Meet, Greet, and Eat

by Gena on March 27, 2011

Happy Sunday Eve! I’m neck deep in calculus midterm studies right now (Daphna, to answer your question, Columbia requires cacl 1+2 as a pre-req, but I’ll email you more of the details), and the only reason they’re not bringing me down is because the last week was filled with so much quality time with blog friends.

“Blog friends.” It’s a peculiar expression, isn’t it? I don’t typically designate the provenance of my friends, so I’m not sure why I do it when I talk about the people I’ve become close to through blogging. At the risk of sounding cutely contemporary, I happen to think that relationships that form online—be they platonic, professional, or romantic—often have the potential to be deeper and more meaningful than relationships that form through the normal course of socializing. After all, people who cross paths online usually do so because of a shared interest, hobby, or even a world view (for example, the many vegans who meet and share ideas in the ether). There’s no replacing the value of real world interaction, but the internet happens to be a wonderful place to identify and cultivate relationships that have a foundation of commonality—a foundation that transfers nicely into waking life.

It’s hard for me to describe the rich and supportive blogging community to people who don’t blog or read blogs. How can I do justice to the remarkable generosity that near strangers extend to each other every day in the blog world? Or—more difficult still—how do I explain the surprising intensity of friendships that form from these exchanges? It all sounds a little implausible to skeptical ears, I’m sure, but any blogger who has made a even one close friendship through blogging—and most of us have made many–knows what I’m talking about. When we bloggers do finally meet in person, we feel as though we’re meeting an old and dear friend; greetings always come in the form of hugs, and conversation ignites with no effort at all.

This week, I was lucky enough to see some of my closest friends from the blogosphere, and have meet a few others for the first time. It all began on Tuesday, when I met up with this girl for dinner:

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That is Melissa, the woman who started it all: Melissa was the first blogger I ever wrote an unsolicited email to (as a fan). She was the first blogger I ever met in person (over a ridiculously fun dinner at Caravan of Dreams). And she was the woman who actually persuaded me to start a blog. For the record, I argued with her for about a year; I kept insisting that I didn’t have the writing skill, the time, or anything to say. (If nothing else, time has proven that I was wrong about that last bit!) When I did start blogging, she was the person who helped me pick out a blog URL; who saw my site before it went live; who sat next to me at my first bloggers summit, and so on.

Melissa and I have spent New Year’s Eve lounging on her sofa—all dressed up, with no intention of going anywhere at all. We’ve worked out together, cooked together, and survived NYC-Boston bus rides together. We’ve counseled each other through relationship ups and downs. We’ve vented about professional stress, traded thoughts about career direction, and supported each other with health advice. In short, there’s not much we haven’t experienced as friends. Blogging brought us together, but at this point, it’s easy to forget that either of us write a blog when we sit down to eat.

Except, of course, for the fact that we both take pictures of our food.

Mel and I had dinner at Peacefood Café, where I ordered my standard: the fluffy quinoa salad (quinoa, greens, avocado, corn, peppers) and a side order of roasted kabocha squash:

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Two and a half hours later, neither of us wanted dinner to end. It did, but there will be another very soon!

If dinner with Mel wasn’t fun enough, I was treated to a meal with a blogger I haven’t yet met only a few days later. On Thursday night, my friend Bitt and her husband, Chris, were in NYC, and we arranged to have dinner.

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Bitt is one of the bloggers I admire most. She’s kind and thoughtful, but she’s also whip smart, funny, and will not suffer fools gladly. She’s one of the more committed vegans I know, and she’s taught me so much about compassion. Bitt knows how to educate and provoke thought without preaching or losing her cool; I’ve seen how deftly she manages to outspokenly defend animals without coming across as vitriolic, and I truly respect it.

Raw food lovers that we are, Bitt and I used our meetup as an excuse to hit up one of my favorite raw vegan joints in NYC: Bonobos. As usual, I was all over their kale salad.  Instead of ordering my customary soup, though, I opted for one of the incredible raw nori rolls: walnut pate, sprouts, peppers, carrots, and beets stuffed into a sheet of untoasted nori, and served with a basil dressing. It was fantastic!

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Eating at Bonobo’s makes me so, so happy! It’s as if someone entered my own kitchen, and decided to prepare exactly the kind of food I love for me. To make matters better, my company was ideal: Chris and Bitt were every bit as smart, witty, and warm as I knew they would be. I hope they’ll be in NYC or DC again soon, and I also want to visit them in Seattle, if they’ll have me. It’ll be all raw food and laughter, all the time.

