Half Moon Bay Tweetup!

I drove to Half Moon Bay by myself to my first twitter meetup on July 22, 2008. I heard about it from Laura Fitten (@pistachio, http://pistachioconsulting.com/).  Laura and I are connected through Twitter.com.

The drive was longer than I expected.  I initially thought Half Moon Bay was near Stinson Beach.  It’s not.  The drive ended up being almost two hours, including San Francisco Bay Bridge traffic that I had to pass through.  The closer I got to Half Moon Bay, the more beautiful it was.

I was reminded of the only other time I had been there.  In high school my science class had gone to Half Moon Bay for a fieldtrip to see the tide pools.  That memory and the view around me made me eager to plan a trip their again soon, with my kids.

I finally arrived at the Half Moon Bay Ritz-Carlton!  It was a stunningly beautiful hotel nestled next to the bay.  The view was incredible!  We were supposed to be meeting by the fire pit on the ocean side of the Ritz.  What I didn’t realize was that the Brainstorm: TECH Conference that I had heard talk about was also going on there at the same time!  In the same location!  It was so crowded with people it was difficult to get to the fire pit area,  which by-the-way contained no fire.

I first spotted Lucretia (@geekmommy)!  Laura Fitten (@pistachio) was also there!  Lucretia and Laura are both twitterfriends of mine and we recently met face to face for the first time last week at the San Francisco BlogHer ’08 People’s Party.  I stayed with Lucretia, most of the time, and got to meet her family, her husband and adorable daughter!  I met Shel Israel (@shelisrael) , also Ryan who has a startup and no business card!  Robert Scoble was there, and I had orignally hoped to meet him, but in the end I was standing next to him and didn’t make the effort.  He seems very friendly, maybe next time.  He actually looked much younger in person than I had expected from the pic on his blog.  There was a barbie doll version of him floating around that was hilarious!

Funny story.  While I was standing next to Robert Scoble I was trying to set the date on my camera and had it pointed down and ended up taking a pic of his shoes!  Made myself laugh!

The BrainstormTech people were beginning their dinner outside near our meeting spot and everyone started leaving the tweetup to find dinner elsewhere.  Men that looked very much like secret service men, with the dark suits and earpieces, told us we had to leave.  Right before that a woman had told me that I wasn’t supposed to be taking pictures.  Oops, too late!  (If I suddenly disappear, you’ll know why).

I had talked with Cathryn Hrudicka (@creativesage) on twitter and had hoped to meet her some time soon, but I didn’t realize that she was going to be at this meetup, so when she came up to me I didn’t place her at first, but luckily she did me.  I was very pleased to meet her!  She had ridden with another couple who initially wanted to leave early, so I offered to give her a ride home.

I was a little nervous about driving out of Half Moon Bay at night because there had been quite a few turns and I didn’t have clear directions home.  I initially wanted to leave before dark, but Brian Solis’s cheeseburger description changed my mind.  Luckily Cathryn knew her way around Half Moon Bay a bit more than I did so between the both of us we found the restaurant and the rest of the group.

The restaurant was part of a hotel, simple but nice.  We had a table of twelve that included Laura Fitten, Shel Israel, Stowe Boyd, Brian Solis, Cathryn and myself.  Cathryn and I ended up sitting across from Brian and Stowe.  They seem to know each other quite well and were enjoying the night and a bottle of wine.  After we all got aquainted they wanted to get another bottle of wine and share it with Cathryn and I.  I was driving, but was really good and only had a small glass.  I had my friends on twitter DM (Direct Message) me to remind me not to drink too much wine!  (Thank you Mark and Tina!)  Brian and Stowe were a lot of fun and Cathryn and I really enjoyed the dinner.

Even though we got turned around a bit at first, the drive home was very enjoyable thanks to Cathryn’s company.  It was such a pleasure to get to know her.

Even though I had a long drive by myself, I am so glad I made the effort.  I got to see some special friends again, and make some wonderful new friends.

BlogHer ’08 ~ The People’s Party

 

I didn’t attend BlogHer, the women’s blogger conference held in San Francisco, but I did attend the BlogHer People’s Party! 

