Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dear Conference Newbie

Dear Conference Newbie,

Now that you have attended a giant, 2-day conference without your Dears, you can throw that one into the 'Done' bucket.  You just didn't have any idea how it was going to KICK YOUR BUTT.  You also didn't expect a whole lotta other things as well.  Oh, and by you I mean this person in the reflection, wide-eyed and taking a selfie when no one was looking.  <Clears throat>.


Our room with a view
There were a few things I did expect.  I expected to have a good time.  I mean, really, two days of kids-free, grownup-filled, major blogging conference in the city--how can that not be fun?  Plus, I was going to have a great friend as a roommate and someone that can include little quiet me in conversations with new faces (though I knew that at some point I was going to have to step outside my comfort zone at an event like this).

But there were many a things I did not assume would happen.  And here are the #TopTen things I didn't expect at BlogHer13:

10.  Keynote Speakers.  I had known the list of keynote speakers, but I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy their talks.  To kick-off the conference, Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman gave a talk (and sang a song) with a slideshow of her blogging career.  She was lovely, charming, and hysterical.  I simply adored her.

Next, Guy Kawasaki, an author, speaker, and business advisor, talked to an audience of bloggers and writers about the how-tos of self-publishing with his newest book, APE (Author, Publisher, Entrepeneur): How to Publish a Book.  He further spoke about the relevance of the social platform, Google+, as well as his love for Android.  He was both entertaining and tech-geeky, and gave out free copies of his ebook!

I missed out on two speakers (Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook CEO and author of Lean In, and Gale Anne Hurd, producer of The Walking Dead, among other fine works) and was very bummed .  But as of now the transcripts of the conference are live, and I need to go catch up.  But I did get to hear Lourds Lane, singer/songwriter and creator of a Broadway-bound show, who gave us a heartfelt and inspirational storytelling and musical performance about the superhero inside of her.  *Tears*.


9.  Dresses.  So that nifty convertible dress I bought for the conference?  And the burgundy spaghetti-strap tank dress I dug out from the depth of my closet?  Didn't wear them.  Didn't even come close.  The entire event was so casual and tight-scheduled that it seemed almost silly to go change into a dress and heels.  I was also lazy and tired.  But it was all good.  I'm sure my feet are thankful to have lived three days in my crotchet Toms flats.  #MyToesDidntGetToSeeTheLightOfDayEither

8.  Swag.  Oh. The. Swag.  Vendors came to this event armed with their products to thrust at the attendees.  Official and unofficial BlogHer sponsors were exceedingly generous with their stuff.  They want to get the word out via bloggers, so they gave out free samples, had drawings, and enticed with prizes.  To thank the brands, I tweeted about products/causes that I really liked or were important to me.  It was staggering how much stuff was in the luggage-check room.  Stuff!  #StuffWeAllGet

7.  Meeting people.  I hadn't expected talking to total strangers could actually be pleasant and not too intimidating.  I met many wonderful women and mostly listened learned about their blogs and interests.  Truthfully, I'm much better one-on-one.  Stick me in a group and people will forget that I'm still there unless they notice my big smile that's supposed to substitute for all the talking.  But it was still a good experience.  #CrashCourseSchmoozing

6.  Starstruck.  I didn't expect--well, a little bit, maybe--to meet a "famous" blogger, except to see them on stage.  But going down an escalator, I realized that Zakary of Raising Colorado was in front of me, talking to a friend.  I had just moments to think this through.  Do I miss out on a chance to say hello to someone I've been following for years, or just swallow my pounding heart about to jump out of my throat so I won't have to be coherent and seemingly normal?  We got off the escalator, and I followed her for about ten seconds and then hesitantly poked my index finger on her arm.  I stepped out of my bubble and said hello.  She was so nice and lovely (and tall)!  She was going to speak at Voices of the Year that evening, and I wasn't going to miss it.  I wasn't altogether intelligible but it wasn't a complete disaster, so I was really proud of myself and my little poke.  #FistPumpNumberOne

