TechMunch LA at Disneyland: Food Bloggers’ Conference Extraordinaire

Disneylandcollage1When I first moved to California in 2007,  I went to Disneyland.  At 22 years old, I was thrilled to finally see the Magic Kingdom that we had watched on television every Sunday night in Vermont.   That television show, The Wonderful World of Disney showed a place that we could never have imagined seeing for ourselves.  California was so far away, and very different from Vermont where I had grown up.  I’ll never forget the first time I visited Disneyland…magical!

A few weeks ago I had the chance to go to Disneyland again  for TechMunch, a conference for food bloggers. Continue reading

Mimi Avocado is Two Years Old: A Giveaway to Celebrate!

pumpkinbread

Today I’m relaxing with a cup of coffee and a piece of pumpkin bread, thinking about the past two years of writing Mimi Avocado.  When I first started my blog I wasn’t sure how to get started, so I took a class,  went to conferences, read books, tried out tutorials online,  and began meeting other bloggers  online publishers.  I soon discovered that the people I met had several things in common:  curiosity, creativity, and generosity.   I have yet to meet a blogger who wasn’t willing to share their knowledge,  happy to trade ideas and strategies,  and eager to hear about what others are doing.

Each time we come together for an event,  meet one-on-one for lunch, or pick up the phone for a chat,  one topic always comes up in the conversation:  community…beginning with our families and neighborhoods, but stretching to include the people we meet through our writing and photography.   It’s an ever widening circle,  always expanding to include  new writers, readers, and friends from around the world.

sweetcardandgiftblogaversary

November 16 marked two years since I started writing Mimi Avocado.  The sweetest part of  that day came as a gift of homemade pumpkin bread from my son and his fiancé,  and a note that meant the world to me.  It’s one thing to know that all of you are out there reading my posts, trying recipes, enjoying photos. It’s another thing to realize that my own family sees what I do…and would reach out to  recognize it in a supportive way.

Blogging has brought funny and crazy times to our household.  “What did you hide in the lasagna this time?”  “Is that for dinner or is it for your blog?”  (answer: both!)  The family is  beginning to get used to the collection of odd plates, bowls,  and placemats  that is growing in the pantry…props for photos.  And the camera in the kitchen.  “Can we eat that, or are you still taking pictures?” Continue reading

Mimi Avocado Goes to Camp Blogaway!

Mimi Avocado Goes to Camp Blogaway

Mimi Avocado is ready for Camp Blogaway!

If you missed my last post,  Camp Blogaway or Bust! go back and catch up on the story.   Did I make it to Camp Blogaway?  YES!  Did I make it back to church to direct the choir on Saturday? YES!  Was it as great as I thought it would be?  EVEN GREATER!

CampBlogaway entrance

I made it! Camp Blogway!

After a beautiful drive up into the San Bernardino National Forest,  I finally arrived at Camp Blogaway!   I didn’t want to miss a minute of the fun, so I left early Friday morning to arrive in time to help with the set-up.   We filled 110 giant swag bags, set up tables,  put on table cloths and did whatever needed doing…all the while introducing ourselves and chatting. By the time the rest of the campers began to arrive, the party was in full swing!  Nobody was left out … everyone was eager to meet and greet!  Old friends as well as newbies!

Camp Blogaway '12 begins

Tables full of Goodie Bags! Notebooks full of information!

The setting was magnificent…the beautiful Camp de Bennevile Pines in the Barton Flats area of the San Bernadino National Forest.   Meetings were held in the lodge and everyone slept in cabins with multiple bedrooms and baths.  At first it was a challenge walk up the hills to the cabins due to the altitude, but we all drank plenty of water and soon forgot we were more than 6,000 ft. above sea level!

Camp de Bennevile Pines

Camp Blogaway is held at Camp de Benneville Pines in the San Bernardino National Forest

The speakers and presentations were top-notch.   On-site sponsors provided food and wine, gifts to use in our kitchens, informative speakers and opportunities to learn about products, knives, fresh fruits and vegetables,  herbs from Australia,  as well as butter and cheeses from Ireland!  I won’t list them all here, but be prepared to hear  about many of the products in future posts!

breakfast fruit

Wish someone would fix this for me every day!

 

 

healthy meals at Camp Blogaway

Healthy and delicious meals to enjoy!

 

 

Roland Peppers

Roland Foods presented a wonderful array of products to try!

Kerrygold Cheese

Kerrygold led us in a cheese-tasting!

 

Wente Wineparty

Wente Vineyards hosted a wine party!

