RETURN TO EXPO: Part two – Ten minutes = nine cookies.

Just joining us? Be sure to read Part one of our #EXPOWEST adventure.

By Mary Duggan

I know when you think of us being in Anaheim, it looks something like this.

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And it does for us too; for about 5 minutes each day. Mostly we are in a convention center so toxic that it’s hard to believe it will soon be filled with 65,000 people looking for the latest and greatest in natural everything. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder, or booth-to-booth, as it were, with thousands of exhibitors who are exhausted, stressed to the nines, and frequently in need of lifestinks deodorant. It takes lots of hours and lots of back strain to set up a booth. Folks who knock together minimalist presentations in about an hour and then go out to enjoy the marvels of California are rare. And, we don’t like them – at all.

This year we challenged ourselves by designing a nifty 7-part sample box. In five days. Which means all the parts arrived in Anaheim and we created our 500 sample kits there. So while Clare and Annie spent close to 2 hours hanging the signs that arrived bent, wrinkled, too long and without grommets for hanging, I made sample kits. Our designer had worked like crazy with Clare to bring our Humans of Lifestinks concept – the very one we had premiered at the One of a Kind Show – to professional fruition. And we changed the name, just a bit, so our lawyer wouldn’t have a stroke. So after two hours of struggle, instead of the expected 20 minutes, up went the Stories of Lifestinks photo quilt, and I have to admit it looked like a Tibetan Tanka to me. Which, I guess, is a good thing.

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I had to stop being a crabby sample maker when Debbie Ratcliff from Tassos in Oakbrook Terrace, IL stopped by because she is a lot nicer person than me and I did not want her to figure that out. Here I am having a ball making sample kits. 500 of them.

The walls went up and the brand new floor went down. And then came up again; because we had done it wrong. So back down again it went – correctly this time – and then hallelujah our pallet appeared via fork-lift and we could breathe. Everything we needed to create our 10×10 home away from home had arrived in one piece. All would be well. And just in time, as it was now lights out at the Convention Center. See all of you again bright and early tomorrow. And it was off to the hotel for the sisters to unload the avalanche of stuff loaded into the van.

Clare had worked miracles and found us a brand new hotel in the family-owned Ayres chain  – offering introductory Spring Fling prices – and just 10 minutes from the Convention Center. Designed by a famous Feng Shui master, it is take-your-breath-away gorgeous from the minute you step into the sensory soothing ice blue lobby with the extraordinary waterfall featured in the health and wealth corner and the crystal everything and the water-balancing fireplace and the prosperity-generating gold fish imagery.

fountain valley ayres lobby

Except the Feng Shui was not quite powerful enough to balance the extreme understaffing. It was really late and we were really tired and we were dealing with boatloads of plunder to unload from our rented van. So arriving was a spiritually appropriate end-point to our Ash Wednesday mortifications until our overloaded cart went rogue and barreled  head-on into one of the round for gentle-entry but precariously balanced glass-topped tables which went down really fast shattering glass EVERYWHERE. The Duggan Sisters had landed. Within hours we would also cause the electricity to blow in 80% of our room, making the free WiFi not such a big deal; and a few other minor kerfluffles, as well. Brand new hotels have kinks. Even when they have been professionally Feng Shui-ed. And we were just the right South Side of Chicago girls there to prove it – for 5 “smashing” days.

Annie assures me that she was very courteous when she explained to the Manager the following morning that it is hard to enjoy the free breakfast when absolutely nothing is labelled as safe for gluten sensitive folks. The manager had never heard the words gluten-free before (!); and so we nibbled cautiously at eggs that we hoped were actually eggs and high-tailed it to the Convention Center. Imagine our delight when we returned to our room oh-so-late that night. Granted it was still 80% unlit; but, there in the shadows of the desk was an assortment of pink-boxed gluten-free treats that would have impressed any gf warrior. Talk about enchantment. A note of apology, and assurances of the Ayres Hotel getting up-to-speed on gluten-free issues, sat atop boxes of blueberry muffins, cinnamon buns, banana bread, white bread and chocolate chip cookies. We GOOGLED Curves California, immediately!

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Please do not forward this blog to Dr. Bill Davis. We know, we know, healthy gluten-free does not mean gluten-free treats. It means fish and vegetables, for breakfast, even on your birthday. Okay?

I don’t mean to harp on gluten-free and what it means to us as a family but OMG gluten-free is THE biggest trend, bar none, in the world of natural products. Mega numbers of booths were dedicated to businesses making the most delicious g-f foods. And when we took a quick lunch break from setting up the booth a quick Web search brought us to a take-out joint, California-style, called XA. Again, gluten-free enchantment was in the air. Because there was a mix-up in our order and a time delay ensued that was stressful due to our schedule for the day, we were sent home with NINE gluten free cookies, as an apology for the less than maybe 10-minute delay. Do the math: that’s like a cookie a minute! Time well-spent?

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I have to say just a few more words about the fast food served at XA. First of all, only in California would you find a menu labelled to assist you in your efforts at “clean eating.” That’s right, you could choose from the Paleo section, the Vegan section, the – you get the picture. The servers were darling and the chef-owner came out from the kitchen as we left to wish us a wonderful EXPO. Of course, we returned for a second visit. Sunshine just seems to makes people nicer.

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Fast-food, really.

And I have to share something else trending strong in California. I am not sure this photo does the experience justice, but really every single man who came in to have lunch while we were there was wearing a shirt that was either pink or lavender, and either checked or striped. It was lovely. It was fast-food dining California-style. Chicago was so cold this winter that I always kept my coat on inside restaurants, and sometimes my hat and scarf. But that is a different blog post. A really horrible one.

rest_IMG_7071 xa shirts

So, we took our pale selves back to work and pushed on through for hours until we got our booth just the way we wanted it. Good flow. Clear points of entry and exit. Three separate work stations. Seats for us and for exhausted attendees. Tables skirted in felt made from recycled water bottles. Table scapes built on boxes made from recycled paper and cardboard. All the tricks of the trade that almost six years of shows had taught us. The less-than-perfect signs were jerry-rigged and hung, hundreds of samples were stowed under the tables in quick release black laundry hampers from IKEA – a solution more elegant than the description might allow. And on the table our tried and true Don’t Be A Boob diagrams, alongside new informational materials about Triclosan in deodorants and BPA causing Man Boobs. We were ready to rock the show.

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A light bite was followed by a good night’s sleep. By early morning, we were ready to slide on the badges visibly dangling above and begin Day One. It’s EXPOWEST 2014 and the sisters are in the house.

Follow along with the fun. Continue reading:  THE DUGGAN SISTERS’ RETURN TO EXPO: Part Three – Aloha means love.

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About the author:

Mary Duggan

Mary Duggan is Co-Founder and President of the Duggan Sisters

The Duggan Sisters cracked the code and created a natural deodorant that actually works: lifestinks. And that was just the beginning. We hope you will spend a few minutes exploring duggansisters.com to experience their spirited approach to wellness through their natural products and healing stories.

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