5.  Share at a session.  Furthermore, I actually spoke into a microphone at a breakout session.  Yes, little quiet me.  I couldn't believe it either.  At every session, I sat in the back and asked no questions and made no comments.  But at my very last one, the speaker asked us to write a six-word memoir in three minutes.  I wrote one, and felt that I really needed to do something I hadn't done yet.  So I raised my hand and shared my words.  Again, I wasn't totally articulate (the transcript even proves it), but I think the audience caught my drift and the speaker nodded many times.  #FistPumpNumberTwo

4.  VOTY.  Each year, 100 bloggers are honored for a piece they wrote, first nominated and then selected by a panel for Voices of the Year.  Then 12 are chosen to be keynote readers for VOTY.  I had heard that as a newbie, the one thing one must attend is this reading, because the words will make you laugh and make you cry.  I laughed and I cried.  I loved it.  I was simply captivated by their voices and words.  VOTY had invariably exceeded my expectations and moved the ground under me.  Added bonus, Queen Latifah was the emcee for this event.  #RemarkableWomanWithPhenomenalWords

3.  Sessions.  I had gone to this conference ready to learn.  Since I wasn't particularly there to work with brands, and I didn't need to be more techy with my blog, I was drawn to many of the writing sessions, hoping to gain some insights into better writing.  Interestingly, I found that what the panel or speaker presented was not new to me.  In other words, I realized that I was already doing what the experts were telling us.  At first I felt a little gypped about not learning anything new.  But then I realized that I was walking out of the sessions a little taller, my shoulders pulled back an inch more.  I actually felt good about my writing from this seemingly disappointing aspect of the event.  No boasting here; I'm just telling the honest truth.  It was actually quite a telling moment for me.  #WarmFuzzyFeeling

2.  Exhaustion.  BlogHer KICKED. MY. BUTT.  I cannot believe how fatigue took me by my excitement and gave me its medicine to match.  The walking, in a place as giant as The McCormick Place (convention center); the late nights, schmoozing and girl-talking at our 40-Somethings Slumber Party; my eyes, wearing my gas permeable contacts for 16+ hours a day; and don't judge--the carrying, as in swag.  It's [partly] how I missed Sheryl Sandberg's talk.  It's how I felt every single muscle in my body ache after I returned home.  It's how I couldn't feel any less zombified for two days after the conference.  But I wasn't the only one.  All across Twitter and blog posts, attendees all claimed such lethargy as if it were an honorable BlogHer specialty swag.  #YourTakeHomeSouvenir

Cheers! from my roomie and me
1.  My Voice.  I think the most important thing that I took away from this conference, unexpectedly, was not something concrete like session notes or a how-to handout, but believing in myself--something that is as abstract as the edges of the universe, but as tangible as my own beating heart.  It's there, and it's started to pulse steadier and louder than it has ever before.  For the two years that I have been writing, I've been quiet and reserved, sharing my blog only with my friends and family.  Each time I began making a Facebook Page for the blog, I quit because I couldn't shake the notion of success being measured by a number next to a little blue thumbs-up.  Something from this conference told me to let go of my many insecurities and move onward and upward.  It could have been the encouraging words of my awesome roommate; it could have been the messages of the keynote speakers and session panelists; or it could have been the inspiration of seeing five thousand women doing exactly what I'm doing: writing and sharing and community-ing and loving it.  I'm happy to be a tiny seed amongst millions of others that do what they can to inspire others.  I don't need to become a big tree; even small flowers make contributions in their own ways.  #SoIMadeMeAFacebookPage (see right side bar up there at the top)


So, Dear Conference Newbie, from the meals and drinks to the swag and your confidence, you sure got your money's worth out of this conference!  You can even now be promoted from BlogHer Newbie to Oldbie--swanky!  (I can't wait to find out where BlogHer14 will be.  Maybe I'll have less of a deer-in-headlights look next time.)


