Where to begin with what felt like A Family Reunion at the Food and Wine Conference this year. Ok well let me start with last year. I was a newbie. I’ve been blogging for almost five years now however I still considered myself a newbie because I’ve never stayed true to my “brand” I’ll explain more about what that means later but last year was my first year attending and though I “knew” a lot of people because, well we are bloggers, a true community, we all know each other right? Wrong. I had no idea how shy I was until I took a look around and saw the relationships that other people had already formed over the years.
So before this years conference I made a promise to myself that this year was going to be different. I wasn’t going to be that shy girl that stood in the corner waiting for people to come to me, I was going to be that girl that made a newbie feel more included this year. I’ve been working for Isabel from Family Foodie founder of The Sunday Supper Movement for over a year now. I’m the Client Services/Billing Specialist so I’ve been forming relationships over the year and hadn’t even realized it. Then Dixie Crystals said they needed a few volunteers to help with the Sweet Retreat event they were putting on during the registration hours so I figured, this was my chance to meet everyone and anyone! I got to help them set up and then meet and greet many attendees. I had a blast helping everyone put their scrubs together. The ladies from Dixie Crystals were so amazing. They made it fun, we all made it fun! The second you walked into the room you could smell the aroma’s of lemon, rosemary and yes even chocolate! I was blown away at how many different kinds of scrubs they had. Go to their website and check it out because it would make for a real fun girls night in or part of a bachelorette party! They even have a section called Kids in the Kitchen that I can’t wait to look into.
Then we moved over to the Welcome to Florida Reception with the Florida Strawberries Growers Association and St. Augustine Distillery, that meant Jammer was back to meet and greet everyone! They served a refreshing Signature Strawberry Shortcake Cocktail. I thought that was amazing enough but nope. They served chocolate and caramel glazed popcorn and I don’t even know where to begin with the chocolates that are made right on site at the hotel there was also a demo by Award-Winning Pastry Chef and Chocolatier David Ramirez of Rosen Shingle Creek which was pretty cool to watch. I just can’t say enough about how amazing this hotel is. The staff is friendly, it’s clean, there are 3 different pools and a hot tub, need I say more?
Then as if that wasn’t enough we headed off to have dinner. We enjoyed signature cocktails from Premier Beverage, I of course chose their Chardonnay. It was held in a beautiful two story room and I was amazed by the Rosen Shingle Creek Chefs that were set up in action stations around the room serving tapas style plates from their various eateries including the award-winning steakhouse, A Land Remembered, (scroll to the end for my review because you know my hubby and I ate their Sunday night!) Italian specialties from Cala Bella, Mexican bites from Mi Casa Tequila Taqueria, fresh sushi from Banrai Sushi, unique flatbreads from Tobias Flats Watering Hole, and sweet treats from Cafe Osceola and 18 Monroe Street Market Deli. Isabel kicked off the weekend by talking about our team which includes myself and three other amazing ladies. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of such an inspiring mission.
We headed back to our room and we were greeted with MORE chocolate! Just when I thought I couldn’t eat anymore, oh yes I did. I did eat half of that beautiful princess slipper full of cookies and chocolate! Isn’t it gorgeous!
After a great nights sleep in what I like to call the “cloud” of a bed at this hotel, I was off for a day full of learning, inspiration and well more food and wine of course. I want to take a minute to talk about the opening speeches from tech consultant and blogger Andrew Wilder and engineer turned author and blogger Monica Bhide. Their session was titled “Everything is Subjected to Change.” This was an eye opener for me. Yes because social media and technology is a forever changing world. However, it also hit close to home for me because I’m not good with change. I loved how Monica spoke about never giving up on her dreams. We all have disappointments and are told no before. It’s how you deal with them and grow from them that truly matters. I also took on Andrew’s challenge. He spoke about a conference he attended awhile back and how he gave himself homework during this conference to challenge himself. It was perfect for me. So during the next break, I packed up my laptop, notes and snacks and parked it next to someone else. I also spoke to people I did not know and even sparked conversations with some people that seemed to be by themselves remembering that I was in their shoes last year. I asked if people needed help during breaks and I just went outside my comfort zone for once. You don’t realize when your a blogger of any kind it can be so easy to be the personality you want to be behind your screen, but then when you are in a group of people it can be challenging to some. However this year was different. I heard many of people say the same thing about this conference. It was like reuniting with family. We all “get each other”. It’s the one time of year I see people get just as excited as I am when I see an amazing dish emerge. We all jump up and snap pictures and we aren’t gawked at.
