All up in my business

The future of cupcakes and cutlery

Tomorrow I will be sharing my full Alt Summit experience but today I wanted to share an epiphany I had that will change the way I blog forever.  It was like a 3 step “A-ha” moment that came full circle during the conference.  Going in to Alt Summit I was super excited but also really apprehensive about approaching brands.  I had no idea what I brought to the table, why they would want to work with me and no ideas of which brands were the right fit for me.  I don’t mean any of this in a woe-is-me type of way.  I’ve been blogging for about 6 years so how can it be that I don’t know who I am or why my readers read what I write?  But it did come to me and my direction is finally clear.  Kind of smack on the forehead, how did I not think of this years ago clear.  But what may start out one way sometimes has to take a journey to find out where it was meant to be.  I will be working toward a redesign and a bigger game plan (not quite world domination but pretty close, wink).  I will start creating the new content now, though, because who knows how long I will need to save up for a new site.  I’m super excited about it and I can’t wait to share it with you.

I know many of you have also been blogging for a long time and may not be where you thought you would be.  Don’t fret!  I want to share my experience with you to encourage you to continue on your journey.  Your blog is YOU so make it what you love.  And what you love may change over time.  Your readers like YOU so let the blog follow where your life takes it.  Here is how Stella (my blog) got her groove back:

becoming you by the wardrobe code

First:  Becoming You with The Wardrobe Code.  I mentioned this in an Alt prep post, but I recently got the chance to participate in this 4 week online class where you learn what your personal style profile is.  To say that it is life changing does not even come close.  I’ll have a full post on this next week but what I learned about my style in clothing really translated to every area of my life.  I came to understand that while I had never felt like the look of my blog reflected me, I couldn’t have told you why or articulated how I thought it should look.  Now I have the tools to define and share what my personal style is.  Similarly, my house does not reflect the lifestyle of my family.  But now I have a vision of what I want it to look like.  Not only has my style improved (I don’t think I have ever felt more confident in what I put on) but I have clarity in my online look as well.  HUGE!  This presented itself during a round table discussion on PR on the second day of Alt.  I’m not even sure what I heard that made me make the connection but I instantly knew I now had the tools to create a site that looks like me (not my face, you know what I mean. Duh).

bri of design love fest image by kimberly genevieveThen:  The night before I left for Alt, I had a dream with special guest star, Bri of Design Love Fest (image above by Kimberly Genevieve).  I do not know Bri.  Never met her.  So I’m not sure where the dream came from but obviously I was in a state of unrest about my blogging “brand.”  In my dream there was a large group of bloggers.  For some reason we were supposed to be grouped in some way.  Dreamland Bri didn’t want to be in any of the groups because the bloggers weren’t being “real.”  In her dream opinion, none of us were blogging to our full potential and she didn’t want to be grouped with people who didn’t have their acts together in a visually pleasing way.  You might be reading this like, um okay dream Bri, cut them some slack but in the dream she wasn’t rude, she was matter of fact.  And when I woke up I had this sense of needing to discover what I was all about in blogging world.  So I struggled with this during my travel to and through the beginning of Alt.  But during a session on the second day, after thinking about why people come to my blog, I got it. Bri would be SO proud!  (Again, I am certain real life Bri is lovely and I don’t want you to get the wrong impression from dreamland Bri – I don’t know her but I do credit dreamland Bri with guiding me to the answers I had been looking for – and for real, you need to check out her advice section on her blog, tons of great info and I feel like she did a post on being yourself but I couldn’t find it.)

Welcome to Alt signFinally we get to Alt.  600 people there to learn, mingle, do business and just have fun.  It was exhausting.  It was useful.  It was worth the money.  And it was the final piece that helped me figure out the future of the blog.  There was so much inspiration and so many great panels.  There were late night talks with the world’s best roommates and interacting with brands in lounges.  Being that close to the brands without knowing what you should pitch to them was almost paralyzing at times.  I didn’t want to chat with someone and be super to generic and then want to work with them in the future and them to have the wrong impression of me and what I do.  Yeah.  I over think everything.  But I also only want to work with brands that fit my new, tighter focus.  And Alt made it perfectly clear that it is up to me to make things happen.

What is that focus you say?  Well, I don’t know how to word it yet.  I will be setting up brainstorming sessions with peers (free and a great resource – don’t forget to do this when you are struggling with something).  I will be gathering inspiration for my site redesign.  I will be searching for affordable web designers, because let’s face it, I don’t make THAT much money from blogging and my family still has to eat.  And I will be publishing the content that I think you want to see.  If you see something new that you like, please let me know!  One thing that Alt did, for sure, what make me feel even more part of a community.  And we gain strength by that support.  Do you feel like you know your blogging brand or are you feeling up in the air?  I’d love to hear your experience!

