Home » GG&G's Real Life » Bloggers in the Dirty South: My First Haven Conference

Bloggers in the Dirty South: My First Haven Conference

Whoa. I mean. WHOA. About 13 months ago, I started seeing some of my FAVORITE bloggers post about a conference they had attended called Haven. I’m not gonna lie, I’m a terrible blogger. I think we all know this. Consistency? No. Incredible befores/afters? To me? Yes. To you? You’re very loving and supportive. I thank you for that. πŸ™‚ Huge following? No, but loyal and wonderful, you are. Anyway, I thought to myself last June/July, “How cool would it be to go to this big ol’ conference and meet these big ol’ bloggers and just revel in their glory?!”

Enter January when I heard tickets were going on sale. Nervous doesn’t being to describe how I felt. Anyone who knows us knows that we budget. like. crazy. Buying a huge conference ticket and figuring up hotel expenses didn’t even begin to fall into my “normal” budgeting month. Somehow, my super supportive husband helped me figure it out and the purchase was made! In the beginning, I found a roommate through Sarah at Ugly Duckling House and I was all set to go. Sadly, my wonderful roomie (also from VA- check her out: Caroline thediynurse!) was unable to go to Haven, but I found a new roomie…who I hadn’t met…who isn’t from VA…who might not like my ridiculous sense of humor…who might have to share a king-sized bed. I’m happy to say that God definitely sent me Melody from My Passion for Decor and I couldn’t have been luckier. We did end up sharing a king-size bed and it was no stress whatsoever! And this girl’s furniture makeovers? Beautiful.

So, we set out Wednesday morning for the bajillion and ten hour drive to ATL. We love road trips. That may or may not have been tested. Seriously though, we had a good time, played a million rounds of Heads-Up…anyone played this? It’s in the app store and it’s the celebrity/movie/song game that Ellen Degeneres plays with guests on her show? We play it at Friday Night Hangout (at our house, every Friday, you’re welcome to attend) and, needless to say, we have some GREAT car trip videos to send to Ellen. πŸ™‚ As the drive got long, I did a mani/pedi in the car. The color is Bikini So Teeny by Essie. And I love it.

bikini so teeny mani (1)We also passed the Gaffney, SC peach and got stuck in ATL traffic. Pretty standard road trip fare, if you ask me. At this point, Chris was asking me every few hours if I was excited. I kept saying no. I kinda wanted to throw up thinking about ALL of the blogging madness that was going to happen the next day at Haven. I just…I couldn’t even describe how unprepared I felt.

Gaffney Peach toward ATLΒ ATL traffic

Luckily, that night we had tickets to see a Braves game. I was over the moon excited about seeing my boys again and it was their NINTH win in a row! What a good night. We had stadium food with my sister and bro-in-law and we got to watch them win. In fact, we got there during the 3rd inning, in which they scored SEVEN runs. Booyah. Take that, Rockies!

Turner Field vs. Rockies 7.31.13GGG at Braves 7.31.13

We were tired after a long trip, but still in high spirits! Now, on to the conference!

I will not lie. I was terrified to go to this conference. The whole way into ATL from my sister’s I was quiet and nauseous. Poor Chris was being so supportive, telling me that my “funny” would translate and I would have friends (pathetic, right?!), but I could not get it together. We checked in to the room…which was awesome…although there was a man’s sock in the corner from the day before. I had a good laugh about that. And, wouldn’t you know it? My name was on the TV. WHAT?! It was like, “Whether you belong here or not, you’re here and they have your name ON RECORD.” I have to say, I kinda liked having my name on the TV. Exciting.Β Haven Conf TVI felt really small-town being overwhelmed by the fancy TV, but that’s not super surprising. My lovely husband stayed around in the hotel for me so I could calm my nerves/freak out while I waited for Melody. Luckily, the Haven Team had organized some twitter chats pre-conference and I got in touch with Heather from Real {Cheap} Housewives of Texas who texted me from the lobby bar telling me to get my butt out of my hotel room and come hang out. One last selfie with Chris and I was out the door. Terrified. Haha, anyone else sensing an emotional theme? Also…isn’t my husband just. THE. CUTEST?! He gets cuter, just wait.

