Putting Ourselves in the Way of Beauty: Our 3rd Annual Full Circle Meal (part 1)

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As we started to prepare for our Third Annual Bacon & Lox Society Full Circle Meal, our gathering of creatives, a celebration of summer, community and collaboration, and dinner in the creek, (whew that’s a long title), I was inspired by something Cheryl Strayed’s mother would tell her when she was growing up, “There’s a sunrise and a sunset every day and you can choose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.”

The rainbow is one of those things (like shooting stars) that we must put ourselves in the way of to see. Similarly, setting aside time to be together and making space for connection, inspiration, and magic gives us a way to put ourselves in the way of that very same beauty. When we deliberately take the time to come together as a community, to press pause on our ceaseless schedules and create some space to breathe and celebrate, we make beauty a priority.

Read on to learn more about our special event and how we turned a hidden creek into a magical space for the evening!

Creating a Rainbow

Growing up in Hawaii, where a rainbow is literally printed on everyone’s license plates, I’ve always had a close connection to these natural wonders. Rainbows naturally evoke the spirit of summer, of warmth and whimsy, hope, promise and even a little magic. And just like the colors of a rainbow, the guests at our communal table shine brightly, each giving off their own special frequency of light. Together, our gathering would burst with a beautiful riot of complementary shades and individuals.

An Invitation to Color Your Experience

Heather Arak, of Gifts for the Good Life, began with a photograph of our secret creek spot, cannily turning the image into a paint-by-numbers-style interactive invitation that didn’t just invite each guest to the party...but invited everyone to make their own special mark on it before the event even began! Each guest received this blank slate with a watercolor kit so that their unique and creative interpretations of the day would take hold right from the very start.

And of course, guests were invited to “bring something to share” (our favorite mantra), posting their behind-the-scenes process on Instagram using #BLSCreekDinner.

These yet-to-be-colored-spaces and the unfinished look was our nod to the creative process, as well as a way to invite collaboration. And even though we provided a little bit of directive, we really never knew how it would all come together until the day of our gathering. Each guest had to focus on their own role, all while trusting others to shine just as brightly in theirs. Attendees were also directed to “wear a color that makes you feel beautiful.” Guests wouldn’t know until they were in the midst of the event that their chosen color would determine which individuals they sat with at dinner.

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Mother Nature: Our Most Exciting Guest

Research shows that people experience the same amount (if not more) pleasure while planning and dreaming about a vacation as they do when they’re actually on it. Serotonin and dopamine just don’t know the difference between anticipation and reality. I’ve really come to appreciate that I can squeeze way more pleasure from life events and moments when I extend my planning process, designing it to maximize joy.

Working with Portia Brady-Grehan of Theodora James Inc to create a beautiful custom flamenco-inspired dress made in brilliant, rainbow-evoking hues was just one way I squeezed every last drop of joy out of planning and preparing for this gathering. Despite our careful planning, though, there was one guest and partner in our event that we had no control over.

Anyone who lives in Pennsylvania knows that we’ve had an incredibly wet summer, steady rain bringing our rivers, streams, and creeks to a steady swell. Like last year, we wanted to immerse our communal table within the water. All we needed for this plan to work was for the water level to stay below the seats of our chairs, but I was beginning to worry. Along with my children, Elena and Xavier, I’d regularly head down to the creek, chalk and yardsticks in hand, where we’d walk its length, marking boulders along the way and returning later on to see how much the water levels had dropped. In the days leading up to our gathering, I became an armchair expert on hydrography and changes in streamflow, obsessing over three different weather apps...all in an attempt to discover certainty within a wholly unknowable situation.

Miraculously enough? On the morning of the gathering, dawn broke bright and clear. We hurried down to the water, and after days of heavy rain and flooding, were as surprised as we were delighted to find it had dropped to the tune of several inches.

We looked at each other and thought, With a little luck? We might even conjure a rainbow.

Community over Competition

From the get-go, our “Call for Collaborators” was one that emphasized community over competition. Different collaborators, each accomplished in their own fields, were given a style guide along with the freedom to create the pieces they thought would contribute something special to the experience.

I often use the hashtag #CommunityOverCompetition on our social media posts. I have taken to heart that as a collective community, we can have a lot of fun and achieve something remarkable when we keep our egos in check and delight in each other’s unique gifts and contributions. Learning how to participate in a community and give your efforts to something bigger than yourself is where I thrive. Everyone who came together for this community dinner took an incredible risk by agreeing to collaborate with other artists, growers, creators, and Nature — to be open and trusting that kismet would unfold. All of this was and continues to be done with a tremendous amount of trust in and respect for each other and the gifts we all bring to the table.

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Setting Our Intentions

One of the most beautiful examples of that generosity and collaborative spirit came from three friends: Tracy Camacho, Alessandra Carballo, and Nicole Hutnyk. After our Second Full Circle Meal, Tracy and Ale saw their friend Nicole’s involvement in the gathering and asked how they could be involved in the next one. Nicole explained that everyone who attends these events brings and contributes something that makes the event happen. (You can’t buy your way in.) The three friends spent an entire year planning their very special offering for our Third Full Circle Meal, and their Intention Setting Spray Station was a huge success in kicking off the day’s festivities.

At this station, they guided guests on how to set an intention for the evening with their own unique elixirs. Inspired by family traditions, and Mexican and Caribbean folklore from Tracy’s heritage, the sprays not only created a thoughtful, personal gift, but they also gave us all an opportunity to meditate on what we wanted to nurture or gain from this gathering.

Stay tuned for PART TWO, coming on Saturday!

The Photos!

The Collaborators!

Bacon & Lox Society // @BaconLoxSociety // #BaconLoxSociety

Alisa Tongg  & Heather Arak // Founders // @alisatongg & @goodlifegabh

Alisa Tongg, Celebrant // Programming //  @alisatongg

Heather Arak, Gifts for the Good Life // Invitation & Visual Branding // @giftsforthegoodlife

Nicole Hutnyk, Rabbit, Rabbit Crew! // Planner // @rabbitrabbitcrew

Sarah Petryk, Allium Floral Design & Event Styling // Florals Design // @alliumfloraldesign

Patchwork Planting &  X Flores Temporis // Local Flower Growers // @pwplanting & @florestemporis

Renee + Derek Bower, Forget Me Not Vintage Furniture Rentals // Furniture // @forgetmenotrentals

Marisa + John Awad, Redfield Photography // Photography // @redfieldphoto

Natalie Wallace + George Fava, Wonderscope // Film // @wonderscope

Andre de Waal, Andre’s Lakeside // Chef // @andreslakeside

Mike Carrino, The Pig and Prince // Chef // @mikecarrino

Erika Urso, Love Bites by Erika // Dessert Chef // @lovebitesbyerika

Lou Rogai // Live Creek Music //  @lewisandclarkemusic

DJ Brian B // DJ // @djbrianbofficial

Rob Yaskovic // Water Portraits // @robyaskovic

Lexi Eleveth, Ever Laser // Temple Signage // @everlaser

Sarah Pawlowski, Flourish Grace // Handlettering // @flourishgrace

Will Croasdale // Creek Stairway // @willcroasdale

Shawnee Craft Brewing // Creek Saison Beer // @shawneecraftbrewingco

Jason Lonigro // Cocktails // @jmlonigro

Naturalist, Aliza Kawecki // Edible Forage Walk // @alizakawecki

Chef Brandon Grimilia // Amuse Bouche // @403broad

Promise Ridge // Cocktail Hour Venue // @promiseridge