Sometimes life gets in the way of our passion, but only if we allow it. Yes, we have full time jobs, children, pets, housework, church, friends, the list goes on and on. I am 100% guilty of using all of those as an excuse for doing what I really love and now, several years later, my blog could be so much more that what it is had I not given up on my one true passion. Why did I give up? It is simple. I was too tired from giving my all to people and things that would not do the same for me. All of this really hit home for me a few months ago when I made the decision to find myself by going to back to church and relaunching my blog. Ironically, I credit Madonna for my reignited passions. Yes, as crazy as that sounds, Madonna is the one that inspired me to start fresh and become not only a born-again Christian but a born-again blogger.
It all started on Saturday, March 26th which was the day before Easter. I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a picture she posted of beautifully decorated Easter eggs adorned with her children’s names and a caption that read: Easter=New Life.
That simple phrase, EASTER = NEW LIFE really hit home. I was tired of running around doing so many things without a real focus in my life. I was tired of toxic people and I was tired of not having time for doing what I love more than anything…blogging. I decided to attend church the next day at a place in South Tampa that I had been seeing all over social media. I knew a few friends that had been raving about it and decided to see what all the fuss was about. I must admit, I was skeptical. Having been born and raised a Catholic, this was going to be a new experience but something inside me was urging me to go so I did. On that very day, my life changed at Radiant Church as I listened to Pastor Aaron talk about Easter Sunday and new life. I left feeling a new sense of purpose and that my soul had been born again. I have been going every Sunday since and have felt so much more at peace. As for my blogs, I am playing catch up right now but the results have been fantastic. I knew that attending the Food Wine Conference would be the catalyst to keep me on the right path and boy was I right.
I made it to the Rosen Shingle Creek on Friday, May 13th a tad later than I planned. After a stressful day at work, I battled traffic to get there but instantly felt calm when I arrived. As I was walking up to the hotel from the parking lot, I looked up at this palm tree and smiled. I was finally away from work for a few days and read to learn, eat and relax with some of my favorite bloggers at one of the most beautiful places to stay in Orlando. This was my third year attending and while I have been a blogger for 6 years, I felt like I was new.
I made it just in time to enjoy receptions by Florida Strawberry Growers and CK Mondavi Wines. It was just what I needed after a stressful day. Seeing so many familiar faces truly warmed my heart and I began to get excited for the events to come. I fell in love with the Sauvignon Blanc by CK Mondavi and knew it was going to be a staple at my house. Shortly after, everyone met in one of the private rooms to enjoy a Taste of Rosen Shingle Creek. After enjoying so many different foods, I headed up to my room to get some sleep, as I knew the next day would be filled with so much activity.
If I had to pick a favorite moment from the conference, it was meeting Donatella Arpaia and listening to her speak. I was literally brought to tears as she told us about her life story and how she became who she is today. I do not think I have ever met anyone so successful that is so humble. She opened up my eyes to the importance of always learning and keeping up with new trends. What I would not give to have a one on one conversation with her.
One of the best things about Food Wine Conference is that we always have the BEST sponsors. Cabot Creamery was there wowing us all weekend and not only did we learn about their dairy farmers and their beautiful land, we got to sample a lot of their cheese. They had a magnificent mac and cheese bar which had me going back for seconds and thirds. I mean, is there anything better than a mac and cheese bar?
After a wonderful day of keynote speakers. we were treated to a fabulous Denim and Diamonds dinner and awards banquet sponsored by Certified Angus Beef, CK Mondavi and Out of the Weeds. Dinner was spectacular and featured a Harvest Salad with red and golden beets, micro greens, heirloom tomato and goat cheese with a local tangerine honey drizzle. The salad was served with your choice of Carrot Ginger, Roasted Beet Vinaigrette or Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette from Out of the Weeds. I am a huge fan of the lovely Robin King who is the owner of Three Birds Tavern in St. Petersburg and the Out of the Weeds dressing company. I could use her dressings every day. The salad was paired with CK Mondavi 2015 Pinot Grigio and 2014 Blonde Five, both of which were outstanding.
Our main course and star of the show was a Certified Angus Beef brand Cowgirl Ribeye with deep-fried brussels sprouts, lemon vinaigrette braised fennel with gorgonzola and candied pecans, creamy wild mushrooms and spring chives, creamy potato and cauliflower risotto and of course, warm rolls with butter. I think my jaw dropped to the floor when I saw the ribeye, as it was truly magnificent. I could not stop gazing at it and finally had to take a bite. Our steak was paired with CK Mondavi 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 Scarlet Five. What an epic meal to end a truly magical day.
After dinner everyone headed poolside for dessert and sadly, I was so exhausted from my long work week, I just went up to my room to sleep. That is unlike me but I had been running on empty for quite some time and my body was telling me to rest. From everyone’s photos that I saw, I truly missed out but will not let that happen next year.
On Sunday we headed to the UCF Rosen College of Hospitalityand enjoyed a beautiful presentation on the journey from farm to table with Cabot farmers. As if I did not need another reason to fall in love with their brand, I was even more captivated hearing about their families of farmers and their passion for dairy farming. I am going to make it up to one of their farms for a visit next year if it is the last thing I do!
We then enjoyed several sessions including a video workshop, mastering your grilling skills, podcasting and more. I wish I could have attended all of them but was only able to go to the video workshop and a session on the care and feeding of your blog.
After the first round of sessions, we were treated to the first ever #Hashed competition sponsored by Wish Farms. The secret ingredient was blueberries as several teams battle it out for the best dish. I wish I could have competed but I was at the conference as a volunteer so I kept quite busy.
Sadly I had to leave shortly after the #Hashed competition to get back to my kids and missed out on more sessions and a wonderful closing dinner party. I made a vow that next year I will stay an extra day so that I do not need to miss anything.
I had such a wonderful time and can’t wait to attend next year. In the meantime, be sure to check out the official conference website for updates for next year. I know I will be there and I am excited to get back into the groove of blogging.