What a whirlwind of a weekend. But what an memorable experience.
You already saw a glimpse into the event last week with some of my iPhone shots, but I wanted to show you more of the photos I captured during the weekend. At the end of the post I’ll share a detailed recap of events if you’re interested in hearing the nitty-gritty.
Friday night [un-photographed – oops]: We arrived at the hotel and received a swag bag packed with goodies. I stuffed my face with cheese, guzzled water, and then it was time for the first event. We all loaded onto a school bus [yes, they still have that same smell!] and headed to Temecula Winery. Wine samples were flowin’ along with a ridiculous spread [pun intended] of cheese, hummus, fruit, and so much more. I ate more cheese. Obviously. After snacking until I was stuffed we headed upstairs for more wine and dinner. Basically, a weekend stuff-your-face-fest. Pretty awesome.
I loved the theme they had for the first dinner. It was a casual picnic style feast with hot dogs, chili, a few salads, and lots of toppings. I loaded up a GF bun [so awesome they had that option!] with a huge pile of vegan chili. The chili had hominy in it which was a fantastic addition that I need to remember to add next time I make chili.
Dessert is where the “potluck” theme really came into play. Everyone who attended brought some sort of baked good to share throughout the weekend. There were trays + trays of cookies and even a few GF options. My eye landed on the chocolate chippers that were made with banana flour. Definite weakness for chocolate chip cookies and now I need to look into banana flour. Have you guys tried it before? Apparently, it’s made from unripe bananas and results in no actual banana flavor. Anyway. We all waddled out from the winery and back onto the bus for an early wakeup call Saturday.
Saturday morning: First thing Saturday we headed to the lobby for a smoothie bar. Earthbound Farm provided the smoothie goods while KitchenAid provided the blenders. I loved that this weekend was full of so many healthy, fresh options!
We then filed onto the bus and headed to the Plateau Edge in Murrieta, CA. We loaded up on 2nd breakfast/brunch which was a Tex-Mex tortilla casserole, citrus salad, and more blogger baked treats and granola type snacks.
I wasn’t lying when I said it was a stuff-your-face-fest.
The day’s events started with a talk from Aran Goyoaga, which I’m sure most of you know from Cannelle Et Vanille. She spoke openly about life, work, perfectionism and some of the harder times she has faced during her career. Her words were very heartfelt and honest. I’m not sure there was a dry eye in the crowd. Very inspiring.
Next up to talk was Ashley Rodriguez, from Not Without Salt, who I totally have a blog-girl-crush on. Ashley spoke about her upcoming book, Date Night In. The book is full of recipes and stories about how she and her husband rekindled their marriage with weekly date nights in. The nights are centered around food and conversation and are free from distraction. I loved hearing her speak so openly about her marriage and how important these date nights have become. Of course I had to walk up and introduce myself, but all I remember after telling her my name was, “drrrr, errrr, I write a blog, too.” Or something along those lines. I redeemed myself the next day by actually having real things to say. Ashley is just as fabulous as you’d expect!
Later, Ashley + Aran held a photography breakout session together. They talked about the way they approach food photography, which is basically by letting beautiful food do all the talking. They both have a very simple and natural approach and it was fun to see them work together.
Cheryl Sternman Rule, from 5 second rule, was also one of the main speakers. She spoke about the craft of formulating blog posts and reminded us that there are really no rules or rights or wrongs in blogging. The most important part is sticking to what feels right for you. Cheryl also held a breakout session that focused on storytelling, which was incredibly helpful and eye-opening. Later in the day I actually got up in front of the whole crowd [about 65 or so people] to tell the little story I wrote during that session. We were asked if anyone wanted to share what they wrote and for whatever reason I felt compelled to get up and tell this story. It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve done in awhile. My voice was crackly, my palms were sweaty, and I felt like a shaky mess, but I did it and felt quite the rush after. Working from home you have get many chances to speak in front of a group of people, so I wanted to challenge myself to try.
Somewhere in the mix of all this we feasted on the most amazing salad + grains bar you have ever seen. Note the two photos of avocado in the group above. I’m still dreaming about CA avocados. I photographed the lunch [and smoothie breakfast] for Earthbound Farm, who were kind enough to send me on the trip. It was fun to get behind the camera for awhile!
Lunch was accompanied by more blogger treats—to which I contributed my Chocolate Dipped Buckeyes [great for travel if they can stay somewhat cool]—and the ice cream bar. Oh my word.
Saturday late afternoon/evening: We headed on a little walk to another house where Jordan + Jocelyn, the sisters from This Girl Walks Into a Bar were all set up in the kitchen to talk about drink making. Oh my gosh did I love this! They showed us how easy it is to make your own mixers and bottle them for gifts. [Check out their books here!] Then, Maggie from Eat Boutique showed us how to make simple, personalized foodie gifts. We bottled citrus salt + lavender sugar and got to dress them up with ribbons, fancy tape, tags, etc. I love crafty projects like these and it was a good reminder of how to keep things simple and special when making gifts.
After a quick stop back at the hotel we left for dinner at the Silverado Ranch. We were wined + dined, literally, with more wine and a feast. Dinner started off with whole roasted cauliflower and flatbread, to which they had homemade GF flatbread as well [ah-mazing]. They also served lamb + veggie kabobs for the main. Dessert was a mix of chocolate covered and spice-topped strawberries and lemon bars. Again, they had a gluten-free version that was to die for. I am a sucker for lemon desserts and shortbread.
Sunday morning: We headed back to the main house [where we spent most of Saturday] for an unbelievable brunch spread, filled with sweet and savory options. There was a fantastic chickpea-spinach-egg bake, savory bread pudding [had a GF option, too!], fruit and nut salad, granola + milk, cheese, hummus, bread, and bowls full of ripe avocado. And this is where I went to town on the avocado toast. Take me back…
Next up Deb and Rod from Smith Bites held a video workshop that I unfortunately had to miss because of my flight time. From what I heard it was tremendously helpful.
Ending thoughts: I thought very highly about the entire weekend if you couldn’t tell. It never had a “conference” vibe and I felt like I could talk to anyone there, even if I was a bit nervous to say hello. Everyone was so kind and welcoming. It kind of felt like group therapy for bloggers. It cleared my head, opened my eyes, gave me motivation, and left me inspired. Oh, and I also ended up with a boatload of very talented new friends.
Aaaand, now I’m done.
Also, a tremendous thank you to Maggy, Sharon, Pam, and their huge posse who hosted + planned this shindig from start to finish, including doing all of the cooking the entire weekend. It was completely outstanding.