I wanted to attend Blogher ’08, but a couple of things held me back from registering.  First, I’ve only been blogging a short time, since May on this WordPress site.  I didn’t feel qualified to attend with only 2 months of serious blogging under my belt.  Also, I was laid off from my part time job as a food server at Julia’s Kitchen.  With less income coming in, it didn’t seem like a good time to spend money on a conference.  The thing was, I was dying to go and meet some of the other women bloggers.  I had met some through Twitter.com and some I had stumbled upon their blogs randomly, and they were amazing women – full of humor, caring, creativity, and depth.  They had inspired me to begin blogging in a more professional way. 

I was so sad thinking that the women who I had come to think of as friends were going to be in San Francisco, right in my own backyard practically (I live about an hour from SF), and I wasn’t going to get to meet them.  Then an amazing thing happened!  (Shhh…I think I used “The Secret“!)  I heard about The People’s Party from Megan (@velveteenmind, http://velveteenmind.com/)!  I read it on her blog and I immediately wrote to her and asked her if I could come, she said, “YES!”  Then I wrote her back and asked if I could bring Angela, and she said, “YES! But we may run out of drink tickets so be prepared with cash just in case.”  No problem!

Angela and I drove into San Francisco together, parked and found the Westin St. Francis just fine.  Angela is one of my best friends and our joke of the night was that she was my “entourage”. Finding the party was another thing, we wandered through the corridors for a bit, even scored a schwag bag from a medical convention!  As we carried the bags away on our quest to find The People’s Party the doctors we passed gave us strange looks, obviously thinking, “Yeah right, sureee you’re doctors!”  Okay, they were right, but still. 

Finally we heard women’s voices and I said, “That HAS to be it!”.  We followed the voices and found it, the BlogHer People’s Party!  woo!  We were given two drink tickets apiece as we entered and pretty much headed straight for the bar and some white wine.  Next we picked up our schwag bags, which were full of fun stuff!  Even a hardback book that I was planning to buy!  (shhh…i must have used “The Secret” again!)

 The next order of business was finding my friends.  It was harder than I thought it would be!  It was a dimmly lit room and I had to walk by casually and stare at people’s name tags, without tripping and spilling my wine, to see if i knew them or not!  The person I wanted to find the most was Tina Cruz (@sendchocolate, http://casadecruz.blogspot.com/).  I found Megan and said hello and we took a pic, and I asked her if she’d seen Tina, she said no.  I chatted with a few other bloggers and we exchanged business cards.  Next, out in the hall I saw Erin! (@QueenofSpain, http://queenofspainblog.com/)  Erin has done so much live blogging (which she is a natural and amazing at) that I knew her instantly!  She said, “It’s lauralovesart!” and I said, “It’s Queen of Spain!” and we hugged.  She was with a guy from photrade.com and we took a couple of pics together to commemorate.  So fun to see her in person!  I could totally drink some wine with that girl!  I asked Erin if she had seen Tina and she said no.  Angela and I headed back inside and mingled. 

Next I saw Laura Fitten! (@pistacio, http://pistachioconsulting.com/) I didn’t even expect to see her because she had told me she would probably not make it and so we had talked about meeting later in the week at a Tweetup. It was really fun to see her in person, and it felt like a bonus since I wasn’t expecting her!

We came back to the hall and Erin said, “Tina’s down there by the bathroom!”, so I hurried down and found Tina (@sendchocolate), Leah (@califmom, http://www.califmom.com/) and Lucretia (@geekmommy, http://www.geekmommy.net/) all sitting in a circle on the floor near the bathroom of all things!  I pounced on them!  Then I joined the circle to catch up, then someone said that The Bloggess was in the bathroom so we went to investigate…

I knew Jenny, the Bloggess, was there at the party and I loveee her blog!  (@theBloggess, http://thebloggess.com/) She has an awesome sense of humor!  I reallyyy wanted to get a picture with her.  She was there, and then she disappeared before I could talk to her.  Finally she was back and I went to talk to her and she was sooo cute and funny!  Later in the night she was holding court in the bathroom of all places, drinking wine and sitting on the counter!  Had a blast hanging with her, I just love her!  I could definitely drink some wine with her too!

