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Lessons at the Beach

Girls at BeachGrowing up in the Midwest, I dreamed about summers on the beach. Sure, we had the Great Lakes, but in my mind that wasn’t quite the same. Not to mention my childhood home(s) were nowhere near any lake. I was landlocked in suburbia with the closest body of water located in the neighbor’s pool where I spent many days floating, planning my future life which would most likely be lived out in some quaint coastal New England town.

And while many of my childhood dreams did not come to fruition, living in the quaint coastal New England town certainly did. Some dreams become requirements and living near the ocean was a pull that I could not resist. It’s like I had a homing device that lead me to a place that I always knew would be home.

After living here far many more years than I’ve lived anywhere else, I identify myself as a New Englander. No other validation is needed because one could argue that my heart was here long before my feet were.

Now I have four kids who have been birthed in New England. And what I so desperately wanted growing up is quite literally in their own backyard. Whether they are on a school bus or just taking a ride with me to pick up a gallon of milk, the ocean is part of their daily life.

It’s either to the right of us or to the left at any given moment. Still breathtaking to me, but ordinary to them. A blasé attitude that I battle with every day, trying to teach them that not everyone has this kind of natural beauty surrounding them. That they need to stop and take this view in once in awhile, appreciating the gift that it is.

I’m not very successful with this lesson, mind you. I guess it’s hard to appreciate what you have when you are born into it. Maybe if I took them for a two week vacation back to the middle of the mitten Michigan (not near water), they would better comprehend the lesson I’m trying to teach.

Cape Cod BeachThis summer was a really good example of this lack of appreciation. I’ve asked the girls numerous times if they would like to go to the beach for the day. This is usually met with a shrug of the shoulders and a glazed over look of indifference. But yesterday I made the executive decision, packed the requisite snacks/towels/sunscreen and ordered them into the car. We were going to the beach.

With Leela off of the crutches and out of the brace, there was no reason not to go out and enjoy probably the last beautiful beach day of summer. And truth be told, I did this more for myself than I did for them. They might not appreciate the gift of living in this special place, but I still do. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reflect on how blessed I am to live here.

Cape Cod BeachWhen we first got to the beach, the girls were a little cranky. And I’m not entirely sure why because there was no reason for their sullen mood. Quite possibly it’s the anxiety of going back to school. Or maybe it’s because I forced them away from their Minecraft session. I’m not really sure, but for the first hour they weren’t there because they wanted to be which made me wonder if this was even worth it. It’s no fun being somewhere when the majority of your party doesn’t want to be there.

But after awhile the sun and sea started to warm up their spirits. The sisters went off on a search for sea glass and met a new friend along the way. Five hours later we were the last two families on the beach. The sun was going down, a chill setting into the air, but the kids were still dancing in the waves with their new friend.

And when I announced that we absolutely had to go. No more warnings. Get into the car or you are sleeping here. They actually asked if that was an option as there is a campground onsite.

No, I said. We can come back tomorrow. Actually, we can come back any day we like. All you have to do is ask because this is ours.

On the way back home the girls were limp like noodles. Completely drained of all energy but infused with the glow of summer.

With her head leaning against the window, hair full of sand and salt, Shannon said to me “Our new friend was on vacation. She said that she never gets to see the ocean. That’s sad. I thought everyone had it.”

That lesson I’ve been hammering into their heads all of this time was finally driven home by a chance encounter with a tourist.

Parenting is interesting. As a mother I strive to teach my kids all the things that I should. To be appreciative. To be courteous. And especially to be kind. But sometimes the very best lessons in life are taught by others. And I think that those lessons are the ones most readily received.

My Weekend

Cape CodThe past weekend was rather busy. School’s starting this week and we’ve been taking care of last minute purchases that should’ve been bought weeks ago. We excelled at procrastination this summer.

All of this preparation for back to school has taken a lot of the wind from my sails. So I took a few hours off on Saturday and took a walk on the water just to center myself. This year more than any other, I’m the one who’s not looking forward to the school year starting. And this is something entirely foreign to me because I can’t remember a year that didn’t have me anticipating the arrival of that yellow bus.

