Mother’s Day came early for me this year. Instead of the traditional brunch and new kitchen appliance (KitchenAid mixer is still in the top 5), I told my family this year my gift was the gift of time by myself. Yes, there was going to be a brief period of anxiety followed by a healthy dose of public speaking, but that was only one hour during my 3-day stay at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel. I had to convince my husband with a screen shot that I was actually going there as a speaker. You know my track record, I like to book trips that revolve around either blogging, photography or food for no real reason other than to surround myself with like-minded people. I felt that way at Alt in 2011 and Oasis last October.
One of the things I really wanted to do in 2013 was get in front of people again. Its been two years since my last speaking gig in Boston when I spoke about how to bring the “pretty” to your blog. Pinterest was a very new concept at the time. You are going to think I’m certifiable, but I actually chose my emphasis in Speech in college. I even held a seat on the Speech and Debate team. Who is this girl? Granted a few decades have passed but I still enjoy it. Its a lot like blogging but without the keyboard. If you have a topic you are really passionate about you would be surprised at how easy it is to go on and on about something you love. You already do it on your blog so why not for a group of like minded people. I bet you could do it too if you tried.
I reached out to Mom 2.0 last fall and pitched my idea about the creative process. My accumulation of books and workbooks on the matter went from from help mission to complete obsession about creativity and its origin. I roughly sketched out what I would cover in my pitch adding that if they were allowing us to make suggestions could you please connect me with my sister-from-another-mother, Tracey Clark. We not only got paired up, we were granted an ENTIRE HOUR to conduct a workshop in what we love, Creativity. “Awesooooome!” as Tracey says.
So back to how I turned this into a secret rejuvenation mission. I never really brought it up until a few weeks before the date. Kinda like a sneak attack. I figured the fallout period would be shorter, to be honest. Turns out it wasn’t even a big deal. I blocked out the time at work, made sure everyone had rides set up and even had a back up plans in case plan A failed. This may surprise you but when I leave I don’t call home and they don’t call me and I am more than OK with it. I do text the teenager because I know he likes to touch base when I’m gone. I like that about him. This time I sent him a video.
Of course I pack at the last minute, knowing I was going to be within an hours drive of my home and could always make a run for shoes or I could make an unplanned stop at the mall on the way there and panic shop which actually turned out to be like striking gold, cute shoes (on sale), dress shorts so flattering I bought 2 pair and a sparkly top that I wore to Thursday’s party and then promptly sold it off my back the next day.
I threw everything into the back of my car and sped down the highway to the Ritz. Upon check in you can not miss the new LIVE cam of the swells below at Salt Creek Beach. This was new since my last visit to Raya. When I swooned at the sight of the ocean the man behind the counter whispered, “would you like to see if I have an oceanfront room available?” He said he knew of the room in question and that it was a particularly nice room. “Promise?” I asked. He smiled and I pointed to some random guy in the lobby “put it on his tab, would ya?”
My bellman was so nice and did everything but unpack my suitcases. He opened the french doors and rearranged the chairs so I could get the full ocean view experience. Embarrassed to admit that I was travelling from a neighbouring town, I just sat and listened as he rattled off all the local places including what beach we were looking at. I’m thinking to myself, “oh you mean the one where my high school friends and I used to sneak booze on to?” I just smiled and nodded.
I sat right here and munched on my own cheese plate I packed and watch surfers for an hour before heading downstairs to check in to the conference. I was a little anxious. I realized this was my first event since I went into hiding shortly after almost losing my niece. What was I going to say when people asked, what have you been up to? Well let’s see, I suffered a tremendous loss and subsequently developed health problems both psychological and physiological? That would probably be a bit awkward. I’ll just stick with “After a brief hiatus, I’m getting my sea legs back.” Perfectly ambiguous.
