BlogHerFood 2013 and Austin Texas

I’m sick.  No ifs, ands or buts.  I came back from BlogHerFood 2013 in Austin yesterday and by the time we landed I was ready for bed.

Austin is fantastic! Big enough to get lost in yet small enough to not feel lost.

It started off innocently enough — flight on Southwest to Austin.  Except this flight was a PARTY PLANE filled with LA hipsters heading to ATX Television Festival in Austin.  A very social group of hipsters.  Boy did I feel old.

Southwest didn’t disappoint with its penchant for witty surprise!  Southwest sponsored the Party Plane and its music program, Live @ 35, was the star attraction.  Suddenly, the entire plane was being serenaded by the talented Teddy Geiger.  Not being a hipster, I have no idea who he was but he has a nice voice and is very easy on the eyes.

Welcome to Austin!

Guess what I also learned?  Drinking in Austin is dirt cheap, especially in live music bars.  Should I be embarrassed  by my 10 bar crawl on Thursday night.  I say NOT! Especially at $3 a cocktail with Tito’s Handmade Vodka.  Tito’s Vodka is easy to drink and doesn’t leave me hurting in the morning.  (I know this to be fact now.)

Sixth Street is chock full of bars, pubs, and  honky tonks.  I did my best to represent the mature crowd in Austin.

Easy Tiger Beer Garden

This bar sign was my mantra:  EASY TIGER.  That’s way it was 10 bars instead of 20!

My BlogHerFood 2013 conference started bright and early on Friday.

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I didn’t make breakfast but I was there for the 1st session, lunch and the afternoon sessions. BlogHerFood is one of the premier food blogging conferences and this is the 2nd year I’ve attended.  As last year, it was a great opportunity to meet other food bloggers and get some intense learning.

Several sponsors captured my attention and I can’t wait to use their products

POMPEIAN OILS – they had the best chocolate chip cookies made with Pompeian oil instead of butter.  I can’t wait to try this recipe!  A huge thank you for the FULL SIZE samples of their Mediterranean blend oil and their Grapeseed oil.

Bob’s Red Mill – hands down, one of the best grain companies in the country.  I love Bob’s Red Mill products and am excited about their new line of ancient grains.  Thank you for the sample packs and coupons for my next purchases.

Canadian Lentils – The Canadian Lentils association sponsored the Recharge Lounge and boy, was the food excellent!

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I love lentils and beans but I also love meat.  The lentil stuffed mushrooms will be at my next dinner party.  Heck, I may have a dinner party just to showcase the fantastic lentil recipes I had! It was only my upbringing that prevented me from stuffing my face with the lentil brownies every time I walked by.

While the food at the conference was good, the food in Austin is simply  AMAZING.   Austinites are proud of their locally grown produce and meat and that pride shows in the menus.  There’s BBQ (hello, this is Texas!), Tex-Mex (in case you missed the part about this is Texas), and lots of other cuisines, most of them showcasing local ingredients prepared simply.    The only odd thing was breakfast … where do Austinites eat breakfast in downtown Austin?   Sixth Street doesn’t start waking up until noon-ish!

I’m planning a girl’s weekend in Austin in August — I only hope the heat doesn’t kill me.  But it might worth it after a fantastic meal.

Camp Blogaway Getaway…a camping I will go

Off to Camp Blogaway tomorrow.  It’s billed as the Original Boot Camp for Food and Recipe Bloggers and it’s at 7,000 feet.  I claim to like camping –fresh air, dark starlit nights, and campfires– except the times I’ve had the…ahem…pleasure, I longed for a soft bed, fluffy pillows and a marble bathroom.  Yup, while I like the idea of camping and roughing it, I prefer luxury and comfort.

So off I go tomorrow and I only hope the learning and camaraderie make up for the cabin camping experience.

Stay tuned!

 

 

Happy New Year 2013!

Happy New Year 2013!

May 2013 bring your heart’s desire.

Champagne in my glass & chillled bottle in my kitchen
Champagne in my glass & chillled bottle in my kitchen

It’s a few hours before midnight, Dec 31, 2012, and I’m home in Los Angeles.  For the first time in 18 years, I’m not in Paris.   Do I wish I was there?  Absolutely!  My soul sighs contentedly the moment I reach the top of the RER B – Saint Michel exit.  I inhale the scents, my ears welcome the sound of French and I. AM. HOME.

Oddly enough, I am calm.  I chose to cancel my annual trip for several reasons and they feel right.  Paris waits for me and I can re-start my tradition in Dec 2013.

No crazy new year resolutions for me.  Why?  I don’t keep them and come February/March I feel like a failure.   If I make none, no guilt.  Instead I’m focusing on 2 “houses” — financial and health.   Without health and some level of wealth, midlife (and beyond) will have little pleasure and joy.

My wish for you in 2013

May you have love that never ends, lots of money, and lots of friends.  Health be yours, whatever you do, and may God send many blessings to you! – Irish Blessing

Do you have resolutions for 2013? 

Thanksgiving in the Sacred Valley – Monument Valley UT

For Thanksgiving, I journeyed to Monument Valley — sacred center of the Navajo culture.  The desire to go to Monument Valley started easy enough — fans of BBCAmerica’s show Doctor Who will remember “The Impossible Astronaut” episode was shot in/around Monument Valley.  IN!