This year, not so much. I’m just not ready for the homework, school projects, packing lunches and the inevitable drama that comes with having tweenagers. Not to mention, having the kids around this summer was nice for a change of pace. So much less bickering between the kids. I daresay that I’m going to miss them.

emile henryAfter my walk I took a ride over to the local thrift store. As I’ve shared before, thrift stores are wonderful for finding interesting props for food photography on the cheap. I don’t often visit them in the summertime because my area is a real tourist attraction in the summer months. You know, the ocean and all. Cape Cod brims over with people in the summertime.

So I wasn’t expecting to find much of anything. And as I scanned the shelves filled with glassware, I could tell that it was really picked over already. But you have to look closely when shopping at thrift stores because the best stuff has a way of hiding in the corners.

My first good find was a stack of three Emile Henry  ramekins. Ok, so it isn’t the normal vintage goodness that I usually hunt for, but they were marked $1.99 while they retail $36 for a set of four. Some simple math will show you that .66 per ramekin is a very good deal compared to $9 per ramekin. Score!

vintage pyrexMy other find was something that I debated with for awhile. I saw this vintage Pyrex bowl you see above when I first walked into the store and it didn’t grab me right away. It’s sort of plain and not very much to look at. Also, it’s a Pyrex mixing bowl that was originally part of a Hamilton Beach stand mixer. Not very notable.

But as I walked around the glassware, I kept coming back to this bowl. I guess I just can’t walk away from vintage Pyrex. It’s like buying a little piece of history. $1.99 worth of history that is now living in my kitchen cabinet. I am weak.

Pain D' Avignon HyannisOn Sunday Michael and I finished up his school shopping. Boys are so much easier than girls when it comes to clothing. Or at least my boys are easier than my girls. While the girls required four different stores and countless trips in and out of fitting rooms to settle on a few well accessorized outfits, I was in and out of the store in a half of an hour with Michael. God love him.

And to celebrate the end of the back to school cash hemorrhage, Michael and I had an amazing lunch in Hyannis at Pain D’ Avignon. If you ever find yourself visiting Cape Cod, I highly recommend this wonderful French cafe. They are famous for their fresh baked breads and pastries, but don’t come here just to buy a loaf of bread. Oh no, sit down and have a meal because their menu is exquisite.

I had Croque Madame which consisted of crusty country bread topped with melty cheese, black forest ham, two baked eggs and arugula. A hearty meal and priced at $8.50 which I thought was a completely fair price. So wonderful.

Michael had a monkfish sandwich which was also to die for. Tender chunks of fried monkfish stuffed into a fresh bakery roll with some kind of spicy mayo brushed on the grilled bread. Yummy.

And if you make your way down and don’t try the fries, you haven’t really been there at all. Worth the trip for the fries alone.

Pain D' Avignon HyannisOn the way out the door, Michael asked if we were planning on visiting the dessert case. Well of course, I said. One doesn’t come to a French cafe and NOT visit the dessert case.

And while I abstained from dessert, Michael did not. He picked out a blueberry lemon tart which he took to go. Not that it went far. He ate it in the parking lot.

Not a very eventful weekend, but a good one nonetheless. Now starts the 48 hours of prep required for the first week of school. Belongings to be labeled. Food for lunches to be purchased. Forms to be filled out. Damn forms. And the hours it will take to help the girls figure out which outfit they want to wear on the first day of school.

Can we go back to June?

There is an affiliate link in this post.

Truffle Trouble

Shannon TrufflesSo the other day I got a super exciting email. It was from an editor of a magazine who wanted to use one of my recipes from A Beautiful Bite in a special holiday edition. Can you even imagine? I almost passed out when I read the email. I mean, this is the kind of stuff bloggers LIVE for. It’s one thing to produce digital content. It’s an even better thing to have your content in print. I was ecstatic.

In the email she asked for my bio and also the original high resolution image of the recipe she saw on A Beautiful Bite. No problem I assured her. I’ll have that over to you in a jiffy. But when I went searching for the original image, which was taken in 2012, it was nowhere to be found.

