Lessons From The Big Summer Potluck


You’ve probably noticed I have been a little quieter than usual. That’s because this past weekend, I went to my first food blogger event – The Big Summer Potluck, which was located in Bucks County, PA. It wasn’t exactly a conference since we didn’t learn about blog maintenance stuff, such as SEO or how to gain more traffic. Rather, it was more of a retreat where people with a love of food and writing hung out for a weekend. Everyone talks about going to one – you’d love to hang out with more people just like you, to actually meet other bloggers in person. I’m a very introverted person, so it was unreal that I got the guts to go. I don’t uh socialize very well. The Big Summer Potluck (BSP for short) made a huge impact in my life and changed the way I think. I met so many great people, most I didn’t even know existed (and I’m sure they are saying the same about me). Here is a recap and some lessons I want to share with you.

The Anderson House

Friday night dinner

Friday night dinner

Banana Cupcakes with Fudge Frosting and Dinosaur Sprinkles

Friday night, we all gathered at the Anderson house. This house is gorgeous! Seriously, I think I’m going to move in. Just as the name suggests, everyone who could brought food to share with everyone (hence, The Big Summer Potluck). I had such a rough night Thursday baking that I somehow managed to bring 24 little pathetic banana cupcakes with fudge frosting. Not the original plan. I’ll admit the night was a bit overwhelming for me since I didn’t know most of the bloggers going. Like I said, I’m very introverted, so mingling isn’t my thing. I forced myself to mingle, which made Saturday 100 times easier. Saturday was the fun day where we got to watch cooking demos and listen to guest speakers (I’m a nerd). Although this retreat didn’t focus on making your blog stats better, it did focus on making yourself a better person.

“If you take time, you will have more time. Be open, be present, be vulnerable.”
– Brooke from Food Woolf

First lesson was from Brooke of Food Woolf, who spoke about mindfulness. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our blogs, to ignore personal relationships and life in general. You need to take some time for yourself, even during a mindless task such as washing dishes, and be aware of yourself. Don’t just do things. Be present. Take a few deep breathes, live in the moment. You fall behind on social media and are trying to catch up. Or you’re trying to write a post and find yourself going between Facebook and Twitter instead. It’s ok to be unplugged for a bit (in fact, it’s probably healthy too). When was the last time you baked or cooked a meal without photographing it? Every time we had a meal at BSP, almost everyone was at the table taking pictures rather than digging in and enjoying themselves (personally, I took very little pictures of the food even before Brooke’s talk). Live in the moment. I went to bed early Tuesday night. Sure, I could’ve stayed up later to write this post, to edit pictures, to work on my recipe archive, but instead, I went to bed. The world didn’t end. My inbox didn’t explode of hateful emails, demanding to know where I was. All that happened was I got more sleep. I can’t express how inspired I feel from Brooke. She talks more about mindfulness on her blog. Please go read it. Her words will change you.

Do you choose to be jealous or do you choose to be inspired? Joy the Baker took the time to talk to us about something every blogger feels. You see tons of great bloggers making incredible things with Pinterest rubbing them in your face. That perfect white kitchen. That perfect stack of neatly-tied cookies. That perfect drip on the ice cream cone. How do you deal with it all? It is so easy to be jealous and hate yourself because you don’t think you are good enough. Instead, focus on inspiration. Your photo shoot may show a plate of beautiful food, but you don’t see the stack of dishes in the sink. It’s ok not to be perfect. Focus on being you. Stick with what you got without getting stuck. Be real. Be you. Yes, you have your audience to think about, but don’t write for the sake of writing for your readers. Write what you want to write, and your audience will follow.

One of the biggest highlights for me was watching Joy make Toasted Marshmallow Squares. And I got to eat one :D

Joy, if you’re reading this, I loved it. And as soon as I buy marshmallows from the store, I’m making them and eating all 16. Ok maybe not 16. Probably just 2. Or 4.

