This past weekend I had the time of my life (pun intended) at Mountain Lake Lodge for Mixed, a food blogging conference. A good portion of the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed at this resort (hence the pun) and it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.
I arrived late Thursday night after a long day of traveling. I was super excited to flop down on this enormous bed. How can a bed be so soft yet so firm at the same time?!
I hit the ground running on Friday morning. I wanted to get breakfast before anything else but the restaurant wasn’t open yet. I ended up going for a walk around the property and it was absolutely beautiful. I had come in the dark the night before and it was insanely foggy in the morning, so each step was a new discovery of what was out there. If you follow me on Instagram you were inundated with fog pics. Sorry/Not Sorry.
After my walk I had a delicious breakfast and then jumped right into baking cookies for the Dixie Crystals Bake Off. I was a finalist in their cookie contest this year. As a result they paid for my conference ticket and I had to make enough cookies for everyone to try and vote later that night. The kitchen staff at the hotel was incredibly kind and helpful.
I wasn’t quite able to finish baking before one of the highlights of the weekend, an intimate photography and food styling workshop with Helene Dujardin and Tami Hardeman. It was really incredible to have them looking over my shoulder as I styled my food and give me insight into how I could improve. After we each had a hand at styling some “ugly” food, they set up their own station to show us how they would handle it.
After a quick lunch I was able to finish baking my cookies just in time to hear the first speakers. Andy Marzka, Taylor Mathis, and the team from Chez Us all had wonderful information to share about ad optimization, getting a cookbook deal, and implementing videos on your blog.
After dinner we all gathered together to watch a universally loved movie, Pitch Perfect. There were some super fans in the audience, which made it pretty fun. I swore I was only going to watch a few minutes and then go to bed, but I got sucked in and ended up staying to the end.
Saturday was full of information and activities. Carolyn O’Neil had a very informative session on behalf of The Center For Food Integrity and Best Food Facts. Anna Lingeris from Hershey also boldly answered questions about working with brands.
For my free time I bundled up (it was cold!) and headed outside for a little alone time. I was dying to go hiking but only had an hour, so I stayed within sight of the lodge and walked down to the middle of what used to be a full lake. There’s only a little water in it now, but the ground is really interesting all around it. It’s rocky and wet, and lots of it is covered in this beautiful evergreen-type ground shrub.
It was really wonderful to get this alone time with nature and just go wherever the wind blew me. I only wish it had been warmer!
Lunch was amazing that day, sponsored by Dreamfields Pasta. I hadn’t tried their pasta before, but will definitely be buying it more often. We love pasta around here and as vegetarians it’s perfect for us – full of fiber and protein to keep us full!
One of my favorite speakers was Bree Hester from Baked Bree. She spoke about photo editing which gave me a lot of insight into my own workflow. Helene and Tami wrapped up the day with a session on food styling and photography. I was a little nervous that they were going to share the same information we had covered in the workshop the day before (since I had to pay extra for that) but those fears were unfounded. They had lots of great information to share yet it really made the extra effort of the workshop the day before seem worth it.
I chose to forego most of the pre-dinner hang out and go back to my room to lay down for a while. i was exhausted from the last few days and am really glad that I chose to allow myself this luxury. I went to dinner refreshed and ready to devour lots of Copper River Salmon.
The fun didn’t end there. After dinner we had a closing party with music by The Band Concord and drinks courtesy of Captain Morgan. They also announced the winner of the cookie contest… Not me. Chris from The Cafe Sucre Farine won, and she totally deserved it. She made a shortbread thumbprint with salted caramel that was out of this world. I probably shot myself in the foot for telling everyone to vote for hers because I liked it so much! It was great to have one last chance to connect with everyone.. I met so many amazing people over the weekend. Here I am with Shaina Olmanson from Food For My Family, who has figuratively been in my back yard for years, and Caroline Edwards from Chocolate and Carrots who I’ve known on the internet for a long time but finally got to meet in person!
Unfortunately I didn’t get pictures with anyone else, but I thought I would include a list of some of the great bloggers I got to connect with this weekend (sorry if I left anyone out!):
Namely Marly, Neighbor Food, Jelly Toast, Aimee Broussard & Co., Kara in the Kitchen, Food Babbles, Milk Glass Kitchen, Savory Experiments, My Invisible Crown, Big Bear’s Wife, Mrs. Happy Homemaker, Pint Sized Baker, That Skinny Chick Can Bake, Healthy Delicious, Me and My Pink Mixer, Gourmet Garden