Wente Vineyards

One of the more popular sponsors: Wente Vineyards!

 

Idaho potatoes

We each received a Cutco knife and cutting board to slice Idaho potatoes for dinner!

Speakers presented valuable information and guidance on blogging issues and offered thought-provoking insights that  will influence many of us for months to come.  In this relatively intimate setting,  campers had plenty of opportunity to interact with the speakers, the sponsors and with each other.   Everyone was open and friendly…no cliques at this blogging conference!

Kalyn Denny and Benjamin Rhau

Kalyn Denny of Kalyn's Kitchen and Benjamin Rhau of You Fed a Baby Chili? talked about how blogging changed their lives

 

Rachael Hutchings and Dara Michalski

Dara Michalski of Cookin' Canuck and Rachael Hutchings of La Fuji Mama spoke about revamping a blog

I left camp at noon on Saturday and drove back to Escondido to direct my church choir for an important church event that evening. Even though  I missed some wonderful sessions,  fellow campers  were tweeting photos from those sessions, so I was able to follow along on my IPhone.   I decided to sleep at home that night and get up at 4:15 am to drive back to camp.   Watching the sun rise and the Super Moon set as  Debussy’s  “Claire de Lune” played on the radio was a highlight of my drive!  I never would have seen the early morning light on the drive back up the mountain if I hadn’t needed to leave camp.   What I thought would be a severe inconvenience became a precious gift.   The choir’s singing was over-the-top,  and the drive on deserted roads in the wee hours of the morning allowed me to glimpse  scenes of the beautiful California countryside not seen at other times of the day.

One of the highlights of camp was the Networking Table, where bloggers could display products and samples from sponsors,  business cards, recipes,  promotions…a creative mix of information, contests,  give-aways as diverse as the bloggers who brought them!  Here are a few photos of the table, which stretched across the front of the room between the speakers’ platforms.  I brought avocados from our family farm,  and  avocado cutters from the California Avocado Commission.  If you come to Camp Blogaway next year, you’ll want to bring something for this table!  There’s a prize for the display voted most effective.  This year’s prize was won by Miso Hungry Podcast!

Miso Hungry display Camp Blogaway

Miso Hungry display by Allison Day and Rachael Hutchings

networking table at Camp Blogaway

Just a few examples of the Networking Table displays

Our Fearless Leader and camp founder, Patti Londre is well experienced in organizing wonderful events, having been a PR professional for years.  She had thought of EVERYTHING and offered nuggets of advice throughout the weekend. Her inclusive hospitality and fun-loving spirit was   seasoned with her eagle-eyed attention to detail and  sprinkled with a delightful wit.

Patti even painted this terrific photo board so that every camper could be the Best Blogger in the World!

Patti Londre

Patti Londre, Camp Blogaway Fearless Leader

 

By the end of the weekend,  I was even more certain that coming to Camp Blogaway was exactly the right thing for me to do!  When we all walked down to the flagpole to have our group photo taken, I felt so grateful to be part of the weekend.   I completely understand now why my friend Rachael (La Fuji Mama) encouraged me to do whatever it took to make it happen…as she put it,  “There are so many wonderful people who you need to meet and who need to meet you!”   I didn’t understand when she said it, but I do now.

Camp Blogaway Attendees

A Happy Group of Campers! Yay Camp Blogaway!

During the entire weekend, Patti reminded us about “The Golden Pine Cone Award”,  which she bestows on a blogger who, in her observation, best exemplifies the spirit of Camp Blogaway.  Imagine my utter surprise when I realized that she was talking about ME!   Honestly, I can’t remember feeling more honored and less deserving!  In a room full of amazing creative bloggers with enormous talent and savvy,  I accepted this unique and priceless trophy.

Golden PIne Cone Award Camp Blogaway

The coveted Golden Pine Cone Award! (Photo by Dosa Salvatori)

If you are a food blogger,  or want to be a food blogger,  consider coming to Camp Blogaway next year!  Add your name to the e-mail list to get updates on camp news and advance notice of the opening of registration.   Be ready to sign up on the date in January when registration opens, because this incredible weekend sells out quickly!  Mark your calendar now…you’ll meet some fabulous people,  learn lots of exciting information,  try some amazing products, eat delicious food, breathe sweet mountain air,  …  and go home full of inspiration for creating more recipes,  forging new relationships,  taking terrific photos and writing lots of new posts!  Just one word of warning:  clean out a room before you go…you’ll need space for all the swag  you’ll be bringing home !

