Last Friday, I left for a 3 day, 2 night trip to Mountain Lake Resort; outside of Roanoke Virginia. The fabulous Paula from bell’allimento and Susan from Doughmestic put together a one-of-a-kind conference. Very hands on and topic specific all pertaining to food!
There were about 90 energetic food bloggers ready to learn and network! We spent our weekend at Mountain Lake Hotel where parts of Dirty Dancing were filmed. This was definitely a dream come true. Back when I was 4/5-ish my parents took me to Lake Lure in North Carolina to see Johnny’s cabin, the staff cabins, and to walk those infamous steps that Baby carried the watermelon! Now, as an adult I got to visit the other half of where Dirty Dancing was filmed. Very surreal and brought everything into perspective! Can you tell I’m a die-hard Dirty Dancing fan?
I got to the hotel pretty early and began helping Paula and Susan almost immediately. Upon arriving I had no clue who my roommate for the weekend would be. Little did I realize that Angela who I had chatted with from the airport to the hotel would be my roommate!
I helped check in various bloggers, answer questions, give directions, and even carry luggage up stairs. I loved that Paula and Susan thought to make a map. Each food blogger put a sticky note of where they were from. Of course, I was the lone Floridian (in my parka all weekend)! lol.
So while I was helping out that evening at our opening party, I took a detour to the dining room where I sat in THE corner that “Nobody puts Baby in the corner”. Seriously, a highlight of my life!
My first session of the day was with Bree from Baked Bree. She spoke about photography. All the way from the basics of camera bodies and lenses to finding the best light. Like almost all the photography talks I’ve listened too the speaker always encourages you to read your camera manual and get off programed settings and start shooting in manual. Every time I leave a talk I say I’m going to do it but I never really do it. This time–I’m sticking with my word. I need to truly learn every function of my camera. So I’ve started (little by little) reading my camera manual in hopes that come in January I can switch to manual 100% of the time!
Next up, it was time to get creative with Marian of Sweetopia! REAL Butter sponsored the cookie decorating session with fabulous instruction by the ever-so-sweet Marian! Seriously, she is one of the nicest and most sincere people I’ve ever met. Marian showed us basic cookied decorating techniques that we could all use at home.
Even with Marian’s fantastic instruction my flooded royal icing ornament looked disastrous. Thankfully my tree, came out ok minus the fact that I decorated it upside down so my branches were going up instead of down! lol.
After cake decorating with Duff and gang it was time to learn about video. I was super excited to listen to this talk since I’m trying to add more video! Lenny from Chez Us shared so much information. Here are just a few things that Lenny said that really resinated with me. Making a video is like a recipe you have your ingredients and directions. You must map out your video like you would a recipe. Common mistakes people make when creating a video: standing to close to walls, too far from the camera, background is messy, no tripod, no b-roll, poor lighting, audio, and crazy long titles. And after talking to Lenny over the weekend I now know that I have quite a few more items to add to my Christmas list!
One of the 5 sessions we got to participate in was Cake decorating with Duff Goldman from the famed Food Network show: Ace of Cakes. Just like for the cookies I paired with Lynda from Me and My Pink Mixer.
Both of us were pretty much at a loss for how to decorate our cakes. Nor had we ever decorated a cake before. Thankfully they had all of Duff’s products that you can buy at Michael’s Craft Stores. I felt that these products were perfect for the beginner cake decorator. We picked up a box of the fancy gum paste flowers and some of the cake tattoo decals!
And with much of the amazing Elania’s help we went over to the paint sprayers and she showed us how to paint our flowers.
So, what do you think of how our cake turned out? I love the pre-made gum paste flowers! I mean they look like a pro made them!
Of course, when I lined up to take my photo with Duff not only did my camera battery die but my apron had practically fallen off. Yep, that’s Duff. Fixing my apron for me as I balance our cake! lol.
The proper photo of Duff & I holding my cake.