Every other blessed recipe image I’ver ever taken was on my computer except that very image. And of course I panicked. What was I going to do?

And then I came up with an idea. What if I made the recipe again and took another picture that was just like the first? So I asked the editor for an extra day to get the image to her and luckily she agreed.

This time around I had a little help in the kitchen. Shannon agreed to be my sous chef…

Shannon TrufflesI’m pretty sure she agreed to help because she knew the odds were good that there would be a chocolatey spoon to lick. But whatever, I’ll take help however I can get it.

Things were progressing along just nicely until it was time to roll the truffles into balls. Guess what? Truffles hate August. I mean hell hath no fury like a truffle rolled when it’s hot out. This should’ve crossed my mind when I decided to attempt this, but clearly I wasn’t thinking.

Each truffle melted as soon as my hands touched the chocolate, creating an awful mess that was nearly my undoing. But halfway through the rolling process, I came up with the idea of dipping my hands in ice water before touching the chocolate. So I gave my hands a frigid ice bath, quickly dried them off and then proceeded to work with the chocolate.

And this method worked. Problem solved. Never mind that it took time to regain the feeling in my fingers. Worth it!

Gingerbread trufflesHere’s the final image. Looks convincingly Christmasy, don’t you think? Not bad for the month of August.

I learned a valuable lesson this week. Always back up your images. All of them. That and never make truffles in August. While it makes awesome body paint, it sure doesn’t hold its shape well.


Congrats to Joy S. from NC. You are the winner of the Blogger Bash toy giveaway! Please email your mailing info to melanieinthemiddle@gmail.com. Thanks to all for entering!

What Melanie’s Cooking

The Pioneer Woman CookbookWhenever I post recipes here or on A Beautiful Bite, they are usually my own. But I do have some cookbooks that I’m pretty fond of that I cook from regularly. So today I thought I’d share one of my favorites with you.

While I have a vast collection of cookbooks, only about a dozen reside on my kitchen countertop. Because let’s face it, that countertop real estate is valuable. Only the good stuff gets to hang out there. And three of those twelve happen to be authored by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman.

She has written three cookbooks. Food from My Frontier, The Pioneer Woman Cooks and The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays.

I’ve cooked many recipes from all three books. And all have been a success which is rather rare because I don’t often find a book that’s so consistent. Not to mention three. So clearly Ree is good about testing her recipes before they go to print.

But of all three, the one I keep reaching for on a regular basis is Food from My Frontier.

The Pioneer Woman Pulled Pork RecipeAs I was thumbing through that cookbook the other day, I scanned through the pages looking for something that I hadn’t yet tried. That particular day was wet and chilly, so when I saw the Spicy Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork, I knew that was going to be supper.

I had been flirting with that recipe for a good long while. I love pulled pork, but I’m not at all a fan of Dr. Pepper. I was also reluctant because the idea of cooking meat in pop just sounded odd. But I was feeling a little adventurous that morning and figured what the heck, let’s try something new.

It was a darn good thing that I decided on that early in the morning as it takes at least six hours to cook! A good thing to make on a rainy day for certain.

This recipe is also posted on her website, so I went over to read the reviews before I went shopping. Reading other people’s comments on a recipe is super helpful. Often times people will make suggestions on modifications or give feedback on their results.

Most of the comments mentioned that this was beyond spicy which shouldn’t be all that surprising because Ree states in the recipe that this is a sinus clearer. And some other people mentioned that while the flavor was good, they wished that the sauce had more body.

So I took both of those comments onboard and got to work.

pulled porkWhile my kids are used to spicy food, I knew that anything labeled as a sinus clearer might be too much for my littlest cubs. So I cut the called for 11 ounces of chipotle peppers down to 5.

The end result yielded a slightly spicy pulled pork. Next time I will up the ante to 8 ounces. If it weren’t for my littles I would’ve stuck with Ree’s suggestion of 11 ounces. I’m not sure why there were so many people complaining about the heat in the comments of her recipe. My tongue must be fireproof or something.

