A few weeks ago my son and I planted a grapevine in our backyard, and we have been fascinated by watching its progress. When we first planted it, the vine had two main branches that needed to be propped up against the fence and stakes. Now as the vine is relaxing and becoming comfortable in our soil, we are able to watch it claim its own space. As the little tendrils appear, these new branches seem like adventurous little souls. They each go in their own direction, winding around as they make new connections to the supporting structure.
When I signed up for a weekend at Camp Blogaway, I knew that I had a lot that I wanted to learn, and there were definitely people that I wanted to meet. But what I had possibly underestimated was the sheer power of that combined network of bloggers and the synergy created when so many talented people brought together their experiences and creative talents. It was a dizzying weekend for me, from meeting so many incredible writers to learning about new ways to build a community.
When I got home I felt a little bit overwhelmed with all of the new information at my fingertips. I spent a few days just trying to read everyone’s blogs and catch up with all of the emails and tweets that followed, and at least an hour trying to get my feet wet in StumbleUpon. But at a certain point I told myself: Just. Relax. I tried to picture myself as our fledgling grapevine out in the backyard, leaning against the fencepost for support, and then slowly growing out tiny little tendrils that branch out and make stronger connections every day.
I think that this coming year is going to be an exciting year for the Jolly Tomato. I have a few projects in the works and I have a better idea of how to get some more of those ideas out. And I feel energized and excited about getting to know a whole bunch of people who are doing similar things and whom I can lean on for support. And for me, that’s one of the most exciting outcomes from Camp Blogaway - feeling like the Jolly Tomato is finally well-planted and ready to flourish.
Huge thanks to so many speakers who inspired me this weekend, especially Greg from Sippity Sup, Cheryl from 5 Second Rule, Susan from Food Blogga, Joy from Joy the Baker, Jennifer from Savoring the Thyme. Thanks to my roomies Melissa from Well Prepped and Suzanne from You Can’t Eat What? and my road trip buddy Jennifer from Kitchy Cooking. And a big shout-out to the healthy family/kids food bloggers I loved chatting with including Laura from Family Spice, Valentina from Cooking on the Weekends, Rashmi from Yum Kid, Kelly from The Lunch Bunch, and Rachael from La Fuji Mama. Oh, and to Andrew from Eating Rules for summing it all up so well during his Golden Pinecone honor.
Also a big thanks to those sponsors who gave us lots of food for thought and new ideas, especially the California Avocado Commission, Wente Vineyards, the National Watermelon Promotion Board, Fiji Water, the Idaho Potato Commission, Wilton (my very first fondant!) and Safe Eggs. (Here you see two very excited boys prowling through the swag bags when I got home.) The California Avocado and the Safe Eggs folks were also generous enough to give me a few extra toy avocados and eggs to hand out at my kids’ nutrition class that I’m teaching next week, so I was happy to make that connection. Now I’m ready to get back into the blogging world, “knockers up” (thank you, Patti) and ready to go.