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dear Farming

Dear Farming,

After the development of The Farm (my backyard) this summer, I have come to realize how similar you are to a Parent's work!  We welcome children into our lives so that we can nurture them, care for them, and guide them to become productive members of our society.  Well, it seems as if growing veggies is not too far off from such challenging and never-ending obligations and tasks of Parenting.  Here's how.


First, you (parents) plan for having children.  You line your ducks in a row before sowing some Seeds (of Love).  (Well, even if you didn't plan it, the outcome is still pretty much the same; read on.)

 Pinterest-inspired: growing seeds in toilet paper rolls

Babies remain to be unseen while you (Mommies) carry them for nine months (5 to 10 days), all the while reading What to Expect books (internet gardening DIY sites) to plan for the rest of Babies' lives.  Excitement builds, and you cannot wait to meet your Little Ones.

Dear Son watering the newly planted seeds

Then you wait and wait and wait some more.  After Babies mature in Mommies' womb, they pop out, and seriously? There is not a more marvelous sight to see.   

 Houston, we have Seedlings!

You will also have prepared a space or nursery in which Infants will take residence.  You pick the room (plot), clean it out, and take a deep breath before it gets filled with Babies and their Stuff.  You think, this is where They will grow, dream, laugh, and play.

 View, from left and from right

After months (weeks) of prepping the walls (grounds) and furniture (structures), Babies take to their new home and settle in.  You take a step back, marvel at your work, and smile happily.  Now you long to see them grow up; you cannot wait to see Babies eat their first solid foods, crawl, take steps, run, and go to school.

 View, from left and from right

And Babies eventually do all that.  They continue to develop, become Children, and learn all about the world they live in.  You sometimes wonder how they got to be so big, from the tiny Infants that they were just Moments ago.  You tell yourself take it all in.  Now.

Left, tomatoes and cucumber; right, pumpkin taking over watermelon

You continue to marvel at their dazzling Selves.  You notice their pretty eyes and handsome stature.  You take lots of pictures to capture memories of their colorful Childhood.

Flowers, clockwise from top left: pumpkin, cucumbers, cilantro, green beans

Then during the middle school and high school years, things can get a little bit hairy.  Out-of-hand, if you will.  Teenagers start to eat away your monthly paycheck and grow like weeds.  Why, I JUST bought new clothes for Adolescent, and he's grown another two sizes!

Dear Husband is not happy about the invasion of his grilling space

They even start growing in places you'd be embarrassed to look...

 The Vines are taking over! The grill is surrounded!

But then you realize that Young Adults really are, just, growing well (maybe too well).  By now, they've weathered a few storms (for realz, with toppled cages and all), had a few broken hearts (or stems).  But as straggly and tousled as Teens look, they are still your Pride and Joy.

After a few megas-storms and insufficient cage rescues

And because you now see Children begin to bear some fruit of your love, you know that your hard work have and will continue to pay off, when they finally make some real contribution to society (in a few more weeks).

Baby fruit, clockwise from top left: pumpkin, Roma tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper

But what's even more surprising amidst this job called Parenting are the beautiful surprises that come with it.  Like inadvertently finding a gift your Tween handmade for you.  Or watching your Young Child bestow an act of kindness that makes him shine like a star.  Or experience the magic of your Kid feeling perfectly at ease outside her comfort zone.  Those are the moments when you know you've done something right.  You know that They will be just fine.

Left, a robin's egg under a tomato plant; right, a spider web glistening in morning dew

Pumpkin growing on brick patio

As you wait to see the outcome of your labor, you realize that everything you've put into Them will likely, at some point, come back to you.  Some mature earlier than others, and some, later.  Either way, you will reap the rewards of the work you put in and taste the sweetness of your fruit.

 Freshly-picked: left, spinach; right, green beans

 Cucumbers, harvest-ready


So, Dear Farming, as the old saying goes, "you reap what you sow."  Man, I had better have some good-tasting Grown Children in a decade or so.


