Pairings Retreat: From Dream to Reality

One day, shortly after the beginning of the new year, my friend Cristina from Your Personal Producer and I were on G-chat as we normally are, sharing our dreams for 2018. She was in a funk and I was in a post-Paris high! 2017 had seen some serious ups and downs for both of us and we didn’t want 2018 to end up being the same old song and dance. You know…dream big at the beginning of the year, start off strong and lose it somewhere around mid-April.

In a moment of honesty, she blurted out: (paraphrasing) “I wish I could just get away. Go on a retreat and get my thoughts in order for 2018.”

And I said “Let’s do that!”

The funny thing is, it’s usually me who dreams beyond my reach and usually she steps in to tell me: “That’s possible.” But on this day our roles were reversed and soon our dreaming turned into a game plan!

She threw out a concept, I took it and threw things back at her and an actionable plan formed not only in our minds and on our proverbial cocktail napkins, but also on a shared Google Drive folder that would soon become an actionable itinerary for the retreat of our dreams.

Pairings Retreat

We started off with the dream of a beachy, intimate retreat filled with instagrammable drinks paired with vision board creations. Photo sessions paired with content calendars. Adorable products from bakeries like P is for Pie and brands like band.o to inspire our own creative juices. It all came together like the stories you hear of visionaries in restaurants spit balling ideas and then…one day, we have Twitter. Or in a parent’s garage and all of a sudden…Apple is born.

In fact, Cristina and I have this thing that happens to us when we really get going on an idea on G-chat. One of us will type out an idea and hit send only to find the other person has thought of almost the exact same thing as well. Leading to a lot of “GET OUT OF MY HEAD” and “HOW IS THIS HAPPENING?”

In moments like these, we are so like-minded that our dreams and visions become transcendent. Like somehow God is planting ideas in both our heads and because He had the good sense to make us friends, He’s smiling at His handiwork when we, humble creations that we are, realize how our ideas fit together just as they are meant to!

So fast forward through all of our pre-planning and big dreaming to the retreat itself.

Road Trip Reunion:

Cristina flew in early Tuesday morning. We didn’t want to skip a beat or miss precious time enacting our respective visions. I grocery shopped and product sourced ahead of time with a handy shared shopping list on the G-Drive (the thing that helps us get all things done.)

Pairings Retreat - a creative retreat for blogger by Cristina and Liz

The drive to Madeira Beach is about 2 hours from Orlando, so we had plenty of time to get our thoughts in order and make some plans ahead of our scheduled time of making plans. Plus, we had a chance to get important friend catch-up time in there as well, which is vital to a partnership like ours! We strive very hard to strike a balance between best friends forever and business partners. And that comes with equal helpings of dream casting and venting about elements of our everyday life.

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Werk Werk Werk:

Once we reached our destination, we were in for a penny, in for a pound. We wasted no time unpacking the car, setting up our rooms and our work spaces, making our first round of drinks and getting our hair into sensible work pony-tails. We had a quick lunch on the beach of Publix subs, because Publix subs are the be all and end all of sandwiches for any home grown Florida girl (and we both are!)

Pairings Retreat - a creative retreat for bloggers by Cristina and Lizzie

Next, we set about our goal setting. With the help of some materials Cristina brought along, we began to ask really tough questions about our goals. What we wanted to achieve in life? What was stopping us? What did we allow in our lives that caused road blocks we may not even be aware of yet? What emotional juggernauts did we each have to work on and overcome in the coming year to make space for big dreams? So…no big deal. Just the extremely big, life-altering questions of the every day life, right?

Visionaries:

Following that, we set to the task of vision boarding. Cristina’s board was and all-encompassing snap shot of the life she wants to create for herself. A sensible 11×17″ format that would fit nicely in her carry on and be easy to take home with her.

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My vision board…well, you know I don’t do anything the “normal” way. Mine turned into more of what I like to call, a vision journal. Each page representing a different aspect of my personality that I wanted to highlight or work on or change altogether.  (more to come on vision journaling!)

Sunsets are Non-negotiable:

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After getting a whole lot of WERK done, we made a rule about Pairings Retreat…Sunsets are non-negotiable!! So we walked out to the beach (which was mere steps away from the front door of our beach cottage) and watched as the day sank into nighttime. Sunsets are the best way to end a day, IMHO. They remind you that there is beauty waiting at the end of whatever you just went through. And they reminded us to consider that the world has so much to offer.

Winner, Winner, Pesto Dinner:

When pairing up with a Forever Friend and future business partner, it’s nice to combine skills. Some of which I have, some of which she has and some of which we share. But making a delicious Pesto Chicken Pasta for dinner…that’s all Cristina!

