Jan. 26th, 2006

So, for those unfamiliar with the space, the ConFusion consuite is made up of a central hospitality parlor, and an adjoining room on either side. I made a few key changes to the space usage this year that greatly improved the flow. For the first time, we split the soda, putting the regular soda in the bathroom of the left hand side room, and the diet soda in the bathroom of the right hand side room. This meant we didn't have to stock tubs as often and could have a better variety at any given time. Also, the main room has a built in bar right as you enter. This would seem the obvious place to put beer, wine, etc, but it means you end up with a big crowd right at the door and people can't get into the room easily. So we moved beer and wine dispensing into the right hand side room. In addition to improving the flow, all of these changes also encouraged people to use the side rooms a little more than they had previously.

Another big change was in the space where the food gets laid out. I managed to get them to remove the big dining table, so we were able to create a U along the outside of the space with a cocktail round in the middle under the chandelier so people couldn't bonk their heads. We used a 6 foot table under the window, and 8 foot table between the seating area and the food area, and a four foot desk we moved from one of the adjoining rooms to fill in the space between the six foot table and the built in bureau. This gave us lots of space to lay out food and for people to be able to access it easily. Keith Kurek set up some computer monitors showing pulp magazine covers on top of the bureau, so we could have had even more room if we'd wanted/needed it.

We used the bathroom area in the main suite for prep and storage. There's a roomy hallway leading back there, so we put one shelving unit there and another in the closet. We stacked some boxes in the bathroom itself, used the bathtub for cold storage, and had a few things behind the bar in the main room. It was tight, but we managed, and there are other bits of furniture in the room that could have been used for storage if necessary.

The left had side room, with the regular pop, we coined the Beach Room. We had some ambitious decorating plans, but Chris ran out of time getting lights up, so we weren't able to do the patio lanterns in that room. But we did wrap most of the room in a 50 foot long, 4 foot tall, plastic sheet printed with palm trees and the like. Friday night we had a Beach Party in the beach room - we played surf music (thanks to Erik V Olson for burning me some CDs), Wyn and Matt mixed up blender drinks, and we handed out leis as the door. We ran it for just about an hour - it was a good party and got people in good spirits to start off the convention. It got off to a messy start when I knocked a container of drink mix off the table and it cracked open, spilling pina colada mix all over the floor. But we got it cleaned up in time, and the coconuty smell just added to the ambience, right?

The right hand side room, with the diet pop and the beer, we thought of as the bar. Cause, well, that's where the bar was. It had rope lights in different colors around the ceiling, as well as big 4 foot tall sillouhettes of jazz musicians. We removed the beds and most of the other furniture from the room, and put in 3 small cocktail rounds and chairs, as well as a classroom table along the wall for the beer. It was a little crowded, but mostly worked well. During the day on Saturday we used that room for readings. I had originally suggested to Jeff that we hold a couple of Literary Beers Saturday afternoon - basically a Kaffeeklatch with beer instead of coffee. What I ended up with was all of the readings for the weekend being scheduled in the consuite, which was NOT what I had in mind! We moved out the Friday night (do you see now Jeff how that just *wouldn't* have worked!) and the Sunday morning ones. The early ones on Saturday were okay, but as things got busier and noisier in the main room of the consuite, some of the authors were having a hard time hearing themselves read. But because half the soda was in that room, we couldn't just close the door. If we do something like this again next year, it should go back to the literary conversation idea, not a formal reading.

We had a couple of other events too. Saturday night we held a wake for Howard DeVore. I'd guess we had about 60 or 70 people crowded in to the main consuite to drink Jim Beam and tell stories about Howard. During the 45 minutes that was going on we closed the main door of the consuite, and routed people directly into the side rooms to get soda, which worked really well. Sure did get hot in there, though!

Saturday morning I scheduled a "Stitch and Bitch" and invited people to bring their needlework, etc and hang out for a couple of hours. It wasn't tremendously well advertised - it was in the program book and I sent it out to a couple of email lists before the con, so I was really pleased when 6 or 8 crafters showed up and worked!

In the early hours of Sunday morning we hit upon a great event for next year - ToddlerFusion! Between about 8 and 9:30 am, 80% of people who came into the consuite had a baby or toddler in tow. I think it would be great fun to schedule it as an event and put out some toys for the kids to play with.
So as I said, Friday night I mostly spent feeling like I was running behind. Saturday morning I woke up early (of course), but at least that gave me time to catch up. I reorganized all of the food storage so that things made sense and it was easier to see what we actually had, then started developing restocking lists. I went to Meijer to pick up the things I needed there, and meanwhile, [livejournal.com profile] dlacey started counting soda, figuring out how much we'd used so we'd know how much more to buy. Then it was off for another trip to Costco, where we only filled one flatbed and one shopping cart, and were able to load everything into Matt's full size rental car.

Late in the afternoon I realized that I forgot to buy foam cups at Costco, and we are nearly out. So off to Mejier I go, with Erik V. Olson in tow. We picked up a bunch of different things, including more wine for Saturday night. We went through 8 bottles on Friday, so we bought 4 more assuming consumption would be the same on Saturday night. And ended up running out of wine at 11! Oh well. We also bought two hot rotisserie chickens, to bring back to the consuite as a special treat. As you'd expect, they were a big hit.

