Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Clearwater, FL

Posted By: Leah

Sorry for the lack of blogging the past couple of weeks, but hopefully this post will make up for it! I got to go somewhere really cool for work a week ago... to Florida's Gulf Coast! I have traveled to the Caribbean on cruises and tropical parts of Mexico too. But Clearwater Beach, Florida was by far the most gorgeous and nicest beach I've ever been to! I feel so lucky!

To be honest, when I first heard that one of the places I'd be going for work was near Tampa, I wasn't as excited as I should have been. I went on probably the grossest creepiest Carnival cruise ever out of Tampa in High School and never gave Tampa a 2nd thought as a place I'd ever return to. 

Thank goodness for this work trip, because I truly believe I have found the most gorgeous beach in the world... seriously! But first... let me talk about the hotel. 

I do the conference logistics for my job and this location and hotel had been chosen by my predecessor long before I was even a candidate for the position. I had heard that this best practices conference was a nice one, but I have done hundreds, actually, probably around a thousand conferences at this point in my career. And to be honest, a hotel is a hotel to me. I'm a self-admitted hotel snob and not usually all that impressed in the properties I've done events for in the past... even the 'fancy' ones. 

That was... until this trip...

The location for this conference is the Sandpearl Resort and Spa in Clearwater Beach, Florida. The drive was absolutely gorgeous from the airport to the resort, and when I entered the lobby, I knew I was in for an amazing experience.

Does the Sandpearl's lobby not look just like the inside of a Tommy Bahama store? And sure enough, there was a Tommy Bahama clothing store IN the hotel's lobby! Truth!
All of the photos in this post are from IG. Sorry for the crappy quality. I had my camera, but the photos I took were for the conference, no leisure time to snap photos for this girl.

The windows to the right of the above lobby photo overlooked a gorgeous infinity pool that overlooked the resort's pool and beyond that, the turquoise water of the Gulf of Mexico. Gorgeous!

The staff at the Sandpearl were AMAZING. I truly cannot say enough wonderful things about each and every person that I met at the hotel. And (HS friends will love this!) I discovered that a girl at the front desk and I went to the same high school in Charlotte, NC (Small world!) AND I graduated with her sister!!! (Tabatha Fincher, you guys! what in the world?!!? right?) We did the Dub-C hand sign (not a gang sign, promise!) and it was awesome. 

At the front desk they offered me a choice of campaign or a mimosa at check-in. I enjoyed a mimosa as the bellman assisted me to my room. 

A downside of traveling alone is no one to take photos of me... so lots of selfies and foot-shots on this trip :) 

I was prepared to go straight to work as soon as I arrived at the resort stuffing registration packets, and locating the many boxes that had already been shipped to the hotel earlier that week. The bellman convinced me that I HAD to go to the beach. That it had been rainy, cold weather all week and that I absolutely MUST go to the beach for a few minutes before getting to work. 

I was just about to leave my room for a quick stroll down to the beach and I heard a knock on the door. I answered and received a welcome amenity from the contact I had been working with at the hotel! She's so sweet! 
I blanked out my last name, she didn't address it to "Ms. Leah" hahah. 
I had a quick snack and headed down to the beach!

I snapped this photo because the weather was just perfect! I was so glad I gave myself a little 10 minute break to run down to the beach. I would have been miserable if I had to look at the beach from a far. 

The water was SO WARM! Apparently the Gulf Coast stays pretty warm year round. It felt to good to kick off my sandals after a day of travel for a quick splash in the water. 
But as soon as I stepped in the water, I jumped right out, and went straight to work. Fortunately the room where my conference boxes were had this gorgeous view overlooking the beach. 

On the Gulf Coast a unique thing is that the sun sets over the water, because it is the west coast of Florida. I was determined to see the sun set over the water, as that is one of my favorite things ever. 

I had my work laptop and mi-fi card with me and was constantly replying to e-mails of coworkers and participants who had questions for me. I wasn't sure how my schedule would be during the conference and thought this might be my only time to see the sun set over the water. 

