This past weekend was spent in the beautiful state of Vermont, near Burlington, at Smuggler’s Notch Resort for Blog Brûlée. My attendance at Blog Brûlée was partially funded by the sponsors of the event but I was not compensated to write this post.

(The view from my room at Smuggler’s Notch. Not too shabby)

Blog Brulee Smugglers Notch | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

I took an insane amount out of the weekend, including some powerful inspiration to stop comparing myself to others and focus on my own strengths. I actually skimmed over my notes from the conference this week and created an action plan to-do list from what I learned and came up with over 25 action items! Woooo, I’ve got my work cut out for me. But I couldn’t be more pumped to get started.

I want to share with you a few (out of many) key learnings I took away from the weekend that I hope you too find valuable.

80/20 Rule:

EA of Spicy RD spoke to us about community engagement (and she’s the expert with over 10K followers on Google+) and her talk totally blew my mind. Mostly because I’ve been lacking on the community engagement front since… forever. Her recommendations were spot on. She said that 80% of your time should be focused on sharing other people’s content and 20% of your time should be focused on sharing your own content. Mind. Blown. I’ve totally had this backwards for so long. And now I grasp the value of making this a daily priority and not shoving it aside while saying “I don’t have the time”. Well, I’m making the time now. In fact, I started amping up my community engagement this week and already am seeing record stats for my blog. Most importantly, it’s fun! It’s a way for me to virtually connect with friends, colleagues, and bloggers, which makes my lonely day of sitting at my desk with only a cat to entertain me, a little more interesting and I feel that much more connected to others.

iPhone Camera Apps:

Deanna of Teaspoon of Spice takes absolutely stunning photos ONLY using her iPhone so she’s the one to speak about iPhone camera apps. She walked us through her recommended apps: Snapseed and Camera Plus ($1.99 on iTunes). They both have awesome editing features and truly make a difference for sharing photos from your phone. Now, most of my photos you’ll see on the blog are taken with my DSLR (Canon Rebel T3) but I share a ton of food pics on Instagram using my iPhone and usually just try to edit with Instagram. Insta has stepped up their editing features recently so it’s definitely still worth playing around with. But I learned that I especially love Camera Plus for it’s stabilizer feature (no camera shake!) and Snapseed has a ton of options for editing. Check out the difference that Camera Plus made to a picture I posted on Instagram this earlier week.


cameraplus blog brulee | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon


camera plus blog brulee | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon


Gretchen of Kumquat and Regan of Healthy Aperture spoke to us about DSLR photography and inspired me to try and take my photography to the next level. Photography has had me totally geeking out lately. I honestly love it SO much. It’s a wonderful creative outlet for me and helps me express my artistic side which is hard to do in the traditional world of nutrition and dietetics. I’ve also discovered something about myself this past year after doing some life coaching and that is I’m always seeking out beauty. In life, in food, in nature, in photography, in interactions, in people, you name it. Beauty inspires me, motivates me, and lifts me up. And with photography, I get to create beauty.  And the best part about photography? It doesn’t feel like work to me! And I’m a huge believer in finding work that doesn’t feel like work to you. Here are a few takeaways from the photography talk I found helpful:

  • Keep it wet and sexy. Your food that is.
  • Our eyes like asymmetry and odd numbers. So take 5 raspberries out of that pint and lay them beside it.
  • Use smaller plates/bowls to make food look plentiful.
  • Props should have a purpose and support the hero of the shot, not distract from it
  • Take a bite out. Try removing a slice, or a bite from your food and reassess.
  • My new equipment wish-list: tripod stand, foam core board, lighting diffuser, tether cable

So in addition to learning a ton at Blog Brûlée, we also had our share of fun. This was a party after all, as Regan made very clear to us the first night.

And what does one do at a party? Eat cheese and drink wine, obviously. So we did. At 10 in the morning. Breakfast of champions, my friends!

We went to Boyden Valley Winery for a cheese & wine tasting with Cabot.

Blog Brulee Winery| The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

This winery is adorable and if you find yourself in the Burlington area, I highly recommend you make a stop. It had a very rustic barn feel to it (as you can probably guess from the picture above).

wine vermont blog brulee | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

Boyden wine blog brulee | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

Wine & cheese is one of my favorite combinations so I was in foodie heaven during this tasting. I really don’t discriminate against any type of cheese (I’ll even take the stinky kind!) but soft cheese has a special place in my heart (Brie, I’m looking at you). So I really enjoyed Vermont Creamery’s Bonne Bouche which was a goat cheese but had a super soft texture. It pretty much melted right before your eyes.

Cheese tasting cabot blog brulee | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

I also loved this mulled spice wine that Boyden makes called Glogg, which they serve warm. The recipe came from their swedish friend, Taug who shared his secret recipe with them. I might need to make a trip back to snag a bottle 🙂

| TheBoyden Winery Blog Brulee Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

After our wine & cheese, we came back for lunch at Smuggler’s Notch. Smuggler’s really outdid themselves with their food. This jicama slaw was to die for and let’s just say I wasn’t shy about the maple butter for their homemade biscuits.

blog brulee smugglers notch

For dessert, we headed outside for a s’mores party!!

blog brulee marshmallows | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

Blog Brulee smores | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

I was psyched for these since I’d been s’mores deprived all summer.

Blog Brulee campfire smores | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

And because we obviously did not eat enough chocolate earlier in the day, we ended the evening with a chocolate tasting with Lake Champlain chocolates. Our main man who led us through the tasting told us to bend our nose down to the chocolate to smell it instead of bringing it up to our nose with our hands. Well, turns out I got real up-close-and personal with this chocolate because I definitely realized I had chocolate on my forehead when I got back to my room that night. Whoops.

