Blogger Refresh Retreat, Carmel Valley California
Nature, friends and good food… three of my favorite things!
I was recently able to spent a few days enjoying each of these and I’m feeling so refreshed from the experience!
I gathered with a group of food bloggers in Carmel Valley, California, for a 3 day retreat. We had an amazing time and I am very excited to share our trip with you!
The purpose of this post is two fold…
I am thrilled to share with you the gorgeous location of our retreat, Holman Ranch, as well as sharing a carefully curated group of sponsors that made our retreat possible.
But I also want to encourage you to find a way to have a day (or a couple days) with time for friends, time for silence, time to enjoy a meal (or two) and time to do absolutely nothing.
I’ll just speak for myself, but I imagine that much of this will be true for others…
My life is busy! It’s packed with driving and cooking and cleaning and e-mails and deadlines and things that don’t go according to plans… and kids crying and sirens and neighbor’s barking dogs!
Please don’t mis-understand me… my life is awesome! My husband and kids are amazing, and my life is filled with far more blessings than I deserve!
But often my life is overflowing with a few too many “to dos” and stresses and noise.
A little break now and then is just the perfect thing to help me reflect on all the positive things in my life and peel back a layer or two of the excess stress and pressures of a busy life.
I imagine a break would do wonders for most of you as well =)
Please join me as I share the details of our Blogger Refresh Retreat and hopefully you’ll be inspired to plan a little getaway for yourself and a few friends.
Our host for the retreat was Holman Ranch, located in gorgeous Carmel Valley, California. The location could have not been any more amazing!
Holman Ranch features a truly private setting nestled in the hills. Once we arrived at Holman Ranch we could not hear or see any other homes, business or roads… we felt like we were in our own little world!
I have lots more details to share on our location, but let me start from the beginning.
Our three day retreat began in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a quaint little ocean side town along the central coast of California. We drove from our homes and/or the airport and met up for a late lunch in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Here is our crazy (and crazy amazing) group…
Bottom left, then clockwise…
Dorothy (Crazy for Crust), Hayley (The Domestic Rebel), Amy F. (Very Culinary), Heather (Heather’s French Press), Glory (that’s me), Mindy (Creative Juice), Cathy (Lemon Tree Dwelling), Lisa (Wine and Glue), Trish (Mom On Timeout), (not pictured) Amy A. (Amy’s Healthy Baking)
After lunch and a little bit of shopping in Carmel-by-the-Sea we headed east, into the hills and up to Holman Ranch. When we arrived at the entrance we knew this was going to be a special retreat! Sunshine, blue skies, golden hills… honey, I’m home! =)
After unpacking just a bit and exploring the gorgeous grounds (more photos below) we headed out to dinner at Will’s Fargo Restaurant, just 5 minutes from Holman Ranch.
Oh what a treat it is to enjoy an unhurried meal with friends!
The service at Will’s Fargo was amazing, and every single dish we ordered was beautifully prepared and utterly delicious!
Two of the ladies in our group, myself and Lisa, had celebrated birthdays just days before the trip and our friends surprised us by secretly ordering special desserts for us! Sweet friends AND dessert… life doesn’t get much better than that! =)
The next morning our retreat really kicked in. We were able to explore the grounds of Holman Ranch and each of us were simply in awe of the beauty around us! Gorgeous natural views, impeccable landscaping, and lots of rustic (yet still elegant) charm!
Each attendee had the luxury of having our own room (and private bathroom). What a treat it was to have some space all to myself! The 10 private rooms on the property are divided among 3 buildings (each just a few yards apart). In addition to the private guest rooms, there were several beautiful spaces where we could gather as a group. There was a cute cottage style kitchen and intimate living room in one building, a large commercial style kitchen and gathering room in other building, and a beautiful chapel, conference room and great room in adjoining buildings.
As beautifully furnished as the buildings and guest rooms are, the real “wow factor” of Holman Ranch is outside the buildings! The landscaping is incredible, and then backed by the natural beauty of the hills and trees surrounding the property the whole scene is just breathtaking!
Of course we can’t live on beautiful views alone… we are food bloggers after all, so you know there was some amazing food involved on this trip!
Each meal was assigned to two ladies to prepare together and we were well fed indeed!
Breakfast included Trish’s Blueberry Lemon Cream Cheese Muffins, Amy’s Hash Brown-Crusted Quiche one morning and Dorothy’s Overnight Cinnamon Rolls along with Tillamook yogurt, Jennie-O bacon and eggs the second morning.
Lunch included a Taco Bar featuring Jennie-O pre-seasoned turkey (so easy and so good!), Tillamook cheese and sour cream and rice from Planet Rice, along with Margarita’s made with Lisa’s Skinny Triple Sec.
Dinner was a Panini Bar accompanied by Cathy’s Sicilian Spinach Salad and lots of Tillamook ice cream treats for dessert!
Of course when 10 food bloggers are together, food isn’t just for eating… it’s for photographing! =)
In addition to taking lots of photos of our food and beautiful Holman Ranch, we snuck in quite a bit of “work” while we were relaxing.
Several of the attendees gave informal (yet pre-planned) demos on a topic they have experience and expertise in… Amy showed us how she uses artificial lighting for her photography, Dorothy showed us her workflow for using Lightroom (photo editing), and Trish showed us how to make some beautiful (and cheap!) wooden backdrops (for use in our photos).