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On Friday morning, after a long and hard week, I made my way down to DC for my customary weekend visit. I’m always excited to be with M, but my bus ride went a lot quicker this time because I knew I’d be seeing some of my favorite bloggers, who had convened in DC for the national half marathon. If anyone’s been wondering what #bloggersinvadedc is all about, this was it:

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I have to take a moment to share my pride for Anne, who beat her PR by a whole 13 minutes. EPIC!

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And I’m mad proud of the prince of the blog world, Evan, who is now officially a marathon finisher. No less than an hour after this boy crushed the finish line at 26.2 miles, he was every bit as witty and adorable in person as he is online:

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Finally, I’m proud of Sana, for not only rocking her 5K, but for being unashamed to talk about peeing in her pants in a public restaurant. Woman, I thought I was uncensored.

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Sana, Anne, Evan and I met in Dupont after the race for a small bloggie lunch. In attendance was a blogger I’ve been waiting to meet for a long time: my friend Matt! You all may remember Mr. No Meat Athlete from his recent guest post on CR. Matt balances life as a PhD student, new dad, blogger, ultrarunner, and fledgling businessman with ease and grace, and he dreams big, just like me. It was so good to finally say hi, and even more apropos because this is Matt’s first week as an (official) vegan. I’ve known that this was in the cards for Matt for a long time, and I’m so proud that he’s finally taken a calm, confident leap.

You can imagine my delight when the exhausted runners wanted nothing more than to feast on…salad. Yes, salad. I love enlightened athletes. We met up at Sweetgreen, where we devoured a few giant bowls of leafy stuff. My mix was avocado, carrots, chickpeas, spinach, romaine, squash, olive oil, lemon, and salt:

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Time flies when you’re having the best time ever. A few hours later, we were still gabbing away about life, blogging, food, fitness, and our mutual friends. Of course, savvy bloggers that we are, we took a time out to torture the table next to us ask a nice man at the table next to us to take a photo of us all. On four different cameras.

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That’s Sana, Evan, Matt, Anne, and me. Aren’t Anne and I a cute couple? Look at us, playing with cameras:

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Whenever Anne and I hang out, it feels as though no time has been lost. I adore her, plain and simple.

There is no more rewarding or meaningful part of being a blogger than the friendships you take away. I am so grateful for the awesome women and men I’ve met because of CR, and the kindness and generosity they’ve showed me. I <3 you all. (Sidenote: did you know that “<3” just got added to the OED? Along with OMG, muffin top, and TMI. Nice.)

Before I go, I thought it would be cute to share a cell phone pick that another dear blogger friend, Diana, sent me a few days ago. It’s me at Bonobo’s, and it was taken when she and I had lunch with Sophia in August.

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It’s weird: I look at that photo and think about how, at the time, I hadn’t yet decided to dedicate my life to health care, and I wasn’t in love, and I had no idea what stochiometry was. A whole lot has changed in the last eight months.

But I guess my love of raw kale salad has remained.

xo

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Debra March 27, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Thanks for sharing.. All the food looks amazing!!
Blessings, Debra
Raw Vegan Diet

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Valerie @ City|Life|Eats March 27, 2011 at 11:42 pm

What fun :) I love reading about bloggy meetups :) I agree – non-bloggers don’t always understand how quickly friendships can form between bloggers. I have this whole idea that blogging is the modern form of letter-writing and penpals – I started thinking that when I read Julia Child’s My Life in France – i.e. how she became friends with Avis de Soto through exchanging letters, and how Paul Child would write detailed letters to family, complete with drawings – letters that seemed meant to be shared with more than the single recipient, to serve as a chronicle. Anyways, i have a half-written post about this somewhere that I really ought to finish. Also, I really ought go to sleep – doing more work can wait to tomorrow.

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Erika @ Health and Happiness in LA March 27, 2011 at 11:44 pm

It’s awesome how many great friends you’ve made through blogging! And wow, what a great 8 months it’s been in your life. I’m so happy for you. =)

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Hannah March 27, 2011 at 11:50 pm

Gena, this post could’ve come straight from my heart. I agree completely. Some of my closest friends at the moment are my “blog” friends, some of whom I’ve recently met in real life (and connected just as strongly with) and others with whom I communicate via email and skype but are no less close to me beacuse of that. In fact, I engage more, and share more with, my blog friends that many of my friends in the same city for, as you say, we’re connected by shared values, interests, passions and, more often than not, laughter and true care for each other.