I also knew it was already 7:30pm and I needed dinner! So after I got all the packets stuffed for registration and nametags added, I grabbed my laptop and headed to Tate Island Grill, outside by the beach. 

I had a blackened grouper sandwich and replied to emails. Just as the sun was about to set... the sky got cloudy and there was just a mess of brightness but no real sunset :(

After dinner I returned to my 'war room' and worked. And worked and worked. I love all the details of getting conferences ready. I was working until after 11pm that evening. But I was able to return to my room confident that everything was ready for the next day, the first day of the conference. 

The Sandpearl is not only gorgeous and has a wonderfully friendly staff, but they think of all the little details. My turn-down service had a little quote, delicious shell chocolates, and the 2nd page was the next day's weather! 

As I mentioned, the sun sets over the Gulf Coast, but it rises over the Bay on the other side of the resort. I had a Bay View room and got to see the sun rise over Mandalay Bay (like the resort in Vegas!) from my window. 

One of my downfalls is that while I am amazing at customer service, and making sure everyone I'm around is taken care of, I don't always take the best care of myself. Mainly, I forget to eat. I love to eat (clearly), but when I'm working I just put it off or forget. I wanted to be 100% at this conference and I knew this meant I had to wake up early enough to get breakfast before my early-morning pre-con (pre conference meeting. with the hotel staff, AV, decorator, etc). 

The Sandpearl has it's own Starbucks and little bakery off of the lobby (other side of the Tommy Bahama store). As I approached the Starbucks a hotel guest approached me.

At first I thought it was a conference attendee, as I had on my polo with company logo. The lady said she had ordered coffee for her friends and mis-counted and had an extra hazelnut latte that had not been touched and asked if I wanted it. How sweet of her was that? I gladly accepted and took it as a sign of the wonderful things to come. I got myself a bagel and cream cheese as well, but I was just floored by the generosity of a stranger. 

My premonition of wonderful things to come was right... the Sandpearl staff was absolutely wonderful and so helpful for my event! The local decorating company we used, Cheers, was fabulous! I normally do not share photos from work, however I was so blown away by the pirate decor for our welcome reception that evening, I just have to share a quick photo with you!
I posted the below photo on IG of the macaroons at the welcome reception. BF's mom commented that the hotel read my mind, she knows I love French macaroons :) But... one of the best parts of planning events is that you are able to customize the menus. 

We were already going with a French pastry station and I just had them swap out cream puffs for the macaroons. The participants LOVED them as well. Many remarked had seen macaroons before, but never had tried them. I think I've introduced a whole new group to the awesomeness of French macaroons :) 

See the sand in the background? The sand is so bright white in Clearwater Beach that they call it 'sugar sand.'  How awesome is that? It's just the brightest, whitest, finest sand. 
I'm just so thrilled with this conference, I have to share something else super awesome.
As a networking activity we did a cupcake decorating contest. I worked with Kristen of Little Law's Prints for the most absolutely perfect cupcake toppers, ballots and sign. (I blocked out my company's name). AND as a fellow blogger, she offered me 10% off, YES! The cupcake trophies for the winners were also so awesome! I cannot get over how great this whole activity turned out. 

A really special thing we got to do was go see Winter from the movie Dolphin's Tale. It's a very sad movie, but the people at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (sea life rehabilitation center) said that it was played up for the movie and not as sad/depressing. 
Here's sweet Winter. She only wears her prosthetic fin for a little while each day for physical therapy. And the gel she uses is called WintersGel and used for kids and others with prosthetic limbs. It's truly amazing how this dolphin's misfortune has in turn helped and inspired so many others. And Winter's doing great now! She swims and is so happy.

We also got to see a dolphin show, and pet sting rays. It was really special. 

On the last day of the conference I was able to spend a couple quick minutes at the beach and of course had to take another selfie. 

I wanted to experience everything the Sandpearl had to offer, so I jumped in a hammock. 

I laid on a beach chair!

And I made the commitment to absolutely come back! The resort was truly special and amazing and I want to bring BF and Gav for a real vacation when I'm off the clock. 

