Travel: Big Summer Potluck 4: A Treat and Retreat

As you already know, I attended Big Summer Potluck in Bucks County, Pennsylvania last weekend. I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts so I could write a re-cap, but what I walked away with was more of a mind-altering experience than something concrete to put to pen and paper (or keyboard and screen). In a word, amazing. But even that feels inadequate, nowhere near descriptive enough to explain what the weekend meant to me.

Pam's house in Pennsylvania

Friday night started out here for a lovely potluck dinner and cocktail reception

It started with a drive west to Poughkeepsie, New York to the first of many faces I would finally be able to put to names–Brandy of Nutmeg Nanny. When tickets to Big Summer Potluck 4 became available in February, we were two of the first to pounce on them, determining early on that we would not only be attending, but sharing a room, as well. By the time Big Summer Potluck rolled around, Sam of Sweet Remedy joined our crew, and we were off together for the weekend’s adventure.


Brandy of Nutmeg Nanny, me, and Sam of Sweet Remedy – roomies for the weekend

I wasn’t sure what to expect. 75 amazing bloggers would be attending this conference–more of a retreat than conference, really–and I had only met a couple in person before. I was well-acquainted with many of these bloggers online, but had never seen them “in real life” before. The blogging world is huge! What would I say? What would they think of me? I knew it would be a good experience for me to attend–I really wanted to be there–but I also suffered a fair amount of anxiety. Luckily, I had nothing to worry about. Everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming.

Attune Foods breakfast

Friday night, after a few hours of feasting and making friends at the reception at Pam Anderson‘s home, it was time to return to the hotel. We needed to rest up for the big day on Saturday. In preparing for the weekend, I envisioned big after parties in the hotel. In reality, we nearly crashed upon arrival in our room. We talked until we drifted off, me with my glasses still on. It had been an exhausting day of travel.

BSP4 food

Saturday morning, two big yellow buses waited for us outside the lobby. School buses. We had an hour’s drive to our destination, the Bucks County Audubon Society at Honey Hollow. We sat in the back and dubbed our bus the “cool” one–for surely it was with the passengers we amassed. Corn fields whizzed by on our journey deep into the country. Beauty surrounded us. This was wonderful.

big summer potluck 4

The Audubon Society was a dream. Reached by a narrow road bisecting woods and crop fields, the stone barn emerged on a hillside as a step back in time. I wish I had captured more images of it, but there was so much going on around me that I took far fewer photos than usual. There were fears before this weekend that we would wither and wilt in the summer heat; luckily, through a combination of more agreeable temps and this barn’s construction, a cooling breeze caressed our skin all afternoon; it was rather comfortable.

Sunny and me

Sunny of For Your Pies Only and I waited years to meet–and showed up in color-coordinated dresses and matching heart sunglasses!

We were treated to conversations by Jessamyn Rodriguez of Hot Bread Kitchen, Jessica Powers of Why Hunger, Robyn Hillman-Harrigan of Shore Soup Project, Jeni Britton-Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Joe Yonan, travel and food editor of The Washington Post and cookbook author, Coach Mark Smallman of the Rodale Institute, Abby Dodge–the infamous Abby Dodge, and Brian Samuels of A Thought for Food and Chasing Delicious Cocktails. The theme: investing in yourself. Each had a different take on the topic, but all were inspirational, thought-provoking, and a true pleasure to listen to. I’m sure you’ve been to seminars and speeches before where your mind wanders and your eyes flutter. Big Summer Potluck was nothing like that. So much food for thought for minds eager for more, more, more!


Having the opportunity to connect in person with those who understand you is one of the best parts of Big Summer Potluck. I wish there had been more time for this. Portions of the Potluck would end seemingly abruptly, we were so wrapped up in our conversations that we lost track of time. Less than 48 hours wasn’t enough to fit everything in. There was just enough to whet our whistles, but we were left desiring more.

dinner menu #bsp4

Still, I can’t imagine putting together an event of this magnitude. Pam and Maggy, Erika, Chris and Karen, Rod and Debra, Sabrina–they’re all to be commended for all of their hard work. Sponsors like OXO, KitchenAid, Sabra, Gourmet Garden, Kerrygold, Attune, Philips, and Musselman’s made the Potluck even more special, with chances to speak with their reps and lots of giveaways and demonstrations. (Hello? Have you seen the KitchenAid® Pro Line® Series 4-Slice Automatic Toaster? Using it for breakfast on Sunday may have been the most fun I had all weekend!)