P.S. Click on the photos to see larger images.  If you are reading from a feed, the photos and captions may be misaligned.  Please click through to website to see the original and intended formatting.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Dear BlogHer '13

Dear BlogHer '13,

In exactly one week, I'll be sitting in one of your sessions to learn more about this <air quoting> blogging business.  Even though I think I'll be the only wide-eyed, clueless person there, I'm telling myself otherwise--because I'll just pretend that I know what I'm doing.  Kidding.


BlogHer is a community and media company that holds one of the largest annual conferences for bloggers, specifically for women, though not excluding men.  It was founded in 2005, has quickly grown through its group blog, and had over 5000 attendees at last year's conference in New York City.   Even though I haven't really thought too much about attending a blogging conference, being the introvert blogger that I am, BlogHer is coming to me this year, so I don't have much of an excuse not to go.

BlogHer '13

Except I bought the early bird ticket last year, and then had cold feet.  Most of my close blogging friends won't be going this year, and I felt like I won't know a soul there.  I really didn't want to be there among a sea of women bloggers that already know each other and clearly know what they're doing.  Thankfully, I realized that two local friends/school moms are also going, and I'll even be rooming with one of them.  Whew.  At least I won't be totally lost.

BlogHer '13

It will also be the first time that I'll be away from the kiddos for a decent chunk of time.  I went away for a weekend when Dear Daughter was two years old, and have never been away since Dear Son was born.  They're plenty old now and ready for this sort of thing, and I know they will be fine with Dear Husband.  In fact, they probably will have a lot of fun without me, since Daddy is always the Yes Man.  And I'll probably get lots of texts from them, too.  iMessage is an awesome, awesome thing.

BlogHer '13

A conference as big as this is both intimidating and exciting at the same time.  Last year at this time I read many blogs that expressed their writer's pre-conference jitters and a growing to-do list to get ready--pretty much what I'm going through right about now.  The jitters I can put aside until the night before.  The to-do list?  I'm on it.  First and foremost, business cards.  Business cards? you ask.  I asked, too.  But yes, apparently you need business cards, or else how will you I network with other bloggers or sponsors?  So I made some.  And I cannot believe I have business cards.  That's like me, a SAHM, wearing a business suit all day at home, but whatevs.

Next, I updated some parts of this blog.  When I first started, I was as inexperienced with blogging as I am about business cards, but that's how one gets started, I suppose.  Now that I have been writing for some time, I have developed a voice and a personality in these posts.  There is more intent in my writing and a conscious goal to affirm the Little Things in Life.  I've updated my About page, my Popular Posts page (to reflect more recent posts), as well as the blog description on my collage header above.  (If you have a moment, would you go and read them and let me know your thoughts?)  All this has been a work in progress, and will continue to be.  This blog has come a long way, and I've learned so much about this <air quoting> blogging business, from content to layout to html.  And I'll be learning even more at the big conference next week.

BlogHer '13

Finally, we can't forget about the fashion aspect of this conference.  I had to figure out what to wear for the sessions and the parties in the evenings.  I'm totally not a dressy kind of person, so I wasn't planning on buying anything new specifically for the event.  But I inadvertently came across a dress at the mall whose tag really caught my eye.  The tag shows many different ways in which the dress could be worn.  And best of all, this dress is soft and stretchy, made of rayon and Spandex--totally my kind of comfy clothing.  Take a look at this Elan convertible dress and all the different ways it can be worn!  (There are ten short videos on this 5 minute playlist.)

Pretty neat, huh?  In case you were wondering, I got one in black.  You can never go wrong with black.  But I haven't actually tried it on yet, so I'll get on that.  (By the way, this is not a sponsored post; I just wanted to share a really cool thing I found by accident!)

Anyway, by the time this post goes live, I'll be with my two friends chatting it up planning for the conference.  There are still some more logistical things to figure out, but I think we're almost ready.  I think.