Have you ever been to the Gulf Coast of Florida?
Do you want to take a guess at what famous guests have stayed at the Sandpearl Resort?
(Hint: Obv. the cast of Dolphin's Tale. But what other movie was filmed near Tampa... 
Yup it's 'Magic'!!!)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday SOCIAL - Pinterest Fav's

Posted By: Leah
First time linking up Sunday Social. I saw the topic was all about Pinterest favorites...  I love seeing what my friends post. Here are my fav's too!

1- What is your favorite outfit pin? 

Her bangs. Her heart frames. That car. Her pink petticoat!
Sure, this look is probably only good for a photo shoot. And her purpleish heels annoy me that they don't match. But as a non-fashionista... this photo is pretty much everything I like in a look. So sweet!

2- What is your favorite food pin?

One of my favorite things about Pinterest is the ordinary being turned into the extraordinary. These are mini cupcakes baked in katsup cups. Apparently they are strong enough to be place directly on a cookie sheet to bake. I LOVE cute little things like this. I have to remember to make these. CUTEE!

3- What is your favorite wedding pin? 

Everything about this is so adorable. I think because I've already been married and had the whole big fancy white wedding, I am open to more non-traditional stuff now. I love how her belt matches her flowers. And I can only hope she's wearing red flats too! I think her bow veil is perfect. And love her subtle inked up arm as well. Perfection!

4- What is your favorite DIY/Craft pin? 

I've been meaning to get my hands on some chalkboard paint for a while. I know it would be dangerous, though. I'm pretty sure I'd turn every hard surface I could get my hands on into a chalkboard. A cup? A shoe? No one could stop me.  This is a $1 store 'silver' tray done up right!

5-  What is your favorite quote / verse/lyric pin?

I have sooo many quotes that I've repinned. WAY more than outfits, hair, food, etc. I think what's in your mind, and what you read can be the most motivating thing in your life. I like this one a lot. I want so much for everyone I know, I never want people to sell themselves short or feel they have to settle.

6- Share the most random pin you love:


This is everything awesome. Don't judge me. 

Link up your own fav's for the Sunday Social!
Sunday Social

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Polyvore About Me Take 2 And Bubble Tea

Posted By: Leah
Remember a couple weeks ago I posted on losing my sparkle.  Tonight I took another shot at my 'about me page' and realized that my new colors will be lilac, mint, and coral... basically I'm on trend for spring (kidding... sorta. Ok I have no clue but I feel right about this one).

Anyhow, this polyvore is a little extra crazy. But it's better than the previous one, that's for sure!

Lovely Life of Leah

...and... side note... I heard that it's not hard to make your own bubble tea. I have an Asian grocery store by me and I reallly want to figure this out. I love bubble tea!

PS -  Taro (the purple) is a sweet potato-type root, yes, but omg it tastes just like a sugar cookies milkshake. And I LOVE the boba (tapeoka pearls). Some ppl prefer it w/ out the boba. It tastes like gummy bears to me, and who doesn't love those?

The color is my favorite ever. I just love it!

And... if you are reading this from a super small town without a bubble tea place or Asian grocery store. I found everything you need to make taro bubble tea from Amazon.

and...... because when I start searching these things... it's pretty much led me to a  spiral of awesomeness....





Do you like bubble tea?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Disney Inspiration and Regret

Posted By: Leah

You guys, I'm going to Disney World. I have this crazy, reoccurring Disney pattern in my life. Where from the time I was 7, to now, I have gone to Disney World once every 5 years. Exactly 5 years. (ok maybe once it was 6 yrs between trips). No matter what. It's not something I plan, but it's a fact. The last time I was there I was 28. I had won employee of the year at my job at the time and got to pick a vacation. With a 2 year old, duh, where else could I take him? When I go again this May, I will have just turned 33. Five years to the month you guys. It's what I call my 'Disney Fate.'
However, this time when I go to Disney World, it will be for work and it's during the school week when Gav can't be off (his dad will be keeping him). Regardless if it's for work or not... I'm pretty sure that the fact I'm going to Disney World and not taking my 6 year old child makes me the worst mom ever.

