Eating Local for Urban Families. Gluten-free and Dairy-free, too!

Wednesday, August 1

BlogHer 2007 Recap

So I’m back. And I loved BlogHer. All of it.

First: Hats off to the organizers at BlogHer for bringing 750+ blogging women together and making this happen. Did you know this is the biggest blogging conference in the world, regardless of gender? (And yet it gets practically no press coverage. Ask Punditmom.) The fabulous coordinators lined up generous sponsors (which meant lower prices for attendees) and we all got the best swag I’ve ever seen. (A groovy flash drive and a laptop tote without a logo! Thank you AOL! Seriously!) I will happily manage complex web dev projects with nervous clients any day but you couldn’t pay me enough to manage an event as big as this. You all have my undying respect and gratitude.

(And I’ve said it to you all directly and indirectly a hundred times, but thank you thank you thank you for the childcare. It made the difference between going and not going for me.)

The Fabulous Swag. Photo courtesy of

I even loved the sessions with speakers (and other bloggers) that made me fume, if only because I loved being in a room full of women who are as passionate as I am about this medium and for having a place to voice what I love and really don’t love about this craft. My only gripe is that I think there was too much emphasis on building traffic and not enough about good content, but Stefania has taken care of some of this here. I just think people are starting to get too caught up in stats and losing track of why people read blogs in the first place. The writing. (And many time the photos.)

The best part of the conference was this: I really felt like I was part of a community, even if I am certainly a newcomer. Her Bad Mother wrote a beautiful piece about how BlogHer is not like high school. It is not cliquish or catty or exclusive. And I wholeheartedly agree.

I went into this conference knowing that I would be the new girl, especially since this blog has only been up for a few months, and my old online journal (yes, that’s how old it is, it was before blogs) is long forgotten by the few who ever knew it.

I spent a lot of time introducing myself, repeating my 10 second pitch 25 times in an hour, and really, that’s my life anyway as I do all the sales for my design company. Everyone else was doing the same. It was thrilling to get all the positive reactions when I said, “I write about growing and eating local food.”

“That’s so cool!”
“Good for you!”
“You should really meet….”

And that’s exactly why I went. I wanted to see what other people are writing about, cheer them on, and see what kind of feedback I would get about this project (almost all positive, and at worst, surprised curiosity). I wanted to learn and I wanted to make connections and I wanted to get momentum.

Business Cards. Photo courtesy of
That's my card up there in the upper left corner! My designer really brought it.

But with a nursling in tow there was little drunken debauchery for me. And I was okay with that. Perhaps a little wistful, but I know I got so much out of this conference it doesn’t really matter. And next year I won’t be such the new girl. And I better not have any kids with me. (Though it was sweet to wake up to this:)

Iris' funny little morning face.

Here’s a little more:


Oh, Chicago.

(Did you ever have a perfectly fine boyfriend that you treated badly, totally dumped his ass, and then talked shit about him for 15 years? That’s how I’ve treated Chicago since I left in 1992 after living there barely a year.) (Jesus, I can’t believe it’s been that long.)

But oh, dear, Chicago. I’ve grown up. I promise I have. I’m no longer the kooky West Coast girl away from home from the first time wondering why you smell and why your water tastes funky and why you don’t recycle and why they aren’t closing school because it’s snowing and so freakin’ cold!

And you, Chicago, back then I tried to find your beauty but instead wearied of your constant dull-gray sky and frigid sub-zero winds. This weekend with your 75 degree weather and NO humidity to speak of and your unbelievably gracious inhabitants, you are now a spectacular hottie. (Though your water is still gross, you still stink a little, and you need to recycle more.)

I’m ashamed of all the lame things I’ve said about you over the years. I will stop now. Can we be friends?

The Nap Warden and me, with Iris in the Ergo

One of the best things about you, Chicago, is Cynthia (aka Nap Warden) who met me for a trip through the (still free!) Lincoln Park Zoo, site of many a sullen walk by me, the broke and lonely student of 15 years ago.

Thank you, Cynthia, for keeping up our game of email/phone tag all weekend and for showing Iris and me one of the many gorgeous sites of your lovely city.

Maya’s Mom Moms

Thank you, thank you Maya’s Mom ladies (especially you, Charlene, who organized the whole shebang). Though I thought we were meeting up for dinner and therefore it would be fine to bring my little Iris. (I called ahead! They had highchairs! I was stoked!) I thank you for going up to the bar to get me a drink since I was afraid if they saw my kid I’d be kicked out. (That was you, Kaleigh, wasn’t it? If not, my apologies. I’m losing track of the faces that went to the cards.)

Thank you P.J. Clarke’s for not kicking me out.

And thank you Mary, Slackermommy, Lisa, Kimberly, Lindsay, for humoring me through very fractured conversation while I frantically chased Iris through the legs of fellow drinkers and tried desperately to save her from the revolving door.

Mommy Bloggers

Back in the day I knew who all the cool women writers were. And then we all had babies. And I sought my parenting support via good ol’ fashioned discussions boards (and real life) and lost track of all but a few of them, who were then mom bloggers. And now there are so many of you! My feed is overflowing and I can’t wait to get reading.