And even though it was cooked in Dr. Pepper, I couldn’t taste the Dr. Pepper flavor. All of the flavors just melded together and turned into something quite wonderful. The meat itself? It literally fell apart as I removed it from my dutch oven. So very tender.

dr pepper barbecue sauceI do agree with the commenters that the cooking sauce needed more body. So I went ahead and made Elizabeth Karmel’s barbecue sauce which was out of this fruit loopin’ world good.

Once again, you can’t really taste the Dr. Pepper in the recipe, but it does go well with the other ingredients and the result is a tangy thick sauce that goes just perfectly with Ree’s recipe.

Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork

nachosOf course there were leftovers which was a good thing because we used those leftovers the next day to make the best nachos I’ve ever made. Pulled pork, fresh grated cheddar, avocados and cilantro. Perfection.

Pioneer Woman Italian Cream CakeAnd what would dinner be without dessert? Incomplete. So I made another recipe from that same cookbook. Billie’s Italian Cream Cake. Actually, this is a recipe that Michael picked out. As I was cooking the pork, he was on the hunt for a dessert that he could whip up.

I had suggested an easy looking brownie recipe. He chose this recipe that requires multiple steps including beating egg whites until stiff peaks form. Way beyond his open the brownie box, dump mixture in bowl and and add three ingredients capabilities.

He showed me the picture and said do you think you could make this? I think it might be more than I can handle. And what’s a mom supposed to say to that? Pass me the eggs.

Italian Cream CakeAnd just like every other recipe I’ve made from that book, this one was also a winner. Light and fluffy coconut cake layers with a rich cream cheese frosting topped with toasted coconut and pecans. What’s not to love?

Never mind that I will be eating carrot sticks for the next two weeks to make up for the calorie carnage, it was so worth it.

Those are just two of the many excellent recipes from Food from My Frontier. My favorite of Ree’s three cookbooks. How about you? Do you have this cookbook? Have you tried either of these recipes? Have any other Pioneer Woman recipes that you love to cook? Let’s chat food.

This is not a sponsored post. I purchased all of the cookbooks mentioned. There are affiliate links in this post.

Shopping Made Easier with the Walmart App and a Giveaway!

Walmart.comLife with four kids is never boring. Especially right about now. We are two weeks away from starting school and we are in full-on back to school shopping mode. Clothes, shoes, school supplies. The list seems to go on and on. Matter of fact, I’m sort of getting shopped out. Shopping for four kids from a college student down to an elementary  schooler can takes its toll on a parent.

Walmart App

So when I was given the opportunity to try out the Walmart app to purchase some P&G items that I use on a daily basis, I was excited to give it a whirl. I’ve never shopped from my smartphone before. But heck, how hard could it be?

Walmart App P&GAs it turns out, not hard at all. After downloading the app, I was shopping within minutes. And the coolest part? Free shipping right to your home if your order totals $50 or more. Now that’s convenient. You can also pick up your order at your local Walmart if you’d rather.

Some people get anxious at the idea of using their credit card to purchase something through a smartphone. Walmart has a solution for that. Just choose the “pay with cash” option and you can pay for your order when you pick it up. Still a great time saver.

I like the idea that I can shop via the Walmart app wherever I am. I spend so much of my time waiting on my kids while they are involved with their extracurricular activities. Being able to shop for necessities while waiting on my kids is a real time saver. Taking advantage of that free shipping on top of the everyday savings that Walmart offers makes it all the sweeter.

How would you like to enter to win a $25 gift card to Walmart so that you too can try out the app? To enter, comment on this post by leaving your first name, last initial and the state you are from. That’s it! Entries must be received by Wednesday, August 20th 11:59pm ET. Good luck!

This is not a sponsored post. However, I received a Walmart gift card from P&G so that I could try out the app. 