 

Save 2013 date for Camp Blogaway

Mark your calendar now! Be ready to register in January!

 

Other Posts about Camp Blogaway:

Camp Blogaway…the Extended Version by BetsyLife

Created By Diane: Potato Chip Cookies (and Camp Blogaway)

Camp Blogaway 2012 by I Wash You Dry

Camp Blogaway and Chicken Inspiration by She’s Cookin

Camp Blogaway Inspires by Fresh Food In a Flash

Creamy Asparagus Soup Recipe with Lemon & Thyme (Dairy-Free) and Camp Blogaway by Cookin Canuck

Foodness Gracious: Mango Cumin Macarons and Camp Blogaway…

Greek Girl Survives Camp Blogaway!

Honey Ginger Lemon Tea and Camp Blogaway 2012 by La Fuji Mama

I Have Arrived and Camp Blogaway by Joy’s Misadventures

Israeli Couscous Tabbouleh and a Trip to Camp Blogaway by The Devil Wears Parsley

Mango Avocado Salad by Worth the Whisk  (Camp Blogaway’s Fearless Leader)

Mango Chipotle Margaritas and Camp Blogaway by All Day I Dream About Food

My Weekend at Camp Blogaway by Budget Gourmet Mom

Off To Camp I Went…And Came Back Inspired  by Barbara Cooks

Top Five Things A Food Blogger Can Learn at Camp Blogaway by The Glutster

 

 

Camp Blogaway or Bust!

 

Camp Blogaway

Camp Blogaway or BUST!

There were many years while we were raising our four children that I couldn’t think about getting away for a weekend to do something just for me. I was all about making things happen for the family. Big things like getting to and from schools, music and sports…which were at least 10-15 miles from our ranch. And building a house. And running our avocado business. Oh, and directing a church choir too, among other things.

church choir

This is the choir family that grew!

Let’s talk about the choir for a minute. I offered to direct a small choir of about 12 singers for 6 weeks while the pastor looked for a new church music director. That was in 1987. We had three children ages 3, 2 and 9 mos. old. Yes, I was crazy. But that little choir has grown into a group of 60 wonderful singers who are family to me and to each other. Week by week and year by year we made it all happen.

BlogHer'11

My first blogging adventure! And I didn't even have a blog!

Last August I attended BlogHer’11 in San Diego because it was local and I was curious about blogging. Over those three days, I began to understand the magnificent freedom that is ours for the taking…to write about our thoughts and lives, to learn and to teach each other, to connect with people from all over the world and to form communities.

TechMunch poster

I learned lots at TechMunch! Met great folks who helped me decide on a name for my blog!

In September I went to TechMunchLA, a one-day conference for Food Bloggers.  In October I took an online course in using WordPress.  By November I had started my blog, with help from some wonderful new friends that I met at TechMunchLA.     Several of them had attended Camp Blogaway, a weekend camp in the San Bernardino mountains for food bloggers. Last year I almost signed up to go, just to investigate blogging, but wasn’t able to schedule it.  My friend Rachael of LaFujimama encouraged me to consider going, as it’s smaller than other  blogging conferences and the sessions are valuable learning experiences.   I watched the calendar and in January signed up on the first day the camp registration opened (this camp sells out quickly!).   May is a busy month but I gambled that the weekend would work out.   How hard could it be to make this happen?

Well, you guessed it.  An important event at church that can not be done by a substitute director was scheduled for the very same weekend as Camp Blogaway.  The camp is May 4-6. The church event is May 5th.    May 7th will be the 25th anniversary of my promise to the pastor to help out for 6 weeks. What to do? Call in sick? Give up my place at the best blogging camp on the face of the earth? or:  Make. It. Happen. (For the record,  our wonderful Coastal Communities Concert Band  scheduled a weekend concert gig in Las Vegas the same weekend…so I’m missing that too!)

hike at camp blogaway

Who wants to go for a hike? I do!

So I asked for permission to leave camp and direct the choir.  Thankfully, the camp director Patti Londre took pity on me and agreed.  Then I drove up to the mountains to scope out the route, the roads and the amount of time I needed for travel.   Beautiful drive…but it will take 3 hours to go 99 miles between camp and church. There happened to be an over-sized forklift over the side of the mountain that day too…it fell off of a semi…they needed a huge crane to bring it back up the steep embankment, so the road was closed.  I never did get all the way up to the camp.

Camp Blogaway breakfast

A chance to learn and to meet new people who blog!