Playing it safe and non-social, I left the sunglasses on as I jumped into an open elevator. I wanted to engage, just not yet. However one step out the elevator, I run smack into friend and fellow OC blogger, Kara Noel. Funny I told the universe that I wanted to run into to her, and who’s the first person I see? Kara recently lost her mom, and as since I am no stranger to grief, I just wanted to see her so I could hug her and let her know how sorry I was. Thank you universe, that was exactly what I needed to coax me from my shell. From then on I was ready, let the engaging begin.
Time to register and pick up my beach bag of swag (my teen loved all the mens products, thanks Dove!).
Friday night’s party sponsored by Dove. Remind me to tell you about the new Girls Unstoppable campaign.
The first night was a reunion of sorts. Long hugs followed by how have you been? (Insert ambiguous answer). For those not satisfied with that, they were in for a tale of sadness, followed by tears, theres, not mine. I warned them, but they insisted they wanted to know. For those of you just joining us, the story about my niece and her sudden cardiac arrest are here (bring tissues). And for a moment you realize that you just took them somewhere where they might have rather have not gone. It’s hard but its such a huge part of who I am now and to know me is to know what I have endured. I walked back to my room, opened the doors and listened to a few remaining groups chatting in chairs below as the waves rolled into shore. I was so ready for tomorrow. So excited to see familiar faces including my sisters.
Friday was up early for a morning walk followed up by a jog across the street to Pain Du Monde (my favorite place for breky). Then it was round two, had I known the spread at the Ritz was going to be so lovely I would have made a beeline for the patio and skipped the egg sammy to go.
Quick change into conference clothes, and note the color of the weekend? Kelly green.
What I wore // Conference Edition : JCrew anchor blouse, city shorts (straight fir) Inc. from Macy’s, JCrew starfish necklace, Enzo Angiolini sandals and my favorite score of the season, Banana Republic Joanna Tote in Dandelion. Starbucks sponsored a headshot suite which was pretty darn ingenious. What blogger couldn’t use a fresh headshot?
I caught the keynote with Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) sharing her experience on American adoption and how that compelled her to write Instant Mom. She is hilarious, I bet her humor translates well in her book too. Its now on my reader. I sailed through the market place, got a manicure at the Dove suite, I’m really happy to see their involvement in promoting healthy body image and girls self esteem, two things I know I will be dealing with soon. I also spent some time browsing the new photo books with my favorite ladies from Blurb. I am hoping to work with them on producing a couple new photography books, including an eBook this fall so stay tuned.
I decided to take the afternoon off and enjoy the mini heat wave that had settled in. I grabbed a few cameras, hiked down to the other end of the beach, harassed some seagulls and dipped a tow in the chilly pacific. It was perfect.
My sister arrived that afternoon on a 24 hr. hall pass. I lured her with the promise of a fluffy white bed, the lull of crashing waves and room service. She showed up with the clothes on her back and a sleeping mask in hand. Where do I lay down?
But first cocktails.
Mojitos and meeting up with a few of my favorite So Cal bloggers at the rooftop bar with the 180 degree ocean view, 180BLU. Here are a couple shots using the Hipstamatic App (DC with Loftus lens).
We ended up grabbing the last 7:00 reservations which they graciously let us stretch into almost and 8 o’clock start (after I locked myself out of my room, I blame the mojitos). The staff was so attentive and patient with us. Let me tell you its not easy to appease fellow foodies who like their NY strip cooked just right and they nailed it. The most perfect medium rare I have seen accompanied by compound butters including my fav, black summer truffle. No split charge and and extra helping of sautéed mushrooms and peas on the house, yep, a girl can definitely get used to this level of service. Chocolate pot de crème followed by a impromptu meet in greet with the chef, I’m definitely coming back for my next celebratory event.
We had to walk all of a few paces back into the elevator to get back to our room. You could literally hear the ocean crashing from the hallway. Turn down service on your last night includes a seascape of cookies and chocolates with a postcard complete with QR code to be immediately connected to the recipe (or find it here on facebook) . Tasty and thoughtful.
We laid in bed and giggled as we channel surfed through the bridezillas and f*bombs.
G’nite Friday you sure were swell.
Check back tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about the workshop and how I turned back into a pumpkin before sundown.