GGG Haven Day 1

Seriously, I couldn’t have made it through the afternoon without Heather, Tara, and Melody. They literally kept me sane (ish?) while we waited for the first night’s opening cocktail party, hosted by Homes.Com. Now, this is when the party (literally and figuratively) started! I met a bajillion trillion people at this party and got to meet (in real life!) some bloggers who I had briefly met online. There are a bajillion pictures, so I’m going to try to let them do the talking. The first two pictures are me with Stacy at Not Just A Housewife and Amber of ForRent.Com and Homes.Com. Stacy and I had connected via instagram when I creepily told her that I asked for bangs just like hers when I went for a haircut. Amber and I also connected via twitter chats and we are like long-lost BFFs. We had similar nail polish, similar outfits, and then she said, “Oh, I live at the beach…like, Virginia Beach…in Virginia,” as I stared blankly and then exclaimed, “I LIVE IN VIRGINIA!” Then, there was much planning of girls’ nights, squealing, and hugging. BFFs.

Jessica-Gourley-Stacy-Risenmay-bangs Jessica Gourley Amber Heckler cocktail party

Then, I met Mandi from Vintage Revivals. I haven’t been following her for forever, but it’s been quite a few months and from post 1, I was hooked. I genuinely love her blog, her style, her house. Everything. When she saw me, she said, “Hey, didn’t I just start following you on instagram?!” I almost died. Of course, I knew (see photo below- hah) but I didn’t expect her to remember. Sometimes it’s really easy to build up these bloggers with huge blogs/followings as rock stars and Mandi is definitely a rock star. When she realized it and even remembered our correspondence via facebook a few months ago, I was so flattered. I’m pretty sure the words, “Are we the same person?!” came up some time during our exchange and later we even realized we were in adjoining rooms. Ahhhh, yes. Fate. Haha. Seriously, though. It was a blessing to get to meet these fabulous ladies in person and to form connections. I’m so lucky to have been in their company.

vintage revival following

My favorite things about the Homes.Com party were:

1. Sarah from Ugly Duckling House recognizing me and us FINALLY talking in real life. She said the other day it felt like we’d known each other forever. Ain’t that the truth. So glad to meet this awesome girl in person.

2. Re-meeting Sherry from Young House Love and not making a totally creepy reference although we did tell funny jokes about how kids say inappropriate things. Maybe we’re destined for awkwardness. I’m OK with that.

3. Meeting Katie from Bower Power in person since I feel like I’ve known her and been in her home millions of times.

4. Seeing SO MANY people I had connected with through instagram. Many of them said, “Don’t I know you?” and I’d say, “Instagram?” and the wave of recognition would wash over, haha. I had such an extensive conversation about my insta-habits and how *shocking* it was that I hadn’t instagrammed much during the party that a few of us went ahead and instagrammed the flowers at the tables. That’s how addicted I am. I admit it. I have a problem.

Haven Conf centerpiece HomesDotCom[Other floral instagrammers can be found at Southern Color, Deranchification, Designed by BH, and Tossed Salad Life!]

After the party, Julia from Southern Color got us all a table at Cantina, right outside of our hotel and we had a DELICIOUS Mexican dinner with a big ol’ group. Wouldn’t you know I left my business cards in the hotel room (when quesadillas call, you don’t hold for business cards) but these ladies were gracious enough to let me track them down again the next day to trade. And to think, I wasn’t going to bring business cards until my husband convinced me I needed them! What a good man.


Bloggers L to R: Melody from My Passion for Decor, Julia from Β Southern Color, Anneke (and hubby, Michael!) from This, That, and Life, Lindsay from Life of Splendor, Kristin from Bliss At Home, Angie from Angie’s Roost, Trisha from Black and White Obsession, Elizabeth from Β Southern Color, Jesse from Scout and Nimble, and Brooke fromΒ Designed by BH!

Our waiter was British and some of us may or may not have pulled a Love, Actually and made him repeat words. We did NOT invite him to share a bed like the girls at the end of the clip. Also, I might be watching this movie tonight. Christmas in August. You’re welcome.

I got back to my room and JUST as Melody and I were getting ready for sleep, I saw a bunch of instagram notifications from a photo I had NOT posted. I got all nervous because my twitter was hacked while I was on vacation this summer and I was afraid someone got into my instagram. I clicked on the photo, and this popped up. Hacked? Yes. By the CUTEST husband in all the world. I told ya he got cuter!


All in all, it was a kind of amazing first day. I was SO scared and everyone was SO gracious. So, on to day two! πŸ™‚

This was the day I realized that I needed to start taking photos with people that I was obsessed with wanted to meet.

