Thursday, May 26, 2011

Officially a Gleek! My First Blogging Conference - Gleek Retreat 2011!

Gleek Retreat

"Mind bottling".....that's how I'd describe this past weekend.  Just a few days before it started, I found out about "Gleek Retreat", a blogging conference that was only 45 minutes away.  I thought it would be a great thing to get some advice from "real" bloggers - since I've been self-taught so far and making it up as I go along. 

I mentioned recently that I have been trying to figure out how to balance the blog with the rest of my life.  I was conflicted about whether it was a good thing to spend the time and money to go when some days it seems like I already take too much time away from the "rest of my life" as a wife, mom, friend...etc.  I discussed it with the hubzy for awhile and he ended up asking me if I'm still enjoying it, and I said absolutely yes, I love writing and sharing with all of you lovelies.  He encouraged me to go, and I agreed, hoping that I would learn ways to more efficiently and effectively run the blog, in writing, social media, design...and perhaps most importantly, time management.

So, he held down the fort while I took the weekend to meet up with a roomful of fantastic bloggers, learn lots of great information, and make some new friends.  I loved seeing the diversity in everyone's topics and styles of their blogs.....I'm looking forward to a little "free time" to be able to check them all out!  I want to share a little recap with you all......because it was a great weekend, partly to help myself remember, and also to spread the word on these awesome bloggers!

It was a little intimidating to feel like the "new kid at school" (....aaand I think the only one to not have a laptop with me, lol) but everyone was so friendly and welcoming!  It was great to put a face with some of the names I've known for so long and the speakers were all a wealth of information!
(*I'm going to apologize now for the pictures - between the lighting, my poopsie camera and my 'mad skills', they're not too hot.  I kind of gave up after awhile, so I don't have pictures of all the speakers or all the other ladies - no one was left out on purpose!)

Ohh, as we checked in we were given "swag bags" with funzies from the sponsors of the conference - thanks all, it was awesome!  {Through tomorrow (5/27) you can enter here to win a swag bag yourself!}
  • Therapon - Christina (so sweet!) was there to offer us mini facials during the conference - my skin felt amazing afterward and I can't wait to try the samples!  {found out she was from Elm Springs, AR - teensy tiny city where my husband and I met 12 years ago..... ♫ it's a small world after all, it's a small world after all....♪}
  • Bissell - gave us a free rental of a Big Green machine and a couple bottles of cleaner.  The reps were really fun and took the group out Sat. evening - thanks guys! {with 5 kids, I'm really excited to try this out!}
  • Mabel's Labels - provided a nice big sturdy bag to tote our stuff in and personalized bag tags I think (which I didn't get yet because I registered so late).  I've seen their stuff online before and I especially love the shoe labels!
  • Island Girl Bags - had a cute little bag that holds tissues that will be perfect for my diaper bag! Their other bags are great also!
  • Good Life Granola - I can't even tell you how delicious this granola is!  It's my favorite I've ever had, by far!  If you have a chance, get some!
  • Rudy Kazoody's - is a mother and daughter owned candy shop from downtown Rockford, MI, and they gave us all a treat bag - I adore the mini gummi bears!
  • Roger's Jewelers - gave us a jewelry polishing cloth.  I was hoping for a sweet rock, but the cloth will do.  ;)

First, we first heard from Lisa Lehmann (@thebeadgirl) at Studio Jewelry who spoke on Social Media - great info!  She makes the most beautiful jewelry AND offered a code to share with you (GleekAwesome20) for 20% off your entire purchase until 5/28/11!  Go check her out!

Sylvia Hubbard, discussed how to engage your readers. She packed her time full of practical tips!

Then Brittany Gibbons and Heather Spohr shared with us about running a group blog, which didn't apply to me at this point, but they had some great stuff in general that I was able to take away!

Katie Kimball gave a presentation on writing an e-book and I took lots of notes....who knows, maybe I'll be a published author some day.  ;)

After the last speaker we were free to just chillax until dinner that night.  There was an option though to take a little tour of Hope College's beautiful campus with Julie (who organized the conference).  It was raining lightly, but we were undeterred. Along the walk I spotted this little guy - a black squirrel with a brown tail. Thought it was so cute.  We'll call him Merle ('cause "Merle the squirrel" makes me smile).  Maybe two-tone Merle.

Later we had the chance to enjoy a dinner cruise which was not exactly what I had anticipated, but we had a good time.  Dinner, drinks and karaoke was a great time to just relax and hang out, getting to know each other better. I got to sit next to Andrea from Simple Organized Living, and she cracked me up.  She reminds me of an old friend of mine who just tells it like it is - love it!

