Been crazy busy.
Really important stuff!
Catching up on Vampire Diaries…
Catching up on Bethenny Ever After…
Catching up on The Real Housewives of Orange County…
And most importantly…
Catching up on movie trailers on ITunes.
Cuz I was REALLY behind.
And that’s just not cool!
Okay so all this happened cuz my tummy still hasn’t recovered from whatever mysterious illness hit me after our trip to Orlando. I’m still having problems and pain. So I took matters into my own hands, albeit after watching 2 weeks worth of movies and tv, and made a doctor’s appointment. Yah me! See…doing stuff…important stuff.
So I promised the last installment of the Food Blog Forum Orlando Conference. Today you are getting it. I mean I may be sick and visually impaired from all my tv and internet antics, but I would never let you guys down. Now keep in mind my camera had some kind of extreme meltdown on this trip so the pics are not up to their usual crappy standards. This time they are extra crappy. You’re welcome.
Also you should know I barely took any photos at the conference events. Most people had the sense to snap pics of all the gorgeous food, and pics with fellow bloggers. I had more important things to do, like looking like Bambi standing in the headlights all weekend. I mean priorities people. Someone had to play the role of doofus first timer, and I was perfect for the part.
I’ll admit I was also in full note taking mode so the camera just got lost in the shuffle. Not literally, I mean I did try to lose it repeatedly and people kept handing it back to me. Once I even “accidentily” dropped it in the path of an oncoming Disney mover and someone saved it for me. I had my speech all ready for the insurance company and everything. “I don’t know what happened Mr Hunky Insurance Man, I loved that camera, I turned around for one second and it was in a million pieces, I am so heartbroken. Hold me!’ See I am nothing if not well prepared.
Okay so on with conference talk. This is Conference 101 with me, your loyal Lunatic. I shall give you snippets of what I learned at this amazing event. I think we all take away different things from these types of things so hopefully what I took away helps you in some small way.
We met at the lovely Grand Floridian for a meet and greet. I did not take one photo. I did however learn a couple of things.
1- You should stop at the hotel you are staying at to freshen up cuz you’re gonna be hugging folks. Two days of road trip cannot make a good first impression.
2- Ann from Cooking Healthy For Me is made of awesome and exactly like you would imagine her. (Update: Ann is sadly no longer blogging, but we still chat all the time)
3- Kristen from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker is also made of awesome and way funnier in person. How that’s possible I do not know. But she just is. Kristen made me some of her lovely turtle buns and I cannot thank her enough. They were beyond delicious.
4- Jaden from Steamy Kitchen is the most fabulous lady on the face of the planet. She was so sweet to me and seemed just as excited to meet me as I was to meet her. I kept my word and immediately burst into tears upon meeting her. Someone out there took photos of us and I need to track them down. It was hard to see through the tears.
5- I should sample the food at these types of things. I was so worried about my tummy I did not eat a thing. Silly.
Day Two: Here’s where it gets serious folks!
The conference was held at Epcot. I showed up late due to the fact that my park hopper pass mysteriously disappeared and I had to embarrass myself fully by having Ann track down another one by my one and only idol, Jaden. Yup, I make an awesome first impression then blow it with silliness. I blame the family for touching my stuff I distinctly told them not to touch. Thank goodness I love them. Or someone was getting put in a head lock for sure.
So the conference began and I got serious! I’ll give you a few of the highlights I took away from each session.
Photography & Styling: Sharing Your Food Story Through Your Creative Voice with Diane Cu and Todd Porter
“Your eyes are your lens, Your heart is the shutter.”
Manage the light and make it work for you.
Use sheer curtains to diffuse the light.
Don’t over-use props, keep things simple.
Don’t focus so much on the details, how does the photo make you FEEL?
PRsectives with Thomas Smith, Jaden Hair, Rachel Barbarotta and Arianna Bastianni
Don’t be afraid to say no.
Treat your blog like a business.
Use a 1 pager with photo and info.
Rachel from KitchenAid says:
Authenticity is the most important thing.
Be passionate about the brand.
Don’t be afraid to show your style.
Arianna from OXO says:
Do what makes sense for your blog.
They want content that is exciting.
They look for who’s talking about them.
Thomas from Disney says:
Use social media.
They look for value.
People connect with people.
How to Write Bigger, Better, More Badass Food Posts with David Leite
Go to your natural inclination when writing.
If you can take yourself out of the story and it stands up you do not belong there.
Make a decision how much you want to reveal and be consistent with that.
Tell the story of your life through food.
Listen to your food to get your verbs. (Literally!)