We had an amazing keynote speech by Ana White. I mean, amazing. I feel so stupid that I didn’t bring my book to have it signed! Dumb. Β I did tell her that my husband loved her…in front of her husband…and then followed up with, “because he likes that you have plans for the crazy things I want him to build and he doesn’t have to come up with them.” Good save. Classy. She and her husband were super gracious and laughed it off. Clearly I’m not the only crazy wife who says, “Let’s do _________!” and overwhelms her husband. (Don’t take that dirty. I didn’t mean it. For real this time.) I have a million “Ana-isms” that I wrote down that were so helpful to remember, one of which was “Be the goats in the trees.” Sometimes, I can’t explain the crazy.

I was able to attend some AWESOME sessions like Photographing Rooms & Projects with Kristen Duke. Have you read her love story posts? Check them out. In the afternoon, I went to Getting Personal On Your Blog with Sherry and Katie and got some good photos and we got the exciting news that KB is pregnant! Woo, Bower babies! Then, I was in Profitable Advertising with Myra from My Blessed Life, Beth from Home Stories A to Z, and Sarah from Thrifty Decor Chick. Can I just say that Sarah has a HOT voice?! I mean, girl could work in radio. Yes, that was my opener when I met her, “I just wanted to tell you that you have a great voice.” Creepers anonymous, here I come. I got some photos with some of my fave bloggers on Friday before going to the awesome #ryobirockshaven party thrown by Ryobi Power Tools. It. Was. Amazing.Β Jessica-Gourley-Mandi-Gubler

Me and Mandi from Vintage Revivals. This is the photo that prompted my best friend to text me, “WHY ARE BLOGGERS SO BEAUTIFUL?!” My only response, “RIGHT?!”

I met Geralin from Hoarders, say whaaaaat?! I was SO excited and she was THE sweetest lady. This is a big deal. I watch Hoarders marathons every Friday night. Every. Friday. Night.



Above: Katie Bower and her itty bitty baby!

Below: Sherry and I reppin’ V-A.


These are REALLY quality photos of Dusty from All Things G&D proposing to Christina from Homemade Ocean [who is NOT a unicorn, nor is she a ghost?!] and me and my dates for the night, Christina and Sarah!



Above: Ladies on the dance floor doing the Wobble.

Below: Ryobi guys coming out to “It’s Raining Men!” Hahaha- so. funny.


On Saturday, I went to three more sessions. I have to say, I have never taken so many notes in my life. The first one was from Brooke at All Things Thrifty and Court Tuttle of theblogbuilders.com. When I tell you that these 2 know things about building a blog, I mean, it’s insane. There are things I have never thought of. Things I could never possibly imagine. It was insane. And amazing. And inspiring. And they were super duper ridiculously nice. Then, I went to New Kids on the Block with KariAnne of Thistlewood Farms, Tauni of Snap!, and Heather from At the Picket Fence. These ladies knew SO much about building blogs and are even offering to help US out?! Gah. I cannot even handle it.

I got some photos with some of these lovelies, including KariAnne who pronounced us BFFs at the first cocktail party. I was so honored. And she thought I was funny? Whaaaat?! I blushed. A lot.

Jessica Gourley KariAnne Thistlewood Farms

I followed that session up with Hands-On Design Advice with Emily A. Clark, Sarah of Yellow Cape Cod, and Kristin from The Hunted Interior. I won’t lie. Kristin’s photos on her blog are like house porn for me. I just love what she does so I was excited to take in all of their knowledge and expertise for styling/arranging.

By Saturday’s end, I was running around like a crazy person taking pictures with everyone I’d missed and trying to get the last little bit of time talking to vendors and collecting my free swag (holla!) so I was freaking exhausted, but it was the best kind of tired. Ever.

Jessica Gourley Amber Heckler

Above: Me and Amber again! Love!

Below: My absolute motivation/sanity/helper/friend, Heather from RCHOTX!

Jessica Gourley Heather Warren Jessica Gourley Melody Smith

Above: Me and Melody- roomie pic! So blessed to have met her!

Below: Collecting vendor swag and entering to win a shower! What?! Yes, please! #moenshowertime

Jessica Gourley Moen Shower Jessica Gourley Sarah Fogle

Above: The smartest, funniest, most laid-back blogger and blog designer I have ever met. Seriously, Sarah is a gem and her advice was SO timely and well-said. I have much to learn from her!