We then heard from some amazing speakers. Bloggers who are doing the same thing we are all doing. Blogging and balancing the everyday life. How do you do it? It was great to hear from five talented bloggers that struggle with the same things I do. I think my favorite quote from this session was from T.R. Crumbley from Gluten Free Crumbley “Make something you feel passionate about and embrace the crazy that comes with it.” LOVE it!
Their was a panel where brands sat and talked about what it is like working with Bloggers. It was pretty amazing to get the side of what they do on their end as a Brand. They discussed what brands look for, how to gain the attention of a brand, brand expectations, and creating amazing campaigns that lead to a long-term, working partnership. I really enjoyed that panel. We also heard from someone who to me is an SEO rockstar, and two lovely ladies that spoke about how to make your blog into a real business. It was awesome to see how successful they have become, it gives anyone hope that some day you can really make it happen if you put in the work. Then there was also a session on being a social media rockstar! Of course don’t forget about breaks with the fabulous sponsors from Cabot Cheese, Pacari Chocolate and Sweet Georgia Peaches.
I then got to spend a few hours at the pool with my hubby and just relax. Soak up some sun and just fill him in on everything I had learned. Then we were whisked away for the Around the Table Sunday Supper Celebration. I can’t even begin to the describe the delciousness that came from this meal. It was all served “Family” style surprise surprise, including the Grilled Sirloin from The Certified Angus Beef ® brand. Yes lots of people jumped on tables to capture this meal. The wine pairings from The Hess Collection was just spot on!
The next day was filled with sessions, hands on workshops and demo’s like you’ve never seen. I learned a lot from Karli and Erin who from The Beef Checkoff that provided us with some great facts regarding the nutrition of beef. Then Chef Michael from TheCertified Angus Beef ® brand did a cooking demo, I was so impressed I made his recipe the following weekend for my husband and I.
The sponsors were SO involved this year. Florida Dairy Farmers, Chicory, Datz, Roux and Feedblitz had tables where you could speak one on one with someone. Then we had an amazing lunch provided by Robin from Out of the Weeds. The dressing was TO DIE FOR! I attended both photography workshops because well……it’s still something I need to work on. It’s what is going to get me to the next step so I needed some more knowledge on it, now if I just had the time to put all that I learned to good use!
Between the two opening motivational speeches and Isabel’s closing speech at the end of the conference I was extremely motivated to simply “Never give up.” My kids are at such a young age and I know in a blink of an eye they will be in high school, I keep saying that I have plenty of time to make my blog my business. My kids need me right now. However if it’s one thing I’m taking home from this conference is, it’s never to early to start and you can never learn “too” much about the blogging world. Everyone has their true “brand” the one thing they believe in more than anything that they blog about and it’s time I stay true to mine. Parenting and healthy eating. It’s time I put more work into my career path and still be Momma. There is a happy medium, finding it is half the battle. So I’m taking the knowledge I took home from this weekend and I’m putting it to use. Schedule more posts, write more even if it means getting up earlier in the morning or staying up later at night, interact more, spend more time on the photo sessions so my photo’s are of better quality. It doesn’t have to be over night. Maybe by the time my kids are in school full-time I’ll have it all down who knows….but for now, I’m not giving up.
My husband and I had a night alone before heading home. We headed off to A Land Remembered which is located on the golf course of the beautiful Rosen Shingle Creek Resort. We splurged yet again with amazing wine, filets, and yes…..dessert.
On a closing note I have to include this last picture for my kids. I came home from the conference and ran out to the store to get food and they loved seeing this guy at our local market and now they have two little cows to play with thanks to our sponsor!