A Weekend in Michigan (The Fresh Coast Retreat)

There is a lot about blogger life that is totally delicious. Setting your own hours and schedule. Working from home (especially on those nasty weather days!). Tasting and trying and traveling and creating. It's a whole lot of magic, and I am so thankful that I am able to make my living this way.

(With the exception of a couple instagram photos, all images in this post are by Alejandro Photography. )

That said, working in a little solo bubble can sometimes get frustrating. I find myself craving colleagues to bounce ideas off of, learn from, or even just to vent with on the days when things don't go quite right. We have Facebook groups and often chat via social media, but nothing beats in-person interaction.

Fortunately last month, I had a chance to get away and experience a few exhilarating days surrounded by some of the most talented and inspiring bloggers, photographers, and entrepreneurs I ever met.

And I'd love to share a bit about it with you! Scroll down to see and learn more about my experience:

The Fresh Coast Retreat is an intimate blogger retreat created by the fabulous Liz Della Croce of TheLemonBowl.com. Liz handpicked a group of bloggers--both big and small--to spend a long weekend together at her family's beach house on Lake Michigan.

Co-organized along with the equally fabulous Phi from SweetPhi.com and Dara from CookingCanuck.com, the ladies pulled together a weekend of learning and sharing (and yes also plenty of eating and drinking, of course!).

The weekend started off with a mini one-day tour of the city of Grand Rapids (graciously sponsored by Experience Grand Rapids).

We indulged in a multi-course feast at The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck followed by cocktails at a gorgeous rooftop bar at the top of the Amway Grand Plaza, where we spent the night.

It was the first time meeting the majority of bloggers in the group, and I loved how so many of us instantly clicked, sparking animated conversations and laughter that probably annoyed everyone else dining in the restaurant that day (sorry, other people!).

Brunch the next day was at San Chez--a fun fusion-tapas restaurant with gorgeous artsy ambiance and a super creative menu (I got the Cuban omelet. It was bangin'.).

We then piled into a van for a trip to the Downtown Market--a very cool food hall with a number of local artisan food vendors.

Our home for the rest of the weekend was an easy 40-minute drive away. A stunning, spacious beach house overlooking Lake Michigan.

It was seriously straight out of a dream. Or a movie. Or a magazine.

(And it's available for rent or additional stalking here, in case you're interested!)

Liz, Phi and Dara structured the retreat so that we would all take turns teaching our respective areas of expertise.

I talked about TV and on-camera work, while others shared about topics like writing and promoting cookbooks, legal issues and contracts, photography and video, working with brands, organization and scheduling, and so much more.

It was so lovely to be able to share and learn in a relaxed and casual environment.

While I always appreciate the opportunity to speak at and attend larger conferences, I usually find that it's the smaller, more intimate moments of informal sharing that end up being the most valuable.

And did I mention the food?

The menu for the weekend consisted of food and cocktail recipes from all of our respective blogs.

We broke up into teams and took turns cooking meals for the rest of the group.

We enjoyed everything from Gina's grilled rosemary lamb chops to Liz's incredible Syrian salad to my Ginger Peach Moscow Mules.

We had some great sponsors that helped make the weekend possible, too.

Bob's Red Mill and Stonyfield provided grain cereals and dairy for our breakfast bar, while Sabra, DeLallo, and kept us snacking all weekend long on hummus and antipasti.

(There was a s'mores bar, too. Obviously!)

I'm so thankful to have been able to experience such a lovely weekend of learning in the company of so many talented bloggers. You probably already know many of them, but if you don't, I urge you to take the time to check out each and every one of their sites as they're all so very talented!

From left to right (in the picture above):
A note about sponsors:
Our travel to the Fresh Coast Retreat and all related expenses (meals, transportation, lodging, etc.) were covered by the main weekend sponsors SabraStonyfieldBob’s Red Mill and Experience Grand Rapids. Food items were donated by the brands mentioned above and in the post including DeLallo, Lindt, The Little Potato Company, and Stonefire. The Muskegon CVB provided us with a cute old timey trolley to get around in (so awesome).  I did not receive additional compensation to attend or write this post. All the opinions expressed within this post are my own. I'm so thankful to the bloggers and brands who made this weekend possible, and look forward to putting the tips and lessons that I learned into action to create more great content and recipes for you in the future. Thank you, as always, for your continued support!

And thank you to Grand Rapids photographer Raúl Alejandro Velasco from Alejandro Photography for all the gorgeous images you see in this post! If you're looking for a family or wedding photographer in the area, definitely look him up!

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