Refreshing My Passion for North Dakota

Refreshing My Passion for North Dakota

Forest Gump really had it right. Life really is like a box of chocolates.. You never really know what you are going to get. You never really know what sort of chocolate you will be popping into your mouth. There are caramels, nuts, fillings, fudge… But in the end, no matter what chocolate you pick, it never fails that you walk away pleasantly surprised about what’s on the inside. That was last week for me. 


Last week I attended the North Dakota Bloggers & Writers Conference in Fargo, North Dakota.  I had been asked to speak on a panel made up of two (lovely) women with pretty impressive credentials.. And here I was… “Hi, I’m a blogger”. Much like a box of chocolates, I wasn’t entirely sure “what I was going to get” out of the conference. I was kind of intimidated about attending the conference where I’d only know a handful of faces in the room.

But I convinced myself to go, to push my comfort boundaries, and to meet those handful of faces I’ve been following their blogs for some time now. I got in the pickup and drove myself to Fargo. Which by the way reminded me that I need to get out by myself more often. I can’t tell you the last time I drove on a three lane highway… something I used to do regularly when I lived in CA . I guess I really have become a North Dakotan! 

Well… let me tell you, life brought me a pretty amazing box of chocolates through attending the North Dakota Bloggers & Writers Conference. I walked away from that conference feeling humbled, inspired, refreshed, and so very blessed to be living in a great state like North Dakota.  I couldn’t believe how many sincerely genuine, creative, and inspiring people I would get to rub elbows with, share experiences, and bond with during the one day at the conference.

I walked away from the morning with knowledge about print media: the ins and outs of pitches, queries, and everything else print. Timelines, how to be professional in the print world, and how to fact check. Editor in Chief, Rachel Hutton, from Minnesota Monthly was full of all kinds of great information! 

Next up, my panel… I  headed up to the front of the room with my notes. I wasn’t quite sure which of the many questions we were going to hit on, but I had some notes written for most of them. I didn’t want to forget anything. I was nervous, but it was comforting having a fellow Twitter friend & blogger up there. If you don’t follow Beth of Rhubarb & Venison, you should. Her happiness and positive attitude are so contagious. She writes one heck of a food blog with quite a variety of recipes in her repertoire including much of her husband’s wild game he brings home from hunting!

The two ladies I shared the panel with were just as wonderful. Jessie who is a woman of many talents: singing, song writing, blogging, photography. She started a blog, Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, to share about life on her families’ ranch in gorgeous western North Dakota. Amity was our other panelist. She is truly a professional in the industry having written and been published in many national travel & art publications like AAA Living & Four Seasons Magazine. Amity shared with us the journey she’s been on in her transition from a full time travel editor to freelance writer. 

I felt so at home speaking alongside both ladies that I basically abandoned my notes halfway through. I was honestly blown away at how many people had read one or two of my posts or even recognized my face. It was so humbling to be reminded of the wonderful people (YOU!) who continually come back here and read what I have to say. I don’t say it enough but thank you… from the bottom of my heart. 

The rest of the afternoon we had presentations from the North Dakota Historical Society as well as the Fargo Moorhead Visitors Bureau. Both of these organizations have so many new and exciting changes in the works, I invite you to check them both out! We finished off the day with an awe-inspiring presentation from the lovely Sarah & Tony Nasello of Home with the Lost Italian.

I was honestly not prepared for reminder their presentation brought. Sarah is a fifth generation North Dakotan. She talked about how as North Dakotans, they were never really proud of where they came from. She was born and raised in Fargo and had never really ventured West. It took meeting her husband Tony and seeing North Dakota through his eyes to realize how lucky she is to live in North Dakota.  Last year, they took a family vacation to “Get Lost of the Prairie”. They spent every weekend over the summer in a different place in North Dakota. They made lots of firsts and discovered what makes North Dakota Legendary. You can read more about their story in Sarah’s post about the conference.

From the photos and the way Tony & Sarah both speak about it, this trip changed their lives. It gave them a new perspective about their home state and let me tell you, these two are on FIRE for North Dakota. Through the two of them sharing their story and their love for North Dakota, I was inspired. I brought me back to when I first moved to North Dakota and how on fire I felt for my new state. That fire has been stoked, refreshed. I walked away from that day feeling SO lucky to live in North Dakota. And with a realization that I still have SO MUCH more to experience in my own state! 


A state with so much opportunity booming right now. 

259255_965148767270_2132189608_oA state that the people are known for their kindness.

241074_976907303070_1703390139_oA state that has been in the attention of the nation for quite some time. 

1005404_10100241897582400_759017912_nA state that has such vast terrain and gorgeous views as far as the eye can see. 

2012-08-20_015I know many people don’t think of North Dakota as the premier spot to take a vacation. But I hope next time you are planning a family vacation, you consider making a trip to North Dakota and finding out for yourself what makes North Dakota legendary. 

And even if you don’t ever make it to North Dakota, it is my hope that you take a cue from Sarah & Tony and “Get Lost” in your own home state. I hope you find the same passion and love for your home state as I have found here in North Dakota. 

Huge thank you to all of the attendees, to Beth for making me feel right at home talking with you, to Amity & Jessie for allowing little ole me to share the panel with you, to Sarah & Tony for re-invigorating me, and to the North Dakota Dept. of Commerce & Tourism for all that they do for North Dakota.


