Welcome to Sunday Coffee, a weekly feature where you are invited to join me in reminiscing about the past or just chatting about what’s going on in life! Grab a cup and sit for a spell.
Yes, I’m posting a day late again, but I have a great excuse! I spent the past weekend at Eat Write Retreat, a conference for food bloggers. It was a fabulous time meeting new friends, brands, dreaming about the future, and living into my new relationship with food as a blogger post weight loss surgery.
You’ll recall that I took several months off from food blogging to work on my relationship with food. I relaunched The Local Cook as Wholistic Woman. In many ways this blogging journey has mirrored my real-life journey. I knew that I wanted to start incorporating cooking into my blog again, I just wasn’t sure how. Just like I am basically at maintenance in my weight loss journey; now what?
Blog conferences are a great way to get inspired and use some dedicated brain power to gain clarity on blogging and life in general. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to a food blog conference, but when I was researching blog conferences I came across Eat Write Retreat. Ooh, it was in Chicago! Within driving distance! But it was only a few weeks away, there probably wouldn’t be any tickets left. I messaged Beth from Cooking by Design who had indicated a few months ago that she might have a ticket for sale. Unfortunately for me she was able to attend the conference after all (we met, she’s great!).
I sent a message to Casey, one of the women behind Eat Write Retreat, on the off chance that someone else had a ticket they couldn’t use. She referred me to fellow Michigander Lori over at Foxes Love Lemons. Jackpot! But I wasn’t sure if it was really meant to be. I checked my business bank account, and there wasn’t quite enough to cover the hotel. Hotels in Chicago are expensive. Hmmm. I asked the ever-patient Casey if anyone needed a roommate.
Lucky for me Nicole from Or Whatever You Do was willing to let me split a room with her. Coincidentally (providentially?) she knew an acquaintance of mine from when she used to live in Michigan. That made it a little less weird. The train schedule worked out so transportation to and from was super cheap ($30 bucks, plus another $10 for cabs). Voila!
DH dropped me off at the train station at 7 AM on Friday morning. Three hours later I was at the hotel, with a little time to kill before we left for our VIP lunch. I was in dire need of coffee so I went to the hotel restaurant and ordered what turned out to be a quart of Greek yogurt and was joined by Emily from Emily Bites and Laura from What’s for Dinner Mom? It was so fun getting to know them and learning about their blogs. They were intrigued by my skull scarf (I had scored it for 99 cents and packed it on a whim for the trip . . . great for overly air conditioned meeting rooms!)
Before I knew it, it was time to leave for the VIP lunch which was sponsored by Golden Door and held at DL Loft. I was truthfully nervous. Would I be able to eat what they served? There aren’t too many foods I can’t eat at 8 months post VSG, but I do try to eat protein first and maintain the don’t drink for 30 minutes after eating rule. I also don’t do especially well with heavy foods.
I needn’t have worried, everything was refreshingly light and delicious! They served the mocktails ahead of the food so I was able to enjoy it before we ate, and then keep it by my plate so it wasn’t too obvious that I wasn’t drinking during lunch. I also wasn’t overly self conscious about not “cleaning my plate,” because there were several special dietary needs in the group and also because people were too busy talking about the food. I was able to enjoy everything. Sometimes I feel like this surgery has given me permission to enjoy food more. I can eat a few bites, enjoy the flavor, and not feel the need to eat the rest of it just because it tastes good. Because I won’t be able to!
After lunch I walked to the Starbucks a few doors down to meet with a co worker and a volunteer about bringing Team Free A Family to the Grand Rapids Marathon this fall. Providentially it just worked out that they were available and we were in Chicago at the same time. We talked about how I am training for a marathon in December, and I realized that for the first time ever I was talking about running without someone giving me the “yeah, sure, you run” look. And then it dawned on me, I talked about how I love to write about local cooking and eating and no one had looked at me oddly. Before I always imagined people were looking at me thinking, “SURE you know what kale is. Uh huh.” It’s all very trippy, getting used to being in this body which has shrunk considerably.
After a great meeting and making it through Chicago traffic, my co worker dropped me off at the hotel and it was time to board the bus for dinner at the Frontier Restaurant. We had heavy hor d’oeuvres, emphasis on the heavy. I tried to pick the most meat-centric items and took only a small portion. Before surgery, I would have tried one of everything and gone back for seconds on my favorites. After surgery, I had a small selection and was satisfied. I did indulge in a glass of red wine afterward. It was great fun.
On Saturday we had breakfast at our awesome event location – Catalyst Ranch. I love buffets because I can pick out protein heavy items (eggs, sausage in this case) and fruit. I can also only take a small amount without anyone noticing.