Throughout our day we were cognizant of the moments when we wanted to hunker down and get through our list, as well as making room for moments when we needed a little R&R to refresh us for the hard stuff. Pairings Retreat quickly became about so much more than scheduling blog posts and creating actionable plans for our future. It was only the end of day one and already we both had the feeling that we had stumbled upon something really special.

Second Verse, Better than the First:

We awoke at a reasonable hour in the morning on Day 2. Actually, I got up a little earlier to go sit on the beach and watch the day break. Breakfast was mimosas and bagels from Brooklyn Water Bagel, a local place in Winter Park and a favorite place of mine (shop small!!!)

Pairings Retreat - a creative retreat for bloggers by Cristina and Lizzie

We analyzed our schedule for the day over breakfast and made some adjustments. We wanted to have more time for photo sessions and wanted to take advantage of the weather in the morning. Being flexible in the midst of a set schedule became really important for us. We had things to accomplish, but we also wanted to be free to move with the day as we needed to.

Snap My Picture:

Cristina has gotten very good at taking my picture. From our days of working on my web series in New York to her constantly being my photographer for fitness series and fashion posts. Me…I’m not as good at it. But this was a chance to stretch myself. I’m usually the one in front of the camera, because I like to be there. She’s usually behind it, for the same reason. But Pairings Retreat is about challenging yourself. Creating what you need. And learning that the walls you have to climb are only as tall as you let them be. Learn to climb and you don’t have a wall problem anymore, do you!

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Photo by Cristina Fowler
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Photo by Cristina Fowler
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Photo by Cristina Fowler (she really is good at this game!)

Working Lunch:

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We continued to bump things around and change our schedule as our needs dictated for the day. Lunch became a working lunch. We put the finishing touches on our vision boards and started in on our writing session. Whatever that meant for each of us. We are both bloggers, but I took that time to continue filing out my questionnaire about my future, which became addictive and illuminating. I didn’t realize some of the things that were coming up in my answers and it allowed me a perspective on my future that I had not considered yet.

Treat Yourself:

Who among us isn’t energized by a treat? The mere mention of a cupcake in the vicinity and I perk right up! Prior to the trip, I had procured a couple special treats for us. Pies from P is for Pie, cupcakes from Small Cakes Cupcakery and extra large Hershey’s chocolate bars for each of us (milk chocolate for Cristina and dark chocolate for me.) We had a drink pairing for each portion of our day and delectable meals lined up around every corner.

Pairings Retreat - a creative retreat for bloggers by Cristina and Lizzie

We didn’t over eat. We didn’t get drunk or binge on sweets to the point of sugar comas, but we did enjoyed our time together to the fullest and took time to treat ourselves as we worked hard and got our check lists done! This is now a founding principle of Pairings Retreat. TREAT YOURSELF!!

Bring Me that Horizon:

As I  mentioned before…sunsets are non-negotiable at Pairings and we took the chance to get another photo session in before the sun took it’s bow for our last night on retreat.

On the Town:

To add a big, shiny bow to our fabulous and very productive 2-day retreat, we went out to dinner Wednesday night. We couldn’t believe we had only started the morning before. We had gotten so much done!

There’s something about fresh seafood on the porch of a beach town restaurant that is especially rejuvenating. We had more fruity drinks and more delicious desserts. And we talked about how we wanted to expand our idea for Pairings. What if we offered this experience to more bloggers who were looking for what we had found here?

To the Future:

It’s funny. After a certain age, things like camp and sleep overs and getaways become hard to come by because of life circumstance or frowned upon because of age. 30-something women don’t have slumber parties anymore. Adults don’t go away to sleep over camp. We grown-ups have it all figured out, after all. But I call shenanigans!!

Pairings Retreat - a creative retreat for blogger Cristina and Lizzie

We need to get away sometimes. We need to recharge our batteries away from the people who spend the most time using our batteries up. We need time with other creatives to spark our own adventures and dreams. That is exactly what Pairings became for us.

And even better, that is what Pairings can be for you too!!

If that sounds like just what you’re looking for, then…Stay tuned!

Pairings Retreat - a creative retreat for bloggers by Cristina and Lizzie

Paradise Found

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl surrounded by her bestest of friends is the happiest of people. UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED. And I’m not talking about your run of the mill acquaintance here…I’m talking deep, unfailing friendship.20170224_140811.jpg

The kind of friends that tell you “Those shorts do not work with your ass.” They tell you “No, no, no the bangs look great with your face, you’re overthinking it.” They tell you “He is not worth your tears, girl. Save ’em for a better man!”

