In the last several months, several of my Orlando gal pals have attended the illustrious, and somewhat mysterious private meals aptly named: The Dinner Party Project. I would be blatantly lying if I denied any pang of jealousy I felt each time I saw missed opportunities for brilliant combinations of local folks, decadent food, and thought provoking discussion. When the announcement to participate in a blogger-specific evening of fun!
In the detailed formal invitation I received, it suggested bringing a bottle of wine to share. After taking a peek about in the wine fridge, I plucked Flight Song (Sauvignon Blanc; 2013) by Brancott Estate Wines, slipped on my Shrimp Pimp Freaker drink insulator and set out. I was stoked to see that actually using my Freaker on another vessel other than a standard beer bottle not only kept the chilled bottle cool, but also returned to it’s original state quickly afterward!
Familiar Faces: While Meghan, Andrea, and I actively seek to meet new people, we have a tendency to gravitate to one another despite seeing each other at least twice a month. The goal was to interact with the other guests at the dinner party, but in the end, I ended up sitting only one chair away from the both of them! Birds of a feather truly do flock together.
Hometown Heroes: As I stared wide-eyed at the opportunity to attend a dinner specifically designated as an opportunity to not simply hobnob with the Best of Orlando, but to actually sit down and actively engage one another in conversation
- Sarah Hearts: I met Sarah when I attended my first Meet + Make last year. Her passion for crafting beautiful things makes me want to learn how to style my own home and finally graduate from the bare walls and boxes of transient life. She’s one seriously talented lady who made the dinner atmosphere lovely with some of her own creations!
- The Flair Exchange: I promised myself that once I landed a job closer to home, I would celebrate and decorate with some fancy garland from FE. The hardest part now is determining which color scheme to go with! So many choices to celebrate with! Carmen sat to my right and she’s a peach to chat with. I want to download her business brain.
- Melissa Creates: As if I didn’t obsess over her IG feed before, after meeting this creative genius, I’m totally signing up for her tribe of fun. Melissa created an awesome event called Blog Fete which is sure to be the bees knees. She is pursuing her passion full time and her son has some wicked baby hair!
New Friends: My primary objective with attending TDPP, making new friends. While the technical term would be “networking,” I feel that having a softly lit, multiple course sit down affair with raw conversation and laughter doesn’t necessarily fit.
- Orlando Date Night Guide: Honestly, until Doc and I started dating last summer, I never gave ODNG a glance, largely in part because it reminded me what spectacularly terrible luck I had with dating. After meeting Kristen and watching her facilitate a dinner party with complete strangers with utter finesse, I’m hooked. I’ll have to see if Lake Nona’s in her guide!
- Marla: I found a true kindred spirit as this lovely lady is not only travel blogger, but a flight attendant! Plus, she rocked a retro rad dress from Stop Staring Clothing (which look stellar on her)!! Even though I recently stopped flying, I’ll be one until the day my wings get buried in the ground. I’ll start living vicariously through her adventures on the fly!
- Orlando Waterhole: I had the pleasure of sitting next to OW’s fab host, Ben. I had never met anyone who actually podcasted, so I hopefully didn’t wear him out by picking his brain half the night. Still relatively new to Orlando myself, I am thrilled to see some familiar faces on the list of previous episodes!
- Orlando My Way: Seriously, Kayla, has the dream job that 17-year-old Karen had when she originally started at UF back in 1997: TV journalist! Talking with this lovely lady has completely shifted how I approach local news here in Orlando. While downloading apps at the dinner table is usually frowned upon, the blogger-themed dinner drove me to do it!
- Richard: This man blew me away with his ability to professionally write for multiple outlets simultaneously! I honestly do not know how he does it. Freelance writing has been something I have always dreamed of doing since my shift from telecommunication and journalism to English back at UF. He makes pursuing one’s life passion look achievable and believable!
- Kim: After years of struggling with trying to find someone sensible to discuss green living, I have found my go-to Goddess of Green Living! Talk about a down-to-earth, salt of the Earth sort of gal!
Dinner Menu of Divinity!
Chef Mike’s fabulous selection made me want to get adopted by a farm so I could make yummy food with local ingredients all the time. If he’s cooking at your next event — my-oh-my– you are in for a treat!!
Zucchini Soup with radish, yellow squash, and turnips (served chilled)
Food for Thought
Between each course, we paused to have discussions about our mutual interest in blogging and podcasting. Hearing the stories behind each of the guests initiatives and passion projects really drove home how much I love being around people who create, write, and help make the world around them a better place. I’m tempted to delve into these topics at length, but here are the short versions!
Why do you think blogging/podcasting is such an important medium?
“It’s a communication medium which allows for global reach.” When I lived in Japan, I lived on LiveJournal as I documented my adventured in Japan for everyone back home in the US. I wasn’t one of the brave JETs who launched a public blog to showcase all the shenanigans and adventures they had. I simply wanted to avoid repeating the same stories over and over to my friends and family. I didn’t have to write letters in long hand or wait for the mail to arrive (two week minimum), so I kept in touch with home while on the other side of the globe.
What would be the greatest or coolest thing that could come out of blogging/podcasting for you?
“I want to write the next great American novel.” (Doh!) I chalk this confession to good ole “in vino veritas” (in wine, truth.) Overwhelmed by the incredible group of people, I truly opened up and before I could stop myself, the words simply tumbled out. I hoisted myself up on my soapbox and the heady mix of English major, effervescent book work, former teacher, and burgeoning writer yanked the floodgates open. I want to write something so compelling that people of all ages could enjoy it. I want to be like J.K. Rowling where people line up for midnight release parties. I want people to unplug and read a proper paper and glue book.” It was raw and unrehearsed, but something I’ve held back for far too long. It felt good, but now I need to start doing the work!
If you were to jump ship and start an entirely new blog/podcast tomorrow, what would it be about?
“Letters to My Younger Self Podcast” Even in my mid-30s I am still figuring out life. The pressure in society to have everything figured out early in life can be quite damaging to the self-conscious and confidence of any one. I have many friends who are married, have children, are actively pursuing their dream jobs, while I am only now starting to have my pieces fall into place. It isn’t that I don’t know who I am or what I want, I simply needed understand that my timeline isn’t the same as everyone else’s. Yes, there isn’t a single thing I can do about the past as it has shaped the person I am, but if I were to launch it, I’d hope that young men and women would think more positively, make better choices, seek to understand the world beyond them, and ask for help before exceeding their threshold of tolerance.