If you’re not reading Ree go now and put her into your feed at once. She is one of the most talented, authentic and fuuuuniest bloggers out there. I only wish she wasn’t married so she could marry my brother and we could be BFF and sisters forever and ever. (She also has a very instructive food blog at The Pioneer Woman Cooks! )

Saturday I shared lunch with these two lovely ladies, Alana and Kyran and Kristen. No earth-shattering revelations here. I just really like these women. And I want to meet Kristen’s husband, who is into growing his own food, but only because he’s preparing for Armageddon.

Food Bloggers

I didn’t get to meet many food bloggers, funny enough. One of the best presentations was by Elise of Simply Recipes who had great tips for organizing content and driving traffic, but did not respond to my stalking. (I sat next to her twice and I think I scared her.) (Who am I kidding. She didn’t even notice me.)

I loved meeting Alanna of Kitchen Parade who discussed with me the upside of industrialized food, a conversation I hope to continue at a later time. (I want to noodle on her basic point, a good one, which is that this world has too many people in it, and Mother Nature is too unpredictable, to not rely on some kind of mass-produced food.)

I can say wholeheartedly that I adore Myriam, the woman behind Joy Spread the Word a fantastic new kids’ clothing company . She doesn’t have a blog yet, but I plan to help her fix that. She’s a personal chef and writes here.

So without a whole lot to go on, here’s my take: Food bloggers are a funny lot. They’re passionate, they’re persnickety (in the most charming sense of the word). But it was hard for me to get with them, at least harder than it was with the always-chatty mommy bloggers. I even went so far as to ask one of the more influential food bloggers to introduce me to some other bloggers and she seemed confused, or suddenly shy, and suggested I check out this URL . One decided that I’m not really a food blogger but actually a garden blogger, but this wasn’t the first time I’d been told this from a devoted foodie, and I’m undeterred.

But this woman. Oh, my, how I love her. I want to marry her and have all her babies (my single brother and, uh, biology, be damned). It helps that she loves Portland. Shuna is a chef who throws all of her being into her food and into her foodie relationships and into the entire food community. She is clearly adored and admired by all who know her and though I didn’t get a personal introduction (I was so crushed out I actually got too shy to approach her though I will be stalking her comments forevermore), I was honored to hear her speak.

And that said, here is my final thought on bloggers: Though they share their lives with the entire world they are, at heart, with a few exceptions, total introverts. Some are better at real-life interaction with others, but many are painfully shy. For some reason I missed this (arguable) social truth until the end.

At the final cocktail party, I had an enlightening conversation with [CRAP. I CANNOT FIND YOUR CARD! Please, if you remember talking about Myers Briggs and bloggers and all that at the Children’s Museum PLEASE EMAIL ME! I want to keep in touch.] We talked about online communities versus real life and this exchange put some of the confusing interactions I had with a few people into perspective. There was really only one person I expected to have a great connection with, and then didn’t at all, but there were a few times I wondered if I had spinach in my teeth. I had to remind myself that this is one of those communities where I am likely the only person in the room who loves nothing more than introducing myself and getting to know a new person and it’s not reasonable to expect that same enthusiasm in return.

But this doesn’t frustrate me or make me think any less of this community. If anything it makes me love it more. Because I know that for many people traveling a long distance to an unknown city and telling strangers all day who you are and where they can go read your most intimate thoughts can be terrifying. So I thank every one of you who made the trip, and shared your ideas and your writing and yourselves. I so can’t wait to get reading.

And there are so many more of you that I didn't link to here. I'll do individual posts after I catch up with your blogs!


Suburban Turmoil said...

It was great meeting you! I agree- BlogHer was fabulous!

Anonymous said...

Thanks to you for joining us at PJ's. Though I am sorry about the confusion re: our little gathering and dinner!

Glad we were able to meet. And Iris is a sweetie!

Cynthia said...

Hey great picture, great post! I'm glad we finally met, I will email you the foodblogger cards!

Cynthia said...

Forgot to mention, Iris is a sweetheart!

mommyneedsacocktail said...

I sent my husband your link and he is trying to get his site back up. It was so great to meet you and was such a nice conversation. Thanks for listening to the hilarity that is my life.

Alanna Kellogg said...

You are so right, bloggers are an introverted lot, so many of us do live in our words, happily fenced off by pixels. And speaking of fences, when a blog does cross genre lines, it can be a little hard to find your community, there are several (Farmgirl, Inadvertent Gardener, Pioneer Woman) who are part food blog, part something else. (BTW next time we meet up, ask me to introduce you to people and I'll be finding babysitters for Iris and seeing if our grandparents knew each other back in ought-something.) Stay well, stay in touch!

Alanna Kellogg said...

PS It's not so much 'mass produced' food that I support, instead, a diversification of risk, geographically, the type/source of food, distribution channels, etc. -- think the opposite of relying for sustenance on potatoes in Ireland in the 1800s -- including self-sufficiency and local-reliance.

Katherine Gray said...

Alanna, thank you for clarifying. I'm serious when I say that I want to hear more about your thoughts on this. You have infinitely more experience with food and its sources than do I.

And thank you for the offer of introductions! I'd love to know what your favorite reads are.

Anonymous said...

Oh no! I missed meeting you but had I would've been happy to introduce you to all the foodies (including my delicious roomie Shuna and the wonderful Elise). If you saw a punky looking chick with red highlights at the food blogging panel that's me!

I have to agree that many bloggers are introverts...I know I am, but I've trained myself to get over the fear and just start talking. There's no better place to do it then Blogher!

I'll be visiting Portland soon. Can't wait as I haven't been in many years.


Bo said...

I wish you hadnt stopped writing....