This weekend was full of blogger, friends and fun! Bloggers who were online friends who became real life friends and bloggers who became new real life friends and are now online friends.
This weekend was the first annual Blend Retreat. I’d never been to a blogger conference before (mostly a logistics and lack-of-extra money problem) but when I learned about Blend and that it was to be held in Boulder (a short 35+ minutes from Denver), I jumped on a ticket.
For me and Tiffany, our Blend weekend started a day early when Lauren got into town and invited us to meet her and her husband, Greg, for a drink at the wonderful RootDown in Denver. They were meeting friends for dinner so Tiffany and I stayed for a drink and bowed out when their friends arrived.
Lauren’s blog is one I read regularly and someone I was really looking forward to meeting in person this weekend. And I’m happy to say, she’s just a fun in ‘real life’ as she is on her blog!
Friday night was the official kick-off for Blend and the group had a wonderful, gourmet dinner and dessert… So I heard. Because the retreat was held in Boulder and both Tiffany and I worked on Friday (and planned to carpool this weekend), we decided to not stress about getting up to Boulder for dinner on Friday. I also felt it was very important to spend a night with Alex – he worked 12 days straight (full Saturday and Sunday work days) and I am leaving on a business trip on Tuesday – Friday. So it was important to me to spend a date night with him if I was going to be gone all Saturday and Sunday.
Next year, though, I would definitely make plans to get out of work early to make it to dinner because it’s the first time everyone is new. And I heard the food and cupcakes were excellent!
Lindsay, Janetha and Katie could not have picked a better spot for this retreat – Boulder is easily accessible from the Denver Airport and is a great little city with a lot of character and at the base of the beautiful Flatiron mountains. And Denver/Boulder/Colorado is an active place with a giant outdoor playground – no better place for a bunch of women who enjoy health, fitness and food to spend a weekend!
I met Tiffany bright and early on Saturday to trek up to Boulder to meet the group for a fun day of hiking, Boulder beers and margaritas! But first – breakfast.
Breakfast was provided by XAGAVE which I’m very interested to try. I’ve heard about agave sweeteners but haven’t wanted to shell out the money to just try it at the grocery store. So these little packets and the sample bottle they sent us home with will be perfect for trying! Apparently I can swap this stuff for sugar for fewer calories and less sugar… Very interesting!
After breakfast, it was time to head out for a nice, easy 4 mile hike.
Hiking a popular trail with 70+ girls raises a lot of eyes and questions from the locals – in a good way!
We hiked the Royal Arch trail at the Boulder Flatirons which was literally, right across the parking lot from the cabins. I’ve hiked this trail once before but this hike was not as easy as I remembered it – lots of elevation gain in the 2 mile hike to the summit.
But the view from the top was worth it – a giant, natural arch!
More photos here.
2.5 hours later, the hike was over and it was time to EAT! Some of the group decided to hit up the Boulder Farmer’s Market, some went to a CorePower Yoga class and the rest of us went to Mountain Sun Pub for lunch.
One buffalo chicken sandwich, copious fries and a beer (FYIPA) recharged my batteries instantly.
Next, we were off to Avery Brewery’s Tasting Room for some local beer. Avery’s tasting room is easy to miss – it’s in an industrial park, off the main drag. They have indoor and outdoor seating and offer a nice selection of their beers and a decent menu of food.
These little samples were only $1 and are the exact right size to get a feel for the beer. I only ordered samples – it was nice to try a variety of Avery’s beers that I hadn’t tried before. We had a large group at Avery and it was really nice to have some casual downtime to chat with girls I hadn’t gotten a chance to spend time with yet (Hi Kim! Hi Calee!)
A couple of hours at Avery later, stomachs started to rumble again. Trying to figure out what 20+ girls want to eat for dinner is no small feat – fortunately for us, it was Cinco de Mayo so, of course, we had to eat Mexican food. Many of us ended up at the Rio Grande in Boulder which is famous for strong margaritas.
Because our group was so large, we ate in tables of 4 rather than as a large group. I enjoyed my dinner with Lauren and her husband and Tiffany and then it was time to head back to Denver and faceplant in my bed.
Most of the girls stayed on-site in the cabins at Chautauqua Park – many of us Denver attendees did not. However, next year, I would absolutely stay in the cabins. Even though we’re only 40 minutes away, it would have been worth the time and money to stay with the rest of the group.
Sunday morning came WAY too early and Tiffany and I were back on the road to Boulder for breakfast and the ‘closing ceremony’. Sunday’s breakfast was provided by the retreat’s main sponsor, Chobani - and we even had the pleasure of meeting Lindsay and Emily from Chobani! These ladies are handle the social media and blogger relationships with Cho – it was really cool to meet the people behind the popular brand. And even cooler when they remember who you are just by name!
For the closing ceremony, Lindsay, Janetha and Katie raffled off prizes from the very generous sponsors of Blend. Everyone walked away with a gift – from Bob’s Red Mill gift certificates to boxes of ProBar to Keurig Coffee Machines, these giveaways ROCKED! I went home with a box of Peanut Butter Chocolate Simply Bars.
We had time for a group photos before it was time for the cabin dwellers to check out and girls had to make their way back to the airport to head home. The weekend was over just as quickly as it began.
It was such a fun weekend and I’m already excited for Blend 2013. My fingers are crossed for another weekend in Boulder next year – it’s such a beautiful and accessible location!
When I got home on Sunday afternoon, I finally had a chance to dig through the Swag Bag we were given. The Blend sponsors seriously rock – they hooked us up! My arm hurt from carrying this in from the car – this bag was so heavy. Seriously!
I am looking forward to tasting and trying all of these goodies over the next days and weeks!
I will definitely go to Blend again next year – Boulder or not. The ticket cost was so reasonable compared to other blog get-togethers – only $70! Such a great deal considering the food and swag we were given. How can you say no?!
For those who are interested in attending next year: I highly recommend staying in the cabins with the group and not missing out on Friday’s dinner. I had a fantastic time but did feel like I missed out (my own doing). There was a bootcamp Saturday and Sunday morning at 7 a.m. that I could not pull myself out of bed early enough to make it to Boulder in time but if I’d been in the cabins, I could have woken up later than I did t0 drive and walked outside and been able to participate. Lesson learned!
I would also bring a real camera. I relied on my cell phone which is having major issues so I didn’t get as many photos as I would have wanted. Luckily – everyone else took photos. The beauty of a blogger event.
I met some really beautiful and inspiring women this weekend who have become really great friends (and so many Colorado bloggers I didn’t know were out there!). Lindsay, Janetha and Katie did a phenomenal job organizing this event – everything went off without a hitch and everyone enjoyed their weekend to the max. It was so nice to get together and just hang out! No speakers, no sessions, no pressure. Just a weekend to meet, mingle and make friends.
If Blend isn’t on your radar for next year, it needs to be!