Food blog forum conference takes the cake

“I’m just curious,” whispers the smiling woman I’ve just sat down next to. “What are you writing?”

“Oh, I’m just a note-taker. That’s what I do” I reply. Within one minute of sliding into the back of the Room 111 at the UCF-Rosen School for Hospitality Management, I was jotting down the words of Jeff Houck, food writer for the Tampa Tribune and of Orlando Sentinel’s Heather McPherson.

And so it would continue for eight 30- to 40-minute sessions of the 2011 FoodBlogForum conference held in Orlando, an event I had found out about less than 48 hours prior. To break the periods of copious note-taking? How about give-aways of gifts from the likes of LeCreuset and KitchenAid (which I did not win, BTW, but which were nonetheless thrilling to hope for)? And to bookend a day of getting smarter about food blogging? How’s a pre-party at Whole Foods Market Phillips Crossing (Friday night) and a wrap-up at McCormick and Schmick’s at Mall at Millinea with lots to nosh and sip? Can you say, “best food blogger event EVER!” Thanks to Julie Deily ( and Dawn Viola (, this was one of the best organized and most informative blogging seminars I’ve participated in. Honestly, I don’t even want to let this secret out.

But to keep it to myself would so contradict the spirit of “generosity,” one of Jaden Hair’s ( key closing theme words, on which this food blog community is built. Or should I rather say really on which our whole community of Central Floridian foodies stands. I mean, it says something pretty cool about our wacky sunshine state for local food editors Heather McPherson and Jeff Houck, along with career food blogger turned cookbook author and multi-media celebrity Jaden Hair and full-time blogger-writer Dawn Viola, to fill an amazing bill of inspiring and helpful tips for our crew of up’n’coming food bloggers, writers, photographers–ranging in experience from zilch to shedding the training wheels in this field that is still new even for the most experienced bloggers (Hair started 4 years ago herself and Viola just over 3). And how cool is it that the busy Emily Ruff, Director of Florida School for Holistic Living, took the time to forward me a message from Dawn Viola ( about the third annual event.

And those cool things were only the kick-off. As we followed our well-organized, typed & printed  agenda (and the schedule which was actually followed!), we heard real, specific and usable advice from Jaden and Scott Hair regarding the “ultimate success formula” for anything in life, plus five keys to building a personal brand and successful blog, and building a successful blog BUSINESS.

My pen could barely move fast enough to keep up with all of Lindsay Landis’s ( awesome tips for designing our blogs for usability and easy search engine optimization. I loved her “common-mistakes-and-how-to-avoid-them” approach (Raise your hand if you’re great at finding shortcomings in other people’s websites!).

Peter Scott, of Orlando social media marketing agency, filled our brains with the latest statistics, buzz words and strategy tips for increasing blog traffic and profitability. And just as our heads were swimming, we broke to rejuvenate over lunch and conversation.

Helene Dujardin ( stimulated us with a post-lunch session about camera basics, photo styling and lighting. Whew! You gotta be your own photographer to make it with this online media. Fun yes, but time consuming, no? With her natural French style and grace, Helene delivered fantastic tips to get the money shots in a snap!

Dawn Viola ( hammered home one of the day’s underlying themes: Don’t sell yourself short or underestimate the power of JUST ASKING! She showed us how she KISSes (keeps it simply, sweetheart) when pitching so that we don’t fall into the PIT-A (pain-in-the-ass) category.

So there’s your overview of my 14-pages of notes. Look for details of each segment in upcoming posts! The day was quite inspiring But perhaps the coolest aspect of FoodBlogForum was meeting all the food bloggers who attended–all with different angles and niches, all with different levels of experience. It was inspiring, encouraging and stimulating! My creative brain wanted to run, not walk, and jump, instead of wish-washing along.

So, I still don’t know exactly where or how this blog will evolve, but I do know, now, that wherever it leads will be awesome.

Posted in branding oneself, food, social media, technology | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cosmic connection: the feeling you cannot get from a computer

This week, more cosmic clues in the search balance between real and virtual life in the form of real-life reminders.

