texas style council: a campy farewell

t's been over a month since Texas Style Council's final conference, CAMP, but I'm still feeling inspired by my weekend surrounded by amazing women.  With founder Indiana now living in Atlanta, GA, Texas Style Council pulled out all the stops for this final event.  I've always appreciated Indiana's focus on community and connections rather than stats and sponsors when it comes to the content of the conferences.  TxSC has been the one conference I choose to attend simply because of the more down-to-earth vibe.  Big conferences with the focus on networking and business connections and becoming the biggest, richest blogger on the block, they're just not for me.   A weekend in the woods with my favorite ladies, casual style, sessions on journaling and confidence, and s'mores?  That's what I'm talking about.  
And you know what?  Even though I didn't attend any sessions on making connections with big brands, crafting super pinnable content, and growing your audience, I left feeling so much more motivated to make this space meaningful, healthy, and inspiring.  I suppose, since CAMP stood for "Create A Meaningful Presence," that means the weekend truly lived up to it's intention, eh?  One of the big reasons I'm going on a new Brave trip and starting my podcast is because of TxSC and the encouragement from blog friends to just go for it.

I co-lead a session with Megan from Greetings From Texas about what to do when your blog becomes a slog.  The word for the session was "SHIFT," but Megan aptly noted that perhaps it should be "SHIT."  Like, oh shit... this used to all come easy and I had tons of ideas and sponsors were interested in working with me and I was excited and now I feel all blah and don't know what to say anymore and sponsors don't seem to give a shit about my blog, and being a full time blogger just isn't what it used to be.  We talked about shifting focus to keep the passion alive, or even shifting to different goals other than blogging, even quitting blogging.  We talked about how in the past year or two there's emerged a huge gap in terms of income between the top 200 bloggers (in terms of income) and the rest of us and how that's affected monetized bloggers.  We talked about finding new passions through blogging, and focusing more on quality than quantity when it comes to blog posts.   Megan was way more on top of her stuff and actually had someone tape a little snippit of our discussion, which you can find on her blog here.    
I had learned about Megan last TxSC when I attended her + Becky Murphy's session on book writing.  Megan wrote a book about her experience with Ovarian cancer and adoption, which is hilarious (despite those topics not seeming immediately hilarious), but I hadn't really read her blog until learning that we'd be co-leading our discussion session.  Julie, Jen, and I were supposed to be rooming with Moorea, but after Moorea had to cancel her trip to TxSC, Megan took her spot in our room and I was so glad she did.  It was a blast getting to know her and I feel like I gained a brand new amazing friend.

Hanging out with blog friends I've known since 2009, I realized that they aren't just blog friends.  They're truly some of my best friends.  I've known these women since before they were married, or had kids.  I've watched them change careers, get new jobs, start their own businesses, write books.  They saw me graduate college, drive around the country, get married, and buy a house.  All of a sudden I realized that these aren't just "blog friends," they're full blown real friends I just happened to meet through blogging.  We pick up right where we left off (when we hung out at TxSC in 2013!), and stay up till 3 in the morning chatting in our bunks, cracking up, sharing secrets and dreams.  The sessions and workshops at these kinds of blogging events are nice, but those are the things that stick with me, not the notes I jot down listening to keynote speakers.  


I'm sad to see TxSC go, mostly because this last iteration of the conference was my absolute favorite.  I mean, you know me, I love camping, so a weekend full of inspiration with rad chicks in the woods?  Such a perfect event.  Honestly, I wish I could put something together like TxSC Camp here in the PNW on a yearly basis.  I feel like we don't need more blogging conferences, there are plenty of those.  But a weekend getaway where you get to meet up with old blog friends, meet new blog friends, and feel encouraged and inspired to go after the dreams you feel you were meant to live out?  Heck. Yes.  More of those, please.  Less feeling not good enough.  Less stressing about looking fancy and impressive.  Less strategies.  Less networking.  More connection.  More friendship.  More empowerment.  More soul-feeding conversation. 