We did a bunch of things like that throughout the weekend. One of the reasons I think people liked this year's consuite so much was that we had a lot of variety. When looking at shopping lists from previous years, I could see that they'd spent about the same amount of money, but only on a few things. So they had carrots and broccoli for veggie trays, where we had carrots, broccoli, snap peas, cucumber, peppers, and grape tomatoes. Mostly budget neutral, but much more interesting. I bought a 3 lb package of pre-made guacamole from Costco, and we doled that out Saturday afternoon. Instead of buying a big jug of mediocre salsa from Costco, I spent more money on that line item and bought 7 or 8 different varieties of salsa in the regular size from Meijer. At any given time we'd have 4 or 5 available to choose from - extra spicy, green, black bean and corn, etc. Tortilla chips are cheap to buy, so you want people to eat them instead of the more expensive options, and this gave them a reason to do so. And was one of the main ways that I tried to add some "Tammy style" to the offerings. I did the same thing with mustard, having 6 or 7 different options there too.

I got comments from folks that they liked that there was always something different when they went into the consuite. Sure, you might be bummed that you missed the chicken, but you were there when the leftover shrimp ring came up from Green Room. Etc. I bought two big rounds of brie, and put quarters of those out periodically throughout the weekend. We cubed up the other varieties of block cheese that we bought, and I found that it didn't go as well that way, so next time I would keep those in bigger pieces and let people cut their own.

In the mornings, we had cereal, bagels, danishes, muffins, granola bars, poptarts, juice, etc. We ran out of milk for cereal on Sunday, and I ended up paying the hotel $12 to buy 10 little 8 oz containers of milk. Around 11 we'd put the breakfast foods away, and start putting other things out. At noon and midnight each day we put out lunch meat and cheese for sandwich fixings. And we kept out peanut butter, jelly and marshmallow fluff for sandwich making any time of night or day. At Diane's suggestion, we also had soup. The Cream of Broccoli that we put out on Friday got mostly ignored, so thought the soup idea was a failure, but the tomato soup on Saturday was much more popular. For fruit we had apples and bananas and clementines and oranges, and kept out a variety at all times. Veggie trays were another constant feature - no coming into the consuite and only having junk food to choose from. Things like cheese and hardboiled eggs and such came out every hour or so. We had a big 5 lb jar of animal crackers that got completely devoured by Saturday night, lots of Oreos, some Milanos, two bite brownies and some quickbreads. That was another example of buying a small amount of something, but having it go a long way - I bought one package of three quickbread loaves (banana, poppyseed, something else). Once on Friday night and twice on Saturday, we'd cut up a loaf, put it on a tray with some of the brownies, and we had our special thing for that hour. We had M&Ms, Mike & Ikes, and Skittles (it's important that candy choices not be individually wrapped, like Hershey's Kisses or Reeses - they make too much mess).

I ended up having to make one last shopping run to Costco on Saturday afternoon, when we realized that our soda buying quantities from the morning had been too low, and we were definitely going to run out if we didn't get to the store. Don't know what happened to all of our Diet Coke drinkers - they drank 5 cases of soda Friday night to Saturday morning, and maybe only another 5 all day Saturday to Sunday morning. But Paul bought up all the extra flats, so that was okay. As I thought, soda buying was my real challenge for the weekend - with almost no numbers to go from, I really had no idea. Now I've got the big spreadsheet, so it'll be much easier for other people in the future. I pegged the water nearly exactly - we bought 20 cases (of 35) to start, then 5 more cases on Saturday morning, which was a little too much, so we ended up with 3 cases leftover. So much for all the people that were looking at me like I was crazy when I talked about buying that much water!

Saturday night was pretty relaxing for me. I'd finally gotten things organized, and all the shopping was done, so I was free to enjoy myself. I went down to the masquerade, visited some room parties, and hung out with Eric for a little while. But mostly I was still bopping around the consuite, keeping things clean and tidy and stocked. Which leads me to staffing. In terms of staffing, I had a shift supervisor scheduled in four hour blocks for every hour of the day. On top of that, we had requested a volunteer for each hour (although we didn't always get one, particularly on Saturday night and Sunday). From 7pm to 3 am on Friday and Saturday, we had a bartender staffing the kegs and wine. On top of all those people were Diane and myself, who spent nearly all of our waking hours in the consuite. While we did occasionally trip over ourselves, for the most part, I found that having that many people was also a big asset in keeping things running smoothly and keeping things clean and stocked.


Jan. 26th, 2006 02:46 pm
I think I'm still recovering from the convention, because despite several nights of pretty good sleep, I'm still tired. Of course, last night's sleep was disrupted for an hour in the middle by a screaming, tantruming child. Blech. I think that with my dad arriving last night, he was afraid that Eric and I were going to leave again. He's been much more clingly and mama's boy ever since the convention.

My dad got here last night. I didn't really want to go out with Liam today, and have to figure out how to entertain him amidst everything else that was going on, so I let my dad go ahead on his own, and Liam, Eric and I will head out tomorrow morning. The funeral is at 1:30, so we should have plenty of time. We'll plan to spend Friday night at my sister's, and maybe Saturday night too, depending on how things go.

So I'm home, and will be heading off to cook common meal in about an hour. I know, all of you suggested that I trade the shift away, but I like cooking, so I'd really rather do it. Or at least, if I wasn't so sleepy, I would. Speaking of which, I think I'll go try to sneak in a cat nap before it's time to go cook.
1 bedroom, 1 bath condo in the Village.

About the condo: High ceilings, hardwood floors, deck, air conditioning and full basement with washer/dryer. Pets OK. $775/month, includes water, but not gas or electric.

About the neighborhood: The Village is a great neighborhood in East Ann Arbor near Arborland Mall. It has big mature trees and lots of grassy open areas. It's conveniently located for using public transit (you can walk to the grocery store, and catch multiple buses at Arborland) and also has very easy access to the highway for Metro Detroit commuters.

Interested? Email me at tammylc@livejournal.com or call Tammy at 734-276-3215. Please pass this message on to anyone you think might be interested.



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