The Year of the Co-Pay

LeelaI had some fun plans for this post. It was going to start off with a shot of the girls bouncing on some nifty trampolines at this awesome indoor trampoline park that I went to with the kids yesterday. Seriously, the place was SO MUCH FUN! Trampolines, a rock climbing wall, even basketball courts with a trampoline floor. How cool is that?

Sure, I had to sign a waiver that was as long as War and Peace, but that’s just for the minuscule chance that someone (not my kids) would get hurt. How often could that possibly happen? I mean, the place couldn’t stay in business if people got hurt all the time, right?

So of course I signed the waiver. And things were going just a-ok for the first one hour and twenty-five minutes of our one and a half hour playtime that we purchased. But in the last five minutes of our playtime, Leela landed the wrong way on her ankle which necessitated a trip to the emergency room. Again.

It’s like this kid’s sole purpose in life right now is to test the limitations of our health insurance. I jest, sort of.

Leela at LaheyNot to worry. She’s going to be fine. It’s just going to take a bit of time to heal. As you can see from the picture above, she’s already back to her giggling self. Kids are resilient little buggers, aren’t they?

So I think I’m going to skip that review because I’m pretty sure no trampoline park will appreciate a review with a picture of a child in a wheelchair in the post. But it was fun until it wasn’t.


Bridgestone DriveGuard Event, BlogHer ’14

Bridgestone BlogHerAs I mentioned in a previous post, I was chosen as a Bridgestone Ambassador for this year’s BlogHer ’14. Now, I’m not particularly car care savvy, so I was really looking forward to what Bridgestone had in store for me.

My first job was to stop off at their BlogHer booth and check out their display. I expected tires and car care info, but what I found were manicurists and massage therapists. We were off to a good start! Bridgestone Amber

After getting a little pampering, I boarded a bus that took me to an offsite test course which had vehicles fitted with Bridgestone DriveGuard tires. But before we took them out for a spin, we learned a bit about car care from Amber, a car and service expert with Firestone Complete Auto Care.
She gave us all kinds of good info about how important it is to keep tires properly inflated  and also showed us which cables go where when you jump a battery. I don’t know about you, but jumper cables scare the heck out of me.

Bridgestone Drive Guard Tires with a FlatAfter a bit of education, we got into our vehicles. Each car was fitted with three properly inflated DriveGuard tires and one flat. The point was to show us how the car handled at 50mph with a DriveGuard tire flat. I fully expected it to be a bumpy ride.

I mean, have you ever driven with a flat? Holy moly is it a ruckus. But let me tell you this, at 50mph I felt nothing other than a smooth ride. It was the craziest thing. These DriveGuard tires from Bridgestone are something else. They really do keep you going  up to 50 miles at up to 50 mph as they claim, giving you the opportunity to get to safe and convenient place to get your tire repaired or replaced I was impressed.

Bridgestone Drive Gaurd Course

After our spin with a flat tire, we took a ride on their course to see how the tires (properly inflated) handled in not so great weather conditions. They actually sprayed down the track to make it slick.

Bridgestone Driver Cole

Our driver Cole, who is a race car driver, took us out for a spin to show us what the DriveGuard tires are capable of. And when I say he took us out for a spin, I really mean it. He floored that gas pedal and we zoomed around the course, taking turns super sharp but never losing control of the vehicle. I really thought that was going to happen too. Cole can drive really really fast.

Melanie with Bridgestone Tires While Cole was making me feel like I was in a salad spinner, he gave us all kinds of tips on how to drive in bad weather conditions. One of my takeaways is to look straight ahead when you feel like you are losing control of your car. Cole emphasized how important it is to keep your eyes up and looking at what’s to come. Not towards the hood of your car where your eyes naturally look when you feel like you are sliding.

He gave us many opportunities to practice that point. I felt like jell-o when I got out of the car. All in all it was a very educational experience. They certainly proved their point. The tires are a good investment. Right now DriveGuard tires are available for sedans, coupes or wagons equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems.