Over the last five TxSC conferences, Indiana and her team put in countless hours of work, dozens of sleepless nights, and some serious blood sweat and tears to bring a truly inspiring event to life each time.  I'm so thankful for Indiana, both as a friend, and a "friendtor" (a term we learned from TOMS' Bethany Joy Clark at CAMP).  She poured her heart into each TxSC, from the very first meeting of a few bloggers over Costco quiche during SXSW, to a full on sold-out ALT style conference, to a weekend glamping retreat in the woods.  This lady is a powerhouse and I can't wait to see what she has up her sleeves next.

photobooth photos by Logan Pearce Photography, other photos by Liz Morrow Studios, Chelsea Laine Francis Photography, and via instagram.

the last great race

Growing up in Anchorage, the Iditarod was a big event every year.  We'd go downtown and watch the ceremonial start on 4th Ave, packed behind the fences cheering on mushers.  One year my dad's coworker mushed in the race and my Dad was a dog handler for his team so we got to hang out behind the scenes and went out to Willow for the restart.  When I was seven, my Dad and I had a hair-brained idea to serve the mushers espresso on the trail.  My parents had gotten into espresso in the mid-90s and bought an espresso machine to make coffee at home, and somehow we thought it would be fun to serve fancy espresso out on the most rugged of arctic races.  We picked Finger Lake as the checkpoint where we'd set up.  As the race progresses the mushers get more spread out, so picking a checkpoint early in the race meant that we'd get to offer all the mushers our services without having to be there for a week.  We had to have a clever "business" name (though we weren't charging any money to the mushers, and any tourists who wanted coffee paid on a donation basis), so we decided to call ourselves "Airborne Espresso" which was a riff of the air cargo airline, Airborne Express.  We thought it was pretty damn clever, but Airborne Express did not and forced us to change our name after the first year, so the subsequent years we went by "Idita-espresso."  Not quite as clever, but it did the job.

We flew out there to set up the day before mushers started arriving, pitched our tent, pulled all the espresso equipment and generator out of the plane, put up the table where we'd be slinging 'spro, and settled in for the night.  It'd frequently dip well below zero, so my dad had built an insulated box to surround the espresso machine so it could keep the water hot enough in the tank.  We lit up the kerosene stove in the tent and heated ourselves some beanie-weenies for dinner before settling in to sleep.  Depending on how fast the mushers were running some would get in to the checkpoint in the wee hours of the morning, so my Dad tracked the front runners and woke up early to catch the first mushers in.  I, on the other hand, have always been a night owl and a sleeper-in, so I usually missed the first few and dragged myself out of my sleeping bag much later.

After our first year, we learned that most mushers preferred hot chocolate, but were pretty flabbergasted at our offer of a vanilla latte or mocha.  Tourists, on the other hand, were huge fans of our fancy coffee, which was still a relatively new thing as the Starbucks craze hadn't quite taken hold just yet.  We were interviewed by the Anchorage Daily News and were on a few news stations.  Apparently a dad and daughter selling fancy espresso in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness wasn't too common.

We did this for a few years and it's still one of my favorite memories from childhood.  I was hoping to get out to Finger Lake again when I was up in Alaska for the Iditarod this year, but I wasn't able to swing it.  Maybe Dad and I can bring back Airborne Espresso now that Airborne Express doesn't exist anymore.  It sure would be fun to do it again, and there are still some mushers running that ran 20 years ago when we first started our crazy idita-espresso scheme.  And hey!  Now I can totally barista.  Back in the day I was on coffee delivery duty and my dad was the barista.  Maybe someday.

So many memories flashed back to me while shooting the teams whooshing past, through the trees.  I sat next to kids with dog booties clutched close, sacred treasures, watching teams go by and cheering on their favorite mushers.  They'd yell, "booties!" and the musher would toss a few booties their way, like candy from a parade float.  I realized that I still have my dog bootie treasures from when I was a kid, and I found them, squirreled away in storage, later that week.  Precious Iditarod memories forever preserved.  It was so special to see a whole new generation of kids experiencing the thrill of watching dog teams whizz by, a thousand miles to go.  Maybe someday I'll get to bring my kids to the Iditarod and they can start their own collection of dog booties.

blacklight bouldering

Last Saturday I competed in the Blacklight Bouldering Comp held at my climbing gym.  I'd heard about it for a couple years, but never felt like I was good enough at climbing to compete in anything.  After finally being able to climb some V5 routes, I figured I'd go for it and ended up competing in the Female Advanced division of the comp.  One bonus of being a lady climber?  Not as much competition.  There were only four women in my division and I ended up taking 3rd, winning an awesome Black Diamond day pack!  It was a bit weird climbing in the black light, your depth of field is all wonky, but it was really fun.  The best part is, since the comp was held at my gym, I get to keep working on the routes I wasn't able to finish during the comp!  There was one 630 point route that I was two moves from finishing but couldn't manage to pull it out for the comp.  A few days after the comp I sent it!  Of course, had I sent it during the comp I probably would've taken first, but hey, a few days too late isn't bad.  Plus, it was my first V6, which means I've totally surpassed my goal to send a V5 before I turn 27.  Exciting!  