#bsp4 brunch

It has been only a week since we said our good-byes, but it feels like an eternity already. How will I make it another year until I see these people again? Some of us are discussing a New York City gathering this Fall, knowing that we will not make it 52 weeks before breaking bread once more. When you find those whose souls sing the same song as yours, you can’t let that go.

Abby Dodge and her KitchenAid mixer

Abby Dodge couldn’t resist showing her love for KitchenAid during her shortbread demonstration. Don’t worry–I love my mixer, too!

So what does “investing in yourself” mean to me? It means making the time to not only write, but also recharge when necessary, because even the marathon runner has rest days. I am no good to myself–or anyone else–if I’m running myself ragged. It means never giving up; there will always be pitfalls along the way, things that don’t turn out the way we expect. Picking ourselves up, altering course, and continuing forward–always moving forward–ensures that I’m doing what I have to do for success. It means surrounding myself with inspiration in its many forms. Filling my life and mind with the things that call to me will only improve the quality of what I create. There are many, many ways we can invest in ourselves. Finding the ones that work and spending time every day on them are what’s most important.

taxidermy owl

Who, Who?? Who are you?

Have you ever attended an event like Big Summer Potluck that nourished you fully–stomach and soul? What did you take away from it?

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  1. What a beautiful recap of a really lovely weekend. The Big Summer Potluck gets better every year and this year’s was truly special. Thanks for sharing. Till next food event 🙂

    1. It will definitely be on my must-do list annually! Lived up to the hype and more! So wonderful getting to connect with you–and those kabobs. I could have dined on them all night!

  2. I’ve always wanted to go!! I may just have to bite the bullet next year, thanks to your amazing review! So glad you had such a great time. Hope to see you there next year! 🙂

    1. Definitely do it! I wasn’t sure at first how it would go–it’s so different from the typical conferences–but that’s exactly what makes it so special and memorable. Hope to see you there!

  3. Lots of things I noticed – gorgeous ladies, scrumptious looking food, but oooooooomg that purple mixer – LOVE. And seriously? What is up with Buck’s County being so awesome!?!

    1. Isn’t that mixer gorgeous! Sam from Sweet Remedy won it and got to take it home with her! Lucky duck!

    • Sarah @mamasarahjane on August 4, 2013 at 9:37 pm
    • Reply

    Looks like a great event! I may have been drooling over your instagram pictures all weekend!

    1. Aha! So someone was enjoying the play-by-play! 😉 I didn’t even capture a small fraction of what there was to sample. So wonderful!

  4. Wow, what an incredible event! Great photos, the food looked amazing!

    1. It was a fantastic blend of catered and potluck foods–the best of both worlds! I highly recommend it!

  5. What a blast! Everything looks delicious and everyone looks so happy 🙂

  6. Loved your take away from the weekend. I love reading what everyone has to say about their BSP experience. Is it possible that your and Sunny were separated at birth????

  7. Sounds like you had a great time! I need to get to one of these foodie retreats one of these days 🙂

  8. Great recap & photos Carrie (love that you included the owl)! It really was a fun time…wasn’t it?? Till next year!!

  9. This looks like an amazing event! And not just because of the food.

    . . . okay but also maybe because of the food. Breakfast parfait with lavender sugar? I’m jealous!

    • Jen Seiderer on August 8, 2013 at 11:44 am
    • Reply

    Wow, what a great experience you had! Thanks for writing this recap that makes me feel like I was actually there. I hope you get to do it again next year and at least once before then!

    • Jenny on August 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm
    • Reply

    OOoooo this looks like so much fun!! I would love to do this some day! I wanted to dive into that picture of the rolls, and then frolic in that lavender infused sugar!! (those heart sunglasses!! Tres chic!!)

    • J Timothy Quirk on August 8, 2013 at 2:55 pm
    • Reply

    What an event, Carrie, in Bucks County PA! Sounds like an adventure, almost a “bloggers retreat!” very cool

  10. Wow this looks like such a great time! I’m happy that you enjoyed yourself and got to meet some lovely ladies from the online world IRL. All the food looks so yum I’ll have to look out for this event next year! I know a handful of foodies!

  11. So glad you and brandy were my roomies for the weekend! You put the whole trip into a beautiful words and have managed to encompass all of my feelings as well!

  12. Just ignore that major typo….k? 🙂

  13. Carrie it was so great to meet you after reading your tweets! LOVE that photo of you and Sunny. Hoepfully we will have more time to talk next year!


    1. You know, I had wanted to talk to you much earlier to tell you how much I loved your dress–I wish I had! Definitely will talk more next year!

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