The Big Summer Potluck 2011

This past weekend, Mom, Sharon, Erika and I hosted the second annual Big Summer Potluck in Bucks County, PA at our home on Friday night and then at Linden Hill Gardens on Saturday. We were only able to pull it off because of an enormous amount of support from Dad, Andy, Tony and our dear friends, Kirsty and Karen Hughan. It was a truly unforgettable weekend in so many ways.

Yes, the location was gorgeous and the weather was perfect, but something magical happened in that barn.

When choosing speakers, Erika and I always go for what we call our “moon shot” choices. We did it last year and got Alice Currah (of Savory Sweet Life) and this year we decided to ask Penny de los Santos and Shauna Ahern – an award-winning photographer and a celebrated writer. We knew they were both incredibly passionate about their work, but neither Erika nor I were prepared for the impact that their words would have.

As one of the hosts of the event, I didn’t sit in the audience. I stood to one side to be ready to step out if needed, introduce the next speaker or to see raised hands during Q&A sessions. But it also gave me a wonderful vantage point; I could see everyone’s faces. Moments into Penny’s first talk, everyone was dumbstruck. Eyes transfixed, mouths agape. Halfway through Shauna’s talk, it became clear that we weren’t really talking about blogging anymore. This was about life.

SEO? Increasing traffic? Networking? No.

Shauna talked about being vulnerable, real and raw in your writing. About accessing those things inside which you may feel ashamed to admit or things that are important to you but you fear might be mundane to others. It was about taking risk, trusting yourself and expressing your life through words. And how we get to re-live our lives (through food) when we write about it.

From Penny we learned about taking note of life’s many moments. Being present and aware. About “getting past yourself,” getting beyond your insecurities or your fears and just going for it. Breaking down barriers. Penny presented (I believe for the first time) without AV equipment. She couldn’t show us the photos, so she described them. And what a job she did. We used our imaginations; we felt what she felt in those pivotal moments.

To hear these two women talk about their passions was profoundly powerful. It spoke to us about our own lives, far beyond the blog. For me, it lit a fire inside to pursue my passion with even more determination and commitment. There were laughter and tears, there were heartfelt admissions and soulful confessions. And it felt good.

Through the day we ate and drank and talked. We took photos. We shared stories (not business cards) and in the evening we realized we were not the same people who had arrived that morning. We were all friends.

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  1. Pam says

    I was so busy behind the scenes I didn’t get to hear Penny and Shauna’s powerful sessions. I think I needed to hear what they had to say! Maybe they’ll give me a private session? :)

  2. says

    I wish I could have attended this year… It looks like once again, you’ve done a wonderful job. Next year I certainly won’t miss it!

  3. says

    Maggy, you captured it beautifully. As I was reading this, I could feel how I felt back in that barn again when we were all together sharing our thoughts and fears.

    Thank you again and massive shout-out to the whole crew that put it together and made it so we could enjoy ourselves!

  4. says

    From everything I’m reading all over Twitter and everyone’s recaps, it sounds like a wonderful gathering that I definitely must attend next year! =)

  5. says

    It was great to have access to the Twitter stream on all the #BSP2 posts…but to tell you the truth, it made NOT being there a little bit heart breaking. Reading this post makes me like I was there, soaking up all the great Shauna/Penny moments.

    Next year, baby. Next year!

  6. says

    I was so fortunate to be able to be part of this year’s potluck. The speakers were awe-inspiring and I came away with so many life lessons. Thank you, Pam, Sharon and Erika for putting together such a amazing event.

  7. says

    I so want to attend this event next year. Everyone’s recaps have been enthralling. Is there any way to get Shauna and Penny to try and write a recap of their talks so that those of us who couldn’t attend could at least gain from their wisdom? Love the photo of your mom–natural and fun. Thanks for sharing!

  8. says

    Didn’t think that it was actually possible to top the year before…however, I do believe that you did! It was indeed magical. I am so thankful to have attended and for you and your entire lovely, hardworking family! (and Erika too) Thank you for making Yanni feel so welcomed as well. You are good people. Beautiful inside and out.


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