From Hobby to Professional: Taking Your Blog to the Next Level with Dawn Viola
Reach out through twitter.
Put out great content at least once a week.
Use your blog as practice.
Use your blog as a professional writing platform.
Find a way to develop your voice(s): blog voice/AP voice/ Publication voice/ Adaptable voice
Scott Hair’s Tips throughout the day:
Know what you want, be specific about your goals.
Write down the steps to get to your goal.
Move forward if those steps are successful, step back and rethink if they are not.
You need to make constant adjustments to get to your goal.
My Round Table Selections:
Writing Bigger, Better, More Badass Posts with David Leite
This round table conversation was amazing. I decided to come out of my shell and ask a question. Mine was how do you write G rated when you don’t live that way, is that being unauthentic? David was great about it, told me it was a great question. I have to admit I was so stunned by his excited reaction the first few sentences were lost on me as I put my pen down and just stared at the man talking to us. He is so amazing and engaging. He talked about making sure you are being who you are, being careful how you integrate the people of your life into the stories you tell and revealing without giving up too much of yourself. How and where to draw that line. He also told us not to just repost a recipe if you haven’t changed anything about it, then you should just redirect the readers to the site you got the recipe from. I was pretty mesmerized by David I must admit. Some tips for you from David’s round table are:
Read good writers.
SEO- do flat so it’s searchable.
Your title can be fun and whimsical but not your SEO.
David’s round table made a huge impact on me and I am still pondering some of the information he gave us. He made a lasting impression with everything he had to share. I was able to ask for his signature at the end. I told him about my son being in school for writing so we got to chat a bit. My only regret was not chatting him up at lunch in private. I think he would be so fun to talk to.
Basic Photo Editing and File Management with Todd Porter
Todd is a very genuine person. He talked to us about photography and editing. He pulled out his laptop and showed us how he does things which was cool to see it and not just hear it. Makes more impact that way. He showed us how he sorts his files and what parts of lightroom he uses. I do not have lightroom so it was a bit over my head but I took notes knowing I was going to get a copy soon. Some tips for you from Todd’s round table are:
When importing you should organize the files right away and use key words if you are a fan of those.
Use a food folder, then break them down more almost like a cookbook. He recommended 50 file max for the sub-groups.
He likes lightroom.
Shooting in raw is better.
I actually got up the nerve to go talk to Todd and Diane at the end of the conference. Diane got pulled away into another conversation at some point so I got some advice on photography from Todd. It was great. We talked about light, and cameras. I told him I want to buy a new one so he gave some advice. I was happy I was able to put my shyness aside and approach them. They are remarkable people. I told them I was telling my hubs about the look of horror on both their faces when I told them what kind of camera I was using. I am going to score a new camera one way or another.
Pitch Therapy with Jaden Hair
Okay so excuse me while I squee a little bit. I was not actually signed up for this round table. I was late to the meet and greet so my friends signed me up for 4, Jaden’s was not one of them. So the day of the conference when I realized I wasn’t in her group, I actually got brave and just went up to Jaden before it started (she was sitting by herself for a moment, tweeting I believe). So I took a deep breath, sat next to her, told her what happened and asked if I could I sit in. She kindly took pity on me, essentially knowing I would probably burst into tears again if she said no. So I got to sit right next to my idol and get advice from her. Yup, pretty awesome day I must say.
This round table made the biggest impact on me as it made me realize I had not really thought about my blog or myself as a business. Nor did I emulate confidence. When Jaden went around the table to ask who we were were and what we wanted to ask her I got flustered. I was able to say who I was and where I blogged but I hadn’t really thought through what I wanted out of this round table. By the time she came back to me I was ready. From there I was fully engaged and taking in every word. I knew what she had to say would change things for me. Some tips for you from Jaden’s round table are:
You are the publisher of a website.
Know your worth.
Separate yourself. You are not selling yourself, you are selling your website.
This was like an ah-ha moment for me. That last statement hit me big time. I had always had trouble trying to find that balance from going from being an at home mom to a mom who works. I do not network well, nor do I sell myself well. So this hit home big time for me. I was able to wrap my head around promotion for the first time.
