The Blog Connect 2017 | Behind the Scenes

POP, POP, POP! It’s the end of the day on Sunday the 23rd, the day of The Blog Connect, and all I can do as I stand with scissors demolishing the balloon wall with Amber and Tim is laugh and think about the glorious burger I am going to eat at Fountain Porter once the cleanup is finished. I am happy to report the day was a definite success with only a few (minor) hiccups.

I cannot give enough props to the team for bringing everything, and everyone together for this conference. There was a lot of heart that went in and I think everyone felt it. L to R: Priyanka, Melissa, Chrystina, Me and Sarah (Not shown here is Amber our incredible social media-er.)

For those of you who were at last year’s conference, you know we had flowers by After Eight Events (Now Fete Urbane.) Because it was the first year and there were so many unknowns to focus on, I really wanted to lean on their skills to bring the decor together. We met up, I handed over the inspiration for the conference theme and explained what I had in mind – they took it from there. This year was a whole different ball-game. Because we stayed in the same space at Saxbys, there was a lot of familiarity with the areas we were working with, which is particularly helpful when all the work toward the event was happening after business hours on my end. I got to really play around with different set ups when planning out the space and it was a blast!

The inspiration that I pulled together to give the look and feel of the conference really shined through in Saxbys amazing headquarters. We had a balloon wall, a streamer wall, and lots of fun balloon areas throughout the space. With seating for 80 and three separate breakout session areas, we created an event space that was super welcoming and intimate while giving enough room that no one was talking over each other.

Kicking off The Blog Connect

After months of planning, the weekend of The Blog Connect began with the team getting together on Friday (with added help from my amazing roommate) to have a balloon-blowing streamer-hanging pizza-eating extravaganza. It was great. On Saturday afternoon my roommate, Jess, Chrystina and I got into Saxby’s and did as much set up as we could accomplish in 2 hours. We assembled the balloons from the night before into the balloon wall and hung the streamers. Between that, moving tables and chairs into their designated areas for breakout sessions, and getting all of the chairs in the main speaking area set up, things were really coming together.

Time came to head to the party at ellelauri and I took a final look at the space. There were a few areas that needed some love, so after the party I put together a few smaller balloon sculptures (? Idk what you would call them lol) to bring with me and add in the am.

An awesome view of the party at ellelauri that helped us kick The Blog Connect weekend off

Arriving at ellelauri was a pleasant surprise, it’s just off Chestnut on 19th  – a street I walk down all the time but I’ve never noticed the shop. I blame phone syndrome. They had a ton of adorable clothes and accessories and, thanks to their relationship with our Party Planner Priyanka, were so accommodating.

It was so exciting to see so many faces I haven’t seen at past PHLbloggers events. Nothing makes me quite as excited as meeting new people who are excited to learn and share their skills with others. One of the highlights from the party for me was getting my hair done at the braid bar by Concihairge. They did this really awesome ponytail/braid which I proceeded to teach myself how to do a couple of days later because I want to wear my hair like that all the time LOL.

Super cool braid-mohawk-thing by Concihairge

The party raffle table featuring everyone’s favorite Groundswell Greetings card

Chatting with ellelauri buyer Amanda about Melissa’s awesome dress that won her a prize at the party as the best-dressed guest!

I believe I am discussing the potential for a water bottle’s versatility here with speakers Andy Shaw and Jess Herbine

(Told you Melissa’s dress was cute :))

Conference Day

We started out Sunday morning bright and early putting final touches on every area in the conference space at Saxbys. Balloons were filled with helium, tape was secured and computers were hooked up. It was time to let everyone be a part of the experience we had worked six months on curating.

Everyone that walked through the door was greeted by our sponsor directors, Sarah and Melissa. When they checked in, they received a nametag, which I hand-lettered for each guest, along with a Life Planner from Erin Condren. These planners are a total game-changer. Erin Condren blew the team away by first offering to sponsor a Life Planner for each guest and THEN by following up with an offer to use The Blog Connect 2017 ‘Blog It Better’ branding on them, making a custom edition Life Planner just for our attendees. I don’t think I am alone in saying that a lot of the inspiration and knowledge I gained from the speakers was translated into notes and actionable plans in that planner throughout the day.