The most surprising lesson for me came from Molly O’Neill who talked about being a writer. She is a well-rounded food writer who has written several best-selling cookbooks and wrote for The New York Times. I thought this was going to be a little boring because writing is not my forte, but her words gave me a lot to think about. The most important thing is to stay in the active time. Don’t always rely on “when this happens, then I’ll be happy” or “when that happens, then I can validate this.” You need to live now. If you think you don’t have time to live now, set aside time. Molly sets aside 10 minutes every day to write. It may not sound like a lot, but every two years, she writes a book. Those little moments add up to one big picture. Divide your goals into three categories – immediate work (blog posts), medium work (a series for a newspaper), and long shot work (writing a book).

Another thing Molly said is play to your strengths. So what if you’re not a writer? You don’t have to be a writer if you’re not a writer. Be a photographer or be a producer. Put more photographs than paragraphs if that’s what you’re good at. That’s not to say don’t bother improving on your weaknesses, but why pretend you’re something you’re not? You know I’m not a writer. I know I’m not a writer. I’ll just keep bombarding you with more pictures.

There is so much more to tell you about BSP, but I’m afraid this post would get rather lengthy if I did! Here are a few more highlights from the event (because I feel bad if I didn’t give them a shout out!)

Max Hansen demonstrating how to smoke salmon

Marisa McClellan, author of Food in Jars demonstrating how to make plum preserves. Her book focuses on small-batch jars, which means this book is at the top of my Amazon wish list.

Pam Anderson talking to us about how to make a recipe our own. She also opened up her home and her heart to us.

Sunday morning waffle party

I cannot thank everyone enough for their support and effort this weekend. Thank you Pam, Maggie, and Erika for organizing a super successful event. Thank you Max, Brooke, Marisa, Joy, and Molly for speaking and/or demonstrating for us. Thank you to the sponsors – KitchenAid, Musselman’s, Kerrygold, Anolon, Green Mountain Coffee, Attune Foods, Tasty Kitchen, and Driscoll’s. And thank you to all of the bloggers who attended, for creating new friendships and sharing your world with me. Let’s meet again for BSP4, shall we?

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  1. It was great meeting you this weekend! Trust me, you were not the only one that was worried about mingling among a crowd where there was not a familiar face to be seen. It made me nervous, but the community that we are a part of is amazing and welcomed us in with open arms. The lessons learned and the people we met will remain with us for a lifetime.

  2. It was great to see you at BSP3, and you did a wonderful job with this post. I am finding it hard to put the experience into words!

  3. Awesome post Carla! I hope to make it next year!

  4. Great post, Carla! You have inspired me to live in the now and not in the future. Thank you.

    Also, I love reading what you have to write, and you’re good at it. I think I may have to join you for BSP4 next year. Cheers!

  5. what a wonderful recap of the Big Summer Potluck! It was so nice to get to spend some time getting to know each other, and I look forward to seeing you again at Techmunch!

  6. Oh wow, I didn’t realize it was a whole weekend! Sounds lovely, and inspiring!

  7. Wow, this looks incredible! I wish I had known about it – I will mark it down and be there next year! Great recap!

  8. Lovely, you say writing is not your forte but this is a beautiful recap!

  9. Carla, Great recap! Glad i had the opportunity to meet you last weekend :) And your right…we could go on and on about how less that 2 full days impacts us. Hope to see you again!

  10. Sounds like an awesome retreat. If we hadn’t already had vacation plans, I would have been there, since I am so close. Hope to join you next year, and I will see you at TECHMunch!

  11. I love the recap Carla! I wish I had been able to go! and I bet your cupcakes were wonderful!

  12. “Be open, be present, be vulnerable.”

    I am constantly reminding myself to “be present”. thank you for this reminder.

    great write-up! hope to see you next year at BSP!

  13. Hi Carla. What I came away with is how warm, funny and generous everyone was! This is a special community and it was great fun to be a part of it. Thanks for all the work you put into this post! You have definitely inspired me with your words and photos. P

  14. Can I just say how awesome it was to finally meet up in person and hang out? Because it totally was. :)
    I know you were bummed about your cupcakes, but as one of the lucky recipients, I can definitely say they were worth all the frustration… they were delicious!
    Here’s to meeting up again next year at BSP4 (or possibly sooner, should you ever find yourself in the TO area)

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