nine lessons I learned at #blogher14

I guess should probably talk about Blogher. I feel like it's probably a good time to reflect on my brief experience and kind of share with you how it went. I got the networking/expo pass only instead of the entire conference pass because it was kind of a last minute decision to go and I didn't want to regret passing up the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone. And to see Rev Run, I mean, duh. I planned on going to the Thursday and Friday night festivities but I ended up with a sick boy and then a husband who had his own plans. We compromised and I'd go all day Saturday, getting the most I could from one day of the experience. 

Let's start out with the fact that I was a bit nervous to go. I didn't know anyone there. Well, I knew a few people who'd be there (that I'd never actually met in real life) but I didn't have that one person or group that I knew could be my comfort zone. This was good. I was nervous and it was good. I put myself out there on Facebook and Instagram, letting everyone know I was a scared little mouse and would be all by my lonesome and people reached out. 

Lesson 1: Letting yourself be vulnerable and allowing others to see it will open doors of connection. 

I wouldn't consider myself a particularly self conscious person but holy Bing Crosby did I have problems figuring out what to wear. On top of my usual "what will the weather be like" and "what will I be doing in this outfit" dilemmas I go back and forth on while dressing for anything in general, now I was all like, "who am I going to be today?" and "do people even care?" or "will I look like I'm trying too hard if I dress up much?" and more importantly, "what would Rev Run wear?". I felt like I was going on a first date with someone I'd stalked on the internet for an extended period of time. Before leaving I changed my outfit no less than 5.2 times.  I've built up this online version of myself wanted to be what was expected of me. 

And then I mentally bitch-slapped myself. I chose to be comfortable. I'm probably most myself when my feet aren't sushi-rolled into a pair of heels. 

Lesson 2: Don't try to be what you think others will expect or want. 

Also, 

Lesson 3: In almost every situation ever, flats are obviously the best choice. 

Also,

Lesson 4: Good thing you don't have to ever do any more first dates.
When I got there I met up with a new friend and headed to the expo hall. Brands and brands and brands galore. I was definitely out of my element. If you read this blog, I don't do a whole lot with brands. It's just not who I am. As a human, I was generally interested in a few of the booths and the products and could possibly talk about them in the future but I didn't really want to form relationships with most of the brands. If I feel like telling my readers about a product, I'd rather not be getting paid to do it. I'm not knocking anyone who does it and I've dabbled in it in the past but it just really isn't my thing. It's got to be something really special for me to put out there. Quality, not quantity.

What the expo experience did for me is reinforce who I already was and the direction I was already going. It made me confident in my blog and how it is an accurate representation of who I am. 

Lesson 5: It really isn't about the stuff. 

After the expo I realized I was on the brink of passing out. I'd had barely enough food for the day and good lord, talking to people is exhausting. I grabbed dinner at the hotel bar with my new friend and we chatted about life, the good and the bad. Stomach and heart; full.

Lesson 6: Food is good.

After dinner started the drinks. A random champagne cocktail party in the hall was probably one of the more eventful parts of the evening, lots of giggling and inappropriate jokes. I was finally starting to get into the swing of this blog conference thing. The party moved outside to the official closing party sponsored by McDonalds. I really avoid McDonalds like the plague. (I mean, I'll kill some In 'N Out) I'm not about Mickey D's. I give you this information because immediately after entering the party I got myself a beer and then got in line for a cheeseburger happy meal. I have no idea the last time I've had McDonalds. And the burger looked so gross. But I knew I'd have a few more drinks that night and you know. lesson number 5 up there; food is good.

The rest of the closing party included drinking, the courage to socialize with literally just anyone standing there, and then a little Rev Run action which was actually extremely angering. He'd play a OMGTHISISMYJAM, shout "This is the remix!" into the microphone, randomly rap to ONE verse of said song, and then immediately switch to a slower, less good song. I'd like to issue a formal complaint.:

Dear Rev,
Although you are an extremely accomplished musician and entertainer, your choice of musical stylings for the evening was infuriating. I'm sure your remixed version of all of these 80's songs is actually spectacular but I very much prefer the non-remixed version of most songs in general. Next time we meet I'd actually love to hear your full rendition of Brass Monkey, not just the first verse accompanied by horns and record skips.
Sincerely,
Mandey

Lesson 7: I shouldn't have had that happy meal.

After that party I ended up dancing my legs off at a hotel bar with a few of my absolute favorite people in the blogging world. I was trapped in this constant mind battle of - "I feel like I've known these people forever. These are my people." and "it sucks some of the coolest people I know all live in my computer."

This part of the night, just everyone dancing free and fun (to some really crappy house music...what was it with bad music?!) was probably my favorite part of the whole experience. How all these people from all over the country can come together and just fucking dance and laugh and cheers and dance some more. 

