A bigger barn, different speakers, a few new faces, and another great event. It's hard to explain Big Summer Potluck to someone who hasn't attended. Yes, it's a gathering of food bloggers. Sure, it sounds kind of like a "conference." But it's something else, and I feel so lucky to have attended two years in a row. If I made a mistake, it was trying to compare it to last year. To paraphrase Brooke, I needed to be mindful of the moment. Well, maybe I had a hunch that would be what I remembered most from the conference this year. I didn't bring my camera along to the opening night party. I didn't bring it along to the closing breakfast either. I did have it with me on the main day of the event, but when I looked back at my photos after getting home, I was pleasantly surprised by how few shots I'd taken. You see, usually I'm snapping photos all the time. I caught a few images for Instagram of course, but for the most part, I wanted to soak it all in (and I'm not talking about the rain, which we got plenty of). I wanted to see some familiar faces, and a few not so familiar. I wanted to appreciate the beautiful space, indoors and out. I wanted to cheer on friends as they won prizes from amazing sponsors like Musselman's, KitchenAid, Kerrygold, Analon, and Green Mountain Coffee who make the event possible. And I wanted to enjoy good food and wine. So don't look here for a complete recap of the event. I'm not sure anyone could do the event justice with words. Don't expect to see portraits here either because I'm sure more than a few of my friends took better shots like that anyway. But do know that Big Summer Potluck is something really extraordinary, and we have Maggy, Erika, and Pam to thank again. I don't know how they do it and still have time for big smiles and hugs.As much as I enjoyed sitting on bails of hay last year, I loved this year's venue, Silver Buttons Farm, even more.Every time you peeked around a corner, you noticed something special else about the place. It makes you wonder who ever got the crazy idea of holding those other food blogger conferences in hotels and convention centers. I'd much rather see a vegetable garden on the other side of a stone wall when I'm taking a break between speakers.And I'd also much rather have room for a pig smoker like this. That dark skin scared me the first time I saw it, but let me assure you this guy turned out perfectly and fed us all on Saturday night.I mentioned the rain, right? There was a lot of it, but if you were there, you understand why it was such a good thing. It got us moving indoors and out, feeling fresh and energized when the skies cleared up again, cooling the air down just when we needed it most. You could hear the thunder rolling in each time, and at least once we played a game of chicken with the weather which resulted in 75 or so food bloggers running for cover all at once.Special thanks go out to the speakers -- Brooke (above), Joy, Molly (I had no idea she'd be there!), and of course Pam.But the biggest thanks go out to the Andersons for their hospitality. Big Summer Potluck starts here at their beautiful Pennsylvania home, and it ends here as well. I guess they could make the conference bigger and hold the whole thing somewhere else where they don't have to worry about hosting all those people in their house, but I'm so glad they've kept it the way it is -- intimate. I'd love to give a shout-out to all my friends, old and new, who I spent time with at the potluck, but that would take a long time. I've got the memories, and for me, that's what Big Summer Potluck is all about.
It embarrasses me to to think about how difficult it was for Maggy, Erika and Pam to finally convince me to attend Big Summer Potluck 2011. A barn, in Pennsylvania, in the middle of summer? I can't tell you how grateful I am they finally invited me to speak. Wait, "grateful" isn't the right word. More like honored. There are probably going to be some amazing round-ups written about the conference (sorry, "conference" is, again, not the right word for BSP). There were way better food photographers there, wayyy better portrait photographers (ahem, Brian), and there were some amazing writers too -- I can't wait to see their posts. I'm so lucky to have met all of you.If you've been to events like Blogher Food but not Big Summer Potluck, the first thing you might notice is that this doesn't look like a hotel conference center, and that's part of the genius of this event. The location was at Linden Hill Gardens.Yes, there were chickens...This is the barn where amazing people spoke. Wait, that makes me sound like a jerk. I'm not talking about myself, although I loved being on a panel with the fabulous Pam Anderson. On the subject of Pam, everyone already knows how much I adore Maggy, but this event was the first time I met her sister, Sharon -- love her too.Back to the real speakers, I wouldn't even dare to post a photo I took of Penny De Los Santos speaking (that's Shauna Ahern above, of course). What can I say about Penny besides that I need to spend more time around her? For one thing, she said, "Photography is a metaphor for life." I won't do that statement justice by trying to explain it here, but not only do I agree with Penny, but I realized when I heard her say it that I've always felt the same away but never expressed it. But the real takeaway for me? "Moments." If Penny didn't bring me to tears when she talked about capturing and reliving these amazing moments in our lives, then Shauna sure did. Penny and Shauna inspired me both to create and to recognize and appreciate life's moments, big and small. Thank you. I literally feel like a changed person, and that's not just the wine from Saturday night talking.Speaking of moments...Karen found these doors before me. About Karen and Chris, how is it that I finally got to meet them, and now they're moving to Atlanta? Grrr... Speaking of friends old and new, I have to give a special mention to my NYC crew, because it was so fun hanging out with you in a barn in Pennsylvania for a change -- Jackie, Mitch, Ken and Margaret. To Jennie "Palillo", I love that even though we see each other all the time now, it was still so fun to be with you at the conference and sit on the floor of my hotel room during the after party which I totally did not organize. Sara Kate (buy her new book!), did I get a little carried away with excitement when you showed up with Penny? What a great surprise to see you there, especially since we never actually see each other in New York City.To my non-NYC friends, old and new -- Wendy, so glad we finally connected and thanks again for your Philly dining tips. Sally, it was nice chatting so much. Ethan, it's great hanging out with you, and thanks for the gummies and ketchup chips. Winnie, whether you meant to or not, you really helped connect everyone.Amy, two kids or not, we need to think about a Korean food pot-luck. I mentioned Brian already, right? He needs to be in New York. Shaina, we should have started talking earlier. So many more people I really enjoyed seeing: Colleen, Jen, Amanda, Aimee, Georgia, Marisa, Megan, Jeanne, and more.To everyone else who so graciously introduced yourself to me and offered some kind words about our fan-side presentation, thank you so much. I'd also like to offer thanks to the conference sponsors including KitchenAid, Kerrygold, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Pop Chips (have been eating them for days now), and Green Valley Organics.This photo should have come last (or first) because we started the conference here, and we ended it here too -- the stunning Anderson home.But as great as the locations were, the conference was really about the people, and moments like this -- taking a break, chatting, meeting, reminiscing, laughing, crying, and sharing. Thanks, everyone, for helping to make this such a memorable event.