Dudes, I’m pumped.

PR 201 for Bloggers by Kismet PR: Event Recap

kismet pr at e madisonYou guys!!!  I am so pumped that our first Kismet PR class was such a success!  The tickets sold out, we had some amazing sponsors and holding it at E Madison was the best idea ever!

food area at kismet pr Lyndsey took care of all the content for the class and I focused on planning it.  While I party plan for my family, I’ve never wanted to plan other people’s social events.  I have thought about producing larger scale events in the future so this was a great opportunity to get my feet wet and get some real experience.  I was able to use my relationships with local businesses and PR companies I have worked with on various blogging projects to put on a nice little class.  I first need to start with E Madison.  They could not have been more accommodating.  They set up the area for the class and even facilitated a plasma screen rental for the class presentation.  And to top it off, they offered the gals a discount on merchandise.  I can’t wait to host another event there!  Next let’s turn to Meringue Bake Shop.  Most of you know the amazing Push Cakes and cupcakes that Kristin creates.  But she is SO much more than that I was so excited to share this side of her with the class.  With her food and the gorgeous styling by Lauren, our eyes and stomachs were super happy.

food and drink at e madison for kismet prBecause the class was scheduled to begin around dinner time, Kristin wanted to make sure that everyone would be full and able to focus on the class.  She made the most amazing bread salad with ham and fontina cheese.  I’m really hoping she will share the recipe with you all!!!  I’m dying to make it again.  She also made a smoked salmon dip served with bagel chips, and served goat cheese, arugula and tomato on crostini.  As a sweet treat, she brought some of her mini pies (if I only had to eat Kristin’s pies for the rest of my life, I would be so happy) and a new favorite, glitter cookies.  You guys.  I really wish you could all taste the glitter cookies.  Total melt in your mouth amazingness.  The spread was rounded out snacks provided by SunChips and drinks provided by Izze.

Salted Caramel CoffeeAs the class went on, Kristin wowed us with some salted caramel coffee.  Yup.  SO good!!

lyndsey teaching kismet pr blogger classLyndsey brought it!    I learned a ton about working with PR companies and the process of pitching ideas to them.  Now I just need ideas to pitch…The class was about 3 hours with a break midway through for refreshments, questions, mingling etc.  The format was great.  It was casual and free flowing where she followed her set presentation but would take questions or comments any time.

bloggers at workI especially liked that she gave us an exercise to do during class.  I’m sure I am not the only person who learns better when actually doing something personally so to have that opportunity was awesome.  This is one of the reasons that Lyndsey likes to keep the classes small.  When we finished, whoever wanted to could run it by Lyndsey to get her feedback on how we interpreted her information.

kismet pr gift bag itemsI don’t know why I enjoy a good gift bag so much, but I really do.  I reached out to some great brands to contribute items and think this gift bag turned out awesome!!!  The bags included a recipe by a local cooking instructor, Jenny Warner, Lauren sewed and painted these awesome bags with social media phrasing on them, each person was given a free class of yoga or pilates at The Sweat House, JR Watkins sent their lemon creme lotion (have you smelled this?!  It’s so good!), SunChips gave every participant a bag of chips and recipe booklet, Tera Rae Stephens sent over hand-made hair ties, Skin So Sweet supplied information on their amazing facials and other services,  ShopModerne.com sent shirts for everyone and a discount code for more online shopping, Yasso gave everyone coupons for free frozen greek yogurt bars, Lauren made super cute gift tags with her fantastic calligraphy, and Lyndsey provided branded note pads.  Boom.

A huge thank you to Lyndsey for letting me be involved in this great workshop!  Thank you to each and every sponsor that participated and, of course, thank you to all the students who came!!  We are gauging interest on holding another class in the spring as well as one in San Diego.  If you are interested in finding out more about future classes, please email me so I can put you on the list – cupcakesandcutlery at gmail dot com.