To further clarify, even though it's a trip for work, I'm not working in the Magic Kingdom, or Epcot or IN any of the parks at all. I have a conference that yes, is on Disney property. However, I'll be in an exhibit hall every day all day. I'm not sure it will even be possible for me to go into the parks while I'm there. BUT, since I'm staying on property I can ride the monorail and busses to the other resorts, and stand outside Epcot and take selfies if I really want...

While I know this is still really awesome and I will be involved in the magic even if it's indirectly. This trip also got me thinking and reflecting on some of my favorite Disney quotes from movies and Walt himself. But also some regrets as well...

I have shared a little about what I do, like my real job, here on my blog before. You all know or will learn right now, I've been an event planner  (in some capacity) for the past 11 years; ever since I graduated college. I was a recreation and tourism major (yes this is a real major) and have been very fortunate to always have jobs directly in my field. One of my greatest regrets, though, was not taking part in the Disney Internship in school.

Like most people, I love Walt Disney World. I've been lucky to have the opportunity to visit the parks many times. In college, in a communication class strangely enough, I saw a presentation  by a lady who worked at the Disney Wedding Pavilion. It's on it's own private island in the Seven Seas lagoon. The chapel window was built in a way to perfectly frame Cinderella's castle in the Magic Kingdom.
I visited Disney World the year after I graduated college and actually convinced my family to take the monorail the long way into the Magic Kingdom from our resort, just so we could go by the Disney Wedding Pavilion. Sure, I thought I'd get engaged at the park, and married there. None of that happened. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I always thought I'd be planning events there. And I still am not over the fact I didn't do the Disney Internship.

Fast forward to now. Walt Disney World holds a special place in my heart, like it does so many people. I'm not a Mickey / Minnie freak, I don't even really have a favorite Disney movie (Aladdin, Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast, duh). And OMGG I really want to go to the new Be our Guest restaurant. Yes I've blogged about this before, if you are feeling de ja vu.

It is just exciting for me, being such a Disney fan to go there for work. And yeah, I know, I'm not working IN the parks at all. But the experience feels very full circle. But also odd that Gav won't be there and it is not a true Disney vacation. 

I'm not going down to Orlando for this conference for another month or so. Actually, I'll be on the gulf coast of Florida for another event in just over a week.  But something about starting to plan for Disney Wold just holds a special place in my heart. Even if I don't ever get to actually step foot into the Magic Kingdom or Epcot.

Do you love Disney World as much as I do? Do you agree with me that I'm the worst mom ever for not being able to bring Gav to Disney with me? Is there any way I can make it up to him other than bringing him gifts and/or planning a Disney vacation for us?

I did find this website, it's through Disney and you can buy a single day ticket for entrance to the park after 4pm - close. I am going to look into it. I will have three days that I know for sure I have no plans after 5pm. Have you or anyone you know taken advantage of this after 4 pass before?

Monday, April 1, 2013

My Mom's Backyard

Posted By: Leah
My mom still lives in the same home that she has for over 35 years. This is the house she returned to when she brought me home from the hospital. It is located in the city of the Charlotte not far from uptown. She lives on a quarter acre and has a very private backyard. 

Somewhere in my mom's attic are slides  of me in the backyard at Easter(apparently this was the cool  and artistic way to show photos in the 80's). There are thousands and thousands of the happiest white flowers. 

This year, I brought Gav and BF over to my mom's backyard and my mom had an Easter egg hunt for Gav. BF just laid in the flowers. 

 I always called these streetlight flowers when I was little. Not sure of their real name. But I've never seen them anywhere else.

After Gav found all the plastic eggs, my mom had a real egg dying station set up for Gav (he had his shirt off so he didn't run his clothes).  

My mom also made us all orange cupcakes with lemon frosting and put Robin's Eggs on top!

I don't have any photos from Easter day. But it was quite windy and BF's mom gave Gav a kite. It was the first time he flew one. Gav also walked into a cow pasture. Maybe someone else took pics?

How was your Easter?

PS don't forget to enter my Joules giveaway! Today's the last day and there is a low number of entries!

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