After checking in the guests walked into photo area number 1, which totally set the vibe for the day. A giant streamer wall with what have become our traditional PHL balloons greeted guests and provided a nice good morning view before they entered the conference area. It was really fun thinking about how to make this space a collaborative area that would encourage attendees to interact with each other and the space itself. I loved seeing people say, “Hey would you mind taking my picture?” and then walking away in a full conversation with their new photographer-turned-friend who they hadn’t known 2 minutes prior.

Sarah Morgan from XO Sarah sharing 10 no-bs blogging strategies that take your traffic, list, and social media to the next level.

Sola Onitiri from Lifestoned Adventures talking about the importance of honest branding in the larger blogosphere.

Andy Shaw from instafather sharing tips on HOW to write in your voice, not just what to write

Walking into the main conference space led attendees to the awesome Saxbys staff, ready to provide them with whatever their caffeine-driven-heart desired. With a combination of a caffeine buzz, full belly’s courtesy of Schmear It, and the welcoming light of the space, moods were high and the conference kicked off with a bang. Sarah Morgan, Andy Shaw, Sola Onitiri, Jess Herbine led speaker sessions sharing tons of valuable information on how to Blog It Better. Workshops by Angelica Yarde, Angela St. Cyril, and Jennifer Dziura gave attendees actionable steps to building different types of products for their audiences. Cupcakes by Ruth gave everyone a chance to move around and make delicious unicorns. And the day wound up with our amazing panelists Amber Burns, Erica Ligenza, and Nicole Raudonis discussing different aspects of working with brands.

Our awesome attendees learning from Andy Shaw

Emcee for the day – Samantha Van Adelsburg

Makin unicorn cupcakes with Cupcakes by Ruth

Some gals & their cupcakes – L to R Amber, Me, Priyanka, and Allison

Angela St. Cyril from Setting My Intention sharing practical steps for writing, marketing, and launching your first eBook

Jennifer Dziura from Get Bullish talking about ways to monetize your blog by selling physical products

Angelica Yarde from Studio 404 talking about turning blog content into a podcast worth subscribing to and the steps to get you there

Jess Herbine sharing an info PACKED presentation on SEO

Erica, Nicole & Amber dicussing best practices for working with brands as a blogger with Chrystina moderating

Because of all the hard work on the part of Chrystina, Sarah and Melissa, everyone was well fed. Thanks to all of our speakers and contributors, everyone was given tools and tips for taking their blogs to the next level. We came together for a second year, and the experience was bigger and better. I am so happy to have been a part of the team for year number two and hope everyone had an incredible experience!

 

..and DAMN was that Sunday night burger good. -xx

Cry Babies Art Show | Showing Support for the ACLU of PA

Cry Babies Art Show | Showing Support for the ACLU of PA

Photos courtesy of Tim Becker

The Cry Babies art show was a huge success. Thanks to everyone who donated art and everyone who showed up, we were able to raise money for the ACLU of PA. Thanks to our ACLU rep, Aarthi Manohar, people left better informed about the importance of the ACLU’s work. I will be writing a post that goes into this in a bit more detail.

Benefitting the ACLU of PA

I want to start off by thanking everyone who came Friday night. The outpouring of support helped reaffirm that we are in this together. The ACLU has already played a huge part in acting as a check & balance to the Trump administration. Based on the last 9 days, we are going to need them to be able to continue doing that in the years to come. Friday’s event raised over $1000. Final numbers are still being calculated because the food truck that was posted outside of the event, Dump-N-Roll, has decided to donate their sales from the night as well!