  1. Moving the body–especially outdoors–brings you to life.
    I took my dog on a long walk to my community garden the other day. I noticed so many little things along the way that make me laugh or think or even surprise me. It’s about being totally in the moment and being able to notice things around you that you’d never notice in a car or from inside a room. Walking my dog at least an hour a day means I touch grass and dirt everyday; I see birds and insects flying; I note seasonal changes in what’s blooming and what birds are migrating and what fish are spawning.
  2.  Experiencing people in real life means you have to deal with them and in doing so, you must overcome your own expectations of them and your own prejudices and limitations in communication.
  3. Right place. Right time.
    In real life, you don’t “stumble upon;” instead you are “where you’re meant to be.”
  4. Instead of “googling”/searching, try being open.
    However, you must not just be open, you must feel that you deserve to receive. You’ve got to feel good enough and keep the head held high in order to receive. Otherwise, you’re closed to what the Universe is trying to hand you. I find it helpful to repeat the mantra: “I’m open to all the miracles and goodness Life (God or the Universe) has to offer.” Fill in your higher power of choice and go!
  5. Using the voice by chanting or singing brings you to another place. You could try singing and chanting along with your computer, but a whole room full of people feels a heck of alot more powerful.

    When do you feel most cosmically connected?
Posted in life journey, natural living, simple living, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our food supply, food allergies and politics: putting it altogether

This is a must-watch for anyone wanting to know the truth about our food supply! And this is why I buy only organic, buy my dog food from Canada (I still don’t trust even organic meat from this country because we have the world’s worst humane standards).

Posted in contamination of food supply, food allergies, genetically modified foods, organic food | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another green tech discovery

If you’re a fan of videos and podcasts, you might want to check out “Green Tech Today,” which describes itself as “the essential show for the eco-minded geek.” Brought to you by the TWiT network and hosted by Sarah Lane and Dr. Kiki, “Green Tech Today” covers the technology, news, gadgets, and innovation fueling the green movement. “Green Tech Today” is fun, informative, and full of ideas! New episodes on Mondays at

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Using technology to grow sustainability

My last entry’s question has brought some of its own answers into my life-sphere. Resources linking technology with simple living have popped up in the most unexpected places lately.

When I volunteered at Homegrown Coop this past Thursday, I checked out their info table and stumbled upon a really cool manual called “Cultivating the Web: High Tech Tools for the Sustainable Food Movement.” Wow! What a cool find! I’m not sure who got a stack of these, but I know that Emily Ruff is always on the receiving end of tasty pages as she runs the  Florida School of Holistic Living and its library which is well-stocked with every influential book ever written about natural and sustainable living, herbal medicine, organically-grown food and more. Anyhow, this Cultivating the Web “booklet  contains many of the best web resources for foodies, farmers and activists, and highlights some of the smartest ways that new media is being used to grow the sustainable food movement.” And yes, it can be downloaded here. They’ve got a blog called the Green Fork (submit to

I’ll end with closing quote from the booklet’s editors’ note: “We may be going back to the land, but many of us are bringing our laptops and smartphones.”

What do you think?

Posted in simple living, social media, sustainable food, technology | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Slow, simple living versus fast technology

And here it is. The real bottom line for those wanting to live a life in harmony and according to the laws of nature. MUST we and HOW CAN we live according to nature and, at the same time, exist within our fast-paced, high-tech, modern, first-world society? We hear of the electromagnetic frequencies emanating from our computers and cell phones into every cell of our being, causing us to suffer a strange kind of high-strung exhaustion that we recognize as true yet can’t necessarily scientifically pinpoint and prove (partly because we don’t want to know). We’re exhausted but so tightly wound that we can’t relax (without one substance or another). And we’re used to it. We think it’s how we’re supposed to feel. We wonder why our adrenals are wiped out by the time we’re 40 years old. Even as adults, our hormones are as wrecked, and our moods are as volatile and erratic, as they were when we were in middle school. Or probably actually much worse.

But what to do? No matter what we do or how, is there any escaping our escalation into the technological abyss? Mustn’t we get in bed with it all? From our “bright” and wired houses to  the so-called “social media,” (a phrase which I hope has elsewhere been debated for its validity), are we soliciting it or being solicited by it? Do we need or want it, or are we just being told we do? Is it a game we kind of think we’d like to check out, but one that draws us more and more deeply in? Do we just use it because we feel like we HAVE to in order to keep our non-profits and small businesses growing and competing? And if we’re using it and finding that it leads us to new customers, then does that mean we cannot stop ourselves from feeling compelled to use it even more–the hours and powers of our lives being overtaken and infringed upon by the subtle power of a glowing blue screen that draws us further and further into its matrix?

I just wonder if it’s healthy. Everything about it is in such contrast to our natural instincts to be physically close to one another; to communicate directly; to be outside; to run, jump and play; to wake when the sun rises and to retire when it sets. Sure, we can get by without honoring these parts of our human nature. However, these physical aspects of coexistence have proven themselves to be vital components of full development. Some things cannot be learned from a computer screen or a digital reader.

What do you think? Can we find a healthy balance between living simply and living digitally? If so, how? Do you know of scientific research indicating how we’ve been affected? I hope to explore this more.

Posted in natural living, simple living, social media | 1 Comment