Where is it that we left off? Ah yes, the beginning ;). Little did you know it began with gorgeous new friends like Courtney, Freya, Courtney, and Nikki.
A group of ten or so bloggers/readers and I headed over to the Open Sky Cocktail Party around 6 on Friday. It was a nice little walk and subway ride.
I cannot even express how many wonderful people I met and mingled with that night but I will make a conscious effort to link to all. Please check them out.
Let's see... there were the HLS organizers like Kath and Heather (who immediately recognized me as "Catherine Zeta Jones" from our first meeting, ha), my longtime virtual friends, Jenn and Melissa, newbies to me, Kristie and Shannon, and oldies but goodies, Dierdre and Amelia. Keep in mind the upcoming right picture belongs to Arnold and Orowheat Bread, the bestest sponsors ever.
As the night continued I had my first recognition (hi Jessie, and thanks again for making my night!), the opportunity to meet one of my absolute favorite Canadians, Angela, and bumped into a stellar New Yorker and veggie role model, Gena. Plus, I made many new blends (new term, bloggers + friends = blends, courtesy of Caitlin and via Heather) including Gina, Hillary, Dorry, Val, and many more.
It's a surprise I had a chance to eat at all but I did grab a plate with salad, pita bread and hummus at some point and scarfed it down in between sips of red wine and amazing, amazing, amazing (have I made my point?) conversation.
Of course, what kind of traveler would I be if I let one of my two nights in Chicago end at nine o'clock with most of the others? A sad excuse for a wanderlust twenty-something, that's what. And so Amelia, Deirdre, Shannon and I barhopped our way down the street, making sure to sample brews and wines alike.
By midnight there may or may not have also been some good ol' water and grilled cheese to top it off. You see, I don't do well without a true dinner, whether it be the healthiest of choices or not.
Six hours later, I awoke to an empty hotel room (I won't say again how much I missed my roomie). I was perky still, despite the minimal sleep, and scampered downstairs for a blogalicious breakfast sponsored by Quaker.The spread was lovely but I was too hungry to take any shots of it. Instead, I helped myself to a big bowl of oats, topped 'em with mixed berries, scooped a spoonful of Maranatha Almond Butter and dug right in.
The room buzzed with beautiful men and women typing, tweeting, and photographing away as the Arnold and Oroweat Keynote Speaker, Christine Palumbo, R.D., spoke about nutrition in America.
[The R.D. and I - another Arnold Bread photo]
I'll admit that I was a little bit more than informed about most of what she spoke about--obesity, vegetables, exercise, stress--but I certainly appreciated my one-on-one time with her later that morning. We mainly discussed my nutritional concerns about the upcoming Road Trip USA. She provided some invaluable tips that I will most certainly be sharing soon. I leave in a little more than two weeks!
Please note that I also attended two incredible sessions, Cooking Ethical Meals on the Cheap by Evan and Lin, and Stepping up Your Blog Photography with Nicole. I learned a ton, here's a few highlights:
- Buy your food straight from the source to save money, reduce your carbon footprint, support local farms, and eat yummier foods in season. -Evan
- Whatever your eating preferences, "you shouldn't feel restricted by your diet, you should be liberated by it." - Lin
- Lighting is key in food (and all other types of) photography. Turn your flash off unless absolutely necessary and crank up your camera's ISO in low light. -Nicole
Then lunch time sprung upon us before I had a chance to realize I was hungry again. I wasn't. Still, I couldn't help but partake in the delectable quinoa salad, chickpea salad, green salad, or roasted veggies. Hm, I sense a trend here ;).
Once I finished I table-hopped to touch base with fabulous people from the night before and a couple of new faces before The Ups and Downs of Pressing Publish moderated by the infamous (in a great way) Anne P. with glorious insight from Heather, Julie, Sana, and Andrea. They discussed the issues that are all too familiar to us "healthy living bloggers" but hardly ever spoke of - the pressure to post, the must be healthy anxieties, the blog clicks, and the common bloggie pitfalls. I assume you know what I'm talking about :/.
It was honest yet upbeat and I truly appreciated each and everyone contributions... including the "travel is empowering" chat Sana and I had afterwards. Of course, after that, came even more food. Can you believe it?!
Gracias Athenos for the incredible snack options, they looked very yummy.The official panels ended later with a few words from Gena and Caitlin, Stop Staring Over Your Shoulder, a beyond inspiring reflection by Katie, and Heather's closing remarks. More highlights:
- Although often a positive experience, blogging/reading blogs can have downsides including dangerous food fads, unhealthy superwoman fitness routines, and the self-comparison trap.
- On the flip side, thanks to the Healthy Living Blog community we have surely all tried a handful of less common yet all the while nutritious foods, and have been inspired with daring cooking and healthful eating inspiration.
- I am so thankful. <- One of many moments in which I realized how truly blessed I am to be a part of such an tight knit, supportive, and kind community of strong, sweet, and fun ladies and gents.
It was 5 p.m. at this point and I was beyond exhausted. I should've really headed upstairs, ate a quick snack, and then joined a select group of bloggies for a Chitown Core Fusion Yoga... instead, I drifted off into the most powerful of power naps. Sorry for the missed opportunity, Subway :(. At least I had enough energy to sample local delicacies with Amelia and Deidre as the night continued? With Jenn's recommendations, we straight headed to Lou Malnati's at seven thirty.Following a ridiculously long wait, we all ordered beers as soon as we were seated. Not wanting to drift from the night's theme, I enjoyed a refreshing Goose Island Urban Wheat. Ale. 'Twas Belgian-style, my favorite.
Next came the even better stuff, otherwise known as the "Lou"- fresh spinach mushrooms, and sliced tomatoes covered with a blend of mozzarella, romano and cheddar cheese in a world-famous Chicago deep-dish pizza. Not gonna lie, it was scrumptious, but I'll continue to happily loyal to real pizza from New York ;). In an attempt to lighten the meal, I had a side house salad as well.
I probably should have gone to bed, right then and there, but alas I could not; I had two very special sorority sisters to meet up with: Felicia, a fresh face to the area, and Arielle, a Chicago native. Being together again made it feel as though we were almost in Syracuse again, almost, and it was fantastic. I believe I went to sleep at 3 a.m?.. it took a while to soak up the thrills of Chi-town nightlife ;).For a healthy living blogger, I sure did eat too much, play too much, and beyond loved every single second, morsel, and drop of it. And so, once again, I am thankful. I'm thankful that I had mono two years ago (more about that at a later date) and stumbled across Jenna's blog. I am thankful that I embarked on a year of globetrotting and found my own blogging purpose. I am thankful that I have made invaluable connections with men and women all over the world and have an even more enriched life because of it. And I am thankful that I learned to appreciate myself and discover that I am worth all of the healthy eating habits, feel-good exercise, and positive thoughts now and forever. Thank you to fabulous five that organized the Healthy Living Summit, thank you everyone that came for empowering me with all of your goodness and a special thanks to Ang for baking me the ultimate airport snack as I headed back home with more motivation to live fully and healthfully than ever before.
I will close this ridiculously long post with words from Elizabeth Gilbert...
"When you sense a faint potentiality for happiness after such dark times you must grab onto the ankles of that happiness and not let go until it drags you face-first out of the dirt... this is not selfishness, but obligation." & "In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it's wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices."
I hope to see the movie sometime this week and that Julia Roberts did E,P,L justice. Anyway, take care, my loves. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.