A piece by my co-host Margo Hurst

Submission by Keyonna Butler

 

Submission by Angela Rio

Submission by Corey Danks

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ACLU rep Aarthi Manohar signing up new volunteers

[column grid=”4″ span=”2″]Bai stopped by with some donated beverages <3 [/column]

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Hanging in the Space

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Art by Nathan Hurst

Submissions by (L to R) Jacqueline Powell, Weston Kenley, and Margo Hurst

Jacqueline Powell’s submission

One side of my piece for the show

A good friend of mine came up to me at one point and said how happy they were to be in a place where people were having real conversations about what is happening in our country right now. Not only that, but people were making plans. They were discussing how they were taking action, and finding more ways to collaborate. This is so important. We have work to do and we can’t do it if we are segmented.

How We Can Move Forward

One of the most influential tools we have as a collective group is our money. In the same way that we can divest our financial interests from groups that do not act for the betterment of our country, we should support those who are acting for the betterment of our country. Whether it’s a recurring monthly donation of $5 or a one time thing, I highly recommend finding a way to contribute to the causes that are important to you. The organizations that are trying to help need resources and all the small $5 donations add up fast! If you are interested in supporting the ACLU further, here is a link to their donation page. I understand that financial donations aren’t always an option, I am going to put together a list of some alternative things you can do if that’s the case!

Like I mentioned before, I am planning on writing a more in depth post about the ACLU. Do you have any questions in particular? Is there anything else that you want to know about in regards to lending a helping hand?

 

#Resist in Philly | A Benefit Art Show and Protests

#Resist in Philly | A Benefit Art Show and Protests

Hello, hello and happy Wednesday! I am super excited to share more details on a couple of events happening this week, one of which I have been working on with friends. I am honored to contribute to one event and help spread the word about another. The time to #resist in Philly is definitely here, and there are a lot of opportunities to stand up for justice and to educate yourself on how you can help.

Post-election the city is full of activism and education, not to say it wasn’t before – but once again it is on the fore front and gaining traction. After the election I mentioned that I would be getting a little more political on here. The reasoning is I am political. I do not hide my beliefs. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to have conversations with people who think differently, on the contrary I want to talk to as many people as possible that are willing to have a two-sided discussion. I also want to provide as much info as I can for anyone who wants to be more active in the fight for a progressive United States.

#BlackOutForHealthCare

For those of you in Philadelphia who are sympathetic – The GOP is having a “retreat” at the Loews hotel today and tomorrow. There are plenty of groups going to protest and you can see a collective list here. If that is not an option for you you can wear all black to mourn the loss of the 43,000 lives that are projected to be lost if the ACA is repealed. Share your story on social media using the hashtag #BlackOutForHealthCare.

 

Long post in support of #blackoutforhealthcare • Before the ACA I worked for a company that paid me barely above the poverty line and didn’t provide any sort of insurance assistance. I paid $99 a month for a plan that would literally only help me if I had some sort of catastrophic event. That $99 meant I wouldn’t have money for atleast one week of groceries, but I made up for that by working at a restaurant on the weekends where I would take uneaten food. Essentially I just crossed my fingers that I wasn’t going to get sick…and that someone was going to order an extra plate they didn’t eat. The one thing that I had through all of this was that I knew if something REALLY bad happened, someone in my family would be able to help me out. I also wasn’t supporting a family. For a lot of people that’s not an option – the ACA is that helping hand. It’s the difference between living and dying because prescriptions are too expensive. Because they have a pre-existing condition that disqualified them from the old system. Because mental health and preventative care didn’t matter before the ACA. This is a lifeline in this country. In the short amount of time we have had access to the ACA people have started to realize how much you can do when you have preventative care. With preventative care you are able to recover if you do get sick vs. constantly getting to 90% only to fall back into the depths of that flu you can’t quite kick. Yes it needs work. No it doesn’t need to be erased. #repairdontrepeal #endthestigma #resist

A photo posted by smoorelovin (@smoorelovin) on

The Cry Babies Art Show Benefiting The ACLU of PA

I am super excited to share this event. My friend Margo and I have been working to get this event together since the election. Ten artists & Designers and 3 DJs have put together an awesome show to raise money for an organization who’s advocacy work is going to be vital in the coming years – the ACLU of PA. Along with all the awesome art and tunes, Bai Beverages will be stopping by to give out some of their delicious antioxidant drinks, the Dump-N-Roll food truck will be parked out front, and beer will be available with your $5 admission fee at the door.