Mrs. Flinger licked me.  With a sticker, and for real.  Leslie has the cutest twitter personality and is even more fun in person!  (@mrsflinger, http://mrs.flinger.us/)  I love love love her!  We screamed “Squeee!” when we saw each other!   It was amazing to meet her in person! 

 I also got to meet Sweetney!  Tracey was so kool!  (@sweetney, http://www.sweetney.com).   I was just adoring all these women!

Angela and I went back to the main room for her to get another glass of wine, I sat my glass up on the counter and the bartender filled it up, I was trying to slow down, didn’t happen.  Out of nowhere two engineers from Yahoo appeared and one started dancing with me.  They were nice, but wouldn’t give me a straight answer as to why two guys from Yahoo were at a women’s blogging partay!?  They wanted to take us dancing, but I was there to see my friends so we said goodbye.

Next the party was winding down and we ended up in the bar at the Westin with Leah and Tina.  They were hungry and Angela and I needed to sober up before driving so we went to Denny’s nearby.  Had a great time but the service was slow as molasses.  Felt like we were there for three hours! 

Angela drove us to her apartment in Albany, then I drove myself home.  It’s been a long time since I got home after sunrise! 

I had a blast at the BlogHer People’s Party and I am so grateful to Megan for inviting me.  It was truly a sureal experience meeting women I felt I knew so well from seeing their pictures and reading their words on their blogs and twitter.  Now I really know them in person and I feel like I have a bunch of new BFF’s, Best Friends Forever!  Fun, fun time! 

BlogHer ’09 here I come!  woo! (definitely using “The Secret”!)

I met many more women than I could mention here, and I have a lot more fun and amazing pics from the party than I could post here, maybe of YOU! please check my flickr.com photo stream at: http://flickr.com/photos/lauralovesart/

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SummerMash SF


Last night, July 15, 2008, I attended mashable.coms SummerMash SF, and the event was a smashing success! I went with my entourage, of course. That consisted of Angela.

SummerMash was held at the club, Mighty, in San Francisco. Mighty was the perfect spot for it, except for the tiny step you had to watch out for mid-floor! A DJ was spinning the night away for atmosphere, though no dancing occurred until the end of the night and it was scattered at best. Tables were set up around the room by the sponsors, which included Mashable(naturally), speakTECH, Sun Startup Essentials, Yoono, MySites, Pubmatic, Yuku, SocialRadi.us.com, and Stickam. Author, Rohit Bhargava, was also on hand signing copies of his book, *Personality not included, the ultimate guide to marketing with authenticity.

Many of the booths were handing out schwag! woo! I scored a nice big coffee mug from PubMatic, the leader in ad network optimization. A lazer and LED pen from, I think, SocialRadi.us.com. Sun Startup Essentials were giving away luggage tags and OpenSolaris and NetBeans 6.1 CD’s. Mashable was serving the drinks in their logo printed plastic cups that changed color with cold, kind of like a mood ring! Yoono.com handed out stickers and yoono blue armbands. My favorite score was a webcam given to me by adorable Steven Fruchter, CEO of Stickam.com. The webcam has a built in microphone and light!

The event invite on eventbrite.com had mentioned food and drinks included. My only disappointment of the night was that this did not exactly turn out to be the case. The only food available was a bowl of candy at one of the booths. Near the end of the night it was announced that the booths had free drink tickets to give away, but by that time I had my limit, since I was driving, and ended up giving them away.

All in all Angela and I had a fantastic time. I met and took pictures with many of the CEO’s, including mashable.com’s Pete Cashmere. (Who I voted for in Jane Porricelli’s blog on the hottest male blogger’s on the net: http://www.momgenerations.com/blogs/jane/index.php/2008/07/10/who-is-the-hottest-male-blogger-its-double-standard-time/) Pete didn’t win, but I would date him if he was 20 years older.

I was interviewed by Stickam.com about my soon to beta launch site, http://thesmartmomsnetwork.com and also about this blog. THAT was fun! I can get used to that! The interview hasn’t been uploaded yet, but I will post the link here when it is.