In addition, we had lots of great conversations as a group on topics including social media, working with brands, and finding a healthy work/life balance. As silly as our “jobs” may seem to a lot of people, I can assure you that all 10 of the retreat attendees are savvy business women!
When you work in such a new and unique field of business, as we do as food bloggers, it’s such a gift to be able to spend time with people who truly understand our job and our life! And when you get to have a “business conference” with some of the smartest people you know while wearing yoga pants and eating Tillamook ice cream it sure feels like you’ve done something right in life! =)
The beauty of Holman Ranch was refreshing in so many ways! The buildings were unique and beautiful, the landscaping was meticulous, the hills and valleys surrounding us were breathtaking, but the most beautiful part of our weekend was…
And these girls…
And these girls…
These ladies not only gorgeous on the outside, they are beautiful on the inside too! (Not pictured, but still amazing, Amy A.)
These girls are smart, kind, creative, hard working, and so fun to be around! I am so lucky to count them each as friends!
And how do I know these ladies are so amazing? I’ve spent time with them… I’ve shared meals with them… I’ve shared long car drives with them… this is a reminder to invest that time with some of the amazing people in your life!
I know that each of the retreat attendees came home from the trip mentally refreshed and inspired! It was really a huge gift to be reminded that the struggles and stresses we face as business women, as moms, as wives are shared by many around us. It’s so important to surround yourself with people (in our case, women) who can offer some support, encouragement, a smile and hug as we all walk the path in front of us with as much grace as possible.
There were a few key elements that helped make our retreat successful and I’ll share these tips for you to keep in mind as you consider how you might be able to carve out time for a mini-retreat for yourself and a few friends.
4 Tips for planning a women’s retreat…
1. Seek out nature.
Cities can be beautiful and fun, but there is something extra special about a quiet setting surrounded by nature. Space and silence are good for the soul. Seek out a place to stay near the ocean, a lake, mountains, the dessert… somewhere you can be reminded how big and beautiful this planet is.
2. Stay in place.
As much fun as it can be to tour a city, visit shops and restaurants and fill your time with activity I would encourage you to find a beautiful place to stay (house, cabin, etc) and just STAY there. When you are among a group of friends (either close friends, or those you’re still getting acquitted with) you need to build in time where deeper conversations have time to develop. If you are running from place to place there will likely not be time to really get to know each other on a deeper level. We are all so skilled at surface level conversation… create time to go beyond that.
3. Dress down.
In the same way that “dressing the part” is appropriate for work, or a business conference, there is a level of intimacy that develops so much quicker when people are in very casual clothes. This is related to my previous point of staying at the retreat location. If your day(s) are filled with activities that require attendees to get dressed up, the general retreat atmosphere will be much more formal (and likely so will the conversations). If you hope to have real, intimate, valuable, conversations spending time together in very casual clothes almost instantly removes a layer of pretense. (Note- you might notice in most of the photos above we are wearing cute clothes – at least I think so! One afternoon Lisa generously offered to take new headshots for each of us and so we dressed up a bit for that. I can assure you that most of us changed into pjs right after the photos!) =)
4. Make it happen.
Don’t wait for someone else to plan a trip and invite you. Don’t wait for a “perfect” time. Our group formed simply because we all wanted to get away and spend some time really learning from each other and getting to know each other better. We just made it happen. We worked together to share in the planning and prep and we did all the necessary planning to arrange childcare, work with our husband’s schedules, purchase plane tickets, etc. We all have busy, stressed lives and it was some work to bring this all together… but it was SO worth it!
This retreat would not have been possible without the participation of several amazing brands! Each of the companies we worked to bring this trip together are brands we use and love!
If you follow me on Instagram you’ve already seen a few of my favorite memories from our trip. Here’s a pretty collection of some of the delicious goodies we enjoyed on our trip…
Thank you to our sponsors!
Holman Ranch – Truly a special property! Holman Ranch is an incredible setting perfect for business conferences, family reunions, church retreats and weddings… oh what a gorgeous place for a wedding! I’ve already decided it would be the perfect place for my husband and I to have a 25th anniversary party in a few years!
Wills Fargo Restaurant – Expertly prepared food served in a rustic and beautiful setting!
Jeannie-O – Delicious turkey products for every meal of the day!
Tillamook – An amazingly delicious array of dairy products, including cheese, yogurt, sour cream and ice cream! My fridge and freezer are always full of Tillamook products!
The Tomkat Studio – Beautiful party goods from the sweetest team of ladies around!
Hamilton Beach – A leader in small kitchen appliances. Hamilton Beach provided Panini makers for our retreat and I was so excited to be able to take one home! We’ve already been using it to make delicious sandwiches!
OXO – Kitchen tools and gadgets that help make cooking easier and fun!
Crystal Faye – Gorgeous personalized products including travel bags, jewelry and children’s clothing.
Red Star Yeast – Quality yeast to help you make the most delicious bread ever!
STAR – Delicious olives and olive oils perfect to compliment all of your favorite recipes!
Jet Puffed Marshmallows – Sweet, fluffy perfection! Be sure to stock up on Jet Puffed for delicious summer s’mores!
B. Toffee – Incredibly perfect and delicious toffee, available for nationwide shipping!
Diamond Nuts – Healthy and delicious California grown nuts, perfect for baking and snacking!
Truvia – Calorie free sweetener from the Stevia plant.
Planet Rice – California grown, delicious, nutrient rich rice.
Thanks to Dorothy, Amy and Cathy for a couple of the images in this post. =)