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Thoughts on Big Summer Potluck 2012

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I got back from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the site of Big Summer Potluck, Sunday night. I’ve delayed writing this post for a few days. I’d like to tell you that it’s because I wanted everything I experienced last weekend to soak in. Sure, that’s part of it, but the main reason I haven’t shared this yet has to do with fear. Fear that I won’t be able to adequately describe how I felt when I was there. Fear that posting pictures of Clara being held by other people will upset our family members that still have yet to meet her. Fear that this post will seem super cheesy (warning: it probably is).

Big Summer Potluck isn’t a conference. It didn’t take place in a hotel meeting room. Telling you what I didn’t do while I was there reveals just as much as telling you what I did. I didn’t talk about traffic or SEO. I didn’t find out the best way to get my pictures pinned. I didn’t feel like I was having sponsors shoved down my throat at every opportunity. I didn’t take my iPad so that I could take notes. I didn’t watch a bunch of bloggers fawn over the “bigger” bloggers or try to slip them a business card. I didn’t leave feeling like I needed to come home and change everything about my writing/design/recipes. If you’ve been to a blogging conference, you know what I’m talking about. (That’s not to say those conferences don’t have a place, but they’re not what I needed this year.) What I did at Big Summer Potluck was so much more meaningful.

I smiled watching Maggy and Pam hold and cuddle Clara as if we’ve been friends forever and this was their first time seeing us since she was born.
I teared up listening to Chris talk about how life comes first because, after all, “it’s just a blog.”
I related to Melissa as she talked about fear of not being good enough.
I ate awesome food.
I didn’t photograph any of it.
I drank way too much coffee.
I talked to Aimée and Laura Beth about baby stuff and watched our little ones play and laugh.
I ran in the rain.
I listened to Brooke talk about how to find stillness amidst the craziness of life.
I talked to Joy about Clara and was comforted by her incredibly kind words.
I confessed to Sabrina that, despite missing our families, Eric and I are so happy Clara will grow up in a place that exposes her to different people and philosophies.
I listened to bluegrass music with Clara in my arms and a glass of wine in my hand.
I felt at home.

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Big Summer Potluck starts and ends at the home of Pam Anderson. I’ll admit, I felt a little awkward Friday night because I didn’t really know anyone (more than a Twitter conversation here and there). I’m a very outgoing person, but I was having a hard time breaking out of my shell that night. Clara was fussy when I left the hotel, and of course my phone didn’t want to send or receive texts for me to check in. So I was slightly anxious when the evening began but found that my anxiety dissipated the more I mingled. By Sunday morning, I walked into Pam’s house sad that I’d be saying goodbye to the friends I’d made over the weekend.

The entire weekend was full of wonderful food, demos and speakers. I’m not going to give you a play by play, and I obviously spent more time photographing Clara than I did food. I do want to share what stuck with me and weighed on my mind over the course of the weekend, and that’s community. The feeling that we’re not alone in whatever we’re going through. The reason I blog and stick with it even when I feel inadequate. The conversations that happened when the speakers opened up the floor for everyone to share their thoughts. These are the things that remain, and they couldn’t have been captured with a camera or as notes on my iPad.

Maggy & Clara

Brooke spoke about being mindful in all we do, not just in blogging. She also talked about being vulnerable in life and in writing. I’ve done this once before, when I told all of you about Clara’s birth defect. I haven’t mentioned since then that I sometimes still cry (even as I write this behind tear-filled eyes) when I think about the decision that’s ahead of us. I want to share the good stuff with all of you, and there is a lot of it. If you follow me on Instagram, you can see that I get to spend my days with the most beautiful little girl. But there are still times that I’m scared – for her, for us – and most of you would never know that. I think sharing these pieces of my life with you, both good and bad, will make my writing more genuine. Brooke’s talk reminded me of this, and it was something that I needed to hear. The focus here will still be on the food, of course, but I hope I can let you guys in on other stuff that’s going on too.

BSP

The weekend wasn’t full of only deep thoughts and seriousness. There were plenty of laughs and fun stories shared. There was a photo booth, complete with kitchen related props like a giant whisk and giant wooden spoon. Judging from the few people I watched, the pictures are going to be hilarious. In our case, Clara was trying to eat the whisk, and we had our signature speech bubble quote “all we do is win” (because people expect “we are the champions”).