Did you know John Ford filmed many of his most famous Westerns in Monument Valley?  Yup!    DOUBLE IN.  All I had to do was book the ticket and go …. except that was 2011.  I didn’t make it because of work obligations.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2012.  Air fare – check; Hotel – check; rental car … oops.  When I checked into Hertz, I had 2 reservations according to the chatty woman behind the counter.  My choices?  A SUV or a Mustang.  Neither sounded appealing.  For those who know me, you know I’m not a fan of SUV (never mind the trip to Wyoming in May) nor do I like going fast.  Give me one of those ‘super-economy compact’ cars with roll-down windows.  As long as there’s a slot for my phone charger, I’m happy.

On impulse, I changed my mind and went with a Mustang.  I was heading to Navajo country.  It seemed right.

White Mustang

 

The drive to Monument Valley was uneventful.  Except for some of the mountain driving and the big rig that almost ran a SUV into the side of the mountain.

As the endless road stretched on (and on and on), suddenly in the distance, Monument Valley appeared!

Nonument Valley from a distance
Nonument Valley from a distance

It’s hard to describe the feeling of achieving a bucket list item.  A sense of accomplishment, a sense of pride and a sense of awe at the geography.  It is more breathtaking than I imagined and my photos are woefully inadequate.

Monument Valley
Monument Valley
Monument Valley - more
Monument Valley – more

 

The road on the valley floor is traveled by the Navajo people who live there.  They choose to live in this sacred place without electricity or running water, as their ancestors did.  It’s also a 17-mile drive around most of the monuments.  NOT recommended for cars low to the ground — I went for it!   The mustang is a rental, after all!

One of the “must do” items in Monument Valley is watching the sunrise or sunset.  My hotel, The View Hotel, sits in the park and is built to give every room a view of the Valley.

044 043 041 037Monument Valley — a spiritual center for the Navajo, a spiritual center for those of us who visit.

It was a special way to spend Thanksgiving.

Just don’t get me started about the drive back to Phoenix at 4a!  What was I thinking?  Well, I changed my flight in order to make it home in time for a friend’s wedding.  Without realizing the drive is 4.5 – 5 hours.   I needed to be at rental counter by 9:30.  Ugh.

As I checked out, the desk clerk suggested I drive 40-45 mph because cows might be on the highway.  Uh, ok.  Cows?   I didn’t know that Navajo land is free grazing which means cattle freely roam all hours of the day and night.   I sat in my car as it warmed up and said a prayer to Mother Earth and Father Sky.   Mother Earth, look out for me and the cows until Father Sky woke up.  With that said, I started out.   Whatever happened I was thankful and at peace.

The first glimmer of day light appeared at 6:14a and I was never so happy as that moment.  I don’t know which was worse — desolate night driving or mountain driving.   Thank you Mother Earth and Father Sky.

However, my Mustang was outstanding!  I’m not a fan of fast or driving; however, I enjoyed driving that Mustang at 85-95 mph!  (not sure which guiding spirit to thank for the safe delivery to Phoeniz Airport but THANK YOU).

 

 

Blogging at Bloggy Boot Camp Baby – Say that 3 times fast

Learning more about Blogging in Sin City

Spent the weekend in Vegas.  No, not gambling.  I went to Bloggy Boot Camp! Woohoo!  A fun-filled 1-day blogging conference for beginning and novice bloggers.

What a great day!  A great group of dynamic women in an intimate setting.  Tiffany Romero, co-founder of Bloggy Boot Camp, holds nothing back, speaking with knowledge and passion about the blogging world.  She preaches “vision of your blog” and “support of each other.”  It’s true.  There are more than enough opportunities for bloggers who want them; it’s not a “if I help you get yours, I won’t get mine” situation.

It’s true that one blog cannot be all things to all people nor can one blogger hope to be all things to brands.  Each of us has a unique voice that will appeal to the appropriate audience.  Question is how hard is one willing to work to find that audience?

Ford’s Warriors In Pink – United in the fight against Breast Cancer

More importantly, the 1st segment was devoted to breast cancer.  Ford’s Warriors in Pink sponsored a video and Tina Herold, a breast cancer survivor, spoke about her fight with breast cancer and the inner strength which makes her a warrior.

My Benefit

For me, the price of admission was worth the opportunity to meet some of my midlife idols — Caryn of  The Midlife Guru,  and Jane of Midlifebloggers.  There were many other women — an assortment of moms, singles, young and old.  Business cards and blogs I’m still sorting through!

Of course, seeing the ever-awesome Michelle of Gluten Free Gabber was icing on a very delicious (non-fat, mind you) cake!  It’s hard to describe the feeling of meeting someone and having an instant connection.  Yup, Michelle rates very highly on the new friend meter.

I knew there was a community of women bloggers, even a local community in SoCal, and at this conference I tapped into it.

Bloggy Boot Camp was also a good kick in the butt, a reminder that I need to stay focused on why I blog.  Surprisingly, it’s not only about potential for $$ — a huge part of blogging for me is connecting to other people in the same stage of life, about building a community.