It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t made the same connections. Usually, I don’t try to convince them, and instead cuddle my blogfriends close in my heart, as a little bit of a secret from the rest of the world that refuses to understand :)

Oops, that might have been a bit of a self-indulgent ramble! Be sure of the fact that I also want your delicious eats ;)

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Chelsea March 28, 2011 at 12:21 am

The blogger world is truly one of the most magical <3 I love all of the friendships I have acquired. They're so much more meaningful than my 1,000 facebook "friends". I hope to one day meet all of my blogger friends. I know we're having a Bendoeslife 5k in my city and I'm so psyched for that as is <3 (that's the tumblr blog version I guess of the bloggersinvadedc haha!

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Larissa March 28, 2011 at 12:39 am

I know exactly what you mean by blogs/bloggers becoming friends. I recently switched browsers and thought I had transferred my entire RSS feed, BUT I’D LOST YOUR BLOG! I LOVE your blog and felt lost without it. For the life of me I couldn’t remember the name (I thought it had vegan something in the title…WRONG!) BUT I remembered your sweet potato hummus and I thought no one else would have blogged on that…voila! I found Choosing Raw again and even shouted out the back window to my husband who was gardening that I found “my blog” again! I was so happy.

Now to add to that. I’ve been low dairy for years, I’ve been vegetarian (no dairy) since Oct ’10 and I’ve decided to be vegan this very week! I’ve also added cross training to my exercise program and am excited to hear about the No Meat Athlete! I shall go check out his blog and the fact that he too has decided to go vegan!

I appologise for all the exclamation marks, but I’m truly this excited about it all. I live in a sheet/wheat farming area where a vegetarian is pretty close to an alien, so blogs are a major support and great source of inspiration. :O)

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Larissa March 28, 2011 at 12:41 am

sheeP/wheat not sheet! lol

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Emma (Namaste Everyday) March 28, 2011 at 4:14 am

I am new to the blog world and excited to see what friendships form. I’m shocked by the fast-paced positivity and support that goes around here. It’ll help as I began by journey into veganism!

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Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) March 28, 2011 at 4:53 am

Wow, Gena. What a great meetup post!!! Are you sure you’re not organizing a meetup dot com group for blogger meetups? kidding :) Seriously tho..amazing!

I read all the blogs of the bloggers you met and posted about, some more than others, but I read them all. I would love to meet them all in person! Even though I was at Food Buzz and met tons of bloggers, I would love to meet less people in more intimate settings and have things better planned, as you have done with all these great meetups.

I love my blog friends (you’re right, no need to really qualify them as ‘blog’ friends) but they are REAL friends to me. I post about this every couple months b/c the bonds ive made with them just continue to intensify and grow and I am closer to my ‘blog friends’ than many ‘real life’ friends and family!

I love the power of connecting via blogs b/c when you do, it is sooo powerful b/c of all the commonality shared.

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VeggieGirl March 28, 2011 at 5:06 am

Great meet-up group!! And Gena, I’m loving your new ‘do.

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veganlisa March 28, 2011 at 5:42 am

A beautiful post Gena.

Like you, I feel so blessed by how blogging has impacted my life. I have connected with so many amazing, inspiring people. I’m glad you had the chance to meet and hug a few of those special folks in person.

I think you and I need to convince Bitt to join us in PDX this August. It won’t the same without her.

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JL goes Vegan March 28, 2011 at 6:11 am

Loved seeing you all in this post! Honestly, with as much time as I spend reading blogs, I really do feel like I know so many, without ever meeting them. Slowly I am meeting folks (we had a nice meet-up of bloggers in NYC Saturday) and finding them as wonderful in conversation as they are on their blogs.

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Heather @ Health, Happiness, and Hope March 28, 2011 at 6:22 am

This is such a wonderful post! I completely agree that the blogging world has the potential to find within it the most amazing friends. We all share so many similar passions and truly enjoy reading each other’s daily thoughts and words.

Sounds like a fantastic weekend, and good luck on that Calculus!

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Anne P March 28, 2011 at 7:00 am

Love this post, and love you! So wonderful to see you again this weekend, my dear.

xo :)

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Elizabeth@The Sweet Life March 28, 2011 at 7:06 am

what a fun few days you’ve had! i adore peacefoods cafe.

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Ian March 28, 2011 at 7:18 am

Sounds like you had an awesome time! It’s very exciting to hear Matt’s going vegan :) I always run races in the shirt I bought from him.

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Emily Malone March 28, 2011 at 7:19 am

Sad we missed each other this weekend, and crossing my fingers to hang out in DC SOON! PS – I am LOVING your curly hair. Too cute.

