Happy Saturday! I am glad the weekend is here and I have a little down time to wrap up my awesome Vida Vegan Con experience last weekend in Austin, TX. I’m still going through all the blog business cards and information I collected and trying to figure out how to use all the fun stickers I got.
By Sunday, all the rich eating, drinking, and fun was catching up to me a bit and I did not make it to the hotel gym before heading to the conference for the day. It was nice to relax a little in the hotel room, do a little writing, and enjoy coffee before leaving. I tried to go a little lighter for the breakfast buffet when I did arrive with lots of kale, but the re-fried beans, tofu scramble, hash browns, and coconut bacon looked too delicious especially topped with salsa and sriracha.
And I sat with a new group of people during breakfast and had a lovely time chatting and learning about more blogs.
I had a really hard time deciding on sessions for the day because they all looked great, it was a tough decision for the first session between Exploits of a Veganpreneur with Miyoko Schinner, which I heard was amazing, and Avenues to a Vegan Health Care Career with Gena Hamshaw of Choosing Raw. I ended up picking Gena’s session because I really wanted to hear her speak and see her in person since her blog has been such an inspiration to me. Honestly I have no intention of a health care career and the session cemented that for me which is a good thing too.
But it was great to hear her speak about her life, what motivates her, and the challenges she’s faced taking on this massive career change. She’s very well-spoken, energetic, and just seems like an overall happy, sweet, and positive person. And I admire the challenges she’s taken on to take her inspirational vegan career to the health care level – wow! The educational takeaway from the session was that getting an online clinical nutrition degree is a good option to take your blog writing farther that does not require a huge time and financial commitment.
The next session I attended was Beyond Protein: Vegan Athletes Panel with Terry Hope Romero, Lacy J. Davis of Super Strength Health, Christy Morgan of The Blissful Chef, and Matt Ruscigno of True Love Health.
I came away with a ton of notes from this session and thoroughly enjoyed it and the women’s view on health, fitness, and body image. The highlights:
- Don’t be obsessed with body image and use diet and exercise to be healthy.
- View exercise as training for life, to be functional, healthy, and energetic for whatever you want to do with your life.
- Feel free to enjoy good foods in moderation and not over restrict.
- The old 1,200 a calorie a day standard to be fit for women is complete BS and should die.
- Matt had a funny bit about never considering himself an athlete or being into “jock sh*t”, just a guy who likes skateboarding and having fun and being healthy to have fun and do crazy stuff.
- The women of the panel all agreed that getting into weight lifting and body building has really helped their confidence by thinking of their bodies as being strong and capable versus super thin.
- They all had interesting views of combating the paleo heavy meat trend currently in the fitness world and tips to positively steer it to a plant-based paleo recommendations.
- There was also an interesting discussion on yoga and most of us agreed we have a love/hate relationship with it. One women in the audience expressed that she wants to love it, but hates it, and asked how to get over that. I feel the same way, I like it and really see the benefits in strength training, stretching, and meditation in yoga, but am having trouble adding it into my current routine with the time I have and justifying the costs to go to a nice yoga studio.
- They all agreed that it’s important to not relate food to fitness, calories to activity, etc. And brought up the term “hangry” to describe when people over exercise while not eating enough and get a little cranky.
Great session and again I really enjoyed listening to vegan women who have been through many stages in their fitness level and dealing with body image challenges and how they view food.
The next session I did was Breathe New Life into Your Writing with Grant Butler of The Orgonian which was also invigorating and inspiring. I know my writing skills could always use improvement and it was really nice hearing from an experienced vegan writer with an established professional career. His presentation was very well-structured with clear slides and entertaining examples and stories to go with it, very engaging. The highlights include:
- Great tips for constantly feeding your brain and recommending other great food authors to read including James Beard, Julia Child, Mollie Katzen, and Isa Chandra Moskowitz. And other great authors in other topics such as comedy, etc.
- Always look for new content ideas in the world around you, be present. Kind of tough when you’re balancing a powerful social media presence too!
- Talk to strangers and new people and look for inspiration in unusual places like 20+ year old magazines.
- Rediscover and focus on your voice, write like you talk.
- Know your audience.
- Have a mission statement for your writing.
So much great info on enhancing writing skills and he gave us all his contact information so we could get support if needed, what a guy!
And I was ready for lunch after it. This time I tried to assemble a high raw taco salad for lunch with greens, raw walnut pate, hemp seeds, spicy kimchi, cashew nacho cheese sauce, and more sriracha. It wasn’t pretty, but it was delicious!
And so was dessert, blood orange tapioca with crystallized ginger – yum!
The next session I attended was On-Location Photography with Hannah Kaminsky of BitterSweet. And wow, she is quite the professional photographer! The session focused on optimizing DSLR photography on-site at restaurants, festivals, etc. which lighting, positioning, and equipment. Very informative if you’re doing professional grade restaurant reviews.
Then it was Vegan, Body Image, Self-Esteem, Eating Disorder Recovery, and How Blogging & Reading Blogs Can Influence All of the Above with Lacy J. Davis again of Super Strength Health. Yes, she was going for the longest session title, I’m exhausted after typing that! It was a great and casual session where Lacy just openly talked about her history with diet and body image and a lot of great discussion among the attendees. The highlights:
- Don’t let diet and exercise interfere with interacting with friends, experiences, and living.
