A recap of #FreshCoastRetreat, an intimate blogging conference hosted on Lake Michigan.
Last month I invited 15 food bloggers from around the US to join me for a weekend of learning, brainstorming and recharging right in my own back yard here on Lake Michigan. The attendees of #FreshCoastRetreat traveled from New York City, California and everywhere in between.
Since most folks flew into Grand Rapids, we partnered with Experience Grand Rapids to put together a 24 hour pre-retreat experience for anyone interested.
From a 13 course dinner at The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck to a visit at my home away from home, the Downtown Market, Grand Rapids is the ultimate foodie destination.
After our food-filled adventure in Grand Rapids, we headed 50 miles west to Muskegon to our home for the weekend: my cousin’s brand new summer home located right on Lake Michigan.
The home is available for rent this summer and sleeps up to 18 – ideal for several families or a large group! And if you’ve never experienced a Lake Michigan sunset, you haven’t lived. Just sayin’
The objective of the weekend was to connect with new and old friends in an intimate and casual setting ideal for candid conversations and hands-on workshops.
While I love attending and speaking at larger blogging conferences, I’ve found that nothing beats the intimate, relaxed setting of a smaller retreat.
Often times the biggest breakthroughs, the most genuine connections and the strongest relationships built take place in the most unexpected places like brewing coffee together in the morning or brushing your teeth together at night.
In fact, if you’re curious about attending or hosting a blogger retreat, I put together a list of 7 reasons why you should. I could probably list 100 reasons if I was being honest.
You likely recognize a few of these beautiful faces that attended #FreshCoastRetreat but I’m going to introduce you to each one in case you don’t. Pictured from left to right: Gina of SkinnyTaste, Heidi of Foodie Crush, Trevor & Jennifer from Show Me The Yummy, Myself, Lee from Fit Foodie Finds, Alejandra from Always Order Dessert, Lynn from Order in the Kitchen, Amy of Amy’s Healthy Baking, Phi from Sweet Phi, Alexis of Hummusapien, Andie Mitchell, Dara of Cookin’ Canuck and Denise & Lenny of Chez Us.
Not pictured? My fearless photographer Raul who I’m lucky enough to call one of my best friends. In fact, he took most of the photos throughout this post so that we could truly enjoy our time with one another and not worry about taking millions of photos. I think we only took 999,999 instead.
One of the greatest aspects of this retreat is that we invited a small group of brand sponsors to join us at the lake house for networking, learning and, of course, lots of good eats.
It was such an honor to have several of my longest and dearest clients including Bob’s Red Mill, Stonyfield, Experience Grand Rapids and Sabra join us at #FreshCoastRetreat. These women are dear friends of mine and it meant everything to have their support throughout this retreat.
Even better, we got to enjoy their delicious products throughout the weekend. One of my favorite breakfasts was a Bob’s Red Mill and Stonyfield parfait bar featuring lots of delicious mix-ins and fresh fruit.
Of course no retreat is complete without snacks on the regular and you know me, I never tire of hummus. Especially Sabra’s Lemon Twist, my favorite flavor.
One afternoon we even put together our very own mini chopped-style competition and challenged the bloggers to create their very own savory yogurt dip with ingredients found in the house.
Let me tell you – bloggers don’t mess around when it comes to cooking competitions! Check out Andie’s game face!! Well guess what? It paid off because she won.
In addition to sampling our sponsor’s products, we also took turns cooking together in meal teams of four. The best part? Every menu was comprised of recipes from everyone’s blogs. I can’t wait to make Gina’s lamb chops for my family soon – they were out of this world!
Don’t worry, we didn’t just eat the entire time! My friend Nicole who is a yoga instructor locally here in Grand Rapids was sweet enough to come out and teach us a private class right in the comfort of our living room. It was the perfect way to unwind and reset our minds.
One of the best perks of the weekend was that our local transportation was hosted by Muskegon Trolley Company.
Not having to worry about driving and being able to stay in one vehicle with the whole crew was such a blast.
We enjoyed two meals outside of the home including lunch right on the harbor at The Lake House Waterfront Grille and dinner at The Hearthstone Bistro. If you’re ever in the Muskegon area, I can’t recommend both highly enough.
Most evenings back at the house were spent fireside making s’mores with Lindt chocolate and chatting about our blogs, our businesses and life in general.
We held a fireside lightning round session similar to the one I did with Amelia last year where everyone shared a challenge they were facing in 90 seconds or less. Then, we went around the circle and each person offered a 60 second solution. The result? Each person walked away with 15 solutions to a struggle they were currently facing.
And when we couldn’t solve someone’s dilemma, Alejandra to the rescue with her Ginger Peach Moscow Mules. Those pretty much took care of any remnant issues at the end of the day.
A HUGE thank you to all of our generous sponsors for making my #FreshCoastRetreat dreams a reality including Sabra, Stonyfield, Bob’s Red Mill & Experience Grand Rapids. I’d also like to thank the Muskegon CVB for taking such great care of us while in town as well as DeLallo Foods, The Little Potato Company, Lindt Chocolate and Stonefire Authentic Flatbreads for keeping us well fed all weekend long! Last but not least, thank you again to Alejandro Photography for capturing these beautiful images.