So, Dear BlogHer '13, I'm excited, overwhelmed, and a little worried.  I'm sort of worried that I'll walk by a really famous blogger and I won't know it.  Or that I might meet one that I follow, and have to pick my lower jaw off the floor because I'm so starstruck.  Either way, it will be quite an experience.  I'm sure I'll have lots to say about it afterwards, so stay tuned.  And last but not least,

BlogHer '13

Cuz cute shoes?  They're a gal's best... friend anti-anxiety pill.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dear Writing

Dear Writing,

As a non-verbal way of communication, you allow people to talk without talking, express without saying, and converse without speaking.  Which is why I love to write, because I'm nowhere near as articulate and coherent in person as I am in writing.  In addition to serving a remedy for my social anxiety, here are my #TopTen reasons why I love to write:

10. To make use of an English degree.  Or to pretend that the four-year university tuition to earn one was worthwhile, because twenty years later I am writing for free.  But I recently read this New York Times article on The Decline and Fall of the English Major, and couldn't help but feel a little sad about what lifelong gifts young men and women could have acquired had they chosen a major in the humanities.  #ProudEnlgishMajor

9.  To play around with words.  There is so much fun in experimenting with the different ways words can be strung together to make a point.  For example, I can say I love to write.  Or I can say I thrive on the process of making my thoughts intentional and indelible.  Or I can say Writing is as vital as the air I breath to survive, the nourishment I need to subsist, and the love I crave to live.  Or, simply, Writing. Delighting.  #EndlessPossibilities

8.  To practice a discipline.  Any discipline necessitates intent and perseverance.  Writing cultivates a habit of introspection, organization, and synthesis.  Having written consistently and routinely for two years now, I actually feel and own an achievement that I'm proud of.  Knowing that I can persist also means that writing will likely remain a permanent part of the rest of my life.  #FocusStriveAspire

7.  To document Moments in our lives.  I was never into scrapbooking--one, because we've stopped printing out photos (the digital age has invisibly stored all photos on an object called a hard drive) and I'm too cheap to buy scrapbooking knick knacks; and two, because there's always a story behind a two dimensional picture.  Those Moments, recalled with words, have much more depth than an album of "things we did."  Undoubtedly, when I'm old and gray and can't remember a thing, I'll be reflecting back on these Life Moments through my own writing.  #WhoWhatWhenWhereWhyHow

6.  To acquire therapy.  I cannot tell how many times writing has helped with easing my mind and organizing thoughts when faced with adversity.  Be it personal, parenting, or social issues, getting my thoughts down in writing has been vastly therapeutic.  The blogging community has also been such an awesome sanctuary that who needs a therapist?  #UrgeToPurge

5.  To enjoy being the Grammar Freak that I am.  It literally hurts my eyes to read an "it's" when it's supposed to be an "its."  I pray to the Grammar Gods that it was just an honest mistake and try to carry on.  That is not to say that I never make any mistakes; I'm sure I have my share as well--honest mistakes, of course.  Oftentimes I have trouble with subject-verb agreements, and I'm a stickler for certain punctuation rules that have evolved over time.  For example, I will always use the Oxford comma, and I will always--not-so-honest mistakenly--put two spaces after the period at the end of a sentence (which is supposedly obsolete thanks to modern typography).  #OutdatedGrammarPolice

4.  To share and know that we are not alone.  Being in a community makes us feel included.  The little circle of friends I have made on the blogosphere shows me that I am a part of shared experiences that matter.  I can talk about the been-there-done-thats, and read about the roll-up-sleeves-to-get-ready-fors.  We learn from each other, and we also teach one another.  #SharingIsCaring

3.  To have a voice.  Writing allows me to express my opinions and impart my personality in a more rational, intelligible manner.  What better way to opine one's point of view when one cannot bear to speak in public?  #Utter-lyAssertive

2.  To get better at it.  If I currently have one goal for writing, this would be it.  I want to improve.  It feels like it has gotten easier--words come to mind faster and with more accuracy, and thoughts are more organized and have better flow.  I even daresay that I've gotten a teensy bit faster, too.  It's normal to wince when one reads one's earlier writings, right?  #WhatWasIThinking?

