just in time to watch a gorgeous sunset followed by an amazing dinner at Passa Tempo Restaurant. We all loved the concrete floors, rustic wood and hits of deep blue throughout the restaurant’s decor, not to mention the white branches attached to the wall…
I’ll introduce my gorgeous friends….starting from the left is me then Aprille, Sarrah and Jody. And the fine fellow in the tux was our “tour guide” for the day on Saturday…we’ll just stick with calling him “Yedi” for now, since we don’t want him to lose his job over our adventures in wine! He was the perfect host and designated driver for the next seven hours, yes, seven…
First stop, Burrowing Owl Estate Winery. Fantastic view from the tower and you can do a self-guided tour from the base of the cellars to the lookout at the top. Tasting was by donation and the proceeds all go to protecting the burrowing owl in British Columbia…great wine and a good deed!
Just down the road, we popped in to visit the owner of Desert Hills Winery, Randy and we all had such a fun time there. I think we tasted 8 of his award winning wines! Don’t let the plain exterior fool you, this family owned vineyard really knows what it’s doing…
My favourite tasting of the day was at Church & State. “Yedi” had told us the day before about it’s modern cellar and tasting room and I instantly fell in love with it’s minimal concrete and wood architecture. Natasha and John, the owner’s son, were so knowledgable and passionate about their wines. They tasted fantastic and I brought a bottle of their Pinot Noir home for my dad, although now I’m really wishing I brought one home for myself too!
Next stop was Black Hills Winery. Fun fact, Jason Priestly of 90210 fame is one of the many owners! Now, as you can imagine, we were feeling pretty happy by this point and still hadn’t had lunch yet. Poor Dan, our tour guide, was very patient with us, as were the other lovely couple lucky enough to take the tasting with us. This tasting/tour cost $20 a person but was well worth it, although we probably should have done it earlier in the day to ease up on the giggling!
Lunchtime! We took a much needed lunch break at Hester Creek‘s new restaurant, Terrafina, and it was soooo delicious! We shared 3 of their wood fired pizzas and a caprese salad along with lots of water. The restaurant and surrounding gardens were absolutely gorgeous.
Rehydrated and full of pizza dough, we were ready to continue but, unfortunately, my camera battery was not. Luckily, Jody took lots of pictures for me! We enjoyed a lovely tasting inside Hester Creek…they have a fantastic kitchen set-up for chef’s cooking classes…before heading off to three more wineries. Tinhorn Creek has the most spectacular view and their new restaurant is pretty breathtaking too. Our server wasn’t very friendly (at all!) but the sweet lady Carol who welcomed us made up for her snootiness. There’s an amazing amphitheatre below the restaurant that hosts twilight musical performances throughout the summer. Silver Sage was the next vineyard on our list. It had some really fruity wines that tasted exactly like granny smith apples and berries, although they were a bit too sweet for my taste. The tasting host was hilarious and they have a killer hot pepper infused wine, and I mean killer! Our final tour of the day was at La Stella. The tower and building were picturesque and I made sure that Jody took some pics of the blown-glass lights for me. They had some amazing coabalt blue ones illuminating the spiral tower stairs too. Oh, and did I mention that “Yedi” gave me a prize for enjoying the most tastings of the day? Mmm hmm, that’s right.
Our cloudy weekend weather turned out to be perfect for our day amongst the grapes and we are so thankful to “Yedi” for taking us around…we could never have found so many great wineries on our own! It sounds like a lot but don’t worry, the tastings are very small and we paced ourselves well, with lots of snacks on the road between vineyards. Visit the South Okanagan Wine Association to see some of these wineries and more that we missed. And do make sure that you have a designated driver like we did. There are literally hundreds of fantastic vineyards now up and running in the Okanagan and I’m already looking forward to my next visit! Time to recover first though…
Please note that we did not receive promotional compensation or perks of any kind from the hotel, wineries or restaurants mentioned in this post.