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  1. April 24, 2014 / 4:58 pm

    Jenny, you seriously make ME want to live in North Dakota! It’s a state I never put much thought into until I met you and Katie Pinke online. Then I met a few girls from South Dakota as well. It’s been so fun seeing the norther western side of the country through your guys’ eyes!

    Thanks for sharing a few new bloggers to check out!

    I am glad you were able to get off the farm for a little bit and mingle with some great ladies! It’s good for the soul.

    And I hear you on the three lane roads……… s c a r y ! ! ! ! ! ! !

    • April 24, 2014 / 5:34 pm

      Kelly, seriously…THANK YOU!! You always make my day! There is a whole ton of awesome ND bloggers to check out besides the ones listed! Maybe I should put together a list on my blog!? They try to list them also on the ND Tourism page!

  2. April 24, 2014 / 5:11 pm

    I’m glad you made the trek across the state; it was wonderful to hear your stories as well as being able to pick your brain during the round table discussion. You are clearly passionate about what you do that transmits in both what you say and what you write. I’m surprised that you were nervous, only because it didn’t show at all 🙂

    I too agree that Sarah and Tony’s “Get lost on the Prairie” discussion was inspiring – I’d love to do what they did.

    • April 24, 2014 / 5:35 pm

      Thank you SO much for the sweet words! It was so wonderful getting to make all sorts of new friends in the writing and blogging world!! I’ve been told that I hold my “nervousness” well! I guess it comes with practice! 😉

      If you ever make it to Ashley, please let me know! Would love to visit with you more!

  3. Sarah Nasello
    April 24, 2014 / 5:58 pm

    Thank you for your kind and heartfelt words, Jenny, but I think we’re both members of the Mutual Admiration Society. Both Tony and I have been inspired by your journey, too – he even refers to you as “Ashley” now – and yes, he knows that’s your new hometown, not your name. 🙂 That conference was filled with great people and great energy, and we just feel blessed to have been able to share our story with such a receptive group. I can’t wait to connect with you out in your part of the prairie this summer!

    • April 24, 2014 / 7:32 pm

      It was honestly SUCH a pleasure to meet you both! LOL! Ashley! That’s great! And yes! Can’t wait to catch up again with you on the farm!!

  4. Stefani Amos
    April 24, 2014 / 7:34 pm

    Such a great post! Makes me really want to explore North Dakota along with my home state of Iowa! So many things happening sometimes we just dont notice!

  5. April 24, 2014 / 8:32 pm

    I love this post! North Dakota is a great state. I need to push myself to do more things like this. You inspire me! Will there be another conference like this next year?

    • April 24, 2014 / 8:38 pm

      Thanks Jess! And yes! It is an annual conference! I think they said this was like 5th year!? Crazy!

  6. April 25, 2014 / 1:22 am

    Thanks for the shout-out, dear! Great summary, great memories, so glad to FINALLY meet!
    Beth @ Rhubarb and Venison recently posted…Hot Cross BunsMy Profile

  7. Tracie B.
    April 25, 2014 / 4:42 am

    I’m glad I finally met you face-to-face, and I thought you did great on the panel. This was only the second year I’ve been at this conference, but I have met such good people that I hope to keep going for years to come. I was about to say sorry for monopolizing your time when I was at your break-out session, but I’m not sorry. 🙂 I learned a lot, stuff I could bring back to my co-workers, as we transition to doing more photography as part of our jobs. Oh, and I loved the Nasello’s presentation too. *watery eyes of appreciation for them*

    • April 29, 2014 / 6:00 pm

      LOL! Yes, no need to be sorry! You got me to divulge great information!!

  8. Alice W.
    April 25, 2014 / 5:33 am

    Enjoyed your column on your visit to the “Writers Convention”, and your comments on the State also. I clicked and read the posts on “The Italian & by Jessie”; they were both good and both had some fantastic photos, truly enjoyed both of their photos. I am from the great State of GA., but did manage to be on a trip with my son & family out to Oregon, and came back through that State, saw MT.Rushmore and other places I cannot remember. It was back in 1998, and I have joined the older group of citizens now so forgetting comes easy for me. Keep blogging, Jenny, and we will keep reading. God Bless…

    • April 29, 2014 / 6:01 pm

      Thanks Alice!

  9. Anjanetgte
    April 25, 2014 / 6:19 am

    Sounds terrific. My niece also left Chico, CA and is attending Minot State University. Didn’t think she’d want to go back after her first winter there, but now she’s at the end of year Two at college. She says the people are amazing and since it’s so darn expensive to fly home her mates from Canada take her home with them for the holidays (except Christmas).

    Thanks for sharing all your wonderful stories!

    • April 29, 2014 / 6:02 pm

      Such a small world! 🙂 And I feel her pain on how expensive it is to fly in/out of this state! It may be my one complaint! LOL!

  10. April 25, 2014 / 8:29 am

    This was beautiful, Jenny! Thanks for sharing all of this AND the pictures! I love them!

    • April 29, 2014 / 6:02 pm

      Thanks Devin! I can’t wait to take more this summer! 🙂

    • April 29, 2014 / 6:02 pm

      Thanks so much Karen! It was so lovely meeting you and getting to spend some time with you!