Below: My new Lucy’s Inspired bracelet from the Southern Accents Architectural Antiques booth (my fave)!

lucy's inspired bracelet

I honestly couldn’t be happier that I decided to go blogger-stalk learn more at this conference. I met so many blogging idols (promise I won’t be quite so creepy next time, guys!) and learned SO much about the potential there is in this blogging world. The support was unprecedented and the relationships I formed were SO helpful to the next phase of me and my itty bitty baby blog. The Haven team planned a phenomenal conference- I can’t wait until next year! And special thanks to ALL of my new blogger-friends. I love you ladies and can’t WAIT to see you again. Lastly, thanks to my sweet husband for affirming me, encouraging me, and convincing me that I should go to this and that I would be fine. He was right. Ugh, I hate it when that happens. πŸ™‚

**As much as it seems I can only post in months beginning with “A”, I promise I’ll be back with another post again soon! Thanks! **


25 thoughts on “Bloggers in the Dirty South: My First Haven Conference

    • Girl, I am counting down the days until I can hang out with you and my TX bloggers again! πŸ™‚ LOVED meeting you and thanks so much for reading!

  1. Jessica, thanks so much for the Hoarders shout out in your post; I love it!

    I really, truly, bluely think this post could be nominated for the best, most comprehensive, funniest recap of all recaps. I’m so happy to have met you and hope we spend a lot more time together next year.

    Geralin xo

    • Geralin, You single-handedly just made me a celebrity to the youth who hang out with us on Friday Nights. It is SO hard to look cool to teenagers, so thanks for that! But also, thanks for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed it and can’t WAIT to see you next year! πŸ™‚

    • Darla- RIGHT?! How did we NOT meet?! I feel like I have been social media stalking you for weeks?! Next year we will make it our mission! Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

    • Um. What?! Did you just write a comment on my blog? Girl, you crazy! Seriously though, I am coming to Utah and we are having a big ol’ slumber party! I’m so glad I came to your class and you can expect me to hit you (and/or Court) up in the future as I try to grow my itty bitty baby blog! Thank you for reading this! πŸ™‚

    • Katie- SO glad we ended up being in so many sessions together! Be sure to take lots of photos when you have that baby! I want to gush all over him! πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading, too! πŸ™‚

  2. Fantasmagorical wrap-up! Your enthusiasm is palpable, and I love all the pics you included in this post. Although I only had a few moments of connection with you, I treasured them to the max…and feel in a way like we’re already besties because of instagram. Looking forward to connecting even more at the next Haven! Hugs to you, girl!

    • Lauren- So glad to have met you briefly and love being insta-besties with you! πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!!!!!

  3. You definitely made the most of every minute of Haven. I was also nervous about going and had my hubby there to offer encouragement. I am really looking forward to implementing everything I learned on my blog.

    • Paula, It’s funny because all I’ve done since I pressed “publish” is think of all the things I missed in the post! I guess I made more of it than even I thought. It was so great to meet you and find so many VA bloggers. I hope we can do a meet-up soon! Maybe we should do a “haven husbands” meet-up, haha! πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚ I’m excited to see what’s coming up for your blog!

    • Rhoda- Thank you so much for stopping by and for ALL of the hard work that you and the Haven Team put into the conference. It was phenomenal and the first thing I told Chris when he picked me up was, “Next year it’s in mid-July.” Haha, I think he’s starting to save already! Can’t wait to see you again!

  4. I could cry right now because you and I, the crazy Instagram (and Twitter) girls, never got a picture together. What is that? Where’s the love?!?! Thanks for the several shout-outs (about Instagram, no doubt) in the post!!!
    Loved your recap. I’m so glad that we got to meet IRL. Don’t forget to keep that guest sofa warm for me!!! Call me next time you’re in the Dirty South!

    • Brooke- I thought the same thing. How is there NO picture together?! Craziness! Next year, for sure. We’ll just walk to each other, phones out, cameras on! So glad to have met you IRL and looking forward to seeing where we’ll both be by next year’s Haven! We are cleaning out the office/guest room as we speak! πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!

    • Lucy- No, no- thank YOU! I LOVE my cuff. I have worn it every time I needed to actually put together an outfit since Haven. I even looked through the website because I want another one SO badly! πŸ™‚ Thank you for your creative eye- and thanks SO much for reading this!

  5. Hi Jessica! Amber is awesome, and so are you! Homes.com & ForRent.com enjoyed the opportunity to sponsor the event and had a great time connecting with attendees such as yourself at the Haven Conference! Be sure to take a look at all the photos from the event on Facebook, tag yourself & share with family/friends! https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151783562125943.1073741827.38844010942&type=3 P.S. – If you’re interested, Homegating #HomeChat is this Friday at 8pm EDT. Excited to chat with you soon! πŸ™‚

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