So, I’m late to the game — Meso Maya has been around for a while now. I’ve driven past and even called to ask a few questions about the menu. And, honestly, based on its early reviews and the lackluster love received over the years, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to try it. That was until it inched its way across the loop and into my neck of the woods. Meso Maya had planted its huarache where I could no longer ignore the smells of handmade corn tortillas and mesquite grilled meats. Continue reading “Meso Maya”
I’ve been on blogger vacation (aka too dang busy to post to the blog).
Recently, I picked up a project that has been fantastically challenging, incredibly fulfilling, and friggin’ back-breaking.
I love it.
However, making #betterchoices has been a bit of a challenge — both food and life choices.
I’m happy to report I have not gone completely off track with the food. No weight gained — two more lost. (But, that may or may not have been due to my living off coffee and Cheez-It crackers for at least a few days out of the three weeks.) No major disasters though.
Life choices have also been tough.
Calculating time. Figuring out how to balance — especially in the midst of unexpected events. Grandma Ollie happened to have a hospital stay — all is well now. Our place had some issues. Bear’s schedule has also been nuts. Life has just been a little trying.
And, today, I got a huge dose of “ah-ha” by way of my nephew.
At noon, my brother called to invite me to eat lunch with the family. I was ear deep in work. (I’d live-streamed church earlier. Okay? THAT kind of caught up in work.) Completely misaligned and already in a “gotta get it done” rhythm.
At first, I was kind of irritated because I’d already communicated how busy I would be today. Then, he offered to bring me food. I hesitantly agreed — until he decided he and my nephew would pick up food and come eat with me.
I had two laptops up, papers blanketing the tables — not possible. I already knew I was leaving later to visit Grandma. Ain’t nobody got time for this! (I know. I’m a horrible person — I promise it gets better.) So, with one of my oldie-but-goodie classic teenager-y sighs, I huffed out a, “Fine. I’ll hurry up and get ready and meet you there. But, I have to hurry back!”
Rushed a shower. Slicked the hair back in a bun. Cat screaming at me to hurry up (even she knew I had a poor attitude). Finally, I get in the car and head over to Rock Fish in Plano.
In I walk. And, I’m greeted with a giant, Kermit the Frog-like, frantically happy wave from the back of the restaurant.
It’s my nephew.
He stands up, gives me a big squeeze, pulls out my chair, and immediately begins to fill me in.
He’s ordered my tea. He’s going to have catfish. Do I need any sweetener? His daddy (my brother) is drinking Dr. Pepper. And, French fries and applesauce will be eaten today.
Immediately, my hard candy shell begins to crack. He’s going full-speed, and like or not, I just have to catch up!
We have an awesome meal — Ahi Tower — perfect. Service spectacular.
And, then my brother, knowing I was on my way to see Grandma, tells my nephew he should go with me to see his Neny (the name my nephew calls Grandma Ollie).
Immediately, the tides change.
“Why!? I thought we were going to go to the comic book store first!?”
Knowing this kid and how much he loves his Neny and spending time with her, I said, “Hey? What’s going on here? What’s more important? People or things?”
After a few patient rounds, we got to a place where we were talking about finding balance and the importance of spending time with the people we love. My nephew is autistic but high-functioning, and his heart is so full of love and joy. All I had to do was find the right analogy of “always going to be there” comic books versus “not always going to be around” family and friends.
I told him that I also had made a choice that day.
He was more important than the work that had to be done that day. That’s why I’d stopped what I was doing to have lunch with him (which was immediately countered by a lecture about being responsible for doing my work so that I don’t lose my job and he doesn’t have to worry about me). But, he got the picture. And, in that moment, I realized I was actually speaking to myself. I needed a reminder.
Life is important. We only get one shot, and what we do with it matters.
The two hours spent eating, laughing, and visiting Grandma Ollie with my nephew by my side was necessary. It was like feeding my soul — my well-being — my life. Nourishment.
Then, it got me thinking about the earlier online service. “Talent needs a team to be terrific.” In other words, you need a team in your life to live it fully (your faith, your family, your friends, your hobbies, your passion, your purpose — balance in all things — a team to give you balance). Living fully is a culmination of many things, including connection, gratitude, forgiveness, knowledge, appreciation of other perspectives, worldly vision — that balance of all things is what gives importance to life.
And, I needed a reality check on that front. My nephew rocks.
I’m home now. Just got back and ready to dig back in with work with a fresh view. But first, I needed to share this with you.
I needed to share it because you are also important in my life.
I started this blog because of my love of food and my love of writing. And, you’ve been along for the ride the entire time! So, please forgive me for my absence. I promise I’ll have something more to say next week.
Have an awesome week, and make better choices — balanced choices. It’ll be on my radar for sure.
LET’S KEEP IT REAL: First and foremost, I do everything for the love of food. Most of what I write about is because I love it! If I don’t love it, I tell you about that, too. From time to time, I may receive monetary or product compensation for mentioning products, offering recommendations, providing endorsements, or including links to products or services when I blog. While that may be the case for some posts, it is not the case for all. When it’s sponsored, you’ll see #sponsored when I post. When I’m just sharing the love, I won’t use that particular tag or hashtag. What you need to know is that I only give shout outs when I actually use the product or love it so much it deserves a shout out, sponsored or not.