The night was fun and best of all I met some fantastic people. It was a great networking event. I payed $22 for my ticket, and $6 a piece + $1 tip for my two Mashable cups of white wine, but it was well worth it. If Mashable does another event in the SF area, count me in!

(And someone find out if Pete Cashmore’s father is single.)

More pics of the event can be found here: http://flickr.com/photos/mashable/sets/72157606202125941/

All pictures above can be clicked to enlarge w/further descriptions.

Ordering Wine in a Restaurant

Okay I am NOT @GaryVee, Gary Vaynerchuk,  but I have worked in fine dining and I can give you some very easy common sense advice. If you don’t live in the Napa Valley or a big city, here are some tips to enjoy wine in a restaurant.

Ordering wine, there are a few easy tried and true rules:

Oysters: Champagne or Sauvignon Blanc
Chicken: Chardonnay, aka Chard
Salads or Seafood: Sauvignon Blanc aka Sav Blanc
Pork, Duck, Lamb: Pinot Noir or Merlot
Beef: Cabernet Sauvignon, aka Cabernet or just plain Cab

All of these are subject to change depending on the wine. Personally, I think champagne goes with everything! I love all varieties of wine. There are good wines and bad wines in all varieties so don’t judge all chardonnays by one bad one.

If you have no, or limited, wine knowledge my best recommendation – is to ask the server for a recommendation. You can read magazines or websites or books and do research and find an amazing high rated bottle of wine and then get to the restaurant and find out they don’t carry that wine. If people are having a variety of dishes I will often times suggest a pinot noir, a light red. Your server or the sommelier will ask what type of wine you are looking for, what your price range is, and look at what you have ordered and make a few recommendations. Don’t go with the house red or white unless you are on a strict budget. This wine was bought in bulk by the restaurant and won’t have the best taste.

As a general rule white wine should be less than 5 years old. It is not made to age a long time the way most red wine is.

Once a bottle of wine is ordered, the server presents the wine to the person who ordered it by reading the label, then confirms it by showing the bottle. After they say, “Yes, that is what I ordered”, the bottle is opened, by the server, and a small sip is poured to the person who ordered the wine. That person must try the wine to make sure it is not corked, they do this by swirling the wine, taking a sniff, then taking a small sip. Corked wine smells musty and tastes of mildew. It’s not really necessary to sniff the cork. Once they have approved the wine, the server will pour the wine for the rest of the guests at the table, and lastly fill the glass of the person who ordered. At this time you make a toast and clink glasses!

You may request an ice bucket for champagne or white wine to keep it chilled.  There is usually no extra charge for this. 

If your red wine is quite strong or has too much of a bite from the tannins, you can request that your wine be decanted. There is usually no extra charge for this.  This is done by your server and your wine is poured into a clear glass decanter, which gives the wine more air surface to breathe. This is especially recommended for red wines over 5 years old. Decanting the wine allows it to breathe and smooths out the taste. There is also a really nifty wine aerator tool that does this instantly, called the Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator.  I highly recommend it if you enjoy red wine!

Different shaped wine glasses are used with different varieties of wine. The general rule is that champagne is served in flutes, white wines in a smaller wine glass and reds in the larger bordeaux glass and the largest bowl glasses for the pinot noirs. This rule can change in accordance to the restaurant. Fresh glasses should be provided for each new bottle of wine unless otherwise requested.

If you bring in your own wonderful bottle of wine most restaurants will charge a corkage fee. This can vary greatly in amount from approximately $15 – $50 a pop. This fee is a charge for the service of using their glasses, which will need to be washed and hand polished, and the server opening the bottle and pouring the wine. On the higher end ($50) it can be cheaper to buy a bottle at the restaurant. If the corkage fee is a concern to you I recommend calling ahead to the restaurant and asking what their corkage fee is.

Most restaurants do greatly mark up the price of wine, it can be almost double what you would pay at a wine/liquor store.

Now you are ready to go out to a restaurant and enjoy wine! Cheers!

For more tips please see my other article: How to Tip in American Restaurants.