These are the friends that will stand the test of time. When other friends fade away…they will remain. I am blessed to have a handful of these “Forever Friends.” And last month I got to spend a weekend in Miami with two such gemstones. Check it out…

Ladies' Weekend 2017

There were a lot of options going into Ladies Weekend 2017. Last year (Ladies Weekend 2016) we ended up in sunny Orlando, Florida. Home of the happiest place on Earth, Hogwarts and yours truly. And we had a blast, check it out. So…the bar was pretty high. We waffled between New Orleans, Las Vegas, Mexico and even Paris made an appearance as a viable option, given that flights were only $400 round trip when we were looking. But in the end we decided to hit up Cristina’s home town…Miami! Another sunny vacation…not too shabby.Miami Florida Diplomat Beach Resort travels

I’ve mentioned this to you before, blog readers, but I am a summer girl!! 100%. All the way! The thought of spending a vacation anywhere where the temperature might drop below 75…no thank you! (Talk to me next year when we hit London for Ladies Weekend 2018.)

Cristina is the planner of the group. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love planning too, but we are very different sort of planners and this was her hometown, so the agenda was all hers with some input from Erin and I. But it’s best to visit a town with a local. You can see all the cool spots you might miss if you are doing the tourist thing. So Cristina hooked us up with a home cooked meal at her childhood home. (Dad makes a mean sangria!!)

We also hit Coral Gables, Coconut Grove and of course… SOUTH BEACH!! Erin’s mother-in-law got us a SICK deal on a casita (way better than a cabana) at The Diplomat and let me tell you something, we felt like Queens! We had a personal server and about 5 other employees that made the rounds to check on us throughout the day (Thanks Leo, Cassandra, Jeff, Josh and Danny!) We ordered drinks and fancy lunch and swam and laid in the sun. This is the best way to spend any day, I am convinced. And a day spent like this in the presence of beautiful friends…well that’s where the Paradise Found part comes in!!

Yeah…we did a bunch of other stuff. We went to Cristina’s home church on Sunday. We did little photo shoots for an upcoming blog project I have in the works. We made a pilgrimage to Instagram mecca, aka Wynwood Walls. We ate ALL THE FOOD!! We even tried to hit up South Beach’s night life, but the weekend proved too strong for our dance moves and we tuckered out at around 11:45pm and hit the hay instead of the dance floor. (Don’t even think of calling us old…the sun took it out of us! I blame the sun!)

Wynwood Walls Miami Florida travels blogger

All in all, there were so many things that made it a perfect weekend, but the thing that will stay with me is hanging with my squad for a full 3 days. We each live in a different state these days and quality time is hard to come by. We do our best with phone calls, Google Chat, texting, Snapchat (life saver), Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But who are we kidding…it’s never going to be enough. Our lives have us moving in circles far from the ones we moved in when we lived in New York together and tore the town upside down whenever possible.

Does our current reality diminish what was? Of course not. I think it just serves to make those shining moments of “togetherness time” shine a little bit brighter and causes us to hold onto the new moments we create a little big tighter.20170226_131405.jpg

See you in London next February, my beautiful friends!!

Color Me Confused

First up is Smiley. I met Smiley at our favorite karaoke haunt, Gabby O’Hara’s one Tuesday night. He wore a suit, bought me a drink and played a mean bongo drum. We started talking and eventually exchanged numbers. A story as old as time. Or as old as bars.

He even came out with me and all my friends that very Friday night. He was so nice and really took the time to talk to them and made himself the pseudo protector of our merry little band. Excited at the prospect of a new flirt, I went home thinking ‘He’s a good one.’ And all my friends went home thinking, ‘The girl finally found someone to date.’

WRONG!!!

I’m gonna go ahead and bullet point this portion cause it gets weird:

– I invite him to church

– He accepts and comes that Sunday

– We exit church together

– No dinner invitation is extended

– Instead he says “I’m gonna go grab a drink and head back to work”

– I scratch my head in confusion and go home to eat alone

–  While on the train (not 20 mins later) I receive a text that says “What are you doing?”

– My inner monologue: “What do you think I’m doing, dumb ass? I’m going home to eat alone because you couldn’t muster the balls to ask me out in person”

– Actual reply: “Going home to wash dishes and eat dinner”

– Smiley: “I love washing dishes, I’ll come over”

– My inner monologue: “Oh you will, will you? We just met less that a week ago, home slice. So… no, I don’t think you will be coming over to ‘wash my dishes!'”

– Actual reply: “I live far away and have no air conditioning so it’s really hot here. Rain check?”

– Smiley: “I don’t care how far away you live and I can fan myself with the clothes I take off. Hahaha. LOL.”

-Inner monologue and actual reply collide into: “Huh? @%&((!**??????”

AND SCENE!!

I told him he should’ve asked me out when he was standing not 2 feet from me and that maybe I’d see him at karaoke sometime.    He hasn’t been to karaoke since and I promptly deleted his phone number. Color Me Confused!!!