Wrapping Up 2013…Part One

This post is mostly for me.  To remember.  To reflect.  To remind myself I have it good…and I do.  I really do.  It’s just hard to remember the good when you are so caught up in the day to day of work and life.

I know I wrote a post at the beginning of the year, scared to death of what 2013 would hold for me.  I was freaked out, to say the least, because I just KNEW this year couldn’t measure up to 2012.

So I worked.  I worked like a madman.  Too much?  Perhaps.  But I sunk everything I had into making my blog and my work WORK.  I wanted to provide for my family. I wanted to make some kind of difference.  I wanted to see and do things – experience new things – I wanted to make friends and laugh.  I wanted to treat my son to things that so many kids do not get to do.

I think I succeeded.  So much in fact, that the I’m Scared of 2014 Blog Post is bound to happen…because again, I am nervous.  Until that happens, I’m going to write about the highlights of my 2013.  Read them if you like, click away if you like.  As I said, this post is for me, but if you enjoy it – and I hope you do, as it is because of SO MANY of YOU that I had this banner year – I hope you’ll let me know.  I appreciate each and every one of you.


IMG_5708Bree came here to visit for a few days to photograph my S’mores cookbook, which was due in a few short weeks.  It was great having her here, and we knocked it out like we knew what we were doing!

Immediately after Bree left, my husband Jon and I packed Seven up and we headed to The Greenbrier for a few days of R&R…it was much needed!  If you’ve not been – go.  The Greenbrier is amazing.  The Casino, the food, the Spa, the indoor pool, the bowling – we had such a fun time, as did Seven!

The following week, Jon surprised me with a Royal Caribbean cruise, which was relaxing and a great way to kick off the year and celebrate the end of my book work.  We travel so well together, and it was nice to get away, just the two of us.  We ended our cruise with a weekend at the Four Seasons Miami – oh my!  Gorgeous.


Later that month I was in Birmingham to speak at Food Blog South, my first conference speaking gig.  Even though both Paula and I got a touch of food poisoning while there, we managed to get through it!


Being a food blogger has it’s perks – The Hotel Hershey invited us up for Chocolate Covered February, for a weekend stay, chocolate and wine tastings, treatments at the Hershey Spa, and meals like no other.  So much fun!



The first weekend of March, we packed up and headed to The Homestead Resort with Seven.  The Jefferson Pools (oh so famous) are so relaxing at a balmy 99 degrees – and it was bitter cold outside!  Great food, a fantastic resort, and lots of quality family time…can’t say enough good things here!


One sunny weekend my little family and I spent the weekend in Washington, DC, doing a bit of sightseeing.  We also met up with Miss Bree again, and our kiddos played together after a great dinner – so much fun!


Dallas!  I attended Blissdom in Dallas, Texas, at the Gaylord.  I was so thrilled to have my Blogging Besties with me – Paula, Brandi and Meredith – we must have watched Pitch Perfect a million times!  We also made plenty of time for umm, choosing Zombie Apolycypse partners in the Sports Bar, seeing Reckless Kelly in concert, and ordering room service!  Oh, the stories we just can’t tell…



April was a bit slower for me, but Jon and I did sneak away for a weekend in Baltimore and Annapolis, where we visited our friends Jeff & Ann.  Great meals at the Four Seasons in Baltimore, a lot of boating, and quaint shopping in Annapolis made for a really great weekend.



I kicked off May with a trip to southern California, where I threw an event for a sponsor.  Before heading to my event locale, I had lunch at The BLVD at the Four Seasons..and guess who I saw?  Harry Connick, Jr.!  He even tweeted me ! Woooot!

But onto the event!  I got to stay in the most incredible villa – complete with theater room, pool, hot tub, and so much more…sweet!  We had a very successful evening, full of great bloggers and food – good times with good people!  From there I flew home and May really swung into full gear.


Another cruise!!  While I was at Blissdom, I met a lovely lady who worked for Carnival Cruise lines, and she invited my family on a weeklong cruise to the Western Caribbean!  So, for a week we sailed and ate, played and shopped, and had an incredibly good time.  It was Seven’s first cruise, and to say he enjoyed it is an understatement!



IMG_7195June began with BlogHer Food in Austin.  Again I reunited with my girlfriends for 5 days of parties! (And, yeah, there was a conference, too.)  We started with a Spa day courtesy of Dixie Crystals, then another spa day for Paula and I, lots of other parties, then a huge Dole Luncheon at our gorgeous mansion.  After 14 events we were partied out but was it ever a great time.  I love hosting events for my sponsors, and Dixie Crystals and Dole are just two of the very best brands you could ever ask to work for.



Later that month I judged a cake competition with my new-to-me friend Chef Mike Behmoiras…it’s always an honor to be considered worthy to judge anything at all, and this was my third year judging, so I hope that means I am doing something right!

Finally, I spent the end of June in Santa Monica with the Dole California Cookoff, where I was the sous chef for my new friend Ally – her amazing recipe WON her $25,000!  I was thrilled to be a part of it!



Good Lord, July.