Lesson 8: Sometimes the only thing you can do is just completely let go of the reins, have a strong drink and dance your stupid head off. 


I leave you with a G+ edited photo, one of only a few I took that day. There's Spike, the DJ. His hair was stiff, his cologne scent was quite pungent and his musical stylings were rhythmically confusing but he taught me my final lesson of the day.

Lesson 9: Even when the music is bad and you feel really awkward because you totally just did the stanky leg in a circle of strangers, just keep dancing. 

some fun photos for a friend

A few weeks ago, my friend Kristine asked me if I'd be up for taking some fun head shots/ photos for her site. She's building a business as a San Francisco Bay area wedding planner and also runs Josh and Paise etsy shop (she taught me how to quilt). She specified that she wanted something a little bit fun, to reflect her bright and cheery personality.

This was my first time doing something like this but we had a lot of fun and I think we ended up with a few that she liked. I'm sharing these here because I'm damn proud of myself. It's been a goal of mine to learn new photography skills and this was one step in reaching that goal.


reader survey! what do you people want??

Happy Monday people! I'm on a post-one day of Blogher inspiration high. I've been motivated by all of these amazing writers and fierce women (and dudes) to create, to be authentic, to be intentional. I want this blog to be both a reflection of me and of it's reader community. 

I'm extremely interested in hearing what you all want to see more of here on Mama Mandolin. Not that I'm going to change the format of the blog but I'd love to be able to use my strengths and knowledge and infuse it into whatever you all want to see more of. Maybe in a weekly or monthly series, or just in the general content. Now don't get me wrong, I'll still write about whatever the hell I feel like writing about but I'd like you all to help me steer this ship a little bit. 

I'd be so grateful for you to all fill out this survey honestly or if you have any different suggestions that won't fit, leave me a comment! 


Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

And for your viewing pleasure, a photo that makes me laugh every time I see it. Who doesn't need a good giggle on Monday? 

anniversary of becoming a mother

I was afraid, I was quite alone, my life changed in the five minutes it took for that pee stick to dry five years ago today. It was my lunch hour, probably one of the most dramatic lunch hours in lunch hour history. 

I was barely four weeks along, but I just felt off and was hoping to put an end to my unreasonable anxiety. I wasn't pregnant, was I? It was surely possible, but this was just not the right time. My four-weeks new fiance was living 1500 miles away. I was ready to move and had made a final decision but wasn't ready. The logistics of packing everything I owned into a couple of suitcases and forfeiting everything else to my parent's basements wasn't what I'd exactly laid out in detail yet. I hadn't given notice at my job, when would I be able to move? I didn't want to be pregnant alone.

I called my mom. She was at a local town carnival with my brothers and sister. She told me to take care of myself and the life I could be growing. This meant I had to be a mom immediately. In five minutes I'd gone from girl who just thought she was pms-ing to... a mother

***

I sat outside with the boys last night in the cool bay area evening air, five light years and thousands of miles from where I was on this anniversary five years ago. I don't even know who I am without them. 


a look behind the scenes

A couple of weeks ago I had our friend Chris  come over to take some photos of me doing my thang in my home sewing studio. Of course it was like a million degrees that day and the lighting in the room is dim at best pretty much all. day. long. Chris was totally up for the challenge and I'm in love with what he captured. Hoping to use these for a killer page on the blog dedicated specifically for the shop and handmade business life. 

Enjoy.

#Stitchfix Number 10: box of the year!

It's been a few months since I've done a Stitchfix post, and I've gotten so many goodies in my past boxes I feel bad for not sharing! I finally got around to taking photos of last month's box and gosh they're getting good at sending me things I love!

If you haven't heard of Stitchfix here are the deets: 
1) Go the link, sign up and fill out all the info they ask for about your personal tastes, they'll hook you up with a stylist who'll send you a box with 5 items that they think will look great on you, based on what you tell them.
2) Pay a $20 styling fee which includes the box shipped to you and goes toward your purchase should you choose to keep anything in the box. 
3) Get your box (which you can set up on auto for once a month or schedule them as you wish) and try on your items! You have 3 days to decide and there's a free shipping bag included to send back what you don't want.

I can't say enough about how much I love this service. I look forward every month to what surprise I'm going to get in my box and just really enjoy trying clothes on from the comfort of my own home. Oh, and let's not forget the outfit suggestions they send with each piece, so you know exactly how to wear it and can find things from your closet to put together.

Oh and spoiler alert- I KEPT EVERYTHING. One huge perk I love about keeping the entire box is that you get a 25% discount on the box if you buy it all. SO, if there was one shirt you weren't quite sure about, you basically get it for free if you just take the whole box. So worth it.