The whole thing went by far too quickly. Leading up to the event, I worried (needlessly, I might add) over how things would work logistically with Clara and Eric, but they were graciously welcomed by our hosts. Everything was so laid back, and I never had a problem sneaking away to feed our little girl. The attendees and speakers were open, raw and honest, and I left Big Summer Potluck feeling happy, refreshed and hopeful.


  • http://www.simplebites.net/ Aimee @ Simple Bites

    Your last sentence made me smile, Courtney, because that is the best (howbeit, rare) way to leave a conference. I’m so glad you were relaxed – I could tell, you were always smiling. =)
    It was amazing to meet you and your family, and I’ll treasure the photos of our girls together. Thanks for snapping them!

    Hugs – Aimee & Clara

  • http://foodwoolf.com Brooke

    I’m so glad you took the time for yourself to re-calibrate after coming back from BSP. It was a lot to take in–I’m not sure how it’s possible, but I don’t think we got time to speak!!!–and consider. Your post is so thoughtful and honest. Thank you so much for trusting us, your readers, to have access to you and your generous heart. You are always winning! xoxo

  • http://foodloveswriting.com Shanna

    beautiful post. if anything ever made me wish to go to Big Summer Potluck, this was it. lovely writing.

  • http://www.thingsforboys.com abby @ thingsforboys

    So lovely…and gah! So many cute babies!!

  • http://penniesonaplatter.com Nikki

    What a wonderful event! I’m glad you were able to feel relaxed, especially with a baby in tow. :) Great recap, and beautiful reflections.

  • http://www.lbsgoodspoon.com lb

    hooray! great post and amen to all having a great time with our babes!

  • http://vanillabeanbaker.com Paula

    You and Clara are so beautiful! I loved reading your thoughts on BSP3. Though I’m not a person that goes to *blog conferences* the BSP is the one event that I would love to attend one year. I have read a lot of the wrap-ups of it over the past three years and each year and everyone is always so moved by the experiences they share on the farm. Having a get-together that is all about community is my kind of gathering. I’m so happy that this weekend was such a wonderful experience for you and little Clara.

  • http://www.askchefdennis.com Chef Dennis

    It was an amazing weekend, and your description of it couldn’t have been more spot on! I felt the same way you did about meeting everyone, so many of them I didn’t really know, but everyone was so kind and so friendly, it felt like catching up with old friends.

    It was a pleasure meeting you and your family at BSP3, and I look forward to seeing you all again!

  • http://ellysaysopa.com elly

    Great post, Courtney! I really enjoyed reading it, and I always love to see pictures of cute little Clara. :)

  • http://pinktigerinthekitchen.wordpress.com Emily

    Courtney, this was such a wonderful post and one that honestly was much needed right now!! This is the first I’ve ever heard about BSP since I’m new to blogging but it’s definitely something I’m going to have to keep in mind! Thanks again for the wonderful post!

  • http://www.duckandcake.blogspot.ca Elizabeth @duckandcake

    Courtney, I loved reading this. It was so wonderful that you were able to share the weekend with your family. I have a great photo of you and Clara that I will try to send via Twitter.

    Hope to see you next year at BSP4!

    Elizabeth

  • http://www.healthygreenkitchen.com Winnie

    I am really sorry we did not have a chance to talk, but it was delightful to be in the presence of you and your husband, and beautiful Clara. Take care and I hope to see you guys next year :)

  • http://www.crumbblog.com Isabelle @ Crumb

    I love this post, Courtney. I love it because it says everything I was trying to say in my wrap-up, only better. I think we all walked away from the weekend feeling very much the same – determined to be better people, not just better bloggers.
    It was so wonderful to meet you (and the rest of the Champion clan) this weekend. Your Clara is honestly just the cutest ever. I hope we can meet up again next year!

  • http://www.gastronometart.com Amy

    Now this sounds like my type of blogging get together! I think that one of the main reasons that I never went to any conventions did have something to do with all the craziness that comes with it. Besides, it is supposed to be about the food right? Anyhow, love your pics of Clara and I am super bummed that I never got a chance to meet her. Now that we are back in Bham (not sure for how long) maybe if you come down to visit fam we could get together. I would absolutely love that!

  • http://Www.jerseygirlcooks.com Jersey Girl Cooks

    It was great meeting you and your family! Hope to see you again next year.