October Inspiration Board Challenge – The Participants

I feel like I am back on track for my monthly Inspiration Board Challenge posts.  Phew!  I had a few off months during summer, but it is back and I’m super happy to welcome Taryn from Formal Fringe
 I don’t remember how I came across her site but the more I go through it the more I love it!  
This just might be the perfect grown up party theme of all time!  Especially New Year’s Eve, am I right?  The graphics are perfect and the colors, I mean… Oh yeah and these are free printables.  Go download them now and invite all your drunkard friends over! 
If you have read my blog for any amount of time, you know that I hate Halloween.  But there is something about the Nightmare Before Christmas that I just love!  Never seen the movie, just love the design style of it and I’m a total sucker for black and white stripes.  How rad is this dessert buffet that Taryn put together!?!  See more here.
And if you didn’t like her already, you simply must check out her recipe and printables for Bacon Salt!!!!  Go make it!  Then send it to me!! 
I have to say the more I read her site and check out her photography, writing and fabulous finds, the more I want to hang out with her.  I told my bff, whose name is coincidentally Taryn, that I had a new friend with the same name.  She was worried that I might toss her aside like yesterdays news.  I assured her that since my new friend T lives out of state that she would safely continue on as my bff.  But I’m really not so sure.  Taryn of Formal Fringe is kinda rad.  I hope the other Taryn doesn’t read this. 
See Taryn’s Portfolio (its amazing!) 
Follow her on Twitter
Like her on Facebook
And now for the inspiration item that Taryn of Formal Fringe (wow, I probably really confused everyone by discussing too many Taryn’s in one post) will create a mood board for:
I couldn’t get the photo any larger, but I think you get the idea.  This kids t-shirt by Mini and Maximus (my fave line for kid’s t’s) is the coolest.  From graphic design to pocket placement Mini and Maximus takes this basic white T and makes it extra cool.  This company elevates kids design by using up and coming artists for their t-shirt graphics as well as having some super cool kids design some too.  This is my favorite line for kids shirts and my boys always get compliments when they wear them.  And while most shirts are uni-sex, some of the girlier designs tempt me in to trying for a baby girl (dear family, I am in no way suggesting that we are trying to have another baby.  I am more than happy with my two boys.  Sometimes I wish they would let me put a big old flower headband on them or a tutu, but I’m not chancing a final score of mom 1:  boys 3).
I am so excited to see what Taryn will come up with for this.  I love doing this challenge every month because I know what I my parties for the inspiration pieces would look like, but I am always surprised, in a very good way, by what the other bloggers come up with.  Be sure to check back at the end of the month to see the finished board!  And in case some of you are as crazy as I am and starting to think about Christmas shopping, be sure to check out Mini and Maximus for the cool kids on your list.  While some might balk at the price, they always have a sale section and show up on The Mini Social (if you are not signed up you simply MUST do it now.  I always do a ton of holiday shopping from this site.  Amazing fashion, toys and gifty items!!) from time to time.  
Mini and Maximus blog
Follow them on Twitter
Like them on Facebook (100 fans away from a rad giveaway – hurry!  Go!)
Have a great week everyone!!!
Sharon

Lowe’s Creative Ideas…and me

Some of you may have seen this on my Facebook page already but Lowe’s recently posted this video they did at Blogher 11 where they had some bloggers talk about creativity. 
SEE THE VIDEO HERE (I couldn’t figure out how to shrink the movie file size to work on blogger so you can check it out on the Lowe’s Facebook page)  Did you remember to “like” them? 
I wish they would have passed out some ritalin or xanax or something because I am quite twitchy.  But this was a super fun opportunity.  Did you catch my roommate (Blogher roomie, that is) Amy, at the top of the video?! 
They’ve got a lot of fun holiday projects coming up so stay tuned!!! And be sure to visit the Lowe’s Creative Ideas website for more fun tips and ideas! 
If you haven’t yet signed up for the free Lowe’s Creative Ideas magazine do it {here}.
Sharon
Video and still taken from video courtesy of Lowe’s Creative Ideas