Did I mention that all proceeds go to the ACLU of PA? That means that anything you buy inside the art show is going straight to them and their incredible team of advocates. I hope to see you there! Here’s the facebook event if you would like more info 🙂

P.S. Come say hi to me because I will be a nervous wreck, I have never shown my art before.

Note: This event or its organizers are not directly affiliated with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, nor has the organization officially endorsed this event.

 

Happy New Year Everyone!

Happy New Year Everyone!

I got to add my ‘We Can’ post-it to the Love wall in NYC 🙂

Happy New Year, we have made it through 2016! Thank goodness. I am welcoming 2017 with skeptical but open arms. Reflecting on the last year over the last few weeks reminded me of the good and the not so great.

2016 had some really low points for me. There’s all the obvious crazy stuff that has been in the news (and the fact that the news itself has become a constant negative cycle.) But on top of that – I almost lost my mom. We are walking into a nightmare of a presidency (imo.) A large percentage of the world has managed to completely lose the ability to empathize with people who are ‘different’ than them. These things scare me.

I also had the opportunity to take some incredible trips this past year. There was a road trip up the coast of California to see Yosemite and Grand Sequoia National Park. My first trip to Europe where I visited Munich, Salzburg, Budapest and Zurich. My friends and loved ones continue to blow my mind with their ability to break down my walls through kindness and love.

Taking all of this into account I’ve got some big plans for 2017. Here is one way I am going to kick the year off right.

Starting the Year on a Better Note

To start the new year on the right note, I am taking action to support things I believe in. My friend Margo and I have put together an art show. The day after the election we connected over facebook about our dissatisfaction with the results and our desire to actually do something about it.

On January 27, we are hosting a show at the Maas building featuring ten artists, all for the benefit of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. The cost per person is $5 at the door. That money will be donated directly to the ACLU of PA along with any proceeds from art sales. Margo is working with some awesome sponsors to be sure there are drinks and tunes for everyone and I am super excited! I would love to see you all there, the event is on facebook here.

Cheers to a powerful new year for us all!

Out of Office | Off on an European Adventure!

Out of Office | Off on an European Adventure!

Today is the day! Today I leave for my first trip to Europe. My first European Adventure. Holy moly am I excited.

I have dreamed of going to so many European countries  since I was a kid. My mom traveled a decent amount when I was young and would always come back with these amazing stories and pictures of her adventures in Prague and Moscow. Or she would show me pictures from her trip through Italy and France when she was in college. I was always mesmerized by the intricate details of the buildings, how many people were in the background walking and biking, and her stories of waking up an getting fresh-baked croissants from the shop under her flat – I LOVE croissants, so this was a major selling point.

While I won’t be visiting any of these places, I’m excited to finally have my first (hopefully of many) European adventure. My travel partner happens to be my best friend. We’ve known each other since we were little baby 13 year olds going to our favorite summer camp. In 13 years we’ve done a lot of adventuring within the U.S. and I can’t think of a better travel buddy.

While I studied abroad is Australia, she studied in France, England and Switzerland. Which is fantastic for me, because I’m traveling with someone who has done it before ? We are the perfect balance as travel partners. We have learned this over the years after lots of summer visits to California and a road trip up the coast to Yosemite. She is the planner – the person who finds the things that we have to see or we will really regret it. I am the person who goes to a place, drops my things off, sits at a coffee shop or bar and talks to people. *Spoiler* That’s great when you are somewhere for an extended period of time, but on short trips sometimes you miss out on a lot of really cool stuff.