We spent the 4th at Mountain Lake Lodge.  In fact, we spent several days there, and had an absolute ball.  Paula and her family joined us as well, and we ate and played like there was no tomorrow.  We went and did the Treetop Adventure with our families – dig the hats?


IMG_7648On July 11, I had my Cookbook launch party at The Bank Food & Drink – where I gave a little presentation, we had lots of s’mores, and all of my dear friends and family joined me for a wonderful dinner to celebrate.  What a relief to see the book in print, and what a great way to relax and smile knowing I had achieved something I set out to do!

Not long after that, Jon and I packed up and headed back for more boating with friends in Baltimore – this time we played non-stop.  Swimming holes each day, great food each night – we took in all there was to see and do!


Soon after I flew off to the Windy City for BlogHer, and another weekend of parties…including one of my own!  Courtesy of Hershey’s, I kicked off a S’mores Cookbook tour at the Hard Rock Café Chicago, and you can’t even imagine how unreal that was!  I got to meet up with one of my favorite bloggers – Jamie of StickyFeet Part Deux – who I had only been friends with online until then.  So surreal to sit and eat, chatting as if we’d always known each other – but SO GREAT.



I was home very little in August…the S’mores Cookbook Tour was in full swing.  First stop – Boston – which was made amazing thanks to my now dear friend Melanie of A Beautiful Bite.  She joined me for a delicious dinner at my host hotel – The Four Seasons Boston – and then arranged a blogger brunch for us in Cambridge so that I could share my cookbook with even MORE friends.  How great is that!?


From there I took the train to New York City for another stop of the book tour, and another brunch that was out of this world.  My hotel, The Waldorf Astoria, was a gracious host and hooked us up with the most wonderful meal, including s’mores desserts so decadent it’s impossible to describe them.


While in NYC, I had plenty of time on my own to wander the city…and wander I did. Turns out I managed to wander right into Times Square on Underwear Day- where I stripped to my skivvies and joined the masses in hopes of setting the new World Record for people in their underwear!

After New York,  I went on to Las Vegas, where I played with my friend Jill, and also promoted the book with even more blogger friends.  I finally met Kari from Retro Bakery (yay!!), I went to a couple of shows, I shopped…and I got tattoos!


From Vegas I went on to Los Angeles, and spent a few days touring and playing.  I hooked up with my friend Jessica who works PR for Dole – she even picked me up from the airport and took me to lunch, so sweet!  An afternoon walk around Beverly Hills landed me back at The Four IMG_8474Seasons Beverly Wilshire (my stomping grounds when I am in LA) where I met up with my friend Jeremy, the GM of The BLVD restaurant at the Four Seasons.  He treats me way too good, and it was fun to catch up over Pimm’s Cups and Cronuts!

I also met up with the owner of Grub LA – the one and only Chef Betty Fraser.  Betty and I met in LA at the event I hosted in May, and let me tell you, her restaurant is TOP NOTCH. (Top Chef Top Notch, lol!)  Betty even joined in for my Cookbook Party in LA, which was hosted at my friends place…you may have heard of him.  Duff Goldman?


Yep!  Duff’s Cakemix is where I had my party, and we had a great time decorating cakes, talking and laughing…such fun!  Duff actually wrote the foreword for my S’mores cookbook, so it was fun to have the party there and kind of bring it all full circle.  Thanks, Duff!

I left LA one morning and took the train – yes, the train – north, all the way to Seattle.  36 hours, a private room, lots of meals in the dining car, and one hell of a great experience.  I can NOT tell you how wonderful that was, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  The peace and scenery, the meals, the nostalgia of a different time and place…it was just incredible.  I intend to write a full post about it, and I’m sad to say I just haven’t yet…but it will happen!


IMG_9047Once I arrived in Seattle, I had my final stop on the West Coast book tour – again – The Four Seasons!  ART in The Four Seasons hosted our luncheon, and it was great to hook up with some great bloggers there.  I love having friends all across the country, and these were ones I really can’t get enough of!

Finally I came home, just a few days before Seven started First Grade, and the following weekend we had his 6th Birthday Party….whew!!  August was a whirlwind!

Wow! This post is LONG.  I’m going to stop here and do a Part Two tomorrow…so much more good stuff happened in 2013 – I want to make sure I get it all on paper!

Mixed 2013…Success on the Mountain–Part One

It came.  It went.  What a blur.

Mixed was a huge success this year, with around 100 great folks gathering together on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere.  Sponsors, bloggers, cookbook authors, photographers, chefs, videographers…all of us were out in force and bonded over great food and fun.

I want to do it all over again.

My co-host, the lovely Paula of Bellalimento and I planned and worked for months and months to pull together all of the details, plan the sessions, prepare the swag, arrange the activities.  Hopefully everyone enjoyed their time with us!

I have so much to tell you about, so I will start with Thursday & Friday…Saturday needs a post of it’s own.  What a DAY!  So let’s get stated, shall we?  Let’s just call this Part One.


On Thursday night before the actual conference began at Mountain Lake Lodge, some of our early arrivals, sponsors, and a few speakers joined together for a meal at my favorite local restaurant – The Bank Food & Drink in Pearisburg, VA.  The chef, Mike Behmoiras, is one of the best friends I have, and he is incredibly talented.  Our guests enjoyed all of his amazing dishes, from the pumpkin and pear salad with goat cheese, to the sweet tea brined pork tenderloin, to the array of desserts he brought out for us to share.  No one left hungry, that’s for sure!