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Hannah March 28, 2011 at 7:40 am

Aww this was such a sweet post, Gena! I met a friend through my blog and I’m so thankful to be friends with her now. It’s so amazing how the Internet can bring people together.

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Lauren March 28, 2011 at 8:18 am

Awesome post! I’m so jealous you got to meet Bitt! I couldn’t make it to the city to meet up! Bummer! Hopefully next time! :) anyway, love your hair curly, sexy lady! :)

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Evan Thomas March 28, 2011 at 8:35 am

So now I’ve been called the king, prince, and princess. A few more titles and I’ll have a straight flush :-)
I’m so so glad that you were able to come down this weekend. That lunch was serious motivation for me to hurry up and finish.
And I can’t believe this was your first time meeting Matt! Mine, too! Didn’t you just want to jump all over him? #Nojustkiddingbutreally

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Christina March 28, 2011 at 9:47 am

Well thank goodness your wonderful friend Melissa persuaded you to start a blog! I’m jealous I wasn’t able to go to DC and chat with you all but you guys look like you had an amazing time! So happy for you all!

Oh and the OED, I heard about this last week and it truly is sad. I think it just goes to show us how our society is moving in a, I’ll be nice, strange direction.

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Melissa @ TryingToHeal March 28, 2011 at 9:56 am

ah, what a great food and blog friend filled weekend!!

i miss you much blog friend!!!

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Katie @ Nourishing Flourishing March 28, 2011 at 10:42 am

I totally <3 this post.

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leslie March 28, 2011 at 10:59 am

i love this post, gena. (as i’ve loved several of your recent posts that i’ve had no time to comment on!) but i agree that the number one takeaway i’ve gotten from blogging are the true, close friendships i’ve made. i was talking to my sister this weekend about my sunday evening plans, and i mentioned i was going out for dinner and drinks with my “blog friends.” her response was, “your blog friends? aren’t they just your friends?” and i had to smile because, duh. they certainly are.

i think, considering the amount of time we all spend online these days, there isn’t anything strange about forming relationships online and moving them into real life. it makes sense – this is a digital age, so of course we seek human connection through the digital realm. it’s human nature, and i’m glad it’s brought me some great girlfriends. (my track record with online dating, on the other hand, has not been so successful. sigh.)

unrelated: i adore your hair in its natural curly state. i know i’m a hypocrite since i am currently addicted to my flatiron, but the soft curls really suit you. :)

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Gracie March 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Hey Gena,

I know this question isn’t related to your post but I am just so curious I don’t care! I was wondering if you’ve read Alicia Silverstone’s book, The Kind Diet. If yes, what do you think about it? If not, I highly recommend checking it out, its very interesting! :) -gracie

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Gena March 28, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Love her animal friendly ethos, and great recipes! The macrobiotic thing is a little out of step with my own eating habits, but I really appreciate the positive message.

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Stephanie March 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Cute wrap-up! What a whirlwind 8 months it’s been for you! It sounds you are loving your decision though and I couldn’t be happier for you. Also, I recently discovered Anne from a guestpost on another site. She’s fantastic. I’ve added her to my regular reading schedule. I didn’t know the two of you were friends…but of course my favorite blogger would love Anne! I love seeing who knows who in the blog world.

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Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine March 28, 2011 at 1:49 pm

I love blends. My real life friends are amazing too, but I adore that through blogging I’ve just “clicked” with so many people. I so wish I had been in DC this weekend- every recap I’ve read has made it look like such a fun whirlwind of a weekend!

Bonobo’s!! Completely forgot that it’s on my list of places to try in the city. There’s definitely no shortage of good vegan restaurants here, that’s for sure…

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bitt March 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm

So glad we found a time to meet up! It was such a pleasure to meet you. I was so impressed you polished off all those greens.

I love that through blogging I can find people in any city that I go to and feel as if I have friends all over the world.

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Gena March 28, 2011 at 10:30 pm

I’m not kidding when I talk about my ability to crush a plate of green leafies. It’s intense.

<3

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Ada March 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Hooray for meet-ups! That picture of you and Anne is adorable:) We definitely have to grab a bite together sometime soon. I went to Peacefood Saturday night and my friend raved about the quinoa salad.

Hope your midterms are going well and that you’re not too stressed!

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Sana March 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Yay! I love love loveeee your personality, thanks for taking the time to meet me and listen to my pee stories!

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Gena March 28, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Fixing link! And so fun to meet!

