Tuesday, August 03, 2010

SpragueFest - Album Day

Good morning, fellow friends.

It is I, Mr. Exhausted. And I am here to tell you that the last day spent amongst the SpragueMates was bittersweet indeed.

We got up a little later than expected, so I just ran down to get a few snapshots of the Bagel Breakfast then got some coffee and headed back to the room.

Meg and I showed up for the Album class right at 9 A.M. and found our seats quickly. The room was packed with a rainbow of laptop screens open and ready. As the class downloads were making their way through the room, Jess had each of us stand and give some background info about us. So inspiring to hear how all these far-flung folks came together on this day in history.

Jessica lead us in opening the Exclusive SpragueFest 3 mega collaboration kit. Whoo HOO! Some really great stuff to play with. Many many templates. My personal favorite. I spent a ton of time getting my pic files uploaded, organized, and labeled correctly. Not sure if you know, but real life descends again at 6 A.M. on Wednesday morning. School is set to depart from the Fun Harbor for the rollicking seas ahead. So, I needed to use this time productively and get my photos up and running. Especially the KUH-razy ones of Carina and the Tongue. >:-)

After three hours of goodness we broke for lunch and headed over to Giardino's for some Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. We took over the entire front half of the restaurant again and shared pie after pie. Such fun hanging out with Rayvelle, Deb and Pammie K. Joan made sure that everyone took the leftovers out of the restaurant. Then we gathered for a group shot.

Shopping was next on the list for many of the Spraguers. They were headed to the Nordstrom's Mother ship. I, on the other hand was headed back to the room for a much needed NAP! We were meeting up with Meg's friend, Byron, from school later on. The Hotel Wit has a fantastic rooftop bar where Meg and Byron spent an hour catching up with each other and sharing lives over the past 17 years.

It was time to meet up with Jana, Joan, Jeanne and special guest appearance by Meg's hubby, Bennett! We were going to Shaw's Crab House for some amazing LOB-stah!! Just as we were finishing we got a text from Kari. Their Blue Man Group show was done. Would it be possible to meet up for dessert? DUH!!

We busted in on Stetson's after hours and begged and pleaded. Deborah was more than happy to accomodate 12 sleep deprived punchy SpragueMates. we ordered every single dessert they had and even some chocolate adult yumminess. What a way to wind down an incredible five days. It felt like a whirling dervish sweeping me up, but with a smile on my face the entire time really helped!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Chicago Walking Tour - Making the Noodle Happy

I am very late getting this ready for today. Bagel breakfast started at 8 AM (EEK!) and then class at 9. So, I'm behind.

Yesterday was all about Chicago. The Great Windy City that hosted the 2010 SpragueFest. Jenn's husband Tim was so gracious to offer his history buff-ness for the walking portion of the tour. He even did vast research to make sure we hit all the highlights with great information in hand. He started off with a walk down Wacker towards Fort Dearborn. Then we headed straight down Michigan. Can you imagine over 30 people all walking down the street with camera viewfinders attached to their heads? It was fun!

Our next stop was the Millenium Park with its beautiful fountains and water areas. The most exciting part was seeing the Chicago Bean. I think it has an actual correct name, but it is a huge bean shaped mirror that was so fun to just walk around. I got some amazing shots of the city skyline that looks like I took it with a fisheye lens. We lost Jess to a NineWest store for a bit, but with her being such a good shopper, she was back with us soon.

On towards the Picasso Horse statue and some beautiful stained glass outdoor museum. Next was the Theater District and the original Chicago theater sign. People started to disappear around this time. We found them later at a popcorn store. Meg and I were getting hungry around this time so we headed towards the Noodle House for some rice noodles and curry!

The next few moments were about to make us very UN-popular with the SpragueMates. As we were walking back to the Hyatt, we happened near the Transformers 3 set. It's hard to miss since it takes up like three city blocks. Anyways, people were screaming and pointing and I thought, "Hm, I'm going to take a picture now and figure out why they are so excited later."

Turns out Patrick Dempsey was right across the street waving to his adoring fans. O_M_G! I start snapping away and then my D90 just stops working. WHAT? My card was full and the security was yelling at us to move along. So Meg stepped up and took up the slack. We made many people very mad later when they discovered our secret rendezvous with Mr. McDreamy.

Back to the hotel for a brief 15 min shut eye, then down to the lobby. Wendella Boat Tours wanted us on site a half hour early before the Architecture Tour was to leave. Jana led us all over across the river to the meeting place. We boarded and then spent the next 90 mins calmly floating along the Chicago River, through the locks and out into Lake Michigan. It was a beautiful sunny day for doing this.