1.  To express Gratitude.  Writing about the Everyday reminds me to never take things for granted.  It helps me remember the reasons why I should give back, be kind, say thank you, embody grace, manifest character, show integrity, protect the earth, have compassion, and embrace tolerance.  Because the Path of Gratitude leads to Happiness.  #ThanksGivingAllYearLong

Dare I now call myself a writer?  Well, if I fit the writer stereotype--introvert, coffee lover, night owl, often feeling like a social misfit--then, I probably can call myself a writer.  Or better yet, I am a writer because I love to write.  There, I said it.  I am Writer.  (It's only taken took two years; I told you I'm slow.)

So, Dear Writing, am I ever glad we reunited since forever ago.  Writing for fun as a kid was great; writing for grades in school--not so much.  But now, writing for free myself and having people enjoy it has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things for me in the past two years.  Who knows?  I may even get caught up and re-learn the rules of typography as I continue this writing business.  But if you ever meet me in person, expect that my smile will serve in place of conversing because I'm a writer not a talker.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dear Bliss

Dear Bliss,

The sense of elation that comes with your affect is sometimes expected, and other times, unanticipated, catching us off guard.  Whichever way you decide to visit, however, we are more than happy to welcome you with open arms.

After spending the 4th of July doing the whole celebratory spiel--parade, family cookout, and fireworks--we took a quick, mini-getaway to the side of Lake Michigan where one can enjoy watching the sunset over the glistening water.  We had such a great experience there last year--from the ease of a short road trip, access to beautiful beaches, shopping and dining at quaint stores and restaurants, to coming home with a large boxful of Michigan blueberries--it seemed likely that we'd make this an annual visit.  And even better yet, BFF and her family were able to join us for most of the this trip.

There was something we each looked forward to on this little road trip.  We all knew pretty much what to expect having just been a year ago.  Last time, we came upon a set of stairs that led up to a high viewing spot and then down a steep sand hill--if one chose to "Speedy-Gonzalez" down it to get to the beach.  But because I did't want us to all roll down the sand hill it would be a long trek to walk back to the parked car, we didn't go up the stairs last year.  We had all agreed to climb it this time, and Dear Daughter was super excited.  I think she had looked forward to this part of the trip the most.

We began the climb up the stairs, and the kiddos went up ahead of us.  I decided to count the steps as I went up.  At 50, I was already breathing hard.  The kiddos were way ahead.  At 139, I was neither up nor down, so I kept going.  The kiddos were still way ahead.  At 268, a little train's voice starting sounding inside my head.  The kiddos had already reached the top.  I remember counting to 300, and there were still a few steps left.  But we made it!  We snapped a few pics up there with the gorgeous view and decided to go back down the stairs instead of tumbling down the sand hill.  Dear Son wisely observed that it was much easier to go down the stairs than up, and I was just so grateful that gravity was doing most of my work getting back to the car.

Back at the car, as I stopped to get a drink in the trunk, it occurred to me that my legs were actually shaking.  If my knees buckled right then I would have been flat on the ground.  Just when I felt like such a loser, Dear Husband admitted to me that his legs were really shaking, too.  Um, the couple that is out-of-shape together stays together, right?  Meanwhile, DD had the biggest smile on her face because she got to climb those stairs and was consistently the first one up and first one down.

We then drove to the beach and DD took her spanking new bodyboard we had bought at the surf shop next to our lunch spot to greet the waves.  Except there were no waves, and the water temperature was a whopping 67 degrees.  But what came as a surprise to DD was how much fun she had learning how to bodyboard.  In that freezing cold water.  Look at me, Mama!  I did it, Mama!  No sooner than she asked me if bodyboarding is a sport did she declare to Dear Husband that her two favorite sports are swimming and bodyboading.  Her newly found delight was a giant, pleasant surprise, only marred by the fact that her wimpy Mama wouldn't join her and try bodyboarding, too--it being one of the best sports there is, obvs.  Tweens and their new loves, I tell ya.

