Two Saturdays ago was our first reader event at the mountain house. We invited 30 (+ plus-ones) of our most dedicated readers/followers up to Lake Arrowhead and the EHD team hosted them for the day. It was EXTREMELY fun, fulfilling, rewarding and pretty much made our year. At first, I thought maybe it would be “good marketing” if it was more of an “influencer” or “press” event…what I “should” do, but I really just wanted to be with people who knew me, were dedicated to this process, super engaged in the contest and had commented for YEARS.
The goal of the day was to really thank these readers and treat them to a day in the mountains—both the house and the general cultures. Once I realized that so many people were flying in from Oklahoma, Florida, New York, Arizona, etc, I realized that a 3-hour party wasn’t good enough, so my team went all out to ensure that they had 8 hours of fun to look forward to. Thank you, Caitlin, for jumping in so fast to produce this event (we literally threw this at her on her second day of work).
But it wasn’t without prep, as we all know and it PAINED me that the exterior wasn’t landscaped yet, but my team came up with some really pretty solutions.
The team spent the few days prior (and the morning of…SO MUCH PREP GUYS) setting up the back yard area where we knew a lot of “hanging” out would happen (particularly during lunch). While, yes, I’m a chair hoarder, there wasn’t enough seating throughout the interior, so we pulled from our prop closet (remember these chairs from the Culligan spa post and that table from a vintage haul post we did last year?).
We bought a handful of these pretty rad folding lounge chairs from IKEA, cut down some stumps for “side tables,” hung some hammocks, and set out tables and chairs. Honestly, it was kinda perfect.
Because a party is no fun without things to awkwardly shove into your mouth mid-conversation the whole time, Emily Bowser crafted these RIDICULOUSLY gorgeous cheeseboards. She literally whipped them up on under an hour (prep and all), and we started calling these “Boards by Bowser” because they were so stunning and professional. Please don’t poach her from my styling team.
We bussed everyone in from town on a LITERAL party bus (yes, there were colored lights and, uh, a stripper pole…because we classy at EHD), and let everyone roam around the house, take pictures, talk to each other (plenty of them had met up the day prior and already knew each other!) and the team, and just generally hang out and really experience the space.
Shout out to Topo Chico who sent us nine cases of bubbly water to enjoy during the event (and at the office). I had never had it before but my team swore by it and now I’m foregoing La Croix for life. For some “libations,” we made some custom cocktails (something we called a “mountain house margarita” which was really just a margarita, ha, and a whiskey-based mojito which was so yummy). HOT TIP: Make drinks self-serve with plenty of cups, ice and garnishes so you don’t feel like you have to play bartender all night. We had a staff to help (my team) but we aren’t caterers or bartenders and I didn’t want them to feel too much like they were “working” by literally serving people so this worked GREAT.
Another big THANK YOU goes out to Stonefire Grill for providing lunch for the event. They brought over an assortment of entree salads, a ridiculously good pesto pasta, BBQ beef and pita and hummus. Jazz (pictured above) was AWESOME.
And lastly, another thank you to Milkbar who provided the most decadent funfetti cake, cake truffles and SO MANY COOKIES (if you’ve never had anything from Milkbar and have one locally, you’ll be very pleased when you stuff their sweetness into your cookie hole.
While the food was great, the BEST part of the day (of course) was meeting all these incredible, amazing, devoted readers. It wasn’t just for me, it made the whole team feel so good. Talking to actual human beings who consume our work behind screens every day is unreal. Honestly, by the end of the day, I think the whole EHD was floating around full of pure joy and just genuinely elated from the outpouring of support, encouragement and love we felt from this group ALL DAY.
A little after lunch, we did one of our favorite group activities: A STYLE DIAGNOSTIC. It’s basically an IRL version of our style quiz to “diagnose” your decor aesthetic and it’s so much fun (and strangely accurate). We should find a way to package this up and send out it in the mail to everyone who wants it. Wait…should we do that?!? I have this fantasy of sending it out and then doing a live IGTV or whatever platform people can ask questions with…stay tuned.