We got back a little later than expected so we walked immediately to the restaurant, Italian Village. We took over with all FIFTY of the Spraguers plopped down right through the middle of the place. Linguini and clams was yummy. But apparently nothing like Kristen's cream sauce experience.

I had saved myself for gelato, but made the mistake of telling Carina where we were going. What started out as an innocent gelato run quickly became a night of feral debauchery. Including wild taxi rides, noodle attacks (which Joan continues to deny), flying through the sky with just chains attached, 30 foot skyline turns, and finally begging for ice cream. We made it back to our rooms exhausted, but alive.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

CHA - Day Two

I'm back and feeling fine! As soon as I had my coffee yesterday, I was good to go. And I needed it too!

Meg and I arrived back at CHA around 10:30. We didn't have to be in the Sprague Booth until noon, so we did our shopping ahead of time. We stocked up on some Christmas stamps and embossing glitter to make our cards this year. Did a few make-n-takes and Meg scored some great iron on Bling.

We had to fight our way into the booth because it was PUH-ACKED! We both jumped right in on the computer lines helping folks see just how easy Digital Scrapbooking is. The light bulbs going on and the looks of amazement on the thousand or so faces that stopped by was fantastic to see. Sadly we couldn't spend all the quality time we wanted to with each guest because the lines kept backing up. But they did get to play with the Lucky Me quickpage and get a basic gist of working with Photoshop Elements.

Before I knew it, two hours had passed. When you're talking a mile a minute about things you love, that Time sure does fly. Meg and I hopped over to the fruit smoothie boost and stocked up on strawberry and blueberry smoothies and mango smoothies. Then I sat down to make a painted letter G with glitter polka dots. Shhh! It was fun. Meg made herself a pair of earrings. BTW, Nicole? You would love CHA. So many beading booths.

It was time to go back to the booth where the eight folks or so who were working the crowd needed a break. So we all rotated duties. I found myself as the appointed computer guy who stocked inks and paper and then handed out prints for folks who came back later for their pages. Can I just stop for a second and extol the virtues of the Epson R1900? We had three machines working over time these past two days. Even with that, the quality of the pages being printed were amazing from start to finish. Even as ink ran low, I never saw any nasty striations or blurry inks coming out. We rarely had to redo anyone's pages. So many happy smiling faces went away with a gorgeous 12x12 keepsake from JessicaSprague.com.

Later on, I don't quite know how it happened, I managed to shift myself 180 degrees to the other side of the booth to work the camera. I was having so much fun telling folks to turn their shoulders out, pull their chins down just a bit, and give me some sexy hair flips. Candice, you would have been so proud of me! What a great feeling it is to see many people walk away with smiling holding a photo that you took. It didn't hurt that they also had a AWESOME Jessica Sprague layout to show it off, right?

As six o'clock was approaching and we were still clicking and dragging and printing people out, the concept of pulling down the booth began to enter our minds. I don't think any of us liked the idea of leaving poor Jenn all alone in the booth until 9 PM to pack it all up. The last guest skipped away and the lights in the convention center were lowered. We rabidly attacked the booth. There were cables flying, tape being ripped up, cords wrapping themselves almost, pictures being plucked down, banners trickled down and posters were rolled up. Joan and I had the most fun wrapping plastic wrap around the boxes being shipped. Yep, you just heard sarcasm there. When you're trying to flip a box with a 40" monitor and wrap it as well it is interesting.

Yet, the smile that lit up Jenn's face when we had everything packed and labeled and on the carts by 7:30 was worth it all.

We hobbled out to the beautiful white stretch limo driven by Driver Tom. He promptly took us back to the hotel expertly diverting around the movie set for Transformers 3. We changed and met back down in the lobby to walk over to the Tavern on the Park where Jana had finagled us a private room upstairs. The Grand Entrance was made and hugs were passed out. Here's another side note: Kelly (SeaTurtleBean), Pammie-K, and Anne (PinewoodToo) are just the cutest things in person.

We ordered and ate and talked and laughed and snapped many many pictures. So much that we felt like the papparazzi just spotted Nicole Kidman. Afterwards Meg and I were appointed the Hollywood Movie Set tour guides. We lead a group over to where they were filming a scene which apparently included the top half of a building being sheared off and embedded into the pavement below. More pictures ensued. Even one just for Meg and the hot cop.

Back to the hotel around midnight and crawling into bed.