…Utah for the ABChao Design Camp at Heather Armstrong's (Dooce.com) house was a big decision for me. First(ly) my darling husband wasn't interested in going to Salt Lake City in the middle of winter because of all the snow. Secondly, all the snow was one of the reasons I wanted to go!
Most importantly? The camp was being held at Heather Armstrong's house. Which meant I could meet Heather within a very small group.
See, I would never go to a BlogHer conference, Alt Summit, or any other such event because there are just way too many people who would also be there (Pholks, I'm talking thousands of you!). I couldn't even go to Blogher just to hang out in a bathroom with Jenny — because it would be full of other people, too!
I hemmed and hawed over the decision and finally decided "no." Then I sent Heather an email telling her how I thought about it ('cause I wanted to meet her, the DOGs, and the girls) but that I had decided not to go. Except she emails me back with how she knows it's going to be a blast and she wishes I could make it, etc.
So you know I had to go.
And then my husband (my hero) even agreed to take some days off so that Sterling wouldn't have to be crated!
I booked and paid for the camp, airfare, and hotel before emailing her that I was coming (because I knew once I'd paid all that money that there'd be no way I would back out at the last minute (which is typically what I manage to do with anything that involves me and other people, but always for good reasons!).
The day before I was too leave I called E! (all frantic for a suitcase because I could not find any of ours) and she came right over with a wheeled one. Whew! We went over my wardrobe and she helped me to pair jeans with shirts and sweaters, and talked me out of packing too many pajamas and outfits. I showed her my new bags (that I was so pleased to have been able to get in time for my trip).
You guys have no idea how much having the right bags to carry and the right outfit to wear boosted my confidence. Seriously, for the first time in my life I was not worried about being dressed all wrong or looking ridiculous wearing a backpack. Which sorta made no sense since I know I looked lovely on my wedding day — and I also have a little black leather backpack I use when none of my others would do for certain occasions. (I have a lot of backpacks. I hate having to carry stuff and sometimes? I'm really carrying a lot of stuff!)
The day of my flight there was a "mini" ice storm and I was hoping to cancel my trip (Hey, you know I bought trip insurance!) but I only got notice that my connecting flight in North Carolina was delayed. Once I get to the airport my airline doesn't think my luggage will follow me it I go via my North Carolina connection, so the clerk moves me to another airline and my connection is now in Dallas.
Lexington > Dallas > Salt Lake City.
The new route was westerly, but all that south traveling had to come first. I get the whys, but that does not make it have any more sense to me.
The most awful part of my travels was in Dallas. When the flight attendant discovered what gate I was having to get to (to make my connection for Salt Lake City) she told me I would need assistance to get there on time. I thought she meant she was putting me on one of those little golf carts you see in airports and that I would get to ride one!
Except when I got off the plane there was this teeny tiny guy waiting, with a wheel chair, with my name on the sign attached to it. I could not talk this little man (from Nepal) out of my riding in his wheel chair. I told him I was expecting a cart, and he's nodding "yes" to me. So I'm thinking he is just taking me to the cart, but I can't convince him that I can walk. He and another attendant were adamant that I ride in the wheel chair.
There was no waiting electric cart. Teeny tiny guy from Nepal pushed me all the way, huffing and puffing and gasping for breath. I swear, I was in better shape to push a fat lady in a wheel chair than he was! Thankfully the biggest part of his feat included a long stretch via the airport tram system. Otherwise I'm pretty sure he would have died from exertion (just before I died of embarrassment). I tipped that little guy a ten spot. It would've been more, but my funds were limited once I'd paid for the trip.
I still didn't even get to my hotel until well after midnight (Friday nite, Saturday morning). Perhaps this is the reason Orthodox Jews don't travel on the Sabbath…
I'd had some packages sent to the hotel, and they'd arrived before I checked in, so the night "auditor" carried them to my room, but of course I'd promised to keep that nicety a secret — instead, here, I'm telling all because — "THANKS, DUDE!" Would you look at this picture of my hotel room that was on the hotel website. No, really. That is my room!