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Sana March 28, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Oops, that is the wrong URL to my blog: http://www.supersana.com bad to da boneeeee!

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Kate March 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Gena, this was such a sweet post! And I smiled at the line about stoichiometry.

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elise March 28, 2011 at 4:14 pm

oh how stoichiometry changes things…haha

i love reading about your blogger dates. its funny how effortless it is meeting people you only really know virtually and how friendships can blossom from them and turn into genuine relationships.
ps good luck on midterms!

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Tawney (Raw and Exposed) March 28, 2011 at 4:43 pm

You’ve got a great network of people to share your knowledge and passion with. The internet can be a wonderful thing, especially seeing how many of these relationships are fostered in a virtual setting.

I live in a small town with no vegetarian or vegan restaurants, and many of the restaurants have a heavy focus on meat and dairy. I am new to the blog world, so no blogger friends yet (sigh!). And, I am starting to hold potluck dinners to encourage my friends into exploring raw and vegan food, but unfortunately time limits these opportunities. So, I live vicariously through some of your restaurant explorations, and am voraciously reading blog entries (thanks for pointing some great ones out). I feel a fun sense of connection though by trying out many of your great recipes. It gives a sense of dining with a common community knowing that other people are chowing down on your recipes as well.

Thanks for creating this system of connection and support!

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Ela March 28, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Awesome post! You say it so _well_! I think you’re right on about the validity of relationships formed over the ether and the meaningful connections that underlie them. I just cheered along with you, reading this.

Of course, living in as remote an area as I do, I am thankful for the proximity that comes from the internet–but there was a slight twinge of envy at all the meetups you got to enjoy, with such a radiant group of people (including some of my favorite bloggers and some others that I’ll have to check out).
love
Ela

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jenika March 28, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Aww Gena, your observation about that last photo made me smile :)
Good luck with your midterm!

Also, on an unrelated note…my life has changed for the better ever since I discovered massaged kale salad, and that’s thanks to your blog!

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Jen March 28, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Gena, if you’re ever in Los Angeles, I would LOVE to meet you. Even though I am no longer vegan, and have never been a raw foodist, you inspire me so much solely with your positive attitude toward life and your approach to health. You come off as not only knowledgeable, but really philosophic as well. I love reading your posts! Seeing my name on your list of new blogs has really motivated me to stick with blogging! So thank you. Oh, and that fluffy quinoa salad looks delicious. :)

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Gena March 28, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Jen,

I was just promising Sophia, below, that I’d come out to LA! Two of my best friends live out there, so I’m overdue. Soon.

G

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tweal March 28, 2011 at 7:00 pm

What fun times you’ve had with fellow bloggers! It’s true that great connections can be made online – I think the stigma of online relationships is slowly fading. I’ve not been lucky enough to really connect or meet up with any bloggers yet but I’d love to. If anyone comes to Ottawa and needs a tour, I can help!!

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Mimi (Gingersnaps) March 28, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Blogger meetups are the best! Definitely some of my favorite times in London!

Gah, if I’m up in NYC this summer, I want to visit some of these nice places!

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sophia March 28, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Reading this post makes me miss you. A lot. Please come visit Los Angeles, Gena. I promise you I’ll take you to all the vegan places around here. :-)

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Gena March 28, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Aww, Sophia. I miss you, too. I promise I’m at work on this!

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BroccoliHut March 28, 2011 at 10:36 pm

So many of my favorite bloggers in one place! Looks like a fun meet-up!

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Emma (ecoprincess) March 29, 2011 at 4:10 am

Aww your blogger meet ups look like so much fun! I sometimes wish I lived in the US so I could have more chance to meet up with bloggers too! Also, I’m loving your curly hair! Very cute =)

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Matt March 30, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Great to finally meet you, Gena! I’m looking forward to hanging out again at Great Sage.

I actually think what you said about online friendships is dead on. I’ve heard others say the same thing — without geography as a constraint, it’s not hard to form friendships that are much more “natural” than the ones you have with some people you happen to live nearby. And then when you finally do meet, it’s like you’ve been hanging out forever.

And for the record, this is the first time anyone has called me a fledgling businessman. Usually it’s “desperately trying to figure out how to avoid getting a real job.” Either one works. :)

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melissa March 31, 2011 at 12:47 pm

OMG! Thanks for the sweetest shout out ever! I really forget that I know you through blogging! We have had some great times together. I was SOOO nervous to meet you, and thank god I had the courage to do so. I can’t imagine my life without you!

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