Blogher 11: Best of the Expo and Sponsor Suites

With breakfast on the first morning over, it was time to checkout the Expo floor.  The expo floor is the part of Blogher where all the sponsors show off their newest products and programs.  It is also where they laden you down with so much free stuff that you beg people for bags to carry it in with promises of being their best friend.  Note:  Pepsico has enough bffs but will still give you a bag if you need it.  Quick, go buy Pepsi and chips!  Yes, that is my puffy, tired face on the right and of course we run in to this pretty lady within 30 seconds of entering the Expo area.   How adorable is Tera Rae Stephens?!  She is the best hair stylist in all the land.  But she’s so much more than that, too.  She’s always been a cheerleader for me and she has a great business-y mind.  You really are getting more than just a cut and color with her.  And she promises to teach me how to do those amazing beachy waves…
I was immediately attracted to the Glad booth with all its lovely florals and pink.  Upon closer look, I found what I think is the most beautiful cookbook ever created called Pretty Delicious!  Using vintage-esque florals and sweet eyelet details, the printed recipes are gorgeous and trumped only by the amazing photography.  This is quite possibly the best bridal shower gift idea ever! And the best part, the recipes actually sound good and are healthy for you!  Bonus!  The author, Candace Kumai (a total cutie) was in the booth sharing recipe cards of some of yummy dishes created exclusively for Glad To Go.  I can’t wait to try her Roasted Fig and Blue Cheese Salad!  Glad To Go is their newest container.  And I must say it is rather brilliant.  It is basically two containers that secure together with one lid.  So if you want to take a salad along with you, the dressing can go in the separate, smaller container which fits right in to the middle of the same lid that closes the container.  Perfect for kid’s snacks and even some craft supplies.  I don’t see them yet on their website but they will surely be out soon (Check out this little video to see more about the cookbook and the new Glad product!)
For even more loveliness you simply must check out her blog.  It is pure eye candy!!!!!!!
Follow Candace on Twitter
Lowe’s was out in full force with a two story booth that resembled a house.  They were there to showcase a few of their different programs, one of which was Lowe Creative Ideas magazine and website.  I knew Lowe’s was more lady friendly but had no idea they were such a great resource!  Check out this photobooth frame project and this spray painted stencil rug that could also work as a tablecovering or photo backdrop.  Lowe’s had teams on hand to interview people about creativity.  Here is my pal, Amy being interviewed.  Doesn’t she look like a natural?  And she’s totally TV cute.  I’m pushing for her own show…  I’ve signed up for a free subscription for Lowe’s Creative Ideas magazine and can’t wait to be inspired!  
Later in the day they also held a bloggers challenge.  They put together teams of bloggers, gave them materials from the store and let them get creative with them.  The team pictured above, including the super funny Angry Julie, put together a really fun tablescape set up.  They used buckets as seats and some clear tubing for drinking straws.  What a fun idea!!!!   
And they also made sure that I knew about the kid’s workshops they hold at each location called “Build and Grow Clinics“.  The police car is one of the crafts they have coming up and even has a working light on top.  What kid wouldn’t love that!?!  Check with your local stores for dates.   
There was a time (a very short time) where I would only let my son watch PBS cartoons.  Luckily Dinosaur Train was on at that time.  He didn’t even remember about the shows he was not allowed to watch any more.  He learned so much about dinosaurs from this show it blows my mind.  But until now, there has been a relative lack of themed toys to go along with the show.  I was super excited to see this bingo set on the Expo floor along with some other great card games for young kids.  And my kids thought I was the coolest because I got a picture with Buddy.    
These cool Wall Tracks by Hot Wheels are sure to be a hit at Christmas.  Out now, they retail for about $30 for a starter set and they are hung on the walls using those rad 3M sticky tabs that don’t damage the wall surface.  The sets can be added together to make large installations and can even be put in corners.  They are a really fun way to let the kids get really creative.  
Needing some extra energy, Amy and I checked out the Hershey’s S’mores Suite.  They had S’mores makers all around the sweet and it was the perfect afternoon sweet treat.  They even had an area decorated like you were at a beach campfire enjoying your s’more.  You can check out more pictures of the suite here. 
I fell in love with the invitation designs by Paper Culture.  Everything about the company is cool and modern and so ridiculously lovely.  They have added some gifts in the form of personalized bamboo plaques to their standard paper offerings.  They are SO well done.  How rad are those boy name plaques?  They make them in various sizes and would make an awesome keepsake baby gift.  If you don’t know about Paper Culture be sure to go check out their designs.  With Christmas coming up, I can’t think of a more perfect place to buy your family Christmas cards.  
A highlight, for sure, was meeting Wendi McLendon-Covey, the newest Hillshire Farm Spokesperson. She was super funny and warm and she was right by some yummy food samples.  I had to get a photo with her because Bridesmaids (remember her from that movie?) might be one of my favorite movies.  I love that she is their spokesperson.  Go meat! 
One of my favorite things to have happened at the conference was that I got in to a very intimate private session sponsored by Hillshire Farm about food photography and styling.  I learned so much listening to the esteemed panel of professionals they put together.  I left there so inspired and it really made me want to be better.  Sara Remington shared some amazing photos from her portfolio and I was super excited to hear that she doesn’t use a lot of crazy equipment.  She urges food photographers to keep it simple and use nature lighting.  And I had seen William Smith on Food Network before and loved hearing his tips for styling food.  He was funny and friendly and, like  Sara, says keep it simple.  Oh and work fast.  Food doesn’t like to sit around.  
There are a few more items from the show that I want to share, but they are so good, they deserve their own post.
If you are a blogger and thinking about going to Blogher, do it.  At least once.  Such an amazing experience! 
Sharon
all photos are mine.