So on our 1 hour break between sessions Brandy, Melissa, Lauren, Angie, and I went on a self-guided Dirty Dancing walking tour. Scenes filmed at Mountain Lake included all of the dining scenes, Kellerman’s Hotel, the beach games, Penny crying in the kitchen, and the Houseman family’s cabin.
After our little self-guide tour around the hotel I made my way to Food Styling with Tami Hardeman from Running with Tweezers. She gave a few really great tips during her talk. I never thought about it this way but Tami said “When you choose your recipe that is when food styling begins“. That makes so much sense. I have started thinking about what dishes and natural elements I will use as I’m cooking the recipe. That way I’m prepared and ready to photograph once its done. She also made another great point. That is that you don’t always have to put every single ingredient to the meal on the plate. If your making a beef dish and it calls for vegetables with it. They can be on two separate plates if it makes the plate look too busy with both ingredients on it. “Let your photo be lived in–wipe your mouth off with the napkin”. I loved this concept… and hope to embrace this in the next few months.
The last session for the day was mind blowing. To be honest. I’ve heard at least a handful of eBook talks this year, and none were as powerful as the one given by Heidi Larsen of FoodieCrush. Here are a few take-aways from Heidi’s session:
- Ask yourself why you should create an eBook?
- Write something that you care about, that you know about, and that your readers want.
- Draw from your own experiences
- Think like a beginner
All-in-all I think Heidi’s session was my favorite. She really inspired me and gave me so many tools to get started on an eBook!
That night we had a killer closing party equipped with tons of prizes from all the amazing sponsors, a live band, and a stocked bar compliments of Captain Morgan, Crowne Royal, Smirnoff, and others to boot…
After the party, we moved from the Barn back to the hotel where most of us watched Dirty Dancing! It was surreal watching it while staying at “Kellermans”. How I managed to stay up and watch the movie was besides me. I think it was pure adrenaline.
It’s always such a wonderful thing to meet people you’ve connected with online for years. Julie from Table for Two and I met earlier this year at Food Blog Forum Orlando. I finally got to meet Rachel from Baked by Rachel, Ali from Gimme Some Oven, Lauren from Healthy Delicious, Heather from Basil Momma, and Erin from Eat, Bake, Drink, Cook. I never got to attend sumer camp as a kid, but I imagine that our goodbyes are just like the ones you make at the end of summer camp!
Seriously, packing was hell. I hate to pack plain and simple, but packing all that swag (I know I shouldn’t be complaining right now) was the pits. I carried on everything going to Mixed, with all intentions to check a bag going back (and I packed a collapsable duffle bag in my carry on going). So I had to tote about 20lbs of swag through 3 airports (on no wheels). I mean, I can’t lie. It was totally worth it… just sayin. Sadly, this is the only picture of our room from the conference. It was very 1960′s! I loved it. Big thanks to all the sponsors: KitchenAid, OXO, Dreamfields, Dixie Crystals Sugar, Go Bold with Butter, Attune Foods, Hersheys, Way Better Snacks, Lucky Leaf, Creminelli, Roland Food, Stonyfield, Harvard Common Press, Le Creuset, KitchenIQ™, Duff Goldman, John Boos, Dreamfarm, California Raisins, and Andersons Seafood.
Our driver that took Angela, Maeghan, and I to the airport asked if we had a little time. There was a lookout and he wanted to stop and let us take pictures. We had a good couple of hours so we were totally ok with stopping. Thanks to the iPhone panorama app I captured this beautiful photo.
Getting on that crazy small plane was definitely not a highlight of my trip.
It was a whirlwind of a weekend and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go. This was the first time I had taken a “girls weekend” since my bachelorette party almost four and a half years ago! It was so nice to do something for me although you know the saying “Theres no place like home” and that’s so true. I was so happy to be home after such a fun and exciting weekend.
Once again a BIG thanks to Paula and Susan who made Mixed Conference possible. And a very big thanks to KitchenAid who sponsored my trip to Mixed Conference!