Conference Musings & A Giveaway ❧ Community, Learning, Food & Generosity

Proud member of Food Bloggers of Canada

I’m a proud member of Food Bloggers of Canada, and when I learned they were organizing the first-ever conference for Canadian food bloggers in April, I knew right away I was going to attend. In fact, I adjusted my work schedule to make sure I was among the first members to register. The conference, called FBC2013 for short, was held last weekend and the experience was beyond my expectations.

If you’re a Canadian food blogger, please consider joining FBC if you’re not already a member. They provide many helpful resources and member opportunities each and every week on their website. And, if there’s another conference in future, you won’t want to miss it.

As I reflect on my conference experience, four words encompass what it meant to me: community, learning, food and generosity. And, I was lucky enough to have a bonus experience that I’ll tell you about at the end of this post.

Community

Prior to the conference I had never met a single food blogger in person. While I have some online blogging friends, a different connection forms when you meet people in real life. I have a whole stack of cards on my desk now from people with whom I’ve spoken, eaten and laughed. We’ve shared our dreams for our blogs, had some deep discussions on issues like how much of our personal stories to share, and traded  tips on technical stuff like  search engine optimization (alas, blogging isn’t only about food, you know).

I also had a chance to meet (or at least be in the same room with) some luminaries on the Canadian food scene and beyond who were present to share their knowledge and insights. I hesitate to name names because each and every speaker added so much value to my experience, but to give you a flavour of the event there were Emily Richards, Mairlyn Smith, Dianne Jacob, David LeiteDana McCauley, Adell Shneer, Aimee Wimbush-Bourque and Julie Van Rosendaal, to name just some.

I think triumphing together over adversity also helps build bonds. In true Canadian fashion the conference opened to an April ice storm that disrupted travel and a four-hour power outage at the resort. Yes, these things added stress but were also great ice-breakers (if you’ll pardon the pun) as we all straggled in and met our fellow bloggers in the dim light of back-up power.

I’ve  come away from FBC2013 with new friends and feeling a strong sense of community with my fellow Canadian food bloggers. I’m prouder than ever to have my Canadian identity on my blog.

Learning

Okay, the food was a close second, but learning really did come before the eating. Having the chance to hear panel after panel of respected speakers talking about subjects of keen interest to me was invaluable. I’ve come away with many ideas and resources to improve my writing and technical aspects of the blog, a greater understanding of recipe development, and awareness of some of the sober realities of being a freelance food writer in today’s market (hint: few people get rich doing this).

I learned from every session, but the topics that most spoke to my current needs were:

  • recipe development 101;
  • food photography and styling;
  • blog tech to get and keep visitors;
  • how to write so readers will comment (oh, please do!);
  • how to form an effective partnership with brands;
  • earning a living (or ‘dough’ as we food people like to say) from writing; and,
  • how food writing is changing and future trends in Canadian food blogging.

Food

If you follow me on Twitter (@MusingMar), you may have seen that right after the conference I tweeted: “I wonder what gourmet meal with four wine pairings I’ll be served tonight?” The conference was held at the beautiful Hockley Valley Resort north of Toronto, and the chefs there delivered one amazing meal after another.  The first starter of our first meal was – are you ready for it? – poutine, but, oh, like no poutine I’ve had before. This was gourmet poutine. And believe me, it set the standard for everything else to come.

Respect for Canada’s food producers was evident throughout the event, with an emphasis on Canadian-produced whole foods such as beef, turkey, mushrooms, maple syrup and more. At the two dinners, each course was paired with Ontario wines and each wine was introduced by representatives from their respective vineyards. To hear someone talk about how intensively wine is farmed, how she planted the vines and blends the wine herself , and how the vineyard is affected by the vagaries of weather engenders a new level of respect for what’s in our glass.

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Generosity

Generosity of spirit was pervasive throughout FBC2013. It was definitely among participants who shared a spirit of celebration about being part of this event. The three co-founders of FBC, Melissa Hartfiel, Mardi Michels and Ethan Adeland, worked tirelessly (and perhaps at times tiredly) to put on a stellar conference. Volunteers gave of their time. Presenters freely shared their knowledge and experience during their sessions and over the course of the weekend. Sponsors stepped up with a staggering amount of gifts and prizes. We attendees kept asking each other, “Can you believe it?”