The following morning, Tami and Helene started the day off with a private photo session for a group of eager photographers.  I so wish I could have found the time to join them, as I heard AMAZING things from that group!  I’ve already seen improvements from many of those photographers…how cool is that?

Once again our conference was held at Mountain Lake Lodge, home of Dirty Dancing.  This year far outshined last, however, as the resort has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation that really made a statement!  After registration, our attendees were invited up to the Dixie Crystals Sugar Suite to snack, drink, and make sugar scrubs! I was so happy to see so many people up there having such a great time, mingling, having wine, laughing and playing…what a fun experience!  We were treated to bath fizzies, Chocolate Lip Scrubs (thanks Hershey’s and McCormick for helping out with that!), Dreamsicle Sugar Scrubs, and even a mix and match sugar scrub experience…too cool!  It smelled incredible in there!


After a short break, we all headed to the Ballroom for start the sessions.  First up was Andy Marzka, ad guru.  Andy knows everything there is to know about layering ads so that you make the most money you can from your blog.  Next up was Taylor Mathis.  Taylor, for those of you not tin the know, is just precious.  An talented!  He’s not only an amazing photographer, but he has a wildly successful cookbook – The Southern Tailgating Cookbook.  I’m a huge football fan, so this book is right up my alley…and we knew Taylor had to be at Mixed to talk all of us through the world of cookbook writing. He didn’t disappoint!  Following Taylor were two of our favorite folks – Lenny & Denise of Chez Us.  These two people are about the best people you will ever meet, and just ooze talent.  Videography is the name of their game, and I heard so many great reviews of their session!

After a brief break, everyone gathered at Harvest, the restaurant at Mountain Lake Lodge.  Dinner was a true crowd pleaser!  Chef Mike (yes, another Chef Mike!) took such great care of us the entire weekend, and his love of food really shines.  We were so lucky to have Mike take such great care of us!


The night was far from over after dinner…we all reconvened downstairs for a cookie contest and movie!  Throughout the day, behind closed doors, 3 cookie bakers got their bake on in the OXO sponsored Cookoff Kitchen.  Dixie Crystals hosted this fun contest, and our three bakers baked enough of their cookies for all of us to sample and vote on before the movie.  It was a tough choice – Cheddar Apple Pie Cookies, Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies, and Jalapeno Chocolate Cookies all vied for the win – and $500 in prize money! After a tight vote, Chris won with her Caramel Cookies!  Congrats!


During the movie (Pitch Perfect!) we were inundating with a Hershey’s Candy Bar – full of chocolates!  Reese’s Pieces, Peppermint Patties, Kisses of all kinds, Rolos – you name it, we had it!  We also had the most incredible Dole Dippers – chocolate covered frozen bananas and strawberries! Have you had these?  They are too good!  It was a close run, but more of the bananas were consumed than the strawberries, but both are so delicious…I can’t decide which I like better!


Once Pitch Perfect ended, it was time for some much needed rest – we still had an entre day of Mixed to survive…  Stay tuned for that wrap up!

Disclaimer – I totally STOLE photos from Instagram. If one of them is yours, I hope you will take it as a compliment, as I meant it as such.  If you need me to take it down, just say so, I will!

Kicking Off MIXED!

Today is a huge day for me.


Today I host my first conference… MIXED.  One hundred people – food bloggers and writers, mostly – from all around the country (and Canada!) – are coming to a conference that I created.

paula-susbw2That’s crazy to me.

For months, my best friend and co-conspirator, Paula and I have been reaching out to sponsors, coordinating speakers, lining up prizes, transportation, parties, a band, and of course, lodging, for all of these attendees.

It’s been a whirlwind.

A concept created in an afternoon coming to fruition – today.


Last night, we kicked off the festivities with our speakers and a sponsor, dining at one of my favorite restaurants anywhere – The Palisades, in Eggleston, VA.  I’m not sure any of our guests trusted that Brandi and I knew what we were doing, driving them miles out into the country, along the New River.  Though the drive may be questionable, I think the food spoke for itself.


This morning, we all had breakfast, hanging out in our suite at Mountain Lake Hotel, the locale for our weekend.  But there’s work to be done!  Attendees will be arriving all day, many in fun shuttles called The Hooptie Ride. (Shh – no one told them it would be so crazy!)  We are starting with an afternoon of Wisconsin Cheeses, Creminelli Salame, fruit, and Cameron Hughes Wine…but after that, it goes into full gear!


Dinner in the Dining Room, followed by the arrival of my friend Duff Goldman (yep, the Ace of Cakes!), and then – parties!!  Mingling and more food follow in the Activities Barn before heading to a late night movie – and Midnight Mac & Cheese, sponsored by Dreamfields!

I can’t tell you which part I am looking most forward to…all of it?

Stay tuned to Twitter, and follow along with the festivities.  We are tweeting @MixedCon – join us from afar if you can’t be here!

By: ifood.tv