Dear Son was most excited about the stay at the hotel.  No--it was no five-star hotel; it was just your run-of-the-mill clean hotel.  To him, a hotel meant a few sure things: a different "home" for a few days, many chances to press the elevator buttons, and swimming at a hotel pool.  Those things are his top three Vacation Best.

But we stopped by our first beach after the 300+ Death Stairs before checking into the hotel, and DS's Top Three were immediately replaced when he landed his two feet on the sand.  After a million "how many more minutes"s and "when do we get to the hotel"s, the sand and the water made him forget all about the godforsaken hotel.  He got busy right away with his shovels and buckets, digging and patting and scooping and dumping away.  I sat back and simply marveled at the expression on his face, so full of excitement and fervor, as if that innate need to get to every inch of the beach's sand might simply overcome him if he stopped doing.  He ran from water to sand, with full and empty buckets, and stayed busy all by himself for the entire time.  His eyes sparkled and his body bounced about as if soaked in pure delight.  His euphoria was so evident that I could practically feel it.  Boys and their sand, I tell ya.

DH's Bliss List was tied mainly to his gut.  He wanted to get reservations at two highly recommended restaurants that we were not able to try last time.  A spectacular restaurant that was already booked offered to "squeeze us in" when he called to make a reservation, which certainly made DH's night, but not as much as getting into a local steakhouse that is normally packed everyday with no wait whatsoever on a Friday night.  It was such a delight that he actually took a picture of his dinner because... PRIME RIB!  Men and their meat, I tell ya.

As for me, aside from the warm-sand-between-toes feeling, the sun, water, breeze, and being on vacation with BFF's family, and watching our kiddos have a great time, my Happy Place was going to be my Uncommon Grounds coffee and scone.  Last year I didn't know what a hand-dripped coffee was, and didn't want to pay almost twice the amount of money for one.  But this year, being the new and improved coffee aficionado that I am, the anticipation of ordering one and watching the barista make it was absolutely delectable, as was the coffee and cranberry-orange scone themselves.

But what I didn't expect was the highly-acclaimed restaurant DH managed to get us into: Salt of the Earth.  It gets all its foods locally, and serves up a variety of freshly-made, phenomenal breads.  But what really got to me was seeing this behind the restaurant's parking lot:

Its very own garden.  Where it grows its own produce and herbs.  The Farmer in me almost cried happy tears, and it took me a moment to remember to snap a pic for good measure.  Indeed, I had some cucumber on my plate grown right there from that patch of land, and was it as crisp and fragrant as a freshly-picked cuke.

Best of all, we spent the day at the beach and the evening at this fine-dining restaurant with BFF's family.  We've dine together many a times, but none as special as this occasion.  We're on vacation, in a really nice restaurant, and toasted with a lovely bottle of wine together.  I ate and drank until I was giddy with Intoxicated Bliss.  There may have been a few eyewitnesses to my OMG-everything-is-so-funny grin. Mamas and their wine, I tell ya.

Last but not least, we got our souvenirs (like the good tourists that we are) and Michigan blueberries before we headed home.  It was a quick 2.5 day getaway, but one that made us all content in ordinary and unexpected ways.  Our Happy Places all crossed over with one another's to weave the fabric of a fortunate family so lucky as to have each another.  After all, what's more fun than sharing extra fun with the people you love?  DS would certainly agree, as he cannot stand to miss out on any of our fun.  Nor would we ever dare to exclude him, at any cost.

So, Dear Bliss, twas a beatific weekend filled with Summer and stuffed bellies.  Though we didn't watch the sun set over the water this time, nor did I fully submerse myself in the beautiful waters of Lake Michigan, I was content.  Summer's not over yet, and I still plan on getting this 40-year-old body on a bodyboard and share DD's fun, in warmer Lake Michigan.  Yes, there is something about that Michigan, isn't there?  It's pure bliss in Pure Michigan.