From cookies left on our pillows and handed out at sessions, to a variety of food products including Canadian lentils and a mushroom growing kit, to business cards, books and e-book coupons, to kitchen gadgets and food styling tools, the gifts just kept coming. Kitchen Aid had draws for a stand mixer and attachments, as well as two sets of handheld appliances. Delta Faucet Canada is going to send each participant their choice of a Touch20 Technology faucet. As I wrote about in my last post, here, Nordic Ware sent everyone several pieces of cookware prior to the conference and anyone who reviewed the cookware would be eligible for their grand prize.

And the Winner Is …

Imagine this scene — the Nordic Ware representatives took to the stage to wish attendees well and thank those who wrote reviews of their cookware. Then it was time for the draw –a hand reached into the box and pulled out a folded strip of paper. Another slip clinging to it fell back into the box. The representative unfolded the paper and read into the microphone: Marlene Cornelis, Life Through the Kitchen Window and I realized … that’s me!  I stood and waved to the room and felt such a flush of good fortune. It was a lovely moment, made all the better by the congratulations of my fellow Canadian bloggers throughout the rest of the conference.

I would like to thank Nordic Ware not only for their support of the conference but for their generosity in providing this prize. So, are you curious? You  can see an itemized list of the grand prize in the previous post, but here is a photo of what was delivered to my home last Friday.

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Sharing My Good Luck with a Giveaway

Update May 1, 2013: The Giveaway is now closed. The winner is Sharon! Thanks to everyone who participated.

I’m giving one of my Canadian readers (apologies to those of you from outside Canada) an opportunity to share in my good fortune. One lucky person will receive the Nordic Ware Pro Cast Traditions™ Mini Cocottes (set of two, with a retail value of approximately $58.00).

To enter, please leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your favourite kitchen tool is. You have until midnight EST April 30, 2013 to do so.

For a second chance to enter, please ‘like’ my Facebook page (a link to do so is at the top right of this page) and leave me another comment here telling me you’ve done so. If you’ve already liked it, just leave a comment telling me that.

Only these two entries per per email address allowed.

I will conduct a random draw on Wednesday, May 1 and announce the winner here, as well as follow up with the lucky winner. Good luck!

47 comments

  1. Congrats Marlene, you deserve winning the prizes. Cook and bake up a storm! I’m sure Brent loves eating like a King. Love, Simone

  2. Congrats of your super win Marlene, shame I’m not eligible to enter! I’d love to hear what you more about what you learned from the conference. I’ve never thought to check out whether there is a similar group in Australia.

    • I was sorry to limit the giveaway to Canada only, but I need to study up on the rules to go international! It’s great to find a community of bloggers with whom you can meet; let me know if you find something similar in Australia (or you could start a group!).

    • I didn’t know you were in Canada! It’s nice to know who our fellow bloggers here are. As far as I know there’s no plans yet for the next conference; I don’t know if they will be held annually or not. I do encourage you to check out Food Bloggers of Canada at the link I provided in my post; there’s lot of good resources there and opportunities to interact with other Canadian bloggers.

  3. Such a great recap Marlene. I’m still trying to process everything I learned. What inspiration! Oh, my fav kitchen tool is my micro planer. So useful, especially when you’re addicted to lemon curd!

    • I’m sorry we didn’t connect at FBC – I would like to have met everyone personally but it was so busy! If they do another one, I hope it’s on either the East or West coast; I’d love to travel to other parts of Canada. I love my micro planer too. Mine’s a Cuisipro and it’s so handy. Great for zesting and for mincing garlic too. I’ve noted your entry for the giveaway!

  4. What a great review of the weekend! I was a fantastic learning experience for all of us.

    It was absolutely wonderful meeting you Marlene. I enjoyed our conversations throughout the weekend very much. And running into you at Starbucks was pretty cool. Just think, had that been 4 days earlier we would have been strangers.

    I look forward to following your blog.

    • It was such a pleasure to meet you too, Redawna. You inspire me! It was fun to see you walk into that Starbucks. Who knows, next time I’m in Calgary maybe I’ll be able to head your way and we can meet for coffee there! I’m looking forward to following your blog too. I hate that I haven’t been able to keep up with my reading, commenting, tweeting etc lately, but both my wrists have been messed up lately. My break has paid off though; I can spend some time on the computer again as long as I don’t overdo it. I will be so glad when I can resume my normal activity!