And after experiencing what it feels like to drive on a flat tire with DriveGuard, I’m highly considering Bridgestone DriveGuard tires for our sedan the next time we need to buy tires. You can find Bridgestone DriveGuard tires at Firestone Complete Auto Care and other leading Bridgestone tire retailers. For more info on Bridgestone and Firestone Complete Auto Care, you can follow them on Twitter @Bridgestone @FirestoneAuto and also on Facebook at Bridgestone Tires and Firestone Complete Auto.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Bridgestone Tires. All opinions are my own.

Repairability of DriveGuard tires depends on the tire damage, amount of pressure loss, and vehicle operating conditions. Contact a Bridgestone retailer for details.

When Labels Don’t Fit

Melanie NaturalAs I was sorting through images from my trip to California, I kept flipping past the image of myself that you see above. What could’ve been a great picture to share is marred by dark circles under my eyes and a lack of makeup because I was feeling rather zen  (read lazy) that day. I guess California can have that effect on a girl.

But as I was eliminating images off my phone tonight, I kept coming back to this image. I think it’s because this picture really looks like me. Like the Melanie that I see in the mirror. Even with the circles. Despite the fine lines. This is a good representation of what I look like when I’m just kicking back. But why did I hesitate to share this with you originally? I guess the truth of the matter is that no image will ever completely satisfy me. I see the worst of myself in every single image ever taken. And I recognize that this is a problem.

I’ve written about this extensively before. I recognize that I have a disorder. But this disorder is not something that I’ve been able to clinically define. Sure, we know that there are bulimics and people who suffer from anorexia nervosa. but what about those of us who just see ourselves in such a critical way that we want to shatter the mirror?

What about those of us who can’t see anything positive in our reflection? I’ll fess up here. I did go to counseling for this when I was younger. And after awhile my doctor pretty much gave up on helping me because I couldn’t see reality. I could only see defects no matter how hard the doctor tried to point out reality. And even to this day I don’t know what that reality is because I can’t SEE it.

Back then this issue was just a me thing. But now I have children and now more than ever I have to be extra careful not to pass this crazy onto my own kids. Because I don’t want them to be stuck in this prison of mirrors that reflects failure from every angle. I can’t have that for my children. I won’t allow my kids to be caged in that low self esteem prison.

So I hide my crazy in my head. But it still seeps out in very subtle ways.

Let me see the pic, I’ll say to my friend. Quickly making her delete any image she takes of me because I hate them all. Even after she points out all of the good attributes of the image.

No, please don’t take a picture today, I say to another friend because it’s my “feeling fat day”. A day when I feel obese when I clearly am not.

Get in the picture, Mommy! That’s ok, I say. Mommy just wants to get your picture today. But the truth of the matter is that mommy isn’t allowed to like herself today because the scale said so. By one quarter of a pound weight gain.

I have a disorder. I don’t know what it is. No one seems to know what it is. And because I’m normal in every other way, the world says I’m fine. But I sure don’t feel like it.

BlogHer ’14, A Few Thoughts

BlogHer 14This year was BlogHer’s 10th anniversary. And I’m proud to say that I’ve been to a majority of those ten conferences. Even the year I wasn’t in attendance when I got hit by the car, my friends brought a picture of me mounted on a stick. And I did have a conference ticket, so I guess I was there at least on paper.

BlogHer has had a huge impact on my blogging career. If you can call it a career, really. It’s not like I make a lot of money from blogging. I don’t. My income comes from the companies that want to work with bloggers and the work that I do for them. Not from my writing which would be really nice, but I am not Hemingway.

Even still, being part of the BlogHer community has offered me many benefits. Support from my community, education and inspiration are just a few benefits that come to mind. When I feel like I’ve hit a writing stumbling block, the BlogHer community is always quick to help. Or when I’m down, there’s always an encouraging word. I love the feeling of camaraderie I receive from this community.

So when I was asked to speak at BlogHer ’14, I was deeply honored. BlogHer was looking for people to speak who had experience with changing their blog from one niche to another. Or to no niche at all. Something that I did not that long ago. And even though I had pushback from some, for the most part my readers (you) allowed me to make this blog a place where I felt comfortable writing on whatever moved me. Not just shopping. Thanks again for that.