- Blogs can be a negative influence for food and diet if too focused on fitness, diet, food restricting, and making life look too perfect. She had stories of finding acceptance in food blogs while battling her own eating disorders and recognizes that now as unhealthy.
- Careful not to let comments/compliments validate negative behavior like excessive weight loss.
- Never compare yourself to others, own who you are and rock it.
- She made a great point that eating disorders are always there, always with people, and we need to decide to be happy and not let them make us “weird”.
Overall a great session with great discussion from other bloggers. Lacy seems like a really fun and confident down to earth person and I’m looking forward to following her podcast too, Rise and Resist. A great quote of hers is that the term “clean” needs to go away when describing food, but should describe underwear.
Then it was snack time where beautiful plates of fresh fruit and insanely huge and pretty vegan cookies from Capital City Bakery were put out. I was still pretty full from lunch and opted for fruit, but the cookies looked amazing and I ended up taking two back to our hotel room to share with hubby later.
The final session I attended was also a good one and a great opportunity for me to see another great vegan blogger in person. It was Ethics of Vegan Dining & Boozing with Bianca Phillips of Vegan Crunk. This was also a casual session that became more of a discussion among vegans of how strict they are when eating and drinking out. And the opinions varied a lot! One guy was very open about being careful, but not overly demanding or high maintenance when eating out with non-vegan friends because he didn’t want to make the vegan lifestyle seem too difficult or annoying, so he would not overly obsess about if something “might” have butter in it, etc. Others were more extreme and not afraid to grill the server in front of groups. I’m somewhere in between and thankfully this area is pretty vegan friendly for dining out, but things can get tricky if you’re “stuck” going to an office party at a steak house and trying to figure out which sides are vegan.
I heard a lot of challenging stories from vegans living in more rural areas, one lady had a server report her to the manager for being too difficult because she asked three questions about a menu item in a rural town. Yikes! But the overall consensus was things keep getting better for those following a plant-based diet everywhere.
Alcohol is another story and I have problems here too, it’s tough to know what beers and wines are vegan friendly when eating out if they’re not listed on Barnivore and there are so many smaller scale local vineyards and breweries now that aren’t and are challenging to find information on. Lots of great discussion here too, but most seem to agree that we try to find out first and not overly stress about it if information is not available. But there is a lot of room for improvement, I wish more vineyards and breweries put vegan-friendly status on their websites and labels. Hopefully that will be the standard soon as we show demand for it.
We then moved into the main dining room again for the final farewell session and it was an emotional one since this is the last official Vida Vegan Con and many attendees have been to all three and gained so much from them. It was my first one and I was sad not knowing if and when the next one will be! But there is a lot of talk about passionate vegans keeping the conference alive and bringing it back next year with new organizers, so I’m hopeful!
Since the weather was nice, hubby and I did make it to Sunday’s after party at Cheer Up Charlies and Arlo’s. It was located about a mile from our hotel and a great opportunity to walk through the capital, so we walked to it.
One thing about conference after parties is they’re always crowded when the poor business gets crashed with tons of unexpected business. The line to order food at Arlo’s was out into the parking lot and I waited in it for over 30 minutes just to order food!
Hubby held a sitting area for us on the patio while I waited and snapped a picture of me waiting, lol.
But it wasn’t bad, I got to chat and swap cards with more bloggers and I was assured the food would be worth the wait and it was! I ordered the vegan Bac’n Cheeze Burger, tots, and Street Tacos with house made veggie crumbles for us to share.
The burger was amazing, I got one bite of it before hubby made the rest disappear which was fine because he’s more of the burger fan. But he said it was one of the best burgers he’s ever had which is huge! I made short work of the street tacos which were perfect for me loaded with greens and a spicy sauce, the texture of the veggie crumbles were hearty and very satisfying.
After we had cocktails and checked out the photography shenanigans on the patio with bloggers taking silly photos for social media of course.
Again, sorry, I didn’t do a silly photo. But I did enjoy the walk back and the beautiful view of the lit up capital.
Monday morning I did make it back to the hotel gym before packing up our loot and heading to the airport. I must say the Austin airport is great, nice and new while not being overly huge and very easy to navigate. Our flights back to Sacramento were pleasant. But I did watch Cowspiracy on them and more on that later!
The pups were very happy when we picked them up from my mom’s house, Miko was determined not to let my mom’s dog claim hubby’s lap.
It was a fabulous trip and I’m so glad we went, I really enjoyed learning, meeting new bloggers, getting out of our comfort zones, and the incredible sense of community I had with a bunch of strangers I’ve never met before.
Other random observations:
- I’m glad I stuffed a duffle bag into my suitcase to load up with loot and check separately for the flights home.
- Lots of bloggers are using Periscope now, I’m still trying to figure it out.
- Not many bloggers use DSLR cameras at events now because smart phone cameras have gotten so good and offer instant social media options. I saw lots of bloggers with the iPhone 6+ for the better camera and tablet usage. Not sure I could have a phone that big as my primary phone!
- I had a great time checking out the vegan fashion of other bloggers, lots of Sanuk shoes, Susan Nichole purses, Gunas bags, and Herbivore tops.