Okay, I have two words for you: mind blown. Get this. Aside from the copious amounts of wine and food samples that surrounded us all day, these people at the International Food Blogger Conference, held by Foodista and Zephyr Adventures, laid out a kick ass day that any food-centric writer would not only expect to see at a food blogger conference but be pretty stoked to attend. So, I can’t go over every single moment because that would take forever, but here are a few highlights.
The morning kicked off with our keynote speaker, Kim Severson who is, among many other brilliantly fabulous things, a James Beard award-winning writer who just so happens to report and write for a little ol’ paper you may have heard of – The New York Times. She talked about the digital food revolution and how important authenticity is in our writing. While I completely wish we were best friends and could talk for hours about her day to day, plus chat about any interesting and slightly embarrassing stories she may know about Ruth Reichl, that wasn’t going to happen – at least here – so instead I took away some wonderful tasty nuggets she shared:
- We are purveyors of great information.
- Report with humility. Write with authority.
- If you’re not composing, you’re composting.
- I procrastinate just as much as you do (paraphrased, but this one hit close to home – oh, look! A squirrel!)
She also said a few things that made me say, “Crap! I knew I should have left that in there!” I oftentimes over-edit myself after writing something because I worry that I need to scrub for a general audience, and what I kept hearing over and over again at this conference was “BE YOU!” After hearing her speak, I rushed to add some things back into some of my work that I’d previously removed, feeling very Norma Rae, “Yeah! Stick it to the man! They DO want to hear about my difficulties describing umami and how my tongue gets ahead of my brain sometimes! I may even talk about my obsession with knives next week!”
After getting all goose-bumpy over my Kim Severson experience and rushing to change words, I panicked when I changed a URL (which Dr. Jean Layton said never to do in an earlier session); so I grabbed the nearest person, frantically asked her to check my site on her phone since I didn’t believe mine, and she assured me I had not blown up my website. Then, I realized it was just a slug I’d changed – technical jargon for “something that won’t blow up your site if you change it.” So, thank you to the wonderful person who helped me, and I am so sorry I didn’t catch your name. You are awesome.
Alright, back to the “BE YOU.” Next up was a pretty remarkable writer’s workshop with talented author, Jess Thomson who really emphasized knowing who you are and being that authentic self through a video of the “Freaky Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar” in Alice in Wonderland when he asks Alice, “Whoooo Aaaarrrre Youuuuu?” It was another lesson in “people want to hear what you say because YOU’RE saying it!” She had us go through two short writing exercises that honestly gave me a little boost of confidence. I completely embraced everything she was saying and even spoke with her afterwards about more writing workshops to further improve my writing style. Her workshop was like coming home and noticing the room had been rearranged, but it was still your home – finding new ways to highlight your talents that are ready to be moved around. Pretty cool.
Another session featured Irvin Lin and Sarah Flotard who spoke about holiday preparation and how to put your best dish forward to help the masses as they prepare for the holiday season. This session was somewhat controversial at our table because the last few hours were all about authenticity and being the honest “you,” and then here we were focused on how to paint a half-baked turkey so it looked finished for you to take pictures of it four days later. It was interesting and was definitely of value in many areas – I will say, aside from some of the “soapy bird” professional food styling bit, I totally dug all the ideas about lighting, props, background, seizing the unplanned moments, and having fun with it. Needless to say, you will not be seeing a painted turkey on my site during the holidays. If I bomb, you’ll know it.
We also were introduced to a superhero trio to be reckoned with: Andie Mitchell, food blogger and author, along with prop stylist Jenn Elliott-Blake and award-winning food blogger and photographer Aran Goyoaga. They create the “Justice League” team who collaborated to work on Andie’s cookbook which is being released next spring! They discussed the ins and outs of creating a blog style which can be aesthetically appealing to your audience while highlighting your own personality and vision. And, whatever you do, WASH YOUR LINENS before shooting!
Then, the American Lamb Board held a Curriculamb 101 class (parum-pum – I thought it was funny). We learned so much about the different cuts, how to best prepare the lamb, and we got to taste some stellar lamb pate, as well as some incredible smoked lamb… aaaaaaall right after we watched a video about the baby lambs and how cute they are and how the farmers “get attached” to them. Yeah.
BUT, I love meat, and that’s probably not going to change anytime soon. The point was to show us that these lambs are well-taken care of and do live a good, healthy life in a wonderful environment prior to their incorporation to the food chain. We, as consumers, need to know where are food is coming from so we can make better choices with where we purchase our food, and the smaller farms are where it’s at when it comes to sustainability and freshness. My opinion.
Did I mention the copious amounts of wine? Right after this last session, we engaged in a grand wine tasting with various wineries and regions, including wines from Trione Winery, Franciacorta, and Concannon, right before the pièce de résistance, the Culinary Expo and Fair.
Wow. There were nearly 30 different vendors and restaurants who filled the room with aromas of fried chicken and waffles from Skillet Street Food, smoked sobrasada chorizo with port soaked figs and Valencia almond from my new favorite Seattle restaurant Lark and everything in between. Just zoom in on the grid pics above to see every single vendor who showed their love to all the food bloggers in attendance. Bottom line: killer food, killer drinks, killer peeps, killer vibe.
One more day to report, and I cannot wait to book next year’s conference already! Sorry I was so late today – we can all thank Canlis for that one, but I’ll talk about that later.
Note: While all IFBC posts are completely written based on my own experience and opinion, I was offered a discounted rate in exchange for three general posts about the conference.