Blog Brulee 24

On the drive home from Vermont, I knew I had to make at least one mandatory stop. And that was for hot cider and cider donuts! I actually got really nervous because I thought my GPS was taking me a different route home than the way I came and almost cried at the thought of no cider mill adventures.

But MapQuest pulled through and brought me to Cold Hollow Cider Mill.

Cold Hollow Cider Mill | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

I left with a gallon of cold cider, a hot cider for the road, and 1/2 dozen apple cider donuts for Steve & I. This cider mill was super cute, with rocking chairs and benches and picnic tables to sit outside and sip on a hot cider while taking in the beautiful scenery.

Blog Brulee21

Cold Hollow Apples | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

Cold Hollow Apple Cider Donut | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

This picture more or less sums up my feelings about VT and the Blog Brûlée weekend.

Vermont pumpkins blog brulee | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

I met so many amazing bloggers on this trip that I wanted to dedicate an entire post to them. So, stay tuned next week for part two of my blog brûlée series: all about the bloggers.

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  1. great post, you always post very great things for us. keep posting like this.

  2. Thanks for the fantastic overview esp. about what you learned at Blog Brûlée! I appreciate being able to be there through your experience 🙂

  3. I LOVE where you’re headed with your photography, Kara… and you explain it so well — it’s about seeking beauty in a field that can feel like it’s all about nutrients and numbers 🙁 So glad you could join us in Vermont. And glad you made the trip to Cold Hollow! DYK that the postcards you got from us came from there??? #Ironic

    • Thanks, Regan! That means SO much coming from you. So grateful for the experience and happy I could make it as well! And that’s too funny about the postcards. #fullcircle

  4. Robin @Robinsbite

    You Rock!

    When is the virtual 3PM yoga break going to start?


  5. What a wonderfully written post. I am still working on my action list – SO much to do. Definitely need to focus on my strengths like you mentioned above and move forward toward success.

    .. and I agree with Meme – we need to already have a reunion. I feel like I didn’t get to spend enough time with you either!

    • Thanks so much, Julie. Good luck with your action list. And it’s so true – focus on your strengths – we all have something so unique & special to bring to the table. I totally agree – our brisk walk back (and getting lost) to our rooms was just not long enough to get to know each other! Hoping our paths will cross again soon!

  6. Such a lovely post, and I’m so glad I got to meet you this weekend! Love that you’ve taken the 80/20 rule to heart 🙂 I learned so much for everyone this weekend too-what an awesome group to connect with! Love, love, love that last photo of you too!!!

    • Thanks, EA! Your talk was so inspiring – I can’t thank you enough. YOU are an inspiration! Was so great to finally meet in-person! Look forward to staying connected 🙂

  7. 4 things:
    1) I totally smiled through this whole post because it made me so happy. Your recap is fab and I even took some notes on your notes 😉
    2) I am so so happy we got a chance to meet but feel a little cheated that we didn’t get to spend more time together! We need a Blog Brûlée reunion haha
    3) I am impressed with your 25+ action items. I am still on a post-trip high and need to put pen to paper and get my action items in order.
    4) Can’t wait to see what you have in store next week!
    And I didn’t even get to mention how wonderful the apple cider and donuts look! Clearly, I need to get back to Vermont…

    • Meme! I love your 4 things. They too made me smile. Let’s start planning that blog brûlée reunion ummm now?! yes?! In VT, obvs, so we can get you some cider donuts 🙂

  8. Seriously, everything you got out of this weekend was the reason Regan, Robin, Gretchen & I wanted to create this experience in the first place 🙂 Love love that last photo and last time I was in Burlington with the CabotFit team, we stopped by Cold Hollow as well Cider Mill as well – OMG on those donuts & cider!!

    • Seriously, you four are such an inspiration and I can’t say enough about how much I took away from the weekend and how inspired I felt once I left. THANK YOU x a million. And YES, isn’t Cold Hollow the best? I wanted to camp out there all day, not gonna lie. Oh, and buy everything in that store. Took a lot of willpower not to add an apple pie and maple cream to my basket 😉

  9. Jen

    What a great recap! Loved eating our salmon dinner together and learning from you! Can’t wait to work with you even more!

    • Thanks, Jen! Ditto – loved sitting next to you at dinner (and learning all about stitch fix! :)). Looking forward to working together this year and seeing you more at FNCE!

  10. Sounds like an amazing weekend!! 🙂 I love the part about the 80/20 rule… engaging with others is hard to do sometimes (time wise) but it is oh so important!

    • Thanks, Emily! Glad I could share some tips with you from the weekend! Yeah, the 80/20 rule is tough to follow but you’re right, SO crucial!

  11. You are adorable. Smart girl to make an action plan!

  12. I love everything about this post – from the tips, to the food shots, to your cute outfit in the last pic! Thanks so much for sharing all that you learned – that 80/20 rule from EA is such an amazing tip. She is so awesome! Hope that I can attend this awesome seminar/party in the future 🙂

  13. 25 action items! Wow. I thought my list was long…
    Great post on Blog Brûlée. It certainly was amazing. Looking forward to your follow-up posts. PS: Love the photo of you w/ those sexy pumpkins 🙂

    • Haha. Apparently I’m behind the times over here and have some catching up to do :). Thanks, Liz! & I loved your talk with Janice – you two are hilarious and always make me smile. Amazing to see how far the brand has come over the last 10 years. You two are quite the inspiration, that’s for sure! And those were some mighty fine pumpkins. 😉