BlogHer 14 PanelMy co-panelists also had experience in that area and it was a real nice mix of thoughts and advice on how to change your blog with as little damage as possible. I was very worried that we wouldn’t use up the full hour and fifteen minutes allotted to our panel, but we went straight through with only eight minutes to spare.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. It’s different to speak in front of your peers than to a group of strangers who don’t know your craft. But before the panel started, two of the other panelists shared that they were nervous too which oddly calmed me down quite a bit. I think we did rather well once we got rolling as we fed off each other, with lots of back and forth which made it interesting. I hope.

Melanie BlogHer 14Besides my panel, I visited others and particularly enjoyed a monetization panel. My friend Jenny was on that panel and I can’t believe all I learned from her while sitting in the audience. You think you know your friends and then you hear them speak and it’s like WHO ARE YOU? Seriously, I need to shut up and let my friends do all of the talking when I see them because good gracious are they smart.

Speaking of friends, there I am above with the gang I hung out with at BlogHer. None of them are bloggers. All pr peeps, but lovely just the same.  The gal in the yellow shirt is Kristin. She is one of the best pieces of conference swag I’ve ever received. Some people like to win free iPads and laptops at conferences like this. I’ll take the friendships over electronics any day of the week.

And you won’t see any swag pictures from this conference. There just wasn’t much offered this year. I have mixed feelings about this. I really don’t need another freebie from any conference ever again because after all of these years of blogging, it just becomes clutter. Free stuff sounds like a ton of fun until it overtakes your home and makes you feel like you should be featured on the show Hoarders.

That said, when there is good swag on the expo floor, it creates a kind of energy. People get excited about free stuff. Bloggers especially like to get samples to write about. So at previous conferences when the swag was of higher quality (not cups, chapstick or pens), the mood was buzzy and jovial. I just didn’t feel that on the floor this year. It was rather subdued.

Actually, the whole conference was subdued which made me miss the BlogHer of years ago when we all stayed in the same hotel and hung out in the lobby into the wee hours of the morning. Those were the days. I learned more during those late night lobby cocktailing sessions than I did from the actual panels themselves.

That’s not to say that it wasn’t a good conference this year. It was. There was just a different vibe. It actually felt like a professional conference which might be what BlogHer intended to begin with. Not a party-like free for all and swag fest that was becoming its reputation.

McDonald's at BlogHer 14But let’s face it, bloggers love a good party (don’t we all?). And our closing party did not disappoint. McDonald’s was the sponsor of the closing party and they certainly wowed us. From the truck that was placed in the middle of the party passing out Happy Meals, salads and smoothies to the headliner of the event…

Rev Run BlogHer 14Rev Run of Run-D.M.C. fame. The energy that man brought to the party was electric. Holy heck. The place went wild. So much fun. McDonald’s has been sponsoring events at BlogHer for years, but this was their very best event yet. Oh, and check this out…

McDonald's Beanie Boos BlogHer 14The heart is full of Beanie Boos from the last Happy Meal promo. What my girls wouldn’t do to have that in their room. They are kind of Beanie Boo crazy.

The closing party was when it really started to feel like BlogHer. Matter of fact, that’s where I bumped into most of my blogging friends. On the very last day. Better late than never.

All things considered, I feel like this conference is still the most important blogging conference to attend. At least that’s true for myself. You see, I don’t go to BlogHer to connect with brands while many others have that as their primary goal.

I go to refuel and reconnect with others in my trade. Sure, it’s awesome to get a great tip or learn something new to make my blog better, but I really go to spend time with my community. While I do connect with them online on a daily basis, there’s nothing like talking with them face to face. My life feels more virtual than it should. Seeing these people face to face makes those relationships more real life.

Now if I could just get a mini conference with my readers. How much fun would that be?

In closing here are some pictures from the McD’s party. It was worth the trip to San Jose for just that night!

Melanie and Elisa BlogHer 14

Lisa Stone BlogHer

Terri BlogHer McDonald's Closing Party


Melanie McDonald's BlogHer

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