Our first keynote of the day was Lorrie Thomas Ross about Developing Your Personal Brand. I got lots of great ideas and the quote of the day came from her:
— Lori Rice (@Lori_Rice) June 27, 2015
I made a note not to should on myself, either! I remember my therapist several years ago telling me something similar . . .
Next it was time for a food swap! Now, I was involved in a Grand Rapids food swapper club a few years ago but it seems to have gone dormant. I think it may be time to see if there is interest in starting it up again, though. It was so much fun! It did cross my mind that I should probably stay away from the baked goods, but I did end up with some. I figure a couple can’t hurt.
— Wendy Leep Hammond (@ideasremixed) June 27, 2015
Good thing Emily from West of the Loop, who organized the swap, will be coming out with a book on swapping next spring! Now, because I have a smaller stomach and can’t eat a lot at one time, I had packed a protein bar for morning break. I know a lot of people who have had weight loss surgery try to avoid protein bars / shakes after a few months, but sometimes when you’re on the go (or at a conference) it’s nice to have something on hand that’s a good source of protein. I’m unfortunately in the hair-falling-out stage so I really try to get 80 grams of protein in a day. For lunch we had a tour of the grocery store Mariano’s. I have friends in Chicago so I’d heard all about this magical grocery store. We got a tour and were given a $15 gift card to buy lunch and another $5 to find a Roundy’s product for the afternoon session. We were given a certain amount of time and then were told to come back for a Prosciutto di Parma tasting. Since I knew Prosciutto was coming later, I opted to buy a watermelon juice and raw almonds to snack on. That hit the spot and the Prosciutto was delicious (as was the chef who was telling us about it! A friend of mine posted on my Facebook photo, ” I want to tackle that guy and take his salami. This is why I don’t get invited to food events.” After lunch we headed back to the ranch to learn about consumer trends in market research with Thei Zervaki. It was really interesting, and I remembered how much fun I had when I used to highlight Made in Michigan food products on my blog Eat Local West Michigan. I might have to resurrect that too!
Our afternoon “pasta break” was sponsored by Dreamfields Pasta, and I was a little nervous, thinking “how is this going to fit into my post-bariatric surgery world?” But then I remembered that I had actually blogged about Dreamfields a few years ago, and that it actually has fiber and protein in it. So I opted for a (very) small bowl of a salad that had some meat in it and added a sliver of egg. Yes, pre surgery I would have tried all 4 pasta salads offered. Post surgery I picked one 🙂 Our final workshop of the afternoon was Wrangling Your Social Media Accounts by Amanda Keefer and Amber Bloom from Produce for Kids. They had SO many tips, I left feeling like I might actually be able to get my social media under control!
Again, I was a little worried about how this would go. Since weight loss surgery, eggs don’t always sit very well. And our menu was going to feature eggs at every course – they were even offering cocktails with egg! I told myself, “You got this.” I selected only a few items for the appetizer as they poured wine right away.
The first course was a salad, and I ate the scotch egg and left most of the greens, thinking that I might need to save room for the next courses. Luckily the main course had only a little pasta, just right for my post WLS tummy! And there was enough time in between courses so I could enjoy a few bites of the dessert when it came. The only thing I wish I had done differently was not drink throughout the meal. I did drink wine between courses, and it was hard to know how much I had exactly had because the waiters refilled it after every sip, it seemed.
I must not have done too badly though because I actually lost a pound and a half when the weekend was done!
Sunday morning we started with a workshop on Everything You Wanted to Know About Publishing, but Were Afraid to Ask. I really have no desire to write a cookbook, which was the focus of the session, but it did get me thinking about that fictionalized autobiography I’d like to write . . .
There was also a session on protecting your brand in cyberspace with Patrice Perkins, who did a fabulous job and actually spent some time with me after the session giving me some direction on some of my other projects.
I also had the chance to speak for a few minutes with the Calphalon guy, which was fun because I LOVE their stuff. And when I had a few minutes to myself waiting for the Mastermind session to start, I found myself drooling over their knife set and snapping pictures of all the gorgeous produce. There’s something about knives and produce . . . it spoke to me.
And then it came full circle. I started this blog because I wanted to cook with the produce from my CSA share. So in a way, it all started with vegetables. And vegetables are once again calling me, to write about them and teach others about them and to remember those long summer days spent out in the muck fields in the sun weeding onions. And to help people support the farmers that we have locally. Because eating local and living local is just one part of living a life in balance, I don’t want to focus on that exclusively here at Wholistic Woman. But my roots are calling to me.