We also had a long, informal Q&A session where myself and the team answered TONS of questions, mostly about the business, how we run the crazy behind-the-scenes of this site and the production that goes into it (both design- and editorial-wise), but also some more personal “working mom” questions. I cried. What’s new.
Next up was a boat tour around Lake Arrowhead which was so much fun (for whoever didn’t suffer from seasickness). It seemed strange to invite all these people up to a mountain/lake town and not take them on the water (and Lake Arrowhead is private so you can’t even rent your own boats, thus renting out the tour boat).
If you’re local(ish) and ever make it up to Lake Arrowhead and want a kill of hour on a lake, take the tour. The captain calls out all the “famous” spots (i.e. like where they filmed the lake scene of the original Parent Trap where the twins put their dad’s girlfriend on a mattress and push her into the water)…basically it’s like an LA celebrity tour bus, but on a boat, and in Lake Arrowhead. It’s charming and sweet.
We wrapped up the night at my family’s favorite restaurant in the area: LouEddie’s Pizza. They have a beautiful area in the back that they rent out for events and weddings and it’s pretty magical. Basically, imagine eating yummy pizza under a canopy of trees and string lights with the sound of water fountains bubbling in the background surrounding by ridiculously charming little cabins.
The biggest takeaway from the day was the importance of connecting with our community. That sounds like I’m running for your local councilwoman, but it solidified the importance of getting real feedback from you, the people, who have read consistently for years rather than reading the comments of infrequent readers (or trolls) that steer us in directions that we can get easily lost in.
Thanks to all the readers for coming. Again, we were so touched that some of you left your babies for the first time, some of you dropped your kids off at kindergarten for the first day then hopped on a flight. I’m so glad it was a success. If you were at the event (a lot of you happened to have your own blogs!), please leave links to your posts below in the comments and we’ll update the post throughout the day to share.
I truly LOVED talking to every single person and felt totally elated, in fact, the next day I crashed (both because of adrenaline, but also because I think it was a real emotional high).
Brian was there shooting all day, and here’s a visual recap of the day:
Our sitter brought the kids to LouEddies where the readers got to meet them. Charlie was shy but listened to the Q&A next to Brian nearby. Brian helped explain to them what was happening, what I was doing, why everyone was there to see me…I could cry because that would NEVER have happened 50 years ago. Not that a woman wouldn’t have done these things, we have for decades, but that a husband would take the time to make sure that the kids knew how important their mom is. They know I write a design blog and work for magazines, that’s it. We don’t talk about a “following” or readers/fans, and they’ve never seen Instagram. They freaked out when I was on Good Morning America, trying to get me to wave back to them via the computer, but it’s not like they watch the news. So many people are on the internet (YouTube, etc.) so it wasn’t impressive. So to them, they were like “Woah, all these people are here to listen to my mama?” It was so special and I felt empowered answering questions, making people laugh in front of my family. I think the margaritas helped. 🙂
People asked me up until the minute before the event if I was stressed and I honestly wasn’t. I was truly EXCITED. Even days before, pulling together the house (every closet needed to be organized, every drawer cleaned) my friends were like “Aren’t you stressed about 60 people coming here in 2 days” and I kinda was working like a crazy person, but not stressed. There was no sponsor involved, no talking points to hit, just me, my team and 60ish people who really appreciate and care about what we do.
But mostly I wasn’t stressed because I have such a great team that had pulled it all together so well in every way. The details were thought through, both visually and logistically. Everyone gave up a Saturday to help out which I know is a sacrifice, so I can even more enthusiastically say ENJOY YOUR WEEK OFF. This is one of two weeks that we shut down the office, to reset, recalibrate in every way and they deserve it.
THANK YOU EHD TEAM. You are THE BEST. And I can’t wait for you to meet them all in September, properly.
Head to stories if you want to see more of the event, it was pretty epic and I can’t wait to do another one…now we just need to find our 2020 project…stay tuned. xx
***photography by Veronica Crawford