We will be starting in Germany, working down and over through Austria and Lichtenstein, and ending in Switzerland. I can’t wait to share all our adventures with you! In the mean-time you can follow along on instagram, I’ll be posting updates there!

Thoughts on the Outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election

Thoughts on the Outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election

The number of times I have cried since 10pm on November 8, 2016 is too high to count. The last time I felt this despondent was when my dad passed away. The 2016 Presidential Election cycle was long and grueling and I think it will have lasting effect on the psyches of a lot of people.

I want to be clear. For me, Hillary Clinton winning the election was not about having the first female president.

I started the election cycle strongly standing behind Bernie Sanders. With the results of the primaries, and his concession that came with a recommendation to support Hillary Clinton, I respected his knowledge. I learned more about Hillary Clinton’s proposals and watched as she worked with Bernie Sanders to create an updated platform. By the end, her experience, policies, and empathy aligned with my beliefs. Her being female was an added bonus. In big-picture thinking, I saw that having her in office would allow for positive things to happen and repairs to be made to some of the programs that need repairing. In the mean-time we, the people, could work in the background to change the system that is so clearly broken.
I come from a family that is largely conservative. My mom and I are outliers. My dad was, too. I always did my best to avoid the topic of politics at family functions to keep things civil. It was something that I was regularly chided about. Family members would try to trip me up or explain to me why I didn’t actually believe what I believe. Calmly, I would explain why I believe what I do and what statistics supported those beliefs and what I saw as the long term goal. I’m not stupid. I’m not “just saying I believe these things to be cool.” I’m not going to “age out of my liberal beliefs.” I love my family. I don’t have a big one and wanted to keep what I had close, and thus I remained civil without backing down.
This election may be the end of that. I certainly won’t be the one to cut things off, but I will also not be so polite when I explain why a comment was bigoted and/or racist. Why this outcome may literally lead us into destruction if we are not incredibly diligent.
How can I support people who are clearly so filled with fear and hatred that they are willing to do whatever it takes to remain ‘comfortable?’ And here – comfortable is a euphemism for living in a society influenced by white supremacy (I don’t want anyone getting confused.)
I have read countless, “well this is how I felt when Obama was elected…” articles. Do you want to know the difference? President Obama’s policies and speeches did not actively encourage hatred and violence. President Obama was not endorsed by a terrorist organization. President Obama did not base his entire campaign on marginalizing people of color, women, LGBTQIA+, or differently abled people. You tell me he was divisive, but it wasn’t President Obama that was divisive. What was divisive was the large numbers of white people who were afraid that when President Obama said, “we are all equal” he meant that they were going to be punished for everything they have put others through. The divisive element here was unsubstantiated fear – and Donald Trump capitalized on that. He found a way to make it appear to be a justified fear.
When you run a campaign based on this much hate and fear it becomes a moral issue. It means that the people who are supporting you are willing to overlook ALL of the others that have been thrown under the bus. It means that the people who are supporting you are ok with steam-rolling over the civil liberties that have been voted on and put into action. I’m not ok with that.
With all of that said, I respect our democracy. Donald Trump won. It is what it is.
I am telling you now, I am going to be political on this blog moving forward. I am done staying silent, and if that means you need to unsubscribe that’s fine – please do not post hateful comments. I am all for discussion when it is constructive. I will continue posting my normal inspiration palettes and weekend plans, but I will also do my best to get information out about things we can do to make a difference. Whether it’s supporting businesses owned by people of color, women, LGBTQIA, immigrants or making a small donation to an organization that is in danger of being defunded – I will share what I learn. I refuse to stand by as people attempt to normalize racism, anti-muslim or anti-jewish rhetoric, the abuse of women or removal of their rights or any other marginalization.
Whatever your choice about your readership moving forward – know that I love you. I am here for you and stand beside you in the fight for equality and respect. As we move forward with the results of the 2016 Presidential Election, never be afraid to stand up for what is right.