After the comp they turned on the lights and we got to climb around on the routes we weren't able to try during the comp.  You only have 3 hours to climb and accumulate as many points as possible.  So each route has a point value assigned to it and if you climb it without falling, you get those points.  If you do fall, you have four more chances to climb it to get the points, but once you fall 5 times on the same route you can't try it for points any more.  There were a lot of routes that looked like they were fun but I wasn't sure I wanted to waste time trying them during the comp.  Thankfully since they're all still up at the gym for a couple months so I can see how many I can get!

It was fun to step outside my comfort zone and do something I'd never done before.  I don't know if I'll compete in more climbing comps but it was definitely something I'd wanted to do at least once and I'm glad I went for it.  Plus, I love climbers and it seems like one of those cool communities to be a part of.  For a long time we've been kind of on the outskirts of the climbing community, but it'd be neat to be more involved in a community of people I really like.

photos by dan

STLFW // rungolee luncheon + presentation

Last Thursday I was invited to a lunch and presentation for


at the designer,

Anjali Kamra's

, beautiful home in St. Louis.  I went with a group of other bloggers who were also in St. Louis for St. Louis Fashion week, so it was nice to be there with other ladies I knew, and it was truly one of the most wonderful events I had the pleasure of attending during STLFW.  The event started off with a bit of mingling and some drinks with a mini introduction, during which Fern Mallis (creator of NYFW!) said a few words.  I have to say, I felt a bit like a wedding crasher.  I'm at an event with Fern Mallis?  It was a bit surreal.

We were lucky enough to get good weather, since the forecast called for thunderstorms all week, so we got to have lunch out on the back porch.  The tablescapes were so gorgeous.  Everything I aspire to when I have parties in my, relatively, tiny home.  Lovely fabric napkins in pretty prints, gold chargers, fresh flowers.  The food was equally as amazing, created by local chefs, and absolutely delectable.  I probably would've had four helpings if we hadn't been whisked away to check out the collection.

After we'd eaten, we headed upstairs to Anjali's workspace, which is probably the size of my entire house.  I can't imagine what a pleasure it must be to be able to create in such a light and inspiring space.  We got to flip through racks of Rungolee items and I was impressed with the sheer volume of pieces she's created, as well as the level of detail in each and every piece.  So many were covered in beautiful embroidery, which is one of my favorite details in clothing, however sorely underrepresented in my current wardrobe.  Much of her design work draws inspiration from her Indian roots, and she does it in a sophisticated and attentive way.  Much of the creation of her clothing is actually done in India by couture artisans who create the hand sewn, embroidered, beaded, and woven elements in each piece.

After we explored the workshop and pawed our way through racks of Rungolee pieces, taking care not to


drool over them.  We went back downstairs and were met with impeccably styled models lounging about, modeling Rungolee pieces.  Having only been to the standard runway type presentation, this was new for me, and I actually liked this way of presenting clothing items more.  I've seen photos of similar presentations but have never been to one myself.  It's a great way to see the clothes up close, rather than on a model stomping by at breakneck speed.  I do love runway shows and getting to see the clothes in motion as the model walks, but this was a much more realistic way of showing how the clothes would be seen in real life.  The models quietly cycled out of the room one by one to go put on a new outfit and reenter without fanfare, returning to their station, acting "natural." Anjali's incredible home was the perfect backdrop for the clothes, and while most of the outfits were much too fancy for my own everyday personal style, the individual pieces were very versatile and definitely something I could see myself styling.  

Before we left, Anjali gifted us each a scarf in a fabric

similar to this top

 (mine is white and green).  As scarf season is upon us I was pretty excited to have such a lovely, and practical, token from the afternoon's festivities.  Huge thanks to


for inviting myself and the other bloggers in attendance!  You can check out some of the Rungolee items we saw


, and they're also on