{Jodi and Elena singing 'Ice Ice Baby' - awesome!  Sitting is Emily}

{Heather and Meredith - funniest version of 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' I've ever seen!}

I drove home, excitedly filled the hubzy in on the days festivities, then crashed hard for about 5 hours.....not nearly long enough.  0_o   Sunday morning we resumed and milled around trying to wake up.....that may have just been me though.

{clockwise l-r: Julie, Elizabeth, totally unsuspecting random woman eating her breakfast, Deb, and myself}

Our presenters began with Cynthia from NapWarden sharing tips on the importance of blog design - loved it!!  She was very funny and had great practical advice (which I clearly need to apply!)

Kris Kain gave us lots of advice on using photos the right way in our blogging, which I also will make great use of!

To wrap it up, Sandy Jenney and Andrea Dekker spoke on organizing and time management - my favorite I think!  I've already been tweaking my email account to make it work for me, thinking about what my priorities are, and making better use of my time......though I still have a looong way to go.  Being frugal comes naturally to me, but being organized and efficient.....not so much.

After the conference wrapped up, we said our goodbyes and got a few more pictures.......then said adieu.

{me and Terri - such a fun new friend!}

{me and Andrea}

{Julie, me, and Jolon (beautiful and so sweet!)}
As I left town, I stopped at a nearby park and enjoyed the gorgeous weather and silence before heading home to the zoo.  Tulip Time in Holland, MI was just a few weeks ago, so I missed the tulips in their prime, but it was still beautiful........

I'm really glad I had this opportunity, loved meeting these women, and am excited about putting these things into practice - though some will take some time implementing since we're up against a deadline to get the house sided before refinancing.  (It's taking quite an investment of time, but it's going to look awesome!)

I'm also thinking about changing the focus of the blog a little to make it work better for me and my family. Stay with me though, it will still be very much about being frugal - just perhaps with a more personal touch in my writing and less of trying to keep up with every sale or freebie that comes along.  I'm still thinking about how that will look and will write more about it later.  So far though I have made a few changes and have joined Twitter (@SuperSavingss)!  Join me as I take baby steps towards a better blog!  =)

*If I didn't mention them above, here are some more of the wonderful women I met at the conference.....stop by their lovely blogs and check them out! (Again, if I've missed anyone it's only because I didn't get your business card, please let me know!)

Courtney at Detroit Mommies
Dawn Gentz at Perspective Eye Care
Heather at Bigger Brighter Days
Holly at Artist Mother Teacher
Jackie at With Just a Bit of Magic
Kate at Experience GR
Katie at ABC and 123 and A List Maker's Life
Katie at Sluiter Nation
Michelle at Domestic Executive Online
Michelle at Open Eye Health
Stacy at My Life of What Ifs
Stacy at Stacey Says
Valerie at Seasonally Affected Mom
Wendy at The Local Cook


Darlene said...

Yay, Elm Spring! What are the odds on that one, eh? :) & hahaha I have been trying for a week, but have been distracted by kids etc, to get on fb and tell you to GET On TWITTER! :) Great job on the tulip pics pretty lady! I'm excited about the future off your blog. I think it's the right direction! Hugs!!

Sarah @ Sarah's Deals said...

It was very nice to meet you at Gleek Retreat. I look forward to seeing what you do here. My decision to switch up my blog has been the best decision I've ever made in blogging.

PS - in that picture, I believe it's Melissa from Bargain Shopper Mom on the left...

Mara @ Super Savings said...

Dee, I know, funny coincidence, right? =) She was so sweet too! I was resisting Twitter because it was just one more thing to manage, but it seems like with Hootsuite it's not tough at all! Thanks for your sweet words friend!

Sarah, It was great to meet you too - so glad we had a chance to talk! Was there anything in particular that made you want to change things up with your blog? (sorry if you posted about it - I missed it if you did)
Thanks for Melissa's name and blog!! I've changed it now. I really tried to get everyone's card, but it was hard to be sure - and soo many names and blogs to remember in a day and a half! =)

Stacey says... said...

Such a delight to meet you! If you're ever interested, we do have a group of West MI bloggers who get together once a month for some networking and learning. We'd love to have you join us!

Katie said...

I really enjoyed visiting with you at lunch and hearing about your sweet family. Great recap of the weekend. Glad you were able to be there! Hope to see you at a West MI Blog Meet Up sometime!

Mara @ Super Savings said...

Stacey and Katie, it was great to meet you both as well! =) I'd love to come to a West MI Blog Meet Up! I'm following the page on Facebook and am hoping the next date works out to join you all!