Once I got settled, and in my pajamas, I called my husband and shared the horror story of the wheelchair incident. Of course he thought the whole ordeal hilarious which is why I'm even sharing.
I was so wound up from the traveling and excitement (i.e., anxiety attacks, hives) that it was well past 4am before I fell asleep. And then I woke up two hours later. Ach!
I spent most of Saturday just trying to fall asleep. All I wanted was one nap. One little nap. That's all. I tried watching (listening) to Law & Order reruns, talk radio, The Weather Channel. Nothing was working. Finding a fishing show to listen to might have worked, but I was too tired to even think of looking for one.
Saturday night I was in bed by 7pm and surely asleep by 8pm. And back up at 4:30am!
I called a cab for a 9am pick-up (the camp began at 10am) and took my sweet time getting ready. The hotel bathroom had a nice big tub!
My cab arrived at 8:25. Good grief, I didn't want to be that early. The cabbie got lost and turned off the meter while he tried to find his way to Heather's (no I am not spilling the address) but I still got charged for all the time before he realized he was lost. Damn fee was nearly $37! He was nice, and I did like him, but he should've stopped the meter as soon as realized he had no idea where he was.
He pulled into the driveway and while we were settling up John (Tyrant) appeared outside my door with a carafe and some other appliance that required a cord.
I opened the door saying, "Oh, hi, John!" And, "I'm sorry I'm so early."
I introduced myself as I climbed out of the cab told him I was coming to the front door, the cabbie pulled up into the drive way because the front steps were covered in snow (tramped and slippery looking snow).
John was all "no problem," and did I need any help?
"Nope, nope. I got it," I tell him. And he disappears.
The sidewalk to the front porch was excellently clear and John opened the door as soon as I rang the bell. Once in the foyer, I could see all of the familiar decor as posted on Heather's blog, but what struck me most was how cozy it seemed. The room looked so much smaller than it seemed in her photos and video. The little nook with the dandelion chandelier was where I spent most of my time — because I didn't want to spill any of the coffee John had offered me on the furniture or rugs in the formal living room.
I was cruising through Facebook when I heard someone coming down the foyer staircase. It was Heather on her way to the kitchen. The way she carried herself looked like she might be on a mission regarding the preparation that was going on for the camp.
I did offer to help earlier, but John and Beth (AB's intern) assured me everything was under control, etc.
The doorbell rang, but no one came to answer it. I waited a bit and it rang again. I wasn't comfortable with answering someone's door so I made my way back to the kitchen and interrupted their conversation to tell them the doorbell was ringing. The bell ringers turned out to be the caterers for the days lunch.
A few seconds later and Heather was back into her living room saying "Hi," and I got up to greet her. We chatted for a few minutes before I gave her the gift I had made for her:
"Beautiful," she says when she turns the H over to its good side. "Where did you find this?"
"I'm an Etsy geek, too," I say. "I remembered you blogged about collecting globes and thought it would be good with them."
"No, I'm going to put it right here," she says — and puts the "beautiful" H on her living room shelf:
(I snapped another photo of the beautiful H with my cell phone, too:)
I'm disappointed when Heather tells me that her daughters are with her Mother for the day, but I went ahead with showing her the "L" made from a book for Leta:
And the decoupaged "M" for Marlo:
I had hoped to do a (awesome) shrinky dink project with them, but it did make perfect sense not to have the girls underfoot and possibly interrupting with the ABChao Design Camp.
We had a little laugh over the title of the book Leta's L was made from (something like Our Daily Bread) but I assured Heather that I did not get to choose the name of the book!
"It is so nice of you to have the camp in your home," I tell Heather.
"Yeah, well, it saves her a lot of money and I wanted to help her out," she says.
"It's still a very nice thing for you to do," I say and Heather nods her head.
I can't recall everything we talked about then or another few times throughout the day, but I can tell you that Heather, John (Tyrant), AB, and Beth were all nice and charming. I can tell you that Heather is more soft spoken than I expected and that AB Chao is a tiny little lady. Chuck and Coco were both calm, friendly, and well behaved. Chuck even sat for me:
Chuck appreciated all my back rubs, and Coco learned quickly not to lay on her back to have her stomach scratched while I was sitting in a chair and couldn't reach her in that position — because I am all about starting with the neck, down to the tail and back with a nice doggie massage!