Jaden also told us to dream big. One person said they had accomplished all the goals in a short period of time, Jaden told that person they had not dreamt big enough. It was another ah-ha moment. Dreams and goals can change and evolve. Never stop going for what you want. Share it with others, make it happen. This lady is a dynamo. In a short period of time she was able to get me thinking about the big picture. She was also able to get me to be confident. Later that day I approached Todd and Diane to talk. I was able to go up to Rachel from KitchenAid and introduce myself and give her a business card. For me this is huge. That night I went to the fireworks solo and introduced myself to some people I hadn’t met so I sat and gabbed. Also huge for me. The next day at brunch I was able to talk with Jaden, also with Scott, to joke with Todd about my camera. After getting home I’ve been able to start conversations with blog owners I would have normally deemed “too big” to comment on. It’s opened the door to new conversations and friendships. So a huge thank you to Jaden who rocked my world that day.
Photography & Styling Live Demonstration with Diane Cu and Aran Goyoaga
This was a very cool demo. Aran from Cannelle et Vanille styled food for us. Then Diane shot some photos. So we got to see how to style the plate. How the process went from the plate to the photo. Aran is a genius with food. She has such a natural talent and eye. She worked with fresh veggies and fruit. She showed us how to drop some liquid onto the plate. How to add sprigs to finalize a dish. Then they had someone hold the plate. Her and Diane worked together to show the plate in the best possible way. How to tilt it slightly forward for the shot. How to shoot slightly off to the side instead of the middle of the person. They showed how the light changes and moves. How to bounce the light and position yourself and the subject. They both told us they shoot in small spaces. That bit of information hit home for me. If these two rock stars can get great photos from a tiny corner of an office or by pushing a bed out of the way in a tiny room for a shot, then why should I struggle so much. Don’t stress over how much light is in the room you want to shoot in but go looking around the house for the best natural light. It was so simple. Some tips for your from Diane and Aran’s round table are:
Keep moving around.
Tilting a plate can make all the difference.
Use reflectors if needed.
Final Comments from Jaden, Scott, Diana and Todd:
Surround yourself with passionate people!
Dream big and tell people your dreams!
I would like to take a minute to thank Julie from The Little Kitchen who convinced me to take my IBS by the horns and go to this conference. I was really on the fence till talking to her. Thanks for giving me the push I needed Julie. It was life changing and you are a huge part of that. Thanks from the bottom of my heart for everything you did for me and for the conference.
Also a huge thank you to Jaden from Steamy Kitchen. You are the reason I went and you not only lived up to how nice you seem on your site but your surpassed my expectations. I went to meet you and learn from you. I got way more than I bargained for. I came away changed by you. So thank you for that and being so sweet. It meant the world to me.
I also want to thank Diane and Todd from White on Rice Couple. The stories you told through your words and photos in the opening presentation set the tone for the whole day. You not only talk about inspiration but you inspire those around you. I am so glad I got to meet you both and learn from you.
I’d like to share some photos with you now. Hope you enjoy them. You will be convinced Jaden should have run in the other direction when you see my crazy eyes.
Okay so that wraps up my Disney adventure. You must know I could not go all that way and not come home without something for you all. You also know I have a tight budget so it’s something small but totally adorable. And no it’s not Malia in her cute little Minnie Mouse ears. One lucky reader gets to win this:
Yes indeedy, I brought home a Minnie Mouse apron just for you. I know the pic is horrible but I told ya, I need a new camera desperately. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment. You can keep it for yourself or give it to someone you love. Or you could make your puppy wear it. Whatever works for you.
For extra chances to win do any or all of these. Leave a separate comment for each one to make the draw easier. Here’s your choices:
1. Follow the blog by RSS, see the blue button up at the top of the blog, just give that a click.
2. Follow by email, look off to the right, scroll a little and you will see a subscribe by email box. Just fill that out with your email, then confirm it.
3. Follow me on twitter. That’s the orange button at the top with the T on it. Just click on it.
4. Follow me on facebook. That’s the green button with the F on it. Just click it.
5. Follow me on google plus. That’s the pink button with the G+ on it. Just give it a click.
6. You can tweet about the giveaway. Just make sure you mention @CravingsLunatic so I know you did it.
Contest runs until midnight April 11th. Open to anyone and everyone! Good Luck! You will have 72 hours to claim the prize or it will be drawn over. Draw will be held by random.org. Have fun!
Thank you to Food Blog Forum, Walt Disney World, KitchenAid, Whole Foods Market, OXO, Le Creuset, Land O Lakes, Scharffen Berger, GooGoo Clusters, Bob’s Red Mill, Edgeware, Kissimmee Florida, Downtown Food and Wine Fest, Spice Islands and King Arthur Flour (we should talk, you need to expand into Canada!)!
Toodles and smoochies! xx
PS. Recipes return later today. Wait till you see what I did for the Burwell challenge. Very cool indeed. I realize recipes have been lacking the last couple of weeks so I shall try to make it up to you with all kind of decadent treats!