Here it is….one week before Camp Blogaway ’12…and I’m getting excited.  Looks like it’s going to happen for me!  There is the small risk that something will block the road down the mountain on May 5th as I drive back to Escondido to direct the choir, but we’re just not going to think about that. Please keep your fingers crossed for me, okay? It will be a three hour drive back to church. The choir will perform for 25 minutes, then lead the music for Confirmation. We’ll meet our brand new bishop for the first time at a reception. Then I’ll get back in the car and make the 3 hours drive back to Camp Blogaway.  (Do you think anyone at church will mind if my perfume is “Campfire”? )

Some of you are shaking your heads and wondering if I’ve lost it. I just really, really want to go to Camp Blogaway.  It happens only once a year.  I can meet some of the people whose blogs I read regularly,  learn more about photography and writing,  expand my food knowledge,   become more inspired for improving my own life,  which will make me a happier and better  wife, mother, teacher, choir  director, band member and person.  And my Avocado Sister Rachael of La Fujimama is one of the presenters there!

Camp Blogaway or Bust!

Stay tuned…I’ll tell you all about it when I get back!

Using a Camera as Workout Equipment: Discovering a Way to Find Joy in Exercising

name written in c oncrete

My name written in concrete in 1995

I know I am not alone when it comes to the lack of exercise.    Once we have a job and children to raise, our time and energy are limited.   We are constantly bombarded with messages about the need to get up and move.     There are plenty of activities that look like fun, but let’s face it:  if we’re not physically fit in the first place,  we’re not going to be physically able to take part is most of them.

California poppy before it's open

The poppy can't bloom until the barriers are moved!

 

So that leaves some of us in a dilemma:  do we spend our precious, limited time off  working out in a gym (that we dislike),  or walking a prescribed number of steps on a treadmill?  Do we find a walking partner and get up at the bust of dawn to fulfill our obligation to move?  Or do we pour ourselves another cup of coffee and turn on the Cooking Channel?   How about a glass of wine and a few minutes of Facebook or  Pinterest?   I can see you nodding your heads.

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise flower near the avocado trees

I have tried committing to exercise programs that I dislike, knowing that they are good for me and knowing that I won’t keep them up.   We already  do so much in our lives  out of necessity or obligation, even if they do not bring us joy.   In the few spare hours that we have left,  JOY is the thing we need.   Creating joy (for me) involves discovering something new,  feeling good about myself and what I’m accomplishing,  feeling energized and stimulated,  and having something worthwhile to show for the time I have spent.   The challenge is to find activities for physical exercise  that combine those prerequisites with movement.

view of hillsides in avocado grove

Hiking to find this view is worth the effort!

I think I have finally found something that is better than a trainer,  better than a class and better than a treadmill.   A Camera!  I recently purchased a DSLR with a hefty cross-body strap.  I have had  point-and-shoot cameras that work just fine,  but they never motivated me to get out and hike.    With the encouragement of  Fuji MamaAllergen-Free Baker and my son Daniel,   as well as  the help  of Nancy at  Nelson Photo Supplies in San Diego,    I finally invested in a Canon T3i as an entry-level DSLR.    I had no idea that the investment in the camera would also pay me dividends in the form of exercise and motivation!

hummingbird

A hummingbird takes a breather!

I actually look forward to changing into tee shirt and walking pants (gym clothes?), lacing up my walking shoes,  strapping on my trusty camera, and striking out for parts unknown.  The long hikes around the ranch that used to seem like a penance when done just for exercise have become exciting treasure hunts now that I have my camera and way to  share the new discoveries!  Sometimes I post the photos on Facebook, and sometimes I plan stories to go with the photos to post here on MimiAvocado.com

snail

After a rain, the snails come out ...and so do I!

After an invigorating hike up and down hills to get the perfect photo of wildflowers,  snail trails,  squirrel holes,  songbirds,  puffy clouds with trees and mountains… I deserve the time to write  at my desk!  I actually look forward to going out again,  and scheme to carve out more time for “exercise” in my day.    I’m eager to get out and  see how the trees are changing from day to day,  keep track of the seasonal wildflowers  and notice  evidence of wildlife too.

animal track

What animal do you think made this? A possum?

Now that I have the new camera,  the prospect of spending a day hiking, walking a beach or exploring a park are much more attractive than they once were.   I don’t want to sit in the house when there are so many exciting things to photograph!   Who knew that the best piece of exercise equipment could be a camera?  I’m glad I found out!  And I don’t even mind getting up at dawn … sometimes!

long shadow early in the morning

Did you know you can look very tall and skinny when the sun first is coming up?

 

 

 

 

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