I did learn a few new things from the design camp — which was more like a party with great food and plenty of champagne drinks throughout the day. AB told us that she was self-taught and expressed several times that some of these design tips were learned from other sources, but most of them were just the way she likes to design. Really. She admits that her design camps are just teaching one to design like she does. Whatever. The whole thing was still a lot of fun and I am not disappointed that I went.
AB Chao Design Camp group shot that John (Tyrant) took for me:
This was the pick of the bunch he made for me with my camera. None of them were sharp, but it was my fault — I forgot to turn on the flash! You can see all my photos from my trip to Salt Lake City here — the good with the bad — there's even a slide show!
We were given goody bags, too:
Originally my goody bag contained a tin of minty rose lip balm, but I traded with another camper for the box of soap because I liked the little box:
Most everyone I met seemed to have come as far or farther away than I did and all for the same reasons — because attending the ABChao Design Camp assured them a nice small venue for meeting Heather!
A mini-blizzard started towards the middle of camp. When it was dismissed (a good hour and half earlier than scheduled) I called for a cab, but then another guest offered me a ride back to the hotel — even though it was in the opposite direction of her home! Andrea said it was close to her office.
That's Andrea, smiling, in between two other lovely ladies I met.
I was very impressed with her driving, right from the start, because Heather's house is located at the top of a very steep hill. Andrea made her way down that hill with no slipping or sliding. In fact she only had a tiny little slip the entire drive to my hotel. She even managed to keep us from getting hit, by some fool, with her mad snow driving skilz.*
Monday was as clear and bright. The inversion was blown out by the storm on Sunday. The newly snow covered mountains were shining with a golden glow as the evening sun cast its last light of the day:
I used one of these mountain shots for my header this month.
The only negative thing that occurred on my little trip happened while I was at the Salt Lake City airport waiting for my first flight to get me back to Lexington. I got there a few hours early and spent a lot of my wait time reading a book (I'd just bought in one of the airport shops) or people watching.
I'm people watching when this large family group comes to the gate area and makes themselves at home. Here's the thing: I realize it was late in the evening and we're all waiting to catch a red eye flight to somewhere else, but this family was loud and annoying (to everyone else waiting, too). And when their flight was called to board and they left? They left empty bottles, bags, and other trash in the area they'd been sitting.
I was personally embarrassed by this family, because they were Jewish — Orthodox Jews waiting to get on a plane for JFK in New York.
My people are Salt Lake City airport litter bugs!
I know everyone in that waiting lounge did not know I was Jewish (too) but the boys in the family were all wearing kipot (yarmulkes) so their being Jewish was pretty obvious. How could Jews leave all that trash behind? There were trash and recycle bins all around the lounge and they were seated so much closer to them than I was.
My last flight landed me home at 8:30 Tuesday morning. I was exhausted and sore from the airplane seats and went to bed for a very long nap almost as soon as I got in the door.
This trip alone only confirms my not wanting to go anywhere alone. Darling Hubby has promised me a second trip to Salt Lake City (in the warmer months) so that he might do some genealogy research there.
I'm also keeping my fingers crossed that I did enough walking on my plane rides to keep away any chance of a pulmonary embolism caused by a deep vein thrombosis that I could have developed while flying. Seriously. It's been a few days home already and I'm still worrying!
Ha! Like I'm the only one who obsesses over such ideas, too!
For realz, you guys. I think I'm even coming down with a cold.
A couple of days after being home I realized I'd forgotten to get a good look at Heather's red artichoke tchotchke that I'd so admired from her video:
I meant to see if it was just as striking in person and then find out where she got it. But I forgot.
P.S: When came time for me to join Andrea in her car, John (Tyrant) must have genius for sensing pure terror. He carried my things and held my hand all the way down the even more snow covered steps, across the slippery road, and safely into Andrea's car.
I met so many heroes during my time in Salt Lake City!
P.S.S: Heather wrote that "Leta absolutely went bananas over hers!"