Here's what I got this month! (Except for a maxi dress I couldn't find in my closet lol. whoops!)

ALTERNATIVE APPAREL BEVERLY OMBRE & STRIPED COTTON KNIT SHIRT
I'm actually wearing this as we type. This shirt is so dang comfortable. I love the ombre. What I love about pieces like this is that they take a normal style like a  striped shirt and step it up a notch. It makes it easier for the shirt to be the main piece of the outfit without a lot of other frills. This is so necessary for me, as I really don't do much as far as accessories go most days so I really look for pieces that stand by themselves, even when just thrown together in a casual outfit.

LE SAMPLE KAHLO EMBROIDERED SOLID TANK
I wasn't completely sure about this tank at first, mainly because it's a little bit long and falls at kind of a weird spot for me. But I paired it with some high waisted jeans and knotted it in the front all 90's style and it's much more flattering. I love the mint contrast embroidery. And a special bonus, it's a gathered racerback, which gives it a little extra flare in the back. 

ZAD CODY TEARDROP FRINGE EARRINGS
It's not very often that I get accessories from Stitchfix, and I'm extremely picky with all of them I own, but these earrings? Fabulous. Gold jewelry is my spirit animal. The touch of white on these is perfect. These earrings are great for dressing up or to pair with something more casual. So happy with this little surprise in this fix.

PAPERMOON PASADENA CROCHET FRONT SHORT SLEEVE BLOUSE
This might be my all time favorite piece in the entire year I've been using this service. I wasn't quite sure about it when I opened the box because I mean, it's hot pink. Also, things crocheted or made of lace tend to be really tight on my arms and shoulders. I was a little bit worried about this. (The back is just a sheer pink with a zipper at the top, fyi). But once I put it on- it fits perfectly. So comfortable, and the pink isn't so bad when you keep the rest of the outfit neutral. I love the longer sleeves, and the gathered shoulders. Usually the little poofs on the shoulders are too much and make me look like a linebacker (my shoulders are already wide) but these provide the perfect balance and actually keep the sleeves from being too snug. 

I could go on forever about this top. I'm determined to find a way to wear it year round. And it even came with the white layering tank for underneath. 


Want to give it a try? There's nothing to lose, even if you only do it once, it's a super fun experience. GO HERE to read more and sign up!



a trip to the aquarium

Mentally, I've been trying to make more of an effort lately to take the boys out and experience things as a family on weekends. It's easy to get stuck in a constant routine on weekends of staying home and relaxing, getting things done around the house. Before we know it, it's been a month and we haven't gone on any adventures.
This past weekend we took a drive to Monterey Bay Aquarium, about an hour and a half drive from our house. Chikezie has been bugging me about going for weeks and I kept putting it off. "I have sewing to do this weekend." "I need to get my shop updated." I was getting overwhelemed with all of the things I need to do but really, I just needed a break with my family.

 It was a beautiful cloudy, foggy day. I love the fog by the bay. It feels like clouds to me, and if you know me, cloudy days are my favorite. We found a cute restaurant right on the water and dined on burgers, grilled cheese and fries. 


We watched the boats and birds go by. They talked about the waves and the sail boats being pirate ships. It felt so good to be at the edge of everything. I forgot how much I need to be out in the open air, and how much city life weighs down on this country girl.
After we were nice and fueled up, we walked to the aquarium. Now, going to a crowded area with two little boys who are impatient and energetic has it's challenges. I'd like to say taking them on adventures is all fun, but it is a lot of work. Isaiah needs constant stimulation. He won't stand and look at one thing for long before wanting to go to the next. This presents a few challenges for all of us, but Chikezie and I kind of took turns being dragged around by him. Julian on the other hand, is a quiet observer. He could stand at one window and watch the jellyfish swim around for hours. I really wanted him to be able to move about at his own pace. 

With as busy as the day was, experiencing life through the eyes of your child is one of the true wonders of life. Everything is fresh and new again, like you've never seen it before. I suppose I get more excited than the boys because watching them experience things is probably better than experiencing it myself. 

After the aquarium we walked around the Monterey Cannery district for a bit and had to take a short walk in the sand to see the waves. For being California born, these boys sure do hate sand. Neither one of them wanted to walk in it (they hate it in their shoes), and they are just both generally unimpressed by the ocean. I mean, it's awesome to look at from a distance, but up close? No thanks. 

We stood there for a few minutes, long enough to feel the ocean breeze and smell the fresh/fishy ocean air. Chikezie loves the beach, though. If he could have, he'd have put his feet in the water. I love that about my husband, how he likes just sit sometimes, and admire. I decided we needed a quick family photo of this much needed adventure, and this selfie was about as good as it gets.