    • I’m really enjoying the brasier too, Deanna. I saw that a fellow blogger made a spatchcocked chicken in it, and also someone (maybe the same person, the Brunette Baker) made a cake in it! Goes to show it pays to think outside the box about our kitchen tools! Thanks for liking my Facebook page; I’m putting two entries for you into the giveaway draw!

    • I would love to do an international giveaway sometime, but I thought I’d start local especially since I received this cookware due to my membership in Food Bloggers of Canada. Over the moon is a good way to describe how I felt when they announced my name!

  5. The conference sounds amazing – a few bloggers I follow on Twitter have also been sharing their experiences there. I’m definitely going to look into becoming a FBC member 🙂

    I live in BC and would love to enter your contest! I’d have to say my favourite kitchen tool – or piece of ware, really – is my vintage Le Creuset covered casserole dish. I use it every day of the week, without fail. It’s a real work horse 🙂

    • Hannah, I recommend you join FBC – it’s a great group for Canadian bloggers! I have some Le Creuset mini cocottes, but I’d love to have a bigger piece too. I’ve been eyeing some at my favourite kitchen store, but haven’t taken the plunge yet (waiting for my wrist to heal so I can pick it up 😊). I’ve entered your name into the list for the draw!

  6. Sounds like it was a great event to attend, Mar, and winning such a nice prize was icing on the cake. Generous of you to share the wealth with a give-away. Good luck to the participants!

    • It was a fabulous event, John. Have you ever been to a bloggers’ conference? I especially enjoyed the sense of community. It counteracts all that time spent in front of the computer screen! So nice of you to wish the giveaway participants good luck, especially when you’re not eligible to enter (sorry about that!).

      I’m hoping to catch up with my blog reading soon. I feel bad I haven’t been out there reading, commenting, etc but I’ve been taking a break from the computer and other devices because of a flare up with my right wrist – it’s been doing double duty since I broke the left one. Thank goodness it’s coming along nicely; I’d like to get back to my normal activities! (I’m trying to ease back in and not overdo it today 😊).

  7. my favorite kitchen tool is my pampered chef little circular whip – I love it cuz it whips up so that no powder is stuck in the bottom of the cup, glass, or bowl of liquid – I always choose to use it over the other type 🙂

    • That sounds like a great tool, Anne. I should look into getting one! Thanks for the Facebook like too – I’m putting you down for two entries into the giveaway!

    • I agree, Marisa, sharp knives are essential! I love my KitchenAid mixer too. I’ve had it for about 14 years and it’s still going strong. I’ve put your name in the draw for the giveaway!

  8. Hi Marlene,
    How wonderful that you are “playing your luck forward! Love to enter the contest..
    My favourite kitchen tool is my iPhone for researching meal ideas, tracking grocery items for ingredients, quick conversions (metric/Imperial measures), all the different good apps, discovering new ways to present food for eye appeal & special occasions (Pinterest) and of course,right here for tasty recipes! Don’t get me wrong, I still love my cook books but the portability, anytime availability, is so easy. Makes me sound like an unintentional Apple commercial 🙂

    • Nice to hear from you, Sharon! I love my iPhone too – I’ve been known to look up recipes while I’m at the market, when I get inspired to make something and want to make sure I know all the ingredients! I’m entering you into the draw now.

    • Thanks for stopping by Life Through the Kitchen Window, Carmen! I agree, knives and spatulas are indispensable. Thanks also for the FB like. I’ve entered you twice for the draw.

  9. Nice to have discovered your blog! And to have done it with this post. My favourite kitchen tool is kitchen scissors. I don’t know what I would do without them. They are great for ripping at my apple pie crust and creating that rustic look. They are great for breaking pieces of kitchen off when the roast come out of the oven. They are great for trimming. They are great for cutting bread into nice sized cubes. They are just so useful!!

    • I’m glad you found my blog, Mojgan! Wow, I haven’t thought of all those uses for my kitchen scissors; thanks for the ideas! I’ve entered you into the draw.

  10. What a great blog! And how nice to stumble upon it with this post.

    My favourite kitchen tool is a pair of kitchen scissors. They are great for ripping at my apple pie crust to create that rustic look. They are perfect for trimming, and for cutting bread into perfectly shaped squares. They are handy when I want to cut pieces of chicken off the roast. They are just so easy to use!

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