Cliche? Perhaps, but the Golden Gate Bridge is breathtaking every time that I see it, so bear with me. Especially during Fleet Week in San Francisco, when the Navy's Blue Angels were flying in formation all around the Bay Area, including right over the bridge. Deafening, death-defying, every driver (not just the tourists from Minnesota in the rental Mitsubishi) was braking to look. We all had our windows down, chatting and laughing at the folly of trying to snap pictures of jets flying by at several hundred miles per hour.
The best I could do was catch this one that flew straight up, then straight back down at the bay, veering off at the last minute. I'll leave it to you to imagine the roar of that terrifyingly powerful engine, echoing off the water, rattling in our chests. Cool.
But John and I weren't in San Francisco for Fleet Week. I was there for BlogHer Food, a national flood bloggers conference, and we were there together to attempt to celebrate our anniversary at the same time. I wasn't sure how it was all going to work - trying to network and go to parties while hanging out with John - but it turned out to be the perfect combination.
I learned a lot about myself at this conference, namely: I am not as extroverted as I think I am. Or as I used to be. By introverted or extroverted I mean where one finds their energy - away from the crowd or in the midst of it? I've always been an in the midst of it it type, but damn, I was fried at the end of the two conference days.
Perhaps it was the socializing plus information overload plus the crisis of confidence - what AM I doing with my blog? Whatever it was, I lost my voice, had a great time, got really confused, met incredible people, and was desperate for downtime at the end of each day.
A big highlight for me was meeting the two other Minnesota food bloggers at the conference - Amanda Rettke of I Am Baker and Shaina Olmanson of Food for My Family. They both write beautiful, sophisticated blogs - seriously, check out their gorgeous photos and delicious recipes, then try not to drool. It was a blast for me to meet them both in person after "knowing" them online (I'm finally getting used to knowing people on Twitter first, meeting them for real later).
Also excellent? Seeing Penny de los Santos speak again. You might recall that I attended a Penny food photography workshop last spring that completely blew my mind. Well she blew my mind again, and the minds of the several hundred conference attendees as well. Penny's warm, authentic presentation and presence was a breath of fresh air, chasing away the staleness of two days of shallow, exhausting chit-chat. Someone on Twitter crowned Penny the prom queen of BlogHer food and I concur - she rocks.
Since I've never been to a conference like this before, I found the breakout sessions fascinating and packed with information. In particular I enjoyed sessions about food styling, building readership, and expanding content. In fact, I used my notes to generate the biggest damn to-do list I have ever created for myself (and I'm a list person). If I achieve even half of the list in the next year, I'll be thrilled.
I pointedly avoided celebrity chasing but did introduce myself to White on Rice Couple, Steamy Kitchen, and Joy the Baker. I would have liked to say hello to a few others whose work I really admire, but seriously, big-name food bloggers have groupies! Man, I am too old to wade through groupies. Next time...
Does that mean that I'll attend another? Yes, I think that I will. If you're considering spending money on a conference like this, I would say go. It's expensive, and the snotty groupy thing is annoying, but it's also great fun to meet Twitter friends for real, and meet people you admire from afar. I also got the information I was looking for to learn how to grow my blog, improve my writing and photography, and to hear what's shaking in the world of food blogging. I love food blogging - I definitely walked away knowing that I want to continue.
And oh, I did indeed eat incredible food while in San Francisco! It would be almost impossible not to - what a city. Stay tuned for San Francisco Part II: The Food.