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Is it weird that a place taught me about blogging? Because it totally did.

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A few weeks ago I got the chance to hang out with some of my very best blogging buddies at a retreat, BloggerRefresh, in Carmel, California. It was exactly the recharge I needed. And, in spending some time away from my kitchen, away from my computer, I learned some things about blogging.

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I learned that travel can not only rejuvenate the soul, but that by visiting local eateries I can invent my newest recipes. (Baseball sized macaroon hopefully coming soon to a blog near you.)

Have you ever been to Carmel? Mel and I used to visit a few times a year, but I haven’t been there in ages. Walking around downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea had me awash in memories. I remembered the restaurants we ate at, the clothing store where I had my first grown-up “Pretty Woman” shopping experience (minus the hooker part), the gallery with the gorgeous photographs that paid for our honeymoon.

(Both of those stories, BTW, will make great blog posts. See what visiting places can do? I have so many stories to share that I’ve forgotten about!)

Once we ate our way through downtown, the 10 of us drove to Carmel Valley, a place I’d never been. But it’s a place I fully intend to return to. I mean…it was literally like heaven on earth.

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(I kind of wanted to go all Sound of Music on those hills.)

Our generous host for the weekend was Holman Ranch, a unique and memorable setting for all sorts of events. The ranch consists of 10 hotel rooms (each with their own bath), a communal kitchen and living room, plus several event spaces for meetings, lounging, and events. The 10 of us took over the entire place, cooked meals for each other, learned from each other, and soaked in the beauty around us.

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Holman Ranch contributed to another thing I learned on this trip: photographing things is just as wonderful as photographing food.

As a food blogger, I rarely take photos of anything besides the food. Any photos I take out and about are taken with my iPhone…and not very well. I don’t consider myself a photographer, just a food photographer.

The ranch inspired me to take out my camera and just see the beauty around me.

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The gorgeous tree in the center of camp.

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The outside of room #4, my home for the 3 days.

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The “barn” where I plan to renew my vows some day.

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Clearly, we were all inspired by the beauty around us. That’s Amy, shooting more gorgeous trees!

This might sound funny, but another thing I learned about blogging is how much good food other bloggers make. I hardly ever make recipes from other bloggers because I’m too busy making my own. For this trip we each were assigned a meal so I got to taste so many delicious recipes that I can’t wait to make again and again.

Blogger Refresh Meals

Trish’s Blueberry Lemon Cream Cheese Muffins, Amy’s Hash Brown-Crusted Quiche (not pictured), and Tillamook Farmstyle Greek Yogurt for breakfast.

Lisa’s Skinny Margaritas made with Skinny Triple Sec alongside turkey tacos for lunch and Tillamookies for dessert.

A panini bar that introduced me to blackberry, bacon, and brie paninis alongside Cathy’s Sicilian Spinach Salad for dinner.

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My recipe assignment was breakfast. I decided to bring my Overnight Cinnamon Rolls made with (along with some Carrot Cake Coffee Cake and Banana Bread) to treat the ladies with. And, because I’m me, I also brought Chocolate Toffee Almond Shortbread Bars and Peanut Butter Gooey Bars along. They went like gangbusters.

The first night we got to have dinner in town, at Will’s Fargo Dining House & Saloon. It was there I learned that if you stand outside the bathroom long enough a waitress will come by and you can tell them that two ladies are having a birthday and they’ll bring you dessert with candles.

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I also learned that homemade berry pie is fantastic…but I already knew that because duh.

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I learned that Lisa is amazing at taking head shots. She did my new one, which you can see here. I love taking pictures of people taking pictures of people.

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With the gorgeous setting, we put on our fancy tops with our yoga pants, did our hair, and took pictures of each other for hours. We laughed, we cried, and we got to know each other so much better than we had only hours previously.

I think the most important thing that this retreat taught me is something I already knew: Blogger friends are real ones.

Just because you only interact on the internet doesn’t mean you don’t have a true bond with someone, it just means you have to plan a retreat to actually hug that person in real life instead of virtually.

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Without this retreat I wouldn’t have met Cathy or gotten to realize yet again how awesome Amy is. (Oh, how I wish Amy lived closer to me – our daughters – and probably husbands – would get along so well!)

(I also wouldn’t have learned the term RBF, so that was a learning experience!)

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As great as working on the internet is, sometimes you just need to physically see someone. Emails, Facebook, and texting just aren’t the same as road-tripping with Hayley, giving Glory an emotional hug, or having in depth conversations with Mindy.

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Reaffirming this fact, that the friendships I’ve created online are real, was exactly what I needed. Because honestly, some of these ladies know me better than my “real life” friends do. And Trish and Lisa, ladies, I have no words for how I feel about you. Hopefully y’all know that. 🙂


Oh, and I also learned I have magical selfie arms. So if we ever meet, I’ll take the selfie. 🙂

By the way, if you’re reading this and thinking how do I get to go on a fun retreat with my blogger friends??!! then you should do what we did: planned our own. About 6 months ago the 10 of us realized we wanted to get away and hang out with each other. So we planned a retreat ourselves. It was challenging, sure, but it was worth all the work. Find some bloggers, pick a city, and go for it! (And check out this post by Lori, The Recipe Girl, on how to do it!)

Thank you for reading! #BloggerRefresh girls I love all your guts!

Like all blogging events, this one wouldn’t have happened without our generous sponsors:

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A huge thank you to Holman Ranch for providing our logging for the retreat, to Jennie-O for purchasing all the food for our weekend, and to Will’s Fargo Restaurant for our dinner.


Thanks for reading!

Last Updated on September 9, 2022

Dorothy Kern

Welcome to Crazy for Crust, where I share recipes that are sometimes crazy, often with a crust, and always served with a slice of life.

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  1. Blogging friends are the BEST real friends because they totally get it! Loved getting to know you on this trip, Dorothy…..and Lisa and I WILL hold you to visiting us in Milwaukee 🙂

  2. You are totally amazing and I absolutely adore spending time with you. And your post totally made me cry, does that count as shedding retreat tears?

  3. I had the best time spending time with you in Carmel Dorothy! Thank you so, so much for checking in on me to make sure I was okay and had stuff to eat. That really meant a lot to me. 🙂 I wish we could take trips like this more often to let down our guards and be real and hang out in real life. We all need other bloggers to remind us that we don’t have to be perfect, even if our online presence says otherwise!

  4. Up next, England! 😉 

    Looks like you all had a wonderful time. Fantastic photos. 

  5. Looks like you guys had so much fun!! I loved following along on insta 🙂 I hope I can make it next time!!