“There is a mess of arms and legs, some furry, most not. The morning sun smiles softly upon sheets that have seen spit up, blow outs, and the highs and lows of an 18-year relationship. They’re not supposed to be here, and when they are not, their silence weighs heavily, but when they are, and my neck is cramped and shoulders kicked in by feet growing faster than my mind can hold memories, I smile.”
My happy place is our family bed, first thing in the morning, when thoughts are yawning and images hazy. It’s a place of comfort that we were tasked with describing in three sentences as part of a writing exercise in Kathleen Flinn‘s writing workshop. I wrote those very words in a place that took me out of my comfort zone of the world of mom entrepreneurs and lifestyle brands, and into new territory at the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) August 24 – 26, 2012, which took place in my perfectly oddball, foodie-filled hometown of Portland, Oregon.
That last sentence (nay, paragraph) was a crazy mouthful. Clearly, I am in need of more writing workshops.
Pushing myself is a constant daily goal in my life. I have been immersed in the world of moms and small business owners for the past seven years. Sure, I’ve been to many blogging conferences, but while I consider myself a foodie, I am by no means a food & wine expert –and certainly not known for being a food blogger. So when the opportunity to attend the IFBC came along, I was ecstatic at the thought of being able to eat my way out of the familiar and immerse myself in something new.
That something new included an intense, fast live food blogging session (which was really more live tweeting for me), in which 20+ local vendors shared their delectable creations with us while we asked questions, took photos, and tweeted, Instagramed, or blogged about them.
Vegan chocolate that tastes amazing? It’s not a mythical beast: feast your eyes on the real deal from Chocolate Decadence made in Eugene, Oregon:
Finishing salts: so important, and these are hand-harvested pure sea salts from Jacobsen Salt Co. in Portland, Oregon.
Water buffalo tartare. YES. I had never had water buffalo before this, and I was not a fan of tartare before this. Now: I am a fan of both, thanks to Nicky Farms.
Okay, so clearly eating is something that is within my normal comfort zone. I had no idea there would be so much of it at this conference. Yet in addition to eating, there was a lot of learning involved with this weekend: A LOT. More so, dare I say, than any other blogging conference I have been to — and I have been to quite a few. The quality and quantity of substantive, actionable information I walked away with from IFBC was immeasurable. I took copious notes about the new-to-me details of ebook publishing, and gained a greater understanding of specifically what I needed to do to improve my writing in Kelly Sensyei‘s workshop: The Insider’s Guide to Recipe Writing and Development, and in Kathleen Flinn‘s workshop: Hungry For Words: Food Lit and Memoir Writing.
The scene below makes my heart fill with joy.
If you’ve ever had a meal with a blogger or social media junkie, you should know well by now: photos before feast. I cannot describe the immense gratitude I had at this dinner the moment our meals would arrive, and I would not be the only person whipping out both my DSLR and my iPhone to snap some pretty pictures before devouring the delicious feast provided by Wildwood restaurant.
We were all able to learn how to take better food photos the final day of the conference, in a joint food photography and cooking demo session lead by the amazing talented and hilarious duo of Andrew Scrivani, New York Times food photographer, and Chef John Mitzewich of Food Wishes. I learned some fantastic tips, which I will share in another post; for now, here’s a glimpse of one of my styled shots, which makes me realize…I have a very long way to go in terms of shooting without natural light sources, and, I need to get a 50mm lens. My 7-year-old Canon Rebel XT is a dinosaur compared to the fancy equipment my counterparts carried around.
The entire conference, we were exposed to so many amazing food and beverage brands, and we learned about food industry trends and practices. We were the first group to get a demo of the brand new, not-yet-available-in-stores Ninja Cooking System, a sort of slow cooker on speed that is nonstick, dishwasher safe, and has a stove top setting and an oven setting (thanks to Ninja, all attendees are getting one! Can’t wait to test it out!).
Most importantly, I met incredible fellow foodies who were PR people, publishers, bloggers, and company representatives (for more photos, check out my Instagram feed). I left with my heart -and stomach- full, mind overflowing with valuable information, tips and tactics, and my comfort zone pushed back a little more. They didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t a fabulous food blogger like they were or that I didn’t have a fancy Canon D5. We all shared a love of food, of writing, of photography, and of pushing ourselves to be a little better at something we loved. I had a great time meeting everyone, and am so happy to say I made some great new friends.
The feeling of familiar comfort I described in the beginning? I am happy to say that I’ve expanded my comfort zone to include a place in the food blogging world, a place that is just as comfy and cozy, and makes me smile with a new familiarity as I embrace this new online home.
THANK YOU, Foodista and Zephyr Adventures, for one of the best conferences I have ever been to! Thanks to the incredible sponsors who made it all happen, including these great brands I had the pleasure of interacting with: Organic Valley, Travel Oregon, Oregon Wine, JennAir, USA Pears, Anolon Gourmet Cookware, MailChimp, Wustof, Davidson’s Safest Choice Eggs, OXO, NuviaCafe, Mionetto Prosecco, and many more. I look forward to seeing everyone again in 2013!
MOB Mondays = Mom-Owned Business Mondays. Each Monday, I share stories from the trenches of being a mom entrepreneur. If you would like to contribute a MOB Monday post, please email me with your pitch idea and a link to writing samples.